March is Reading Month part 3- Preschoolers

Posted by: on Mar 31, 2014 in Blog | 844 Comments

March is Reading Month part 3- Preschoolers

On the last day of “Reading Month” let’s celebrate books for your preschooler. By this time they are so close to reading. Some of them are sitting with a book and telling the story word for word, an important step if ever there was one! They enjoy rhyme, repetition, humor and often, a bit of a scare- as long as it turns out in the end. Here are some book recommendations from the preschoolers themselves:

  • Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos
    • Faith- “He can be mad and chase the bad guys.”
    • Max- “He’s so little and he has a mustache.”

This just goes to show that you never know what will strike a preschooler’s fancy, so try out as many books as you can!

  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin
    • Maddie- “I like the alphabet and the coconuts.”

I know many preschoolers have had this book in their lives for several years, but a good book is a good book!

  • Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems
    • Jayden- “I like it when he said he was dreaming about it.”

Mo Willems is one of those authors you either like or don’t. My preschoolers like!

  • Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin
    • Truman- “I like the colors.”
    • Megan- “I love my white shoes, I love my white shoes!”
    • Adysen- “I liked when his shoes were wiped off again.”

I have to admit I had no idea about Pete the Cat until Miss Amanda mentioned that she was happy to see him in the book order. I checked him out and fell in love!

I know we didn’t get to talk about these books until the end of reading month but frankly, every month can be reading month.

Let’s keep those book recommendations coming, and I’ll see you at the library!

March is Reading Month part two- Toddlers

Posted by: on Mar 28, 2014 in Blog | 75 Comments

March is Reading Month part two- Toddlers

Toddlers are on the go; make sure that their books can keep up with them!

Be prepared to replace books during this age for a couple of reasons:

  • They may still put the books in their mouths for a while yet. Mouthing books or anything for that matter is how they explore. Mouthing will go away when they don’t need that stimulation any longer. Just keep “chewable” books in the book basket.
  • They have “pinchy pinchy” fingers. This is another typical behavior for toddlers. Picking up food with a pinch is great; picking apart the pages of a book….not so great but it’s going to happen. Any loose bit of paper is likely to become victim of a page turning incident. When it comes to the board books, if the edges become frayed (they are just layered paper after all), curious toddlers looking for the page they haven’t seen yet may rip the print right off the page.

I’m not suggesting that you don’t talk to your child about treating things well. I wouldn’t let a child sit and rip a book to shreds. I am suggesting that this is a time for patience as they practice. Consider getting most of their books at a resale store so you can replace torn books for them without going broke!

A couple of extra thoughts:

  • If your child has a favorite book and you’d like to have the book for a keepsake, buy a second copy and put it up high! Let them “love” the books in their book baskets.
  • “No, no, don’t touch” sends quite a different message than, “Let’s read your special book together”.

Why do I suggest book baskets rather than shelves? Ease of clean up, movement and you will lose your mind if you try to get a toddler to keep books lined up on a shelf, spines out!

Here are a few authors/titles you and your toddler might enjoy:

Margaret Wise Brown- Goodnight Moon, The Little Fur Family (a personal favorite of mine), The Runaway Bunny and more.

Dr. Seuss- Toddlers like his books and parents love them. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, Fox in Socks, Hop on Pop and the ever popular Green Eggs and Ham. The rhymes and colors just keep the fun coming.

Eric Carle- Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? You know where I’m going with this author; his books will likely be one of the first books your child “reads” to you.

Continue to enjoy reading month with your child. Any favorite book titles for you and your toddler? Pass them on to us!

March is Reading Month part one- Infants

Posted by: on Mar 24, 2014 in Blog | 73 Comments

March is Reading Month part one- Infants

There are lots of books out there just waiting for you and your infant. Here are a couple of book hunting tips:

  1. Big pictures- Get some colorful books, some black and white books, and some photo illustrated as well. Another great idea is a little photo album of family and friends that you make yourself.
  2. Books that you enjoy- wordless books, a couple of words a page and simple rhymes are great for now. You’ll be doing the talking and you can make it what you want again and again.
  3. Board books and or books from the “indestructible” series- Your hands are going to be full of baby, don’t get overloaded with big books, books that will tear easily or ruin at the first appearance of “baby liquids”. Chunky board books are sturdy and the “indestructible” books can go in the washing machine or the dish washer.
  4. Skip the ‘lift the flap’ books for now. They can be pretty fragile and that’s just not on the agenda for a while! Even the large flap books are easily torn and that’s no fun.

