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

Irritability
The desire to bite on hard objects
Increased finger-sucking
Bruises on the gums
Trouble sleeping
Drooling
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

Halloween?



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. 


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Spend Time in the Kitchen with Kids!


Cooking and baking with children not only offers a fun opportunity for family bonding, but also assists in
developing many important skills. Helping your child to read ingredients, watching and supporting them as they measure, pour and stir- these activities all increase critical reasoning, literacy, and spatial skills. The accomplishment felt with completing recipes will  bolster confidence in your child. Also, by introducing different foods in recipes at a young age, you will find that your child has definite likes and dislikes; this is good!  It shows that your child is developing a healthy sense of self.  Use this time together to laugh, have fun, and enjoy each others company.  You never know- your child may grow up to be a famous chef!

My Plate, from USDA Food and Nutrition Service provides nutrition and healthy eating activities for educators and families, including Look and Cook activity cards.  These pictorial recipes offer kids a simple and visual way to prepare healthy snacks. Each recipe is available free to download and offered in English and Spanish.  Your child will feel like a "big kid" in the kitchen while spending time with you.  The best part will be the delicious snack you share together after all of your hard work. Yum!



Wednesday, October 3, 2018

GSRP Scavenger Hunt





Last Friday, five GSRP classroom teachers opened their doors for a countywide "scavenger hunt."  Participating teachers visited each of these six classrooms in an effort to gather ideas for creative, fun arranging of space and materials that lead to more effective teaching and learning.  On the list were Columbia, East Jackson, Michigan Center, Dibble, Vandercook Lake, and Little Rainbows.  Some favorite ideas mentioned were the liquid color floor tiles, family tree, and the colorfully decorated shopping cart - just to name a few

 After visiting each location, teachers then met at the Jackson Area Career Center where they received a goody bag for their participation.  Many teachers then stayed over for lunch and the afternoon Professional Development Assessment. Special thanks to all who participated - what a fun day of shared learning!




   

Friday, September 28, 2018

Jackson Playgroups!



Did you know that the Great Start Collaborative offers playgroups throughout Jackson County? These groups meet monthly at several locations, serving children ages 0-5 and their parents/caregivers/grandparents. The offer a fantastic opportunity for adults to network, and for adults and children to build friendships!

Age-appropriate NUT-FREE snacks, toys, and fun art activities are provided for FREE.

See the list below to see the next playgroup taking place near you.

Questions? Call Resha Willis, Playgroup Coordinator at (517) 745-5663 or email her at jacksonplaygroups@gmail.com. While you're at it, make sure to join Resha's Jackson Playgroup Facebook page for the latest details and to read other fun tidbits!

Jackson Playgroups 2018 Schedule

October 2018:
1-Mon=East, 10:00 am
5-Fri=Baker College, 10:00 am
8-Mon=Brooklyn, 10:00 am
11-Thurs=Parma, 10:00 am
15-Mon=East, 10:00 am
19-Fri=Baker College, 10:00 am
22-Mon=Brooklyn, 10:00 am
25-Thurs=Parma, 10:00 am

November 2018:
2-Fri=Baker College, 10:00 am
5-Mon=East, 10:00 am
8-Thurs=Parma, 10:00 am
12-Mon=Brooklyn, 10:00 am
16-Fri=Baker College, 10:00 am
19-Mon=East, 10:00 am
26-Mon=Brooklyn, 10:00 am

December 2018:
3-Mon=East, 10:00 am
7-Fri=Baker College, 10:00 am
10-Mon=Brooklyn, 10:00 am
13-Thurs=Parma, 10:00 am
17-Mon=East, 10:00 am
21-Fri=Baker College, 10:00 am
27-Thurs=Parma, 10:00 am

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Supporting Diversity through Children's Books



Have you ever thought about the color of Band-Aids? 


At a recent meeting that I attended, this was brought to my attention and I realized that I never once in my entire life had to think about the color of a Band-Aid matching my skin.  Also, I never had to question why my baby dolls didn't look like me - they always did. 

