Not Enough Time to Really Connect with Your Preschooler?

LTGT-3Have you ever wondered where to find the time to really connect with your preschooler? It is important to foster healthy relationships to help them grow intellectually, emotionally, socially, and even spiritually. It is important for a child to grow up feeling connected to an adult caregiver.

It isn’t necessary to spend large amounts of money on gadgets, toys, and fads that claim to give your child educational gains. It isn’t necessary for your child to be enrolled in every sport and activity that you can get to in a day. It is necessary to take a few moments out of your day, every day, to be intentional with your child. This practice is highly beneficial—not only to your relationship, but also to your child’s learning.

Be present. Spend time with them. Connect!

I recently read that the average parent spends only 49 minutes a day with their child. 49 minutes. I thought, “no, that can’t be possible, that has to be wrong.” Reading further, I found that the 49 minutes does not include the time it takes to care for the child, to feed, bathe, and drive them to lessons or practices. That number has to be much higher if you include the time spent caring for your child.

So 49 minutes a day is the average amount of time parents feel they can set aside in a day to intentionally be with their child—whether it be reading a book for fun, walking or playing outside, building blanket forts, making crafts, or exploring activities together. Less than an hour out of the day for the purpose of fun and togetherness.

When there isn’t enough spare time to play at length, there are still daily chores and tasks that need to be done, and many of those are caring for your child. In our family literacy programs, our goals are reached when parents learn tools and tricks to turn those daily routines into fun learning experiences that can increase the quality time parents spend with their child.

At Learn Together – Grow Together, we share ideas that parents can use to include their child—books, activities, songs, games, routines, and more—all with the goal of the parents being their child’s first teacher. All with the goal of strengthening bonds, and securing confident growth for the child.

At the Learn Together – Grow Together program, you can learn about your child’s early learning and how to support literacy development, success in school, and lifelong learning. No program near you? You can still add some tips, tricks, and knowledge to your parenting tool kit by checking out Flit, our free App on Google Play and the App Store. You’ll find over 100 fun family literacy activities to do with your child!

Numbers, Numbers Everywhere!

What is numeracy?

The simple definition is, the ability to understand and work with numbers. Alberta Education defines numeracy as the ability, confidence and willingness to engage with quantitative and spatial information to make informed decisions in all aspects of daily living.

Are numeracy and mathematics the same?

No. They are relatable but definitely not the same. Numeracy covers more of the daily life skills learned from a young age and fine tuned with experience and knowledge. Numeracy includes concepts that help a person with their mathematical understanding.

Mathematical concepts learned in public school are the basis for further technology and specialized fields of study achieved in postsecondary education.

Play-numeracyWhat does numeracy look like to a preschooler?

In a quick summarization, numeracy learning looks like play. When children are playing they are learning about patterns, colours, sizes, measurements, gravity, temperature, days of the week, estimation, prediction, and so much more.

How can adults support numeracy learning?

Adults support their children’s learning by providing a safe and welcoming space in their home for children to explore numeracy. By spending time with their children, encouraging and offering what they can from their own knowledge and experience, their children will benefit by being confident learners and willing to challenge what they know to further their learning.

Mother and daughter in kitchen making a salad smiling3,2,1,FUN! is a family numeracy program that adults attend with their children to have fun exploring numeracy concepts together through play. At the program, adults learn strategies to support their children’s numeracy development at home, in their day to day lives. Parents can support this learning through activities, book sharing, storytelling, songs, games, and more, without the use of expensive toys and gadgets. Parents discover how to lead their children’s learning with a deeper understanding of how numeracy concepts are learned—concepts such as patterning and sorting, following recipes or instructions, exploring shapes, sizes and colours, measurements and spatial awareness.

So the next time you play with your children, try talking about what they are doing, even if you are just playing alongside them. Remember it is the little things you do daily that help reinforce what your children learn.

