What Book Would You Give a Child This Christmas?

We asked our staff this question, and since selecting books to share with families in our programs is a highlight of their job, we got some great suggestions.

Here are the staff picks with the added bonus of why they selected the book:

Because by Mo Willems
preschool and up

I am passionate about music, and this book shows how music is connected to everything and everyone. An inspiring story about creativity and how the little things can make a difference.

The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
preschool

The book can be enjoyed by young children with help from their grown-ups, but older children will enjoy it as well. It includes so many interactive elements and children will have fun finding all kinds of little details in the illustrations. They will enjoy opening the various types of mail (which include a game and a puzzle).

Everybody by Elise Gravel
ages 3-6

This book explores empathy and unity. It shows how everyone is unique and different, yet in many ways still similar! We all have fears, moments of joy and sadness. Everybody makes mistakes, and everybody can fix them! Everybody needs to feel safe and valued. This book is a wonderful way for families to explore some of the complex emotions their children may be experiencing, especially during COVID!!

There’s an Elf in Your Book by Tom Fletcher
ages 3-7

This is a fun, interactive read aloud where the elf in the book tries to trick kids into getting on the naughty list. He makes the reader do things like sing a Christmas carol, clap, and burp!

Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw
toddler

This book has always been a favourite in my family. The illustrations are adorable and have so much personality. It is full of funny, sharp rhymes, and is a book that is fun to read again and again.

Open Very Carefully – A Book with Bite by Nick Bromley and Nicola O’Bryne
preschool 3-5

I like books that children can interact with, and the adult reader can help their imagination grow even bigger. This book does that in a crafty way. It starts out trying to tell the story of The Ugly Duckling, when a crocodile breaks into the book. Keep reading if you dare! Readers are invited to help problem solve and send the crocodile away. He clearly doesn’t belong in this book! Or does he?

Chalk by Bill Thomson
ages 4-6 and up

This is a clever story about three children who find a bag of chalk at a playground and soon discover that their drawings come to life. It is told using only amazing hand-painted illustrations; there are no words – literally! I chose this book because the characters find magic in the ordinary by using their imaginations. I chose a wordless book because it shows us there are many ways to tell and enjoy a good story. If there is a parent or a child who is intimidated by the idea of reading, this can also help build confidence and a love for books!

We hope this list helps you select a book for that special child in your life. And we hope you will make a donation to the Centre, so that we can provide books like these to families in our programs. Donate to us at CanadaHelps Now!

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Pictures are Worth a Thousand Words

Picture books let you and your child make up a story together, in whatever language you want!

Let’s Go!

Choose a picture book to share with your child. These can be books that have few or no words at all. The pictures can tell a story on their own.

Do It Together!

Look at the pictures in the book with your child. Make up a story in your first language, using the pictures for ideas. You can also talk about what you see in the pictures and ask questions like “What do you think is happening?”

If your child is older, they can help make up a story — you can do a page, then your child can do one — take turns adding to the story.

Why?

It’s easy to use any language to “read” a picture book, which supports first language use in the home. It is important for your child to hear you speaking the language you are most comfortable with to learn language properly.

Picture books also let you and your child become writers and storytellers, which will help your child use their imagination and learn how stories work.

To get over 125 of the best activities to do with your children to boost and build key literacy skills from birth to 5 years, download the Centre for Family Literacy’s FREE Flit app (Families Learning and Interacting Together).

Click here for the iOS version.

Click here to download the Android version.

Watch a video demo of the app

 

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How to Use Costumes and Rhymes to Encourage Play All Year

Play is the highest form of research.    – Albert Einstein

Halloween is one of our favourite times of year—families can have so much fun together with rhymes, games, crafts, snacks, and parties—and it provides a lot of opportunity for purposeful play.

Play is a child’s ‘job.’ Through play children explore the world around them, expanding their understanding and making connections, while developing their innate curiosity and creativity. They are ‘building’ their brains through thinking skills, problem solving, and language expression.

Rhymes, songs, and chants are an excellent way to encourage play, and therefore  language and brain development, during both everyday activities and special occasions.

