Learning to Play!

Play3

When was the last time you played? As children, we played all the time; that was our job! Unfortunately, the older we get the less we play. And even though we have children who are playing constantly, we feel that we need to assume the role of parents instead of playmates. As parents, we are our children’s first and best teachers and playmates. We are the ones they love spending time with, getting dirty with, learning with, and having fun with!

Play is the best vehicle for helping our children to learn, develop and practice an incredible number of skills:

  • Social skills – through sharing, taking turns, negotiating, leading, and compromising
  • Physical skills – by using both fine and large muscles
  • Language, literacy and numeracy skills – through having conversations, playing games and having hands-on experiences
  • Self-esteem – by demonstrating successes and abilities
  • Becoming more independent – by making their own decisions
  • Cooperating, problem solving, and working with others

Through play, children are learning about their world; they are exploring, dreaming, imagining, and creating. The best way for parents to support this learning is by simply joining in their children’s play.

  • Observe – watch how your children play. Seeing which activities are their favourites, and learning what skills they excel at and what needs work. Identifying the goals they set for themselves.
  • Engage – jump in and join them in play! Now that you have been observing their interests, try supporting them and engaging with them in what they love to do. Follow their lead!
  • Be creative – there are no right ways, or right times, for play. There are no correct ways for using toys. Everything and anything can be objects of learning and fun. Use your imagination!

As parents, we often have so many demands in a day that incorporating ourselves into play can seem challenging. Below is a list of routine family activities and ideas for bringing play into them.

Grocery Shopping:

  • Help your children create a grocery list using pictures cut out of flyers, then challenging them to find all the ingredients on their list before you complete yours.
  • Let your children do the navigating of the cart. Let them drive! This is the perfect opportunity for playing with numeracy. Support this activity by using words like: right, left, near, far, up, down, fast, slow, stop, go etc.
  • If your children are riding in the cart, together try building a tower or a castle with the items in the cart. See how tall or how wide you can build it, and how many different shapes you can use.

Preparing for dinner:

  • Play with the process of measuring, pouring, and mixing! Get messy!
  • Challenge your children to a race! Who can set the table the fastest?
  • Play a guessing game! How many plates do we need for everyone? What shape are the napkins? What colours are on the table?
  • Picnic! Turning any meal or snack into fun and play is easy when you do it picnic style. Try using your back yard, deck or living room. Planning the picnic together with your children, decide where you will go, and who you will invite. Use your imaginations; it can be a picnic on Mars!

Commuting:

  • Play “I Spy” or other games involving things you see such as colours of cars or shapes of street signs.
  • Count the number of turns you are taking.
  • What songs do they know? Try making up a new song.

Bath Time:

  • Make bath time more playful by adding coloured ice-cube icebergs to their bath water!
  • Try tossing a bunch of glow sticks in the tub and turning out the lights!

Go Outside:

  • Every single trip outside can be a playful adventure if you use your imagination.
  • Take a walk and collect ‘treasures’ along the way.
  • When you take the garbage out, count how many steps it takes to get to the curb and how many it takes to get back.
  • Find some puddles and jump in! If there are no puddles, make your own!

Children want to see their parents having fun. They want to see us being silly, laughing, and getting dirty! More than anything, our children want to share these experiences with us. As parents we focus on sharing our world with our children. Let’s start focusing on letting our children share their world with us!!

 

Visit our website for information about the 3,2,1,Fun! program.

hashtag: #321_Fun

Beat the Cold! Bring the Outdoors In with Learn Together – Grow Together!

This last month has been a snowy, blowy and cold one. However the team at Learn Together – Grow Together has found a way to beat the cold! When it is too cold for our families to go outdoors, we simply bring the outdoors in!

