Teaching Practices

Incorporation of Comprehensive Services in Socializations

Father proudly posing with his two children.Head Start is a unique child development program because it offers comprehensive services. Head Start supports early childhood nutrition; regular well-child care; appropriate oral and mental health; and safe, stable, and responsive home environments. These services promote healthy development and help children succeed in school. (See The Integration of Comprehensive Services in Socializations in the Home Visitor’s Online Handbook.)

Home-based programs can use socializations to provide information about Head Start's comprehensive services and help connect families to needed services. Based on families’ unique needs and interests, home visitors can share and discuss information on a variety of topics, including but is not limited to physical, oral, and mental health; nutrition; medical care; safety; and self-sustainability.

Supervisors can support home visitors to use the strategies below to enhance child and family knowledge of important topics.

Nutrition

  • Ensure clean, comfortable, and (as much as possible) private spaces for breastfeeding mothers. If you cannot offer a private space, then offer a nursing cover for moms who prefer to keep nursing private.
  • Discuss strategies for creating safe and healthy mealtime environments, such as planning for food allergens, choking hazards, and modeling healthy eating habits
  • Serve healthy snacks the children can help prepare. Make sure these activities are logged as learning activities and aligned to the Head Start ELOF. Activities may include:
    • Spreading peanut butter, hummus, or avocado spread on toast
    • Creating a rainbow salad out of precut fruits or vegetables
    • Using food as a learning experience, such as introducing cantaloupe or peas
    • Cutting soft fruits or vegetables with a plastic knife
  • Provide the ingredients for a few parents to prepare a healthy, inexpensive snack if it is a small, intimate group where the preparation and eating would increase interaction among the adults
  • Offer recipes to take home.
  • Have children help set the table and practice their math one-to-one correspondence skills. For example: 
    • "Here's a plate for Shawna; here's one for Shawna's mommy..." 
    •  "Uh oh, we have enough cups for everyone but me. What should we do?"
    • Preschool children may count the number of utensils, plates, and cups.
  • Provide meals and snacks from a variety of ethnic and cultural groups to encourage children to try new foods. If you serve a diverse population, ask parents to assist with compiling a cookbook by contributing recipes

Health

  • Model protocols for washing hands and changing diapers.
  • Weigh and measure the children.
  • Provide cameras so parents can take photographs for a "My Growing Child" book.
  • Invite members of the health services advisory committee (HSAC) to attend the socialization to share information on health topics that are of interest to parents, for example:
    • What to do during cold and flu season
    • Links between nutrition and health
    • The importance of immunizations and safety concerns parents may have about immunizations
    • Safe infant sleep recommendations such as bed sharing
    • What to expect from well-child visits and questions for your child’s pediatrician
  • Provide active, preferably outdoor, play spaces, and present some information on the benefits of active and nature-based play.
  • Observe seasonal safety rules.

Oral Health

  • Use an oral health curriculum that is culturally and linguistically appropriate for pregnant women, young children, and their families.
  • Teach parents how to maintain their child's oral health based on age and developmental skills, including brushing their child's teeth with the proper amount of fluoride toothpaste.
  • Invite oral health professionals to discuss teething, use of a bottle and sippy cup, healthy food and drink choices, and tooth decay.
  • Arrange a field trip to a dental office to see how an oral examination is conducted.
  • Teach parents to adjust the home environment to prevent dental injury, such as safety gates at the top and bottom of the stairs.

Mental Health

  • Invite your program's mental health consultant or an HSAC member to provide guidance on common parenting challenges, such as how to handle temper tantrums, sibling rivalry, and nighttime fears.
  • Develop a memorandum of understanding (i.e., a formal agreement as to how your agencies will work together) with your local public mental health clinic or private providers with expertise in maternal depression, domestic violence, substance abuse, and early childhood mental health, including how they might support a socialization.
  • Focus on supporting secure relationships between parents and children. For example, have parents bring family photos or objects from home to create cultural continuity between home and the socialization environment.
  • Have a special time and routine for greetings and goodbyes.
  • Notice, acknowledge, and celebrate any moment of positive interactions between the parents and child. Use words such as, “I like how you encouraged her just now,” or “Look how she trusts you to calm her.”
  • Suggest and model words, actions, or strategies that increase parents' sensitivity and responsiveness to their child and increase the child's sense of engagement and safety, for example:
    • "Perhaps you could lift Katrina to your shoulder. Sometimes a change in position calms a baby."
    • "I can see Robert has his own ideas about what he wants to do with those cars, but he seems to like having you sit close. He smiled when you said something about how fast the little green one goes."

Child Development and School Readiness Goals

  • Review each child's goals before a socialization to plan appropriate experiences.
  • Provide an environment and opportunities for a parent-child pair or for a few children and parents at a time.
  • Offer both structured and unstructured learning experiences to help a child accomplish his or her goals.
  • Use families' goals to plan presentations and discussions on issues such as childproofing a home and creating engaging learning spaces.
  • Observe side by side with a parent as he/she watches the child explore alone or play with others. Provide information on what the child may be learning from their exploration or play. Discuss how the same opportunity might be able to be done within the home.
  • Encourage communication among parents. For example, during a parent discussion time, "During home visits, several of you have been talking with me about your toddler saying 'no' to everything. It's been a challenge in parenting. I thought we might talk about that as a group today."
  • Include all cultures represented in the group by ensuring that the environment (e.g., books, photos, signs, and materials) reflects the backgrounds of all families.
  • Ask for family input on planning the agenda and experiences, as well as the environment for the socializations.
  • Ensure that the environment and equipment encourages parents to engage in experiences that support their children's current and emerging status in cognitive, social, emotional, motor, language, and literacy development and in physical, mental, and oral health

Family Goals

  • Bring information or a guest speaker to initiate conversation about a goal that families might share, such as learning about oral health. Reserve personal issues for discussion only in the privacy of the home visit.
    • Bring together two parents who have raised similar questions or concerns. You might say, "Jim, you and Tanisha have both been trying to get your children to stay at the table while they eat. Maybe you two could discuss what you've tried and what's worked."
  • Consider the families' goals prior to socialization events to determine whether you should share information about community supports or materials of interest to all parents.