The Importance of Extended Family – Especially Grandparents

Family is made up of the people who are there for you in difficult times and celebrate with you in moments of success and happiness.  For a child, his or her family includes parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins – all of which can play crucial roles in their life.

September 11 is National Grandparents Day

The first Sunday after Labor Day is recognized annually as “National Grandparents Day” – and for good reason.  Amongst the extended family members that are a positive influence in your child’s development, grandparents may be the most important.  Today, there are 80 million American grandparents – more than a third of the adult population!

According to Dr. Karl Pillemer of Cornell University, “The relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren is second in emotional importance only to the relationship between parent and child.”

According to an AGA survey, “72% of grandparents ‘think being a grandparent is the single most important and satisfying thing in their life.’”  More than half of grandparents see their grandchildren in person at least once a week, according to A Place for Mom.  This time leads to healthier, happier grandchildren.

A strong grandparent-grandchild bond includes the child feeling emotionally close to their grandparent, regular contact, and the child viewing the grandparent as a source of social support.  This relationship can lead to less depression in the mother as well as the child in adulthood (The Attached Family).

Roma Hanks, Ph.D., says “grandparenting is the most important family role of the new century.”  “There is a growing alliance of grandparents who will positively influence the lives of their grandchildren and the younger generations in their society.”

We honor the special relationship between grandparent and grandchild by hosting our September Family Involvement Activity, Grahams with Grandparents.


Back-to-School with AppleTree & Gilden Woods

Have you made your child’s after school care arrangements for the 2016—2017 school year?  If not, we have the answer!  See your       Program Director today about space in our After School Club.

Our After School Club is available for children in Kindergarten through 12 years of age.  The club begins the first day of school and ends the last day of school, when our Summer Explorers program begins.

Children are offered a light, healthy snack upon arrival from school, then Homework Help time begins, complete with daily feedback        progress forms to support parent communication.  Crafts and games are abundant as well as ample time for outside play.

The club is a fun way for children to be safe and positively engaged after school.  Sign up today!

Snow Outside? Start Thinking SPRING Now!

There may be snow on the ground outside now and you are planning on another few weeks of winter weather, but it’s not too early to start thinking ahead to “Spring Break.”  If you and your family are not leaving for a family vacation during this week, you will need to think about where your school age child will enjoy Spring Break while school is out.

But don’t worry, AppleTree & Gilden Woods have you covered!

Spring Explorers 2016 is Now Enrolling!

A week of fun for your School Ager to enjoy while school is out, complete with field trips and fun activities.

Contact the school nearest to you today to enroll your child – Space is limited!

Making Thanksgiving a Family Affair

The holiday season usually brings everyone together, whether your celebration is out at a nice restaurant or consists of gathering at Grandma’s house with home-made fare.  For those who bake their own feast, hours are spent preparing for the event in the kitchen the night before and the day of.  Make these hours together count by keeping all family members involved, young to old.  Here are some tips for keeping your child engaged in the festivities, some interest in the current family traditions, and creative space to make new ones.


The Foodie

Picture from – “Cooking with Kids for Thanksgiving”

  • Keep your future chef involved in the kitchen by finding child-appropriate ways that he or she can help.  Perhaps your son or daughter can help toss a salad, wash fruits and vegetables, bring you ingredients you need from the pantry, or divide out rolls into baskets.  Even the smallest hands can help prepare the feast and having your child help to prepare some of the dishes may encourage them to try new things if they are usually a picky eater.
  • Help your young foodie with some math skills by having them measure out ingredients needed for recipes.  They can read along in the steps and look at the ingredients list to know how much of something is needed and when it should go in.
  • Your school age child can also help you make your grocery list the week before.
  • If your child does not like certain dishes or desserts, help him or her find a kid-friendly recipe and make it together.
  • A child can assist with keeping the timer for when dishes should be done baking or when the turkey needs basting.

Parent Safety Note: While your helper chef can assist in many ways, be sure to keep him or her away from the stove and oven.  Someone should always remain in the kitchen with food cooking, especially with young children.  Also, be sure to have adults carry hot foods and liquids, such as steaming vegetables, hot gravy, or hot coffee, to the table.


The Restauranteur

  • Your child can make menus with emergent writing and invented spelling or you can scribe for them by their pictures.
  • If your older child loves to play “waiter” or “waitress,” they can be sure to have all of the water glasses poured before announcing “Dinner is served.”


