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

How to talk to your preschooler about September 11


On September 11, 2001, we were all forever changed. And even though it’s been 18 years since that faithful day where America’s true spirit was tested, we will always remember.

As parents of preschoolers, it should be up to us when and how our children should learn about September 11. Especially in this age of social media where our kids are exposed to all sorts of information. No matter how much we try to protect them, they will learn about it. Here are some suggestions on how to handle it when it comes up.

Whether it’s 9/11 or any tragic event, make sure you find a way to talk to them in such a way that it won’t freak them out. According to Dr. Lori Walsh, a NY-based clinical psychologist, find out first what they know as that becomes a great starting point for conversation.

Make sure to correct any misperceptions. Preschoolers tend to over simplify and make up crazy stories. Explain it to them in a simple way, leaving out details about the horrors of that day. They don’t need to know that bad people wanted to attack America and kill civilians. Just say that two airlines crashed into these really tall buildings in New York on September 11.

No matter what you say and how you say it, make sure you end it with them feeling they are safe. That they don’t need to worry. “You want them to feel that their little world is still secure,” says Walsh. Tell them that mommy and daddy loves them and that they will always be there to protect them.

#GreatThingsStartHere
#NeverForget911

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Keeping Our Children Safe In and Around the Car

Motor vehicle related injuries are a leading cause of death among children in the United States. The deaths and injuries caused by leaving children unattended in and around vehicles are both predictable and preventable and can be greatly reduced with increased safety awareness.

The worst thing any parent or caregiver can say is “this would never happen to me.” There are far too many tragedies involving children being seriously hurt or killed while left unattended in or around a vehicle. Even the most conscientious parent can make a devastating mistake; children should be supervised at all times and never left alone inside or around a vehicle.

Heatstroke, backovers, and frontovers are the most prevalent non-traffic fatalities involving children age 14 and under. Additional dangers include strangulation in seat belts or power windows, trunk entrapment, as well as injuries caused by accidental and uncontrolled movement of the vehicle.

Remember these dangers are preventable with proper planning and diligent safety practices. Helpful prevention tips and safety resources like those in this blog can mean the difference between life and death.

Always “look before you lock.” Heatstroke is one of the leading causes of death among children.

In just ten minutes the temperature inside a car can rise by over 10 degrees, even when outside temperatures are as low as 60 degrees or the vehicle is in the shade. A child’s body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adults and heatstroke begins when a child’s body temperature reaches 104 degrees. A core body temperature of 107 degrees is lethal.

REGGIE MCKINNON SHARES HOW HE LOST HIS DAUGHTER TO HEATSTROKE


Hear from Reggie McKinnon about how he lost his daughter to heatstroke on March 8, 2010, after she was left in a hot car. He promises to honor Payton by educating others about the risk of heatstroke.

Prevention Tips

  • Look before you lock. Always check back seats of the vehicle before you lock it and walk away.
  • Keep a stuffed animal or other memento in your child’s car seat when it’s empty, and move it to the front seat as a visual reminder when your child is in the back seat.
  • If your daily routine has been altered, always check to make sure your child has arrived safely.
  • Keep your vehicle locked at all times, even in the garage or driveway, to prevent an unattended child from gaining access to the vehicle.
  • Take action if you see a child alone in a vehicle. Call 911 immediately.

Many children are killed or seriously injured in backover incidents. A backover incident typically occurs when a vehicle coming out of a driveway or parking space backs over an unattended child because the driver did not see the child.

Prevention Tips

  • Teach children not to play in or around cars.
  • Always walk around your vehicle to make sure all areas are clear before backing up.
  • Teach children to move away from a vehicle when a driver gets in it or if the car is started.
  • Have children in the area stand to the side of the driveway or sidewalk so you can see them as you are backing out.
  • Make sure to look behind you while backing up in case a child dashes behind your vehicle unexpectedly.
  • Roll down the windows before backing out of your driveway or parking space so that you can hear what is happening outside of your vehicle.
  • Teach your children to keep their toys and bicycles out of the driveway.
  • Because children can move unpredictably, you should actively check your mirrors while backing up.
  • Many newer cars are equipped with detection devices that provide rearview video or warning sounds. Even with this technology, you should still actively walk around your car to make sure children are safely out of the way before departing.

