Exploring Numeracy with 3,2,1, FUN!

The Centre for Family Literacy’s 3,2,1, FUN! program is about exploring numeracy literacy with parents together with their preschool children. Numeracy includes concepts that help with understanding math later in school. Having a good foundation in numeracy means that we have an understanding of numbers, shapes, and measurements and how they relate to each other. Reinforced by the parent-child relationship, real-life, everyday experiences support this understanding.

At the Centre for Family Literacy we believe programs like 3,2,1, FUN! are beneficial to children and their development. We provide fun activities and songs for each session using numeracy-based books. This helps spark the imagination to create similar activities in your own everyday lives.

Introducing number sense can be as easy as counting the steps into the library, counting the spoonfuls of macaroni you put on your children’s plates, making a grocery list, and counting items into the cart then checking them off the list.

When my children were little I had a Day Home. We often went on outings to the library, the community centre, and the park, but most memorable were our scavenger hunt walks. On these days, the children and I took a wagon and empty recycling bags with us. Wearing gloves, the children picked up bottles which we bagged and took to the recycling depot. Afterwards, we had a fun trip to the dollar store so they could spend the money they earned.

Simple activities like this have many benefits. The children were:

  • out in the fresh air
  • having fun
  • helping the environment
  • getting to know their community
  • learning money sense
  • sharing

What type of outing could you create with your children in your own neighbourhood?

Visit the Centre for Family Literacy website to find out more about the 3,2,1,FUN! program!

Talking to Babies in Different Languages

We work with mothers, fathers, grandparents, and caregivers from a number of countries and backgrounds. Together they speak more than 60 languages, and for many of these families, that means that more than one language is being spoken at home.

Children born into these homes are incredibly fortunate. There are many benefits to being able to speak more than one language. Languages create connections between generations, between cultures, and between places all around the world. And having more connections to our world and the people in it is a wonderful gift.

So, how can babies best learn more than one language?

The first part is easy: they need to learn from people. Face-to-face interaction is by far the best way for babies to learn new languages. Videos, apps, and recordings will not help babies. Video chat is the only exception. The second part is that, when they are old enough to speak, they have to use the new language regularly.

When I first started in this field, there were concerns about confusing babies with different languages, so recommendations were quite rigid. But research from the last 10 years  suggests that babies are not that easy to confuse, so you can explore an approach to multiple languages that works best for you and your family.

Here is an excellent guide from Nexus Health in Ontario. It discusses the benefits, different  strategies, and ways children learn multiple languages: “When children speak more than one language”.

Whether you are fluent in one language or can speak in many, have fun singing and talking with your babies. I promise that they want to hear from you.

Visit the Centre for Family Literacy website for more resources and tip sheets for parents.

 

The 5 W’s of Rhyming

Who?

Anyone can learn a rhyme and use it. Moms, dads, grandparents, childcare providers, siblings, everyone!

Where?

You guessed it, anywhere! The obvious place is at home, but you can use rhymes at the doctor’s office, in the car, at the grocery store or mall, Grandma’s house, and daycare. Wherever you and your child are, a rhyme can be used. You don’t need props, just your voice and your body.

What?

Rhymes help to develop oral literacy through their repetitive and rhythmic nature. When you include them in daily activities, your child learns new words and the rules of language. Rhymes can be songs you remember from your childhood, folk songs, nursery rhymes or lines from a favourite book. They can be chants. They can be made up, or classics like “Itsy-Bitsy Spider” and “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”

When?

Anytime! Bathtime, bedtime, playtime, mealtime. During chores, diaper changes, getting dressed, travelling, or running errands. There’s no need to set aside a special time for rhyming. Rhymes can be used during any daily routine or outing.

Why?

We encourage the use of rhymes for a number of reasons:

  1. A rhyme can build vocabulary. The words you hear in a rhyme are probably out of the ordinary. How often do you use the words ‘itsy-bitsy’ or ‘water spout’ in your daily conversations? Your child can learn many new words from rhymes.
  2. A rhyme helps to develop communication skills. Communication skills are important to your child’s development. In addition to oral language, some rhymes teach hand signals. As you’re setting the table for supper, you could sing “I like to eat.” With this rhyme, a pre-verbal child can learn how to say eat, drink, milk, and water in sign language.
  3. A rhyme can lessen frustration for both caregiver and child. A rhyme has the power to turn a meltdown into a calming and enjoyable moment. Think lullabies. You both might even end up laughing!
  4. A rhyme can teach patience and anticipation, when it ends with a tickle or a lift. These skills are invaluable later on in life, but right now your child just wants to be tickled and thrown up to the sky. What they don’t know is that you are preparing their body and mind to deal with stressful situations that may arise in the future.
  5. A rhyme builds healthy relationships between caregiver and child. You are doing wonders for your relationship with your child when you interact with them in this way. You give them a sense of safety and a feeling of being loved. As a result, studies show your child’s mental health will be better now and especially later in life.
  6. A rhyme is fun!

