Get Moooving and Learning!

Child-Play

You may have read the recent article in the Edmonton Journal about the effects of electronic devices on early childhood development. The conclusion was that time spent in front of screens doesn’t really help the brain development of preschoolers, and that screen time can be offset with physical activity.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there are 80,000+ apps labelled as “educational”. Unfortunately, just because something has been labelled as such, doesn’t make it so. Brain connections are built on a foundation of “serve and return”—healthy interaction that goes both ways. Most screen time is passive not active, and involves listening or one-way interaction with a screen.

Some products say they are “interactive,” but as the AAP points out, in order to be truly interactive there needs to be more than “pushing and swiping.” They recommend Common Sense Media to help you decide what’s appropriate.

So, what’s the number one source for physical activity? Interactive play! This gets kids moving, engaging all areas of the brain while increasing blood flow, making learning easier —not to mention fun!

Here are some ideas:

  • Go on a nature walk and scavenger hunt. Put together a list of treasures found in nature, using words and pictures for your checklist. Take pictures and write a story about your scavenger hunt for a scrapbook!
  • Do some gardening together; it’s a fun and multi-sensory way to work on numeracy and literacy skills. Kids can help with counting rows and seeds.
  • Go on a treasure hunt for familiar words using environmental print like magazines, food labels and flyers. Collecting is fun, and this will motivate them to learn new words. Clip out the words and collect them in a newly decorated box!
  • Play with sidewalk chalk. Write letters, numbers or shapes in chalk for your child to run to or jump on when called out. If you’re using numbers, you could try simple addition: One! (Jump to the 1), plus three! (Jump to the 3), equals four! (Jump to the 4).
  • Dig for the alphabet, numbers or sight words. You will need an orange sponge or foam (like a pool noodle or dish sponge), and ribbon for the vegetable tops. Slice the foam into pieces and write letters, numbers or words on them with a marker. “Plant” them in the soil. After digging in your garden, you can even pair the activity with a book about food. On the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus, we like “Rah, Rah, Radishes!” by April Pulley Sayre.

Rah, rah, radishes, red and white!
Carrots are calling. Take a bite!
Oh boy, bok choy, brussels sprout.
Broccoli! Cauliflower! Shout it out!”

  • A great way to incorporate digital technology in an interactive way is to go on a photo hunt for colours. Go for a walk with your smart phone and as you walk, have your child find a colour. Then you can help them take a picture of the item with your phone.

Sound Collection

  • Collect sounds together. Make a checklist for commonly heard sounds and leave a blank space to check off with stickers. Examples of sounds you can search for are: barking dogs, meowing cats, sirens, singing birds, cars honking, or people talking.
  • Make an outdoor obstacle course using whatever you can find around the yard. You might try tires, playground equipment, safety cones, jump rope, beach balls, hopscotch or a broom for limbo. The possibilities are endless!

While we don’t want to rule out all digital fun for kids, it is important to remember the research: physical movement and one-on-one time with parents or caregivers is what feeds our brain and develops oral language. So go play!

Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus information and schedule

Alberta Prairie C.O.W. newsletters (with more crafts to do with your children)

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Search and Find Activities – More Than Just Fun and Games

Hidden-object

Search and find activities are good for children because they help to build vocabulary, and they develop cognitive skills such as the ability to search and locate. There are many books on the market that fall into this category, such as the I Spy series or Where’s Waldo?, but you can also create your own custom search and find game or book. They are easy to make and take very little in terms of supplies.

We have a few examples of how to make your own on the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus. Why not try one of these?

I Spy bottle

You’ll need:

  • empty pop bottle
  • rice, sand or couscous
  • reliable glue
  • small objects found around the house or yard such as figurines/toys, game pieces, feathers, and other odds and ends that can fit through a bottle top

This can also be a good way to explore items that might not otherwise be safe to handle, such as tacks and other sharp objects. Be sure to use hot glue, or something similar, to effectively seal the cap onto the bottle in order to avoid spills and choking hazards.

Keep a list of what’s inside, and play a game of “I Spy” with your child. You can focus on colours, (I spy something that is green), or numbers (I spy four marbles, or something with eight legs), or anything else you like (I spy something that goes “ribbit”).

Use this opportunity to talk about the object. (How do you think this marble feels? Is it smooth or rough? What shape is the marble? Is it round or flat? What could this object be used for? Have you ever seen a bird with feathers like this one?)

Homemade Search and Find Book

You’ll need:

  • Colouring book
  • Markers or pencil crayons
  • Three-hole punch
  • Binder, Duo-Tang or three key rings
  • Packing tape, transparent –self-adhesive paper or lamination

You can use a sheet from any colouring book that has some detail. Colour it in and then write a list of objects to find in the picture. Make several of these pages and seal them with self-adhesive paper, packing tape or lamination. Three-hole punch them and bind in a binder, a Duo-tang, or use three key rings.

