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Mel Gravely

Considering the Whole Child Philosophy in Head Start

Head Start is based on the “whole child” philosophy that embraces several areas: nutrition, physical and mental health, parent involvement, social services for families, and early childhood education.


Like air and water, food is a basic necessity of all living things. But it’s not just food that’s important, but also what food. Without proper nutrition, we can’t even start on any other facet of the whole child philosophy. Children who are fed a poor diet can find it difficult to concentrate and may exhibit behavioral problems. The Head Start program is often the first opportunity for a child to learn about and receive proper nutrition. And it’s the ideal time to refresh parents on the topic as well. Something they may not have thought about since grade school health class.

Physical Health

Children today spend more time sedentary than any other generation before them. Going hand-in-hand with lessons about nutrition, are lessons about the importance of physical activity. Luckily, most children love to be active and play with other children. They just need to be given the opportunity.

Mental Health

Head Start teachers can often recognize behavioral problems that might be dismissed or go unrecognized at home. It’s important to bring concerns to a parent’s attention immediately so that steps can be taken to help the student as early as possible. Also, each Head Start program should advise teachers on how to recognize bullying and how to intervene.

Parent Involvement

One study has already confirmed that parent involvement is one of the most enduring benefits of the head start program. What we want to do is make sure that we are continuing to engage parents directly into their child’s education as much as possible.

Social Services for Families

Head Start programs across the country are on the front lines of social struggles at the most micro-level possible, the family unit. While sweeping declarations like “a down economy” might be the headline on the nightly news, Head Start programs see the direct effects on children and their families. As a result, Head Start is the logical funnel through which access to social services can pass.

Early Childhood Education

That’s right, the one thing that Head Start programs are known for, is actually just one part of their overall mission in the community. But certainly an important part. For the last several decades, Head Start has shown 27 million families the “Window of Opportunity”.

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