So what are you waiting for? Search your memory for one of your favourite lullabies, or come to a Rhymes that Bind program and learn some new ones! Rhymes that Bind offers numerous old and new rhymes for you to choose from. And you’ll learn new ways to incorporate them into your day.

Check out the Centre for Family Literacy website for a free drop in program near you. http://www.famlit.ca/

In the meantime, here’s the tune and sign language for I like to eat:

I Like to Eat

I like to eat, eat, eat
Apples and bananas (x2)
I like to drink, drink, drink
Milk and water (x2)
I’d like some more, more, more
Please and Thank you (x2)

 

Spring into Learning!

Spring has arrived! It is a pleasure to get outside now that the snow is melting and the air is warmer. Outside, there are many things to learn in spring. Children are like little sponges ready to soak up new information. It doesn’t take extra time to give your children the chance to learn; family literacy can occur naturally during daily routines. It helps adults and children get things done.

Ways to use literacy in your activities this spring:

  • talk to your children as they put on their spring gear. Ask why they no longer need to wear winter boots, coats, etc.
  • dressed in rubber boots and raincoats, let them experience the tactile joy of crunching ice and splashing in puddles. Talk about how it feels as they squish through mud and try to pull their feet out. Ask them to make the sounds of squishing mud and splashing and running water.
  • look at snow and ice melting where the sun shines and talk about where the snow goes. Wonder why water sometimes gathers in a puddle and sometimes runs down the drain. Discuss why it rains in warmer weather instead of snowing. How does this helps things grow?
  • encourage your children to use their senses to experience spring. 
Talk about what they see, smell, feel and hear. Look for the first flowers and buds on trees. Notice if it’s lighter at bedtime. Search for bugs. Ask if the air smells different and feels warmer. Hear the different bird sounds.

The C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) Bus is ready for spring. When you visit the bus, you will be treated to a couple of our favourite stories:

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers is a favourite of children and parents alike; it is laugh-out-loud funny. In the story, a boy loses his kite in a tree and tries to knock it down by throwing everything he can find into the tree. On the bus, children delight in “throwing” felt pieces into the tree on the story board, bringing the tale to life.

And there are monsters on the bus—tickle monsters! We’ll read two books about tickle monsters; one where children make a neighbourhood scene out of the monster body parts, and the other involves a lot of tickling and singing!

Here is a springtime song we will be singing on the bus and you can also enjoy it at home. Try acting it out!

Rain is Falling
(tune: “Skip to My Lou”)

Rain is falling, what shall I do (X 3)
What shall I do my darling?

Put on a raincoat, (rain boots, rain pants, rain coat) that’s what I’ll do (X 3)
That’s what I’ll do my darling.

Grab an umbrella, (jump in some puddles) that’s what I’ll do (X 3)
That’s what I’ll do my darling.

Visit the Centre for Family Literacy website to find out where and when the C.O.W. bus will be parked near you!

 

Come Play With Me!

One of the workshops offered through our Literacy Links workshop series is called “Come Play with Me.” This has been one of the more popular training opportunities and is booked regularly. Learning through play is a concept that has been trending for many years and is widely supported by parents and practitioners. But what is play and why is it important?

The Webster’s dictionary provides thirty-four definitions for the word play, and Oxford dictionary has over 100. Not all of us view play through the same eyes. There are many variables that influence our definition of play. These can be cultural, societal, historical, personal, educational, and global. Even our age can influence how we see play. I define play as the way our children learn about themselves, people around them, and how things work in their world. What does play mean to you?

The Importance of Play

Children learn through their everyday experiences. They do not know or particularly care about what they are learning—they are simply focused on having fun! When children play they interact with their world and use things they experience. For instance, children will draw upon things they have heard, or seen, or done, and use these experiences to play games and engage in activities. Play also gives children the opportunity to explore new things and begin making sense of them. Through play children recreate what they have learned and are able to practice all these new skills!

Play enhances almost every skill critical to the development of children. When they play, they are learning and developing:

  • Language
  • Sharing
  • Social skills
  • Cooperation
  • Creativity
  • Risk Taking
  • Imagination
  • Leadership
  • Problem solving
  • Self Awareness
  • Cultural awareness
  • Boundaries
  • Communication
  • Numeracy
  • And SO MUCH MORE!

Stages of Play

Between the ages of 0-6 years, play has been broken down into a series of stages. These stages form a continuum of growth and development that all children experience in their own unique way.