You can:

  • ask them how many stairs they are going up or down as you walk beside them
  • ask them about the colours they see as you go for a walk or a drive
  • ask them what they think goes next if they are stacking toys or building blocks
  • ask them to help in the kitchen if you are preparing a simple meal or snack
  • count how many steps it will take to walk to their room, the front door, or the bus stop
  • ask them to predict what bath toys will sink or float before the toys are added to the water
  • talk about how many minutes until the next activity, or how many days until grandma visits
  • enlist your children’s help with sorting laundry, by size, by colour, or by which family member the item belongs to

Share your ideas for developing numeracy skills with your children in the comments by clicking on the talk bubble at the top of this blog!

And, if you want to find out more about the 3,2,1,FUN! program, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website

Making Sense out of the Holiday Season

Sense of Touch-webDo you ever feel like this time of year goes by too quickly? Maybe you feel that you aren’t giving your child enough time. The one-on-one time you would normally have with your child too often gets put on hold during this busy time of year.

With all the extra preparation to be done, parents often feel exhausted and stretched thin. Throw in a few extra festive gatherings, and some sleepless nights as small children battle minor sniffles, coughs and ear aches (ouch). Any parent, even with the best of intentions, can easily feel like skipping the bedtime story, craft, or activity they had planned to share with their child.

Don’t worry, that’s okay! Sometimes you need a break too! It’s okay to just spend time together, chilling out. Maybe you just get to sit next to your child and watch her play while you enjoy a coffee and your own “time out.” Maybe you cuddle up together with blankets and watch a favourite holiday show. Maybe you get to squeeze in a nap with your baby or toddler. That’s all okay. Its okay to turn down an expected appearance when you or your child are feeling unwell. Remember to take time for yourself and your child.

Don’t stress about ensuring that you’re providing your little one with learning. You are providing her with learning whenever you do things together! Or you can simply talk to your child about what is around her, remembering the five senses. There are plenty of learning opportunities that happen naturally.

  1. What do they see? Snow, Santa, nativity scenes, trees with lights, white rabbits, birds, inflatable characters decorating the front lawns in every neighbourhood, etc.
  2. What do they hear? Bells, music, noisy crowds, carollers, birds, etc.
  3. What can they feel? Tree branches, snow, some decorations, gifts, hugs, snowflakes, etc.
  4. What can they taste? Trying new foods is often part of any holiday celebration, candies, popcorn, etc.
  5. What can they smell? Cookies, trees, candles, etc.

It is easy to relate any of the senses to numeracy as well. For example, try asking how many, what colour, what shape, what size, what pattern your child can see, or hear, or feel etc. In our 3,2,1, FUN! program, we support parents by celebrating what they do with their children, and offer more ideas to extend each family’s learning journey.

Enjoy your little ones in their moments of discovery and exploration, and you will be making memorable moments with little effort.

 

Stop and Smell the Roses

Stop and smell the roses? Have you ever wondered what that really means? You’ve probably heard the expression before, maybe even said it yourself. I’ve come to appreciate the phrase in a different way as a parent. I identify it with slowing down and taking a moment to appreciate the simplicity of childhood, how everything can be new, and being grateful for the chance of discovery in the eyes of my child.

Playtime4-smWhile watching little ones play, it may seem like a simple, easy, and carefree life. Far from it! There is so much magic going on in a child’s brain as they explore their world and experience things for the first time—or even the first 15 times. They are developing at an incredibly fast pace and at no other time in their lives will their brains learn at the same rate as it does in the early years.

As a parent it can be easy to worry about whether we are providing our child with enough opportunity and activity. It is easy to get caught up in the parenthood shuffle—so easy that we forget to slow down. Stop. And smell the roses.

Playtime2-smTake the time to let your child play freely as they choose with the materials they want. If your child loves stacking blocks, let them stack and build over and over again. There’s no need to change the activity all the time. If your child prefers to colour, scribble, paint and draw, provide them with the supplies and space they need. If your child prefers collecting cars or miniature figures, and sorts them and puts them all in a line for no apparent reason, let them.

The point is, children need time to do what they love best. It doesn’t matter which activity they love, all are full of learning opportunities. A child will give much more time and attention to an activity they love—that is how they learn best.

Playtime-smWhen I sit back and watch a young child at play, I like to take the time to stop and really watch what they are doing. Are they learning about balance and gravity? Texture and colour? Making sorting rules, counting, adding and subtracting? Like the young scientists they are, they are learning the cause and effect of many things they do. Play really is child’s work, and that work is  important.