Here are a few author/title ideas that can get you started:

  • Bright Baby and DK seem to be the big names right now in baby books. Their pictures are bright their topics are wide and babies like them. They have many titles available in board books.
  • Counting Kisses by Karen Katz- Big bright pictures and simple count down text. Lots of kisses to share with your baby at bedtime or anytime!
  • Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kuhnhardt- It’s a true classic, originally published in 1940. Any touch and feel book is worth a look but do consider how sturdy its construction is before you purchase it.
  • Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. Who knew the same man who writes really funny books (Thomas’s Snowsuit and Stephanie’s Ponytail to name two) had such a tear jerker waiting in the wings. This is only for baby because you will snuggle that little one an extra few minutes as you weep after reading this story of a mother and her son.

What are the books that you and your infant like best? Send us your recommendations. We’d love to hear from you.

What’s Cooking During Reading Month?

Posted by: on Mar 21, 2014 in Blog | 71 Comments

What’s Cooking During Reading Month?

March is reading month. When was the last time you read a cook book?

I know I’ve mentioned it before and here I am doing it again. I grew up in a family of cookbook readers. My mom would sit at the breakfast table reading cookbooks. I was lucky enough to have a mom who had a baking day each week when I was young. There are many good things about my family and that is just one of them!

One of the cookbooks I pull out to read occasionally is a cookie cookbook, aptly titled, The Cookie Book. It has 12 cookie recipes, one for each month of the year. The directions are of course written for children and they often make me smile.

This particular cook book was published by Scholastic. Yes, my mom bought it for us from the very same Scholastic book order program that we send home from Wee Friends.

I looked on the Scholastic website to see if I could get a new copy (mine is very old by now of course) and it is, sadly, out of print. I also typed it into my favorite search engine and someone had a copy of my good old cook book for $65.00!!

Maybe not Antiques Roadshow good but still…

In celebration of March is reading month and my love of reading cook books, I will share the recipe for March, as it reads in the cookbook.

Animal-shaped butter cookies

This recipe makes at least 12 crisp cookies. The dough must be chilled one hour before the cookies are shaped.

½ cup butter or margarine

½ cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla

1 ¼ cups flour

¼ teaspoon salt

Get Ready

Take the butter out of the refrigerator and let it get very soft.

Make The Cookie Dough

1. When the butter is soft, measure out ½ cup of it and dump it into a large mixing bowl.

2. Measure the vanilla and pour it into the butter. Push it into the butter with the back of the mixing spoon.

3. Get the sifter. Measure the powdered sugar and pour it into the sifter. Sift the sugar into the butter in the mixing bowl.

4. With a large mixing spoon, cream the sugar and the butter together. You will have a sugary yellow paste. Set the mixing bowl aside.

5. Now measure the flour and the salt into the sifter. Sift them into the bowl.

6. Pour half the sifted ingredient into the mixing bowl with the sugar-butter paste. Mix them together with the mixing spoon as much as you can. It will be hard to do. Then pour in the rest of the sifted ingredients and mix some more. Use your hands to finish the mixing. (Did you wash your hands first?)

7. Put a plate over the bowl and set it in the refrigerator for one how. While you wait, wash the dishes.

Shape And Bake The Cookies

First, get the oven hot. Set the temperature to 375 degrees. Then take the dough out of the refrigerator. Now you are ready to make some animals.

Get a cookie sheet. (You do not have to grease it.)Decide what animal to make. How about an elephant?

To make an elephant, break off a handful of cold dough. Hot it in your fist for a second to get it warm and soft. Then plop in onto the cookie sheet. Press it flat with the palm of your hand.

Now use your fingers to shape an elephant. Push and pinch and poke the dough into an elephant shape.

What kind of animal will you make next? A dog? A cat? A rabbit? A bear?

Maybe you would rather make flowers, or four-leaf clovers, or squares and triangles and circles.

It doesn’t matter if some shapes are bigger than others, but try to make them all the same thickness. If some are thinner, they may start to burn before the thicker ones are baked. Leave plenty of room around each cookie. They get bigger as they bake.

When the cookie sheet is full, put it into the hot oven. (Remember to use pot holders.)

After 8 minutes, take the cookie sheet out. The animals should be brown around the edges but not in the middle. Carefully lift them off the cookie sheet with a spatula and set them on a wire rack to cool.

In a few minutes you can eat some animal cookies. YUM! They are crisp and buttery and good.

I hope you enjoy my cookie blast from the past. Read a good cookbook this weekend!

A Trip to the Library

Posted by: on Mar 17, 2014 in Blog | 5 Comments

A Trip to the Library

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day

When was the last time you went to the library?

The library is my go to source for books. I’m not a big book buyer per se. I have some treasures on my bookshelves at home but I’m more likely to use my B&N gift cards in the café!

I have two favorite libraries but I’m familiar with three or four more than that between Muskegon and Holland. I’m typically tracking down books for my preschool themes but if I am searching out a particular title or series for myself and I don’t have the patience to order it (inter library loan is big in my world right now), I’ll search for it online, find out who has it on the shelf and put it on my errand list for the weekend.

