How Our Centers Are Celebrating An Awesome And Safe Halloween During COVID-19

Halloween celebrations will definitely look different this year. But they can still be awesome!

Welcome to Halloween 2020. It will definitely look different this year due to COVID-19 and the need to keep everyone safe.

When our centers reopened in June, our main focus was addressing COVID-19 concerns in a childcare/preschool setting and keeping our children, families, and teachers safe. We did this through implementation and enforcement of strict new health and safety protocols. And with the cooperation of our families, those protocols have kept everyone safe and families are very happy.

In previous years, our facilities celebrated this well-loved holiday with awesome activities such as Trunk-‘N-Treats, costume parades, and classroom parties. The children always look forward to being in their favorite costumes. This year, we want to keep those traditions but had to think outside the box on how to safely do them.

What We Are Doing To Celebrate Halloween Safely

Trunk-‘N-Treat

We will be doing our parade and candy distribution outside via our Trunk-n-Treat. This year, instead of a U-shaped path where cars are parked on either side of the lot, the cars are lined up in a singular line to lessen crowding. And the cars will also be spaced out more than usual.

Trunk Sanitizing

We will go around and sanitize the car trunks of those participating in the Trunk-n-Treat using our portable sanitizing ULV fogger machines prior to the start of the event. This is the one we use and they’re great.

Candies or Treats

It is important to prepare the treats that will be distributed during Halloween

This is the biggest challenge as the typical candy distribution cannot work anymore. Our solution? — Families participating will bring their store-bought only and unopened treat bags to the school a week before the event. We will put the candy bags in a room where they will first be wiped/sanitized and then left to “air out” and then distributed back to the families only just before the event.

We’ve also asked parents to bring the containers they’ll use to put the candies in and we will sanitize and air those out too.

Masks, Hand Washing, and Hand Sanitizing

During the event, everyone will be wearing masks (except for children below 2 years old). Children will wash their hands before and after the event, and family members will have to hand sanitize before they enter the controlled outdoor event zone.

Maybe you can do some of these in your own Halloween event preparations. Or suggest it to your child’s childcare center. Are there any other awesome ideas you have? Share it with us in the comments below.

When the pandemic ends, we can’t wait to go back to the normal ways of celebration. But hey, maybe some of these things aren’t so bad to carry forward. It’s always great to be healthy and safe.

If you’re interested in enrolling your child to one of our facilities, check out how we’re keeping our children safe with some awesome new health and safety protocols.

Not ready to return to a physical location yet? Learn more about our virtual classes and home activity kits by clicking on your nearest center’s FB page below, or emailing us at mychild@greatstartearlylearning.com

Included Home Activity Kits Makes Preschool Virtual Learning More Manageable to Working Parents

Though our centers are re-opening starting June 15, we are offering alternative learning options to families that are not ready to return yet.
Though our centers are re-opening starting June 15, we are offering alternative learning options to families that are not ready to return yet.

Welcome to our Enhanced Home School Connection Learning Series. It’s designed to encourage your child and assist you in your home preschool environment.

In these changing times, we understand that the transition to home pre-schooling has not been easy for parents, as they juggle between their needs to work remotely, as well as find materials and activities for their children. We understand the need to continue educating kids through new media such as remote learning and home schooling activity kits, and that it should be presented with parents’ limited time in mind.

And that’s how these kits were developed — with you in mind. We’ve included the materials, worksheets and calendar schedule, and step-by-step guide on how to do the activities at home with very minimal supervision. Teachers will supplement the kits with regular virtual classes. These activities will reinforce and strengthen age-appropriate learning foundations necessary to master and move to the next program.

We trust that you and the child will have fun while enjoying learning.

Not ready to return to a physical location yet? Learn more about our virtual classes and home activity kits by clicking on your nearest center’s FB page below, or emailing us at mychild@greatstartearlylearning.com

If you’re interested in enrolling your child to one of our facilities, check out how we’re keeping our children safe with some awesome new health and safety protocols

SAFETY MEASURES: ASH FALL FROM TAAL VOLCANO

Taal Volcano, located in Batangas City, started releasing severe ashes at 2:20pm Philippine time on January 12, 2020. The areas affected are Cavite, Batangas and Metro Manila.

