Prepare Your Child for Success

At home and in school, children learn through play and experiences, as well as interactions and conversations with other children and adults. Talking with your children and asking open-ended questions can be fun for everyone. Encourage your child to think more deeply and develop his or her reasoning skills with questions such as “How do you think you could solve this?”, “What would happen if…?”, “Why do you think it works this way?”, and “How does that happen?” Even babies can benefit from beginning to hear these types of open-ended questions.

Remember that each child is unique and grows, develops, and learns at their own pace. Choose experiences and materials that match your child’s abilities and interests. Enjoy these ideas with your child as you continue in your role as your child’s first and most important teacher. Have fun!

Enroll in Capital Area Head Start

CAHS Locations

Find a location near you.

Early Head Start Home Based Programs

(Full year – pregnant women and children ages birth to 3 years)

Early Head Start is held within families’ homes in Harrisburg and surrounding areas of Dauphin County, as well as the West Shore and Carlisle areas of Cumberland County.

Family Days only are held at the following locations:

  • 1654 Walnut St, Harrisburg, PA 17103          
  • 21 S. Bedford Street, Carlisle, PA 17013 Family Days are held here

PreK Counts

(5 hour/day, 5 days/week, school year – ages 3–5)

  • Capital Area Early Learning Center (Camp Hill)
  • Foose School (Harrisburg)
  • Middlesex School (Carlisle/Middlesex area)
  • Paxtonia (Lower Paxton Township)

Head Start Programs

( 5-5.75-hour/days, 5 days/week, school year – ages 3–5)

  • Banks Street Center (Penbrook)
  • Carlisle Center (Carlisle)
  • Granite St (Harrisburg)
  • Harrisburg Area Community College Center (Harrisburg)
  • Newport School (Newport)
  • Salvation Army (Harrisburg)

Child Development Activities: Infants and Toddlers

Early Learning GPS

The Early Learning GPS is a great interactive online tool to guide families through their child’s growth and development.

To get started, simply answer 10 questions about your young child. There are no wrong answers to these questions. Then you can watch video tips and access other reliable resources about your child’s early learning.

Get started with the Early Learning GPS

The Early Learning GPS was developed by Pennsylvania’s Promise for Children in partnership with Pennsylvania’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning.

Social and Emotional Development

How Children Show Trust
When you talk to and respond to infants and toddlers in consistent ways, they learn to trust the adults around them and learn their world is safe and predictable. This trust shapes their relationships throughout their lives.
0-3 months
Respond to your infant’s cries. Hold and snuggle your infant.
3-9 months
Play hide and seek or peek-a-boo. Talk to your infant, even from another room or from across the room.
8-18 months
Respond to your toddler’s need for comfort. Remove things that scare your toddler. Allow your child to explore himself in a mirror.
18-24 months
Follow your child’s lead. Practice daily routines – bedtime, tooth brushing, baths. Help your child wash his hands.
24-36 months
Allow extra time for your child to dress himself. Encourage your child’s individuality. Enjoy what your child can do well!

How Children Express Who They Are
Infants and toddlers learn who they are and how to express their individuality from a very early age. Families’ beliefs and practices and values establish the child’s sense of themselves.
0-3 months
As you talk to your infant during changing and feeding, talk about the feelings they are expressing. (You are so hungry. You are so happy today. You don’t like feeling wet, but you’ll be dry and comfy soon)
3-9 months
Respond to your infant’s smile with a smile and a happy voice. 8-18 months Label your child’s feelings. “You are happy.” Hold, read, sing to your child daily. Laugh and smile at your child.
18-24 months
Calm your toddler by picking her up, touching, talking to her.
24-36 months
Show your toddler you are aware of her feelings. Remind her to use words to express her feelings.

