20 Ways to Give Thanks

With the Holidays upon us and Thanksgiving just around the corner, I wanted to share with you a few ideas how we can show thankfulness this holiday season. Spreading joy and doing something nice for others is fulfilling and can be a great lesson for the whole family. Children learn best from watching your modeled behavior. Below are a few things that you can do with your children, and a few things that you can model for them to teach the importance of showing gratitude and thankfulness.


I hope you all have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving! Please be safe in whatever way you choose to spread some joy and thankfulness this Holiday Season.


How to Make the Most of Parent-Teacher Conferences

Parent-Teacher Conferences are typically held twice a year, which may look a bit differently this year. At AppleTree & Gilden Woods we will be conducting 10-minute conferences by phone to ensure that each family gets a chance to touch base with their child’s teacher. Whatever your conferences may look like this is a chance to get one-on-one time with your child’s teacher to give and to get insight on your child’s progress socially and developmentally. Here are a few tips to make the most of your Parent-Teacher Conference.

How to Make the Most of Parent-Teacher Conferences

  • Tell your child’s teacher about your child. You are the person that knows your child best. Be sure that your child’s teacher knows everything that they need to be able to best care for and educate your child.
  • Share things that are happening at home. If you have recently had a family member move in to live with you, had an illness in the family, or other life change (i.e. divorce or new baby), let your child’s teacher know. This will help your child’s teacher be prepared to support your child cognitively or emotionally as needed.
  • Be sure to ask questions both about cognitive skills and social skills. Attending AppleTree & Gilden Woods isn’t just about the education, it’s also about the forming of early friendships and learning to play and learn cooperatively in a group.
  • Discover personal strengths to encourage and develop in your child. Personal strengths will be skills and interests that your child will take beyond school.
  • Request areas that your child needs to improve in. Be open to this constructive feedback and don’t be defensive. These meetings are opportunities where teachers can note something that your child needs support to master before it becomes anything more. After the conference, consider ways that you can help to support your child to improve. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your child’s teacher or the Program Director for ideas of resources to extend learning from school to home.
  • Make notes & be prepared. If there are things that you want to be sure to touch base with your child’s teacher about, write them down as you think of them before your conference so that you can be sure to make the most of your time with your child’s teacher.
  • Don’t be afraid to make a follow-up meeting if necessary. If the conference isn’t long enough to discuss your items, be sure to talk to your child’s teacher or the Program Director to schedule another focused appointment. Drop-off times in the morning can often be rushed and won’t allow both of you to be fully focused on the conversation.

Child-friendly Kitchen Gadgets

Meal time is a wonderful way to spend quality bonding time with your children. Invite your children to help with age appropriate tasks in the kitchen the next time you are preparing a meal. Below are fun kitchen gadgets that can help bring some silliness into the kitchen and promote playfulness and use of the imagination. Always use your best judgment when allowing your children to help in the kitchen and make sure that the utensils used are age appropriate.

Try these family shaped baking tools and play dolls all while preparing a delicious meal with your children.

These colorful fish shaped measuring cups are sure to bring a smile to your young chef’s face.

This dinosaur pasta scoop is perfect for the budding paleontologist in your family.

This monkey riding a unicycle makes the perfect pizza cutter.

These bear paw oven mits will be more for the adult but are sure to get a giggle from your children!

Let your child help set the time and practice numbers by using this adorable pig timer.

Keep the fun in cookie baking with this adorable dancing pigs rolling pin.

Turn breakfast into story time with these different shaped molds for fried eggs!

Fall Family Bucket List

Fall is upon us! The mornings are cooler, the sun is setting earlier, and the leaves are starting to show us how beautiful they can truly be. It’s time to break out the boots and scarves and get ready for one of the best seasons mother nature has to offer! We are especially lucky here in Michigan that we are able to experience fall to its full potential. Below is a Fall Family Bucket List to help you and your family enjoy every aspect of fall. Print off this list or make your own with your children and have them check it off all season.

October is National Fire Prevention Month

According to the National Fire Protection Association, there are between 350,000 and 400,000 house fires in the United States every year. Home fires are the biggest disaster threat to families in this country, above floods and hurricanes.

Here are some important tips to consider:


There are many ways to talk with your children and teach them about fire safety. The Grand Rapids Children Museum is doing just that. During the week of October 6th, they will celebrate fire safety and have a variety of activities as well as visits from the Grand Rapids Fire Department. They will also be opening a brand-new exhibit, “To The Rescue” opening on October 24th from 5-8pm to help your children explore the world of a firefighter.

