Meaningful Mess

Child PaintingSpring. Get ready for puddles, mud, and messes! Thinking of a nice, clean house getting covered in puddles and grit, and having to start cleaning all over again sends shivers down my spine. And what about the extra time it will take to bathe the kids and clean their clothes and shoes, with all the other errands we need to run. Just remember, it really is worth it!

As adults, we often forget the joys of playing in dirt and mud or just getting messy; of throwing away paint brushes and getting our hands dirty instead; of changing out of our good shoes and clothes and exploring without the concern of staying clean. We forget that the learning that happens during this kind of play outweighs the need to keep things tidy and orderly.

Children are messy by nature. It is critical to children’s development to be allowed to explore, and interact with, their world. Sometimes this means that we, as parents, need to take a deep breath and say “sure, you can play in the mud!” By allowing our children to get messy, we are fostering growth in all areas of their development. Messy play encompasses, but is not limited to:

  • Physical development: hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills
  • Emotional and social development: self-confidence and self-esteem, respect for themselves and others; can be an outlet for feelings, experiences, and thoughts
  • Intellectual development: problem solving, concentration, planning, grouping, matching, prediction, observation, and evaluation

Spring is the perfect time to allow our children to be messy while exploring the outside world. The weather is warming up, snow is melting, and all sorts of new life is happening. Being messy doesn’t mean allowing our children to run wild though. It is important that they are still dressed appropriately for outside weather, and monitored and guided through safe play. Here is a list of activities to do outside the house:

  • Playing in puddles: allow your children to explore puddles in the spring. See how high they can make the water splash as they jump in it. Can they make a boat that floats or float other objects in the puddle?
  • Mud pies: exploring mud is a great way to get creativity going. What can we create with the mud (castles, pies, pretend food)? What objects can we add to the mud (i.e. rocks, twigs, leaves, etc.)? What happens if we add more water? If we add more dirt?
  • Sidewalk chalk paint: take your cornstarch and water mixture outside! Add a few drops of food colouring and you have sidewalk chalk; the best part is no paint in the house!

Messy play isn’t only for outside, and can be done any time of year inside. Below is a list of fun, educational, and most importantly, messy activities to do inside with your children:

  • Shaving cream dough: try hand mixing equal parts of shaving cream and cornstarch together to make dough. Keep mixing, as it can take a while for the cornstarch to mix with the shaving cream
  • Cornstarch and water: see what happens when you mix cornstarch and water. This activity is a great way to explore ratios (how much of each ingredient to mix) and textures, and learn problem solving skills
  • Finger painting: learn all about colours and how to mix and match new ones, develop fine motor skills, language, and thinking skills

Remember that it is important for you to be messy too. Don’t forget to join in the fun and get your hands dirty! We, as adults, might be surprised by how much we can still learn from messy play, and there is nothing better than creating memories with your children.  They will remember the fun you all had long after you forget how messy everything was.

If you would like to learn more about your children’s early learning and how to support literacy development, you might enjoy one of our family literacy programs. Visit the Centre for Family Literacy website for more information.

Recognizing and Learning Emotions

EmotionsHave you ever had one of those days? The day that never ends, when everything that could go wrong, does? As adults, we’ve learnt strategies and techniques to deal with tough situations. We’ve learnt to recognize that we have reached our limits of sanity and that we need to take five minutes to regroup and calm down. How did we learn those strategies? How did we learn to recognize when we’d had enough? How do we teach our children to recognize those signs in themselves?

Social and emotional development is a huge part of literacy development. Have you ever tried teaching a child something when they were feeling frustrated, cranky, or tired? Have you ever tried to learn something when you were feeling frustrated, cranky, or tired? We all need a safe and comforting environment to be able to develop and learn skills. Children especially need to feel acceptance, patience, and guidance from adults in order to develop literacy skills.

