How You can Use Songs to Achieve Goals with Your Kids

Have you ever been in a situation with your children when they were not following directions and you found yourself singing a song and modelling the actions to try and get them to comply? I certainly have; I found that it has worked wonders with my little ones! They love to sing, and suddenly it’s a game not just listening to directions. This is a great way for adults to engage with their children on their children’s level, and is more effective than had we simply told them what to do. This method can help us connect with our children before we try to redirect them.

I will show you some songs that can invite children to connect with you while accomplishing a goal, even if the goal is to have fun. These are just two examples of many ways you can use songs to achieve your particular goals.

Hello Songs

Hello songs can be simply saying hello to people, body parts, or even animals. If you are modelling the actions while singing the song, your children will be more likely to join in. These songs can also be used if your kids are grumpy in the morning, or you need a routine to show your children when it is the morning and not the middle of the night. Hello songs can also be used when you go to a friend’s house. There are just as many reasons to use hello songs as there are songs we can use. Here is one of my favourites:

Yumpa Rumpa lyrics:

Hello, hello Sally, how are you today?
Hello, hello Sally, I am fine today.
Yumpa rumpa yumpa, yumpa rumpa yumpa
Hello Hello head, how are you today?
Hello, hello head, we are fine today!
Yumpa rumpa yumpa, yumpa rumpa yumpa

(Continue using neck, shoulders, knees etc)

Goodbye Songs

These songs can especially be useful when you have to separate from your children for a few hours; goodbye songs can assist in easing anxiety with routine. Saying goodbye to  friends, or even toys, are other uses. Here is one of my favourite goodbye songs:

Alligator lyrics:

See you later, alligator (wave goodbye)
In a while, crocodile
Give a hug, ladybug (hug yourself)
Blow a kiss, jellyfish (blow a kiss)
See you soon, big baboon
Out the door, dinosaur
Take care, polar bear
Wave goodbye, butterfly (wave goodbye)

(Originally from Jbrary on YouTube.) I highly recommend that you look at all of the songs from Jbrary!

For more ideas, be sure to check out Flit, our family literacy app! It’s available to both Apple and Android devices.

Click here to download the free iOS version of Flit.

Click here to download the Android version.

Centre for Family Literacy website

Flit demo:

 

7 Crazy Fun Family Games to Play Over the Holidays

Have you ever watched Minute to Win It types of games and thought it would be fun to play them with your family? Family games are a great way to bring everyone together over the holidays, or any time, to have a little fun! The games can be simple or complex, depending on the participants, and you can often use things you have around the house. Try to encourage all family members to play, no matter their age. Games are also a fun way to incorporate family literacy into your holiday activities by talking, following directions, counting, etc.

The Games:

Try to split everyone who would like to participate into two teams, trying to keep both sides as even as possible. The great thing about these games is that they only last for one minute, so participants only have to make it through 60 seconds.

img_2933-11. This first game involves stacking cups so they look like a tree. Remember you only have 60 seconds. To make this activity more difficult for adults, have them put one arm behind their back and use their non-dominant hand.

 

 

 

 

img_2936-22. This game requires mini marshmallows, straws, and cups (or other containers). Using the straw, you must get as many marshmallows into the cup as you can in one minute. To make this game harder for adults or older kids, do not allow them to hold the straw with their hands.

 

 

 

 

3. Our next game requires two pairs of pantyhose with the toes cut out and a hole for your face, as you will be making antlers on your head. This game takes great team effort as balloons are stuffed into the pantyhose legs. An option can be that the winner is whoever finishes first, instead of having a one minute time limit.

 

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img_2955-94. This game is about making a Christmas Tree. We used long ribbon, however you could use toilet paper and make a snowman, or wrapping paper to wrap a present (the entire person). Once again you could time the teams or just judge them after the first one is done.

 

 

 

 

5. Starting to get hungry after all this work? How about a cookie challenge? Place a cookie over one eye and try to get it into your mouth. For the younger kids, if the cookie falls off they could pick it up and try again. For adults and older kids, I suggest no hands and if they fail then another player from their team has to try until at least one person is successful.

 

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6. On to some full body movements you will need two more pairs of pantyhose without holes, two tennis balls (or heavy balls) and some targets to knock over. Putting the nylons on your head with the ball in each leg, try knocking down as many of the targets as you can. We used paper cups but water bottles or pop cans work too.

 

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img_2969-87. Lastly we have the candy cane pick up. Stack up a bunch of candy canes, and putting one in your mouth, hook as many candy canes as you can and transfer them into a cup. For little fingers, just let them use their hands instead of putting the candy cane in their mouth.