The first stage of play is called Unoccupied Play. This stage begins at birth and lasts about 3 months. Unoccupied Play is characterized by the random movements and jerks that your baby makes. These simple movements are how your baby becomes aware of their body and how to use their body parts.

Typically at 2-3 months children will move into the next stage of play which is called Solitary Play, and this stage usually lasts until children turn 3 years old. Solitary Play begins when your child is able to start holding objects. In this stage, children will play alone and will not be very interested in others. Solitary Play is considered to be the longest stage because, although they will progress through this stage, children will always return to it in some capacity even as they move into their teen years.

Onlooker Play is the stage that commonly occurs between the ages of 2.5 and 3.5. This is the observation stage where children still prefer to play alone, but now they are beginning to take an interest in how other children play. You will notice them staring at other children as they play, but remain hesitant to join them.

The next stage, Parallel Play, mimics Onlooker Play in that children will keenly observe play in other children. However, now you will find that they are beginning to ask many questions about what they observe in other children’s play. “What are they doing with those blocks?” “Why are they using red lego?” This is also the stage where children will be more interested in communicating with other children in play.

Typically between 3-4 years of age, children will progress into the stage referred to as Associative Play. There are no rules or roles in their play and children are more interested in the interactions and less interested in the toys. In this stage, children are learning cooperation, problem solving, and language, among other skills.

The final stage of play is the one parents are most excited for, Coorperative Play. Between the years of 4 and 6, children move into the Cooperative Play stage, where their play is generally focused around working with others towards a common goal. Roles are defined, and you will often see children playing house or school and during these activities they will have a role—mother, father, teacher, etc.

The final stage of play is only reached when children have had the time they need to progress through each stage before it. It is important to be patient through the stages, and let your children take as much or as little time as they need to explore each stage and move to the next. Although there is a common timeline, remember that all children are different and there is no right or wrong way to explore these stages.

In my next blog, which will be coming out May 4th, I will be exploring 7 Types of Play and sharing ideas on the role parents have in their children’s play. For more information about the importance of play, please do a search for our blogs about play in the search field above.

If you would like to find out more about attending or hosting a Literacy Links workshop, please check the Centre for Family Literacy website and/or contact the Centre for Family Literacy by email info@famlit.ca or by phone: 780.421.7323

 

3,2,1,Fun! That’s Right, Numbers are Fun!

When we think of literacy, our minds go directly to reading and words. But literacy is more than words, it is the combination of many everyday skills that you may use without even thinking about or categorizing as literacy.

Numeracy is one such skill, and includes number sense, predictability, calendars, patterns and relationships, measurement, time, puzzles, problem solving, and shapes.

Using numeracy skills and teaching them to your children might be easier than you think. Numbers are everywhere! If you are baking, you can ask your child to help measure, and as they get older they can help double or halve the recipe. Making cookies, you can talk about the shapes, or place them in patterns on the cookie sheet before baking; circle, square, triangle… circle, square, triangle.

Using patterns and shapes to decorate Easter eggs is another great way to talk about colours and patterns. You can also count the eggs, making sure there are enough for the whole family, and that everyone gets the same amount. You can divide other Easter candies or jelly beans according to their colour, and make a pattern or even a jelly bean rainbow.

We all learn differently. Some learn best by reading, some through watching, and some through doing. Children are still finding their best learning style and therefore learn best by doing all three. Keeping this in mind, how might you adapt playing or chores into learning moments?

When possible, try to be aware of the language you are using, or not using, during play and chores. Think of yourself as the narrator; while narrating you are teaching your children language, self-expression, and building on their vocabulary.

Some good numeracy words to use throughout play and learning are:

  • ciircle, square, triangle
  • round, flat, curved, straight, corners
  • same, different, opposite
  • sorting
  • more, less
  • short, long, bigger, smaller

Some good questions to ask:

  • What comes next?
  • Which are the same? Why?
  • Which is different? Why?
  • Where would this go? Why?

While narrating you could also try to include a singing narrative. Singing and music help develop children’s brains and make stronger brain connections, leading to children who develop stronger literacy skills in life.

At the Centre for Family Literacy’s free 3,2,1,Fun! program, you will enjoy learning activities, tools, and tips to support your children in their early literacy development, which leads to success in school and lifelong learning.

If you are unable to access one of our programs, you can download our free parenting literacy resource app, Flit, from Google Play and the App Store. The app gives you over 100 fun literacy activities, recipes, games to do with your children, and tips and tricks to add to your parenting tool box.

You’ll find more information about 3,2,1,Fun! and Flit on our website at www.famlit.ca

 

Show your Baby You Love Reading Too

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The best way for your baby to learn is through positive one-on-one interactions with the people they know and love. However, it’s not the only way that she can figure things out.