Another option is to find objects in your house or yard that would be fun to see in a search and find book, (grapes, marbles, lego, dice etc.), and spread them out on the floor, so they are crowded but still visible. Snap some photos and either print them letter size from a computer or head to your local photo lab and print them 8 x 10″. You can then seal them by the same method as above, three-hole punch and bind. Make a list of the items and there you have it: your very own real-to-your-life hidden-object book!

 

Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus information and schedule

Alberta Prairie C.O.W. newsletters (with more crafts to do with your children)

hashtag: #ab_cow

 

The Many Benefits of Crafts

iStock_000008336394XLargeDoing a craft together is a great way to build the skills needed for future lifelong learning, such as thinking skills, working together and continuous learning.

Crafts incorporate different learning styles, and are hands-on activities that build fine motor skills. By giving your child a project  that can be worked on together until completion, you are also working on setting goals and building confidence and self-esteem.

On the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus, we have a variety of simple crafts you can do at home – all geared towards early learning and literacy.

One such craft is a do-it-yourself playmat. Try it in conjunction with your child’s favourite book. One of our favourite children’s books is I Went Walking, by Sue Williams and Julie Vivas, and it goes especially well with this project. This book is about a little boy who goes on a walk and sees many different animals along the way. It is simple, repetitive, rhyming and entertaining,

I went walking.
What did you see?
I saw a black cat
Looking at me.

The following is just an example of what you can do. Tailor it to your own child’s interests. You might even want to make up your own story to go with your mat!

When the playmat is finished, you can use it with toys you already have at home.

Craft1

You will need:

•  Plain cloth placemat or
other material such as pillowcase or tablecloth (the possibilities are endless)
•  Felt of various colours
•  Hot glue or fabric glue
•  Scissors
•  Paper and pencil for sketching

Optional:
Foam or felt letters to spell the title

Directions:

  1. Sketch out the setting on a piece of paper
  2. Cut out your felt pieces that go with the story
  3. Glue felt pieces onto placemat, then cut out and glue a path winding its way through the setting.
  4. Decorate with more felt as desired.

Craft2

Optional:

Draw, trace or print out play pieces from the story, then colour, cut and laminate (or use packing tape or contact paper). You might want to add Velcro to the backs of these pieces so they stick to the felt on the play-mat.

You want this to be a positive experience, so try to start simple. Don’t stress; have fun instead!

 

Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus information and schedule

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Have Fun and Build Brains Using “Serve and Return”

More brain connections form in the first six years of life than at any other time, and the more you use these connections the stronger they get. Brain connections are built on a foundation of “serve and return” interactions. Serve and return refers to give-and-take —healthy interaction that goes both ways. For example, if your baby “serves” by smiling at you, you “return” by smiling back. By doing this, you are showing baby that you understand them and they matter; you are giving them the feedback they need to learn.

TheBigAnimalMix-upReading a story together is a great example of a serve and return activity, and many have an interactive nature built right into them. On the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus we love The Big Animal Mix-up, a lift-the-flap book by Gareth Edwards and Kanako Usui. It has bright pictures, humour, and a lot of rhythm and rhyme. In the story, Little Bear’s dad tries to teach him about animals: “Hello Little Bear, here’s a story for you, that’s all about animals and what they can do.” Only as the title suggests, they’re all mixed up! He has snakes mixed up with birds, and mice mixed up with whales, now Little Bear (and your child) have to set the record straight.

Here is a bird. It slithers around. And slides through the jungle with a soft hissing sound.”

“Hang on a minute! You made a mistake. If it hisses and slithers it must be a..… [open flap] SNAKE!”

We never tire of this book, but remember that any book can be made interactive by talking about the pictures, having the child help you with the story, asking open-ended questions, and relating the story to real life.

Building brain connections through serve and return has a big impact on the rest of a child’s life, providing the solid foundation needed for language and emotional health. But don’t forget to have fun while doing it!

Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus information and schedule

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Scrapbooking Your Way to Essential Skills

What was the last thing you read? Maybe it was a road sign to find your way, or the label on a prescription bottle. When did you last use a computer and why? Was it to update your FaceBook status or to fill out an online insurance claim? What could you learn that would make your life easier, or more interesting? Maybe it’s another language, social media, or how to drive.

Reading, computer use, and continuous learning are just a few of the basic skills needed in our daily lives and we don’t often think about them. They’re called the 9 Essential Skills and they include:

  1. Reading
  2. Document use
  3. Writing
  4. Numeracy
  5. Oral Communication
  6. Thinking Skills
  7. Working with Others
  8. Digital Technology
  9. Continuous Learning

These skills are seen as “building blocks” because they are the starting point for all future learning. These “starter skills” are needed whether we are baking a cake at home or balancing a budget at work, so it’s easy to see how important it is to develop them in our children, and for adults to keep them fresh. One way adults can do this is by incorporating family literacy activities into the daily lives of their families.

