Children are Born Scientists

Science: Understanding the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation.  –Merriam-Webster


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Children are born scientists. They learn about their world by:

  • Exploring what’s around them with their senses – seeing, touching, smelling, tasting, and listening
  • Trying to do things again and again until it works the way they want it to, or they discover a new way to do it
  • Observing what happens
  • Asking questions like why? What if? How come?
  • Watching those who mean the most to them do things

iStock_WaterPlantsChildren naturally learn this way beginning as babies, until there comes a time when hands-on learning is replaced by watching, listening, and reading about how the the world works.

Summer is the perfect time to take science outdoors. Nature itself provides a wonderful, ready made lab to observe changes in the life cycles of plants and animals. Helping to water plants, tending to a small part of a garden, or watching for various critters on a walk through the river valley or the back yard, helps children develop the skills they will need later on in school. How many different types of trees do you see on the walk? Did you know that many children can list more marketing logos than they can types of trees? Talk about the difference between deciduous and coniferous trees and what types of birds like to build their nests in them. A book from the library on plants or birds can help identify them in your neighbourhood.

Activities such as these help children understand that science is everywhere and they build early skills that will serve them for a lifetime.

Bubble playThere are plenty of messy experiments that cost very little but provide an opportunity to develop a love of science. The simple act of blowing bubbles can teach children so much. How can I make huge bubbles? Does the wind direction make a difference? What’s the right ratio of water to soap that will make the sturdiest bubbles? What happens if I twirl round and round with my bubble wand full of solution? Here are two bubble recipes to try with your little scientists:

Home Made Bubble Solution

  • ¾ cup Joy or Dawn dishwashing soap
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tsps. Sugar
  1. Mix the sugar and water together
  2. Add the dish soap and stir gently until well mixed
  3. Dip bubble wand into bubble liquid and then blow

Giant Bubble Mix

  • 3 cups water
  • I cup Joy or Dawn dishwashing soap
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  1. In a large bowl stir water and corn syrup until combined
  2. Add dish soap and stir very gently until well mixed
  3. Make a bubble wand out of pipe cleaners or string

Goop2Another great way to explore science is by experimenting with Goop (a mixture of corn starch and water). Did you know that cornstarch and water can form a non-Newtonian fluid? What is that you ask? When you press on the mixture it becomes a solid, but when you release the pressure it runs like a liquid. This is definitely one experiment that can go outside and the whole family can have fun with it. Hide treasures in the Goop for them to discover, and try to squeeze it into a ball and then release it. You can even put it in a plastic swimming pool and walk through it.

Goop Recipe

  • 1 ½ to 2 cups cornstarch
  • 1 cup water
  • food colouring if you want
  1. Put the water in a bowl and add a few drops food colouring if you want colour
  2. Gradually add 1½ cups cornstarch to the water and stir with a spoon or your hand
  3. A little at a time, add the remaining ½ cup of cornstarch. When you can form a ball by pressing the mixture and it turns into a liquid when you release it, it is ready. If you add too much or too little you can always adjust with more water or more cornstarch.

* DO NOT DUMP ANY LEFT OVER GOOP INTO THE SEWER OR DRAIN.

Let the water evaporate from the mixture and then put it in a plastic bag or container and throw it out with your garbage. As it dries, it resembles concrete and you don’t want to have to call a plumber.

Children are born scientists. It can be easy and inexpensive to set up fun activities for them to explore their world. The best part is when the whole family gets messy together! Have fun experimenting this summer.

Blogs are provided by the staff of the Centre for Family Literacy, www.famlit.ca

4 Reasons Kids Learn when they Play

“Play is the work of the child”
—Maria Montessori (Italian Physician & Educator)

children-463563_1920Generation after generation of children have played. This seems to tell us that play is an important part of healthy development.

An area of study called the science of learning is showing that there is more to play than meets the eye. When children play they are engaging in activities which help them to make sense of the world around them, and how to learn how to learn. And learning occurs best when children are mentally active, engaged, socially interactive, and building meaningful connections to their lives.

1. Play is Mentally Active

Children explore their world with their five senses. Rarely do children stop to think about what they are going to touch and then touch it. They launch forward—touching, hearing, seeing, smelling, and tasting—and then they think about what they have discovered.