 

 

 

These are just a few of the hundreds of games available on the internet, so grab your family and friends, be creative, and have a great time!

 

Find more game ideas, as I did, with these sites:

 

 

 

 

Advent Calendars for Kids

As December quickly creeps up on us, our kids’ minds turn to Advent calendars. The anticipation the calendars build with each day is a fun part of the season.

The Wikipedia definition of an Advent calendar is a special calendar used to count or celebrate the days in anticipation of Christmas. The Advent calendar was first used by German Lutherans in the 19th and 20th centuries but is now found everywhere.

If you go into any large chain store you will find an array of Advent calendar choices. Traditional Advent calendars conceal 24 small chocolates to be opened one a day until December 24th, but more and more choices are becoming available every year. Lindt has a full chocolate every day, and Lego has 2 or 3 different calendars to choose from every year. Toy or candy calendars, ranging from Disney, Crayola, Playmobil, Hot Wheels, Kinder surprise, Jelly Belly and more, can also be found.

But ever since my kids were born, I have been interested in making my own Advent calendars. They are more personal than the bought versions and I can add anything I want, from toys or books to candy. You can find many Advent calendars to make with your kids at Growing A Jewelled Rose.

One of our yearly traditions is a Book Tree Advent Calendar. I love it because it combines my love of reading with my kids and a surprise for the kids each day.

I found the following Book Tree Advent Calendar at Reading Confetti. Every year we enjoy opening up some of our favourite Christmas classics and a few new ones.

book-tree-advent-4

 

Non-fiction Books Your Kids Will Love

I have been reading to my children since they were born, so I have noticed a real trend in their choices of non-fiction or fiction books. As babies, they wanted us to read non-fiction—books with real pictures of real things in their daily lives while they were getting to know their world.

Now that my oldest is preschool age, she prefers that we read fiction—stories that expand her ideas of whimsy and make-believe worlds, where princesses always live happily ever after and the super heros always win. She has lost interest in non-fiction books.

animal-teeth2Because of the research on the importance of reading non-fiction, I have been trying to find interesting topics for my daughter. When I came across the series of books “What if you had Animal…” (Feet, Teeth, Hair, or Ears) by Sandra Markle and Howard McWilliam, I knew right away she would love them.

The books combine fiction and non-fiction. They have pictures of real animals and information about their feet, teeth, hair or ears. But what makes the books fun is that they also have illustrated pictures of children with the same animal’s attributes. As you can see on this cover, the child has beaver teeth, which of course look hilarious to children.

The series allows children to read non-fiction literature to get facts and dive into a fantasy world at the same time! What a great bridge for readers to find their way back to non-fiction books. The series can be found on the Edmonton Literacy C.O.W. bus!

animal-feetMy daughter absolutely loves these books! We have read them so often that she can tell me what great super power, as she likes to call them, I would have if I had certain animal features. At the playground she commented that she would love to have kangaroo feet to  jump high over the fence and get to the park faster.

Since we have travelled with my daughter several times, she found an easy interest in maps of our country, continent and world. We have also been venturing into the career and cooking sections at the library.

Here are some ways to spark your children’s interest in non-fiction books:

  • Pursue their passions: do they have a love of dinosaurs or big monster vehicles? Use their current interests to encourage them
  • More is more: by offering a variety of non-fiction reading materials, you may find a format they prefer, such as books, magazines, newspapers, or atlases
  • Parents are their children’s best teachers: if you read a variety of literature, both fiction and non-fiction, and talk with your children about what you are reading, it is likely their interests will grow

Below are links to research on the importance of reading non-fiction books:

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/dec12/vol70/num04/Nonfiction-Reading-Promotes-Student-Success.aspx

http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/non-fiction-why-its-important/

http://scholarworks.wmich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1071&context=reading_horizons

http://www.education.com/reference/article/reasons-teaching-nonfiction/

http://uanews.ua.edu/2014/03/ua-matters-the-importance-of-reading-nonfiction-with-children/

The C.O.W. is Coming Soon, but in the Meantime…

Edm-COW

We hope that while you are enjoying summer to the fullest, you are still able to find fun ways to keep a little literacy in your busy days. It really helps to prevent the summer slide, where children lose some of what they had learned during the program or school year.