Recognizing facial movements is one of the first things children learn as babies. Babies are extremely responsive to the social and emotional interactions that surround them in the world. When adults interact positively with children, children respond positively—making eye contact, making noises, and pointing to objects. When parents disengage from children and don’t show any emotion to the children’s behaviours, babies become uncomfortable and react with negative emotion—turning away, crying, and avoiding eye contact.

When children are feeling overwhelmed by emotions, it is important for parents to try to talk to their children about why they are feeling that way. The adults should ask questions to find out what made the little one feel that way, and what the adults can do to help make the little one feel better. It is also important to give everyone time to calm down before talking about what made the situation so upsetting in the first place.

It is important to teach your children to self-soothe—remember to talk to your children about ways they can help themselves calm down. A few ways to self-soothe are:

  • sing a lullaby
  • read a book
  • take a couple of deep breaths
  • count to ten

A great way to help your children recognize their emotions, and yours, is to show them pictures of how people look when they are experiencing different emotions. In our Learn Together – Grow Together program, we take pictures of the children and the parents expressing emotions, such as happiness, sadness, frustration, and anger. The families then make a picture chart and label each emotion.

This helps children learn what each emotion is, and how it is expressed. It also helps the parents and children learn the social cues that each other give off when they have reached their emotional limits.

Microsoft Word - Recognizing Emotions.docx

There are also a lot of good children’s books about emotions and how to talk about them and/or give strategies to deal with them. Here are a few:

My Many Coloured Days  by Dr. Suess
Go Away Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley
Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard

If you would like more information about the Edmonton Learn Together – Grow Together program, please check the Centre for Family Literacy website: http://www.famlit.ca/programs_and_projects/programs/learn-GT.shtml

Numbers are Literacy Too!

Mother and daughter in kitchen making a salad smiling

Numbers are everywhere. They can be the first and last thing we see every day. From clocks and phones to money and preparing meals—they are a part of our everyday lives.  Yet a lot of adults lack confidence in teaching their children numeracy skills. We talk about the importance of reading and writing all the time, but not about numeracy. In fact, when we hear the term literacy, most adults think of reading and writing, though literacy is so much more. Literacy is a part of everything we do—from answering a text, to driving, to going to the grocery store—it surrounds us from the moment we wake to the moment we go to sleep. So why are we so afraid to talk about numbers?

Teaching children about numeracy doesn’t have to be scary. You can start talking about numeracy with babies. Scaffolding language—adding descriptive words when naming objects, is a great way to bring numeracy to your children. Colours, shapes, and amounts are all early numeracy vocabulary. Whether you are talking about the round red ball or the striped socks, the two green triangles or the three orange cats—you are teaching your children about numeracy. You are creating the foundation for matching, sorting, and grouping—numeracy skills we use throughout our daily lives.

Almost any activity you do with your children can incorporate numeracy. We often forget that our day-to-day activities are filled with great opportunities to include our children and show them what we are doing. In this way, we are teaching them the skills they will need throughout their lives to solve problems and become quick thinkers.

2 Easy Ways to Include Numeracy in Your Day:

  1. Include your children in preparing meals—cooking and baking are filled with opportunities to teach numeracy. Ask them how many plates or spoons you need for everyone, talk about the amounts of each ingredient needed, and get your children to help adding them and mixing. Cooking is also helpful in teaching about sequencing, following directions, and problem solving. For example, if you skip a step in the directions, what will happen? How do we fix it? Can we fix it?
  2. When reading books, try asking your children about the pictures; for example, can they find the red balloon? How many puppies are there on the page? Talking about the pictures and what is happening in the story will also help children comprehend the story better—remembering more of the details and what the story was actually about.

For more ideas on engaging activities that are numeracy based, you can visit our 3,2,1,Fun! program or try our Flit app, available on both Google Play and the App Store.

For more information and the schedule for 3,2,1,Fun!, please visit the Centre for Family Literacy website: www.famlit.ca


Click here to download the free iOS version of the Flit app.

Click here to download the free Android version.