If you haven’t been to a library for a while, put it on your errand list; you’re in for a treat!

  • More choices than ever- with the interlibrary loan online system you simply log in with your library number and pin then search and request. Books, CDs, DVDs and more can be sent from any of the library cooperatives to your “home” library for you to pick up.  There are a few restrictions due to funding cuts but you’ll be surprised at the options open to you.
  • Speakers and hands on programs- look online or head to your library and check out a number of “edu-taining” opportunities. Concerts, storytellers, book clubs and children’s programs, even computer classes await you at your local library. I’ve seen Celtic musicians, Lego building activities, knitting clubs and “Bow Wow Readers” (this is an opportunity for children to read to a trained therapy dog), all at the libraries I frequent.
  • Just a quiet (mostly) place to get some work done- Sometimes there are too many distractions at the house and I just need a space to get some thinking/writing/work done. Libraries are still a great place to concentrate. And if I need a computer and didn’t bring my lap top, they have them at the library as well.

Libraries are more than just books, but don’t forget the books. After all it is reading month.

Drop us a line and let share your favorite library activities. If you haven’t been in a while, make a point of it and then let us know what you found!

So, What Are You Reading?

Posted by: on Mar 14, 2014 in Blog | 56 Comments

So, What Are You Reading?

March is reading month and schools everywhere are diving into reading challenges. Last year our preschool class read close to 100 books together (our goal was 50 but reading is so much fun!!). We all know reading is important for children, but let me ask you…

What are you reading?

I know you’re busy. You are a parent. Busy is a given.

However…

As a parent, you see every day that what you do is much more important than what you say.

You can tell your child over and over again to “do this”, or “don’t do that”, but if they know you do it, or don’t do it, that is what is important to them.

If you want your children to read, they need to see you reading and not just to them.

When they know that reading is important to you, so important that you do it for yourself and not just for them, they will want to read.

In my next few posts, I’ll be looking at books for infants, toddlers and preschoolers but today I want you to think about you:

  • Can’t seem to stick with a book to the end? Return it to the library and try a different author or genre. I used to feel guilty about it, not anymore. There are millions of books out there and you don’t have time to read them all anyway, don’t bother with the books that don’t hold your interest.
  • Feel like there is too much thinking involved when all you want to do is relax? Young adult novels are hot (think Hunger Games, Twilight Saga and Divergent). I admit that I was behaving like quite the book snob about the YA section until last year but now they are my second stop, right after the New Fiction section (write faster Philippa Gregory!)
  • Keep a book on your tablet. I would if I had one. Maybe. I do love the sensory experience that comes with a book but it’s probably a lot easier to carry a tablet wherever you go.
  • Make reading a daily habit. You have your book, your children have theirs. Quiet time, even if it’s just 10 minutes will make a lasting impression. You’ll read a couple of pages; they will “read” every book in their basket and probably start building book towers. No problem. The message is getting through. Reading is important in my family.

How do you make reading an important part of your family? Let us know. It may be just the idea that sparks a new family tradition.

Get Smart About Great Start- Part 3

Posted by: on Mar 10, 2014 in Blog | 68 Comments

Get Smart About Great Start- part 3

Great Start Connect is a program dedicated to informing parents about daycare providers and helping day care programs provide quality care for the families they service.

Great Start to Quality

You may have noticed our “shooting for 5 stars” notes throughout the building. That note means that we have been working hard, getting ready for the Great Start to Quality representatives to come in and assess our program. If you go to the website www.greatstartconnect.org you can read all about it but let me pull some information directly off the site to get you started:

How does Great Start to Quality work?

Great Start to Quality uses more than 40 different criteria under five Quality Standards:

  • Staff qualifications and experience
  • Family and community engagement
  • Administration and management
  • Learning environment
  • Curriculum and instruction

Star Ratings

  • One empty star-Program meets licensing requirements.
  • One solid star-Program meets licensing requirements and is participating in Great Start to Quality.
  • Two stars- Program demonstrates quality across some standards.
  • Three stars- Program demonstrates quality across several standards.
  • Four stars- Program demonstrates quality across almost all standards. Program demonstrates high quality.
  • Five stars- Program demonstrates highest quality.

How Do I Know How My Day Care Ranks?

 

Drum Roll Please

Congratulations to us! Wee Friends has recently completed the assessment process and we were awarded 5 stars! Two representatives came from the Great Start to Quality Offices and spent the morning in our infant and “New Discoveries” classrooms. It was an unannounced visit and the classrooms observed were chosen at random. All the scores, not only from the observations but also more behind the scenes work than you can imagine, were tallied. In the end we achieved a five star ranking and our hard work has paid off. You are welcome to read our report online.