Other Dangers

To prevent these and other injuries, always make the time to carefully supervise your children when in and around the car.

  • POWER WINDOWS: Children can hurt themselves with power windows. Many have been injured when a window closes on their finger, wrist, or hand. Some have been strangled by power windows. This can be prevented by properly restraining children in car seats or seat belts, teaching your child not to play with the window switches, and utilizing the child window lock in your vehicle, when available.
  • SEATBELT ENTANGLEMENT: A child who can reach a seat belt may become entangled if he or she pulls the seat belt all the way out and wraps the belt around his or her head, neck, or waist. To prevent entanglement, always ensure children are properly restrained and teach children that seat belts are not toys. Parents and caregivers should be aware that some seat belts have a retractor that locks if pulled all the way out.
  • TRUNK ENTRAPMENT: Children are naturally inquisitive and often explore their surroundings. Hide and seek can turn deadly if they get trapped in the trunk, where temperatures can rise very quickly, resulting in heatstroke or asphyxiation. Lock your car doors and trunk and be sure keys and remove entry devices are out of sight and reach of children. Always teach your child that trunks and cars are not play areas.
  • VEHICLE ROLLAWAY: While uncommon, some vehicles equipped with a keyless ignition or push-button start feature can roll away when the vehicle has been turned off and not shifted into park. It is essential to always engage your emergency break when you park.

We’d love to hear from you. Share your thoughts with us. Comment below.


*** Information courtesy of NJ Safe Passage

Screen-free Week is here! What can you do?

Have you been worried about your child’s(or your own for that matter) screen time? As parents, we often wonder if we are doing the right things for our child. How will this affect them later in life? Will they blame me? Is this the right choice? And the list goes on and on. Although we can’t tell you when, what or how much screen time is appropriate, we can help you get some ideas to get away from the screens for a bit!

April 29th- May 5th is Screen-Free week! If this week doesn’t work for you, you can choose to implement in your home any week. In your home, when is screen time allowed? Is there a time limit on week nights? Weekends? Is there any designated screen- free time already? In our house, there are no screens during meal times. Period. That’s a start, right? I’m sure we can all agree we probably utilize screen time all too often for our children AND ourselves. Let’s talk about the benefits of limiting screen time and how we can do it!

Many early childhood experts and psychologists such as Jean Piaget and Erik Erikson highlight the importance of play for children’s development. Play helps children develop problem solving skills, social skills, their imagination and of course it enhances their physical development. Some concepts can only be taught through doing, such as textures or how to use scissors. Imagine if your child watched someone use scissors. They may know what it looks like to use scissors, but if given a pair they wouldn’t be proficient without having practice and good fine motor skills.

So what can we do as parents and educators to ensure this week of screen-free time is the best yet?

-We can offer new experiences our children may not have had before such as a cooking activity, gardening, or even helping mom or dad around the house in using tools with close supervision.

-We can go to new places we might not otherwise go such as a fruit stand, a local market or a hiking trail.

-We can engage in one-one or small group games or activities that require critical thinking skills such as board games.

Only you can determine how much or how little screen time is appropriate for your child. Screen-free week is beneficial for so many reasons including giving you time to reflect on how much time you and your family actually spend looking at a screen versus talking and interacting with each other. This week can serve as a new beginning with new ideas on how you will utilize screen time moving forward.

We’d love to hear from you on what you do to replace screen time in your home, what fun things you were able to do this week without your screens and what new limits you may set moving forward! Comment below.


8 Amazing Teacher Appreciation Gift Ideas

Teacher Appreciation Week is officially May 6-10. But at most of our Greatstart facilities, we have at least a 3-week long celebration because one week is never enough to show how much thankful we are for the wonderful teachers and staff that educate and care for our little ones.

