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

 

Teaching Your Child Literacy and Numeracy: There’s an App for That

Baby Girl on a Messy Couch with her Parents

“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is most important.” – Bill Gates

For a lot of parents, the idea of “teaching literacy and numeracy skills” to our children is intimidating—and if it’s not intimidating, it’s definitely overwhelming: there are only so many times we can recite the alphabet and sing nursery rhymes between doing the laundry, getting groceries, making meals, changing diapers, changing more diapers, loading and unloading children from vehicles, cleaning puke from our hair, and occasionally showering. Sitting down with our kids on the daily to intentionally “teach literacy” is a bit of a lofty goal: even if we have the time, we might not know what to do. And so it’s sometimes easier—let’s face it—to sit our kids down with Dora and hope they learn through cartoon osmosis.

There’s no harm in that—I know lots of toddlers who can teach me Spanish because of that show. But it’s important to remember that you are your child’s first and most effective teacher; Dora and her purple monkey companion are merely extending the lessons you’ve already taught. And though you might not know it, you are teaching your children all the time.

Your children develop most of their literacy and numeracy skills during the routine, day-to-day activities that are already part of your family life. While you are sorting laundry with your two-year old, she is picking up on patterns, numeracy, sizes, and categories. The most effective way to improve and develop your child’s literacy is to recognize these moments and build on them. This is easier said than done—most of us go on auto-pilot when we do routine tasks, so it’s a bit of a stretch to expect that you will remember to recognize (and build on) those moments of literacy in every mundane thing you do. Luckily, there’s an app for that.

Flit, our free family literacy app, was developed for parents like you to identify those moments of literacy and build on them. Whether you are in the middle of grocery shopping, doing laundry, or cooking dinner, you can click open the app, choose a category and quickly find a literacy activity you can incorporate into the task at hand. Here’s an example of what you’ll find:

  • Making Breakfast?

Click the “Cooking” category. Choose an activity that corresponds to what you are making for breakfast—there’s a fun activity for everything from Smoothies to Fruit Loops.

Say it’s a Fruit Loop day: the app suggests laying the fruit loops out in a pattern of colours, having you or your child string them on a string in the laid out pattern, and fruit-loopsthen tying the ends of the string to make a fruit loop necklace.

While you do this activity, you can talk to your child about the different colours and pattern of the fruit loops. To extend the activity, you can share a book like We All Went on Safari by Laurie Krebs or Elmer by David McKee and have your child look for different colour patterns in it.

Each activity also has a section that explains the “Why?” of the activity—in the case of the Fruit Loops, the app explains that “Patterns are everywhere—in language, reading, writing and numeracy. This type of activity lets you make pattern recognition a natural part of your child’s routine.”

The app has a total of 116 activities that fall under eight categories: books, rhymes, games, crafts, writing, numbers, cooking, and reading. With so many activities, you can use it to incorporate literacy activities into most of your daily routines for a long time to come. After awhile, you will learn to come up with your own activities and see the literacy potential in all of the things you are already doing with your child each day… you might not even need an app for it.

Available on iOS since January, the free app is now also available on Android thanks to funding from TELUS Edmonton Community Board.

Click here to download the free iOS version of Flit.

Click here to download the Android version.

Centre for Family Literacy website

 

Advent Calendars for Kids

As December quickly creeps up on us, our kids’ minds turn to Advent calendars. The anticipation the calendars build with each day is a fun part of the season.

The Wikipedia definition of an Advent calendar is a special calendar used to count or celebrate the days in anticipation of Christmas. The Advent calendar was first used by German Lutherans in the 19th and 20th centuries but is now found everywhere.

If you go into any large chain store you will find an array of Advent calendar choices. Traditional Advent calendars conceal 24 small chocolates to be opened one a day until December 24th, but more and more choices are becoming available every year. Lindt has a full chocolate every day, and Lego has 2 or 3 different calendars to choose from every year. Toy or candy calendars, ranging from Disney, Crayola, Playmobil, Hot Wheels, Kinder surprise, Jelly Belly and more, can also be found.

But ever since my kids were born, I have been interested in making my own Advent calendars. They are more personal than the bought versions and I can add anything I want, from toys or books to candy. You can find many Advent calendars to make with your kids at Growing A Jewelled Rose.

One of our yearly traditions is a Book Tree Advent Calendar. I love it because it combines my love of reading with my kids and a surprise for the kids each day.

