NEMCSA - Head Start / Early Head Start

Skip Navigation Links.

Early Childhood Development

Early Childhood Education

     The national Head Start focus on the importance of early childhood development has had a dramatic impact on the delivery of child development and child care services for young children birth to five. Head Start and Early Head Start early childhood services address all areas of development to prepare children for success in school and in life and actively involve parents in their children's learning.

     Early Head Start (Birth to Three)

     Head Start (Three to Five)

Early Head Start

     Infant-toddler education services is provided in both the home-based and center-based program option. In the home-based program, staff promote learning by using the setting in which children spend most of their time- the home. The home visitor helps parents to better understand how simple household items and everyday experiences enhance learning. In the center-based program, caregivers promote learning within the daily routine of care and by changing the environment as children learn new skills.

Ongoing Assessment

     Ongoing assessment is required for all children enrolled in the Early Head Start program. Home visitors and teachers work with parents to gather information about their child so they can understand the child’s abilities and needs. Knowledge about the child helps parents and staff to identify goals - what a child can already do and what he/she is ready to learn next.

     The Creative Curriculum Developmental Continuum for Infants, Toddlers and Twos is a web-based assessment system used to measure children's growth over time. Creative Curriculum results help staff to plan curriculum experiences that address each child's individual strengths and needs. Parents can be involved in this process and monitor their child's progress through the use of ParentsCentral @

Goals for Children's Development & Learning - Infants, Toddlers & Twos

     The overall goal of the Early Head Start program is to support all areas of child development - social/emotional, physical, cognitive, and language development.

     Education Goals and Objectives follow:

  • Social-Emotional Development: To learn about self and others - trusts known, caring adults, regulates own behavior, plays with other children, learns to be a member of a group, and uses personal care skills.
  • Physical Development: To learn about moving - demonstrates basic gross motor skills, demonstrates basic fine motor skills.
  • Cognitive Development: To learn about the world - sustains attention, understands how objects can be used, shows a beginning understanding of cause and effect, shows a beginning understanding that things can be grouped, uses problem solving strategies, engages in pretend play.
  • Language Development: To learn about communicating - develops receptive language, develops expressive language, participates in conversations, understands and uses words, enjoys books and being read to, shows an awareness of pictures and print, experiments with drawing and writing.


     Curriculum plays a vital role in achieving the goal of enhancing the social competence and school readiness of children. Early Head Start programs must implement a curriculum that supports each child's individual pattern of development and learning style.

     Goals and objectives are what children need to learn. Curriculum is the roadmap for getting there. For young children, it is provided through routines and experiences. The Early Head Start program utilizes the following curriculum resources: Creative Curriculum for Infants and Toddlers, Program for Infant-Toddler Caregivers, First Steps, Conscious Discipline, and Language is the Key, Baby Signs, Games Babies Play, I Love You Rituals, and others.


     The Early Head Start program recognizes the uniqueness of each child as an individual. Therefore, children's progress and abilities are measured based on their own skills. Using information gathered from screenings, observations, assessment, and evaluations, staff are assisted in developing individualized planning for children.

Parent Involvement & Education

     Parents and families are key players in Early Head Start programs. Since parents are recognized as their child’s first teacher, staff seek to inform and support parents so they can guide the early learning of their young children.

  • Home visitors and teachers use the Parents as Teachers Born to Learn curriculum to provide families with information about parenting young children.
  • Parents learn to be observers of their children during socializations (early learning playgroups) at the Early Head Start center. Through an approach called Parents Interacting with Infants (PIWI), staff strive to support the parent-child relationship and to involve parents in their child’s learning experiences.
  • Parenting information distributed throughout the year include materials from United Way Born Learning campaign, Zero to Three booklets, Noodle Soup parenting tips, and others.

Inclusion of Children with Disabilities

     A formal evaluation is conducted, if needed, to diagnose a developmental delay. The evaluation process provides an in-depth view into the child’s skills and needs. EHS staff and parents collaborate with the early intervention agency such as Early On or Project find to conduct evaluations and to plan strategies for intervention. Families receive an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) that details expected outcomes.

Also see Disabilities.

