Get Ready, Get Set, Go Hunting!

At this time every year families are gearing up for Easter – buying and decorating eggs, planning a big family meal, and creating a fun filled Easter Egg Hunt. However along with the fun can come some tricky challenges!

I have never had the privilege of hosting Easter dinner. But I have organized the Easter Egg Hunt. The first time I did, I was surprised at how time consuming it could be – especially if you have multiple families coming over. When there are two or more children it can be hard to create equality in the Easter Egg Hunt. Watching my nieces and nephews find and argue over eggs completely took me back to when I was a kid at Easter. My parents had to deal with the same thing – my younger sister never found as many goodies as my older sister and I.

A few years ago I found the solution – colour-code the Easter Eggs! Each child is given a colour specific to them – the only eggs they can collect are of that colour. It’s a great way to introduce learning colours (for the younger children) while keeping things fun and fair.  An unexpected bonus is that the Hunt changes from a competition into the fun event you planned!

If you are hosting Easter dinner, why not incorporate decorating the eggs into the party? While dinner is cooking, have the adults sit and help the children create some wonderfully colourful eggs. It’s a great way to spend some quality time together. It’s also a great way to incorporate some early literacy – by talking about the colours they are using and about how they are creating their designs. For those families that thrive on competition, the prize for the winning decorated egg can be getting out of washing the dishes after dinner!

Good Luck Hunting and have a Happy Easter!

 

Unplugging on Family Day!

Every year I hear the term “unplug” for Family Day and every year I have great intentions to put away my phone and other devices and spend the day uninterrupted with my family.  Any guesses on how that went? One of my favourite excuses was “I wasn’t using technology but everyone else was, so I gave in”.

It can be scary to disconnect from all the technology we use every day. It has become the go-to for information on what is happening in the lives of family and friends. We have become disconnected with each other as we rely more and more on technology to connect us. I think technology has become so invasive in our everyday lives that it is sometimes hard to even think of games or activities to do together that do not involve some form of technology.

Last year, my fiancé and I decided that since we had never been able make it a whole day unplugged, we would instead choose a few activities to do together throughout the day. At these times, we would put away all devices and just focus on connecting with each other.

It worked great! We probably spent half the day without our devices. We played games for an hour or two, went for a walk with the dog, and went out for lunch. Afterwards we had our device time. We still felt like we were spending time together or with extended family because while we were connected to our devices we were talking to family or connecting with them on Facebook, playing games together on the Wii, or watching movies with each other. We did this throughout the day and had a really great time together.

We had so much fun unplugged that we have extended it beyond Family Day. At least a couple of nights a week, we pull out the cards or dice and play Crazy Eights Countdown or Yatzhee.

My goal this year is to try to increase the time we spend unplugged from our devices by even an hour or two. Eventually I would like to be able to complete the entire day device free. However, I know that whatever happens I will have spent at least some quality, unplugged time together with my family – and that is what really matters.

I would encourage everyone to unplug this long weekend for Family Day – you never know where it might take you. Have a great weekend and please share your Family Day activities with the Centre for Family Literacy.

If you’re looking for some fun, inexpensive activities to do this weekend in Edmonton, check out http://www.edmonton.ca/unplugged or http://www.fsccaa.or/.

Halloween Traditions

Halloween has always been a big celebration in my household. Every year in October we would bring out all of the previous year’s costumes and have a fashion show. We would decide on our new costume for the year and make a list of all the new things we would need to add. I can remember being a gypsy, a witch, Little Bo Peep, and many others. After the fashion show we would decorate the house. The decorations we made in school were added to the collection of plastic spiders, webbing, and skeleton stickers for the windows. My mother still has a few of her favourite Halloween decorations that my sister and I made.

Closer to October 31, we would all go to the store and pick out our pumpkins for the time-honoured tradition of pumpkin carving. We would spread garbage bags over the living room floor and scoop out the inside of the pumpkin until it was clean – first with our bare hands and then with a spoon. Next would come the debate on how we would like to decorate our pumpkins this year. Would it be a scary face or funny? To start we would draw the face with a permanent marker, then hand the pumpkin over to our parents to carve. Eventually, as my sister and I grew up, we were able to take over all pumpkin carving duties. I can still remember the first year I was able to carve my pumpkin all by myself. Unfortunately the pumpkin didn’t turn out as well as it had on previous Halloweens.

Even now, years later, pumpkin carving is my favourite part of Halloween. I still spread out garbage bags on the living room floor and debate what to carve on the pumpkin. I have graduated from triangle eyes and crooked mouths to designs of witches, cats, and sometimes even star wars characters. In recent years I have started to save and roast the pumpkins seeds. So far I haven’t attempted to cook with the actual pumpkin but I hope to try something this year.

To me, Halloween isn’t about trick or treating and how much candy you can get. It’s about time spent together with family and traditions. I hope one day to pass down the Halloween traditions that I love so much.

I always like to hear others’ experiences of Halloween. Please share your favourite memories, costumes, and experiences with me.

 

What’s Your Favourite Holiday Tradition?

Every year I look forward to Christmas.  I like setting up the Christmas tree with my family and reminiscing over old ornaments and past Christmases.