I found the following Book Tree Advent Calendar at Reading Confetti. Every year we enjoy opening up some of our favourite Christmas classics and a few new ones.

book-tree-advent-4

 

4 Ways to Celebrate Autumn with Your Child & Reap the Benefits of the Outdoors

autumn

“The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.” – e.e. Cummings

Fall is here with its whimsical, whirling leaves and wind. There’s no better time to make sure we, and our children, are getting enough outdoor fun. With screen time increasing for both kids and adults, it’s more important than ever to consciously make the time to play in nature.

There is no shortage of information about why our kids need the great outdoors. Vitamin D exposure, healthy eye development, opportunities for exercise, improved sleep quality and brain development, Mother Nature provides it all. Thanks to the nature of outdoor play, (the jackpot of early childhood development), kids can discover confidence, independence and resiliency. Playing outside forces kids to be inventive. It requires them to make choices and choose adventures, take risks and adapt. They move their whole bodies, and use all of their senses when in nature; they can see, hear, smell and touch the world around them, and research tells us that multi-sensory experience promotes better learning.

Outdoor play supports coordination, balance, and motor skills; it feeds a sense of wonder, forces our kids to ask questions, and it even reduces stress, which is important because stress is a huge barrier to brain development.

Below are four ways to take advantage of the outdoors to promote healthy brain development and early literacy.

1. Do something that helps out Mother Nature, such as make a bird feeder, plant a tree, or make a birdbath.

How to make a bird feederbirdfeeder

You will need:

  1. natural peanut butter
  2. suet (or lard)
  3. cornmeal
  4. pinecone
  5. wild birdseed
  6. cotton thread

Directions:

  1. Mix equal parts peanut butter (use the natural kind with only peanuts listed in the ingredients) and suet (or lard)
  2. Stir in enough cornmeal to make a thick paste
  3. Press this mixture into the pinecone
  4. Roll the pinecone in the wild birdseed mix
  5. String or tie cotton thread to the pinecone and hang from a tree in your yard

2. Start an art project.

For example:

  1. Collect and press fall leaves between wax paper, or do leaf rubbings (place a piece of paper over the leaf and lightly rub over it with a pencil or crayon)
  2. Collect rocks and paint them to look like animals
  3. Create a “stained glass” window with fall leaves. After picking your colourful leaves outside, press them to the sticky side of some transparent contact paper, and place on your window

3. Read a non-fiction book about birds.

Try About Birds: A Guide for Children by Cathryn Sill, and see if you can find any of the birds outside. Pair it with fiction books about birds or animals, like the Little Owl’s series by Divya Srinivasan, or any of the Pigeon series by Mo Willems. Extend your books even further by drawing and colouring your favourite birds together.

little-owls-nightpigeon-book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Learn a rhyme together that involves nature.

Here’s one to start you off:

September Leaves

Leaves are floating softly down;
Some are red and some are brown.
The wind goes whooshing through the air.
When you look back there’s no leaves there.

Mother Nature provides for a rich learning experience, so get out there and seize the season—make those mud pies, and jump in those puddles!

 

Learning About Colours

There are many things you can do to help your child learn about different concepts, such as reading books, making crafts, and singing songs. One of the concepts your child will need to learn is colours.

Read Books

The Day the Crayons QuitIn the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) program, we like to share a book called The Day the Crayons Quit, written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. In addition to learning about colours, this book can help your child understand their own emotions, as well as help to develop their empathy skills.

“Poor Duncan just wants to color. But when he opens his box of crayons, he finds only letters, all saying the same thing: His crayons have had enough! They quit! Beige Crayon is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown Crayon. Black wants to be used for more than just outlining. Blue needs a break from coloring all those bodies of water. And Orange and Yellow are no longer speaking – each believes he is the true color of the sun. What can Duncan possibly do to appease all the crayons and get them back to doing what they do best?”

Make Crafts

Here are some activities you can pair with this book:

Dear Crayon craft1.  Use a box of crayons to extend the story. As you read each crayon’s letter, ask your child to take that colour of crayon out of the box. What can they draw with it?

2.  Ask your child how they think each crayon was feeling when they wrote their letter. Use a large index card to write back to one of the crayons in the story. Draw and colour in the crayon that you are addressing, and tell your crayon why they should not quit. Make one for as many colours as you like!