Here are a few simple ideas:

  • Sing songs or nursery rhymes, and play rhyming words games while in the car
  • Point out print on traffic signs, cereal boxes, restaurants, anywhere!
  • Play games such as Simon Says, Hopscotch, or I Spy
  • Take your children to the library and let them choose their books
  • Tell stories to each other
  • Read aloud to your child
  • Encourage older siblings to read with younger children
  • Look for shapes in the clouds
  • Have books around the house and let your child see you reading
  • Do Splash Time Rhymes that Bind while at the beach, pool, or water park (blog with rhymes can be found here http://www.famlit.ca/blog/?p=3077)
  • Download the Flit app with 100 fun literacy activities to do with your child

Meanwhile, at the Centre for Family Literacy, the Edmonton Literacy C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) Bus program is busy preparing for your visits in the fall, with new themes, new books, and new games and puzzles for parents and their children ages 0-6 years old.

We have extensively added to our books for adults and now have a fiction section. We have books that are science fiction, love stories, memoirs, and many others. Of course we still have an abundance of non-fiction books for adults on various parenting topics, from how to get your kids to sleep with a no-cry solution, to humour in our everyday lives as parents. And as always we have a great selection of books for young children.

So keep soaking up the sunshine while you can (and maybe add some story time under a tree); the Edmonton Literacy C.O.W. Bus staff are busy planning and preparing a great 2016/2017 season for you.

Please check the Centre for Family Literacy website in mid August to find the most convenient location and time for you to drop in and see us at the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus. Hope to see you in September!

 

Bathtub Fun on the C.O.W. Bus!

Waves in the Bathtub

A popular read on the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus is Waves in the Bathtub by Eugenie Fernandes. In this story, Kady takes her regular bath at night and sings the bathtub song about all of the ocean creatures she pretends are in the tub with her. From pelicans to large whales, Kady imagines many different creatures.

To extend this story and involve the children on another level, we have stuffed toys of all the creatures she pretends are in the bath with her. We use an inexpensive blue shower curtain as the ocean. This way each child can grab hold of the ocean by the edges and help make the waves in the bathtub for Kady.

As we progress through the story, each creature is eventually put into the ocean to swim in the waves with her. Both the children and the adults pick up the tune fairly quickly as it is catchy and repetitive.

A parent can have their own conversation with their children about what creatures they would like to pretend to swim with in the the ocean. Maybe the children are huge fans of the Ogopogo or sea horses. The song and story can be created entirely by children using their own imaginations and the props they may already have at home.

And with the mom in the book hopping into the bath at the end of the story and singing the same song, parents can create their personal version too!

Get the tune for the song from the following video, and see how we use it on the bus.

 

Why not join us for some fun on the Edmonton C.O.W. bus! Here’s our schedule

 

Permission Granted to Let Your Inner Child Out!

PlayAs adults we have so many responsibilities, from our jobs to cooking and cleaning at home to tending to the children, that we tend to focus our attention on only those things. So when it comes time to play with our kids, we are in Responsible-Adult-Mode. This limits our creativity, imagination, energy, and ability to laugh and fully engage in play with our kids. For children though, play is how they learn the best.

Play is often associated with children and to adults it can seem like wasted time. However, play is some of the most important work your children can do. Play is their full time job, and as their parents you are their best teacher. Being able to join them on their terms, and in their environment, makes their play more meaningful; the connection you build with your children during play is even stronger.

For many adults, play with their children can be awkward or hard. As we get older we have more responsibilities and less time to play. We may not have actually played for several years, or see any value in it. Other adults may feel silly singing kids songs and running around the room like animals. The thing is that by joining your children in play, by saying “come play” versus “go play,” you are opening up an entirely new world.

For me, play is also the best way to get my children to listen! I try to connect first. Observe them. What are they doing? What are they playing?

A good example is if you are trying to get your children to have lunch, and calling to them over and over is not working. Maybe your children are playing racecars and zooming around the room – how could you let your inner child out? Join in the race. Find the right opportunity to enter your car into the race, and playfully be a losing, yet competitive race car. After a few laps, when you are all laughing and tired, pretend to be the commentator and call all cars to take a pit stop and refuel. This gives you the opportunity to join your children’s play, then redirect them to the table to have lunch and refuel before heading back out on the track.

Not only have you let your inner child out and connected with them as a competing race car, but you have also enhanced their depth of play and learning. Through practice we can all get better at playing with our kids and letting our inner child out!

For more ideas on how to join your kids in play, see the following books. We have them on the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus if you’d like to take a look next time you drop by!

Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen
The Art of Roughhousing by Lawrence J. Cohen

The Edmonton C.O.W. bus schedule is here

hashtag: #edm_cow

The Edmonton Literacy C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) Bus is coming!

Edm_Bus100_1195crop

Tuesday, September 16th, was the kickoff for our fall program on the Edmonton Literacy C.O.W Bus. Back again for the 2014-2015 season, the C.O.W bus staff – Eileen, Joanne, and Maureen – are excited and ready to sing, read, and sign out books with all of the families who come for a visit when the bus stops by their neighbourhood!