 

Books that we read:

  • 10 on a Sled by Kim Norman
  • All You Need for a Snowman by Alice Schertle
  • Snowballs by Lois Ehlert
  • The Mitten by Jan Brett

 

Activities we did:

  • After reading the storybook The Mitten, each family spent the afternoon creating their own storysack. Each storysack contained the characters from the story as well as a large white mitten. These storysacks provided families with a fun, unique and memorable way to read and share the story at home.
  • Using recycled newspaper and packing tape, we made a big basket full of “snowballs”. We then headed to the gymnasium for a variety of snowball throw and toss games, ending with a big group snowball fight!
  • After reading All You Need for a Snowman, we brought in a huge plastic bin of snow from outside. Then, wearing mittens, the children and their families spent the afternoon creating their own snowmen and snow castles!
  • Using plastic containers of varying sizes we froze “treasures” in water. Once frozen, we took the ice blocks out of the containers and the children spent the afternoon exploring methods to melt and chip the treasures from the ice. The children used a variety of methods including: warm water, hand held tools, salt etc. to extract their treasures. In order to keep this activity literacy based, our treasures included letters from the alphabet that corresponded with other items in the ice block. For instance, when a child extracted a letter “Y” from the ice, they would then begin to look for the items in the ice that corresponded with that letter, such as a yellow yo yo.

 

Snacks we shared:

banana-snowmen

Banana Snowmen
Ingredients: bananas, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and pretzels.

 

bear-pretzel

Pretzel Polar Bears
Ingredients: pretzel sticks, peanut butter, coconut and black icing.

 

Songs and Rhymes we shared:

I’m a Little Snowman (to the tune of I’m a Little Tea Pot)
I’m a little snowman, short and fat.
Here are my buttons and here is my hat.
When the sun comes out, I cannot play.
I just slowly melt away.

Five Little Snowmen
Five little snowmen all made of snow,
five little snowmen standing in a row.
Out came the sun and stayed all day,
and one little snowman melted away.

(count down to 0)

Zero little snowmen all made of snow,
zero little snowmen standing in a row.
Down came the snow that fell all day,
and five little snowmen came back to play.

To go along with these rhymes, our families constructed five popsicle stick snowmen and one popsicle stick sun to use while they recited the rhyme. These props were a fun activity for the families and they really brought the rhyme to life!!

With a little creativity and our families’ eager participation, Learn Together – Grow Together has succeeded in bringing the outdoors in and now you can too!!

More about the Learn Together – Grow Together program

hashtag: #LT_GT

 

Stop Just Reading Books! Start Living Books!

321Fun

Every child has a favourite book, a story that they want read to them over and over again. For parents, this can become quite boring. At 3,2,1, Fun! we have spent the last few weeks showing families how to stop just reading books and how to start living books. To support families in increasing their children’s learning, we have been sharing ideas and activities to extend a simple story book.

Children choose their favourite books or stories for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they love the drawings, or maybe they can relate to the characters in the story. Once children have chosen their favourite books, it is only a matter of time before they begin to learn the words and predict the events. Before you know it, they can recite the story from start to finish! When this happens, it does not mean they have become bored with the story, though the parents may have. It simply means we need to take the book to the next level. Let me show you how to bring your children’s favourite books to life!

 

Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

Go Fishing!

You don’t need a boat or even a lake to take your children fishing. Fill the bathtub or a plastic bucket with water. Attach paper clips to some plastic fish and drop them in the water. Use a wooden dowel with string and a magnet as the fishing rod. You can challenge your children to count each fish they catch or to only catch certain colours or shapes. The possibilities are endless and the fun is guaranteed!

Make your own Rainbow Fish

Using paper plates and any other craft or recyclable materials you have around the house, your children can create their own Rainbow Fish or fish aquarium. They can explore shapes, sizes, and patterns as they create. Use the finished craft as a prop the next time you read the book.

Snack

Place a handful of Gold Fish crackers at the bottom of a small bowl. Using a short piece of stringy liquorice, tie a gummy worm to the end of a pretzel stick. Voila!! You have an edible fishing snack for your children.

Sing!

