Another Long Weekend?

HeritageDays2

What will you and your family do this long weekend? Will you take part in one of the many local celebrations, like Heritage Days to learn about many of the diverse cultures in our area or the Blueberry Bluegrass Music Festival to listen to some great music? Will you check out one of the city’s numerous attractions, or maybe hike or bike through the River Valley? Will you head out of the city to visit with family or friends? Or will you visit one of the many lakes not far down the road?

If you head out of town or even to one of the celebrations or attractions in your area, chances are you will find that:

  • Traffic to and from will be hectic
  • Long lineups will be the rule rather than the exception
  • Somebody will be hungry, thirsty, or tired
  • Quiet time will be needed at some point

To keep everyone happy despite these obstacles, it is a good idea to be well prepared before your long weekend adventures. Here are some things to do to make travel time more enjoyable:

  • Have everyone pack an activity bag – include things like a favourite toy, books, paper and pencils/crayons/pens, a cookie sheet with some magnets (this makes a really neat portable desk for their drawings, colouring sheets, word games or activity sheets – just make sure the magnets stick to the cookie sheet and they are not too tiny), a music player with headphones so that everybody does not have to listen to your favourite music, and a travel game or two.
  • Have your children help to choose and prepare individually portioned, car friendly snacks (not ones that need to be refrigerated or are messy). It’s a great way to build numeracy skills – how many containers do we need, what size should they be. It also saves money, helps cut down on the pleas for treats on the way in to the gas station, and helps avoid $5 bottles of water at the festival. You can keep the snacks all together or distribute them into the activity bags. Don’t forget the pre-moistened washcloths in a zip-lock bag.
  • Involve everybody in the car in games like:
    • Bingo – make up Bingo cards ahead of time with letters, numbers, or words that they will see along the way and that they can cross off the card. The first to get 15, wins!
    • I Spy – make sure that what they spy is something that doesn’t just go by in a flash!
    • What am I thinking of – think of something and each person gets to ask five questions to guess what you are thinking of.
    • Build me a story – decide on a character and a problem they face. Each person then gets a turn to build the story for three minutes (give or take). You’ll be surprised by the twists and turns the story takes along the way!
    • Sing a long – sing everybody’s favourite song at least once during your travels.

With my children off with their own long weekend plans, as many of my neighbours pack up their trailers, I look forward to:

  • a visit to the library on my way home on Friday to grab a couple of books from my wish list
  • a stop at the grocery store for goodies to last the weekend
  • a quick change into something comfortable
  • the next three days basking in the quiet of my backyard

Whatever you choose to do this long weekend, be safe and take time to enjoy it!

Parent Literacy Workshops in Your Community

COW-workshopThe Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus is known to travel around the province, taking part in planned events in communities as a way of promoting family literacy. But did you know that, at the invitation of our community partners, the Classroom On Wheels facilitators also hold indoor workshops for parents and caregivers?

The workshops are held in a welcoming space other than the bus, last about an hour and a half, and are for adults only. We require that the hosting organization supply childcare so that parents and caregivers can fully participate.

At these workshops we discuss a variety of early literacy topics:

  • What is family literacy and why is it important
  • How early literacy leads to the essential skills we use in everyday life
  • Building literacy with reading, telling stories, singing, sharing rhymes and playing games
  • Simple, inexpensive ideas for activities that can be made at home
  • How to incorporate literacy into everyday life
  • How to choose quality books; book safety
  • Using crafts to extend your rhymes and stories. If there’s time, we will even break into groups for some hands-on practice
  • Everyone will take home a list of rhymes to enjoy

At the end of the workshop, attendees will also take home a quality children’s book of their choosing.

To arrange a Parent Workshop for your organization, please contact our Classroom on Wheels Coordinator by calling the Centre for Family Literacy at 780.421.7323.

Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus information and schedule

hashtag: #ab_cow

Family Day – Unplugged

FamilyDay

Family Day falls on Monday, February 16 this year. Don’t have plans yet? Let us inspire you with some fun ideas for the whole family. Whatever you do on Family Day, try to stay unplugged. Better yet, stay plugged in to each other!

