Party Baby!

It’s the holidays! And for a lot of people that means parties, family get-togethers, and gatherings of all kinds. If you have a baby with you, this can be a lot of fun or quite stressful.

Whether your baby is a party animal or actually quite shy, being surrounded by people for long periods of time is not something that many babies are used to. An unending parade
unknownof aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins who want to hold your baby can be overwhelming for them, and just being in a loud room full of people talking and playing can leave babies feeling over-stimulated and exhausted.

Here are a few tips to survive the holiday season:

  • How is baby doing? We all have limits, and while one baby can be in the middle of a large group for hours, another baby might need to take breaks more often. And if your baby is sick, tired, or hungry, they might not last long at all. If you notice they are avoiding eye contact and looking agitated, find a quiet(er) place where you can retreat to spend some one-on-one time.
  • Times when everyone is doing something together, like singing songs, sharing stories, or playing a game, are easier for babies to handle than times when activites are more chaotic (even when everyone’s getting along).

grandfather-and-baby

  • Babies will find a lot of comfort in the familiar, so try to balance the introductions to people they haven’t met before and places they’ve never been with familiar faces, favourite rhymes, and books.
  • How are you feeling? Babies definitely pick up on your feelings, so if you’re starting to feel stressed (or hungry or tired or sick), find what you need to feel better, and in the meantime, recruit your partner or another family member who is feeling more calm to take care of your baby for a while.

If your little one doesn’t seem to like meeting new people, here’s a great article from Zero to Three that talks about how we can help children with different temperments handle social situations: https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/198-children-with-shy-or-slow-to-warm-up-temperaments

Take care of your babies and yourselves, and I hope to see you at Books for Babies in 2017. Best wishes everyone!

About the Books for Babies program

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

 

Non-fiction Books Your Kids Will Love

I have been reading to my children since they were born, so I have noticed a real trend in their choices of non-fiction or fiction books. As babies, they wanted us to read non-fiction—books with real pictures of real things in their daily lives while they were getting to know their world.

Now that my oldest is preschool age, she prefers that we read fiction—stories that expand her ideas of whimsy and make-believe worlds, where princesses always live happily ever after and the super heros always win. She has lost interest in non-fiction books.

animal-teeth2Because of the research on the importance of reading non-fiction, I have been trying to find interesting topics for my daughter. When I came across the series of books “What if you had Animal…” (Feet, Teeth, Hair, or Ears) by Sandra Markle and Howard McWilliam, I knew right away she would love them.

The books combine fiction and non-fiction. They have pictures of real animals and information about their feet, teeth, hair or ears. But what makes the books fun is that they also have illustrated pictures of children with the same animal’s attributes. As you can see on this cover, the child has beaver teeth, which of course look hilarious to children.

The series allows children to read non-fiction literature to get facts and dive into a fantasy world at the same time! What a great bridge for readers to find their way back to non-fiction books. The series can be found on the Edmonton Literacy C.O.W. bus!

animal-feetMy daughter absolutely loves these books! We have read them so often that she can tell me what great super power, as she likes to call them, I would have if I had certain animal features. At the playground she commented that she would love to have kangaroo feet to  jump high over the fence and get to the park faster.

Since we have travelled with my daughter several times, she found an easy interest in maps of our country, continent and world. We have also been venturing into the career and cooking sections at the library.

Here are some ways to spark your children’s interest in non-fiction books:

  • Pursue their passions: do they have a love of dinosaurs or big monster vehicles? Use their current interests to encourage them
  • More is more: by offering a variety of non-fiction reading materials, you may find a format they prefer, such as books, magazines, newspapers, or atlases
  • Parents are their children’s best teachers: if you read a variety of literature, both fiction and non-fiction, and talk with your children about what you are reading, it is likely their interests will grow

Below are links to research on the importance of reading non-fiction books:

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/dec12/vol70/num04/Nonfiction-Reading-Promotes-Student-Success.aspx

http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/non-fiction-why-its-important/

http://scholarworks.wmich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1071&context=reading_horizons

http://www.education.com/reference/article/reasons-teaching-nonfiction/

http://uanews.ua.edu/2014/03/ua-matters-the-importance-of-reading-nonfiction-with-children/

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

 

Flit the App: Fun literacy activities to do WITH your 0-5 year old!

