Promoting Learning Through Approaches to Rest, Meals, Routines, and Physical Activity

This Standards in Action vignette looks at the Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) on promoting learning through approaches to rest, meals, routines, and physical activity. It features a fictional grantee and highlights how program leaders work with others to meet the standards. Program staff can use the vignette to reflect on and identify the most appropriate ways to put the standards into practice in their own program.

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The Current Situation

A boy naps under a blanketJonette is the director of the Happy Javelina Head Start program. Their program has always had two half-day preschool sessions. However, to meet the current HSPPS standards, they are moving to a full-day program. Jonette knows this brings up many issues, but one her staff keeps discussing is how different the day-to-day routines will be with a full-day program.

Nicole is a teacher in one of the preschool classrooms. She and the other preschool teachers and assistant teachers are thinking about how they can set up the day to address children’s needs to nap, eat, and move as well as create more routines that children enjoy. Nicole and her colleagues are wondering, given their space limitations, how to make sure children can nap or participate in quiet learning activities without disturbing their sleeping peers. They are also thinking about how to ensure that all meals, including snacks, are opportunities to support development and learning. Nicole knows that the switch to a full day means that she will have more time with children every day to support their growth and development and create new routines. She will also get to know the children’s families better. She is particularly excited about how the extra time will give her more opportunity to integrate nature-based play into the children’s physical activity and movement outdoors. She wants to be sure she is ready to make the most of a full day with children.

The Solution: First Things First

Jonette, Nicole, and the other preschool staff explore how to implement the HSPPS from 45 CFR § 1302.31(e)(1)–(4). Jonette, as director, asks questions such as:

  • How we will ensure that staff are prepared to use the additional daily routines that a full day offers as time for learning and development? How will we assess staff knowledge and need for additional professional development around these topics?
  • Do we have enough equipment and materials for rest, meals, and routines (e.g., cots or mats, sheets, washer/dryer, quiet play items, dishes, cups, and silverware) to meet increased use and need? What funds are available if we need additional materials and equipment?
  • What new health and safety procedures need to be addressed and developed (e.g., cleaning/sanitizing cots or mats; storing cots/mats in a safe, sanitary way; maintaining appropriate staff/child ratios during naptime)?
  • How does our current curriculum support an extended day? For example, does it provide guidance for what an extended day schedule would look like? Does it offer strategies for supporting routines such as nap and snack times? Does it provide guidance on extending learning into outdoor physical play activities?

Nicole and the other preschool staff ask questions such as:

  • What planning do we need to do to ensure that our extended day activities meet the developmental needs of children, including the need for movement and physical activity, rest periods, and additional snack or meal times?
  • What outdoor, nature-based movement activities do my colleagues use that I haven’t tried yet?
  • What kind of quiet learning activities will be engaging for children who do not need or want to rest or nap?
  • What planning do we need to do with families to understand children’s needs and individual preferences related to routines (nap, meals, afternoon play) that will now occur in our program rather than at home?
  • Where will we store cots or mats? Will we need to rearrange the room to accommodate them?
  • Could we visit a full-day program in our community to observe a typical full day for our age group?

The Solution: Next Steps

While Jonette works with her finance and human resources staff and the program’s Health Services Advisory Committee to address some of her administrative questions, she also works with her preschool team to review their curriculum and focus more closely on aspects related to a full-day schedule. Together, they identify professional development opportunities related to their questions. For example, Jonette sets up time on a rotating basis for the preschool staff to observe a local full-day Head Start program and a National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accredited child care program to see how other programs implement a full-day schedule. Nicole and her colleagues have time to observe, talk with teachers in the programs, and ask some of their questions.

The Happy Javelina teachers then meet with Jonette to share what they learned and develop a plan for implementing some of the effective program and teaching practices they observed in the full-day programs. They identify a few key issues they need to think about ahead of time to make the transition to full-day programming successful for the children and families in their program. They also identify the following resources on the Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (ECLKC) website to guide their implementation and planning to meet the HSPPS:

Selected Resources:

Embedding Learning into Schedules and Routines

15 Minute In-service Suites

Outdoor and Physical Activity

Health and Safety

Last Updated: July 22, 2019