7.2 Supporting Child Development Services: Curriculum Planning and Curriculum Experiences


What Is It?

Home visitors work with families to create educational opportunities for the child’s learning and development that take advantage of families’ daily routines and resources. Home visitors do this work within the context of relationships with families. They engage in joint planning using the program’s chosen curriculum as a foundation to create experiences that build the child’s school readiness skills and support the parent–child relationship.

To support home visitors, you work with program staff and parents to choose a curriculum that is according to HSPPS 1302.35(d) "developmentally appropriate and research-based,” aligns with the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework, and meets the interests and needs of the children and families in your program. You use all of the tools you have—observation, supervision, training, and other professional development opportunities—to ensure that home visitors understand early learning and development. The home visitors know how to use and individualize the curriculum to support children’s development, learning, and school readiness. And how to work with parents in a culturally responsive manner as they refine skills in interacting with their child. You also consider the needs of children with disabilities and special health care needs and ensure that home visitors are prepared to work with them and their families.

How To

Consider these strategies for supporting home visitors’ knowledge and skills related to curriculum planning and curriculum experiences.

Focus on child development and school readiness

  • Point out examples of child development and learning in each domain of development during joint home visits or video tapes of home visits.
  • Work with home visitors to identify teachable moments during each home visit to integrate health principles, discussions of well-baby checks, and other health-related topics, and to connect health to children’s growth, development, and school readiness.
  • Use supervision sessions to ask about specific children’s development.
  • Use resources such as your state’s early learning guidelines• and Program Level School Readiness Goals for Early Childhood Programs: Examples from the National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching, and Learning (NCECDTL)
  • Use your program’s screening and ongoing-assessment tools to examine domains of development and how they influence each other.
  • Discuss information about school readiness for infants and toddlers with home visitors. Encourage home visitors to review the information and resources in the Home Visitors Handbook, Chapter 10, “School Readiness.”
  • Encourage home visitors to participate in ongoing training and coaching.
  • Identify professional development opportunities, such as conferences and workshops that home visitors can attend.

Emphasize the importance of a secure parent-child relationship

  • Share information about what a secure parent–child relationship is and how it benefits young children’s growth and development.
  • Provide guidance on communication strategies that home visitors can use to support parent–child relationships such as describing children’s actions and behaviors objectively, active listening, using open-ended questions or statements, inviting parents to share their perspective on the child’s behavior and development, and recognizing and acknowledging parent efforts, trial and error, discoveries, and strengths.
  • Arrange training and staff development opportunities on parent–child relationships and attachment.

Prioritize child learning and development experiences

  • Brainstorm how to use home materials and parent–child routines to promote child development.
  • Explore what child development experiences may work for each family.
  • Help home visitors connect individual child goals and program school readiness goals with the child-focused learning experiences they plan with parents. Use planning forms that help home visitors make these connections. For example, see the sample child/family home visit planning form on pages 16–17 of TA Paper No. 17: Individualizing Care for Infants and Toddlers – Part 2.

Individualize the curriculum

  • Observation is an important part of individualizing curriculum. It is also important for ongoing assessment (see Chapter 7.3 in this Handbook). Use resources such as TA Paper No. 15: Observation: The Heart of Individualizing Care and the short videos Look at Me! Using Focused Child Observation and Clearing Your View: Staying Objective in Observation to help home visitors strengthen their observation skills. Work with home visitors to establish systems for observing and documenting their observations. Encourage home visitors to share observation strategies with families.
  • Ensure the curriculum your program has chosen is appropriate for a home-based program and that you are familiar with it. Home visitors should receive ongoing training and support in using the curriculum as a foundation for jointly planning experiences with parents.
  • Provide supplemental resources such as books with developmental experiences and suggestions for using home materials.
  • Emphasize the parents’ role in designing and carrying out curriculum experiences.

Support children with disabilities with special health care needs

  • Coordinate with other program staff to ensure that at least 10% of children enrolled in your home-based program have diagnosed disabilities [45 CFR 1302.14(b)(1)), according to your state’s definition of disability. This is part of eligibility, recruitment, selection, enrollment, and attendance (ERSEA).
  • Use your program’s tracking system to monitor the number of children with disabilities your program serves.
  • Ensure that home visitors assigned to families with children with disabilities or special health care needs receive appropriate information and training on the disability or health condition and how best to work with the child and family. This support may come from early intervention providers, the child’s medical home or health specialist, and your program’s health manager.
  • Establish and maintain strong partnerships with local early intervention providers to ensure that children with disabilities and their families receive appropriate services.
  • Work with home visitors on ways to adapt the curriculum as needed.
  • Encourage home visitors to schedule occasional home visits with the IDEA provider, so they can observe how the provider works with the parent and child and to demonstrate to the family that both organizations are working together.

Experience It

Supporting Child Development Services: Curriculum Planning and Curriculum Experiences

Brenda Jones Harden, PhD, Institute for Child Study, University of Maryland, talks about joint planning with parents, using everyday routines for curriculum, and videotaping home visits to review in supervision.

To view the full webcast, go to: Parent–Child Relationships: The Cornerstone to School Readiness in the Home-based Option

Reflection Questions:

  1. Describe how you can enhance your staff’s use of joint planning to engage families in home visits.
  2. How can you support your staff in curriculum planning, using everyday routines and experiences for infants and toddlers?



Learn More

Health and school readiness are closely linked. Children need to be healthy and safe to learn. Head Start programs help families access ongoing, continuous health care for their child and promote healthy, safe behaviors in centers and at home. This fact sheet explains how Head Start's management systems support comprehensive health services that benefit children's school readiness.


This checklist is a tool for providing collaborative home-based services to infants, toddlers, or preschoolers with disabilities and their families. The checklist provides suggestions for activities that should take place to ensure that high-quality integrated services are provided. It is divided into four sections: 1) Build Relationships, 2) Gather and Share Information and Resources, 3) Develop and Implement Plans, and 4) Review and Evaluate Services.


Observation is a critical skill to support relationship-building and learning about the youngest children and their families. It also is required in the Head Start Program Performance Standards. In this audio conference, faculty share strategies for making observation practical and meaningful to Early Head Start and Migrant and Seasonal Head Start staff’s work.