Teacher Appreciation Week almost here. It’s the most exciting time of the year for us because we get to celebrate all the wonderful and amazing things our super teachers do everyday.

We’ve compiled these awesome gift ideas that we hope will inspire you to give them all the pampering they deserve for molding the lives of our children.

Candy Bar Gift Tags

Teacher Bookmark – Free Printables

Toe-Tally Awesome Nail Polish Free Printables

Hands Down Best Teacher – Free Tags

Personalized Calculator

Sharpie Gift Idea

Key To My Success Keychain Gift Idea

Teacher Straw Cup DIY Gift Idea

Of course you can also give them gift cards from their favorite shops, or you can stop by your school and buy them breakfast, lunch, or send in some snacks.

Whether you buy or make them something, the important thing is to show how much you appreciate them.

We love our teachers!

#GreatThingsStartHere
#TeacherAppreciationWeek2019
#TeachersRock

8 Awesome Spring Break Ideas for Kids

Spring break is here! And it’s a welcome break for both kids and parents. Probably half of spring breakers will be going on a trip this week to enjoy, but for other parents, it’s business as usual at work.

Don’t worry moms and dads. We got you covered! We’ve compiled a list of 8 awesome creative ways to keep the kids active and still make their week-long break from school memorable. They’re all very low-tech, so it’s the perfect chance to encourage your kids to turn off their iPads, mobile phones, and video game consoles.

  1. Marco Polo – If you have a pool, this is amazingly simple to organize, and as it’s all about stealth, kids tend to stay quiet. Everyone gets on the pool and one person closes their eyes and counts to 10. That person then says “Marco” and everyone must reply “Polo”. The “It” person tries to catch someone to be “It”.
  2. Supermarket “I-Spy” – Have the kids help with grocery errands by playing this awesome version of this well-loved game. Challenge them to spot something yellow, something crunchy, something cold, etc. Winner could pick tonight’s dessert.
  3. Classic Volcano Experiment – Have the kids create their mini Mt. Vesuvius using molding clay. Then all you need is some white vinegar and baking soda to make the lava magic happen. Make sure to do it outdoors or risk using a lot of paper towels for that messy cleanup.
  4. Playground Hopping – With typical park playgrounds now having so many different equipment, kids could easily spend a few hours enjoying a nice spring day at the park. Shoot some hoops (basketball), play soccer, fly a kite, ride bikes and/or scooters, play catch, throw a Frisbee… there’s a lot of amazing things to do.
  5. Duck Duck Goose – An original “in class” game that works perfectly if there’s a spring shower outside, or the weather is a still a little chilly. How to Play it? Everyone sits in a circle. One person is assigned the tagger, and he or she walks around the circle, touching each person’s head and either saying “duck” or “goose.” If they say “duck”, things continue as is. If they say “goose” the person tagged must try to catch the tagger before they can get back to their spot. If the tagger gets caught, they’re out of the game and have to sit in the mushpot (the middle of the circle).
  6. Plant Flowers – Bring spring inside. Have the kids decorate little pots and then fill them with planting soil and plant the flowers. Have them water the plants daily, not just during the spring break period.
  7. Nature Hike – For a spring learning adventure, take the kids hiking in a nature area and have them learn to identify birds, trees, plants, and flowers. Spring is a natural time for kids to explore science and nature. Maybe do a quick stop to the library on the way as there are lots of books to help.
  8. Pajama Party – End an awesome fun-filled day with more fun. PJ parties still rock! Pop some popcorn and watch a movie. In between, make sure to have lots of gossips and pillow fights. You can even invite some friends over.

As a bonus activity, consider some days Doing Nothing! Yup,… nothing. In today’s time of over-scheduled kids, having such days where they can sleep late and wake up whenever they want, play creatively, work on a hobby, or just generally relax, may actually re-energize them as they get set to go back to school next week.

Have fun!

#GreatThingsStartHere
#SpringBreak
#SpringBreakIdeasforKids