How Children Act Around Other Children
Children are very interested in other children from the time they are very young infants. Their relationships with other children and adults are shaped by their personality and experiences.
0-3 months
Look into your infant’s eyes when feeding, talking, changing, playing with her. Talk about what will happen next.
3-9 months
Pick your baby up when they lift their arms to you. Talk about what you can both see as you look around.
8-18 months
Label your child’s feelings. “You are happy.” Hold, read, sing to your child daily. Laugh and smile at your child.
18-24 months
Listen and respond to your toddler’s “stories.” Encourage them in conversations with you.
24-36 months
Provide opportunities for your toddler to play with other children at the park, Head Start, or with friends.

Communication and Language

How Children Understand and Communicate
Infants learn to understand what is said to them and learn how to give messages. Babies communicate by smiling, crying, cooing, babbling, and moving their bodies. Learning language is a natural process that develops as children listen to those around them. Language skills vary a great deal from child to child. Some speak early, some speak later. They begin to look at and explore books and are interested in stories, songs, and other language.
0-3 months
Talk to your infant as you feed and change him. Imitate his cooing and movements.
3-9 months
Direct your infant to notice things. “Look, there’s Daddy. You found Daddy.” Use gestures along with words. Nod your head and say “yes.”
8-18 months
Talk out loud to your baby throughout the day. Use words to describe what he is doing. Use new words over and over. Point to things or pictures in books and talk about them. Combine easy words like “bye-bye” with words and gestures.
18-24 months
Give simple two-part directions. Use words that describe things or express action. Allow your child to choose books to read. Read them over and over. Ask simple questions. Encourage him to sing songs or chant with you.
24-36 months
Ask your child to tell you where something is, who someone is, and talk about what happened. Repeat the correct form of an incorrectly pronounced word or incorrect sentence but do not correct the child’s speech. Ask questions as you read books together.

Cognitive Development

How Children Explore and Figure Things Out
Infants and toddlers learn about their world as they explore by looking at, touching, tasting, listening to, and feeling everything around them. They learn how things work and how to solve problems.
0-3 months
Encourage your baby to touch and play with her bottle or toys. Talk to your baby about things in their world.
3-9 months
Move things back and forth for your baby to watch. Provide chances for your baby to find, grasp, and hold things.
8-18 months
Play turn-taking games. Provide toys and experiences that encourage your baby to solve problems. Hide toys for your baby to find.
18-24 months
Have toys your child can use to move or make sounds. Keep toys at a special place. Ask the child to get them or put them away. Count things. Name things.
24-36 months
Talk about matching and match socks, toys, other objects. Point to and talk about small details in books. Play hiding games with people or objects.

Physical Development

How Children Move Their Bodies and Use Their Hands
Infants and toddlers gain more control over their arms and hands and legs and feet as they mature. They need safe places to move freely and practice all these new movements.
0-3 months
Play pat-a-cake or this little piggy or other word games while gently touching your baby. Allow her to move her legs and arms freely. Place a rattle or toy in her hand.
3-9 months
Change your baby’s position frequently throughout the day. Provide time for the infant to be held in a sitting position. Rock your baby.
8-18 months
Sing simple songs and move your baby with the music. Provide balls and other soft objects to throw. Make your home safe to explore.
18-24 months
Have riding toys, balls to kick. Jump with your child. Have materials they can hold and use to draw. Dance with your child to music.
24-36 months
Have toys for catching and throwing. Put measuring cups and toys in the bathtub. Walk backward, tiptoe, stand on one foot together.

Child Development Activities: Preschoolers

These activities are based on the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework (HSELOF), Pennsylvania Early Learning Standards, and the High Scope Approach.

Social and Emotional Development

By working and playing with other children and with adults, a child develops important social skills that will be with them throughout their life. Young children watch others, imitate them, and want to play and talk and learn about themselves and others. How a child relates to adults and other children, asks for help, and how they understand and express their feelings are important. Children’s feelings about themselves are also very important. Children first learn about their own family. From there, they learn about their school, neighborhood, the larger world, different jobs, where people live, reasons why rules are needed, and how people get along and live together.