As a mother of 3 children now 9, 7 and 5, and a former teacher, literacy learning has been a big part of our family and my career. I’m familiar with how important it is for a parent to engage and read with their children. Still, I would sometimes wonder how to build their language and literacy skills. There are only so many times you can sing “Paddy Cake” with your children before you get bored.

Where did I turn to find activities? Pinterest, of course. If you are not familiar with Pinterest, you can search a topic of interest and find a multitude of ideas. I would sort through numerous Pinterest boards searching for literacy learning activities, but it takes a lot of time. Wouldn’t it be great if there was an app that provided us with some of the best ideas to help our kids gain literacy skills, so we could easily find what we wanted?

Now there is! The new Flit app by the Centre for Family Literacy is not just another literacy app to put in front of your kids. This app is for us, the parents and caregivers of children from birth to 5 years. The Flit (Families Learning and Interacting Together) app offers a curated resource of some of the best activities to connect and do with your child to boost and build key literacy skills.

Here is how it works:

First, scroll across the top to choose from 8 categories: Books, Rhymes, Games, Crafts, Writing, Numbers, Cooking, or Reading.

Flit1

Once you choose a category, you will see the activities in that category. Simply choose an activity and you will be taken to that activity screen.

For example:

Flit2

Once you click on an activity you will be taken to that activity screen.

 Flit3

There you will find:

  • What you need
  • What to do
  • How to do it together with your child

Flit4

At the end of each activity you will find:

  • What concepts can be learned from the activity
  • Additional resources or ideas
  • Related activities

You can also heart favourite activities for use another time or share your activity with family and friends on Facebook.

 

HOW ELSE CAN THIS APP HELP YOU AS A PARENT?

  • Imagine you are sitting in a restaurant that doesn’t have any activities to keep children busy. Yikes! You could easily open this app and choose an activity to help you occupy your children before their food arrives.
  • Kids are at home for their day off from school and you’re not sure what to do with them to pass the day. Take a peek at the app for ideas to get your day moving.
  • You can’t make it to the Rhymes that Bind family literacy program today because your toddler is sick. You can open the app and do the activities in your own home until you can make it back to the group.
  • It gives you an opportunity to engage with your children in a meaningful way.

The app will also benefit: parents, grandparents, babysitters, nannies, day home providers, preschool teachers, and early learning professionals.

Are you ready to get the free Flit app? Here’s more information and the link to iTunes to download the app.

Currently Flit is only available to Apple users, however the Centre for Family Literacy is working on securing funding for an Android version. Please do the quick survey on the website if you are interested in the Android version of the app.

Bonnie Dani
Educator, Writer, Blogger, Mom

I blog over at Adalinc to Life where you can find children’s book reviews, activities, diy projects, and other inspiration for you and your home.

email: bonniedani@adalinc.org

 

Don’t Forget to Plug In this Family Day Weekend!

placeit (1)You may say “Hey Kim, last year you told us to unplug! You told us that we should unplug and get out as a family! What’s going on?”

That’s all very true, but I’ve got a good reason to change my mind this year. I’d like to ask you to plug in, just for a bit, to download flit, our new Family Literacy app. On it, you’ll find some great activity ideas to try with your family—then unplug and have fun!

You might say we are more than a little excited about our venture into the app world. Families Learning and Interacting Together, or flit, is perfect for your unplugged Family Day.

The activities and information are divided into eight categories—each one supporting an aspect of literacy and numeracy development in an easy and fun way. Best of all, you can do them all as a family and work them into your daily routine!

APP-web 400pxThe activities are also divided into age groups for zero to five year olds, and really are directed at those ages. However I experimented with my own children (who are 10 and 12 years) to see how they would like the activities, and I’m pretty sure they had fun with many of the games, cooking, and craft activities even at their age (with a few suggestions for changes).

My kids’ favourite is the fry-bread activity. We use it as a base for tacos and they are delicious! Download the app, and check out this recipe, along with the book Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith. Let me know how it goes!

See a demo of the flit App

Android users—please ask your Apple friends to like and rate our app—it could help us get funding to create a version for you too!

Do you think we should develop flit for Android? Take the short survey!