Save your children’s halloween costumes for dress-up and role playing throughout the rest of the year. An astronaut could sing ‘Zoom, Zoom’ while blasting to the moon. A fireman could sing ‘Hurry Drive the Firetruck’ while he/she puts out imaginary fires. A chef could sing about how he/she is preparing all the yummy meals with the ‘Fruit & Veggie Song’. Don’t worry about singing in key, or that the song doesn’t make sense; children LOVE it when their caregivers are playing and being silly with them.

For fun, make up your own silly rhymes for halloween or for any time and use the classic tunes, such as “Row, Row Your Boat”, “London Bridge is Falling Down,” “Jingle Bells,” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” to make them easy to remember. Add some simple actions to go with them for even more fun!

“Play and sing with your children like no one is watching!”
… and they will thrive!

Here are a couple of examples of rhymes that can be used for fall or halloween using those tunes:

All the Leave Are Falling Down
(Tune: London Bridge is Falling Down)

All the leaves are falling down, falling down, falling down.
All the leaves are falling down. It is fall.
Grab a rake and rake them up, rake them up, rake them up.
Grab a rake and rake them up. It is fall.
Make a pile and jump right in, jump right in, jump right in.
Make a pile and jump right in. It is fall.

Flutter, Flutter, Little Bat
(Tune: Twinkle, Twinkle)

Flutter, flutter, little bat.
How I wonder where you’re at.
Swooping through the darkest night-
You find your way without a light.
Flutter, flutter, little bat.
How I wonder where you’re at.

Here are a couple of examples of everyday rhymes using those tunes:

Peek-A-Boo
(Tune: Frere Jacques)

Peekaboo, peekaboo
I see you, I see you
I see your button nose
I see your tiny toes

Rolly Polly 
(Tune : Frere Jacques – Opposites song*)

Rolly polly, rolly polly
Up, up, up.  (x2)
Rolly rolly polly. Rolly rolly polly.
Down, down, down (x2)
Peekaboo, peekaboo

* use actions such as up/down, in/out, fast/slow, loud/quiet, left/right

Do you have a favourite rhyme that you’d like to share?

In our Rhymes that Bind program, parents learn to enjoy rhymes, finger plays, songs and simple movement games with their infants and toddlers in a supportive peer group. If you would like to join us for some rhyming fun, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website for program information.

 

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Let Me Read to You

Your child will want to try out reading to you, to other family members, or even to pets or stuffed animals—just like you read with them!

Let’s Go!

Let your child “pretend” to read to you or their pet, dolls or stuffed animals using their own words or phrases.

Do it Together!

Leave books where your child can reach them. Let them “read” their favourite books to whomever they want.

If they choose to bring a book to you, listen as they “read”. Help them tell you the story in their own words by asking questions about the characters or the pictures in the book.

Why?

When a child has heard a book read over and over, they know it so well that they feel like they can “read” it to others. They are often able to tell the story very closely to how it is actually written. This helps them feel like readers and makes them want to do it more.

To get over 125 of the best activities to do with your children to boost and build key literacy skills from birth to 5 years, download the Centre for Family Literacy’s FREE Flit app (Families Learning and Interacting Together).

Click here for the iOS version.

Click here to download the Android version.

Watch a video demo of the app

 

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Jingle Dancer

Modern and traditional ways live side by side and this book shows how both have their places—talk about your family’s traditions and culture!

Let’s Go!

Share the book Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith with your child.

Do it Together!

Look at the pictures and read the story with your child.

Talk about what jingles are and how your child thinks they might help the dress “sing.”

Talk about your own family’s traditions—what are important moments for your family?

Why?

This book shows a wonderful mix of modern and traditional ways.

The information at the end of the book helps explain the importance of jingle dresses and dancing, as well as further information about other things mentioned in the book.

Talking about these with your child can lead to conversations about your own traditions. They will love to hear your own family stories.

Other Resources

  • My Kokum Called Today by Irish Loewen
  • Grandmother’s Dreamcatcher by Becky Ray McCain

To get over 125 of the best activities to do with your children to boost and build key literacy skills from birth to 5 years, download the Centre for Family Literacy’s FREE Flit app (Families Learning and Interacting Together).

Click here for the iOS version.

Click here to download the Android version.

Watch a video demo of the app

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6 Ways to Have Fall Family Fun!

Leaves4

As summer winds down and families get back into their regular busy routine, it is easy to forget to take advantage of opportunities to learn together as a family.

Fall is a beautiful time of year when the leaves start changing colour and begin to fall off the trees. Leaves provide many learning opportunities for you and your child – so simple and fun!