  • Allow your child to make choices. Give your child the chance to make choices. For example: Do you want to wear the green or red shirt today? Do you want cereal or toast for breakfast? Do you want to play on the slide or the swings?
  • Allow your child to solve problems whenever possible and safe.
  • Be supportive when your child wants to try something new. Encourage your child. Praise her for trying.
  • Talk to your child about conflicts and ways to resolve them with words.
  • Expect spills and mistakes. It’s how children learn.
  • Let your child play dress-up using larger clothes and shoes, make a dress-up box/ basket they can reach.
  • Point out landmarks near your home while driving or walking.
  • Make a simple map of your neighborhood with your child or make a treasure map.
  • Create a scavenger hunt.
  • Help your child learn their phone number or address.
  • Give your child a special job around the house. Show your child how to set the table, spread peanut butter, pour drinks.
  • Talk to your child, have lots of conversations about lots of different things.
  • Provide consistency and predictability in your daily routines.
  • Sing, dance, play with your child.
  • Provide opportunities for your child to play with other children. Go to the park, have a friend come to play, visit with relatives who have children.
  • Make sure your child attends their Head Start program regularly.
  • When your child is upset, ask them to identify the problem by saying things such as “Can you tell me what the problem is?”
  • Read books that talk about feelings.
  • Encourage your child to take care of her possessions.
  • Show pride in family traditions.
  • Makes positive statements about your child and encourage them to do the same.
  • Encourage your child to independently gather their materials to take home.
  • Help your child express their feelings in words (sad, angry, happy).
  • Help your child identify feelings in others. Look at facial expressions.
  • Praise and support your child with specific words about what they have done. For example: You knew exactly where to hang up your coat. Wow, you brushed your hair and look so neat.
  • Participate in pretend play with your child.
  • Play a game with your child that has some basic simple rules such as Simon Says, duck duck goose, musical chairs
  • Look through pictures of family and friends with your child.
  • Recognize the importance of family routines and traditions by making special “family time” at holidays.
  • Create special times in your family’s routines that your child can look forward to, like reading a story at bedtime.
  • Encourage your child to express himself.
  • Read stories and talk about them.
  • Answer questions.
  • Help your child use words to identify her needs.
  • Express your feelings in words.
  • Provide cooperative activities such as cooking, making play dough, taking turns.
  • Take your child for a walk around the neighborhood, point out signs and landmarks. Talk about how you get from place to place. Visit local businesses like the grocery store, post office, and bank and talk about what happens there and what the workers do.
  • Visit with family members and talk about their jobs, family memories, and traditions.
  • Plan play dates with other children, so your child has the opportunity for cooperative play with others.
  • Look at maps together, find your city or street, draw a map.
  • Talk about history – what life was like when grandparents were young, talk about what life may be like in the future.
  • Look at family photos together. Talk about how the child and other family members have changed and grown.
  • Create a pretend store where your child can buy and sell items.
  • Play games where your child can practice self-control such as the “freeze game” – stopping when music stops or other start/stop games.

Approaches to Learning

All children need to feel secure, comfortable and successful about learning. Each child learns in their own way. Adults can help support them by closely watching to help discover a child’s learning style. Children need to be encouraged to try new things, solve problems, and to be persistent in their activities and projects.

