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Spring Thaw Reminder

March 27, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

We know how important it is to support children in getting outside to experience and explore the outdoors every day. As snow has melted, we’ve had some wet and muddy areas on the playground. This certainly makes for an exciting playground to explore, but can definitely be the cause for some messy clothing!

As teachers juggle wardrobe changes, we ask that you please remember to send in extra clothes for your child. Tall rain boots may help as we make this transition. In addition, waterproof gloves and snow pants will help children stay warm and dry as they actively explore the playground. Labeling their articles of clothing also helps minimize confusion. We will have Gretchen’s House back up clothes available if needed. If your child does borrow GH clothes, please be sure to return them promptly so that other children have access to these items as well.  Thanks so much for your understanding as we make our way through the wet, muddy, but very welcome, spring weather.

Thank you!



Outdoor Gear

February 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

This past snow storm has left some remarkable snow piles for the children to explore! We ask that you please continue to send in hats, waterproof gloves, boots and snow pants during the snowy season! Extra socks and a full set of back up clothes are also helpful. As this most recent snow begins to melt, we will be in the messy season. These items will help to keep your children dry and comfortable as we explore the outdoors!

In addition, please remember to label all of your child’s extra gear. As teachers navigate through the day, we want to ensure we are able to keep track of all the gloves, hats, boots and snow pants to return to you each day. If you happen to find yourself with any extra items that you may no longer need, we gladly accept donations that allow us to have extra items on hand!

Thank you for your cooperation!


Valentine’s Day at Gretchen’s House

February 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Many of us have fond memories of elementary school Valentine’s Day parties and celebrations. The majority of the Ann Arbor Public Schools still celebrate with cards and parties. For the young children in our programs, Valentine’s Day is a very abstract concept. They are just learning about feelings of love and friendships. The idea of writing their name on a card 20 or 30 times is likely a skill they have yet to master, and that even as school age children we didn’t much enjoy!

Our approach to Valentine’s Day here at Gretchen’s House, is in line with our philosophy for all curriculum; meet the needs and follow the interests of the children. We will focus on children’s interests and age-appropriate activities that promote healthy social interactions. Teachers will be tuned in to see if children are interested in making cards, writing names and talking about friendships. We will have new and interesting materials available for children who want to create pictures, cards and other creations.

Like most things with young children, the interest may surface more after the big day. It is hard for younger children to remember a year ago and what the holiday is about. Often children receive cards and treats from relatives or hear about their sibling’s big day in school. It’s possible the children may talk about Valentine’s Day here at the center, long after the day has passed! Teachers at Gretchen’s House will be ready and happy to continue to support the interest as long as it lasts.

Although, we won’t be having a classroom exchange of Valentine’s – if your child is interested in making Valentine’s, we ask that you utilize the parent mailboxes for your exchange rather than bringing them into the classroom. We want to remain respectful of all children’s feelings. As we know not all families celebrate, it can be difficult for the children if they don’t receive as many as the other children in their class. Opening them at home will ensure it’s an experience they are able to enjoy in the comfort of their own home! In addition, please remember that we are an allergy aware center – for this reason, we ask that if you decide to bring in Valentine’s you limit it to cards only.

We appreciate your cooperation and understanding as we work together to ensure Valentine’s Day is a positive experience for the children. Please let me know if you have any questions and/or concerns.

Thank you!



Movement in Water’s Edge

November 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Throughout the day, the children in Water’s Edge are busy moving their bodies in many ways.  We are fortunate to have a variety of spaces and equipment to support this development.  For instance, the gym has mats, balls and obstacle course materials and our playground is filled with swings,a sandbox, the climber and lots of space for running.  While engaged in these movement activities, we see the following Key Developmental Indicators: Initiative (opportunities to choose what to do), Building Relationships with Others, Listening and Responding, Cause and Effect, and Pretend Play.

Moving down the slide on the playground

Moving down the slide on the playground

Climbing into the pool in the gym

Climbing into the pool in the gym

Scooping sand together in the sandbox

Scooping sand together in the sandbox

Pond Infant/Toddler Upcoming Dates

November 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Please mark your calendars for the following dates in December:

December 1st: Contracts Due

December 4th: Tammy Holley 9:00 and 9:30 a.m.

December 8th: Fire Drill 4:15 p.m.

December 15th: Transitions Begin!

Tammy Holley 9:00 and 9:30 a.m.

Pond Wing Holiday Party 4:30 p.m.

December 24th-January 2nd: Gretchen’s House is Closed.

