3 DIY Puzzles to Make with Your Kids

The Alberta Prairie C.O.W. program visits communities around the province for 12 months a year. To each visit we bring a variety of great family literacy activities and ideas for parents to explore with their young children.

We have books, puppets, blocks, and puzzles that have been purchased, but we also bring a wealth of activities that the families can make for themselves. For example, we have homemade “I Spy” bottles made from old pop bottles that are filled with rice and random trinkets (with the bottle lid glued on tightly afterwards). We also have a homemade cash register and a stove that are made out of cereal boxes, as well as matching games made from old calendars. We encourage parents to use materials they already have at home; materials that don’t cost a lot of money.

Among the homemade activities that we bring with us are a selection of DIY puzzles. Puzzles are a wonderful way for your children to develop their fine motor and problem-solving skills. Puzzles can also be made for different ages and stages of development. You can even create puzzles geared toward your children’s interests, so go ahead—be creative and have fun together!

 

Paper Plate Puzzle

Using a plain paper plate, have your child scribble or draw a picture. Depending on the age of your child, cut the paper plate into as few or as many pieces as they can put back together.

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Box Puzzle

Cut the front of a cereal, cracker, or cookie box into as many pieces as your child will be able to put back together.

puzzle-cerealbox

 

Popsicle Stick Puzzle

Tape together approximately 5 to 10 wide popsicle sticks so that they are parallel to one another and lying flat on the table. Glue a picture your child drew, a picture you cut out of a flyer or magazine, or a photograph, on top of the popsicle sticks. Once the glue is dry, you can cut the popsicle stick puzzle into its individual pieces for your child.

puzzle-popsiclestick

These are a just a few examples of DIY puzzles. Can you think of more? We would be happy to share your ideas, and create new homemade puzzles with families across the province.

For more easy and inexpensive craft ideas, check out the newsletters on the Centre for Family Literacy C.O.W. program page

 

Homemade Book Making

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Learn Together – Grow Together is a program for parents and their children (ages 3-5 years old), to attend and participate in activities together as a family. We encourage the parents to recognize their role as first teacher of their children. In order for parents to help their children become lifelong readers and writers, we show the parents simple activities they can do at home to help foster the early literacy skills needed for their little ones to grow into literacy.

At Learn Together – Grow Together, a fun  activity we have done was to make a homemade book. We showed the parents that you can use inexpensive materials and/or materials you may already have at home, to make your own books.

One of the books the parents created with their children is called a “Straw Book.”

make-your-own-book1Supplies Needed:

  • 3+, 8 ½ x 11 plain white sheets of paper
  • 1 piece of coloured construction paper
  • 1 pair of scissors
  • 1 drinking straw
  • 1 elastic band
  • markers and/or pencil crayons and/or crayons
  • optional: stickers

 

make-your-own-book2Directions:

  •  Fold the white pieces of paper in half, as they will become the inside pages of the book
  • Fold the piece of coloured construction paper in half, as this will become the cover of the book

 

 

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  • Carefully cut two small triangles into the folded sides of the plain paper and the folded side of the construction paper. Make sure the triangles are a long enough distance apart to be able to weave your straw in between them

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  • Put the straw through the holes on the inside of the book

 

 

 

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  • On the outside cover, put the elastic band on the top and bottom ends of the straw, keeping the cover and inside pages together
  •  Have fun decorating, writing, and drawing in your book!

 

 

 

At Learn Together – Grow Together, the families used pencil crayons, markers, stickers, objects cut out of magazines, etc. to decorate, draw, and write in their straw books. The children were very pleased that they were able to scribble and/or write whatever they wanted in their book; it gave them a sense of pride and ownership!

It was exciting to see that even a simple and inexpensive activity, like making a book from a drinking straw, an elastic band, and some paper, was able to foster early literacy skills. The children were able to be creative on their own and practice their writing and drawing skills. The parents learned that it doesn’t cost a lot of money, or take a lot of time, to have a literacy activity for their children to work on.

Have you made any other types of homemade books with your children? We would love to hear more of your ideas to help foster early reading and writing skills in young children!

 

Learn Together – Grow Together – Be Active Together

dscn0556-2Learn Together Grow Together is a 10-week program for parents with children  3 to 5 years old. We focus on early learning and literacy, and help the parents to recognize their own importance as first teacher of their children.