  • Ask open-ended questions such as: what if, why, how.
  • Encourage your child to plan activities.
  • Provide interesting play/learning materials to encourage problem-solving (puzzles, tape, glue, etc.).
  • Show that learning is fun.
  • Provide a variety of materials and experiences that appeal to a variety of the child’s senses and their learning style. Consider things they can see, hear, feel, taste, smell.
  • Encourage the child to express their interests and develop projects. If they are interested in a subject, find books, materials, toys that relate to that subject.
  • Tell or read stories about people who use their imagination and creativity or invent things.
  • Take pictures of them in action. Label the pictures.
  • Talk with your child about their progress or skills.
  • Talk about your child’s new accomplishments, ideas, and play with other adults. Your child will know you are enjoying the time you spend with her, as well as feel confident in her new knowledge and skills.
  • Encourage your child to be persistent with tasks/activities. Give specific feedback. (You brushed your teeth on the top and bottom today, and they are shining! You worked so hard to put all your books/toys on the shelf just like they were before you started playing. It looks so nice and neat.)
  • Use open ended questions to encourage your child to sort and classify things (I wonder where that brown sock’s match is? What kind of animal is that? I wonder what sleeps under the ground?)
  • Use open-ended questions to encourage your child to problem solve (How can we get to school if the bus doesn’t come? What do we need to pack for Grandma’s house? Why won’t that ball stay still?)
  • Read stories and ask “what if” questions. (What if the animal gets sleepy? What will happen if the boy can’t find his way home?)
  • Ask “why” about dangerous situations (Why do you think we look both ways before we cross the street? Why should children give matches to an adult?)
  • Accept that your child may be more or less willing to try new experiences than other children you know. Each child is unique.
  • Provide new materials in your home to stimulate your child and stretch their thinking. They can be recyclable things such as empty boxes, junk mail envelopes, and other safe materials.
  • Find books at the library, borrow them from school or buy your child books about things that interest them. Read them together. Allow your child to explore them on their own. Create a special resource area in your home for books and other materials, collections, etc.
  • Encourage your child to be aware of computers and other technology and what these things can do.
  • Don’t allow computers or video games to take the place of real-life exploration and creative play with real objects. They are the keystone of young children’s learning.
  • Encourage your child to solve problems whenever possible and safe.

Language Development

From the time children are born, their ability to learn language is amazing. They listen, make sounds, and begin to speak. Young children need lots of experiences with language in their everyday life and in their play. They need to talk with you and to have you listen carefully. Language development involves listening to and understanding speech, using new words, and knowing that letters make sounds in words.

  • Talk with your child often. It is one of the best activities to support early language and literacy. Use language during your everyday activities: the drive to work, bath time, mealtime, doing dishes, etc. It’s easy to talk to your child, it can be done anywhere, and it’s fun to learn what your child is thinking or to share your thoughts and ideas!
  • Model good listening by giving the child a chance to think and respond to you.
  • Repeat rhymes, songs, fingerplays with your child. Make up songs and rhymes with your child.
  • Help your child review the sequence of a short story or something that has happened. For example: First, we got in the car and then what happened next? And then what happened?
  • Introduce new words to your child, and use them in various ways, talk about what they mean.
  • Talk about what sounds the different letters make.
  • Collect things that make noise (keys, whistle, crumpled paper, clock, toy). Have your child close his eyes and guess what is making the noise. Let him create the game for you to guess too.
  • When reading a rhyming book, stop before the rhyming word and give your child the chance to guess what comes next.
  • Play “I Spy” with letter sounds. Say, “I spy something on the table that makes a mmmm sound (milk).” See if they can guess the word you’re thinking of.


Literacy involves children knowing about and enjoying books, knowing that letters and words have meaning, using letter names, understanding that writing things has a purpose, and beginning to write by using letter-like shapes, symbols, or actual letters.

  • Take trips to the library to borrow books. Read books while sitting in the library. Take books along in the car or the doctor’s office to read or make wait time interesting.
  • Make a cozy area in your home for a quiet area/ reading space. A large cardboard box and pillows work.
  • Read storybooks, poetry, fairy tales, science, humor, alphabet books. Ask your child to pick books to read. Look at the book’s cover and ask your child to guess what the story is about. Talk about the parts of the book, the cover, pages, author, illustrator. Talk about the pictures. Ask your child questions while you read a book. Use different voices for the characters in books or act out a story or book.
  • When reading, use your finger to point out that you are reading from left to right and top to bottom.
  • Point out capital letters, writing vs. printing, question marks, periods, commas.
  • Point out familiar words (stop signs, local restaurants, and businesses, etc.)
  • Point out letters, numbers, and words, especially ones that mean something to your child.
  • Makes books with your child about things that are important to her.
  • Make cards with your child for holidays, special events, to thank someone, or just to say hello.
  • Encourage your child to scribble, draw, write. Give them pencils, markers, crayons, junk mail envelopes, paper, stickers, tape, memo pads, and other writing materials.
  • Ask the child to tell you what their writing says.
  • Provide activities to develop finger strength and control (cutting, play dough, stringing objects).
  • Provide opportunities for children to form letter-like shapes or actual letters if they are able. They could use a pipe cleaner, yarn, play dough, shaving cream on a tray.
  • Label things in your house that are meaningful to your child. Let them help make the label or decide what to label. You can make place cards for the table.
  • Take trips in your community and talk about new words and ideas inspired by the places you see: The “fire siren” in the firehouse. The “shelving” and “check out desk” at the library. The “manager” at a restaurant.


