Homemade Fun!

On one of our recent rainy days, a couple of the staff at CFL decided to try our hand at making homemade chalk, bubbles, paint, and gak. What initially began as two staff members quickly became three, then four, and finally five. It was hard to resist joining in! We were laughing, talking, mixing, and measuring in the kitchen, hard at work testing recipes, when our new Operations Director walked by. After watching us for a bit he asked, “So, what does this have to do with literacy?”

Well….

Research recognizes that the home environment and parent-child interactions are an important influence on a child’s literacy development.

Positive and meaningful parent and child interactions can lead to enhanced language, literacy, and emotional and cognitive development. (Jacobs p. 193)

So, when you and your child…

  • talk together and make plans for the day
  • read through a recipe book together and decide which recipe to make
  • talk about the ingredients and what they are
  • write a grocery list together and talk about the words you are writing down
  • go to the grocery store and notice the different road signs or count the red cars along the way
  • read your grocery list together to make sure you have everything you need
  • read the recipe together and measure out ingredients and talk about the fun things you will do with your chalk, bubbles, paint, or gak…

…you are providing your child with rich literacy experiences and positive interactions that strengthen family bonds and promote literacy development.

Here is the recipe for homemade watercolour paints we made.  Enjoy!

 

Homemade Watercolour Paints

  • 4 tbsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp light corn syrup
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • Food colouring (liquid or gels)
  • Container to keep your paints in – you could use an ice-cube tray, mini muffin tin, small plastic cups, plastic egg carton, etc.

 

1.  Mix your baking soda and vinegar together and wait for the fizzing to stop. It’s handy if you mix in a container that has a spout.

2.  Add your corn syrup and cornstarch, and mix well until the cornstarch has dissolved.

3.  Pour into your containers.

4.  Add the colours using toothpicks and popsicle sticks, and stir for about a minute to make sure the colour is mixed in.

5.  Let your paints “set up” and dry, which could take up to two days, before using.

 

Some Ideas:

Use your paints to make cards for the people you love!

Make family portraits, then host an art show.

Decorate large sheets of paper for colourful placemats.

 

What kinds of things do you plan on making this summer?

 

Recipe adapted from the following site:

http://happyhooligans.ca/

 

References:

Handbook of Family Literacy ( 2nd ed.)  Edited by Barbara Hanna Wasik

Routledge, New York, 2012.

Christmas Treats

Every year when I was young, my brothers and I would spend a day with my Grandpa and Grandma, and decorate a tree outside with treats for the birds. It was usually on a Saturday close to Christmas, to give my parents time to do their Christmas shopping.

We would spend the morning making treats with my Grandma, and after lunch we would go outside with my Grandpa and decorate the tree.

A garland of stale popcorn and dried cranberries strung together was a treat for the sparrows and little chickadees; and peanuts, threaded through the shell and hung, were for the Blue Jays.  My Grandma would mix up peanut butter, suet and cornmeal and we would coat pinecones in this mixture and roll them in birdseed. We hung these on the tree branches with red yarn so the birds would notice them.  We would also hang dried apple slices and mesh bags (like lemon or orange bags) filled with suet for the other birds.  As we were doing this, my Grandpa would talk about the different birds that would come eat the treats, pine siskins, grosbeaks, nuthatches and woodpeckers; he would tell us what they looked like and their funny little mannerisms.

After the tree was all decorated, we would clamor back inside and race each other to the couch, the best place to view the action outside.  After the usual jostling and complaining, we would finally settle to watch with delight as the birds visited the Christmas tree we filled with treats.

This Christmas tradition is one of my favorite memories of my grandparents.  I feel so fortunate that they took the time to do this with us when we were kids.

 

Pinecone treats for the birds:

Mix equal parts peanut butter (use the natural kind with only peanuts listed in the ingredients) and suet (or lard)

Stir in enough cornmeal to make a thick paste.

Press this mixture into the pinecone.

Roll in a wild birdseed mix.

String or tie cotton thread to the pinecone and hang from a tree in your yard.

Enjoy the birds that come visit!

The Ooey Gooey Lady

This past weekend, three of us from the Centre for Family Literacy made the long trek from Edmonton to Medicine Hat to go see the Lisa Murphy, also known as the Ooey Gooey Lady. The Medicine Hat and District Child Care Association invited Lisa to present to an enthusiastic audience in celebration of National Child Day.

It was a jam-packed, daylong session with lots of useful tips, funny anecdotes, encouragement and affirmation, all backed by sound research that supports the importance of a play-based, hands-on and child-centered learning environments.