2. Play is Engaging

It would be difficult to find playing children who are bored. Engagement is the very essence of play. Children are naturally curious and excited to learn new things, and play is the way they make sense of their world.

3. Play is Socially Interactive

Play helps children practice their skills for getting along with others and learn how to make friends. Imagination allows children to pretend to be bold superheros or parents, while still feeling safe. When parents remember how to play, they become part of their children’s play space and are then welcome to share their play world.

4. Play Builds Meaningful Connections

Our Literacy Links workshops place the focus on play, making connections in the world of the children and their parents. One little fellow exclaimed that the volcano he made was “erupting.” His dad was surprised at such a big word until the little boy reminded him that it was in the dinosaur book that they read together every night. Another mom commented that she already had everything at home that she needed to play the “Build a Robot” game with her little guy, to help him learn his numbers.

If you are interested in hosting or attending a Literacy Links workshop, check the Centre for Family Literacy website for more information!

“Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn.”
—O. Fred Donaldson

 

 

Literacy Links – the Logo Says it All!

LitLinks LogoBack in 2012, the Centre for Family Literacy noticed an increase in the number of requests for family literacy services from our community partners and other organizations that work with families. They weren’t necessarily looking to partner in programs, like Rhymes that Bind or Books for Babies, but were looking for presentations, workshops, or taster sessions that would look at specific aspects of emergent literacy and language skills. They wanted ways to reach out to the busy families in their community that weren’t able to attend ongoing programs.

Because of their understanding of the Centre’s mission and vision, and our reputation for excellence in programming, they came to us with their requests. And so it began. Literacy Links workshops were developed to address the needs of both the families and the community organizations.

Jump ahead to 2017 and Literacy Links is busier than even we anticipated. With much appreciated funding from the City of Edmonton Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), the Government of Alberta (GOA) and Edmonton Community Adult Learning Association (ECALA), we have been able to offer workshops to more families across the city in the first months of 2017 than in all of 2016. We are also presenting at a number of conferences—some for the first time.

We are doing the Literacy Links workshops in the evenings and on weekends in community leagues halls, community agencies, and child care centres. We are working with Parent Link Centres and the Early Childhood Coalitions in the Edmonton area and with others across the province. Our goal is to connect families with their communities, to help develop knowledge and grow understanding of the importance of family literacy. The program that initially started off as one off presentations has come full circle.

For more information about Literacy Links, or if you would like to explore hosting a workshop, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website

Literacy Links

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Picture this, tables set around the room covered with all kinds of interesting materials, inquisitive preschoolers pulling their parent toward a table to check out all the amazing set ups. You have just entered a “The Scientist in Us All” workshop—just one of the many offered through the Centre for Family Literacy’s Literacy Links program. For the next hour or so the children lead their parents through a series of activities and experiments that amaze, amuse—and sometimes even make them believe in magic!

Children learn through play and explore their world by touching, hearing, seeing, and smelling—in other words by using their senses. They question everything, wanting to know how come? Why does? What if? A workshop like this allows parents to learn the value of following their children’s lead, to explore with them and to answer their questions. The parents may even have some questions of their own! The workshop also helps parents remember how to get into the play space, and why it is so important to connect play with their children’s learning.

Mingle about the room and you will hear chatter about exploding volcanoes, dancing spaghetti, magic flowers, and making a rainbow of colours. One dad wonders where his three-year-old learned a word like erupting, until his son points out that it is in his dinosaur book that they read almost every night. A mom is astonished when her little one, who doesn’t like to get her hands dirty, plunges wrist deep into a bowl of Goop in search of hidden treasure. A parent is amazed at her little guy as he sits still watching ever so patiently, waiting to see if a piece of spaghetti will make it to the surface before the raisin.

You may hear a facilitator explaining more about the science behind the activities, or modelling to the parents about how to ask their children questions to get more than a yes or no answer (to enhance their language skills). The facilitators will also provide parents with information about where they can find more experiments to do at home—with items they already have around the house.

100_0797.JPG  Lit-Links

The room is rarely silent—there is plenty of laughter, questions, and learning happening. And as the families leave the workshop with their activities booklet in hand, you might hear things like “that was so much fun,” “can we do this again at home?” or even “can we come here again?”