Young children learn math by playing and working with real objects. They learn about size, quantity, patterns, measurement, time, space, and shapes as they play with objects.

  • Gather a small group of objects. Have your child close their eyes. Remove one and ask your child what’s missing. They love to do this back to you as well!
  • Ask open-ended questions, such as “I wonder how many cups it will take to fill this pitcher. How did you get that block to stay there? Why do you think…?”
  • Cook with your child. Choose simple, safe cooking experiences. Talk with your child while you cook and encourage your child to talk about it with other family members.
  • Keep a family calendar and talk about what happened on a certain date, what is happening the next day, or the next week. Mark special days.
  • Do laundry together, sorting socks by color, matching pairs of socks, etc.
  • Sort groceries with your child by where they are kept in your house, such as refrigerator, freezer, cupboard.
  • Cut your child’s sandwiches into shapes: squares, rectangles, and triangles.
  • Find and identify shapes in or around your house with your child.
  • Use color names in everyday conversations, such as “Let’s put on your blue shirt.” or “Eat your yellow corn.”
  • Use words that compare in everyday speech, such as big/little, short/long, etc.
  • Using bowls, measuring spoons, dolls, trucks, etc., have your child line them up by size.
  • Have child set the table, placing one spoon, fork, plate, for each person.
  • Look for objects to count every day, such as the number of steps in the house, the number of peas on the child’s plate, the number of houses you walk by. Find opportunities to count throughout your daily routine.
  • Parents should count even if your child doesn’t, won’t, or can’t.
  • Say counting rhymes and songs like One Two Buckle My Shoe, 5 Little Ducks.
  • Use body part names while getting dressed or taking a bath. Sing “Head, Shoulders, Knees, Toes,” pointing to and naming each body part.
  • Use words that describe the position of objects, such as in, on, under, beside, etc.
  • Review the day’s activities with your child at bedtime.
  • In the morning, talk about what your child did yesterday and what he will do today.
  • Look for patterns and point them out to your child. They may have a pattern on their clothing; there may be a pattern on the walls or ceiling, and music and dance may follow a pattern, too.
  • Talk with your child about what is alike and what is different.
  • Help your child count down to a special day, holiday, or birthday.


Children use all their senses, as well as trial and error, to observe, explore, experiment, investigate, compare, classify, predict, question, and look for answers as they play with objects. Science involves the properties of things (soft, hard, wet, dry), studying nature and living things, thinking about how things change and move, gathering information and making conclusions.

  • Ask your child questions such as: How did you…? Why do you think…?
  • Ask your child to explain their thinking.
  • Encourage your child to draw, write, or tell a story about their thoughts and discoveries.
  • Have your child help you with gardening outside.
  • Provide working toys such as a cash register, wind-up toy, or bicycle and talk about how they work.
  • Put up a thermometer outside or inside and discuss the temperature.
  • Fly a kite or watch a pinwheel and talk about how and why they move.
  • Talk about where foods come from (milk from cows, peas from plants, apples from trees, etc.).
  • Take a walk, talk about things you see, and how they change. You may want to collect natural objects (pine cones, twigs, stones, nests, feathers, seed pods). You can make a special box to save them in with your child. Your child could bring them into school to share.
  • Experiment with ice cubes with your child. Have him fill the tray and check to see how long they take to freeze. How long do they take to melt? What could you do with ice?
  • If you have plants or pets, let your child help care for them. Talk about what the plant/animal needs.
  • Talk about the temperature each day. What kind of clothing will your child need to wear?
  • Talk about how things move. Take a trip to a local airport, train, or bus station.
  • In the bathtub, talk about what sinks and floats. Ask your child to predict what each object will do.
  • Buy as gifts or let your child play with old road maps, flashlights, old telephones, graph paper, rulers, tape measures, the bath scale, timers, old watches or clocks, real or pretend money.
  • Talk with your child about the environment. Use words such as recycle, litter, and conservation.
  • Provide empty boxes, tubes, and other containers for your child to experiment with, create or construct, or collect things.