After this meeting I went away deep in thought.  How can I help my children understand diversity?  I'm not talking skin color 
alone, but also the diverse cultures, languages, developmental abilities, AND ethnicities that embrace our country. I want my children to understand the Band-Aid concept and the deeper meaning within it.


I have found in my parenting years that books provide a great way to explore tricky topics.   It can be hard to bring up certain subjects while at the same time keeping your child's attention.  I have found that with books, I can still get my point across and they are entertained!

The great thing about books is that while the words support literacy, build vocabulary, and introduce new ideas; the stories and illustrations within can heighten a child's self esteem about their own cultural background and teach other children to understand and respect the unique diversity that is entwined in our country and across the entire world.


When searching for books that explore diversity, keep an eye out for a few things within the story line by looking at the characters, their roles, relationships, and lifestyles.  Are they depicted in a positive light, without stereotypes? Check out the books listed - all great examples!







Tuesday, September 4, 2018

September is Safe Sleep Month!



SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, is the sudden, unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year of age that doesn't have a known cause even after a complete investigation.  SIDS is the leading cause of death among babies between 1 month and 1 year of age.  

It is tempting to bring baby to bed with you - especially when breastfeeding, but the fact is that a baby dies every three days in Michigan and these deaths are 100% preventable. Of course parents want to avoid this from happening to their babies, but with so much advice out there, how do we know which practices are best?  According to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Safe to Sleep Public Education Campaign, the tips below offer the safest advice for both nap and night-time routines: 



  • Place your baby on their back, in a crib, bassinet or pack-n-play for every sleep time.
  • Use a firm mattress with a tightly fitted sheet.
  • Keep baby’s sleep space clutter free – no pillows, blankets or toys.
  • Avoid covering baby’s head or overheating.  Instead of a blanket, consider using a sleep sack, wearable blanket or footed sleeper to keep baby warm.
  • Remind everyone who cares for your baby, including babysitters and family members, how to keep baby safe while sleeping.





The following video, Safe Sleep: What Every Parent Needs to Know, with Introduction by Sue Snyder, first lady of Michigan, gives a overview of 3 different families who've lost young children to unsafe sleep environments. Advice from medical professionals is also examined on ways to keep your child safe.


I have a baby shower coming up for a friend.  What are good gift ideas that are safe for baby?  A sleep sack is a great idea!  It is the preferred sleepwear for an infant under one and is recommended in place of covering the infant with a blanket.  Fitted sheets, bassinets, cribs, portable cribs, or firm mattresses to fit cribs or bassinets also make great gifts for the new family!

Monday, August 27, 2018

We Need You!!


Since 2006, the Great Start Collaborative of Jackson County has been working to ensure children within our community are born healthy, ready to succeed when entering kindergarten, and are reading proficiently by the end of third grade.
Do you want to help make a difference in our children's lives and future outlook?  Do you have ideas for improving early childhood outcomes?  Then the Great Start Collaborative needs you!  The more voices we have, the stronger our impact in Jackson County will be.  Please consider joining in on one of our monthly meetings - we welcome you!

Great Start Family Support 

Made up of parents, community service agency members, and educators, this group meets to develop a plan that ensures parents have access to resources, trainings and all other information needed to provide for the needs of their children.

Meets monthly on the 2nd Thursday 
Next Meeting: September 13th
1:00-2:00 PM
Jackson County Health Department
Room 205

Great Start School Readiness

It takes a community to ensure children are ready to enter school.  This group, made up of teachers, parents, community and social service agency members, meets to discuss social-emotional, physical, and academic topics of school readiness.  Input and guidance regarding community services designed to improve readiness in all areas is encouraged!



Meets monthly on the 3rd Wednesday
Next Meeting: September 19th
2:00-3:00 PM
Family Service & Children's Aid
330 W Michigan Avenue





Please visit our website for up-to-date information, including future meeting times and locations.  