3.  Make your own crayon box.

Materials:

•  Crayons
•  Markers
•  Pencil
•  Glue
•  Scissors
•  One sheet of yellow cardstock (8.5” X 11”)

Crayon Craft x 2Instructions:

  1. Draw and colour your own paper crayons (or use different colours of construction paper) and cut them out.
  2. Fold the yellow cardstock sheet in half and crease it.
  3. Open it up, and with your pencil, draw the opening of the box (a half circle) on the left-hand side of the sheet, making sure to leave about ¼” on either side.
  4. Cut out the opening, fold it back in place, and glue only the edges, so that you are still able to fit your paper crayons inside the “box”.
  5. Decorate your crayon box with crayons or markers!

 

 

Sing Songs

Teaching Mama” has some great resources, including “10 Preschool Songs About Colors.” One of my favourites is “Pass the Colour,” in the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat:”

Sit in a circle and pass a crayon around, singing the song until the following verse is done. Then yell out the crayon’s colour! Continue with as many crayons as you like.

Pass, pass, pass the colour,
This is the game we play.
When the little song is through,
The colour name we’ll say.
(YELLOW!)

For more craft ideas and book recommendations, check out the Centre for Family Literacy webpage: Resources for Parents

 

The C.O.W. is Coming Soon, but in the Meantime…

Edm-COW

We hope that while you are enjoying summer to the fullest, you are still able to find fun ways to keep a little literacy in your busy days. It really helps to prevent the summer slide, where children lose some of what they had learned during the program or school year.

Here are a few simple ideas:

  • Sing songs or nursery rhymes, and play rhyming words games while in the car
  • Point out print on traffic signs, cereal boxes, restaurants, anywhere!
  • Play games such as Simon Says, Hopscotch, or I Spy
  • Take your children to the library and let them choose their books
  • Tell stories to each other
  • Read aloud to your child
  • Encourage older siblings to read with younger children
  • Look for shapes in the clouds
  • Have books around the house and let your child see you reading
  • Do Splash Time Rhymes that Bind while at the beach, pool, or water park (blog with rhymes can be found here http://www.famlit.ca/blog/?p=3077)
  • Download the Flit app with 100 fun literacy activities to do with your child

Meanwhile, at the Centre for Family Literacy, the Edmonton Literacy C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) Bus program is busy preparing for your visits in the fall, with new themes, new books, and new games and puzzles for parents and their children ages 0-6 years old.

We have extensively added to our books for adults and now have a fiction section. We have books that are science fiction, love stories, memoirs, and many others. Of course we still have an abundance of non-fiction books for adults on various parenting topics, from how to get your kids to sleep with a no-cry solution, to humour in our everyday lives as parents. And as always we have a great selection of books for young children.

So keep soaking up the sunshine while you can (and maybe add some story time under a tree); the Edmonton Literacy C.O.W. Bus staff are busy planning and preparing a great 2016/2017 season for you.

Please check the Centre for Family Literacy website in mid August to find the most convenient location and time for you to drop in and see us at the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus. Hope to see you in September!

 

Sharing Stories vs. Reading Stories

Fam_Lit044Here at the Centre for Family Literacy we like to talk about sharing books with children as opposed to just reading books to them.

When you are sharing a book, as opposed to reading it, it becomes interactive. It becomes much more than just reading the words on the page. Two ways to do this are:

  • Ask open-ended questions such as “What are they doing in this picture?” or “What do you think is going to happen next?” This encourages children to stop and think about what is on the page, to make connections to real life, and to really step inside the story.
  • Find ways to extend the story.

What does it mean to extend a story?

To extend a story is to build on it—to add activities that are related to the subject of the story. But why should we extend stories?

Children learn best by doing—by being active. When they’re being active they are using all five senses to learn, and these multi-sensory experiences build neural connections in the brain. If they are having fun, they will want to do it again and again, and this repetition makes the connections even stronger. This is how children gain the confidence needed to learn new things.

Simple summertime story extender

one dog canoeA great book to share in the summer is one of our favourites, One-Dog Canoe by Mary Casanova.

In One-Dog Canoe, a girl and her dog set out on a canoe trip, just the two of them, when one by one they are approached by other creatures like Loon, Wolf and Moose, who want to join in on the fun.

I set off one morning in my little red canoe.
My dog wagged his tail.
“Can I come, too??
“You bet, I said.
“A trip for two – just me and you?”

It doesn’t take long before this canoe trip becomes a little more crowded!