For us, coming back to the Edmonton Literacy C.O.W bus ignites many cheerful feelings, like the happy feeling of back to school we once had as children. We look forward to  seeing old friends and families on the bus and welcoming new ones as well. Moms will once again hear the routine question from their little ones, “is it C.O.W bus day?”

We have kept our old traditions of giving a stamp to the children as they leave the bus and giving out prizes to families each week, at each site, for returning their borrowed books. We have some new things on the bus as well. You will find several new books such as Teach Your Buffalo to Play the Drums by Audrey Vernick, and new robot puzzles that challenge balance, gravity and your imagination!

Teach your Buffalo

Every month, whether you have been coming to the bus for years or will be coming by for the first time, there is a variety of changing things that will challenge and engage your children, at any age or stage. We hope to see you soon on the Edmonton Literacy C.O.W Bus!

Check our website for the bus schedule and more information: http://www.famlit.ca/programs_and_projects/programs/cow.shtml

Watch a video of a program on the bus: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Wmo628paVg

hashtag: #edm_cow

Edmonton C.O.W. Makes Do-it-Yourself Popsicle Puzzles!

On the Edmonton COW (Classroom on Wheels) bus, we try to create our own games and puzzles to encourage the families who visit the bus to do the same at home.

One of our newest do-it-yourself activities is to create popsicle stick puzzles. These are great because they require few supplies and are very inexpensive to make. After an internet search, I found these easy, step-by-step instructions on www.mamamiss.com

popsicle1-2

I even found a DIY Mod Podge recipe (50% white glue & 50% water) and was able to start within minutes.

Step 1: round up the supplies

Step 2: line up the popsicle sticks and tape them in place

Step 3: coat the popsicle stick picture space with a first layer of Mod Podge

Step 4: immediately add the picture and a second thin layer of Mod Podge over it

Step 5: after it dries completely, use an exacto knife to separate each stick

popsicle2

This was my first attempt.  It was not a success, but I learned that thick paper tends to curl up and is harder to cut; normal paper worked better.

image-2

I added the alphabet and numbers to make it a sequencing activity as well.

Now that I had the technique figured out, I decided to make another puzzle. For this one, I printed a photo of myself so the kids could have fun putting me back together.

popsicle4

The glue dried clear and it turned out pretty well!  I added magnets to some of them and I store them in a ziplock bag.

Some other ideas I want to try are:

  • Paint or draw a picture on the sticks instead of using a photo
  • Put several face puzzles together so the kids can mix and match the faces

I am excited about bringing the puzzles on the bus for the children to try, and I hope they will be inspired to go home and make puzzles with their families.

hashtag: #edm_cow

Who Doesn’t Love Playing with Bubble Wrap?

There is something satisfying about popping bubble after bubble of bubble wrap. Maybe it is the loud pop sound or the feel of the air being forced out; maybe even the gratification we feel as each bubble explodes from the pressure of us crushing it like a bug. Whatever it is, it is fair to say that most people enjoy popping bubble wrap.

So why stop at using bubble wrap only to protect articles while shipping? Why not make bubble wrap shoes, dip your feet in paint and run all over a canvas? I found this exciting idea “Bubble Paint Stomp Painting” on the Mess for Less website. With such simple, clear ideas and endless possibilities, it got me thinking about other fun ways we could upcycle bubble wrap.

The first thing to remember is that Pinterest is our friend! For those of you who are not familiar with Pinterest, Wikipedia describes it as a visual discovery tool that people use to collect ideas for their different projects and interests. People can create and share collections (called “boards”) of visual bookmarks (called “Pins”) that they use to do things like plan trips and projects, organize events or save articles and recipes. So all I did was type “bubble wrap” into the search feature and tons of ideas appeared!

Some of my favourite ideas are listed below!

1.  Bubble Wrap Learning
by Meaningful Mama

I love this idea because it is so simple and yet can be tailored to any age group or interest!  All you need are some small round stickers and a sharpie and you can make practicing reading or numeracy so much fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.  Advents All Wrapped Up
by Chambersmades

I am always looking for ways to take the candy features out of the holidays and I love this bubble wrap advent idea! The kids can even make the stickers that go on the bubbles and each child can have their own.

 

3.  Bubble Wrap Run
by Play Create Explore

This one is SO simple! Nothing complicated about it. Lay down some bubble wrap and just do what you do! Looks like hours of fun to me!

Oh, the endless possibilities of bubble wrap. I love that you can take as little as 2 seconds to prep the fun or 20 minutes to prep stickers or paint. Whatever your time frame you are surely able to find something fun to do with bubble wrap!