Remember to teach children about fire safety and to prepare them for the event of an actual fire. Visit ww.nfpa.org for a fire safety family checklist.

Age Appropriate Chores for Children

Developing a chore chart for children helps teach responsibility, helpfulness, and routine among many other beneficial skills. Here are a few ideas to get you started!

I am the proud parent of an adorable, sassy, independent 3-year-old who wants to be involved in everything I do… absolutely everything. As adorable and endearing as it can be when he wants to help clean the windows, or crack the eggs for breakfast, his helping can sometimes be counterproductive. Through trial and error, I have found that giving him his own chore chart is a great way to keep him engaged and to stay (mostly) on task myself.

Developing a chore chart for children helps teach responsibility, helpfulness, and routine among many other beneficial skills. It is important, when beginning a chore schedule, to be sure that you consider the age and capability of your child. To avoid possible frustrations for both you and your child, be sure to talk about each chore in-depth and set realistic expectations as far as time to complete and the quality of the job.

Below are some suggested chores for different age groups!



Pro Potty Training Tips

The time has come to start potty-training, and I am a little terrified. I know the benefits, I understand the importance, but I’ve gotten accustom to the ease and routine of diapers. My son is going on the potty pretty regularly at home, but still struggling a bit at school. There are many different methods and tips out there to help make potty training quick and easy for you and your children. One thing I have found that is most valuable is that my husband and I are on the same page as the teachers in my sons’ classroom.

AppleTree & Gilden Woods offer a great potty-training program featuring one of our Woodland friends, Pedal. We also offer tips for parents to ensure that we are all on the same page and that they feel encouraged and supported. Below are a few tips that our teachers use and that we give to parents to help the process.

  1. Assign easy names to bladder and bowel movements. Common ones include “pee pee” and “poo poo” but feel free to use your own. Remain consistent with the names that you do assign. Ask your child questions such as “Do you have a poo poo in your diaper?” and “Is it time to go pee pee in the potty?” These are the words they will learn to signal you when it is time to go.
  2. Have a potty walk through lesson. Talk through what you do when you use the bathroom. Don’t let the small details escape your train of thought. Remember, this is all new to your child. Invite questions.
  3. Change your child’s diaper as soon as it gets dirty. This lets your child feel the difference between wet and dry. When this happens, it helps teach your child what a dry diaper feels like and make the connection to when it is time to go potty.
  4. Create a signal for a dirty diaper. This lets you know that your child knows the difference between a wet and dry diaper and will be able to tell you when it is time to go potty. Also, praise your child when they tell you about a dirty diaper. This will associate going to the potty with a positive feeling, which is crucial to successful potty training.
  5. Choosing the Potty. During this time you also need to decide whether you want a potty that sits on the floor or on the actual “big potty.” Pay attention to your child’s desires in this decision making process. A lot of your child’s success will depend on their initial comfort level with the potty. Some children are initially afraid of the larger toilet and will be more comfortable on the floor. If this is the case you can start there and graduate to the big toilet at a time when your child is more comfortable.
  6. Keep encouraging your child when they use the potty, and with time it will happen more consistently

Stay strong, stay consistent, and encouraging. This a big change for both you and your child and you will both feel accomplished and proud once mastered. Best of luck!

Nurturing Meaningful Conversations with your Children

Do you ever ask your child a question only to get a one word response? They get home from school or a play date and you are excited to hear all about their experiences! All you’re looking for is a simple conversation that is somewhat meaningful and yet all you get in response is “good.” There’s a chance that we are asking the wrong questions. Of course we want to know all about school and all about the play date, but we are giving them the opportunity to end the conversation short by asking a question that requires a one word reply, otherwise known as a closed-ended question. We need to try and ask more meaningful, open-ended questions.

When adults ask children open-ended questions it provides them opportunities to expand their language development (verbal, receptive and written) and learn vocabulary. It also allows children to share how they think or feel. There is no right or wrong answer. When adults listen to children’s responses and continue the conversation it validates the child’s thoughts and feelings. Children’s creativity and problem solving skills can also be developed as a result of being asked open-ended questions.

It can be difficult breaking the habit of always asking closed-ended questions. Here are 10 examples of open-ended questions that may help adults break that habit!

September is Safe Sleep Awareness Month

September is National Safe Sleep Awareness month. At AppleTree & Gilden Woods we are committed to providing infants with a safe place to grow and learn. For this reason, AppleTree & Gilden Woods have a policy in safe sleep practices for infants to also include providing a safe sleep environment and ensuring all teachers are trained on safe sleep annually.