An important component of the program is taking the families to the gym (or outside if the weather permits) to play games and to try different activities. From the outside looking in, it may just seem that the time spent in the gym is for the children to burn off some energy. Although there is truth to that, gym time provides learning opportunities for both the parents and the children.

Learning opportunities for parents:

  • Trying new games such as “Tag”, “What Time is it Mr. Wolf”, or “Go, Go, Stop” which don’t require money to buy equipment
  • Opportunities to use different types of equipment that they may not have used before, like scooters or a parachute
  • Exposing their children to new or different action words and vocabulary
  • Interacting with their children in new ways
  • Strengthening the bond they have with their children
  • Socializing with other parents and learning from each other

Learning opportunities for children:

  • Building new coordination and fine motor skills
  • Following directions from the teachers as well as their parents
  • Being exposed to new or different action words and vocabulary
  • Interacting and socializing with others
  • Sharing equipment with others
  • Learning responsibility by cleaning up

These are just a few of the many learning opportunities that both parents and their children may have while playing in the gym together – I’m sure there are many more! So in addition to providing exercise and promoting a healthy lifestyle for your family, kicking a ball around outside or playing tag in a gym together is providing learning opportunities for both of you!

Our first session of Learn Together – Grow Together starts on Thursday November 17, 2016. For more information about the program, please visit the Centre for Family Literacy website; to register call Linda at (780) 944-2001 extension 5116. We look forward to learning and growing together with you and your children!

Early Writing Skills

Writing with felts2

Learn Together – Grow Together is one of our family literacy programs for parents and caregivers and their children ages 3-5 years old. The program encompasses a variety of activities that range from sharing stories and rhymes, to gym time, free play, crafts and games. Parents learn ways to help their children in the early stages of reading and writing.

During one of our parent-time sessions, we discuss the beginning stages of writing. Children are not born knowing how to hold a pencil or even what to do with it. This is a skill that must be taught and modelled by parents. From an early age, children are eager to use their hands to grab things. Allow your little ones to use crayons or markers, for example, to scribble on a piece of paper. The scribbles may not mean much to you, but they are the beginnings of letter and word formation, as well as fine motor skill practice.

Often I hear from parents that their children don’t want to sit down and work on their writing skills. So at Learn Together – Grow Together, I always have examples of new and fun ways to practice writing. Here are a few:

  • use sidewalk chalk
  • use just your finger and write in the sand or snow
  • cut up numbers and letters made of sandpaper, and use your finger to trace them
  • in the bathtub or outside, write with shaving cream, or write on a big glob of it
  • put acrylic paint in a Ziploc bag and tape the top, then practice writing on the bag with just your finger
  • tape a long piece of ribbon to a pencil or stick and practice making letters in the air by waving your wand
  • paint letters and numbers on large blank sheets of plain paper

Can you think of more fun ideas to add to the list?

It is also important for your children to see you modelling your writing skills. For example, if you are making a grocery list, or printing an address onto a piece of mail, ask your children to take part in the activity. Or let them watch you fill out forms and documents. As you show your children these skills, they will begin to understand that written print has meaning and that it is an important skill to have.

One of the tip sheets available for free download on the Centre for Family Literacy website is titled “Signs of Reading and Writing Development in Young Children.” It is on side 2 of the “Tips for Sharing Books” pdf. Here is the link to the webpage.

www.famlit.ca/resources/resources_p.shtml

If you are interested in the fall session of Learn Together – Grow Together in Edmonton, please give us a call at 780-421-7323 for more information. Have fun learning and growing together with your children!

Drawing on Strengths

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One of the guiding principles of family literacy programs is that every family comes with their own strengths, no matter what culture or socio-economic background they are from.

Learn Together – Grow Together is one of our family literacy programs for parents and caregivers and their children ages 3-5 years old. The program encompasses a variety of activities that range from sharing stories and rhymes, to gym time, free play, crafts and games. Parents learn ways to help their children in the early stages of reading and writing.

I’ve been involved in the program for several years and have worked with many different families. The beauty of having the families attend for a minimum of one 10-week session is that it gives me the opportunity to observe the strengths of each parent. Some love singing, while others enjoy making crafts. Some parents are great at running and roughhousing with their children during gym time, while others excel at calming their children when they are upset. Some parents enjoy sitting with their children to share a book, while others like helping their children build with blocks or put a puzzle together.

Parents may not be aware of the variety of strengths they already possess. Although they shouldn’t be afraid to learn and try new things, parents should  be proud of what they are able to accomplish with their children already.