So today, I challenge anyone with a child in their life to stop, watch and listen. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to be invited into their play. Just remind yourself its okay to take the time to stop everything and just enjoy the beauty and wonder of childhood—the same way you might stop in a beautiful garden to enjoy the roses.

For information on FREE programs like the Centre for Family Literacy’s, Learn Together – Grow Together, where parents and their children meet each week to explore and discover many things together, check out our program schedules on our website www.famlit.ca

For ideas on meaningful play with your child, check out Flit, our APP! It’s available for both  Apple and Android devices. For more information, please visit our website www.famlit.ca

 

 

3,2,1,Fun! The Importance of Beginning Numeracy with Everyday Activities

321 Fun

Who remembers saying “I don’t like math” or “I’m not good at math”? Many adults have negative feelings about math that began early in life.

A positive outlook on numeracy skill building with your children will help them later in life. In fact it can change your outlook as well. You don’t have to be completing complex algebra equations in order to be practicing numeracy skills.

In the 3,2,1, FUN! program offered by the Centre for Family Literacy, comments from parents have reflected some of the initial anxiety they feel towards numeracy and teaching it to their children. One parent stated how she felt math was scary and that she could never teach it to her children. She avoided anything she thought related to math prior to attending the 3,2,1, FUN! numeracy program. Upon finishing the program with her child, she said she now feels much less stress, and is more prepared to positively explore numeracy development with her children; she has a better understanding of the relationship between early numeracy learning and continuing success in school.

The parents and their children meet once a week to learn about the many everyday activities in which we use numeracy skills. When we estimate the cost of groceries, count the days leading up to a special event, follow a recipe, measure material for a sewing or building project, or even give directions, we are using numeracy skills.

These real life situations make numeracy meaningful for children, and are important in helping them build strong numeracy skills for later math learning. Part of our program enlists the parent as the teacher as they work alongside their children, participating in activities that are developmentally appropriate and supportive to the individual children.

Having a good foundation in numeracy means that we have an understanding of numbers, shapes, and measurement, and how they relate to each other. We learn to ask questions, solve problems, and share ideas. This numeracy understanding helps us become better communicators and problem solvers and allows us to participate fully in our communities.

Children benefit when we show them that numeracy is part of our daily lives and we use it all the time. This familiarity with various numeracy concepts, and children’s own experiences with everyday math, will help them become fluent math thinkers. It will prevent anxiety about more formal math learning when they reach school.

If you would like more information about the 3,2,1, FUN! drop-in program, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website. I can guarantee you will have fun with your children exploring numeracy together.

Positive early experiences in mathematics are as critical to child development as are early literacy experiences (Alberta education, 2007).

  

What is Emergent Literacy?

Mum playing with two children

Emergent Literacy is what children know about reading and writing before they can actually read or write. Strong early literacy skills are naturally the foundation for reading and writing later on. Children begin learning at birth—many agree even before birth—and continue learning long after school begins.

At the Centre for Family Literacy, we believe parents are their children’s first and best teachers. Emergent literacy skills are developed with experiences children have alongside an adult in their life guiding the way. Young children enjoy repeating favourite activities (for example reading, singing, and craft activities) with the ones they love. An adult such as a parent, grandparent, or other primary caregiver, that provides one-on-one experiences, can do more “teaching” than can be done in a group setting.

Children prepare for reading long before they can actually read or start school. Learning opportunities are best when they happen naturally in the everyday activities you do at home and in the community, including grocery shopping, doing chores, playing games, or travelling somewhere by car or bus. Letters and numbers are not only in books, they are everywhere!

Talk with them and explain things that you see and do. Before children can learn to read they must understand language. Sing and rhyme. (See below for tips for supporting emergent literacy.)