Head Start

     Head Start programs are designed to serve the needs of their communities. Center-based services include options such as full-day, half-day, or a combination of program options. In the Home-Based option, Head Start staff conduct weekly parent visits that focus on helping parents in the role as their child's first teacher.

     Head Start's comprehensive approach to child development includes eight domains of learning: language development, literacy, mathematics, science, creative arts, social-emotional development, approaches to learning, and physical health and development. Each Head Start program is required to align its curriculum and assessment tools with the domains of learning to ensure that children make progress toward expected goals.

Child Outcomes

     A major goal of Head Start is to promote school readiness. The Head Start Child Outcomes Framework, released in 2000, was established to guide Head Start programs in curriculum planning and ongoing assessment of children's progress toward readiness. The framework includes the eight domains of learning.

Ongoing Assessment

     Ongoing assessment is required for all children enrolled in the Head Start program. Results help staff plan curriculum experiences that address each child's individual strengths and needs. Head Start uses The Creative Curriculum Developmental Continuum for Ages 3-5. is a web-based and interactive assessment system in a secure, online environment. This system is aligned with curriculum goals and objectives and offers the following:

  • A strengths-based approach that gives teachers the tools to collect information and analyze children's progress as part of demonstrating program outcomes and management accountability.
  • Goals and objectives that are fundamental to sound early childhood programming and consistent with Head Start domain elements and indicators.
  • Teachers to able to conduct authentic assessment that is based on observations taken during daily classroom activities.

Goals for Children's Development and Learning - Age Three to Five

     Goals and objectives are the roadmap of an early childhood curriculum and provide direction for program planning and a framework for determining what each child knows and how each child is developing. Because early childhood teachers focus on the whole child to promote learning, the goals of the Head Start curriculum focus on all aspects of a child's development:

  • Social/Emotional Development: children's feelings about themselves, the development of responsibility, and their ability to relate positively to others.
  • Physical Development: children's gross and fine motor development.
  • Cognitive Development: children's thinking skills, including the development of logical and symbolic thinking, problem-solving skills, and approaches to learning.
  • Language Development: children's ability to communicate through words, both spoken and written.

Parent Involvement & Education

     The Creative Curriculum Developmental Continuum system fosters parent communication and involvement, assists teachers to plan activities and teaching strategies based on children's developmental profiles, and helps teachers work with children to make progress on the curriculum's goals and objectives. Parents can be involved in this process and monitor their child's progress through the use of ParentsCentral @


     Curriculum is a plan that includes the goals for children's development and learning, the materials and experiences through which children will achieve these goals, and what staff and parents do to help children to achieve these goals. Activities and the play environment are responsive to the varying temperaments, learning styles, languages, and cultural background of the children and families in the program. Lesson plans including plans for individualization are developed for home-based and center-based programming.

     The Head Start curriculum of choice is The Creative Curriculum for Preschool, 4th Edition. Other supplemental resources are used to enhance the curriculum.


     Head Start staff use information from well child exams, developmental screening, assessment, ongoing observation, and insights from the child’s parents to determine how the program can best respond to each child’s individual strengths and needs. This means that staff make decisions about how to set up the play environment, what materials to place on shelves, and the kinds of experiences they will offer based on their knowledge of each child and of the group of children. Providing purposeful learning moments that match children’s needs insure on-going development and positive outcomes.

Inclusion of Children with Disabilities

     Through the assessment process, children may be identified as having a condition that requires intervention. If so, an evaluation is performed by a qualified professional. An evaluation is used to diagnose a developmental, sensory or behavioral condition. Head Start offers opportunities for placement of children with disabilities and adapts the curriculum to meet their unique needs and potential. This is done through development of an Individual Education Plan (IEP); a process that involves a multi-disciplinary team including the child’s parents.

Also see Disabilities.

Introduction | Child Health & Development | Early Childhood Education
Child Health and Safety | Child Nutrition | Child Mental Health
Disabilities | Prenatal Services

An Equal Opportunity / Program Employer
USDA Non-Discrimination Policy

Auxiliary aids, services, and alternate format will be made available upon request to individuals with disabilities
Michigan Relay Center (800) 649-3777 (Voice and TTD)

Copyright © 2015 Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency, Inc. All Rights Reserved.