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Responsibility and Age-Appropriate Chores


 It is hard to believe that another summer has nearly passed and the kids are gearing up for a fresh year of school.  Although I enjoy the long days and late wake-up calls of summer, it's nice to get everyone back into a routine.  
The beginning of the school year usually means that I take a long, hard look at the chore list at our house.  I think about each of my children's growth over the past year and add some new responsibilities to their plate.  What once may have been taking dirty dishes from the table after dinner and placing them in the sink, can now evolve to rinsing them and loading them in the dishwasher.  Once they remembered to put their lunches into their backpacks in the morning, but now can pack their own lunches the night before.  
I do admit that it is hard to actually allow my children these responsibilities. I often want to run in and "do it better." But over the years I've learned to take a step back, allow them to make mistakes, give a bit of guidance on how to improve (while still praising the attempt), and watching as they improve independently.  Yes, there are days when their chores aren't done perfectly, that's for sure!  But, we all have our days, right?!

If you are looking for age-appropriate ways to increase responsibility and encourage self-sufficiency in your child, here are a few tips to follow:
  • Make sure that tasks are age-appropriate.  A preschooler can't pick up the whole house, but can definitely pick up his/her toys in the bedroom and can make their bed in the morning (not perfectly, but remember, this will improve!). 
  • Teach your child to dress themselves.  They may need help with tricky parts like buttons and shoelaces, but know that these skills do come with time.  
  • Don't give in to whining.  As long as you know that the task is age-appropriate, don't jump in to help.  Try saying, "As soon as you put your toys in the bin, we will go to the library. Let me know when you're done."
  • Teach your child to ask for help.  Mastering new skills does take time, and there is a difference between whining (saying I can't do it) and asking for an adult to help.  Guide them through the new skills and watch as they quickly learn to do work independently.  
  • Thank them for their work and give big hugs!


For more, read 10 Great Ways to Teach Children Responsibility, courtesy of The Parent-Institute.com

Now Enrolling for GSRP Preschool!!!



We still have a few spots available for your child in our Great Start Readiness Preschool Program (GSRP).  If your child is four, and you have not decided on a preschool yet, contact us right away!  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 and the 2018-2019 Jackson Quality Preschool Interest Form.  Fill out the form to apply or call (517) 768-5130 to apply over the phone.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Summer Pop-Up for Reading Events


The five Pop-Up for Reading events that took place this past June and July were a big hit!  Each location offered a different theme for families- with new storytime books, crafts, STEM activities, and more.  In addition to the fun activities, families were able to take home a copy of the read-aloud and each child was able to go home with an additional book for free.

Families were provided with feedback forms to fill out which included information on favorite activities and an area to add suggestions for improving events next year.  Favorites this year included the bubble art activity (Bennett Elementary), creating the balloon car (Townsend Elementary), building bridges at Francis Street Primary, making goo at East Jackson Memorial, and the Rainbow Fish craft at Springport Elementary. 

The majority of families stated that they heard about the events through social media - good to know!  Also, families attended the different Pop-Up for Reading events throughout the county, not just the closest location or where the children attend school.  This is fantastic information as we were not only trying to reach as many families as possible, but encouraging families to attend all events!

Unanimously, families responded that this event was fun, interactive, and that they would definitely attend again if offered next year.   Comments such as, "You're awesome!" and "Love it! Keep it coming!" are just a few of the positive messages that we will take with us as we begin thinking about next year's activities. 


 Thank you to all who attended! 



Monday, August 6, 2018

August Playgroup Fun!

For August, we are making dragonflies at playgroup, using recycled lids from gogo squeeze applesauce pouches.  

Thank you to all of the families that saved lids for me to create these adorable crafts!  

The beading is great for enhancing fine motor skills and they look super cute hanging up on plants, in windows, 
or wherever you needs some whimsy.

Join us at a Playgroup this month 
to create your own beaded dragonfly!

Visit us on our Facebook page: 
for dates, times, and locations.

First, hot glue two caps together

Next, hot glue a pipe cleaner inside of one of the cap openings
Then, glue a large button to the front of the other cap
I had enough caps to prep over 100 dragonflies for families to bead!!
Lace a half of a pipe cleaner through the Botton holes and string them back up
through the back of the button to make the eyes and antennas.  
Our dragonflies are adorable!!!

I originally found this craft posted at: http://viewsfromastepstool.com/dragonfly-kids-craft/