Some of the points that really resonated with me were:

1. For young children the focus of play should be on the process, not on the product. We need to value and respect what children do, and resist turning it into a parent pleasing craft (such as turning coffee filter art into flowers!).

2. It is important to develop understanding versus rote learning (memorizing through repetition).

3. Every day children need to:

  • Create
  • Move
  • Sing
  • Discuss
  • Observe
  • Read
  • Play

Overall, a really great day!  I’m sure that every one of the participants walked away with several new ideas that they are excited to try, as well as a deeper understanding of the hows and whys of creating engaging play based, hands-on, child-centered experiences for the little people in their lives.

For more information on the Ooey Gooey Lady check it out here:

http://www.ooeygooey.com/

Remembering

It’s hard to believe that November is here. I always feel that our beautiful fall days have gone by just a little too quickly. The days are getting shorter and the air more chilly. For me, it is a bit of a quiet time before the busyness of the Christmas season.

Of course, it is also a time for remembrance. Remembrance Day was always an important day in our house. My grandfather had served during WWII, but it is only as I have gotten older that I have come to appreciate more fully the sacrifices that were made by many Canadian families when their loved ones went off to war.

For many children, Remembrance Day can be hard to understand.  Sometimes the right book can help build that understanding. Two books worth reading to children are A Bear in War and In Flanders Field: The story of the poem by John McCrae.

A Bear in War, written by Stephanie Innes and Harry Endrulat and illustrated by Brian Deines, is a touching story told from the viewpoint of a small teddy bear. The bear belongs to a young Canadian girl, Aileen, who sends her beloved teddy to her father who is on the front lines during World War I.  The book was inspired by the true story of “Teddy” who traveled from the family farm in East Farnham, Quebec, across the Atlantic to Europe to be with Lieutenant Lawrence Browning Rogers.

In Flanders Fields: The story of the poem by John McCrae is written by Linda Granfield and illustrated by Janet Wilson.  In Flanders Field is a poem that many Canadians are familiar with, recited during Remembrance Day services throughout the country on November 11.  John McCrae was a medical officer during WWI and wrote the poem after experiencing the death of a close friend.  The book describes details of McCrae’s life and the first World War.

Play-Based Learning

We, at the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. bus, like play.  We like to see parents (or Grandparents, or any other significant adult in a child’s life) come on the bus and spend time playing with their child. Interestingly, the Council of Ministers of Education Canada has recently released a statement recognizing the value of play-based learning.  You can read the whole statement here:

http://www.cmec.ca/Publications/Lists/Publications/Attachments/282/play-based-learning_statement_EN.pdf

Even though we really like and encourage play, and we have all sorts of interesting and fun things to play with on the bus, there are just some things that don’t work well on a bus…like playdough.

Making playdough with your kids and then spending time playing with it can provide a rich learning experience and hours of entertainment.

So here is one of my favourite recipes for playdough:

Kool-aid playdough

Ingredients:

• 1 – 11/4 cup flour

• 1/4 cup salt

• 1 pkg powdered unsweetened kool-aid (or other equivalent powdered drink mix)

• 1 cup boiling water

• 1 1/2 -2Tbsp vegetable oil

Directions:

1.  In a bowl, mix 1 cup flour, salt and kool-aid (the brighter colours work best)

2.  Stir in water and oil

3.  Knead with hands.  Gradually add more flour and oil if needed.

Continue kneading for about 5 minutes.

4.  Play!

5.  Store in sealed bag in the fridge for up to 2 months.

Favorite Books to Read Aloud: “Where Is the Green Sheep”

Sometimes on the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. bus we have Kindergarten and Grade one classes or daycares that come to visit us.  When this happens we like to read the kids a story before letting them play with the rest of the activities on the bus.  It’s always great to see how engaged children can be when they are being read a good book.
One of my favourite books to read to the under five crowd is “Where is the Green Sheep?” by Mem Fox. Mem Fox has written dozens of books for children and certainly knows what appeals to her audience.  The story is light-hearted, we see at all sorts of different kinds of sheep, wave sheep, scared sheep and brave sheep, as we look for the green sheep, and the text is full of rhyme, rhythm and repetition, which help develops a child’s “ear” for language.
When we read it on the bus we often have the whole group of kids chiming in “where is the green sheep?”.  Children also enjoy the cartoon-like drawings by Judy Horacek as they look for the missing green sheep. It’s really a fun, playful book to share with the kids in your life.