“1, 2, 3, 4, 5 once I caught a fish alive,
6, 7, 8, 9, 10 then I threw him back again.
Why did you let him go?
Because he bit my finger so!
Which finger did he bite?
The little finger on my right!”

 

Going on a Bear Hunt by M. Rosen

We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we’ll have to go through it!

Course

Build an obstacle course in your living room, basement, or back yard using furniture, cardboard boxes, etc. Have your children go through the obstacle course in a pattern of their choosing. They can explore going over, under, and through. Not only is this a fun activity for your children, but they will be working on their patterning and predicting skills at the same time.

Go on a Bear Hunt!

Create a scavenger hunt for your children. If you really want to get creative, you can even craft a treasure map for them to follow.

Snack

To reinforce the theme of patterns you can cut up a variety of fruits and cheeses and have your children create their own snack pattern on a skewer, or on an edible necklace made with a long piece of stringy liquorice and fruit loops.

 

The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins

Bake Cookies

Following a recipe and baking allow your children to work on a wide variety of numeracy and literacy skills while having fun. Once you are finished baking you can read the story and split the fresh baked cookies among family and friends!

Sing

“Way up high in a cookie tree,
two little cookies smiles at me.
So I shook that tree as hard as I could,
down came the cookies!
MMMMMMM they were good!”

These are just a few ideas on how you can turn a simple story into an adventure full of fun and learning for your children. By choosing to live your children’s favourite story books you are not only bringing to life their literary world, but you are providing them the opportunity to learn through their experiences. These learning opportunities will shape them for years to come and will surely build your family’s legacy of learning.

Visit our website for more information about the 3,2,1,FUN! program.

hashtag: #321_Fun

Merry Christmas from Learn Together – Grow Together

Christmas-dad-kids-baking

With Christmas right around the corner, the team at Learn Together, Grow Together wanted to emphasize family literacy opportunities through the holiday season. Our focus was on identifying everyday occasions to learn while participating in holiday activities. These were some of the ideas shared by our program families.

–   Sharing a children’s book. Some of our family’s favourites were:

  • Pete the Cat Saves Christmas – Eric Litwin
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas – Dr. Seuss
  • Santa’s Noisy Night – Julie Sykes and Tim Warnes
  • A Porcupine in a Pine Tree: A Canadian 12 Days of Christmas – Helaine Becker and Werner Zimmerman
  • The Penguin who Wanted to be Different: A Christmas Wish – Maria O’Neill

–   Singing together as a family. Some of our family’s favourites were:

  • Jingle Bells
  • Frosty the Snowman
  • Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer
  • Deck the Halls

–   Cooking and baking together for family and friends. Some of the favourite recipes shared were:

  • Gingerbread
  • Sugar Cookies
  • Egg Nog
  • Spicy cheese ball

–   Spending time with family. Some of the favourite holiday activities were:

  • Writing letters to Santa
  • Tobogganing
  • Decorating the house
  • Building a snowman

As you can see from our list, there are many opportunities for you and your children to foster literacy during the holidays when activities are done together as a family. Have fun creating holiday memories this season!

More about Learn Together, Grow Together

hashtag: #LT_GT

Intergenerational Rhymes that Bind

RTB-IntergenWhen an old person dies a whole library disappears.”
– African proverb

Rhymes that Bind is an oral family literacy program that parents and their children attend together. It encourages parents to sing, rhyme, talk, and play with their children as much as possible.

For centuries, adults have been using rhymes, songs, and stories to entertain, teach, and relay news to others. Many years ago, children grew up immersed in this oral tradition. Unfortunately, this oral practice has become lost due to smaller family units and a lack of nearby extended family.

Rhymes that Bind is a program with the ability to fill this gap by reconnecting families to this wonderful oral tradition, particularly through our Intergenerational Rhymes that Bind programs.

