Parents and Families as Teachers

Head Start recognizes you as your child’s first, and most important, teacher. This fact sheet offers suggestions to parents, families, and Head Start staff for teaching children math, reading, and language skills through simple, everyday activities.

Math
Science
Language and Reading
Social Skills
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Woman holding her child

As a parent, you have many responsibilities: caregiver, provider, protector, role model, and teacher.

The Head Start Program recognizes and respects you as your child's first –– and most important ––  teacher. That is why Head Start provides parents and families with information and tools to help them teach their children at home and support their learning in the Head Start classroom.

Parents and families have many opportunities each and every day to help their children learn, both inside and outside of the home. You don't have to be a rocket scientist, math genius, or famous writer to teach your children reading and language skills or basic math and science concepts. Much of your job is simply supporting and encouraging your children's natural curiosity about the world around them. Here are just a few examples of what you can do:

Math

  • Bake and cook to teach measuring, estimating, and fractions.
  • Teach counting, measuring, adding, and subtracting by taking children to the grocery store, letting them pick and weigh produce, and pay for food items.
  • Fold laundry together to teach about sorting and pairing (matching socks or sorting clothing by family member).

Science

Man holding his child
  • Plant seeds with your children so they can learn how flowers, fruits and vegetables grow.
  • Teach children about protecting the environment by recycling paper and plastic together.
  • Explore the different parts of the human body, or a pet's body, and how they work separately and together.
  • Take a walk and look for different flowers, shrubs, birds, and other animals. If you are in a city, identify building materials –– bricks, wood, concrete, asphalt –– and
    discuss how they differ.
  • Mix different colored paints together to create a new color, or different substances to create a new substance (dirt and water to create mud).

Language and Reading

  • Read and talk to your children from the moment they are born. Sing songs and read nursery rhymes. Choose age-appropriate books from the library or bookstore.
  • Limit the amount of television young children watch.
  • Visit the library for story hour. Let your children explore and choose books to take home.

Social Skills

Family sitting together

Children will learn how to get along with other people from watching you. You can teach your children to be confident and comfortable around other adults and children by having them participate in play groups or play with other children in your neighborhood. You can encourage your children to ask questions, share their toys and snacks with others, and help friends or siblings with a task they have already mastered.

Letting your children learn to do things for themselves, such as making a sandwich or choosing their clothes, will also inspire confidence. Most of all, praise your children and make them feel loved each and every day.

All of the above skills will help your children get ready for school, and help them feel comfortable and successful once they are there. Head Start staff, your children's doctor, or other child professionals are also available to support you in your important role as your children's first teacher. The rest is up to you!

Related Websites

Parents as Teachers National Center
Parents can find a program in their state that offers “parents as teachers” services.

Federal Resources for Educational Excellence
Find hundreds of web-based, educational resources from agencies throughout the federal government.

U.S. Department of Education
This site has information on preparing children for school, helping them read, and finding schools and after-care programs.

Parents and Families as Teachers. HHS/ACF/OHS. English. 2010.

Last Reviewed: September 2010

Last Updated: December 15, 2014