People tend to call children between the ages of 3 – 4 years preschoolers, although you have had them busy learning preschool lessons their whole lives up until now. Most preschoolers will be displaying their emergent literacy development by:

  • Enjoying stories read to them that they can retell afterwards
  • Beginning to understand that print carries a message to be decoded
  • Attempting to read aloud while looking at a book
  • Attempting to write or print on paper with a pencil or crayon
  • Participating in singing and rhyming
  • Identifying familiar print on signs to favourite stores or brand names
  • Identifying letters in their name, or family member’s names, and some sounds of those letters

iStock_000009413407XLarge-SMBy age 5, most children are beginning kindergarten and are becoming experts at:

  • Sounding like they are reading aloud while they look through a favourite book
  • Using descriptive language to explain or answer questions
  • Recognizing letter and sound matches
  • Understanding that print is read left to right and starts at the top of the page
  • Beginning to group letters and letter sounds together to form words
  • Beginning to match spoken words with written ones
  • Beginning to write stories with recognizable words

Tips for supporting emergent literacy in your family:

  • Attend community programs with your child such as the ones offered by the Centre for Family Literacy
  • Make book choices based on your child’s interests
  • Encourage your child to make predictions as the story is being shared with them, take time to pause and ask them what they think will happen next, or how a character feels etc.
  • Visit the library regularly
  • Give your child different materials that encourage drawing, scribbling, painting, cutting, and gluing. Learning can be messy work, but worth it!
  • Have fun with your child, play, and pretend! Let them lead the way in their play. They are used to following your rules every day, give them the key to imagination and follow them as they lead the way to creativity

Download Flit, our free literacy App, for fun activities you can do with your children at home to help develop emergent literacy! You’ll find the links on our website, or go directly to the App Store or Google Play.

Learn Together – Grow Together is a program in Edmonton by the Centre for Family Literacy for parents and their children ages 3 – 6 years. Families meet once a week for 3 ten-week sessions to learn about their children’s early learning and how to support literacy development, success in school, and lifelong learning. The sessions offer some adult only instruction and lots of parent-child together time for fun learning activities. Spaces are still available so register quickly. For more information visit the Centre for Family Literacy website, call 780-421-7323, or email info@famlit.ca

 

 

What does Reading a Book Together have to do with Numeracy Skills?

iStock_321FUN

Have you ever read a book to a child and counted objects on the pages, looked for shapes, found different colours, or noticed patterns in the storytelling? Believe it or not, you are introducing numeracy skills.

Stories are a powerful way to explore numeracy concepts. They:

  • Provide simple and easy ways for children to relate the pictures and words to their lives
  • Encourage the use of numeracy language by using phrases like: How many? How far? How much?
  • Develop concepts like following directions, following recipes
  • Offer opportunities to problem solve, count backwards or forwards or by 2’s, introduce basic math skills
  • Increase memory skills by retelling stories in the correct order. Beginning, middle, and end can be recalled without the book in front of you

TIPS!

  • Read together often, when you can spend the time relaxed and not rushed
  • You do not need a hundred different books, a variety of books is best
  • You do not have to find math books for numeracy. Books rich in colour, shapes, and numbers are appealing to children and there are so many available
  • Find books that have a clear beginning, middle, and end (sometimes they start with Once upon a time)
  • Look for books that have a repeating sequence of events
  • Use recipe books, craft books, Lego building books (following instruction and direction step by step)
  • It is okay and expected for children to want to read the same book over and over again for weeks before they are ready to move on to another. As they become more familiar with the story, they are also understanding it better each time. The predictability is important for young children to want to follow along
  • Take time to revisit old favourites
  • When reading, talk together. Pause the story to ask questions, and give your child  time to answer. Ask questions like, “what do you think happens next?” “Can you count all of the red spots?” “Do you spot the dog?” “How many girls are wearing yellow dresses?”
  • Give children a chance to explain what they think and see
  • Look for opportunities to talk about routines like nap time, dinner time, bath time, bed time, days of the week and/or months, and seasons

We enjoy exploring numeracy with families at our 3,2,1,FUN! numeracy program. Some   books we like to share are:

  • If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Numeroff
  • The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins
  • Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
  • Looking For A Moose by Phyllis Root
  • The Napping House by Audrey Wood
  • Memoirs Of A Goldfish by Devin Scillian
  • How To Babysit a Grandpa by Jean Reagan

Visit the Centre for Family Literacy website to find out more about the 3,2,1,FUN! drop-in program in Edmonton.