Through valuable partnerships, the Centre for Family Literacy facilitates several Intergenerational Rhymes that Bind programs in Edmonton. These programs are facilitated in senior living communities and the residents are welcome and encouraged to attend and participate. Many parents choose to attend our intergenerational sites because they do not have grandparents or extended family living nearby, and fostering these generational relationships is very important to them.

When attending one of our Intergenerational Rhymes that Bind programs, you are immediately overcome with a strong sense of community and family. Bringing together three generations creates a wonderfully unique environment.

  • Watch as the parents walk with their children around the room to visit each senior in attendance.
  • See welcoming smiles and warm embraces.
  • Hear the children squeal in delight as they recognize the grandmas and grandpas from last week.
  • Feel an overwhelming sense of respect, gratitude, and adoration.

Each generation is involved in our programming and participates as much or as little as they like. We sing songs and rhymes that the parents and children love, and those that are shared by our seniors. Some of our favourites are:

  • You Are My Sunshine
  • I’ve Been Working on the Railroad
  • Oh Susanna
  • Billy Boy

On many occasions, one of our seniors in attendance will share a song that sparks a memory in one of our parents, and I’ll hear, “I haven’t heard that song since I was a kid. My parents used to sing that to me!” Instantly, this parent has been reconnected with a memory from their past and you can trust that this is now a song they will sing to their children. In that very moment, a tradition lives on.

We will have new sessions beginning in January. Please check our website for the new schedule – coming soon!

 

hashtag: #RTB_Edm

 

3,2,1,FUN!

Let’s Make the Holidays COUNT!

holiday_baking

Holidays are a busy time for many families; there is so much to do! You might want to clean and decorate the house, plan and prepare the meal, and entertain guests. You might also travel to spend time with family. While the holidays are full of opportunities to share time and traditions with family and friends, they are also the perfect time to explore and encourage numeracy with your children.

For example, this Thanksgiving 3,2,1, Fun! focused on providing easy, meaningful and everyday ways to work on numeracy skills in the home and community over the holidays. We used inexpensive materials to create paper bag turkeys and numbered them 1-10. We used yellow beads for corn feed and glued feathers on clothes pins. Then each child picked a paper bag turkey and used the number on the front of the turkey to determine how many pieces of corn to feed their turkey and how many tail feathers to clip on. As each child built their turkeys 1-10, we sang about 5 fat turkeys as they gobbled and waddled their way through Thanksgiving!

(Sung to the tune of Frere Jacques. Count down from 5-1)

Five fat turkeys, five fat turkeys
In a barn, in a barn
Gobble, gobble, gobble
Waddle, waddle, waddle
Run away, it’s Thanksgiving Day

Holiday preparations and celebrations offer many opportunities to learn together as a family. Here are a few of the activities we share in 3,2,1, Fun! to encourage numeracy skills:

Planning and Preparing the Meal

  • Let your child look through the grocery store flyer and circle all of the holiday foods they see, cut them out and sort them into food groups.
  • Ask your child to help you number or sort the items while creating your shopping list.
  • Baking and cooking are wonderful occasions to work on numeracy. Recipes are full of opportunities for children to measure, count, order, and sort. When serving the meal, ask your children to help you carve the turkey or cut the pie. Talk to them about how many pieces of pie or turkey you will need for the number of guests you have. Ask them to help set the table. How many forks and napkins will we need?

Decorate the House

  • Create decorations from seasonal items outside. Instead of raking all those leaves and acorns, have your children collect some. They can create wonderful decorations from these items and in the process they will be identifying shapes, sorting, and creating patterns.

Travel

  • If you are travelling for the holiday, travel games will make the time fly by. Count the number of trucks/cars/bikes that you see, guess which colour of automobile you will see the most of on your trip or identify the shapes of traffic signs as you drive by them.
  • Sing a song!

The holidays are busy and hectic, fun and exciting, but above all else they are memorable. Have fun and be creative because the opportunities to learn as a family and explore numeracy will be COUNTLESS!

hashtag: #321_Fun