If you would like more information about this workshop or the many others offered through the Literacy Links program, please check the Centre for Family Literacy website: www.famlit.ca

5 Fun Family Literacy Workshops Offered by Literacy Links

litlinks1Picture this: a room full of adults up to their elbows in play dough, mixing secret ingredients, and volcanoes erupting before their eyes! Learning and laughter abound and so many of the adults are just plain having fun. Sound intriguing? The Centre for Family Literacy offers 15 workshops, called Literacy Links, that do all this and more. Here are just 5 of them:

  • The Scientist in Us AllAre you ready to explode volcanoes, watch flowers grow, and hear the world in a new way? Children explore their world every day and, with your help, learn language about how things work. This workshop lets everyone make  discoveries with activities that can be done at home.
  • Secret Learning Through Games – Children want to play games, especially if it is with their family. This workshop looks at the hidden learning that happens during games, simple materials that can be used to make your own, and even a game or two to take home.
  • Come Play with Me – Play is often said to be a job for children. Every day they set out to discover how the world works. Activities like drawing in pudding and listening to stories give children a strong foundation for language and literacy. This workshop uses simple household items mixed with a little imagination and a lot of laughter to create fun tools for learning.
  • Toddlers and Technology – Is it a good combination? We look at what research has to say about young children and their use of technology, how much time they should spend with technology, and what choices are out there.
  • Numbers are Everywhere – Do you need help sorting socks, measuring for a recipe, or finding Family Day on the calendar? Your child can help as they learn about numbers. We look at the early number concepts children learn while playing or helping out around the house.

Literacy develops in families first and parents are often a child’s first and most important teacher. The Literacy Links workshops help parents understand more about their children’s learning and development. The hands-on, interactive workshops highlight what the parents are already doing, and share additional ways to engage their children in fun learning opportunities at home.

So if you are interested in learning more about how snakes hear, why Goop does what it does, what skills playing with play dough develop, or how simple things like calendars, egg cartons and loose lids can provide engaging, fun learning opportunities for parents and children alike, contact us and we will show you!

Centre for Family Literacy
Website: www.famlit.ca
Literacy Links
Email: info@famlit.ca
Phone: 780.421.7323

 

Another Long Weekend?

HeritageDays2

What will you and your family do this long weekend? Will you take part in one of the many local celebrations, like Heritage Days to learn about many of the diverse cultures in our area or the Blueberry Bluegrass Music Festival to listen to some great music? Will you check out one of the city’s numerous attractions, or maybe hike or bike through the River Valley? Will you head out of the city to visit with family or friends? Or will you visit one of the many lakes not far down the road?

If you head out of town or even to one of the celebrations or attractions in your area, chances are you will find that:

  • Traffic to and from will be hectic
  • Long lineups will be the rule rather than the exception
  • Somebody will be hungry, thirsty, or tired
  • Quiet time will be needed at some point

To keep everyone happy despite these obstacles, it is a good idea to be well prepared before your long weekend adventures. Here are some things to do to make travel time more enjoyable:

  • Have everyone pack an activity bag – include things like a favourite toy, books, paper and pencils/crayons/pens, a cookie sheet with some magnets (this makes a really neat portable desk for their drawings, colouring sheets, word games or activity sheets – just make sure the magnets stick to the cookie sheet and they are not too tiny), a music player with headphones so that everybody does not have to listen to your favourite music, and a travel game or two.
  • Have your children help to choose and prepare individually portioned, car friendly snacks (not ones that need to be refrigerated or are messy). It’s a great way to build numeracy skills – how many containers do we need, what size should they be. It also saves money, helps cut down on the pleas for treats on the way in to the gas station, and helps avoid $5 bottles of water at the festival. You can keep the snacks all together or distribute them into the activity bags. Don’t forget the pre-moistened washcloths in a zip-lock bag.
  • Involve everybody in the car in games like:
    • Bingo – make up Bingo cards ahead of time with letters, numbers, or words that they will see along the way and that they can cross off the card. The first to get 15, wins!
    • I Spy – make sure that what they spy is something that doesn’t just go by in a flash!
    • What am I thinking of – think of something and each person gets to ask five questions to guess what you are thinking of.
    • Build me a story – decide on a character and a problem they face. Each person then gets a turn to build the story for three minutes (give or take). You’ll be surprised by the twists and turns the story takes along the way!
    • Sing a long – sing everybody’s favourite song at least once during your travels.

