Literacy skills, gross and fine motor skills, problem-solving skills and more – the first five years of your child’s life are crucial when it comes to development in these areas.
That’s why high-quality early education is so important in helping a child learn, grow and develop socially, emotionally and academically.
However, some families aren’t aware of – or utilizing – the resources available to them, which means some are missing out on big benefits in their child’s earliest years.
For parents in Macomb County, Great Start Collaborative Macomb and its Parent Coalition offer this exact kind of guidance and support for families.
Great Start Collaborative Macomb is a partnership of professionals, community leaders and parents who establish and maintain the early childhood education system, which is committed to a child’s readiness for school.
The Parent Coalition works alongside Great Start Collaborative Macomb as an advocate for local families in need.
In her roles as Great Start Collaborative coordinator and Help Me Grow director for Macomb County, Kelly Isrow collaborates with the Parent Coalition to help Macomb County families – and their children – thrive.
Great Start Collaborative Macomb and the Parent Coalition provide support and resources to parents of children ages 0-8 in the county. The coalition specifically assesses the needs of families in Macomb County and determines the best ways to fill in any gaps in education and access to resources.
“Parent Coalition is really our parent voice and support group for the county,” Isrow says.
Part of this support includes parent screeners, such as the Ages and Stages Questionnaire, which helps families determine where their children are developmentally.
“We want to target those parents that do not have their child in any type of child care center and potentially don’t have them in any type of programming,” Isrow says.
Additional advocacy includes distributing information on safe sleep practices and even providing porta-cribs for families that do not have a safe sleep environment for their children, Isrow adds.
Workshops and events
During the summertime, families can attend Books, Bubbles and Balls events at local parks in Macomb County to receive information on literacy strategies.
Three more of these literacy events are scheduled for summer 2019: July 27 at Bruce Township Park in Romeo, Aug. 1 at George George Park in Clinton Township at Fort Fraser on Aug. 17. All events take place from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and feature stories, songs, movement and arts and crafts. Register at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are ongoing Thursday events, too. From 6 to 8 p.m. on select dates, families can gather at the Macomb Intermediate School District, located at 44001 Garfield Road in Clinton Township.
At these events, each participating family receives a copy of Adventures in Parenting from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. This book is the basis for conversation at these monthly meetings, Isrow says. Speakers discuss a different issue in the book each month. Dinner and child care is provided during these free events. Upcoming 2019 dates are:
- Sept. 5, 2019
- Oct. 17, 2019
- Nov. 7, 2019
- Jan. 23, 2020
- March 12, 2020
- April 16, 2020
- June 4, 2020
Finally, on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, the Parent Coalition will host its Adventures in Parenting Resource Fair at the Macomb Intermediate School District. This free event, which takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., helps families navigate their way through different agencies and resources in Macomb County.
Advice for parents
Start with the Ages and Stages Questionnaire as a guideline for areas of improvement, Isrow suggests.
Look for opportunities to nurture motor skills and creativity. For example, try hands-on activities such as making a bird feeder with milk cartons and old bread, Isrow says. Have children decorate their bird feeder with stickers and finger paint.
With the warmer temps, why not step outside? Lead kids on a little journey to collect sticks and rocks, and see what little creations you can make with them.
“Being outdoors is just wonderful here in Michigan, because there is so much nature that you can explore with your child,” Isrow adds.
While outside, take time to talk about feelings, too. Ask your child, “Now that the sun is out and you’re getting hot, how does that make you feel?”
Working on literacy skills in these everyday interactions is important, as well, and can be done in many ways. “Literacy is such a big part (of early child development), and literacy is not necessarily being able to read or recognize words,” Isrow says. It’s about being able to recognize letters, as well.
Do this by pointing out different signs and pictures to children. Look at address numbers or street signs when on a walk, or examine menus when out to dinner. Notice them with your kids. Bringing attention to these things lets kids know these symbols have meaning, Isrow adds, which sets the groundwork for reading.
Along those lines, reading books to kids is huge, too. Particularly when it’s nice outside, take that book outdoors, put a blanket down and read there. Kids tend to pay more attention in these cases since it’s out of context for them, she says.
Tap into your creativity, too. Make up songs or rhymes (have fun – young kids respond positively to playfulness, so it certainly doesn’t matter if you’re off-key!). Or look at picture books and invent your own stories.
“All of those pieces build on the early literacy,” says Isrow.
For more information on resources and support in Macomb County, visit the Great Start Collaborative Macomb website.