I’ve seen many parents open up and share their own parenting stories and experiences with the other parents, encouraging each other on their parenting journey. A local program like Learn Together – Grow Together is a good way to connect with other parents. You never know what new strengths you may develop, or how you may be able to encourage another parent!

For more about the Learn Together Grow Together program, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website at ww.famlit.ca

 

Letting Your Child Lead

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At Learn Together Grow Together, we have been talking about learning through play. It is amazing to observe any child as they play! Everything is new and exciting and they want to soak up every experience they can. A lot of skills are being developed as your child plays: physical, fine motor, cognitive, language, and social skills.

As a parent, it is important that you take the time to play and interact with your child, to help them develop these skills. As your child continues to grow, you will find they develop their own likes and dislikes. Recognizing the interests of your child can be of great benefit to you both.

For example, you may notice that your child would rather pick the dandelions in the grass than kick a ball around. Or maybe your child wants to just play with their blocks, while you are trying to do a craft with them. Perhaps your child would rather read a cartoon strip in the newspaper than read a storybook.

In any of these situations, there is an opportunity to learn something new. As a parent, it may not be what you would like to do, but it is important to follow your child’s lead and recognize what they are interested in doing.

As a parent you know that you have your own likes and dislikes; there are activities you enjoy more than others. So guaranteed it will be the same for your child! Take the time to observe what your child’s interests are and engage with them in those activities. Have fun with them! By doing so, you will be creating positive learning experiences for your child. We all learn more when we are interested; build on the strengths you see in your child everyday and I’m sure their love of learning will continue for years to come.

Check the Centre for Family Literacy website for more about Learn Together – Grow Together

 

Why Pre-Read New Books for Young Children?

iStock_read2During our Learn Together, Grow Together program, the parents have a 20-minute  session separate from their children.

Last week I began the parent session by talking about different types of books and the different ways to use them. Eventually the conversation evolved into a discussion about the age appropriateness of books.

Children’s books often have a recommended age for use (for example ages 1-3, or 4-8, etc.). However, the parents in our discussion seem to disagree with these age recommendations from time to time.

One mom shared that she had read a book to her three year old son where the main character was throwing objects into a tree—objects like a cat, a boat, and a truck. After the story, the mom said her son was determined to throw large objects into the tree in their yard. The mom said she realized that maybe her child wasn’t ready for this book, as he still didn’t understand the difference between real and make-believe.

Another mom shared that she had read a book, that she thought was age appropriate, to her four year old daughter. However the story actually scared her daughter so much that she had a tough time sleeping that night. The mom said she learned from that experience: spend time previewing children’s books before reading them with her daughter.

Occasionally I have been surprised to find words such as “stupid” or “shut up” in books recommended for younger children, and I certainly wouldn’t want my child to be exposed to those words at an early age.

Just as a parent might want to preview, or research, a movie’s appropriateness for their child, it is also a good idea to preview children’s books. Just because the book has been deemed age appropriate by the publisher doesn’t mean that it is appropriate for your child.

You know your child best; you know what concepts and language they can understand and what they are ready for. You know best what is age appropriate for your child, no matter what age they are in years. There are so many wonderful children’s books available  to share with your child, that it is OK to be picky when choosing them!

More about Learn Together – Grow Together

Visual Schedules for Your Kids

In our Learn Together – Grow Together program, one of the topics we discuss with the parents is learning styles. We talk about the different learning styles we recognize in ourselves as adults (auditory, visual, and/or kinesthetic), and also the learning styles we  recognize in our children.

If one or more of your children are visual learners, an easy way to help keep them  organized is to provide schedules with pictures. A visual schedule helps children make their way through the routines of the day. It helps to provide structure and predictability for the activities that need to be completed.

It may be something as simple as creating a schedule of their morning routine before they have to go to daycare or school. Try placing the visual schedule on the bathroom mirror or in the children’s bedroom.

Visual Shedule1

Or maybe it’s a schedule for getting dressed for the winter weather—to display by the coat closet of your home—that would be useful to you and your children.

Visual Schedule2

You may want to add stickers or checkmarks to reward your children for completing their schedule. This may not only help to motivate them so the routines of the day go by with more ease, but can also help your children to feel independent as well.

Has anyone used a visual schedule with their children before? Did having something visual help them to predict the order of their day?

By taking the time to recognize the learning styles of your children, you can tap into activities, such as this, to help get things done at home and even out in the community.