We look forward to seeing you on January 5, 2015!



Important Updates and Reminders

October 24, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Thank you everyone who attended Curriculum Night this past week. We appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day to join us and learn about your child’s daily experiences. I want to also thank the teachers for spending their evening here at the center and showing such dedication to the children and families in the  their classroom.

New Contracts Are Coming

It is that time again when we will be providing you with a new contract for the next year. Your current contract will be ending on December 31st. This is a great time for you to communicate any changes in care that you might need in the new year. If you need additional days, fewer days or if you care needs are changing all together, please let us know so we can provide you with accurate information.

This is also a good opportunity to update your expected time range for the 9 1/2 hours of care policy. It is important that you abide by this policy as we plan our staffing around your scheduled time so that we can always be in ratio. We want our high quality of care to be consistent throughout the day including early mornings and late afternoons.

Signing In and Out

Please be sure to sign your child in every morning and sign them out every evening. It is a licensing requirement and it is important to have this accurate documentation. Teachers do track the time you come and go on their roll call sheet, but parents are responsible for completing the official document. We certainly understand that mornings can be very busy, so teachers will plan to give gentle reminders over the next few weeks. We want to support everyone in making this part of their daily morning routine.

Fall and Halloween

We are looking ahead to plans for Halloween, and we wanted to clarify our Fall activities with all of you. As with other times of the year, we will focus on children’s interests and age-appropriate activities that promote healthy social interactions. We know some children may be hearing about Halloween from older siblings. We anticipate that they may be interested in more storytelling and books about the fall season as well as the many foods that they have helped in harvesting from their field trips and gardens at home.  We will make sure our book areas are enriched with various types of stories and incorporate more imagination storytelling and posting of those stories.

We will not organize a parade or have a “Halloween party” or celebrate Halloween in the way that you may remember from elementary school. In the past, we have incorporated costumes and parties into our plans, and we have found the activities to be inconsistent with our philosophy. The abstract concepts of Halloween are lost on many children. After they experience the event at home, then they have a more concrete idea of what Halloween is all about.

We invite your child to bring in their costume after Halloween to enhance the dramatic play that naturally happens in our room. We will not have a formal “dress-up time,” but children may show their friends their costume and use it during work time. Keep in mind that other children may want to have an opportunity to play with your child’s costume with him or her, so you should only send the costume if it can be shared during dramatic play. If you are at all concerned about not ripping the costume or getting paint on it or if the costume is too elaborate to play in, or if the costume is particularly scary, please do not send it in with your child. The children are encouraged to run, jump, climb, explore and paint while at Gretchen’s House and it can be difficult to undertake these tasks while worrying about not getting dirty or ruining a special costume. Thanks in advance for considering all of this!

Finally, because we serve many children with food allergies, we want to remind everyone not to send in candy and other treats. Thank you for your understanding and please let us know if you have any questions.



Director Updates and Reminders

October 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

October has arrived and so has the cooler weather! Please remember to change out your child’s extra clothes so that they are weather appropriate. The key during the Michigan change of seasons is layering. Often mornings are cool and by the afternoon there can be up to a 20 degree change of temperature. If you are new to our Michigan climate see your child’s teacher for tips for the best fall/winter gear for young children.

Label, Label, Label

Now that I have advised you to layer your child, it means more articles of closing will be at the center! Please label everything. Teachers do a great job of tracking things, but they can’t remember what everyone comes in wearing each day. Duplicates of mittens, gloves, boots and snow pants can also be a cause for confusion. Lost items are more likely to find their way back to you if your child’s name is on them. It is very appreciated by teachers and helps save them time each day when they have a tag as reference.

Critical Incident Management

We had a crisis drill on Friday, October 3rd.  The type of drill we carried out was Secure Mode. This type of drill is put in place whenever there is an external concern in the local community. For example, if there was a bank robbery in the nearby area, we would go into Secure Mode. When in Secure Mode, the children are brought inside (if outdoors) and the classroom doors and windows are locked, as well as, the front entrance. Classroom activities will continue within the building as normal. Hallways will be monitored if there is movement to other areas. Our goal is to have staff practice this procedure while keeping the children calm and engaged in typical activities.

The drill went very smoothly. Because it was raining, we were already indoors. The teachers were able lock down their rooms and secure the classrooms without the children noticing anything out of the ordinary. Although we know it is very unfortunate that such drills are necessary, parents seem very appreciative that we are taking the time to practice our procedures.