More about the Centre for Family Literacy at www.famlit.ca

Learning with Literacy Links

Picture-073

Back in 2012 there was an increase in the number of inquiries the Centre for Family Literacy received from organizations, childcare providers, and parents, about what kind of services we had to offer parents and professionals working with families with children under six years.

Parents were already attending programs that had them singing, sharing stories and books, and interacting with their child and other families in the group. They wanted to know more about why these programs were important.

Early learning and care practitioners saw the difference that bringing these activities into their own programs meant. They wanted to know how they could enhance and build more literacy into their daily activities with the children. They also wanted to know more practical ways to share what they were doing with the parents.

To meet this community need, a number of hands-on practical workshops were developed to address early literacy for parents, practitioners and anyone else interested in supporting literacy in families.

These workshops are offered in a variety of settings: daycares and day home provider agencies, community organizations, and conferences. Participants leave the workshops with information based on research as well as practical, creative, and inexpensive strategies that enhance literacy in everyday life. They also explore the important role the parent/caregiver plays in building and supporting the literacy skills of child and parent alike.

Do you know?

  • Sharing rhymes, songs, books, and stories build language skills
  • Identifying objects by shape, colour, or size are numeracy skills
  • By engaging your child in a book, you increase their enjoyment and comprehension skills
  • Having strong language skills (in any language) is the foundation for learning to read and write
  • By having a variety of writing materials available, you encourage a child to write
  • Playing games, asking questions, and taking turns develops essentials skills
  • Children are reading symbols and signs long before they are reading words
  • Shopping, cooking, and baking are rich with literacy experiences

Check out the list of workshops on the Literacy Links page of our website. If you are interested in attending a workshop or hosting one, please contact us at info@famlit.ca

hashtag: #lit_links

Reading Every Day Helps Keep the Doctor Away

The benefits of reading regularly are endless. But our health? What could reading have to do with how frequently we visit the doctor? It turns out quite a bit, actually.

In fact, a report conducted by the Canadian Council of Learning (CCL) found daily reading to be the greatest determinant in predicting individual health literacy. So does this study suggest that reading makes you healthier? Not exactly, but it does point to a significant correlation – on average, those who read more often are in better health.

This finding pertains to the field of health literacy, which is “skills to enable access, understanding and use of information for health,” as defined by the Canadian Public Health Association. As such, health literacy can encompass everything from taking the correct dosage of a medication, to exercise and healthy eating, to seeking out health services.

Health Literacy is more complex than general literacy. This is also reflected in the CCL study, which shows that 48 percent of Canadians struggle with general literacy, while 60 percent of Canadians have low health literacy. Despite the differences in literacies, it is clear that the numeracy and prose skills involved in general literacy are fundamentally important in people’s ability to grasp often complicated health information.

Here are some other key findings:

  • Six out of ten Canadians do not posses adequate health literacy skills
  • Individuals with low health literacy are found to be 2.5 times more likely to be in only fair or poor health
  • The populations of seniors, immigrants, and the unemployed are most susceptible to inadequate health literacy

These findings are shocking. Take into account the daily struggles faced by individuals with inadequate health literacy and the connection becomes clear.

Health-LitGrocery shopping is a great example. Without the ability to accurately read and understand nutrition labels, how is one supposed to make healthy food choices? Individuals need to be able to understand the implications associated with what they’re eating. How is this possible without the fundamentals of literacy? Well it turns out it isn’t, and that’s exactly what these findings suggest.

A literate society is a healthier society, and for many, the prescription is reading.

 

 

Guys Read Too, Don’t They?

Fam_Lit079How do you get kids to read? Reading was never a problem for me – I always found it to be a very fun and enjoyable activity. It was easy for me to find books that I wanted to read. But what about those kids who can’t find books that are of interest to them? Boys, especially, struggle with this. How can parents find books that their boys will enjoy? As an educator, I’ve been asked this question a lot and this is what I’ve found.

In order to get kids to read, you have to make reading fun for them and find books that hold their attention. I found a couple of great websites containing lists of valuable resources: guysread.com and readkiddoread.com.