The Artist

  • Artistic children can pair with a Restauranteur type to decorate and illustrated the menus.  This is a great way for two or more children to work cooperatively together to make enough copies for everyone.
  • Give an older artistic child construction paper or a large size paper and black markers or black crayons to create their own coloring pages for their younger siblings or cousins to enjoy while waiting to be served.  He or she can also play Art Teacher by making sure that everyone has the supplies that they need and assisting and encouraging the little Picassos.
  • Give your school age artist a guest list and allow him or her to reproduce the names/letters onto place cards.  A younger sibling can help by sticking Thanksgiving stickers onto the place cards for decoration.  If your artist is not old enough to reproduce the letters by himself or herself, you can write them neatly and read them aloud to them, showing the names.

Picture from


The Author/Reporter

  • Give your budding writer a decorative blank book and pencil.  Have him or her write the year on the front page and go to their relatives and ask them what they are thankful for this year and write it down neatly.  Then, they can report the list at the dinner table or after dinner and everyone can talk about what a wonderful year it has been.

Picture from


The Event Coordinator

  • Give your school age child a budget for buying decorations and help him or her find ways to stay on budget while finding festive items for your home and table.
  • Give your school age child a guest list and allow him or her to reproduce the names/letters onto place cards.  A younger sibling can help by sticking Thanksgiving stickers onto the place cards for decoration.
  • Napkins can be rolled around utensils and tied with a ribbon or pre-made napkin ring and placed on each plate before sitting down for the meal.  Or, look up fun, fancy ways of folding napkins and let them make it a fancy affair.

Check out this video from PBS Parents: DIY Napkin Rings


The Actor/Director

  • If your child has the acting bug and is not interested in the ideas above, perhaps he or she can enlist a few brothers, sisters, or cousins for a short skit before the dinner is served.

Why is Preschool Important?

According to First Steps Kent, “One of the most important predictors of a child’s success in school and life is whether he or she receives a high-quality preschool education.”

This statement is supported by a research study of children birth through age 5 as they entered their mid-thirties.  Children who received high-quality early childhood education/preschool were more successful than their peers who did not.  Additional research and studies confirmed this, as well as the experiences of the child, their family, and their teachers.

High quality preschool develops cognitive “thinking” skills – Children in high-quality programs have higher IQs and test scores in elementary and secondary school

High quality preschool develops language and literacy skills – Children in high-quality programs have larger vocabularies and pre-literacy skills which prepares them to read and write

High quality preschool develops social and emotional skills – During preschool, children’s attitudes and habits are shaped including how they work cooperatively with peers, make decisions, and understand emotions and relationships.


K-Prep encompasses our entire preschool program with special age-appropriate instruction for 3 year olds, 4 year olds, and Young 5’s.  At AppleTree and Gilden Woods, we understand that preschoolers need the freedom to explore, inquire, and engage.  That’s why our approach is so effective.  We provide a developmentally-appropriate environment for hands-on learning that is stimulating and fun, so your child can grow, play, and learn at their own pace.  They’ll love engaging in art, music, early math and science activities, and circle time – and you’ll love the confidence and mastery they develop.


For more information on why preschool is so important, visit

For more information on our K-Prep Preschool program, please see your Program Director.

Last Minute Summer Fun

Cold, rainy fall weather will be here before we know it.  Make the most of the end of summer by penciling some of the activities below onto your calendar.

  • Talk to your neighbors and organize an ice cream social – especially if you missed National Night Out on Tuesday, August 4
  • Visit Binder Park Zoo for Tour de Zoo on Thursday, August 20 (7400 Division Drive, Battle Creek, MI 49014, 269-979-1351, Note: This event requires registration.  Register ahead of time at for $25 or pay $5 more to register on the day of the event.)
  • Visit a nature center
  • Go for a walk, hike, or bike as a family
  • Find a new restaurant or ice cream place and give it a try – maybe it’ll become a new family favorite!
  • Grab some sunscreen and have some fun on the water at a beach or lake
  • On a rainy day or night, have a family game night – optionally head to a toy store to find a new game to try
  • Make your cowboy’s/cowgirl’s day by finding a place to horseback ride
  • Enjoy a quintessential Pure Michigan landmark for a weekend – ideas could include Sleeping Bear Dunes or Mackinaw Island – extra fun for choosing a new place you’ve never been!


