Monday, January 29, 2018

Making Sense of Early Childhood Data

On January 22nd and 23rd, our Great Start Collaborative team attended a training on early childhood data at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center in East Lansing, Michigan.  The purpose of this training was to explore the Great Start Data Set as an aid in preparing for strategic planning and to learn new ways of presenting the data to the community.

We learned how important it is to be intentional in exactly how data is conveyed for media, partners, program participants, funders, and policymakers.  Audience matters when displaying data; thinking about the level of data to include, framing the issue at hand, and each type of audience requiring a different type of data storytelling.

Collaborative teams were divided into two based on their experience with Microsoft Excel, with each group focusing on creating charts using the Data Set.  Teams then came back together, shared their learning, and created a draft presentation or infographic to take back to their communities.

One of the great things we learned from our training was that we can use the Great Start Data Set as an additional resource.  Combined with data that we already have access to, we are able to create a more impactful presentation in order to create change in Jackson County.  Our Great Start Collaborative team enjoyed this training and we are excited to use the information learned as we move into 2018!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Preparring your Child for Preschool

You may be thinking about enrolling your child in preschool for the fall. Here are some ways to help your child prepare for preschool.

  • Pretend play preschool. Act out daily preschool classroom routines.
  • Read books about preschool.
  • Help your child practice self-help skills such as putting on his or her shoes or taking off his or her coat.
  • Visit the new preschool with your child

For more information view this great article on Preschool Prep from

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Social Emotional Health Activities for Children 30-60 Months

30-35 Months

  • Tell your child stories about when he or she was a baby. Let your child help you finish his or her favorite stories.
  • Ask your child how characters in stories are feeling.
  • Show your child how to share and praise him or her when he or she shares with you.
  • Draw faces showing different feelings and encourage your child to use the faces to tell you how he or she is feeling.
36-47 Months
  • Ask your child to label his or her emotions and the emotions of others.
  • Provide opportunities for your child to play with other children.
  • Give your child directions with at least two steps.
  • Play games that involve your child taking turns.
48-59 Months
  • Talk to your child about how people are alike and how people are different.
  • Allow your child to complete small amounts of housework.
  • Use old clothes or boxes to play pretend games.
  • Praise your child for learning new skills.
60 Months +
  • Offer your child choices of activities.
  • Remind your child to express his or her feelings using words.
  • Practice with your child what he or she would do if separated from you in public.
  • Encourage your child to talk about the rules at home and at school.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Building Children's Self Esteem

Self-esteem begins to develop at an early age.  By giving our children the best start, we give them a gift that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.  Helping children understand their individual thoughts and feelings is the first step in guiding a child towards a positive self-image and an increased sense of trust - both in themselves and the outside world. By working on these skills at an early age, we give children a gift that they will carry for the rest of their lives.

What can we do to make sure we are supporting 
our child's growing sense of self-esteem?

  • Build on your child's individual spirit. Support their interests.  For example, if your child loves camping and being outdoors, search for a local cub scout or girl scout troop and enroll them!  Not only will your child be involved in their favorite activities, but will also be part of a peer group - which is also important in building confidence.  
  • Model appropriate behavior - Children model after people they respect.  Let them know that you feel good about yourself.  Make them aware that you make mistakes and that it is OK not to do everything perfectly.  Remind them that you have learned from your own mistakes many times. Give examples. 
  • Have you heard - "I can't do it"?  Don't give in and don't do it for them!  Rather, show your child the tricky task in steps so they can do it themselves next time. Also, try responding with statements such as, "You may not be able to do it yet, but you will learn," or "If you could do it, how would you start?" These steps will help your child feel competent and develop a sense of self-reliance. 
  • Incorporate simple, everyday steps.  Look children in the eyes when you talk to them.  Bend down to their level occasionally when talking.  Use their ideas.  Don't change or improve their projects.  Hang all of their work on your refrigerator - good or bad!  Give them chores and jobs around the house.  Listen!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Social Emotional Health Activities for Children 0-29 Months

