Head Start Body Start

Head Start Body Start National Center for Physical Development and Outdoor Play (HSBS) is dedicated to promoting physical activity, outdoor play, and healthy lifestyles for young children and their families. Funded by the Office of Head Start, HSBS is a joint project of the American Association of Physical Activity and Recreation (AAPAR) and the National Association of Sport and Physical Education (NASPE).1 The AAPAR executive director Mariah Burton Nelson stated, “Through this partnership, almost a million children will receive not only a head start, but a body start, not only academic preparation but physical preparation.”2

The National Center for Physical Development and Outdoor Play was established by the Administration for Children and Families Office of Head Start when it awarded a $12 million, four year grant to the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) in October of 2008.3

Two groups associated with AAHPERD, the American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, give administrative support to the Head Start Body Start leadership in their three-fold objectives: 1) to administer and support grants to Head Start Centers for construction or improvement of playgrounds and outdoor play spaces, 2) to support Head Start and Early Head Start Centers with resources, training, and technical assistance concerning healthy learning environments and integrating physical activities in the learning process, and 3) to inform and assist the Office of Head Start concerning national policies and priorities.4

One of Head Start Body Start's main activities is the awarding of up to $5000 in grants to Head Start Centers for outdoor play spaces. In 2009, their first grant year, they awarded 351 grants and in 2010 they awarded 373 grants.5

To assist the Head Start Centers, Head Start Body Start has compiled a Preferred Vendor Catalog (PVC), which has a variety of play space options from a variety of companies that are within the $5000 budget. They also emphasize natural play spaces to bring children in touch with the natural world.

Head Start Body Start provides Play Physical Activity Consultants to support Head Start and Early Start Centers through the grant administration process with site visits and in-person coaching. These consultants also work to achieve HSBS's second mission by being a resource to the centers. They observe, recommend, and teach how to fully utilize the new play spaces to increase physical activity and encourage an active lifestyle in young children.

Through their website and blog, Head Start Body Start extends their resources beyond the Centers who receive play space grants. With a goal of increasing “physical activity, outdoor play, and healthy eating among Head Start and Early Head Start children, families, and staff,”6 HSBS uses a “toolbox” of ideas, family suggestions, online resources, and webinar trainings.7

Head Start Body Start supports Head Start and Early Head Start programs in “creating healthy learning environments, both within and outside the classroom, through structured and unstructured physical activity that leads to the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development of young children”.8

  • 1. Almeras, Bethe. Email to Playground Professionals. 23 Feb. 2011.
  • 2. Bossenmeyer, Melinda. “Head Start Body Start in Body Building?” Peaceful Playgrounds. < http://www.peacefulplaygrounds.com/head-start-body-start-playgrounds.htm > 29 March 2011.
  • 3. “Head Start Program Grant Awarded to Prevent Childhood Obesity.” Administration for Children & Families. < http://www.acf.hhs.gov/news/press/2008/headstart_program.html > 29 March 2011.
  • 4. “Request for Proposals.” Head Start Body Start, National Center for Physical Development and Outdoor Play. Reston, VA.
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. “Mission.” Head Start Body Start. < http://www.aahperd.org/headstartbodystart/about/mission.cfm > 23 March 2011.
  • 7. “Welcome to Head Start Body Start.” Head Start Body Start. < http://www.aahperd.org/headstartbodystart/ > 23 March 2011.
  • 8. Op. cit., “Mission.”