Creative Arts

The arts include dancing, music, dramatic play, and art. All children should have opportunities to use and enjoy the arts. Current research shows a direct connection between the arts and higher levels of thinking and learning.

  • Provide writing materials, such as paper, crayons, markers, pencils, chalk.
  • Provide blocks, empty milk cartons, canned goods, empty plastic containers, legos, or boxes that your child can use to build and create.
  • Allow your child to keep his/her “buildings” on display. (Block buildings are just as important as drawings or paintings).
  • Add additional props like a sheet, plastic cars, small rocks, cardboard tubes, etc.
  • Large brushes and buckets of water can be used to “paint” sidewalks or concrete buildings.
  • Encourage your child to draw something she has experienced. (something she saw on a walk or ride to the store or on a visit to a friend or relative’s house).
  • Encourage your child to tell you about his pictures and talk about his artwork. Write down exactly what they say on their pictures.
  • Display your child’s work (refrigerator doors are a great place).
  • Participate in your child’s play by having your child tell you how you can help or pretend something with your child, act out a story.
  • Participate in your child’s pretend play. For example, you could be the clerk while the child is the shopper. You could be the baby, and the child is the babysitter.
  • Ask open-ended questions to help extend their pretend play such as: Why are you going to the zoo? I wonder what you will make for dinner. When will the train arrive? What will we do if it’s late?
  • Make Fun Dough: 1 cup flour, ¼ cup salt, 1/2 cup water. Mix ingredients together. Slowly add more water if needed. Knead to form a workable dough. Use cookie cutters, popsicle sticks, rolling pins, etc. Add food coloring to the water for different colors of dough.
  • Provide opportunities and materials, such as old clothing, scarves, tablecloths, sheets, shoes, hats, etc. for dramatic play.
  • Allow your child to play with safe, real objects, such as pots and pans, boxes of food, towels, or sheets.
  • Allow children to have pretend friends.
  • Make puppets with anything in the home (socks, pot holder mitts).
  • Provide various experiences such as outings, walks, library, stories, etc.
  • Talk to your child about real and pretend and help them to understand the difference between the two.
  • Give your child the chance to listen to different kinds of music (polka, jazz, folk songs, dance, ballet, pop, classical, nursery rhymes, etc.).
  • Sing action songs: “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” “The Wheels on the Bus,” “Clap, Clap, Clap Your Hands,” or recorded music. • Sing songs that stimulate response: “Pop! Goes the Weasel,” “Down By the Station,” “Skip To My Lou,” “Jingle Bells.”
  • Sing any of the above songs or “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” “Open Shut Them,” “I Have Hands that Can Clap, Clap, Clap.”
  • Sing “Itsy, Bitsy Spider,” “Where is Thumbkin,” “This Little Piggy,” with high or low voices or your own rhythm.
  • Make a drum from an oatmeal box.
  • Play “Ring Around the Rosie,” “London Bridge,” the “Hokey Pokey,” or “The Farmer in the Dell,” or “Simon Says”
  • Make up simple songs with your child.

Physical Health and Development

Young children develop important physical abilities which are supported by active indoor and outdoor play. Children need chances to exercise all their muscles (their large muscles like arms and legs and their small muscles like their fingers and hands). It is especially important to know that physical movement helps brain development and learning, and young children need to move and handle actual things to learn. Children need health and safety experiences to learn about personal health and safety and promote healthy lifestyles. They need to learn how to take care of themselves and rely on themselves.