0-2 months
  • You! Your face and voice.
  • Give your child new safe objects to explore such a plastic cup or a spoon.
  • Read books to your child. Show your child the pictures and explain what he or she sees.
  • Talk to your baby about what he or she is seeing, hearing, or doing.
3-6 months
  • Respond to your baby's cries. Hold him or her close and whisper to calm.
  • Look at books or toys at your child's level.
  • Sing silly songs and tell your baby nursery rhymes.
  • Use your baby's name when talking about activities.
7-11 months
  • Let your baby know every day how much you love him or her.
  • Play with child-safe mirrors. Talk to your child about what he or she is seeing.
  • Place your baby in new areas or new positions in your home.
  • Listen to music with your baby. Bounce an dance to different types of music.
12-17 months
  • Keep a routine and talk to your baby about what will happen next during the day.
  • Go to a place where children play and let your baby watch or visit with the children.
  • Invite a friend over who has a baby or young child. Have enough toys for both children.
  • Let your baby have choices about food, clothing, and toys.
18-25 months
  • Toddlers love hugs and kisses. Tell your child that you love him or her.
  • Play simple games such as chase or hide and seek.
  • Your child can help clean up toys. Make it simple with a large tub or box.
  • Let your child practice eating with spoons and drinking with a sippy cup.
24-29 months
  • Keep rules short and simple and be consistent.
  • Praise your child for learning new things.
  • Help your child take turns when playing with friends.
  • Help your toddler label his or her feelings when sad, mad, or happy.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Kinship Care - Grandparents Raising Children

Kinship care is the full-time care, nurturing, and protection of children by relatives, stepparents, godparents, or any adult who has a kinship bond with a child.  This type of care has existed since the beginning of families, and historically, the idea of relatives (other than direct parents) helping to care for children was commonplace.  Today, many families are still utilizing this form of care, with numbers on the rise.  

In Michigan alone, there are 66,738 grandparents who are primary caregivers for their grandchildren.  The reasons for these large numbers are varied and diverse, but some reasons may include:

  • deployment of parents in the military
  • parental mental/physical illness or substance abuse
  • death of a parent
  • poverty; the parent's work requirements
  • incarceration
  • family violence, a relative's concern for health, safety, and well-being of the child
Grandparents may feel strongly about keeping their families together and kinship care offers greater stability for children.  Receiving care from someone with a familiar face offers children many benefits, especially when turbulent life changes may be occurring.  But what about the grandparents that are supporting the children?  The responsibilities of caring for children the "second time around," can be taxing - physically, emotionally, and financially. 

Help is available.  

Through the Michigan State University - Kinship Care Education Center, grandparents can receive information on legal issues and referrals, find education opportunities on child development, view webinars, print resource guides and brochures, and sign up to receive an electronic newsletter.  

Locally, the Jackson County Department on Aging - Caregiver Support Program offers a caregiver support group, counseling, education, and unmet needs assistance.  

In addition, the Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors offers free advice on kinship care issues for Michigan residents 60 years and older.  The toll-free number is 1-800-347-5297.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Winter Fun at Playgroups!

All of the snow we have right now made me want to do a craft this month that will remind us of all of January's blustery snow in the summer time! We are making paper snow globes this month, which the kids seemed to really like creating.

-blue (or whatever color you choose) construction paper
-construction paper crayons
-clear plastic salad plates
-glitter!  And fun snowflake confetti if you have it
-hot glue gun and sticks (for adult use only!)

I traced a plate onto the paper and added a base to it to look like a snowglobe then used that as a pattern to cut out enough for all of our playgroup kids to use.  The children colored their wintry scene onto the paper then added glitter and embellishments on top of their drawing, loosely.  I then hot glued a plate on top.  Check to make sure you don't have any spots without glue so your glitter doesn't go flying and have fun shaking up your snow globe!  Enjoy this fun wintry craft!!