Making a scrapbook is a great way for the whole family to target those essential skills. On the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus, we have a very simple example of a scrapbook. There are many different types, and they can be as simple or as elaborate as you want. This activity potentially uses all 9 essential skills, so periodically take time to review your creation and talk about what you have learned.

A scrapbook is fun for kids to work on. They love to see themselves in pictures and hear their own stories. The finished product is a great learning tool for the kids, and what you put in the scrapbook can be a record of your other family literacy activities.

Materials Needed:

  • Small photo album
  • Family photos
  • Flash cards
  • Pens
  • Stickers for decoration

Directions:

Choose photos (eg. family vacation). Insert into a sleeve.

ScrapbookOn a flashcard, write a simple sentence that corresponds with the photo. Insert it into the opposing sleeve.

Create a book cover using another flashcard. Insert into front sleeve.

Try letting them narrate their own story while you act as the scribe. If you make new books each week, month or year, you will see how their skills progress over time.

Scrapbook2Why not share a learning activity with your family today? Don’t forget to snap some photos, or keep souvenirs, for your scrapbook!

Learn more about Essential Skills here

Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus information and schedule

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Parent Literacy Workshops in Your Community

COW-workshopThe Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus is known to travel around the province, taking part in planned events in communities as a way of promoting family literacy. But did you know that, at the invitation of our community partners, the Classroom On Wheels facilitators also hold indoor workshops for parents and caregivers?

The workshops are held in a welcoming space other than the bus, last about an hour and a half, and are for adults only. We require that the hosting organization supply childcare so that parents and caregivers can fully participate.

At these workshops we discuss a variety of early literacy topics:

  • What is family literacy and why is it important
  • How early literacy leads to the essential skills we use in everyday life
  • Building literacy with reading, telling stories, singing, sharing rhymes and playing games
  • Simple, inexpensive ideas for activities that can be made at home
  • How to incorporate literacy into everyday life
  • How to choose quality books; book safety
  • Using crafts to extend your rhymes and stories. If there’s time, we will even break into groups for some hands-on practice
  • Everyone will take home a list of rhymes to enjoy

At the end of the workshop, attendees will also take home a quality children’s book of their choosing.

To arrange a Parent Workshop for your organization, please contact our Classroom on Wheels Coordinator by calling the Centre for Family Literacy at 780.421.7323.

Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus information and schedule

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Did You Know Some Children’s Books Can Be Dangerous?

iStock_000001779642MediumWeb

A visit by the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus is not the only service offered by our program. At each visit, a Legacy Library containing approximately 50 books is presented to our community partners. The Legacy Library is a mix of books for preschool children, with an emphasis on Canadian authors and a portion of Aboriginal stories.

Each year, the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus leaves over 5,000 books in communities across Alberta. In addition to all the other criteria for choosing quality children’s books, safety is an important consideration. Since books are not classified as toys, they don’t have the same safety regulations. Following are some hazards we watch out for:

  • Books for babies and toddlers might have choking hazards. Books for young children are made to be so entertaining that sometimes the safety of its pieces is not considered in the design. Any pieces small enough to fit through a paper towel tube are a choking hazard. These pieces are usually fastened to the page with glue that may be toxic, so it’s doubly important to ensure they are securely stuck to the page. Always monitor the child closely if playing with a book of this design.
  • Some books might have lower quality binding and pages. If you can easily pull apart a book at the seams, or take apart the layers of cardboard in a board book page with your fingernails, so can babies.
  • Some books that teach textures will have a fuzzy fabric attached, often on the cover. Don’t be afraid to pinch at the fuzzy material to ensure that it won’t come off and present a hazard, as is often the case.
  • Bath books can be a fun way to introduce reading to a child, but they are often filled with toxic materials. Before each use, check them over for any punctures or tears. If there are any, throw the book away. Repairs might not hold, and the chemicals from any glue or tape used could also be toxic or pose a choking hazard.
  • When buying, consider how easily the book can be cleaned. Books can become very grimy, and little ones want to chew on the books more than anything else. If you can’t clean the book, not only can it grow bacteria but also toxic mould.
  • One more thing to consider is the edges of the book. Are they sharp, or nicely rounded? If the edges are sharp, babies can cut their gums.

Shopping for books with safety in mind may seem a little daunting, but it’s worth the extra time. If you happen to have some books in the house that don’t pass the test, there is no need to throw them out—unless they’re toxic—just be sure to keep them out of the hands of your little ones.

Learn about book safety and more by attending one of our parent workshops, another service we provide. The C.O.W. Bus facilitators will discuss a variety of early literacy topics. If you would like to arrange a C.O.W. Bus visit to your Alberta community, please call the Centre for Family Literacy at 780.421.7323.

2014 C.O.W. Bus schedule 2015 schedule coming soon!

Make a donation to the Legacy Library

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