Children Love Your Stories

iStock_storytelling

Oral skills include both speaking and listening, and are at the root of literacy. Listening to the rhythm of the language spoken around them will help your children discover the rules of that language. When your children experiment with their voices, they will try to mimic how you speak to them. The words they understand best and use first are the ones that represent what is most important to them, such as names or titles of family members or pets, or their favourite foods and toys. As their understanding of the language expands, so does their vocabulary.

Some simple ways you can expose your children to language are to:

  • Narrate what you are doing around them as if you are telling a story—while you are diapering, bathing or feeding for instance
  • Make up stories or retell stories
  • Tell them what you were like as a child or what they were like as newborns
  • Tell them over and over again about the many things related to what they love most—their families and themselves

Babies and toddlers will pay close attention to a rhyme or story they hear repeatedly to pick out words they are familiar with. When you repeat your story several times, toddlers understand the beginning, middle and end, anticipating what happens next. You can expand your stories as your children gain more experience.

It is important for children to have a good understanding of the mechanics of their language before they can move to the next step—reading and writing! Singing rhymes to your children increases their phonemic awareness, among other things. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds—phonemes—in spoken words. Before children learn to read print, they need to become aware of how the sounds in words work.

Young children, who have been exposed to a rich vocabulary and ways to use it, can become the storytellers. It is a great exercise for a preschooler to be able to retell what happened yesterday, what they saw at the zoo, or what a grandparent gave them on their birthday. They have to remember in what order the things happened without a picture book to help with the story. They may get the details mixed up, but encourage them to tell their story the way they recall it. They are learning how to remember the beginning, middle and end. They are trying to put the correct words in place of images in their minds. Prompt them if needed.

One of the best experiences I have had as a parent is sitting around a table, living room, or campfire with my children, friends and extended family, retelling stories of our past. My older children have heard these stories so many times, they are eager to share them with  the youngest family members. “Tell the one about you and Uncle when you were…” the little ones might say! There are so many stories for them to pick from! Our family shares stories of our elders who are now gone, and our children can retell some of them as if they were there themselves.

So another important thing that happens with oral storytelling, especially when it is about your family, is the bonding that brings you together. Every family has a story! Don’t forget to teach yours to your children, especially since many of our families are spread around the world.

Sing with your child, talk with your child, read with your child, play with your child, everyday!

Check our website for more information about Rhymes that Bind in Edmonton and find a program near you.

hashtag: #RTB_Edm

 

Easing into the Season of Festivities

(with little ones in tow!)

Sing

With all of the rush at this time of year, it is easy to forget what this looks like to the little ones around us. They don’t understand why adults need to hustle and bustle. At a time when we are busy checking off items on our lists, running from here to there, having more visitors (or doing more visiting), we need to remember to adjust our pace and our expectations of our small children.

It is helpful to remember that all of the changes to our little one’s schedule can result in behavioural changes such as mood swings or shorter attention spans; they can also be extra clingy to parents amidst so many new people. Add in that it is cold and flu season thanks to our increased social schedules and change in sleeping and eating habits. (More sweets than usual can cause irritability too). Mix all of these changes together and we have a recipe for a tantrum – for any toddler (older ones too)!

There are a few easy things anyone can do to help the situation, any place, with no equipment, toys or tools required.

  • Count to 3 – yes you, not them!
  • Take a few deep breaths when you feel that tantrum building up (theirs or yours)
  • Try a rhyme, or two or three! You can so easily redirect a mood by singing a song!

You can still complete your task and check off that list – just take time to breathe and be silly and have fun with your child!

Many holiday songs are directed to children. If you cannot remember the words and you only recall the tune, make up your own verses. Older children will enjoy helping twist common songs and rhymes into your own family treasures!

Here’s a twist on a familiar tune. Hum a few notes from “Jingle Bells” and you will be ready to sing this one:

Snowflakes falling, snowflakes falling
One fell on my nose
Snowflakes falling, snowflakes falling
One fell on my toes
Snowflakes falling snowflakes falling
One fell on my head
Snowflakes falling, snowflakes falling
Now its time to sled!

Snowflakes falling, snowflakes falling
One fell on my knee
Snowflakes falling, snowflakes falling
All around me-e
Snowflakes falling, snowflakes falling
This I’m going to dread
Snowflakes falling, snowflakes falling
Dad says time for bed!

Come and join us for some fun at one of the Rhymes that Bind programs throughout the city. Find more information about Rhymes that Bind and our Edmonton program schedule here

hashtag: #RTB_Edm

Making Sense of Babbling

Baby-babble

Playing with language is something that babies from all cultures, and from all languages, experiment with naturally. Many of the little rhymes we sing to children, remembered from our own childhoods or learned new, don’t appear to make sense. They can sound like baby babble.