Watch the app demo:

 

How to Teach your Kids About Time

clock

What time is it? Ten days until your birthday. Five more minutes. We hear these kinds of phrases every day. But what do they actually mean, especially to children? Time plays a huge role in our daily lives and we expect our children to understand what time is and how we represent it—without us ever thinking about it or explaining what time means.

The only memory I have of learning to represent time and read a clock is a brief unit in Grade 2. I can remember struggling to learn the difference between the three hands and adding two “times” together, all while trying to understand what time represents. And when it was done, we were expected to have mastered time.

Skip 25 years into the future and we’re surrounded by digital clocks, smart phones, and computers. Who wears a watch anymore, or has a clock in their house that’s not digital? Who has a calendar hanging in their house? All these changes and advances in technology can hinder children’s understanding of time.

It doesn’t help that we say things like “5 more minutes” and 5 minutes turns into 20 before we realize it. Or when an actual 5 minutes feels like an hour—especially when we are in trouble. What about when we’re having fun and 5 minutes feels like 30 seconds?

Five minutes will always be 5 minutes on a clock. Young children learn best by having hands-on, tangible objects to visualize and manipulate, and learning about the concept of time is no different. Having egg timers and non-digital clocks around allows children to see the passing of time and get an actual sense of time.

Helping your children understand what time means and how to read a clock doesn’t have to be scary. An easy way to begin teaching your children about time is to start with recognizing the numbers on a clock and the order they go in. Talk about the different hands on a clock and what each one means and does. Show them an egg timer and how it works. When you set a time limit, set the egg timer, or show your children on a clock what the end time is. For example, if you say 5 more minutes, show your children where the big hand will be in 5 minutes.

When talking about days and weeks, it can be even harder for children to understand the passing of time. Having a calendar in your house can be a fantastic way to show time passing. If you are counting down the days to an event, your children can cross out each day on the calendar in the morning after breakfast or in the evening before bedtime, and see the number of days remaining becoming less and less.

Below is a fun countdown calendar that families made in our 3,2,1, Fun! program. You can make this calendar for any activity—Christmas countdown, birthday countdowns, special event countdowns, etc.

clock-craft

Materials:

Paper plate
Paint, Markers, Crayons, Bingo Dabbers, etc.
Clothes Pins (31)
Paper
Scissors
Glue

Instructions:

  • Get your child to paint the paper plate. You can gear it toward a specific event or just general use. Our calendar examples are a birthday countdown and a countdown to Christmas
  • While the paper plate dries, draw and cut out fun designs for your clothes pins. Once they are finished, number the pins from 1 – 31 (or however many pins you use)
  • Glue the designs onto the ends of the clothes pins and clip the clothes pins around the edge of the plate
  • Remove a pin each day, so you can see and keep track of the days left until your event or the end of the month

*** If you have younger children, you can place the pins in correct number order. For older children you can mix up the numbers (like an advent calendar).

To learn more about the 3,2,1, Fun! program, go to the Centre for Family Literacy website

 

Thanksgiving Fun for All

thanksWith Thanksgiving right around the corner, most families are gearing up for a weekend of controlled chaos. At one time or another, we have all felt panic from the overwhelming task list that comes with holiday gatherings. It can be difficult to manage making dinner, entertaining family and friends, and spending quality time with the children in our lives—all in a span of 24 hours. Unfortunately, the thing that usually gets dropped from our to-do list is quality time with our children.

However that is the most important item on the list. Spending time with our children, and engaging them in the holiday prep, helps give them the tools and skills they need to time manage in the future. Learning to make decisions about what is needed, and just enjoying time with family are also benefits.

In 3, 2, 1 Fun, we talk with the parents and caregivers about all the different learning opportunities that are available throughout the holidays, and encourage them to include children in the holiday preparations.

Here are a few fun ways to engage your children this Thanksgiving:

Cooking Dinner Together:

Getting your children to help make dinner is a great way to spend quality time with them while teaching them invaluable lifelong skills. Simple tasks like measuring and mixing ingredients allows children to practice fine motor skills, while including math concepts such as numbers, counting, and measuring ingredients.