Great Start Readiness Program

The GSRP is all about preschool and making sure that Michigan’s preschoolers are receiving high quality services. Our “New Discoveries” program is hoping to be chosen as a GSRP program. You may have seen the flyers in the welcome center. We’ll keep you posted. Even if we are not selected (there are a limited number of programs that will be chosen from all eligible programs) we will continue to provide GSRP quality of education for your preschooler.

Do you have any more questions concerning the Great Start initiative? Let us know and we’ll steer you in the right direction.

Get Smart About Great Start- Part 2

Posted by: on Mar 7, 2014 in Blog | 609 Comments

Get Smart About Great Start part 2

In my last post I gave some broad brush strokes of information about the Great Start early childhood initiative of Michigan. I mentioned three main Great Start programs; Great Start for Kids, Great Start to Quality and the Great Start Readiness Program.

Today I would like to share a couple of programs available through Great Start for Kids that you might find useful.

Again, these programs can be found by going to www.greatstartforkids.org. All you have to do is click on your county and see what’s available. I like to check out other counties since every site is a bit different and you never know what you might find that is just up your alley. Here’s just a hint at what is available in Ottawa County:

Play N Learn Literacy Groups: Songs, finger plays, crafts, snacks and other activities await your child 0 to five years old. These sessions are held monthly throughout the county. There is no registration required, just show up ready for a good time.

Parents as Teachers: Just fill out a self or agency referral form and you are on your way to qualifying for:

  • Screenings for your child intended to catch any developmental delays or sensory (hearing or vision) concerns
  • Opportunities to meet with other parents, share experiences, talk about topics of interest and play with your child
  • Home visits from a certified parent educator (Spanish speaking teachers available in Ottawa County) who can share important information about your child’s development
  • And more

Early On: Their web site describes it in such a great way; I’ll just share what I found on the site

If you think that your child’s growth, learning, or social skills are not the same as those of other children the same age, the sooner you check it out the better. Call Early On® Michigan. We’ll talk with you and refer you to an Early On Coordinator close to your home. Your Coordinator can also give you information on things that you can do to help your child grow and learn. We want your child to have a Great Start in life. Call us. We’re here to help. http://www.oaisd.org/oaisd/departments/earlychildhood/earlyon/

Take advantage of the great things that are offered through Great Start. You’ll be glad you did.

Have you had any experiences with Great Start for Kids programs? Let us know.

Get Smart About Great Start- Part 1

Posted by: on Mar 4, 2014 in Blog | 52 Comments

Get Smart About Great Start- part 1

Great Start- What is it? Why do I want to know about it?

Every profession has its “buzz words” and Early Childhood is no different. Lately Wee Friends has been buzzing about Great Start. It’s been in calendars, newsletters and websites. Let me see if I can share a bit of what it’s all about.

Project Great Start is the Michigan early childhood initiative to foster school readiness and life success for young children; and that means it starts in Lansing:

 

You can go to the State of Michigan website (www.michigan.gov) then:

  • Find the agencies tab at the top of the home page
  • Scroll down to the Department of Education icon
  • Click the Early Learners and Care tab on the left hand side of the screen

This will get you to a page titled, Michigan Office of Great Start. Here you’ll find the beginnings of what I like to think of as the “Great Start Maze”.

It begins with the following:

The Office of Great Start has been charged with ensuring that all children birth to age eight, especially those in highest need, have access to high-quality early learning and development programs and enter kindergarten prepared for success. The Governor outlined a single set of early childhood outcomes against which all public investments will be assessed:

  • Children born healthy;
  • Children healthy, thriving, and developmentally on track from birth to third grade;
  • Children developmentally ready to succeed in school at the time of school entry; and
  • Children prepared to succeed in fourth grade and beyond by reading proficiently by the end of third grade. (read more) http://www.michigan.gov/mde/0,4615,7-140-63533—,00.html

A little further down the page, you’ll find links to Great Start for Kids, Great Start to Quality and Great Start Readiness Program. These programs are intended to help achieve the Project Great Start Outcomes:

www.greatstartforkids.org Parents Educators and Community Partnerships. Click on your county to find programs that are available in your area.

http://www.greatstarttoquality.org/ Research area childcare centers and preschools to see how they rank in the 5 star system.

Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP), formerly known as Michigan Readiness Program, is Michigan’s nationally recognized Pre-K program and has sites throughout the state. If you use the search term Great Start Readiness Program you will find sites to various programs as well as the state of Michigan website.

Why do I call it the “Great Start Maze”? Because there is enough in any one of these sites to lose yourself for large chunks of time, and you may very well find the information “amazing”!

My next post will give you more information on the Great Start for Kids program and how it might be of use to you.