  1. Get outside and have some fun! How about skating, tobogganing, skiing or snowshoeing? Try making snow angels or a family-sized snow fort. Put food colouring in spray bottles and make snow art! And remember, chilly outings are best followed by hot chocolate and freshly baked cookies. (Have we mentioned that following a recipe together is a great family literacy activity?)
  2. Don’t like the cold? Play a board game or make a craft together. Sculpt snowflakes out of paper to hang in the window, or sprinkle salt on a watercolour painting!
  3. Family can extend to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even friends. Have the kids help with a card, letter or email to someone who can’t be with you on Family Day.
  4. Does your community offer special public events on Family Day? Many art galleries, museums and family-friendly places offer a reduced price or free entry.
  5. National Heritage Day falls on the same date as Family Day in Alberta. It’s a great reason to explore your family history. Pull out the old photo albums or research your family’s geneology. To focus on more recent history, create a scrapbook together of the past year or update your child’s school memory album. Be sure to include pictures, artwork, and your child’s writing!
  6. Turn up the volume. Look up the lyrics to your favourite songs. Print them and have a family sing-off! Not up for singing? Try turning one of your family’s favourite stories into a play or puppet show.
  7. Quiet down to connect. If you need some calm later in the day, try working on a puzzle together. If you’re an artistic bunch – or even if you’re not – you might get a kick out of family art time. Give everyone paper and a pencil to draw a favourite family memory or try sketching the same scene at the same time. You’ll be surprised at the unique perspectives each of you will bring. Be sure to put them on display afterwards!
  8. Want to grow your financial goals as a family? Create money jars. Decorate three jars and label them: ‘Give’, ‘Save’, and ‘Spend’. Write out your family’s plans for the money that will go in each jar.
  9. Take a trip to the library. Seek out a classic or discover a new family favourite. Have an absolute favourite family book? Write a letter to the author together, and then send it by mail or email.
  10. Share a little love with another family. Put some books or clothes you no longer use in a gift bag. Pass them on to another family, with a note, of course!

Whatever you plan to do this Family Day, we invite you to disconnect from technology in order to better reconnect with your family, friends and community.

Happy Family Day!

Family Literacy Day

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Board_game

Family Literacy Day — created by ABC Life Literacy Canada and held annually on January 27 — highlights the “importance of reading and engaging in other literacy-related activities as a family.”

Literacy is the foundation for learning, and it begins at home. Family Literacy takes place during daily routines in life as parents, children, and family members use literacy at home and in their community.

Research tells us that we can set kids up for success as learners when we engage them in conversations, read together regularly, provide meaningful writing experiences, and let them see us reading and learning too. Positive parent-child interaction every day is key at every stage of a child’s language and literacy development.

As a parent, grandparent, or caregiver, you’re likely already engaging the children in your life in meaningful family literacy activities. Looking for fresh ideas?

Inspired by ABC Life Literacy, here are 10 ways to engage your family in literacy and learning on Family Literacy Day, and every day:

  1. Start the day with a story. It beats the morning grumps every time.
  2. Write a note for another family member. Leave it somewhere you know they’ll find it – in their favourite box of cereal, their sock drawer or lunch box. (We know a mom who writes on bananas: “Have a great day! Now eat me.”)
  3. Search online for fun things to do. Plan your next family day.
  4. Hunt in the newspaper together for a “good news story,” enjoy the comics, or see how your favourite sports team is doing.
  5. Start a family communication book. Leave a blank notebook out in a common area where anyone can leave a message for other family members. Messages can range from “Thanks for tidying the play room” to “Remember to buy cheese!” In the short term, it can help with communication and increase family connectedness. In the long run, it might just become a family heirloom.
  6. Create a story with your family around the dinner table. Take turns writing one sentence at a time, then read the whole story aloud when you’re done. If you illustrate it, even the youngest can help.
  7. Older kids?  Have a laugh with mad-libs. Use a published book or create your own!
  8. Driving? Try the alphabet game. Work together to find the letters of the alphabet — in order — on signs and license plates.
  9. Play a board game together.
  10. End the day with a new book or an old favourite.

Learning can happen at any time. “Practicing literacy together every day has tremendous benefits for both children and parents.” The possibilities are endless. Why not add one or two new ideas to what you’re already doing as a family?

Happy Family Literacy Day!

 

 

 

National Grandparent’s Day

grandfather and babyThis year, National Grandparents’ Day is on Sunday, September 7. The special day began in Canada in 1995 when Liberal MP Mr. Sarkis Assadourin presented motion number 273 in the House of Commons.

The motion read, “That, in the opinion of this House, the government should consider designating the second Sunday in September of each year as Grandparents’ Day in order to acknowledge their importance to the structure of the family in the nurturing, upbringing and education of children.”

Some of us are cynical and think that Grandparents’ Day was created to support florists and greeting card companies. But when we think about the important role that grandparents play in connecting generations, it is apparent that the stronger the relationship between grandparents, parents, and grandchildren, the stronger the family.

Besides cards and flowers, here are a few ideas that your family might do together this year:

  • Create a family tree using photos so that everyone can put a name to a face. This is also a great way for grandparents to share those family stories.
  • Ask grandparents to share their favourite recipes and compile them into a cookbook so everyone has a copy.
  • Play a favourite board or card game from your grandparents’ youth.
  • Visit the neighbourhood where your grandparents grew up, and talk about how things have changed.