Making Name Tags / Place Mats / Table Decorations:

Ask your children to help you create seating charts, nametags, and table decorations. This will help them to practice their problem-solving skills, writing skills, fine motor skills, and creativity.

Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt

Go for a walk together and collect leaves, pinecones, sticks, and berries. You can use these to create a beautiful centerpiece for your table. Talk and ask questions about what you see on the walk to incorporate oral language skills, patterns, and imagination.

These are just a few ways to spend quality time with your children over the holidays. If you would like to expand on these ideas, books and rhymes are a great way to have fun while including more early literacy! Some of our book and rhyme recommendations are:

Books:

  • Dragons Loves Tacos by Adam Rubin
  • Cook it Together by Annabel Karmel
  • Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson
  • Listen, Listen by Phillis Gershator

Rhymes:

Turkey Polka

The Turkeys like to polka,
They polka everyday.
They polka when they work,
And they polka when they play.
Waddle, waddle, waddle, that’s how they go
Waddle, waddle, waddle, putting on a show!

5 Little Ducks

(This is a great rhyme to use when talking about the ducks and geese leaving for the fall)

5 little ducks went out one day,
Over the hills and far away,
Mama duck said, “Quack, quack, quack, quack,
But only 4 little ducks came back.

(repeat with 4, 3, 2, 1)

No little ducks went out one day,
Over the hills and far away,
Sad Mama duck said, “Quack, quack, quack, quack”
And all 5 little ducks came running back.

To learn more about the 3, 2, 1, Fun! program in Edmonton, go to the Centre for Family Literacy website

 

 

How to Choose Quality Children’s Books

Did you ever wonder how the Alberta Prairie (AB) C.O.W. Bus staff choose the books we give as a Legacy Library to every community we visit? Well, here is your chance to find out! Our shelves are stocked with a new selection of books to give to our partner communities this year.

Each Legacy Library consists of 50 different books – 15 hardcovers, 15 paperbacks, 15 board books, and five others that might include flashcards, a CD, or any other format of books we think families will enjoy. Last year we gave away 4350 books, so you can imagine how much time is spent choosing the books that we use in the AB C.O.W. program.

Choosing good quality children’s books can be difficult as there are no guidelines for what can be published as a children’s book. Not all books are appropriate for all children. At the Centre for Family Literacy, we try to keep three things in mind when we are considering the purchase of a new title. These tips are very helpful, especially when buying multicultural books because we may not be familiar with all aspects of different cultures.

1)   Is the book truthful and respectful?
2)   Would this book hurt or embarrass anyone?
3)   Does this book perpetuate a stereotype?

To help us choose good quality books that are age-appropriate, we keep in mind the following:

1)   How realistic are the pictures in board books?
2)   How wordy are the picture books?
3)   How well are the books are made?

When we see a new book from a familiar author, we generally know if the book will be a good fit for our program. A great example of this is Hervé Tullet’s newest book, Mix it Up! His previous book, Press Here, is a favourite of many of our facilitators and we knew that Mix it Up! wouldn’t disappoint us. Parents and children can explore the wonder of colours in a new, fun, interactive way.

Some of our favourite books that you can expect to see in the AB C.O.W. Legacy Libraries this year, from January to June, are:

1)   Mix it Up! by Hervé Tullet
2)   Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear? by Martin Waddell
3)   Duck & Goose: It’s Time for Christmas! by Tad Hills
4)   The Very Best Daddy of All by Marion Dane Bauer
5)   Boy + Bot by Amy Dyckman

MixItUp Can't You Sleep? DuckGoose BestDaddy Boy&Bot

Remember, everyone does not have to like the same books. You know your children best, and what is okay for some children may not be okay for others. However if you enjoy the book, your children probably will too. Please share some of your favourite books with us!

Visit our website for free tip sheets on how to choose children’s books

Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus schedule

Make a donation to the Legacy Library

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