With my children off with their own long weekend plans, as many of my neighbours pack up their trailers, I look forward to:

  • a visit to the library on my way home on Friday to grab a couple of books from my wish list
  • a stop at the grocery store for goodies to last the weekend
  • a quick change into something comfortable
  • the next three days basking in the quiet of my backyard

Whatever you choose to do this long weekend, be safe and take time to enjoy it!

Learning with Literacy Links

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Back in 2012 there was an increase in the number of inquiries the Centre for Family Literacy received from organizations, childcare providers, and parents, about what kind of services we had to offer parents and professionals working with families with children under six years.

Parents were already attending programs that had them singing, sharing stories and books, and interacting with their child and other families in the group. They wanted to know more about why these programs were important.

Early learning and care practitioners saw the difference that bringing these activities into their own programs meant. They wanted to know how they could enhance and build more literacy into their daily activities with the children. They also wanted to know more practical ways to share what they were doing with the parents.

To meet this community need, a number of hands-on practical workshops were developed to address early literacy for parents, practitioners and anyone else interested in supporting literacy in families.

These workshops are offered in a variety of settings: daycares and day home provider agencies, community organizations, and conferences. Participants leave the workshops with information based on research as well as practical, creative, and inexpensive strategies that enhance literacy in everyday life. They also explore the important role the parent/caregiver plays in building and supporting the literacy skills of child and parent alike.

Do you know?

  • Sharing rhymes, songs, books, and stories build language skills
  • Identifying objects by shape, colour, or size are numeracy skills
  • By engaging your child in a book, you increase their enjoyment and comprehension skills
  • Having strong language skills (in any language) is the foundation for learning to read and write
  • By having a variety of writing materials available, you encourage a child to write
  • Playing games, asking questions, and taking turns develops essentials skills
  • Children are reading symbols and signs long before they are reading words
  • Shopping, cooking, and baking are rich with literacy experiences

Check out the list of workshops on the Literacy Links page of our website. If you are interested in attending a workshop or hosting one, please contact us at info@famlit.ca

hashtag: #lit_links

Numbers Are Everywhere!

WordleNumeracy, according to the most recent PIAAC (Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies) report, is defined as the ability to access, use, interpret and communicate mathematical information and ideas, in order to engage in and manage the mathematical demands of a range of situations in adult life (OECD 2012). In more simplified terms, it can be defined as “the ability to understand and work with numbers.”

Have you ever thought about how prevalent numbers are in daily life? Similar to environmental print (print that is found in our everyday environment), numbers are everywhere – whether you are using your computer or cell phone, planning or preparing a meal, shopping, or heading out for a stroll.

Numeracy is about shapes, patterns, sorting and understanding the language of numbers, rather than adding and subtracting, or computing a series of mathematical equations. To me it is about having a good understanding of:

  • Number sense – a flexible understanding of what numbers are – that 1 is the same as the word one and can be represented by a single object or fact, that many parts can make up a whole
  • Counting – numbers follow each other in sequence either up or down, in pairs or groups
  • Shapes – recognizing both 2D and 3D shapes in our daily lives
  • Measurement – this can relate to distance, size, value or time
  • Patterns and sequencing – what comes next and how to duplicate and create new patterns
  • Sorting or categorizing – why are things grouped in a certain way
  • Problem solving – if this happens, then what might happen next?
  • Language of numbers – words that are used to describe the concept of numbers, like over/under, bigger/smaller, more than/less than, same/different, trial and error

Children are born mathematicians. They start early, learning about the concepts of numeracy long before they know what numeracy means. This is demonstrated when you see or hear a child:

  • Proudly hold up his fingers to show you that he is 3 – number sense
  • Tell you that you need to STOP – shape and colour of the stop sign
  • Ask you how many sleeps until a special event – measurement
  • Separate the different colours or shapes of their toys – sorting and categorizing
  • Figure out how many pieces of apple are needed so that each friend gets a piece – problem solving
  • Explain that she is “much more bigger” than her little brother

There are many simple ways to support children in their understanding of numeracy. You are probably already doing some of these things without giving any thought to numeracy!

  • Count the number of leaves on a flower stem.
  • Find shapes in the playground.
  • Spend time building with Lego or blocks.
  • Get help setting the table, asking how many plates, cups, and forks are needed.
  • Bake some cookies.
  • Get your child to help sorting the laundry, making sure to ask why they sorted the way they did. It may seem random to you but they will have a reason.