What traditions have your family developed to make this day special?

What do you do if the grandparents live in another place? Maybe there is an elderly couple or person who plays the role of grandparent for your children – include them in your celebrations.

 

Great Family Traditions

Reunion

Every three years in July, my mom’s side of the family gathers for a family reunion, and we alternate the location between British Columbia and Saskatchewan. This year the reunion will be in Saskatchewan at The Battlefords Provincial Park campground.

My aunts, uncles, and cousins are scattered across every province from BC through to Ontario so it is a long drive for some. Not everyone is going to be able to make the trip this year, but there will still be about 30 of us at the campground!

I look forward to reconnecting with family that I haven’t seen in years. It is important to set aside time to get together – we are so spread out and get so busy in our own lives.

I also look forward to camping, swimming, playing games, singing songs, reminiscing over old photo albums and eating a lot of food together. It is so much fun participating in all the different activities with my extended family. It is a great time to learn new things and to learn about each other.

As I am now an adult myself, I enjoy visiting with my aunts and uncles. I love to hear stories about my grandparents and about my mom when she was a little girl. Learning about my family history and where I came from helps me understand more about who I am today.

Have fun with your family this summer. Ask to hear family stories or share some yourself with those who are younger. Learn about old family traditions and even some old recipes. See how you might incorporate them into your family today so that they are not lost!

Love on Mother’s Day

I miss those days of Mother’s Day gifts handmade from a variety of things – pipe cleaners, construction paper, lace, paper dollies. All held together with a ton of glue!

Homemade coupons for a cup of tea or a foot rub. There were so many treasures that were perfect for any mother! I had many favourites. One of them was a melamine plate that could be drawn on. My son drew us holding hands. He told me that “this is you and me, walking to the park.”

Cards that said, “I love you, Mom’’ or “You are the Best’’ in big bold letters.

The excitement near Mother’s Day when the “secret” was coming in the door! The scurry to the bedroom to hide that special gift which was tightly wrapped with tape. On Mother’s Day, my son yelling “close your eyes” until the treasure was safely placed in my lap. I loved those times.

Learning the gift of giving.

Breakfast of a bowl of cereal with milk on the verge of flowing over the top, scrambled eggs with a chunk of egg shell, well done toast with smeared peanut butter.

The days of impressing me with those handmade gifts are gone; my son is an adult with a life of his own.

Last week he asked me a couple of times what I wanted for Mother’s Day. I knew he was struggling to come up with an idea so I told him to come and cook something on the barbeque and spend some time with me. That would be the greatest gift he could give me.

And oh, yes I asked him to help me clean my windows!

I hope that you had a wonderful Mother’s Day too!

 

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!

 

A Momentous Event in Edmonton

Truth and Reconciliation Commission:  Alberta National Event

Edmonton Shaw Conference Centre March 27-30, 2014

A momentous event is taking place in Edmonton. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is holding the seventh and final national gathering to hear from and honour survivors of Indian Residential Schools.

This gathering will take place at the Shaw Conference Centre from Thursday of this week right through Sunday. There is no formal registration and the event is free. You can find all the details at:

http://www.trc.ca/websites/alberta/index.php?p=766

The descriptions, times and places of all of the activities (sharing circles, panels, films, traditional ceremonies, discussions and dialogues, expressions of reconciliation) can be found in a downloadable program on the main website.

Until very recently most Canadians did not know the truth of the Indian Residential Schools. They did not know that over a period of 116 years about 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were taken, forcibly if necessary, from their homes, from loving parents, grandparents, extended families and communities to schools far away from their homes. That would have been bad enough but, in fact, the purpose of the schools was to break the connection of the children to their cultures, languages, traditions and spiritual beliefs, to “take the Indian out of them”. And there was more. The children were abused physically, psychologically and sometimes sexually. They were malnourished and lived in crowded, ill-kept schools. They died of TB, flu, and other illnesses, as well as from accidents.

This is a dark part of our history that we did not know until recently. I think it is hard for us to admit that in Canada such horrifying things were done to young children. Some people wish to deny that it happened. That is understandable, but it is not right. Now we can listen to the survivors, we can honour their suffering, we can work together to heal and reconcile our communities. In the final gathering this week (Mar 27-30), there will be sharing circles at different times every day, over the four-day period.

By attending we also honour the First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities’ incredible strength, fortitude and ability to survive.

More information about the TRC can be found at the links below:

What is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission? http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/index.php?p=3

Truth and Reconciliation Commission FAQ http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/index.php?p=10

 

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/.