Lowell is only as good as the members of its community. Some people stand out. If they are seen walking down the street they’re recognized by others. And some go mostly unnoticed. They make a difference but are more behind the scenes not making a big splash. But their ripples can be seen if you look closely.
Turning Personal Experiences into a Passionate Business
Carrie Hoffman is a member of the community not widely known by others. A Lowell resident for 5 years, mom of four-year old August and two-year old Annabel, wife, and daycare provider she does what she can to make a difference. Hoffman’s in-home daycare sees anywhere from two to six children each weekday. Her daycare is not just a place to drop off children for a day of babysitting. Social and educational lessons are incorporated into the daily routine. Education starts at birth and does not end until death. There’s always something to learn if you look around and are willing to embrace something new.
Dippy Do’s Daycare integrates sensory themes into weekly lesson plans. Hoffman noticed a speech delay with her son when he was two. He was later diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, which is an over sensitivity to tactile and audio. Researching the sensory system and how it pertains to growth and development she discovered ways the family could help one of their own. In addition, she found an interest in helping other children with sensory issues.
Hoffman plans numerous activities for the children in her care which are hands on and hands in working with eight senses. When asked about the three additional senses she explains, “The proprioceptive system or muscle/joint movement and where the body is in comparison to its space, the vestibular system or our balance, and the interoceptive system or the condition of our internal organs. As a provider, I try hard to incorporate activities that stimulate ALL eight of these senses.” A child with sensory over or under sensitivity often experiences anxiety. Partaking in activities which are slightly out of a comfort zone but also fun and encouraging helps alleviate stress and builds confidence. Using Play Doh helps a child with a tactile aversion practice feeling a substance not always encountered in daily life. This can help make the transition to the beach and feeling sand a bit easier.
Dippy Do’s Daycare is not only for those with sensory issues. Sensory activities are beneficial to all children. Carries utilizes Creative Curriculum through Teaching Strategies, a state approved curriculum. Each month weekly lesson plans are posted on her website for parents to review. The Honey Bee program is for kids birth through 36 months. Songs, reading, and baby sign language work on developing social, physical, and cognitive attributes.
The Polar Bear program is for kids three through five and helps a child prepare for preschool and kindergarten. Through the use of zoo phonics, shapes, and colors participants further develop social, physical, and cognitive skills. A splash of history, culture, science, and social studies is also introduced at this level.
A typical day with Ms. Carrie starts with breakfast and play. Three themed stations such as dress up and cars are set up for kids to use. Each day an assistant is also present allowing kids to have the opportunity to receive individual attention and guidance throughout the day. Shelby Wilbur loves the interaction and bond formed with the kids as she assists at Dippy Do’s. She states, “I think her sensory activities are amazing, especially for the children who are a little more sensitive than others. They allow the children to be comfortable with trying new things and to allow the kids to understand things on a different level than they may have understood it before.”
During circle/school time activities such as a story, song, a social studies topic like looking at and learning about a map, or a science project consisting of watching sugar crystals grow over time are discussed. The kids are encouraged to participate and remain focused while in a group even at a young age. Regardless of age a craft activity is also offered each day, usually based on a topic from their group gathering.
Due to a varying age range kids are shown and taught how to interact with peers as well as teach and learn from an older or younger friend. In the event a child over three is overwhelmed by something where correction and redirection are not effective a time out bench is the place to go but it’s not a place to sit and stew. It’s more of a calm down bench. Here kids select two of the following choices – take 10 deep breaths, count to 10, hug a stuffed animal or bear, or talk to someone. This process allows the child to know it’s okay to feel emotions and there are choices to help turn negativity into something positive. Hoffman has found kids going to the bench on their own when they feel the need for some space prior to any adult intervention.
Field trips and special visitors to Dippy Do’s like the Lowell Police Chief or representatives from Blandford Nature Center are invited to help learn about various topics. Each month two letters, two numbers, and two colors are introduced in addition to a weekly theme.
Keeping in Touch with Families
Hoffman uses the Brightwheel app which allows parents to receive updates throughout the day. Parents scan a QR code to check kids in when dropping them off. Carrie will send out a message with a brief recap of what happened during circle time, what activity kids participated in while playing outside, diaper changes for infants, photos, and other notable highlights throughout the day. This app also allows parents to receive and pay invoices without having to remember money during a busy drop off or pick up.
Owlet is used for children under the age of one in addition to Brightwheel. With this system a sock is worn when infants are sleeping. Through an app Carrie is able to receive heart rate and oxygen levels for the child being tracked. An added layer of monitoring and protection as a provider and parent is an important component offered at Dippy Do’s.
Carrie also strives to encourage family and/or parent time with her daycare families by working with area businesses to provide discounts. She is also is part of the Scholastic Reading Program allowing families to purchase books for their kids.
Finally, Ages and Stages Questionnaires (ASQ) are used to track developmental achievements and document any areas where additional help may be needed. As a provider Carrie fills out the ASQ noting her observations and it becomes a report card of sorts. Parents also fill out the form providing information based on interactions with their child at home. Together the two allow for a detailed look at a child’s strengths and weaknesses. This information can be used when a child enters kindergarten as an introduction to a new student in the school system.
Appreciated Attention to Detail
Parents of children in Carrie’s care feel lucky to have found her, compliment her love for what she is doing, and are at ease knowing their child is learning and having fun in a safe environment. Jamie Reynold’s son was Hoffman’s first daycare recipient. She says, “I saw how much joy my son brought to her and that for her it was more than just watching him. She is concerned with his well-being just as much as I am and that’s rare to find.” Jude is now 17 months old and still remains part of the Dippy Do’s family.
Sarah Spear’s family moved to Lowell this past fall. She has a son with a severe allergy to peanuts and tree nuts. Spear was confident in the care Carrie would provide avoiding nuts and actions which would be taken should an emergency occur. Sarah commends Dippy Do’s Daycare for teaching the value of giving and receiving love. “Carrie understands that [love] and makes it a priority to build relationships with not only the children in her care, but also the parents. She works hard to give the parents opportunities to meet and build a community.” she says of Hoffman.
What do the kids think who are part of Dippy Do’s extended family? They’re eager to return to spend time with Carrie and friends they have made over time. Jilisa Ghareeb has two children who have been in Carrie’s care. “My kids love Carrie and it shows in how they talk about her when they are not over there. They don’t feel like they are being made to do something that they don’t want to do including learning. I don’t even think they know they are learning because she makes it fun.” comments Ghareeb. During the recent sensory showing of the movie Sing, which Hoffman set up with Ada Lowell 5, one of Jilisa’s daughters wanted to sit with Ms. Carrie over her friends or her mom.
The Unwritten Next Chapter
Hoffman does not know what the future will bring but she’s certain to continue what she has been doing while seeking ways to challenge herself as well as her kids. Her roster is full and she has had to turn prospective families away. She has thought about becoming licensed as a group home in order to be able to take in more children and may pursue the idea in 2017. Carrie is also working toward a five-star rating through Michigan’s Great Start to Quality a quality and rating system for early childhood programs and providers.
Carrie enjoys being part of the Lowell community and looks to give back through hosting a sensory movie option a few times a year, paying a small fee each time. Often a non-profit is selected to be highlighted. Funds collected during the showing to be donated to the organization, including a portion of the proceeds from concession sales.
Regardless of what’s in store for Dippy Do’s Daycare there’s a good chance Carrie Hoffman will give it her all once a goal has been set. You can visit the Dippy Do’s webpage or check them out their Facebook page. Look for the next opportunity for a sensory movie showing at Ada Lowell 5 later this year.