A view of the eruption of Taal Volcano, about 50km from Manila. Photo Credit: Twitter/Ivan Castro

Here are some recommendations you can follow for yourself and your family’s safety.

  1. Be Calm. Stay Indoors.
  2. Close windows and doors to avoid ash from entering.
  3. Wear dust masks (recommended N85 masks) for breathing and eye glasses for eye protection when outdoors.
  4. Keep all pets indoors.
  5. Use closed food containers to avoid ash contamination.
  6. When driving, make sure to drive slow because ash can affect road visibility.
  7. Do not open air-conditioning units and clothes dryers.
  8. Clean your roof of ash. Do not allow the ash to accumulate.
  9. Follow any evacuation orders issued by authorities.
  10. Listen to radio, watch television/online streaming for updates on news related to ash fall activity.

Be mindful of Ash Fall health impact because it may result in the following:

  • Noise and throat irritation
  • Coughing
  • Discomfort while breathing
  • Eye irritation
  • Minor skin problems

Any additional tips or ideas that you may have? Share it below.

Your Child Can Get a Letter From Santa This Holiday Season!

“He’s making a list and checking it twice!” Photo Credit: Getty Images

Now that December is finally here, our young ones will soon be writing their wish lists to Santa hoping to get a reply from the jolly man in the big red suit postmarked from the North Pole!

So with a little help from you, we at Greatstart Early Learning are here to do the rest through our “Letters From Santa” program!

Here are the instructions for the “Letters From Santa” program:

  • Write a letter to your child from Santa Claus and sign it “From, Santa”. We’ve attached a sample template to give you inspiration.
  • Insert the letter into an envelope with your CHILD’S NAME and ADDRESS. Be sure to write “SANTA, NORTH POLE” in the return address.
  • No need to stamp it! Postage will be covered by Santa’s helpers here at Greatstart Early Learning.
  • Drop off the letter at Greatstart Early Learning by Wednesday, December 11, 2019. Address: 4001 Hadley Road, Suite F, South Plainfield, NJ 07080
  • Your letter “From Santa” will be mailed back to your child, postmarked from the North Pole.

Letters from Santa must be dropped off no later than Wednesday, December 11, 2019 to ensure they will be mailed out in time. Santa’s helpers at Greatstart Early Learning will do the rest!

What is on your child’s wish list to Santa this year? Let us know in the comments below!

Black Friday 2019 Deals That Parents Won’t Want To Miss Out On

Prepare your wallets and holiday shopping lists because Black Friday is right around the corner! The day after Thanksgiving marks the start of the Christmas shopping season, and for good reason! Hundreds of retailers hold their biggest sales at this time of year. And consumers say that the deals are just too good to pass up on.

This year Black Friday falls on November 29th, but some retailers have already gotten a head start, which means sales are happening as we speak! So, if you’re on the hunt for toys, furniture, clothes, electronics, and more, bookmark this page NOW! We’ve rounded up a list of the Black Friday Deals – both online and in-store – you won’t want to miss out on this year!

Happy shopping! What deals are you eyeing this holiday season? Let us know in the comments!

Get a FREE Car Pass to the Magic of Lights Holiday Drive-Thru Show

Magic of Lights Giveaway
Check out Magic of Lights at PNC Bank Arts Center this Holiday season

It’s time for a holiday giveaway! The amazing Magic of Lights Drive-Through Holiday Light Experience show is back at PNC Bank Arts Center starting on November 22 and goes thru January 4.

And all of us here at Greatstart would like to wish you an awesome start to the festive season by giving you a chance to win a free car pass. You can also get early bird pricing on tickets by using the code MRSCLAUS at checkout for $3 off tickets online.