Here are six leaf activities to try with your child during this fall season:

1. Create a Leaf Scavenger Hunt!

  • Work with your child to create a list of items to look for on your scavenger hunt. For example:
    • Find 2 orange leaves
    • Find 3 red leaves
    • Find 1 leaf with smooth edges
    • Find 1 big leaf
    • Find 4 small leaves

Go for a walk outside!

  • Talk about the different colours of the leaves.
  • Ask your child questions like, “Is this leaf bigger or smaller than this leaf?” “Does the leaf have smooth or sharpe edges?”

Practice Counting

  • Have your child gather up a bunch of leaves and practice counting how many they collected.

Learn Textures

  • Collect different types of leaves and feel the different textures with your hands. Ask your child, “Does this leaf feel soft?” “Does this leaf feel rough?”

Leaf Artwork

Leaves3

  • Collect some leaves and use them to make some fun artwork. Using the leaves, a thin sheet of paper and some crayons, you can make “leaf rubbings.”
    • First, place the leaves under a thin sheet of paper. You will want to place the leaves bottom side facing up.
    • Second, rub the crayon(s) on the paper and watch the leaf print come through.

Just Have Fun!

  • If you have access, rake together a pile of leaves for you and your child. Have fun jumping into the pile!

We hope that you are able to enjoy this fall season, learning and growing together with your child. Have fun with the leaves and all the nature that surrounds you!

 

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I Want to Play Outside Today!

Both children and parents are probably very happy for the break from the busy school routine. But learning shouldn’t stop when school is out! Did you know that in addition to all the reading activities you can do during the summer, you can also turn math and science into fun-in-the-sun activities?

To keep young minds active this summer—as well as their bodies—check out some of these outdoor activities to do with your kids. They are a good way to use language and motor skills to play and bond with your children, and at the same time reuse materials you may already have.

Make a giant game (see pictures below)

  • Board games use counting and simple addition. For Snakes and Ladders, all you need is a tarp and some masking or duct tape to make a giant portable board game. Dust off your real game, or download a printable one, and copy it onto your tarp using the tape as the squares. The kids are the playing pieces! You can take it camping or to the park, or play in your own backyard.
  • Use bowls, plates, or Frisbees to create a toddler bean bag toss game.
  • You can also make an outdoor kerplunk with pvc pipe or doweling and a plastic clothes hamper.

I love all of these ideas!

 

 

 

 

 

Fun with Water

  • Set up a water table outside in the grass. Fill it with different sizes of cups and spoons, sieves and bowls as well as sponges, and play in the water. Just have fun with language that comes naturally to you when talking about amounts—more than and less than, empty and full, squeezing and absorbing.
  • Create a water sensory table/tub with water beads, sponges, or toys. Also talk about what floats and what sinks, and why. Try to predict what will happen when you add an item to the water.
  • Balloon piñata can help with motor skills and coordination, and it’s a fun way to cool down in the hot sun.

Most importantly, share your enthusiasm and language with your children and watch them blossom! What were your favourite summer activities? Try some with your own children! Often the best ones use supplies found at home, without buying expensive ‘one time’ purchases.

At the Centre for Family Literacy, we believe that children learn best through play. For more literacy fun and resources, please download our free FLIT app, available at Google Play and the APP store, and follow us on Facebook.

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How to Avoid the Dreaded “I’m Bored” this Summer

The dreaded “I’m bored!” is just around the corner as school is out for the summer. Although many families still have a routine for summer (maybe daycare or day camps), it can also mean a lot more time spent with the kids. Holidays are taken. Maybe your work is at home or you’re off for the summer. As much as we look forward to the changes summer brings, too much free time can result in “I’m bored” coming up again and again. It doesn’t take long to realize that some sort of routine is needed.

One of the things I’m using at home to combat that dreaded phrase is a Summer Challenge (click the link for printable activity ideas and instructions).

My young daughter and I put a list of activities into a jar and pull one out whenever we need something to do. The challenge can be used on many different levels. For younger children you can keep it simple. Older children can be more involved in the planning of an activity, which we have learned can be more fun than the activity itself.

