Thursday, May 16, 2019

Child Care Assistance

Are you struggling with paying for child care expenses?  Is your family looking for care during evening or weekend hours?  Do you need a provider that offers care during holidays or school breaks?  There is help and there are options available to you.

The Child Development and Care (CDC) program offered through the Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) provides families with payment assistance for child care.  Based on family size and monthly income, the CDC has the potential to help tremendously with your monthly budget.

MDHHS has set rates based on the age of your children and the type of child care provider (child care center, family/group homes, unlicensed provider).  Once this rate is determined, MDHHS will pay a portion of that rate based on the combination of your family size and income. To get an estimate of how much will be covered, you can view the CDC Income Eligibility chart, but even if you are not sure how much will be covered, you are encouraged to apply.

But what if you need childcare during hours when most centers are closed?  Are there any licensed or registered providers that offer care during evening, overnight, or weekend work shifts?  The answer is YES.  There are several opportunities throughout Jackson County that offer care during these non-traditional times and that currently have slots available.  To begin your search for providers closest to your home or workplace, visit Great Start to Quality or call Brittany Wright, Family Support Specialist, at (517) 817-0820.  Providers found through Great Start to Quality accept funding awarded through the CDC program.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Now Enrolling for GSRP Preschool!!!!

      Calling All Preschoolers!

Will your child be 4 by September 1st? The Head Start and Great Start Readiness (GSRP) preschool programs are currently collecting interest forms for eligible children for the 2019-2020 school year.   GSRP programs are free to families who qualify and are located throughout Jackson County.  Please visit our Preschool Partnership page to view the income eligibility chart, map of Head Start and GSRP preschool locations, and the 2019-2020 Jackson Quality Preschool Interest Form.  Fill out the form to apply or call (517) 768-5130 to apply over the phone.

In addition, our first Preschool Fair will be taking place Friday, March 15th from 3:00 - 7:00 PM at Baker College.  If you have filled out an interest form already, please bring your income documents to the fair to complete the second part of enrollment.  Below are the documents needed for income verification:

Required documentation:

1) Official state birth certificate, affidavit of parentage, hospital verification form, or other government form listing child’s date of birth and parents’ names.

2) 1040 tax forms OR W2s OR written letter from employer stating last year’s gross earnings OR last 12 months of paystubs.

3) Previous year(2018) documentation of any of the following, if received: public assistance benefits (FIP, SSI, Social Security, SSDI, RSDi, unemployment), child support payments, college award statements, and detailed veteran or military benefits statement.

If you have not filled out the interest form yet, you may do so at the preschool fair. Hope to see you there!

Friday, February 15, 2019

Supporting Relationships and Feelings

One significant way you can support your infant's development of feelings and relationships is by providing a safe home and play environment. Below are a few tips to help you in the process. 

  • Do a safety check at home to make it safe for your baby.
  • Have a safe way to transport your baby.
  • Know ways to keep your baby safe throughout the day.
  • Have someone you trust who can help take care of your baby.
  • Provide access to health care for your baby.
  • Know how to manage your feelings of anger and frustration that come up when you are with your baby. 
If you would like information on low-cost car seats, or if want to make sure you have your car seat installed correctly, please visit the Car Seat Safety Program at the Jackson Health Department. 

If you are looking for a high-quality child care provider in your area, please visit Great Start to Quality 

Monday, December 17, 2018

Fun Activities that Promote Reading Skills

The holidays are coming soon and with it, that long winter break from school!  Are you looking for some educational activities that you can do with your children that will help them get ahead in their reading and writing skills?  Here are a few great ideas, some of which would make a great last-minute Christmas gift.

  1. Alphabet puzzles - puzzles help children strengthen their fine motor skills and adding in the alphabet helps them become more familiar with the shapes associated with each letter and the order in which they appear in the alphabet. 
  2. Word puzzles - These type of puzzles are great for linking letters with the sounds they make and finally, linking them together into simple words.  Work alongside your child and help them to sound out the words as they piece them together.  
  3. Magnetic letters - help your child create simple words on the refrigerator or a magnetic whiteboard.  Children will become enthusiastic about creating their own simple phrases for you to read each day and you will be amazed at how quickly they will learn!
  4. Alphabet stamps - Look for sets with both upper case and lower case letters.  For fun, ask your child to draw a picture of something simple such as a dog or cat, then stamp the correct letter spelling next to the drawing.  Another way to get started is to help your child spell his/her name, then expand to family members. 
  5. Story cards - Building stories allows children to boost their creativity, sequencing, communication, and literacy skills.  There are many fun options to choose from, with bold pictures that children love.  
  6. Writing gel - this is an easy creation that you can whip up at home with inexpensive materials.  You will need ziplock bags, hair gel, and food coloring.  Fill the bag with hair gel, mix in some food coloring.  Twist the top of the bag to push the mixture down, then cut a small slit on the pointed end.  Your child can then write out letters on a large piece of paper!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Homemade Christmas Ornaments

Kids love to make ornaments for the tree that will be treasured for years to come.  During playgroups, we are making air dry clay Christmas ornaments!  These make great gifts also.

We used:
crayola air dry clay
dry Tempera cakes (watercolors)
cookie cutters
beads and buttons

We rolled the clay out and then cut with cookie cutters.  After drying (takes up to 48 hours, we had 2 weeks between playgroup sites), they were ready to be painted.  I love how these turned out!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Best Toys for Children

The holidays are approaching fast, which leads many adults wondering what to purchase for the children in their life.  With big toy stores now becoming obsolete, window-shopping is now difficult, making the task of choosing that perfect gift even more daunting.  Are you looking for some simple ideas for the children in your life? Something that will stand the test of time and that children will play with again and again? Look no further!  