For more ideas, check out the following:


The Mystery of Hand Dominance in Children

The development of predominant and proficient use of one hand over the other is important for handwriting, feeding, and other activities.  According to, 90% of the population is right-hand dominant and 10% is left- or mixed-hand dominant.

Did you know?  Encouraging or forcing the use of a particular hand in activities such as handwriting may lead to stuttering, stammering, and increased levels of stress within young children (Meng, 2007).


Honor the natural development

While it may be tempting to help a child “decide” which hand to use, research recommends encouraging activities that require two hands to perform different jobs to develop hand dominance.  Presenting toys at the midline allows children to grasp spontaneously.


Don’t worry if the child switches hands during play or learning – recognize this developmental time as the gift it is.


Source:  Dr. Marianne Gibbs, EdD, OTR, Write Out of the Box –, Picture from

Reference:  Meng, L. (2007). The rate of handedness conversion and related factors in left-handed children. Laterality, 12(2), 131-138.

Infant Individual Lesson Plans

The development that occurs between birth and a child’s third birthday lays the foundation for all later learning (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2000).

Babies grow and develop quickly in their first year of life. That’s why responsive curriculum – planning focused on using activities to support and foster an infant’s internal motivators to learning – is our tool to ensure your infant receives individual, developmentally-appropriate lesson plans.


Each month, your infant’s primary teacher will identify activities specific to your infant’s development. Lesson planning is based on observations and anecdotal notes recorded by your infant’s primary teacher and suggested activities from your infant’s most recent ASQ-3 (Ages and Stages Questionnaire). Using observations and results of the ASQ ensures activities are not just adult-initiated, adult-directed lessons, but rather lessons and activities in direct response to your infant’s developing interests and needs. Your child’s intentionally designed early learning experiences will be posted in your child’s classroom for your easy reference.

The ASQ-3 is an invaluable tool for your child’s individual lesson planning. Our schools have partnered with Family Futures, an innovative, family-centered program providing parents of children five and under with critical information on child development through their Connections program. Through the Connections program families receive Ages and Stages Questionnaires either via email or the postal service. These questionnaires enable parents and caregivers to track a child’s development. Play activities are used to encourage healthy development and identify any concerns which, in turn, Family Futures will follow up on with families.

Infant Individual Lesson Planning is just another value-added program developed for our families of AppleTree and Gilden Woods Early Care and Preschool.

Jump Into June – 5 Ways to Start the Summer Off Right!

June is the start of summer vacation.  School age children are excited to enjoy the “dog days of summer” and will be itching for activities to keep them busy and seeing the friends they have made during the previous school year.  Check out these ideas to make this your child’s favorite June yet and make the most of the quality time you have together.

  • Sign up for a summer reading program!  Many local libraries and bookstores have child, teen, and adult programs and some include the opportunity to win prizes by turning in minutes, pages, or books throughout the program.  Contact your library or local bookstore to learn about what programs they are running in the summer months.  Some have deadlines by which you need to register – so don’t delay!  Grand Rapids Public Library, Kent District Libraries, Schuler Books, Barnes and Noble, and Baker Book House are a great place to start.
  • Look for local farmer’s markets.  Some vendors will have recipes that can be made with their fruits and veggies available on their carts.  June is the perfect time to explore a farmer’s market – it’s Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month!
  • Summer is a time for outdoor concerts and festivals – check out your local chamber of commerce and regional websites (such as or and look for events calendars with these options.  Many of them will be free to attend.  Festival of the Arts (June 5 – 7), Start of Summer Celebration – Rockford (June 12 – 14), West Michigan Chalk Art Festival (June 19 – 20), Grand Rapids Balloon Festival (July 24 – 25), Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival (July 24 – August 2), and Hudsonville Community Fair (August 24 – 29) are all annual favorites throughout the West Michigan area.
  • Michigan’s Free Fishing Weekend – Do you have a little one that is itching to get out on the water?  During the weekend of Saturday, June 13 and Sunday, June 14, take advantage of all applicable fishing license fees being waived.
  • National Get Outdoors Day – June 13, 2015 (the second Saturday in June) – Purchase a tent or borrow one from a family member or friend and camp in the backyard if you can’t get away to a campsite.  Consider making a fire and enjoying quality time with some s’mores and campsongs.
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