Great Start News

January 2022

Our Children, Our Community, Our Future

The purpose of the Jackson Great Start Collaborative is to form a countywide network with diverse representation from all sectors of the community including, education and childcare, health and human services, businesses, faith-based organizations, and families. Together we work to ensure Jackson County children are born healthy, developmentally on track, ready to succeed when entering school, and are reading proficiently by the end of third grade.

Openings for Preschool!

There are still Preschool openings for the 2021-2022 school year! If your child was 4 on or before December 1st, 2021 he/she may be eligible.

Head Start and GSRP programs are free to families who qualify and are located throughout Jackson County. Please visit here to view the income eligibility chart, a map of both Head Start and GSRP locations, and the list of income documents that you will need to bring with you in order to complete your application.

To begin the process of applying, please complete the interest form or call (517) 768-5130 to apply over the phone. After completing the interest form, you will begin receiving robocalls and text messages on how to complete your application.



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When kids sit next to a caring adult and hear engaging stories, they develop positive associations with books. Reading aloud to your child strengthens the part of their brain associated with visual imagery, the ability to understand stories and word meaning. When you read to your five-year-old, they pick up on important book smarts, like how to hold a book, which direction to turn the pages, what an author is and where to find the title. These skills are called "concepts about print," and they help kids prepare to be successful independent readers. Read more:

How to Use Children’s Books to Talk About Race and Racism

Research suggests that “if a parent just reads the book and doesn’t have a conversation — doesn’t start to talk about racial disparities and racial discrimination and racism in America — then it won’t really affect a child’s attitudes toward race,” says Dr. White. “It comes back to parents having a background knowledge before speaking with their children, and being brave enough to have the tough conversations.”

Here are seven ways Dr. White recommends using picture books (with questions and conversation starters!) to talk about race and racism:


  1. Donate. Make a few piles and chose what to donate , throw away or keep.
  2. Play hide and seek
  3. Make a snowman inside or outside
  4. Start a journal
  5. Build a blanket fort
  6. Find a new recipe to try
  7. Paint with different things: use yarn, q-tips, toilet paper rolls, toy cars etc. and paint with them
  8. Make oobleck:1.5 cups of corn starch and 1 cup of water. Mix together and enjoy
  9. Make bird treats/feeders:
  10. Explore prints found in snow and ice

Bright by Text

We have teamed up with Bright by Text, a national parent texting program, to put expert tips, games, and child development information directly into the hands of parents and caregivers. Bright by Text provides research-based content on child development and learning from trusted experts like PBS, Vroom, Sesame Street, and the CDC, beginning in the second trimester of pregnancy up to age 8. 2-4 simple texts are sent out per week that include links leading to additional information, such as a video or website. In addition, texts will include resources and family-friendly activities being offered right here in Jackson County. Bright by Text messages are offered in both English and Spanish and are specific to the age of your child.

It is easy to sign up for Bright by Text - simply text GREATSTART to 274448 or follow this link to get started!!

Sing and Play!

Using fingerplays, songs and rhymes helps children learn language by increasing vocabulary, learning the sounds of words and hearing the rhythm of language. Children can also gain large and small motor skills by performing movements required in fingerplays.
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As a parent or caregiver, you know that having a young child comes with both joys and challenges. You learn new things about them and how to manage different situations every day. This is a process that will last throughout your journey of caring for your child. Take time to connect with your child each day—from the moment they’re born. Your loving care and response along the way will help them grow up feeling safe, secure, and confident in the world. Here are a few tips to help you build a strong, loving relationship with your child:
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Ice Candles

Age: Preschool and up
Time: About 20 minutes
Type of Activity: Back yard fun

Materials needed:

  • Small plastic tub or bucket (a summer beach pail is the ideal size).
  • Tin can or small plastic cup.
A few strategically placed ice candles can turn your backyard into a winter's evening wonderland. Ice candles are easy to make, and best of all, cost next to nothing.

The first step to create an ice candle is to make a mold. This is done by filling a bucket or pail with cold tap water and placing a tin can or cup in the center. Weigh it down with enough small rocks to almost, but not quite, sink it.

Place the bucket outside on the porch or in the freezer until the water is frozen solid. Carefully remove the block of ice from the pail or bucket (you might need to loosen the ice by running warm tap water over the bucket's surface for a few moments). Once the ice is free from the bucket, the next step is to remove the tin can or plastic cup from the center of the block. (If the can or cup seems locked in the ice you can fill it with warm water to make removal easier.)

Once the ice has been removed from the pail and the cup from the center of the block, you've got your basic ice candle. Just place a small candle at the bottom of the well where the cup used to be. Bingo! You've just made an ice candle!


To keep the can or cup from "drifting off center" you may want to anchor it in place by placing a stick across the top of the pail and taping the cup or can to the stick. An inverted sauce pan cover will also do the trick -- the knob at the top will prevent the cup or can from drifting too far from the center.

Rainbow ice candles

Essentially you follow the steps outlined above, except you will build your candle in stages. Fill your bucket with 1/2 inch cold tap water and let freeze. When your first layer has frozen solid, add another 1/2 inch of VERY COLD tap water and add several drops of food coloring. Freeze and repeat the process with a different food coloring for each layer. Don't forget to put a can or cup in the center to make space for your candle.

Ice Play!

To make this easy Arctic sensory play ice melt, freeze objects in layers in a milk container in the freezer {a large bowl would work too}. Freeze items one layer at a time so there are several layers to melt through and items are evenly distributed. Let each layer freeze completely. When ready, tear away milk carton. It should release easily. Put your block in a container and add a warm bowl of water with a baster for melting. Let your child try to get objects out and watch as the ice melts away!

Identifying Animal Tracks!

Many Michiganders hole up when the snow flies, barely going outside to shovel. Meanwhile, life goes on in the special natural areas throughout the state. A great thing about the fresh snow is that when we do venture outside, it can tell us a lot. Animal tracks, especially those left in fresh snow, can tell a story. They reveal that just because we do not spot many animals, doesn’t mean they are not nearby. There are countless species of animals that we might encounter in Michigan’s natural areas, but learning how to identify just a few of the most common tracks can reveal the secrets of the woods.
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5 Unexpected Health Benefits of Enjoying Outdoor Winter Activities

  • Cold can increase your resting metabolism.
  • It can help cure the winter blues.
  • Winter activity can help your body produce vitamin D.
  • You burn more energy.
  • Cold can cause your body to burn fat.


Have you ever had an embarrassing moment where your child (maybe quite loudly) asked you about some characteristic of another person? For example, “Mommy, why does that woman look like that?” The typical parental reaction is to attempt to quiet the child and move on as quickly as possible. As adults we’ve been taught not to ask such questions (at least not out loud). In contrast, children are not yet conditioned to refrain from sharing what they think or asking what they want to know. Click here to read more:


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Jackson District Library

The Jackson District Libraries have many events happening around the community. Click on the link for the calendar of events:

The Secret to a Happy Family | The Science of Happiness

Contact Us

Kelly Sheppard: Great Start/Early Childhood Consultant

Bridget Griffith: Great Start/Early Childhood Coordinator

Kelly Friedland: Early Childhood Grant Support and Data Specialist

Resha Willis: Great Start Playgroups Coordinator