Why might boys have trouble with reading? Guysread.com has this to say: “biologically, boys are slower to develop than girls and often struggle with reading and writing skills early on. The action-oriented competitive learning style of many boys works against them when learning to read and write. Many books boys are asked to read don’t appeal to them. They aren’t motivated to want to read. As a society, we teach boys to suppress feelings. Boys aren’t practiced and often don’t feel comfortable exploring the emotions and feelings found in fiction. Boys don’t have enough positive male role models for literacy. Because the majority of adults involved in kids reading are women, boys might not see reading a s a masculine activity.”

There are a few things we need to do to help boys be successful. We need to draw attention to boys’ literacy. GUYS READ is our chance to do that. We need to include humour, comics, graphic novels, magazines, websites, audiobooks and newspapers in school reading and give them a choice about what they read. We need to encourage male role models of literacy. And we also need to be realistic and start small.

Guysread.com contains a list of books on topics such as: cars, trucks, sports, outer space, how to build stuff, robots, boxers, wrestlers, ultimate fighters, scary, action/adventure, animals and explosions, just to name a few. Readkiddoread.com also contains lists of books of various levels and interests. These lists include: great family reads, great picture books, great transitional books, great pageturners and great advanced reads.

If you have trouble finding books for boys, these two websites are a great place to start.

Giving the Traditional Chore Chart a Modern Twist

Chores… Something every parent has to think about and most children dread. There are so many tips available on the Internet and in many parenting magazines. Yet chores remains a hot topic in any circle of parents meeting in playgrounds and playgroups across the county.

At this time of year, as schools prepare to let loose the children, parents are talking even more about chores and responsibilities. Summer is upon us and though we want our children to have their fun, we need them to contribute to the home chores.

How do you balance work and play for your children? Do you pay them an allowance? Do they get incentive rewards? How old should they be when you start to assign chores? How you choose to work out those details is as individual as each household. However, most experts (and parents) agree that it is as important for children to learn these skills as it is to learn to walk, run, and ride a bike.

Chores teach children how to accomplish tasks. They teach children how to schedule or budget their time. They teach children how to work together. Chores create independence and problem solving skills. If allowance is involved, it can serve as a lesson on how to budget or save earnings for a special item. These are all wonderful lifelong skills and positive character traits!

So why can it be such a battle to follow through and assign chores to the children in our lives? As adults we rationalize that if we had a choice between something we perceive as fun, vs something that we perceive as work, we would likely choose the fun thing as well. But since we do not really have a choice, we get through the work so we can reward ourselves with some leisure time afterwards. Personally, I dislike kitchen chores. Why does it seem to be never ending? I can relate to “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout” and what happened because she would not take the garbage out!

How can we get our little lovelies to chip in around the house? There is no magical answer to that question. As a mother of four, I know what has worked in my house and what hasn’t. Trial and error can take more effort by the parents, but it is rewarding to find a method that works for your own family. One thing many parents agree on is that, though the chore itself may not be fun, the approach to it should be. Pinterest is a great source for creative ideas and approaches.

My boys are like many other boys and really enjoy their video games and computer time. I struggled to find a balance for their allowable game time, chores, and other fun until I started using a sign up sheet. In our home, it is a successful and fun way to encourage my boys to do chores.

Your sign up sheet can be new daily or laminated to write on with a dry erase marker. On our sheet I add things that I can use help with daily. There are a variety of things to choose from with varying degrees of difficulty and age appropriate for each boy. I write things such as tidy up the shoe shelf, sweep the kitchen floor, take out the garbage, take the dog for a walk, shovel the sidewalk, or weed the flowerbeds. For fun, there are things such as go for a bike ride with a brother, play tag outside, build a snow fort, use sidewalk chalk to create a picture, or even read a book.

The boys are responsible to sign up for a chore one at a time. They have to complete one chore fully before they can sign up for another. Each “chore” or “job” has an amount of time assigned to it by myself, such as 5, 10, 20, or 30 minutes. When they have successfully completed some jobs and accumulated enough time credits, they are given equal time on their games. It is a great way for us to balance chores, play and computer time. The boys feel it is their choice and that they are in control. It balances out well and they never have too much “time” accrued to make me feel they are spending too much of it on video games.

This summer, think how to keep it fun. Have the children think they are in control of how and when they help out around the house. It makes for less of a battle and guarantees more fun for all!