  • Provide paper, play dough, etc. your child can tear into small pieces, fold, or handle with their hands and fingers.
  • Provide pegs and pegboards, beads, puzzles, or items such as keys, silverware, books with pages to turn, plastic jars with lids to take off and put on.
  • Have your child trace around plastic lids, boxes, cups, etc.
  • Encourage your child to help with preparing food, such as spreading butter or jelly on bread, pouring drinks, dishing their own food, washing fruits or vegetables.
  • Use various body movements with your child: bend, wiggle, shake, stomp, push, jump, catch, tiptoe, gallop, walk backward, run, balance, swing, skip.
  • Exercise together.
  • Create an obstacle course with your child, so they can crawl in, go under, over, around, through, etc.
  • Help your child ride a bicycle with training wheels or a tricycle or other riding toy. Provide pull toys such as a wagon.
  • Encourage movement: playing ball, pretending to be jumping, or singing songs like “Bend and Stretch” or “Head and Shoulders;” pretend games of grasshoppers, leap frog, popcorn, Jack Be Nimble; play kick ball.
  • Play a game of Follow the Leader using various movements, walk forward, backward, tiptoe, etc.
  • Pretend to be a ball, roll over with head tucked under, climb ladders, boxes, steps, or hills.
  • Take a trip to the playground or slide down a snowy hill.
  • Play games pretending to be the windblown leaves, clouds, or chasing balloons. Play games of pretend that jump off, over, onto (frogs, kangaroos).
  • Pretend to be a tight rope walker (can use 2X4 or masking tape on the floor); or walk on a curb or a painted line.
  • Try balloon play, bean bag, or lightweight beach ball toss accompanied by music.
  • Sing, march, jump, run, walk, or dance to music.
  • Encourage and allow your child to dress and undress himself.
  • Provide dolls with clothing for your child to practice dressing.
  • Have your child brush her teeth at the same time every day.
  • Encourage your child to comb or brush their hair.
  • Brush your teeth together so your child can imitate you.
  • Wash your hands with your child before preparing food, eating meals, or after playing outdoors.
  • Have tissues where your child can reach them.
  • Have an easy-to-reach hook for a child to hang up their coat or clothes. Set up your home so your child can be as independent as is safe and possible.
  • Practice tying shoes together.
  • Your child will let you know when they are ready for toilet training. It is best not to rush your child; it will be easier for everyone. Read storybooks or tell stories related to toilet training.
  • Show your child how to set the table.
  • Provide simple bath toys that are non-breakable and encourage pouring
  • Allow your child to use a butter knife with a large handle to cut soft foods at the table with supervision.
  • Encourage your child to pass dishes to others.
  • Have your child help with one daily household chore.
  • Keep rag/sponge in an easy-to-reach place. Have all family members be responsible for cleaning their spaces.
  • Have a special place, box, or shelf for toys.
  • Show child how to buckle and unbuckle a seatbelt.
  • Teach your child how to make a phone call without adult help.
  • When you walk with your child, review safety rules. Show him how to cross the street, look both ways.
  • Plan and practice handling an emergency with your child, including calling 911.
  • Encourage your child to dress and undress himself and have an easy-to-reach place for them to put their clothes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is included in CAHS' curriculum?


  • Planning around individual children’s interests, strengths, and developmental needs
  • Regular observation and on-going educational assessment
  • Hands-on interactive learning
  • Language and literacy enrichment
    • STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) experiences
    • Social-emotional development
  • A variety of materials and equipment
  • Safe, organized, child-friendly environment
  • Individualized programming
  • Sensory exploration
  • Problem solving
  • Adult support
  • Consistent daily routine
  • Responsive, relationship-based caregiving

What makes CAHS successful?

Comprehensive services, which include health, nutrition, social, and other services determined to be necessary by family needs assessments, in addition to education and cognitive development services

  • Federal Head Start performance standards that are monitored annually
  • Services that meet the needs of individual children and families as well as the needs of the local communities
  • Staff and parent commitment to the program and their “can do” approach and initiative
  • Extensive support from multiple community partners
  • Active participation in federal, state, and local boards and committees

What are some statistics that prove Head Start's success?