Magic of Lights Giveaway

Enter to Win a Car Pass
It’s FREE to enter our holiday giveaway. Just do the following (you must subscribe to the newsletter to win):

  1. Subscribe to our Newsletter. Check the right side of this article or on any articles on our blog. You’ll see a “Subscribe to Newsletter” section. Fill that one out and click Subscribe. That’s it! (Already a subscriber? Nothing else to do here!)
  2. Complete this form so we have the right contact info to use if you win. (We won’t share this info)

Deadline to enter is November 30th. We will announce the winners on December 2. Greatstart will contact the winners via email and confirm they can pickup the car pass at either our South Plainfield or Franklin Park facilities.

How Screen Time Can Affect Your Preschooler’s Brain Development

Living in a digital age, there has been an ongoing debate on when and if parents should be exposing their children to the world of electronics. From tablets to smartphones to even television, the tech list goes on and on. Of course, as parents, we only want to provide what’s best for our children. So how does screen time affect a child’s brain development?

The first five years of a child’s life are the most crucial time for the development of the brain. Early experiences impact brain development and influence the way in which the circuits of the brain become wired. A new MRI study found that children between the ages of 3-5 who used screens for more than the one hour a day recommendation without parental involvement had lower levels of development in the brain’s white matter. White matter is the area of the brain responsible for the development of language, literacy, and cognitive skills. 

Because of this, the World Health Organization has established new guidelines for children’s screen time. They suggest that children between the ages of 2-4 should have no more than one hour of screen time while children under the age of 1 should have no screen time at all. It is not the use of electronics itself that causes this “brain damage” but rather the amount of time a child spends on the screen.

There are a wide variety of early activities that can be implemented to positively impact a child’s brain development. Some of these include, but are not limited to:

  • Reading to kick starts language and communication skills
  • Arts and crafts to practice fine motor skills
  • Getting kids involved in activities they can assist you with such as cooking or gardening
  • Interactive play to spark imagination and creativity
  • Exploring the outdoors by going on a walk or hike

As caregivers, it is important that we show our children the value of problem-solving skills and social skills early on in life to enhance their development. We’d love to hear what activities you do in your own home to replace screen time!

Halloween Safety Tips Every Parent Should Know

Halloween is an exciting time of year for our young ones. It’s the day children dress up in costumes and prep their bags as they go around from house to house collecting as many treats as they can! However, trick-or-treating can be dangerous without taking proper safety precautions.

Here are some Halloween Safety Tips to ensure that your child has a fun and safe trick-or-treating experience this year!

Photo credit: CDC Public Health Matters

1. Never let your child go trick-or-treating alone. Have your child walk with a trusted parent or guardian.

2. Map out the route. Only trick-or-treat in areas that you are familiar with. Plan your walking route out in advance.

3. Use a flashlight and bring extra batteries to help you see others. Have your child wear a glow necklace or add reflective tape to their costume so others can see them.

4. Walk, do not run, in well-lit areas. Stay on the sidewalks and avoid walking through people’s lawns or dark alleyways. 

5. Look both ways when crossing the street. Use crosswalks as much as possible. Do not assume cars will stop for you.

6. Check the candy or “treats” your child receives. Examine the goodies to make sure that the packaging is not tampered with and that they are not a choking hazard to your child.

Photo credit: Photo Getty

The safety of our children is of the utmost importance. By following these tips, your children will surely have a safe and spooktacular Halloween!

For more information, check us out on Instagram (@greatstartearlylearning).

Best Places To Go Pumpkin Picking in New Jersey

Fall is officially here – The leaves are falling, the air is brisk, and Halloween is right around the corner.  Looking for plans this weekend? Spend it with your family and friends at your local New Jersey farm! From picking your own pumpkins to sipping on some fresh apple cider, your options for fun fall activities are endless. We’ve rounded up a list of where to go pumpkin picking throughout the Garden State!

NORTH JERSEY FARMS

Abma’s Farm
Location: Wycoff, NJ
Website: https://abmasfarm.com/

Take a hayride through a 30-acre farm to the pumpkin patch! Be sure to leave room in your stomach for fresh apple cider and doughnuts from their market.