We support and respect your parenting decisions but want to make sure you take this opportunity to learn important information to help keep your infant safe.

SIDS stands for sudden infant death syndrome.  This term describes the sudden, previously thought unexplained death of an infant younger than 1 year of age.  Some people call SIDS “crib death” because many babies who die of SIDS are found in their cribs.  But, cribs do not cause SIDS.  SIDS is the leading cause of death in infants between one month and one year of age. Studies show that breast feeding is associated with reduced infant deaths.  Here are some important tips for reducing the risk of SIDS.

Where is the safest place for my baby to sleep?

The safest place for your baby to sleep is in the room where you sleep, not in your bed.  Place the baby’s crib or bassinet near your bed (within arm’s reach).  This makes it easier to breastfeed and bond with your baby.  The crib or bassinet should be free from toys, soft bedding, blankets, and pillows.

Make sure everyone who cares for your baby knows the Safe Sleep rules.  Tell grandparents, babysitters, childcare providers, and other caregivers to always place your baby on his or her back to sleep to reduce the risk of SIDS.  Babies who usually sleep on their backs but who are then placed on their stomachs, even for a nap, are at very high risk for SIDS—so every sleep time counts!

Free educational materials, including brochures, posters, decals and DVDs, can be accessed at:  http://www.healthymichigan.com.

5 Creative Ways to Make Bath Time Fun

Bath time can be a struggle. Whether you have a brand new baby, a rambunctious toddler, or a curious preschooler at home, a number of challenges can arise when it comes to bath time. Your child may know that this signifies bedtime and not be ready to wind down. They want to play one more game. They need a snack. Now their thirsty. Maybe your child just really does not like water. Whatever the cause may be, as a parent, we all know that sometimes it can be difficult. Even if you are one of the lucky ones with a child who loves a good bath, these tips are for you as well.

Bath time can be a great bonding time for you and your child and it can lend itself great learning moments. Here are five creative ways to make bath time fun for your children, and to capitalize on the little moments that make the best memories:

1. Spray Paint Bubble Bath: All you need is some food coloring, a few spray bottles, and some bubble bath. Add some warm water and just a drop or two of food coloring to the bottles. Shake well. Food coloring is completely safe but may seem like a messy option. Adding it to warm water will dilute it enough to avoid staining. Run the bath and add a healthy amount of bubble bath for optimum fun. Let your little one spray the bubbles and paint them all different colors. They can swish the bubbles and water around for a beautiful moving piece of art. The little ones will love this fun and easy bath time activity.

2. Glow Bath: For a fun sensory experience, turn off the lights, and let those bubbles glow! For younger children, add a bunch of glow sticks to the bath and turn off the lights. Check your glow sticks before adding them to the bath to ensure there are not any holes. We do not want the contents to leak into their bath. This is a simple yet effective way to make bath time a little different and a lot exciting. For your older children, make glow paint. For glow paint, all you need is washable fluorescent paint that you can find at any craft store, and shaving cream. Mix the two ingredients together and let your child’s creativity emerge. With shaving cream, it is important to be careful of sensitive skin. You may benefit from testing it on a small area of your child’s hand first before submerging them in the bath with it.

3. Ice Fishing: An ice-fishing bath is easy and fun for your child and can be altered to accommodate different developmental benchmarks and ages. To make your ice-fishing bath, all you need is to freeze some bath toys in a small container. Once you place the ice in the water, the objects will slowly emerge. This is where you can cater this activity to your child’s needs and likes. One idea is to add bath letters that spell out fish, for a fun word scramble. An ice-fishing bath is fun for all ages and is an exciting twist to bath time.

4. Pool Noodle Play: This activity is so simple and so fun. Cut up pieces of a pool noodle for a terrific water sensory activity. It is important to find the easy, fun way, when it comes to engaging and teaching your children. This activity is quick and easy to set up. It allows your child time to explore water, patterns, and color. Children love exploring things that float. You can even add things that do not float to push through the noodles. The variations and possibilities are endless with this stress free activity.

5. Themed Bath Night: Adding a theme to bath night is a simple and fun way to spice up bath time. Use objects that you have around the house; you could even let your child pick the theme or help pick out the toys. Add the toys to the bath and let their imaginations go. Letting your child play with toys in the bath that are not always bath toys will add an element of excitement to the activity. The possibilities are endless with this one: Color Night, Dinosaur Extravaganza, Pool Party, Car Wash, “Food” Fight… the list could go on.

You are now prepared to bring a little joy and a lot of fun to bath night!!

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