Head Start is a unique child development program because of the comprehensive services that it offers. Good nutrition, well-child care, oral and mental health, and safe, stable, and responsive home environments promote healthy development and help children to be successful in school.
Home-based programs can use socializations to provide information about Head Start's comprehensive services and help connect families to needed services.
Based on the unique needs and interests of families, home visitors can share and discuss information on a variety of topics. This includes, but is not limited to, health, oral and mental health, nutrition, medical care, safety, self-sustainability, and so forth.
Use the strategies below to support child and family knowledge and development around important topics.
- Serve healthy snacks that the children can help prepare, like:
- Spreading peanut butter on toast
- Creating a rainbow salad out of pre-cut 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 have a diverse population, ask the parents to assist with compiling a cookbook by contributing special recipes from their heritage.
- 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
- Safety concerns parents may have about immunizations
- Provide active, preferably outdoor play spaces and present some information on the benefits of active and nature-based play.
- Observe seasonal safety rules.
- Use a 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 fluoridated toothpaste.
- Invite oral health professionals to guide a discussion on 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 make adjustments to the home environment to prevent dental injury, such as safety gates at the top and bottom of the stairs.
- Invite your program's mental health consultant or an HSAC member to provide anticipatory guidance on common parenting challenges, such as how to handle temper tantrums, sibling rivalry, and nighttime fears.
- Have 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 the development of 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.
- Suggest and model words, actions, or strategies for the parents to use that would increase the 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 an individual parent-child dyad 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 house, while also offering an engaging learning environment.
- Observe side by side with a parent as he/she watches his/her child explore alone or play with others.
- 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 new challenge in parenting. I thought we might talk about that as a group today."
- Be inclusive of 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 input on planning the agenda and experiences, as well as the environment for the socializations.
- Ensure that the environment and equipment used 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.
- Bring information or a guest to speak and initiate conversation about a goal that several or all of the families might share, such as learning about oral health.
- Reserve personal issues for discussion only in the privacy of the home visit.
- Spontaneously 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 if there may be a need to share information about community supports or materials of interest to all parents.
Resource Type: Article
National Centers: Early Childhood Development, Teaching and Learning
Last Updated: March 18, 2022