Curriculum Night

Teachers have been preparing a wonderful evening of hands on learning for parents during Curriculum Night. We strongly encourage you to come and learn about your child’s typical day and experiences using our HighScope Curriculum approach. This is an adult only event, however child care is available for $10 with advanced notice. Please sign up if you plan to attend in your child’s classroom. Watch your mailbox for more information.

– Pond Wing Curriculum Night is 10/21, 6:15 – 7:30

– Railroad and Farm Wing Curriculum Night is 10/23, 6:15 – 7:30

Communication and Parent Mailboxes

Please be sure to check your Parent Mailboxes for important and timely information. Unsure where your mailbox is? No problem, just ask your child’s classroom teacher or anyone from the office. Communication is important and we want to be sure you get the information you need in several different ways.  Of course face to face is always preferred, but there is not always opportunity at busy drop offs or pick ups.

Teachers blog regularly and it is a great way to receive information and see great photos. We also send timely information through e-mails. Let us know the best way to communicate with you!

Thank you,


Director Notes

September 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

As we gear up for fall and the upcoming events, I wanted to provide you with following information including important dates and reminders.

Work Days

Thank you for supporting the ongoing professional development of our teachers. During the three work days, we received important information regarding Crisis Procedures, Administering Medication and a whole host of curriculum topics that teachers were able to choose from. Classrooms were cleaned, organized, and prepared for our new and returning children. We also took time to acknowledge teachers’ accomplishments and longevity. It was amazing to see how many staff have been at Gretchen’s House for 5 + years; 19 teachers just at our Dhu Varren center!


We hope to see many families at our potlucks this month! This is a great time to meet new families and spend time talking with your child’s classroom teachers. The children help make the desserts so they are excited about coming and sharing their treats with their loved ones. Watch for the flyer with more information and mark your calendar for the following dates:

  • Tuesday, September 16 = Farm Wing Potluck
  • Thursday, September 18  = Pond Wing Potluck
  • Monday, September 22 = Railroad Wing Potluck

Picture Day

We are excited to offer this great service for families. David Meyer had been taking photographs for Gretchen’s House for over 20 years. He takes his time with each child with the goal of getting the best natural smile possible. David also takes group photos of each classroom. As a mom of two Gretchen’s House graduates, I still enjoy looking back at the photos of the boys and their friends! There are different packages to choose from, including just getting the group photo. Please note the following dates:

  • Tuesday, October 7 = Railroad and Farm Wings
  • Wednesday, October 8 = Pond Wing

David will do his best to get a photograph of your child, but remember that his subjects are young children who may feel uncomfortable with the camera, lights and an unfamiliar face. Your money will be returned to you if he is unable to get an acceptable picture of your child.

Group photos will be taken first. So please have your child at the center by 9:15 to ensure that are part of the group picture!

Routine Code Change

We will be changing the parent security code Monday, September 8th. This is a routine change and there is no reason for alarm. We will keep the current code as a secondary code throughout the week to allow for adequate time to communicate the change. On Monday, September 15th that code will no longer give you access.

As an added security step, we will not be giving out the code in any type of written form. Teachers and Administrative staff will be making a concerted effort to communicate this change to all parents. Please help us by:

  • Communicating it to other family members who participate in picking up and dropping off your child.
  • Asking what the code is.
  • Being patient as we will do our best to make contact with everyone. (Please don’t hesitate to ring the doorbell).

We understand that our security system is not fool proof. However, it does slow people down and is an added measure to the many policies and procedures we have in place intended to keep your child safe.

Thank you,



Director Notes – Highlights and Reminders

May 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Parent Conferences

Throughout the year teachers are taking anecdotes about the children in key developmental areas. They record this information using the Online Child Observation Record (COR) which is a HighScope assessment tool.  Twice a year we share the report with families. Many families were able to meet with their child’s teaching team in April and May. Teachers really enjoyed the meaningful conversations they were able to have with parents about their children. If you were unable to make it to a parent conference, please be sure to let your child’s teacher know and we will make arrangements for a time that works for everyone.

Emergency Procedures

As you know, we have already had the opportunity to put our emergency tornado procedure into action this month. I thought I would share some information about our procedures in such a situation.

Seasonally, we practice tornado drills with the children. Each classroom has a designated area where they ‘take cover’ until we receive the all clear. Recently, we had a Critical Incident consultant, Thomas Mynsberge, walk around the building and point out the most structurally sound areas to take the children. Because there is not one place that we can bring all of the children together, we have to spread out throughout the building.