When I first described this idea to my daughter she was right on board! We love making lists, and pulling ideas out of a jar is a really fun way of checking off a To-Do List! We found a dollar store jar and decorated it for our ideas. I cut the strips of paper and she was so excited to read through each strip before she folded it and added it to the jar. She is already hopeful for her favourite ideas to be pulled first. Such anticipation!

She even wanted to add some of her own ideas to the jar. I thought “why not,” as long as I approved them first. Her list so far: pulling weeds (what a wonderful idea!); going for a walk in the field with gopher holes; and, chasing butterflies.

We have already begun. Lucky for us the weather cooperated for challenge #38: sitting around a campfire. Of course we enjoyed s’mores and told stories as well. What an excellent kick-off to summer with the kids!

For more fun ideas, download our free Flit appIt gives you over 125 fun literacy activities, recipes, games to do with your young children, and tips to add to your parenting tool box.

Click here for the iOS version.

Click here to download the Android version.

Watch a video demo of the app.

 

 

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60 Days of Summer!

Summer has just started, so why am I writing about the end of summer already?

While I hate to write about summer’s end so soon, for some parents the end of summer marks a new and exciting beginning—Kindergarten!

In Alberta, children who are five years old on or before December 31, 2021 may register in Kindergarten for the 2021-22 school year.

Whether you’re a first time parent or a seasoned one, this time of year comes with many hopes and fears for your little ones, who themselves are hardly bigger than the backpacks they will carry.

But you know what parents? You have done a great job in preparing them, and your children likely have most of the skills they need to be successful as they start school. However, why not take the opportunity to spend the next couple of months practicing some of these skills, and maybe introduce a few new ones.

SUMMER ACTIVITIES THAT PREPARE YOUR CHILDREN FOR KINDERGARTEN:

1. Sidewalk chalk

Writing doesn’t have to be inside on a piece of paper with a pen. Make it fun by getting some sidewalk chalk and heading outside! Make sure you get the big sidewalk chalk—they are easier to grip, while regular chalk sticks break too easily. Have your children write their name or the alphabet on the sidewalk.

2. Go on a picnic

Bring a deck of letter flashcards with you and play alphabet “Go Fish.” You could also count flowers, trees, or insects. Nature provides us with endless learning materials.

3. Scavenger hunt

Kids are multi-modal learners, which means they learn best when they can use all of their senses. Make a colours and shapes scavenger hunt and go for a walk. In this kind of activity, your children use body movement, sight, sound, smell, and laughter. Bonus: they can carry their backpacks to collect their treasures.

4. Quiet time

On a rainy day, or an extremely hot day, you may find yourself sitting indoors. Find a pair of child-safe scissors and practice cutting play dough. To make the task more difficult, give your children some old magazines and make a collage of things they like about summer.

5. Reading

Make reading a part of your daily routine. This can be done at any time during the day, inside or outside. Let the kids pick which book they would like to read and follow along with your finger as you read to them. Try picking up The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn— it’s for children starting school or separating from their parents for the first time.

6. Go to the playground

Earlier I had mentioned your children likely have many skills needed for Kindergarten already. I will assume this summer won’t be your first time at the playground. Playgrounds are perfect settings for developing social skills. Allow your children to play on their own and alongside other children, and step in when they need help assessing their feelings and problem-solving. Or play with them! Model confidence in tackling the ‘big’ slide or take turns going across the monkey bars. Invite other children to play a round of grounders with you and your little ones.

7. Sing

Sing some songs with your children as you walk or play outside. Rhymes are a good way to practice sounds and follow simple directions. Try “Open Shut Them” (see below) and “Old McDonald.”

8. Make a chore chart

Chore charts have many uses. Try making one that incorporates their school day morning routine. You could include things such as: brush your teeth; get dressed; have breakfast; and put on your shoes and coat. I like these because you get to put what you need your children to do on the chart, and they get to complete it with a sticker or another type of marker. Start practicing the routine before school starts.

You are probably practicing some of these skills already. Just keep it fun and don’t make it stressful for you or your children. Remember, you will always be their best and favourite teacher. Have a great summer and we hope to see you in the fall when all of our programs start up again. Mark your calendar to check the Centre for Family Literacy website in late summer to find a fun program for you and your 0-6 year old.

Open Shut Them

Open shut them, open shut them
Give a little clap (clap clap)
Open shut them, open shut them
Place them on your lap

Shake them, shake them, shake them, shake them
Shake them just like this (shaking hands)
Place your hands upon your lips
And blow a great big kiss

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5 Rhymes to Take Outside!