Photo Courtesy of Abma’s Farm

Alstede Farms
Location: Chester, NJ
Website: https://www.alstedefarms.com/

Offering a variety of fall activities, this farm will surely keep the kids entertained. On top of the many pick-your-own options, there is also a Harvest Moon Hay Ride and Night Time Corn Maze!

Photo courtesy of Alstede Farms

Conklin Farm-U-Pick
Location: Montville, NJ
Website: https://conklinupick.com/

Stop at Conklin Farm for pumpkin picking and hayrides! Grab a freshly baked pumpkin or apple pie on your way out.

Photo courtesy of Conklin Farm U-Pick

Demarest Farms
Location: Hillsdale, NJ
Website: https://demarestfarms.com/

General admission includes free parking, entrance to the pumpkin patch, hay wagon ride, two petting zoos, an adventure playground, corn box, photo display area, wooden playsets, and more!

Photo courtesy of Demarest Farms

Farms View Farm
Location: Wayne, NJ
Website: https://farmsview.com/pumpkin-picking-nj/

Enjoy a short hayride to the pumpkin patch and pick your own pumpkin! Your admission also includes refreshments such as cider and donuts.

Photo courtesy of Farms View Farm

Heaven Hill Farm
Location: Vernon, NJ
Website: https://heavenhillfarm.com/farm-garden/great-pumpkin-festival/

Known for The Great Pumpkin Festival, this 110-acre farm offers more than 40 fun-filled, family-friendly activities including pumpkin picking, a corn maze, pig races, and plenty more!

Photo courtesy of Heaven Hill Farm

Ort Farms
Location: Long Valley, NJ
Website: https://www.ortfarms.com/

On top of pumpkin picking, kids can spend their day in the corn maze, meeting farm animals, and going on train and monster truck rides!

Photo courtesy of Ort Farms

Stony Hill Farms
Location: Chester, NJ
Website: https://stonyhillfarms.com/market/funpark/

Who knew a farm could offer so many maze options? Corn mazes, fence mazes, rope mazes, tile mazes, and more. Stony Hill’s Fun Park has lots of activities for kids and families!

Photo courtesy of Stony Hill Farms

Sussex County Strawberry Farm
Location: Andover, NJ
Website: http://www.sussexcountystrawberryfarm.com/pumpkins.asp

This farm is guaranteed to be enjoyable for the entire family! Get your cameras ready because you’ll capture great shots of your little ones sitting in the pumpkin patch. 

Photo courtesy of Sussex County Strawberry Farm

Wightman’s Farm
Location: Morristown, NJ
Website: https://wightmanfarms.com/farm-activities.html

Located in Morristown, NJ, this farm offers hayrides, a pumpkin slingshot, pick your own apples, a hay maze and more! 

Photo courtesy of Wightman’s Farm

CENTRAL JERSEY FARMS

Happy Day Farm
Location: Manalapan, NJ
Website: http://www.happydayfarmnj.com/

Get the best of both worlds by picking pumpkins AND sunflowers! You can also navigate your way through their 10-acre corn maze playing Maize-O-Poly.

Photo courtesy of Happy Day Farm

Johnson’s Corner Farm
Location: Medford, NJ
Website: https://www.johnsonsfarm.com/

This farm’s fall festival includes live music, a family-friendly corn maze, gem mining, apple and pumpkin picking hayrides, and a food tent serving up tasty selections from the grill!

Photo courtesy of Johnson’s Corner Farm

Melick’s Town Farm
Location: Califon, NJ
Website: https://www.melickstownfarm.com/

No entry fee, just pay for what you pick! U-Pick options include pumpkins, apples, and sweet corn. Enjoy the horse-drawn wagon rides, corn maze, cute farm goats, and play tractor on this 200-acre farm!