“I swished past ferns,
where dragonflies flew.
Loon stretched her wings, “Can I come too?”

What you’ll need:

  • The book One-Dog Canoe
  • Stuffed animals or toys to match the characters: Beaver, Loon, Wolf, Bear, Moose, Frog, Dog, and Girl
  • A “canoe” made with construction paper or bark

(You can always improvise using what you have on hand.)

Give each child a character to hold on to (or multiple characters), and as each character comes up in the story, the child holding that character places it in the canoe. At the end of the story, there are too many animals in the canoe and it tips over, so act this out too by dumping out your canoe!

After the story we like to pair it with a song. Rhymes and songs are critical for developing oral language, and oral language is at the root of all future learning.

Try singing “Row Your Boat”

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.

Row, row, row your boat,
Down a jungle stream.
If you see a crocodile,
Don’t forget to scream.
Ahh!

Row, row, row your boat,
Underneath a stream,
Ha, ha, fooled you,
I’m a submarine!
Bing!

Other ideas:

  • Act out the story using a big box, couch, or outdoor picnic table for the canoe
  • Bring a make-belief canoe into the bathtub
    • Experiment with what floats and what sinks
    • Ask “how many items will fit in your canoe before it tips over?”

Have fun sharing stories! For more ideas on how to make the most of your books, check out Flit, our family literacy app on the iTunes App store here!

 

Early Years Numeracy… in Planting

iStock_gardenAt 3,2,1, Fun! we explore numbers through play, stories, and rhymes with children 3-5 years old and their parents. Learning about sequences is important to children’s ability to grasp the concept that numbers have a special order.

We can demonstrate sequences by using a recipe, or step-by-step instructions. Another way is to say, “first we do this,” using words to describe the first step, “then we do that.”

There are plenty of opportunities to use simple numeracy concepts in planting activities, whether you are planting in a pot, the ground, or seedlings from another method. Recently in 3,2,1, Fun! we planted a variety of seeds inside a plastic glove.

First we compared the seeds—discussing the different sizes, shapes, and colours, and how some represented more visually the food they grow into. For example, watermelon seeds are familiar to us because we see the seeds in the fruit we eat. We tried sorting the seeds into big, medium, and small, and by shape. How many big ones? Then we planted the seeds—squash, pumpkin, bean, marigold, cucumber, watermelon, carrot, and sunflower—in our garden gloves.

You can also use the opportunity to discuss what plants need to grow (water, sunlight, etc).

Supplies needed for a garden glove:

  • A plastic glove (the kind you would use in food preparation)
  • Cotton balls
  • Water
  • Variety of seeds
  • Twist tie
  • Marker

GLOVE-garden

Steps:

  1. Soak five cotton balls in water, squeeze out the excess water
  2. Put a wet cotton ball in each of the glove fingers and thumb
  3. Add a seed to each cotton ball
  4. Write down the name of each seed on the glove finger where it was planted; you can add the date if you like
  5. Twist tie it shut at the top
  6. Hang the glove in a window that gets a lot of sun
  7. Wait to see what grows

It really works! As plants grow, or germinate, we have more opportunities with the children to observe the changes and compare them. Some seedlings have more shoots than others; some grow quicker than others. Watch for changes and see what happens. Sometimes something goes wrong and nothing happens, but we can be scientists and repeat the experiment to see if the results change.

Try journaling what you observe. Your children can draw the pictures and you can scribe the words for them.

Later on, you can transplant your seedlings into pots of soil or into a garden. Some children have already planted their new seedlings into their home gardens.

Good luck growing!

The Spring 3,2,1,Fun! program will be ending mid-June, but please phone the Centre for Family Literacy in Edmonton at 780-421-7323 for more information or visit our website www.famlit.ca

Value the Learning Process, not the Final Product

Happy small boy crafts with scissors, paper, glue

More than once I have come across this short verse which reminds me of the goals we set when working with parents in our 3,2,1, FUN! numeracy program. I haven’t been able to discover the source of these words, but you can find them everywhere if you search. I’d love to give credit to the right person if I ever do discover the origin.

If you draw it for me,
cut it for me,
paste it for me. . .
All I learn is that
You do it better
than Me

This short verse describes so well the importance of the process behind the activity. We have to remember that it is not about the final product, especially with young children. If they have the opportunity to cut crooked lines, get glue all over things, and colour using every colour or only their favourites, they are learning! They discover their own creativity. They grow confidence in their abilities. They learn to try again if they fail to make it the way they pictured it. They feel pride in what they do achieve.