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, albeit a different one for summer (maybe daycare or day camps), it can also mean a lot more time spent at home and with family. Holidays—maybe a road trip—are taken, and grandparents visit. Some parents are home with their children all summer. As much as we look forward to the change from hectic scheduling, 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. 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. What was that saying about the journey and the destination?

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.

So we have 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. The age range around the fire was 7-38 years—that’s a lot of stories! What an excellent kick-off to summer in a home full of kids!

 

Road Trips!

I LOVE road trips with my family! With long weekends such as Canada Day, many of us will hit the highways. I love road trips on my own as well. I just can’t get enough of all the places to learn about – using all of your senses. With children young or old, you can point out all that can be seen with their eyes. From mountains to waterfalls, rivers to forests, prairie lands to animals, both farm and wild. Show everyone where you are on a map. Point out signs. Visit historic sites. Learn about our past.

With digital cameras it is easy to allow your children to take as many photographs as they would like (deleting ones that don’t make the final cut won’t disappoint them). You can see the world through their eyes and you may be surprised by how great their photography skills can be. You can also give your children binoculars to help them search the land for scavenger hunt items, or try playing a variety of license plate games while on your road trip!

You can use your ears to hear things you may not hear if you are from a big city! Things such as quiet or animals in the forest. If you stop somewhere for a picnic, for stretching legs and relieving restlessness, you may hear a train travelling nearby. You might hear water rushing down a waterfall if you’re on a mountain escape. You can even hear insects buzzing around in summer; we don’t like them, but they are there! Is that a cow lowing in the distance? Talk about what farmers are doing this time of year.

How about singing to pass the time away? If you aren’t comfortable with your own voice leading the family choir, how about some family friendly CD’s borrowed from your local library? There is so much more to children’s songs now than there was in the past. One of our favourites is a CD called “Snack Time” by the Bare Naked Ladies. My teenagers will still sing along! For lyrics that mom and dad can laugh at, and a very original version of ABC’s, it is a must have.

Smells! You cannot dismiss the power of your sense of smell. The air smells cleaner as we leave our city homes behind. We can point out smells our children may not be familiar with. There are plenty of smells that accompany any farm, whether grain, livestock, or vegetable and fruit. Find some flowers to sniff. Do trees have a scent? Sniff an evergreen! What about leaves or moss on the forest floor?

Hands on! Why can’t a road trip be hands on? Have you ever stopped to see the monument that makes a town special? Plan your breaks for places with something interesting to see, do, and learn. Run, play, burn off some energy before the next leg of your trip. Collect post cards and things like kids’ paper menus (the kind kids can draw on if you stop for a restaurant meal), random memorabilia, or maybe a picked flower. I still have a little flower picked by my son almost 10 years ago. It has a story behind it of what lengths he and his dad went through to get that flower back to me. My son drew me a picture to go with the flower that helps tell the story. I will treasure it always.

Back in the car again, hand your child a pencil, maybe some crayons, and a sketchbook. Have them write or draw pictures about what they have learned along the way. It is easy to keep a little box of things needed for creativity in the vehicle. You can also find an assortment of lap trays (which resemble dining trays) to use on your trip. They are perfect for snacks, drawing, puzzles, and more. Prepared ahead of time, scavenger hunts are fun—check things off as they are found, or places discovered.

    

Try this website before you head out on your next Canadian road trip, www.bigthings.ca, there is a list by province of things to see!

To me, finding some of these things is reason enough for a trip in the car!

Take Your Rhyming Outside with these Fun Activities (and Rhymes)!

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) favourites 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 your partner’s hands with each beat. When words repeat, you clap your partners hands each time. With more experience the game can get more complicated, adding actions and other ways to clap. Adding challenges makes it an activity you can continue to do with children as they grow older.

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 at some old rhymes. Guaranteed giggles and smiles. Be silly, have fun, keep singing!

If you would like to have fun singing and rhyming with your children 3 and under, check the Centre for Family Literacy website mid-August for the Rhymes that Bind fall program schedule.