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Approaches to Learning

What Is the Link Between Health and Approaches to Learning?

Approaches to Learning are the ways in which children learn. These include children's "openness and curiosity to tasks and challenges, task persistence, imagination, attentiveness, and cognitive learning style (e.g., how children process information)."1

Staff build trusting relationships that help children engage in learning. Strategies include:

  • Learning children's interests
  • Observing children's behaviors
  • Planning based on children's social and emotional development, learning style, and information from the daily health check

Examples of School Readiness Goals

The following table includes sample goals developed by the Early Head Start National Resource Center and the National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning. Review the links to health services in the third column to find strategies to accomplish your Approaches to Learning school readiness goals. If program school readiness goals address topics that are different from the examples offered, find links to health services here.

Early Head Start Head Start Links to Health Services
Goal 1: Children will demonstrate interest, curiosity, and eagerness in exploring the world around them. Goal 1: Children will show an interest in varied topics and activities, an eagerness to learn, creativity, and independence in their interactions with activities and materials.

Mental Health

  • Help children develop pro-social behaviors that help them engage in learning.
  • Use behavioral screening results to support children's social and emotional development and approaches to learning.

Nutrition and Physical Activity

  • Help families make informed decisions about breast and formula feeding during the early years.
  • Offer nutritious, culturally-appropriate meals that meet children's needs and give them the energy to learn.
  • Provide age-appropriate amounts of physical activity in children's daily routines to support positive behaviors and promote physical health.

Physical Health

  • Use health data to make decisions about how to individualize services to meet each child's needs.

Safety and Injury Prevention

  • Create and maintain safe environments that engage children and support their healthy development.
  • Identify and report suspected child abuse and neglect to protect children from maltreatment.
Goal 2: Children will develop persistence in learning and discovery. Goal 2: Children will demonstrate persistence when working with materials, activities, and information.
Goal 3: Children will learn and use words to describe what they are thinking and doing. Goal 3: Children will learn and use words and concepts that parallel the information available in activities and materials.

Research Connections

Research "supports the notion that paying attention and persisting on tasks are foundational skills that are critical early in life and continue to positively predict social and academic outcomes throughout childhood and into adulthood."2 By the time children are 2 years old, their early experiences influence whether they can confidently explore their environment, and have the persistence they will need to master the many challenges when learning new skills. Children who experience significant levels of stress at an early age are less likely to develop these characteristics because of the effect of stress on early brain development.3


1Hair, E., Halle, T., Terry-Humen, E., Lavelle, B. & Calkins, J. (2006). Children's school readiness in the ECLS-K: Predictions to academic, health, and social outcomes in first grade. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 21, 431–454. Retrieved from http://childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/First-Grade-Readiness.pdf [PDF, 346KB]

2McClelland, M. M., Acock, A. C., Piccinin, A., Rhea, S. A., & Stallings, M. C. (2013). Relations between preschool attention span-persistence and age 25 educational outcomes. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28(2),314–324. Retrieved from http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1957/31860/Preschool%20attention%20%20later%20outcomes_7-17-12%20FINAL%5B1%5D.pdf?sequence=1 [PDF, 261KB]

3National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. (2005). Excessive stress disrupts the architecture of the brain (Working Paper No. 3). Retrieved from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/index.php/resources/reports_and_working_papers/working_papers/wp3/

Last Updated: July 30, 2018