Although the actual words may not make sense, using different muscles while forming new sounds is all very important to building early language skills. Understanding communication between people is also happening regardless of the noise the baby makes. When you say something to your baby, and your body language reflects an open, caring and loving feeling, your baby will respond by trying to mimic your sounds and also your body language.

Here is a rhyme that always reminds me exactly of babies babbling:

Ah ram sam sam, ah ram sam sam
Goolie goolie goolie goolie goolie
Ram sam sam

Ah ram sam sam, ah ram sam sam
Goolie goolie goolie goolie goolie
Ram sam sam

Ah raffie, ah raffie
Goolie goolie goolie goolie goolie
Ram sam sam

For actions to this rhyme, you can try patting your hands on your lap for each ram sam sam, making circle motions with your hands moving around each other for each goolie goolie, and raising your hands in the air for raffie raffie.

Those are all simple motions for small ones to copy. You can make your own movements for any rhyme, just be consistent – your baby will be following along with you.

As a Rhymes that Bind program facilitator, it is very rewarding to see children and their parents building this relationship through the earliest stages of communication. The parents not only experience it first hand, but also by witnessing the other parents and babies in the room who are enjoying the experience.

Building language is powerful and hard work. The next time you hear your baby babbling, take a moment to listen to the different sounds they are trying to recreate. Those are sounds they hear throughout the day. When your child is facing you and you are speaking to them, keep in mind the more animated you look and sound, the longer you will keep their attention. Your child adores you as much as you adore them. They love the sound of the voices they recognize most. Take the opportunity to be silly and play with sounds with your baby. Congratulate yourself for supporting and encouraging your babies’ first sounds that will eventually become their first words!

 

Find more information about Rhymes that Bind and our Edmonton program schedule here

hashtag: #RTB_Edm

 

 

 

Rhymes that Bind is Growing!

At Rhymes that Bind, we use rhymes and rhythms to help build long-lasting language skills and understanding. The program is free to attend, an hour in length, and we offer a little snack midway. Children from birth to preschool, along with their caregiver, enjoy learning new songs and actions to repeat later in their daily activities.

This fall, our Rhymes that Bind program is growing in Edmonton. Not only by numbers of family participants, but by new site locations as well. We have added four new sites this year. Each of the sites are ready for more families to attend.

RTBmultGEN07 (27)2Two of the new locations are at Castle Downs and Londonderry Libraries. We are also excited to add two new intergenerational programs welcoming seniors (without children) to visit. We affectionately call them Grandmas and Grandpas. These new intergenerational sites are at Shepherd Care Kensington Campus, and at Ottwell Senior Centre. For a complete listing of locations and the schedule, visit our website at http://bit.ly/1dApWpt

Every fall it is so nice to return to our programs, as summer is our longest break. We welcome our returning families, some with their own new additions. We also welcome many new families to the program. It is always heartwarming to see how the children have grown and hear their stories of summer activities and achievements. Already we have friends joining their friends and loving the program.

Here in Edmonton, the weather is always a hot topic. Our seasons bring about drastic changes, and day to day the temperature can vary greatly. Even young children notice the change in the air, their faces and noses getting chilly. Leaves are falling everywhere; take the opportunity to sing a song about the seasonal changes!

This can be sung to the familiar tune of Jingle Bells:

Leaves2Leaves are falling, leaves are falling,
One fell on my nose
Leaves are falling, leaves are falling
One fell on my toes
Leaves are falling, leaves are falling
Falling on my head
Leaves are falling, leaves are falling
Yellow, orange and red

Alternatively, when the snow flies:

Snowflakes falling, snowflakes falling
One fell on my nose
Snowflakes falling, snowflakes falling
One fell on my toes
Snowflakes falling, snowflakes falling
Falling on my head
Snowflakes falling, snowflakes falling
Now its time to sled!

hashtag: #RTB_Edm

Building Their Way, Their Rules

bird_feeder1     bird_feeder2

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you let your child loose in a pile of recycled materials without rules or instructions? Throw in a couple of rolls of duct tape, masking tape, scotch tape, a few markers, and maybe some scissors.

Too often these days we are rushing from activity to activity, with tight schedules between daycare and after school to get to sports, music lessons, or play dates. More time than ever before is spent in transportation to and from all the places we need to be.

There is a lot of structure to being a child in the modern world. It can seem in a child’s eyes that they are too often told what to do, perhaps even how to do it. In our mission to make sure we provide the best we can for our kids, sometimes we miss out on opportunities for them to just be kids, to create in their own way, to learn about their world with their own two hands.