For the last 4 years it has just been my fiancé and myself setting up the Christmas decorations.  While I sometimes miss the loud and crazy times, I have come to appreciate and love the quietness of our new Christmas tradition.  I am one of those people who have the “show home tree”.  I have 3 separate sets of tree decorations that I rotate every year.  Each has their own matching color scheme with a few accent colours to really make the tree “POP”.  Having no kids, it’s easy for me to avoid the homemade ornaments and the haphazard look of children’s decorating.  I’ve been told that once I have children, I will love the above-mentioned tree; however, I think I might go with the new trend that’s starting – a small tree for the children to decorate and the main tree for me.

I say “me” but to be fair my fiancé does help me decorate.  He helps me pull out the tree, set it up, and put the lights on.  He is then happy to sit back and put on a favorite Christmas movie while watching me finish decorating. (Side note *** As I re-read what I have written I do realize I sound like a decorating tyrant – but my fiancé isn’t one of those patient decorators.  He’d be more than happy stopping with lights.)  I ask his opinion on the placement of ornaments and he lets me know where I need more, or where I need to take away a few.

After the tree, I set up the Christmas village and my collection of snow globes.  Every year I debate setting up a few of the statues that we have been given as gifts, and every year they go back into the box with the excuse of “no more room for knickknacks”.

This routine has become our Christmas tradition. It may not be the tradition that I grew up with, but it works really well for us.  While I like the loud, chaotic pace of my extended family, I love the nice, quiet evening I get to spend with my partner.

 

A Story All Your Own

Working as a facilitator on the Alberta Prairie Classroom on Wheels Bus (the C.O.W. Bus) I often hear questions about the different types of books and how to get children interested in reading.  There are a lot of different responses that I can give to this question.

There are interactive books that are great for catching and keeping the interest of a child (see Kim’s previous post on Press Here by Hervé Tullet), “touch and feel” books that provide a multitude of textures that entertain kids, especially young kids, and “seek and find” books like I-Spy and Where’s Waldo that can hold a child’s interest for hours while they try to find all the different items listed and as well as the other items unlisted.  Truth be told, they still entertain me for hours.

However, my favorite response is to make the books personal.  Create a story featuring your child.  You can use photos of your child as the illustrations and create a story around the pictures.  It can be as simple as linking colors to outfits (insert photo) or as complex as a novel.  Creating a personal story can also be a great way to spend time, and to interact with your children.  Involve them in the process – have them pick out the pictures they want to use or have them create the story and you write it down.  Small photo albums work perfectly for holding the photos as well as cue cards to write the story on.

One mom shared a great idea she uses for personalizing a story.  She used her children’s photos and pasted them over the existing faces in the book.  Her children instantly became part of their favorite stories and will have fantastic keepsakes for when they grow up.  She found that board books worked better due to their durability.

 

Homemade Father’s Day Present!

I often find Father’s Day one of the most difficult days to make special.  What am I supposed to get Dad who has every power tool, every tie, and every “Best Dad in the World” coffee cup?

I started to think about what I used to do for Father’s Day when I was a kid.  First there came the crafts from Daycare or Preschool.  This gradually evolved into presents made in art class, and eventually the store bought coffee cups, ties, and finally the dreaded set of golf balls that seemed to re-emerge every year as a last resort. Thinking back over all the gifts that have been given, it made me realize that it was the homemade crafts that really made an impression on my father.

Yes, golf balls are always a much-needed necessity but it’s not golf balls that my father keeps in a drawer of all the gifts that meant the most to him.  In fact, I can’t tell which golf balls I gave him from the multitude of golf balls he finds in the bush looking for the wayward shot he just took.

However, I can tell which homemade presents I made him from the ones my sisters made. I can remember how happy I was making those crafts for my dad and I can remember how it made me feel when I saw his face as he opened them.

It is the gifts that come from the heart that are often the most memorable.  Check out our Father’s Day craft below that comes straight from the heart.

All you will need for this unforgettable Father’s Day present is:

  • Popsicle sticks or craft sticks – at least 8
  • Markers
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • White paper – thicker paper works best

Directions:

1)   Color the Popsicle sticks with the markers – if you are using paint complete step 2 first.

2)   Glue the Popsicle sticks together using the hot glue gun to form a square frame.  You will want to make two individual frames.

*Note: If you would like to make your frame thicker you can place 2 Popsicle sticks side-by-side.

3)   Measure and cut a square piece from the white paper. You will want it to be big enough to be able to glue on the Popsicle stick frame.

4)   Get your child to draw a picture on the paper – it doesn’t have to be about Father’s Day.

*Note: Writing a personal note to Dad on the back of the picture is a nice touch as well.

5)   Now it’s time to assemble the frame – you might want to double check that the picture will fit into the frame before you start gluing.  Trim down the picture if needed.

6)   On the back of one frame, in each corner, place a dot of hot glue.  Place your picture face up on the glue to attach it to the frame.

7)    Turn it over. On the back of the picture place another dot of hot glue in each of the corners and attach the second frame.  Make sure the colored side of the second frame is facing outwards.

8)   The picture frame is now complete.  Your dad will be able to hang it from either side.

Other suggestions:

1)   If you would like to hang up the picture frame on the fridge attach magnets to the backside of the frame.  Only one Popsicle frame is needed for this style of frame.

2)   You can glue a piece of thread on the back of the first frame – after you have attached the picture and before you attach the second frame – this will allow you to hang the photo up on either side.

Please let us know how these crafts turned out and any other Father’s Day suggestions that you found worked for you!