There is an abundance of great ideas and projects available. Many can be found in our family literacy app, Flit.* Just keep in mind that what you see as the final product should not necessarily be your goal for your children.

Give them the resources they need to create freely. See what they come up with on their own. Try to resist if you feel the need to take control of the project. Instead, you could create your own alongside your children. Don’t be disappointed if they created a bird with 3 legs when you were hopeful they would copy the Rainbow Fish with many scales that you were going for.

It is okay if your children lose interest in the activity you thought would be a grand idea. Put it aside. Perhaps they just are not ready for the concept involved, or maybe it is too close to lunch time and they can’t concentrate without a snack or meal first.

At 3,2,1, FUN! we come prepared to make projects and games that can be used and reused and recreated at home. Parents need to help with some things that the children can’t do yet, but we emphasize, “let your children pick the colours and the textures, and let them decide how much or how little to add.” This is the process of learning.

When we create a new game, we encourage children to come up with the rules, as silly as they Boardgame3may be. For instance, for a game that involves dice, a rule has been, “If you roll a 3 you need to hop on one foot 3 times.” Another rule has been, “this game must be played wearing pyjamas.” One of my favourites is, “the winner gets a hug!”

Supplies needed to play a random game at home based on your children’s rules are probably easily found at home, such as:

  • Dice, any size, the bigger the better. Children love to use more of their body when rolling giant dice.
  • Paper and markers. If you wish to record the rules of the day, you can write in your children’s words.
  • The inside of a cereal box. If you’d like to create a board game look, have your children draw the shapes they’d like to mark the board and encourage them to mark the start and finish.
  • Random household items. Use them as place markers on your board game.
  • Think big! Why not use a giant piece of paper or cardboard to make a giant board game, where your family members are the place markers!

Please phone the Centre for Family Literacy in Edmonton at 780-421-7323 for more information about the 3,2,1,FUN! program, or visit our website www.famlit.ca

* Flit, our FREE family literacy app for activities to do with your 0-5 year-old. For more information or to download, visit the Apple App Store.

 

Build Pre-Reading Skills with Environmental Print

Crosswalk

Symbols are everywhere, and they are often accompanied by text. Go for a short walk to the corner and you are bound to see road signs, bins with recycle logos, business advertising and more. As adults, we are so accustomed to seeing this type of print around us that we barely give it a second thought. It is referred to as “environmental print” and is often the first print your children are exposed to. It is the perfect pre-reading tool as the context provides a clue as to its meaning. Think about well-known logos that your children recognize long before they can read, like McDonald’s golden arches!

Recognition of environmental print is one of the first stages of literacy development and should be encouraged. You can do this by pointing out the symbols and text whenever you see them, and talking about the colours, shapes, letters, and numbers used.

Being able to “read” environmental print is very exciting for children, and this is no small thing. It helps to prepare them for future learning and the reading that is required for the school years by building both confidence and a positive association with reading.

Here are a few ideas to support your children’s efforts:

  • Go on a treasure hunt in the house. Write words (for example, “soup”) on pieces of paper or cue cards, and check them off or stash them away in a special box as you find them
  • Make a homemade puzzle out of a cereal box
    • Cut out the front of a cereal box
    • Draw some wavy lines
    • Cut out the pieces
    • Store in a Ziploc bag

Puzzle

  • Make a grocery list with flyer pictures and have your children help you shop
  • Try “Scavenger Bingo”
    • Draw or print out a table with nine squares
    • Draw, print out, or find pictures of environmental print such as a stop sign, speed limit sign, or recycle bin
    • Cut out the pictures and keep them in a Ziploc bag or small box
    • Go for a walk and look for the items in the pictures (take a roll of tape or a glue stick)
    • As you find them, tape or glue the picture to a spot on the “Bingo card”

Environ. Scavenger Hunt

  • Cut out package labels to create a collage. Use items such as soup labels, cereal boxes, newspapers, greeting cards, or any other packaging on hand
  • Talk about the safety symbols found on household items
  • Make a placemat with your children using a piece of paper. Add stickers, drawings, or cut-outs of environmental print, and seal with packing tape or self-adhesive paper

Supporting your children’s efforts to read and recognize environmental print is one simple way to develop pre-reading skills. Have fun and help your children on the road to literacy!

 

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

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