The Head Start Impact Study and the Pre-Kindergarten follow-up study provide data supporting the importance of providing services from birth to five.

  • Children and their families who participated in Early Head Start (EHS) and had participated in either Head Start, pre-k or a formal childcare program experienced favorable outcomes
    • Reduced behavior problems
    • Less aggressive behavior
    • Increased reading-related achievement test scores
  • Parents showed positive parenting behaviors, were supportive of their child’s learning, and were less likely to be depressed.
  • The Harrisburg Preschool Program Evaluation found Head Start graduates had higher mean scores in the 5th grade than a control group on all academic and executive function outcomes. (Greenberg & Domitrovich, 2011)
  • Head Start parents invest more time in learning activities with their children, and non-resident fathers spend more days per month with their children. (Gelber & Isen, 2011) (These statistics come from

How is CAHS funded?

CAHS primarily uses Federal and State dollars to fund operations. View our Annual Accomplishments for more information about our funding.

Where are other Head Start programs in Pennsylvania located?

Head Start programs are available in 65 counties in Pennsylvania. More information is available from the Pennsylvania Head Start Association.

Are there other Head Start programs located within the country?

There are Head Start programs in all 50 states in the United States. More information is available from the Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center.

What are the criteria for enrollment?

Income guidelines. CAHS follows the poverty guidelines. CAHS accepts over-income families only when there are no income-eligible families available.
Age. Early Head Start accepts pregnant women and children ages birth to three. Head Start accepts children ages three to five.
Residency. Residency requirements may apply to certain sites.
Interest. CAHS is looking for children and families who are interested in participating in the program, ensuring their children get to school every day, and/or participating in home visits.

Who do we contact for enrollment?

We have enrollment specialists prepared to answer all your enrollment questions. They can perform applications over the telephone, where you are placed on a waiting list until a suitable space is available. You can reach the enrollment specialists at 717-541-1795. Learn more.

How do parents benefit from CAHS?

CAHS promotes positive parent self-esteem and develops leadership skills.

  • CAHS facilitates parent literacy, employment, and self-sufficiency.
  • Many parents develop personal goals while their child is enrolled in Head Start and receive support to reach those goals.
  • Head Start parents volunteer in the program in some way, which translates into valuable job training experience.
  • CAHS connects parents with community resources to support them in times of crisis
  • Parents have the opportunity to participate in Hands-On Training (HOT) if they have an interest in a career in early childhood education.
  • 35% of the paid staff at CAHS have been parents in the program.

What do parents say about CAHS?

“The Head Start staff really takes an interest in not only my child but also my family and we really appreciate their concern.” “Good Job!” “Well Done!” “My child is much more confident.” “We are extremely pleased with our child’s progress and the overall professionalism of the staff.” “Capital Area Head Start helped our family focus on positive behaviors and the behavioral process.”

How does the community benefit from CAHS?

Employs approximately 260 staff

  • Spends over $14,000,000 annually through employment, leasing of space, and purchase of goods and services
  • Brings needed federal funds into the area
  • Is governed by a local Board of Directors and by a parent Policy Council, so decisions about spending, staffing, and program administration are made locally
  • Is a comprehensive, family-focused agency working to impact parents’ and children’s health, education, and development. CAHS connects families to services that empower them and provide them with opportunity
  • Builds strong families, which builds strong communities
  • Advocates for children and families
  • Demonstrates significant educational outcomes for children in literacy, cognitive development, and social-emotional development
  • Maintains 100% enrollment
  • Demonstrates significant health outcomes for children. Please view our Annual Accomplishments for more information.

Are there employment opportunities?

Employment opportunities with Capital Area Head Start are available through Keystone Human Services.

  • Both entry-level positions and professional positions are available.
  • We offer competitive salaries and benefits.
  • We offer on the job training and educational assistance.

How can we help?

Schedule a Head Start speaker at your community or church group.

  • Volunteer your time.
  • “Adopt” a Head Start Center.
  • Assist with one of our many initiatives.
  • Work with one of our many parent groups.
  • Make a donation for a special project. Call 717-541-1795 for more information.