Rhyme-SkipRope copy

One activity that always brings me back to childhood is singing nursery rhymes. This includes clapping, skipping, and group rhymes, and anything learned from friends in the playground. I’ve never claimed to have a great singing voice, but that has never stopped me. While growing up I spent a lot of time memorizing verses, actions, and the rules that went with any singing games. While having fun, I was learning about language, relationships, my spatial awareness and much more, all without even realizing it!

Who else remembers walking down the sidewalk singing “don’t step on the cracks or you’ll break your mothers back?” When we remember those moments we realize the importance of our children having those experiences as well. Rhyming verses are not just for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. They are fun, silly, the laughter is contagious, and the simple act of playing brings us closer to the people around us. Whether you are 2 or 92, you are never too young nor too old to keep singing and playing!

To this day I still enjoy learning new rhymes. I am fortunate enough to have many opportunities to share both my old favourites and my newly discovered (or adapted) ones with children and adults alike. As a kid I had fun making up new lines in songs to suit my likes and interests. I still do this today; it is always fun to make up silly verses!

CLAPPING SONGS

Typically, a clapping rhyme alternates clapping your own hands and clapping your partner’s hands with each beat. When words repeat, you clap your partner’s hands each time. With more experience the game can get more complicated, adding actions and other ways of clapping. Adding challenges makes it an activity you can continue to do with children as they grow older. Get outside and try the clapping game with these rhymes!

A Sailor Went to Sea

A sailor went to sea, sea, sea
To see what he could see, see, see
But all that he could see, see, see
Was the bottom of the deep blue sea, sea, sea

Miss Mary Mack

Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack
All dressed in black, black, black
With silver buttons, buttons, buttons [butt’ns]
All down her back, back, back

She asked her mother, mother, mother
for fifty cents, cents, cents
To see the elephants, elephants, elephants
Jump the fence, fence, fence

They jumped so high, high, high
they reached the sky, sky, sky
And didn’t come back, back, back
Till the 4th of July, ‘ly, ‘ly!

She asked her mother, mother, mother
For 5 cents more, more, more
To see the hippos, hippos, hippos
Jump over the door, door, door

They jumped so low, low, low
They stubbed their toe, toe, toe
And that was the end, end, end
Of the great big show, show, show!

SKIPPING SONGS

Skipping songs are often sung with verses that end in counting to see how many jumps you can get in before you fumble. Other times they are sung in bigger groups to invite a skipper in, jump a few beats, and then out again. Many skipping songs can be sung by a large group in a circle, just improvise the movements.

This Way Thatta Way

*With two people handling the large skipping rope a lineup of others in pairs wait for their turn to skip in and skip out. Everyone sings.

This way, thatta way, this way thatta way, this way thatta way all day long
Here comes “Sarah,” here comes “Sarah,” here comes “Sarah” skipping along

*when Sarah’s name is called, she jumps into the skipping and skips, next line is her partner being called in to join her

Here comes the other one, just the like the other one, here comes the other one skipping along

*now their turn is over and they jump out of the skipping rope and you repeat calling the next partners in

CIRCLE SONGS 

Circle songs are classic for young children. These are songs where everyone typically holds hands and does the same or similar actions.

Ring Around the Rosie

Ring around the rosie, pockets full of posies
Husha, husha we all fall down

*now everyone is on the ground, clap your hands or knees and sing the next verse

Cows are in the meadows, eating buttercups
Husha, husha we all jump up

Sally Go Round the Sun

*in this rhyme you change the direction the circle is going (clockwise or counterclockwise) after every verse when you call switch, you can speed it up and add a switch to each line to make it more silly for older children

Sally go round the sun
Sally go round the moon
Sally go round the chimney tops
Every afternoon “switch”

There are endless rhymes and equally endless ways to do them. Get up and get moving with a child this summer and have fun teaching them. Reminisce with another parent, clap your hands, and test your memories of some old rhymes. Guaranteed giggles and smiles. Be silly, have fun, keep singing!

For more many more rhymes, how to use them for fun, and why they’re important to your child’s literacy development, check out Flit, our family literacy app!

Click here for the iOS version.

Click here to download the Android version.

Watch a video demo of the app.

 

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