Photo courtesy of Melick’s Town Farm

Norz Hill Farm
Location: Hillsborough, NJ
Website: http://www.norzhillfarm.com/

Take a hay wagon ride to the farm where you can meet the farm animals including cows, miniature donkeys, horses, alpaca, sheep, chickens, goats, pigs, bunnies, a zonkey and even emu! Afterward, you’ll be taken right to the pumpkin patch where you can pick your own pumpkins!

Photo courtesy of Norz Hill Farm

Oasis Family Farm
Location: Robbinsville Township, NJ
Website: https://www.oasisfamilyfarm.com/

Aside from pumpkin picking, Oasis Family Farm offers a “Little Monster Kids Trail”, a kid-friendly, family-oriented, interactive activity that will help you discover the little monster that exists within you. Don’t miss out on the spooktacular photo opportunities available along this trail!

Photo courtesy of Oasis Family Farm

Terhune Orchards
Location: Lawrence Township, NJ
Website: https://terhuneorchards.com/festivals/

Pony rides, tractor-drawn wagon rides, pumpkin painting, barnyard of animals, duck races, the Corn Stalk Maze, Hay Bale Maze, and Farm Trail are just some of the other fun activities Terhune Orchards offers to visitors!

Photo courtesy of Terhune Orchards

SOUTH JERSEY FARMS

Duffield’s Farm
Location: Sewell, NJ
Website: https://www.duffieldsfarm.com/

The fun doesn’t stop with pumpkin picking hayrides. If you’re looking for more, stop by the corn maze, Barn Bounce, and Barnyard Express!

Photo courtesy of Duffield’s Farm

Johnson’s Locust Hall Harm
Location: Jobstown, NJ
Website: https://www.johnsonslocusthallfarm.com/pick-your-own-family-fun/

After picking your own pumpkins and apples, stop by the farm to meet the animals and the market to grab a snack! This farm also has a corn maze and sunflower patch that is perfect for pictures.

Photo courtesy of Johnson’s Locust Hall Farm

Springdale Farms
Location: Cherry Hill, NJ
Website: http://www.springdalefarms.com/

Located in Cherry Hill, Springdale Farms offers pumpkin picking hayrides and The Amazing Bee Corn Maze where visitors find clues, fun facts, and other games to play along the way.

Photo courtesy of Springdale Farms

For more information, check us out on Instagram (@greatstartearlylearning).

The Impact of Bullying in Preschools

Bullying in schools is a worldwide, complex issue that can have short-term and long-term negative effects on a child, especially those in preschool who are engaging in an environment outside their own home for the first time. During this time, their level of social interaction increases tremendously as children meet new people, such as their teachers and classmates. They also participate in their school activities and lessons on a day-to-day basis.

According to research studies, about 7-20% of preschool and early school-aged children have levels of disruptive, aggressive behaviors that are severe enough to qualify for a mental health diagnosis (Fox et al., 2003). If these disruptive and aggressive behaviors go on without correction, it is very likely that a child will become a severe bully as he/she gets older.

Typically, children at this age don’t speak up about being bullied, so it is important that parents, guardians, teachers, and staff can identify the signs of bullying. Some signs to look out for if a child is being bullied include, but are not limited to:

– Bruises, scrapes, marks, or other unexplained injuries
– Sudden changes in behavior or mood
– Clothing and / or other belongings that are often missing, torn, or broken
– Indicators or statements that they don’t have any friends or that no one likes them
– Refusal or reluctance to go to daycare or preschool

– Statements that they “hate” daycare or preschool
– Complaints of stomach aches, headaches, or saying they’re sick
– Problems with eating or sleeping
– Regressed behavior (e.g. bedwetting)

So how can childcare providers and teachers help in this matter?

Since October is Bullying Prevention Month, we want to focus on training for childcare professionals that help identify and address bullying behaviors. Training in childcare challenges that arise is an important way to help teachers be prepared for many tough situations. 

Transform your classroom into a safe, bully-free environment with this online training program:

Bullying Prevention and Response Training and Continuing Education Online Program. Courtesy of stopbullying.gov

#GreatThingsStartHere
#BullyingPreventionMonth