A great way to keep kids happy and focused for a long period of time is to give them the opportunity for free play. No rules or instructions, just a whole lot of loose parts. Recycle bins in your home are a great place to start. Anything that is not dangerous is free game. Leftover fabric, yarn, wool, wrapping paper – you cannot get a lower cost activity than this. My kids and their friends build amazing towers, leprechaun traps, hamster mazes, fairy homes, bridges, even an island oasis and toys with working parts, vending machines and clocks. I love that they come up with so many ideas on their own. If your home is like mine, there is never a shortage of supplies. My daughter is always declaring which box, container or paper is for her, “save this for me mom, this would make a great…!”

There are far more benefits than just to provide the kids with an activity to keep them busy: they develop hand eye coordination, practice print skills (if they use markers to draw), maybe learn about gravity or how to balance things, and develop motor skills both large and small to name a few. The creative process builds executive function and promotes physical and spatial development. They have to visualize, plan ahead, and learn the process of outcomes and the consequences of each action. There are numerous other benefits but the most important is the fun they have! I also enjoy a keen glimpse at what interests my child.

You might itch to help out. With your experience you clearly know better, but let them learn from their own experience. Let them feel disappointment when their tower breaks or their bridge won’t hold weight. They learn from their own successes and the accomplishments they achieve are truly their own.

To tie in a few great books with this activity, visit your local library and look for:

Not A Box by Antoinette Portis

Not A Stick by Antoinette Portis

The Dot by Peter H Reynolds

Ish by Peter H Reynolds

Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg

Boy and Bot by Ame Dyckman

 

Giving the Traditional Chore Chart a Modern Twist

Chores… Something every parent has to think about and most children dread. There are so many tips available on the Internet and in many parenting magazines. Yet chores remains a hot topic in any circle of parents meeting in playgrounds and playgroups across the county.

At this time of year, as schools prepare to let loose the children, parents are talking even more about chores and responsibilities. Summer is upon us and though we want our children to have their fun, we need them to contribute to the home chores.

How do you balance work and play for your children? Do you pay them an allowance? Do they get incentive rewards? How old should they be when you start to assign chores? How you choose to work out those details is as individual as each household. However, most experts (and parents) agree that it is as important for children to learn these skills as it is to learn to walk, run, and ride a bike.

Chores teach children how to accomplish tasks. They teach children how to schedule or budget their time. They teach children how to work together. Chores create independence and problem solving skills. If allowance is involved, it can serve as a lesson on how to budget or save earnings for a special item. These are all wonderful lifelong skills and positive character traits!

So why can it be such a battle to follow through and assign chores to the children in our lives? As adults we rationalize that if we had a choice between something we perceive as fun, vs something that we perceive as work, we would likely choose the fun thing as well. But since we do not really have a choice, we get through the work so we can reward ourselves with some leisure time afterwards. Personally, I dislike kitchen chores. Why does it seem to be never ending? I can relate to “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout” and what happened because she would not take the garbage out!

How can we get our little lovelies to chip in around the house? There is no magical answer to that question. As a mother of four, I know what has worked in my house and what hasn’t. Trial and error can take more effort by the parents, but it is rewarding to find a method that works for your own family. One thing many parents agree on is that, though the chore itself may not be fun, the approach to it should be. Pinterest is a great source for creative ideas and approaches.

My boys are like many other boys and really enjoy their video games and computer time. I struggled to find a balance for their allowable game time, chores, and other fun until I started using a sign up sheet. In our home, it is a successful and fun way to encourage my boys to do chores.

Your sign up sheet can be new daily or laminated to write on with a dry erase marker. On our sheet I add things that I can use help with daily. There are a variety of things to choose from with varying degrees of difficulty and age appropriate for each boy. I write things such as tidy up the shoe shelf, sweep the kitchen floor, take out the garbage, take the dog for a walk, shovel the sidewalk, or weed the flowerbeds. For fun, there are things such as go for a bike ride with a brother, play tag outside, build a snow fort, use sidewalk chalk to create a picture, or even read a book.

The boys are responsible to sign up for a chore one at a time. They have to complete one chore fully before they can sign up for another. Each “chore” or “job” has an amount of time assigned to it by myself, such as 5, 10, 20, or 30 minutes. When they have successfully completed some jobs and accumulated enough time credits, they are given equal time on their games. It is a great way for us to balance chores, play and computer time. The boys feel it is their choice and that they are in control. It balances out well and they never have too much “time” accrued to make me feel they are spending too much of it on video games.

This summer, think how to keep it fun. Have the children think they are in control of how and when they help out around the house. It makes for less of a battle and guarantees more fun for all!

Play! Have fun and learn

PLAY! A simple word with so much meaning. How unfortunate that as we get older we forget how important it is to stop and have fun. Play.