Numeracy today is about more than just the ability to count, multiply and divide. Like literacy, it is an essential skill that should be learned in the home long before a child starts on their formal learning journey.

3,2,1 Fun! program information (there will be a session starting in January 2015 – watch for updates!)

hashtag: #321_Fun

 

What I Wish We had Done on our Summer Vacations

School is almost over, milestones have been celebrated, the last sport tournament is just around the corner, and thoughts turn to summer vacation – where to go, what to do, and how to fill the time between visits with family and friends. It is also important to think of ways to ensure that during this two-month break our children don’t forget everything they have learned in school.

When my girls were little, we always tried to take advantage of the many free and child friendly activities that happened over the summer. We:

  • joined the Summer Reading Club at the library. The girls picked up a week’s worth of books and rushed home to read them so they could be finished before we headed back to get the next week’s stickers
  • took the train downtown to the Street Performers Festival or the Klondike Days Parade
  • watched the Canada Day fireworks after spending most of the day at the Legislative grounds
  • planned the bus trip to Heritage Days and each of the girls chose what food item they wanted to bring for the Food Bank.

We often wondered through our neighbourhood with no specific destination in mind. It was a way to get out of the house and keep the kids active, but those walks would have been a perfect opportunity to practice their literacy skills without them even knowing. I wish I knew then what I know now. We could have:

  • played a game of street sign bingo – how many stop signs could they count on the way to the park or yield signs on the way to a play date, or what was the most unique sign found
  • searched for all the letters in their names on street or business signs
  • looked for all the numbers from one to ten, or the numbers in our phone number, in the numbers on the houses
  • sung a song about all the colours of the rainbow and looked for them in the beautiful flower gardens we passed along the way
  • planned ahead to make it to our local spray park before the mad lunch rush
  • discussed all the different shapes we could find like the octagon in the stop sign, the triangle in the giant slide, the rectangles made by doors, or the circles in the playground
  • named all the different animals we could see as the clouds passed by in the sky
  • counted how many steps it took to walk to the mailbox and back.

We also could have done more literacy activities at home. We could have:

  • used sidewalk chalk to encourage the kids to write and illustrate their own stories – each square in front of the house another page in their book
  • researched what flowers or veggies grow best in our area, then they could have planted their own to take care of over the summer
  • planned a back yard pool and sprinkler party and sent invitations to their friends
  • read the comics and then created our own.

There are so many opportunities at our fingertips to support and build on our children’s literacy skills – we just need to look at things with a different mindset. The next time you see a child scribbling on your sidewalk, take a minute to ask them about the story they are trying to tell.

 

Reflections

With only the glow of the tree lights to brighten the room, I sit sipping my hot chocolate.  With the muted strains of glad tidings in the background, this is my time! No noise, no hustle or bustle, no pressure to get anything done. I am alone but not really as my family sleeps upstairs. It is the perfect time to reflect on all the changes that have happened this past year.

At times these changes seemed:

  • chaotic – anything that could go wrong did go wrong
  • welcome – about time
  • selfish – all about my needs
  • bitter sweet – sad, but knowing it was for the best
  • joyful – opening new doors and adventures
  • scary –  venturing into unknown territory

What made these changes more bearable was that I didn’t need to face them alone. I had my family to share them with. And when I look at whom I call family, this too has changed over time. I belong to a number of families – those I am related to, those I choose, those I work with and those who will always be a part of my life even after they have left it. I think this could be the case for many of the people whose paths have crossed mine.

For many, gone are the days of spending your whole life in one place surrounded by people you have known all your life. Today it seems many people move about (for work or by choice), grandparents keep in touch with their grandchildren through video feeds, brothers and sisters live continents apart but get together with the touch of a button, and the number of childless families seems on the rise. I don’t think there is a standard definition of family that fits all. Family is what we make it on an individual basis, defined in a way that makes sense to us. I often wonder how others define family.

Oh dear, I have contemplated too long – my hot chocolate is now cold, there is no longer any music to be heard, and I am ready to go to sleep myself. Before I turn out the lights and head upstairs, please let me say, from my family to yours, may the holiday season bring you peace and joy and may all the changes you face in the coming year be met with a sense of wonder.