More about Learn Together – Grow Together or to register for the program

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Extending Stories

The MittenHow often do we read through a children’s book and just put it down and leave it? In Learn Together Grow Together, we recently shared Jan Brett’s book The Mitten. In this winter tale, a little boy dropped his mitten in the snow and it became a space to crawl into for many forest creatures.

In order to take the story further, the program facilitators decided to add activities for the parents and children based on the story.

Find the Mittens:

We had a number of different coloured mittens hidden around the classroom. The parents worked together with their children to find all of the mittens.

Rhymes and Songs:

We sang some rhymes and songs about winter and mittens.

I’m a Little Snowman (to the tune of “I’m a Little Teapot”)

I’m a little snowman, short and fat 
Here are my buttons, here is my hat 
When the sun comes out, I cannot stay 
Cause I just slowly melt away!

Pet Snowball Song (to the tune of “I have a little bicycle”)
I made myself a snowball 
Just as perfect as could be. 
I thought I’d keep it as a pet 
And take it home with me. 
I gave it some pajamas 
And a pillow for its head. 
Then, last night it ran away, 
But first . . . . it wet the bed!

Snowey Pokey (to the tune of “Hokey Pokey”)
You put your right mitten in, you take your right mitten out, 
You put your right mitten in and you shake it all about. 
You do the Snowey pokey and you turn yourself around. 
That’s what it’s all about. 
Continue with additional verses:
You put your left mitten in 
You put your scarf in
You put your right boot in 
You put your left boot in
You put your hat in 
You put your snowself in
etc.

Gym Activities:

We had newspaper crunched up into balls and wrapped in packing tape. We pretended that the crunched up newspaper and tape were snowballs. The families practiced throwing their snowballs into baskets and played with them on a parachute.

For the Parents:

On 10-15 strips of paper, the parents wrote out and summarized the events of the story. We had parents whose first language is not English, so they wrote out their story summaries in other languages! By completing this activity, the parents were encouraged to use recall and comprehension skills (which is an activity the parents can do with their children with any story).

For the Parents and Children:

The children coloured in pictures of all the animals in The Mitten, and the parents helped their little ones cut out the pictures. There was also a paper cut-out of a mitten into which DSCN1033-cls-weball of the animals could go – just like in the story! The children were able to reenact the story, or make up a new one, with the animals.

These are just a few, simple ways in which a story was “extended,” and I’m sure there are many more ways to extend The Mitten. Next time you share a story with your children, try to find an activity or two to build on it. There are so many fun and interactive ways to bring a story to life!

If you have tried extending a story before, what activities did you use? We would love to hear what they were!

More about Learn Together – Grow Together or to register for the program

hashtag: #LT_GT

Fall Family Fun!

Leaves4

As summer winds down and families get back into their regular routine, it may be easy to forget to take advantage of opportunities to learn together as a family. Fall is a beautiful time of year when the leaves start changing colour and begin to fall off the trees. Leaves provide many learning opportunities for you and your child – so simple and fun!

Here are some leaf activities to try with your child during this fall season:

Create a Leaf Scavenger Hunt!

  • Work with your child to create a list of items to look for on your scavenger hunt. For example:
    • Find 2 orange leaves
    • Find 3 red leaves
    • Find 1 leaf with smooth edges
    • Find 1 big leaf
    • Find 4 small leaves

Go for a walk outside!

  • Talk about the different colours of the leaves.
  • Ask your child questions like, “Is this leaf bigger or smaller than this leaf?” “Does the leaf have smooth or sharpe edges?”

 Practice Counting

  • Have your child gather up a bunch of leaves and practice counting how many they collected.

 Learn Textures

  • Collect different types of leaves and feel the different textures with your hands. Ask your child, “Does this leaf feel soft?” “Does this leaf feel rough?”

 Leaf Artwork

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  • Collect some leaves and use them to make some fun artwork. Using the leaves, a thin sheet of paper and some crayons, you can make “leaf rubbings.”
    • First, place the leaves under a thin sheet of paper. You will want to place the leaves bottom side facing up.
    • Second, rub the crayon(s) on the paper and watch the leaf print come through.

Just Have Fun!

  • If you have access, rake together a pile of leaves for you and your child. Have fun jumping into the pile!

We hope that you are able to enjoy this fall season, learning and growing together with your child. Have fun with the leaves and the nature that surrounds you!

More about the Learn Together – Grow Together program starting again January 2016 in Edmonton.

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