Michigan State University Extension recommends the following five basic categories of toys for young children:

  1. Blocks and building toys: Lincoln Logs, Legos, basic wooden blocks, Duplo, etc.  Studies show that children that play with building toys at a young age do better in math, especially algebra in middle school.
  2. Puzzles and problem-solving toys:  As children solve puzzles, they sharpen their problem-solving skills, hand-eye coordination, fine-motor skills, shape recognition, memory, spatial awareness and more.  For toddlers, puzzles with 4 to 12 pieces are best, while preschoolers enjoy more complex puzzles with 12 to 20 or more pieces.  Also, look for toys with latches, locks, hooks, buttons, snaps, etc. for children to manipulate.
  3. Pretend play items:  Dress-up clothes, hats, cooking utensils, cash registers, baby dolls, microphones, etc. Children build social and emotional skills, learning to share, take turns, and learn complex problem-solving skills when participating in dramatic play.
  4. Items that inspire creation: crayons and paper, paints, playdoh and clay, harmonicas, maracas, etc.  Items that spark creativity in children help children to develop fine motor skills, math and language skills.
  5. Large motor play items: bikes, balls, bats, carpentry sets, hula hoops, tunnels to climb through, etc.  We all know that regular exercise leads to a healthy weight.  In addition, participation in large motor activities has been found to improve attention and memory and increase academic performance. 

Follow this link read the entire MSU Extension Early Childhood Development article, courtesy of Carrie Shrier. 

Friday, November 16, 2018

Thanksgiving Wreaths

For the month of November, we have been making Thanksgiving wreaths during Playgroups. 
This super easy craft can be made with real or fake leaves and any decor that you choose. Just add your decorations to a paper plate with glue, attach a string at the top, and you have the perfect wreath for your holiday festivities! 

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Baby's First Tooth!

There are so many exciting moments when watching a baby grow - first laugh, first time rolling over, first taste of real baby food, and that first tooth poking through!  For most parents and babies, the process of teething can be stressful.  Some children cut teeth without batting an eye, but others have an extremely hard time with it.  
Oftentimes, parents mistake teething for illness.  The fussiness can definitely seem like symptoms of something much greater.  Of course, always be cautious and let an expert diagnose your child if you are concerned.  

What's Normal?

Most babies begin teething around 4 to 6 months and teething is usually complete at 2 1/2 years old.  Baby teeth remain in place until permanent teeth begin replacing them around age 6.  

Signs of Teething

The desire to bite on hard objects
Increased finger-sucking
Bruises on the gums
Trouble sleeping
Low-grade fever
Decreased appetite

Soothing Your Baby

Most babies are back to normal a few days after the new tooth appears.  In the meantime, try the following to comfort your little one:

Increased cuddling and close play time
Teething rings 
Frozen washcloth
Baby Orajel or Anbesol

Caring for Baby's New Teeth

Believe it or not, the best time to start your child on the right path to proper teeth brushing starts as soon as that first tooth appears.  You don't have to buy a toothbrush at this young age.  There are special finger brushes made especially for infants that you can use, or just use a washcloth or gauze to gently clean the new tooth after each meal and as part of your bedtime ritual.  At the start, just moisten the brush or cloth with water or, if you wish, use a rice-grain size of cavity-preventing fluoride toothpaste.  As your infant grows a little older, add a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. For more information on brushing baby's teeth, or tips on helping a toddler learn to brush independently, and that all-important first dental visit, visit the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Homemade Play Dough


Have you ever tried to make play dough at home?  You should.  It is super easy and most, if not all, of the ingredients can be found right in your kitchen cupboard.  Your child will be so excited to make this and will be equally excited to play with it.  With the exception of mixing in the hot water, your child can really make this on their own.  Just make sure to lend a hand with reading and measuring the ingredients. Have fun!

Here is one of the easiest recipes I have found and made personally with my kids.  It works, it's easy, and it smells really good!  It will not taste good, though, so no need to worry about your child eating it.  But, with non-toxic ingredients, no harm will be done if they do take a nibble. 

                                                    2 1/2 cups Flour
                                                       1/2 cup Salt
                                             3 Tablespoons Cooking Oil
                                       1 package Kool-Aid (unsweetened)
                                                    1 cup Hot Water

                                         Mix flour, salt, oil, and Kool-Aid.
                                          Add the cup of water. Mix well.
                                             Knead until dough forms.

Store in a sealed ziplock bag in the refrigerator when not in use.  

For more play dough, goop, gak, slime, and other fun recipes to make with the kids, check out this link!

Friday, October 26, 2018


Are you a parent that struggles with the idea of celebrating Halloween?  Maybe it's the scary costumes, frightening house decorations in surrounding neighborhoods, or simply the task of watching your children ask for candy from strangers.  If you fall in line with this worrisome thinking, know that you are not alone.

According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, parents should be on the lookout for the reactions of their children when determining what is too scary.  If your child seems worried, this can be a big sign that something is bothersome.  Parents are often surprised about their children's fears when tuning in this way.

Remember that managing fears is a way for young children to build important emotional skills. With support, children learn to manage their reactions to strong emotions.  Sometimes it is helpful for children to draw, instead of talk about their fears.  Books are always helpful for children, showing them that their feelings are normal, and giving them a character that they can relate to.  This character often overcomes their own fears, showing your child that they can do the same. 

Here are a few tips for celebrating Halloween with young children:
  • Tell your child what to expect and avoid protecting them too much.
  • Let kids use their own imaginations to come up with their own costumes. 
  • Remember - costumes do not need to be expensive.  Oftentimes, the best costumes come right out of the closet.  Also, search local thrift shops for quick bargains!
  • If your child sees something scary, remind them that it is not real.
  • Wear a costume yourself! Your child will love it!
For more, please read the Michigan State University article here.