- Why it's great: For nearly 50 years, the federal government has supported Head Start programs to meet the emotional, social, health, nutritional, and psychological needs of children birth to age 5. There are part- and full-day programs in centers, schools, and family child-care homes. Eligibility is determined by the local program staff, but usually Head Start serves families with incomes below the federal poverty level.
- Find one: Call 866-763-6481 or type “Head Start Locator” into your web browser (you can find Early Head Start programs for infants and toddlers, too).
- Why it's great: Trained parents of the students volunteer to help run the school, which means costs are often half of other programs. And because parents are involved in everything from administration to lessons in the classroom with the teachers, the quality of school services tends to be high.
- Find one: Look up pre-K directories online.
- Why it's great: Thirty-nine states offer subsidized pre-K programs, serving nearly 1.3 million children last year. Enrollment in state-funded pre-K has nearly doubled in the past decade and interest continues to grow. On average, states spend about $4,100 per child in these programs, which are typically located in public elementary schools.
- Find one: The best starting place is to call your local school district.