When a tornado watch is in effect, teachers prepare items (toys, snacks, books, etc) that they can bring in their designated areas to keep the children calm and distracted in the event that the watch  turns into a warning. administrative staff monitor the weather and we alert teachers of any weather conditions that would require going to the designated areas.

During this past incident, once everyone reported to their assigned area, the role of the administrative staff was to keep teachers updated and help wherever needed. This became increasingly more difficult because the phones rang continually while we were ‘taking cover.’ I understand that you are worried about your child and want to be sure that they are as safe as possible. I too had children in two different public schools in lockdown and was concerned.

Moving forward we plan to send an e-mail alert to parents (provided we have internet service) and a message will be sent out via twitter and will automatically update our website. This will help get you the information you need and will allow the Administrative staff to focus more on the immediate situation. If you have not signed up for the twitter account, it’s an easy process:

  1. Set up an account for yourself at
  2. Once logged into your twitter account, go to
  3. At the top of that page, click on the follow button.
  4. Once you see the green check mark and “following” message in that same spot, click on the mobile phone icon to subscribe to automated texts from us.

Warmer Weather

After such an extreme winter, it is so nice to have these warmer days. I want to remind everyone that we do go outside unless the temperature or heat index is 100 or above. We make sure water is available for both drinking and to play in. Time  in the shade is encouraged, limiting exposure to the sun and heat. Swimsuits that can be left at the center are great to have for water play. We also ask that sun hats are sent in so that children can have additional protection from the sun. We do provide sunscreen and the brand we are currently using is Coppertone Water Babies; Pure and Simple.

This is also a great time to take inventory of your child’s extra clothes that are kept here at the center. Please make sure that they have extra under pants (if appropriate), socks, pants/shorts, shirt and a bathing suit that is labeled here at the center.

Thank you,


April Notes from the Director

April 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

April is the official Month of the Young Child and at Gretchen’s House we like to take the opportunity to focus on the community, parents, staff and as always, the children.

Community Focus

In celebration of the Month of the Young Child, Gretchen’s House tries to include children in a community outreach activity that is interesting and meaningful for them. This can be tricky since we know that many of the community outreach projects are difficult  for them to understand. We have decided to support St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital. While we understand that the concept of riding trikes to raise money for sick children is a very abstract one, we do know that children enjoy the activity of riding on bikes, trikes and scooters and/or pulling wagons, wheel barrels, etc. Our focus with the children will be to re-introduce the bikes now that the weather is better and discuss bike safety throughout the month. We will have lots of materials for the children to decorate the outdoor equipment and enjoy a special activity with the bikes.

It is important to note that all children will be included in the activity if they are interested in participating; regardless of donations. No one will be excluded. Please see the attached copy that outlines the official date for each classroom and other helpful details. A hard copy will be put in your mailbox as well. St Judes Information sheet

We are also collecting books for Reach Out and Read, a non profit program that collects new and gently used books. These books are used in doctor’s offices in lower income areas so families have the opportunity to read together while they wait to see the doctor. Often books are given to the children to take home.

Potlucks are coming up in the next few weeks. Be sure to check the calendar for your potluck date. We look forward to having dinner together as a Gretchen’s House community.

Parent Focus

Parents seemed to really enjoy the parenting series. A special thank you to Beth MeLampy, who divided her time between two sides of town to support as many families as possible to participate in the series.

Parents will be receiving a gift from their child and a gift from Gretchen’s House. Keep checking your mailbox!

Have you wondered  about the best times to transition your child from an infant seat to a forward seat or a forward 5-point harness set tot a booster? Please mark your calendar for Monday, April 24, when the University of Michigan Pediatric Trauma Program will be coming to present and interactive discussion on  child passenger safety. It will be from 5:45 – 6:45 at Dhu Varren in the gym. You will need to sign up in advance as child care and a light meal will be provided. Car Seat Safety Training

Children Focus

Your child will be receiving a book from Gretchen’s House, a gift certificate to Washtenaw Dairy for a free ice cream cone and will have a popsicle treat. And as always, our curriculum will focus on physical development, social emotional development, cognitive development and language and literacy. Special visitors will be coming to the center and field trips may be planned as well.

Staff Focus

Teachers will receive a gift from Gretchen and some fun appreciation treats and thank yous throughout the month. Parents are welcome and encouraged to participate in some kind of act of appreciation. Card, notes, etc. are always treasured by the teachers who care for your child(ren) each day.

Thank you,



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