Play is how children learn. They learn movement through play; they build the core muscles and develop their large motor skills — essential before perfecting the small motor skills they will later need for holding a pencil and commanding it on paper.

Crawling, rolling, spinning, jumping, hopping and skipping are all part of big body play. Being messy while learning to feed yourself, creating with playdough (rolling, kneeding), finger painting, building with blocks and finger tapping to melodies are all part of small body play. For a child, all of these skills are critical to developing the muscle control needed for the rest of their lives. Children are not hardwired to sitting still. They need to be moving and using all of their senses to really learn from their environment and experiences. They need to touch, taste, smell, feel, hear and talk about what they are doing.

Play is fun! Play also encourages the brain’s creativity centre. Play promotes language skills. When we are playing we can be in deep thought as we are trying to build that tower or create that sculpture. We learn to keep trying when it doesn’t work out. We learn problem solving when we have to try again. We can be loud while pretending we are animals in the jungle or aliens in outer space, or race car drivers racing in our cardboard boxes. Whether your child likes playing aloud or quietly, you have the opportunity of using language with them. Get down on your child’s level and play alongside them. With very young children it is okay to narrate their play. You are building on their vocabulary as you comment on the colours, shapes, sizes or sounds around them. Don’t be afraid of making up stories and singing your own tunes. Your child adores the sound of your voice. Play encourages relationship building. Children won’t necessarily recall the meals they ate or the clothes they wore, but they will have memories of the days spent sitting on the floor singing, laughing, tickling, playing hide and seek, and being silly with their parents.

When children are playing together they are learning so much more than we can hope to teach them any other way. They are learning social awareness, emotional thinking, and more. They are learning to compromise, be in relationships, and to take turns. This all seems very simple on one level, but it really goes quite deep and is worth investing some time to ensure you promote play in your family life. With our busy schedules and hectic lives, we need to remember that playing is crucial and there is no substitute.

Sharing Books Creates Memories

Do you have a favourite memory of sharing a book with a child?

    

I have a favourite memory of my son’s love for these two books in particular. When he was nearly three years old we read them every day, often two or three times a day. It was never boring or dull to read the same stories over and over with him! His face would light up as if it was the first time every time. The stories he loved were easy to animate with their words that rhymed and great illustrations. What I didn’t realize was that he absorbed every word – memorized each phrase for each page. Then one day I needed to be away at his bedtime and his father did the bedtime story routine. After he read the first book with our son he called me to ask “when did he start to read?” I didn’t understand and said “he can’t read yet! What are you talking about?” Apparently my son knew exactly word for word the book my husband had shared with him – with such accuracy my husband thought he could actually read!

I was proud my little guy was able to fool his dad. I was also encouraged to continue to read with him every day, no matter what story he chose, no matter how many times he chose it. He began to “read” his stories to me as well, and even years later we would take turns and read chapter books to each other. We still enjoyed our story time together.

Reading, Then and Now

We have started a sort of a competition in our house to see how creative we can be in places to read. We have the basics covered: in bed, on the couch, on the floor, at the kitchen table, etc. But creativity has us thinking outside the box; we have read in a few spots in the yard, on the patio, in hammocks, at the pool, while grocery shopping, at our local coffee shop, and even upside down. It feels like a Dr. Seuss book many of us have read before…

It was always a special feeling when my children would bring a favourite book to me and ask if we could read it. We got extra time for cuddles, and it offered an extended discussion period of the stories we read and what we thought about them. I appreciate that these opportunities have allowed me glimpses of who my children are and who they are becoming.

Although they are all independent readers now, we still enjoy book sharing. Many times a good picture book is just too inviting to be read quietly or alone. Chapter books can still be shared as well: we take turns reading aloud a chapter each. It is one of my favorite times with my kids, as I hear how, as they read, the stories in their minds come to life. There is also something very peaceful about sitting together in a room, each enjoying our own books, just sharing in our presence as we have our own stories unfolding and our own adventures awaiting on each turning page.

Summer Challenge

The dreaded “I’m bored!” is just around the corner as school is already out for summer. Although many families still have a routine, albeit a different one for summer (work, daycare, or day camps), summer can also mean a lot more time spent at home and with family. Holidays are taken, grandparents visit, or some parents stay home with children all summer. As much as we look forward to the change in hectic life 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 am going to use in my home to combat that dreaded phrase is a Summer Challenge. My 7-year-old daughter and I put a list of activities into a jar and will pull them 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 seems like 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 has asked me if it’s OK to add some of her own ideas to the jar. I think why not? (As long as I approve first…) She has already started her list of 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 this fire is 7-38 years. That’s a lot of stories to tell! What an excellent kick-off to summer in a home full of kids!