Your baby is always watching you, listening to you, and even smelling you. Even when your baby is outside of that sweet spot of face-to-face interaction, she is still trying to understand what is going on, and she pays special attention to what you and the rest of your family are doing.

All the important people in your baby’s life are role models for how to be human. And if you need proof of how much your baby is trying to be like you, just think of how quickly she picks up on your bad habits. You are not trying to teach her those things, but if she sees you’re staying up late, she wants to be awake with you. If she sees you on your smartphone a lot, your baby will want almost nothing more than to hold your phone in her tiny hands.

Under the age of two, children do not judge for themselves what is good or bad, they accept everything as normal. During this early stage, your baby understands how the world is supposed to work by what you do at home.

Now think about how much reading you do for yourself. Of course, cuddling up and sharing a board book is helpful to your baby, but what kind of a message are you giving her if she never sees you reading anything else?

A 2011 survey of families in the UK found that young people who see their mother and father read a lot are more likely to:

  • identify themselves as readers,
  • enjoy reading,
  • read frequently
  • have positive attitudes towards reading

National Literacy Trust, 2012

You are not only teaching your baby what things are called and how things work, you are modelling the attitudes that she will adopt for herself as she grows older. If you want your baby to enjoy books and value reading, make sure that you show her that. Your baby is very good at reading your expressions and body language. If you look like you’re having fun or you’re doing something interesting, then she will want that to be a part of her life too.

If you’d like to learn more tips to help your baby grow up to love reading, check out our  Books for Babies program!

What Goes on in that COW Bus? Come and Find Out!

COW-100_1200

The C.O.W. Bus is a classroom on wheels that offers a free drop-in program for parents and children 0-6 years. It is wonderful to have babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and their parents on the bus with us, playing, sharing, reading, and laughing together!

The C.O.W. bus is also a bookmobile! Families have the opportunity to borrow books for free! We have a huge selection, so parents can easily find and borrow books that their children will enjoy. Families also have a chance to win a book of their choice!

So, what can you expect when you visit the C.O.W Bus? You are welcomed into a safe, cozy, and fun environment. When our families arrive, they have an opportunity to play with a variety of ever-changing toys and puzzles. Then a facilitator shares stories, rhymes, and songs. We like to choose activities that engage and involve the parents and children. Many families find that these stories, rhymes, and songs become favourites in their homes as they continue to share them together.

The MittenOne of our favourite stories this month is “The Mitten” by Jan Brett. We have a big felt mitten and felt animals. Each of the children enjoys holding one of the animals depicted in the story, placing it into the mitten, and watching the mitten stretch—just like in the story.

We have also learned a new good-bye song this month, which is very popular with parents and children alike. It is called the “Alligator Song” and is to the tune of “Oh My Darlin’ Clementine:”

See you later, alligator
In a while, crocodile
Give a hug, ladybug
Blow a kiss, jellyfish

See you soon, big baboon
There’s the door, dinosaur
Take care, polar bear
Bye, bye, butterfly

Of course, the actions that go with the song make it even more fun!

One of our goals is to support the language and literacy development of the children. We are happy to say that the program achieves this, according to the parents. They also frequently comment that our program helps their children with socialization skills. The children don’t even realize how much they are stretching and growing with us—they are too busy having fun!

We are thrilled to hear many parents tell us that their children wake up in the morning asking excitedly “Is it COW bus day?” If you haven’t had the opportunity to join us, please do! We visit each of our 10 locations around Edmonton on a weekly basis and would be happy to have you join us at a program near you. Please see the Centre for Family Literacy website for times and locations. See you there!

The Power of a Rhyme

RTB - hopping to rhymeSM

Have you ever had to wait with a toddler in a doctor’s office listening in vain for those sweet, sweet words, “He’s ready for you,” or in what looks like the longest lineup to the checkout that you’ve ever seen? Or simply had to wait outside a store for their doors to open?

That time I had to run some errands, toddler in tow…

I recently, and reluctantly, took my two-year-old daughter on an errand run to Staples. Thinking this was going to be a quick and easy stop, I arrived to find it closed and had about 30 minutes to wait. I considered just going home, or getting back into the car and handing her a snack and my phone.

Annoyed at my options, I looked around and saw a Home Depot just down the street. I knew getting her to walk there wouldn’t be easy, and I certainly wasn’t prepared to carry her that far. Nor was I in the mood to wrestle her back into her car seat for a one minute drive. While handing her my phone and a pack of crackers seemed like the least frustrating thing to do, there was another way to pass the time that was far more beneficial to both of us.

This is where the power of a simple rhyme came into play.

I took her by the hand and started singing, “Walking, walking, walking, walking. Hop, hop hop…” in the direction of Home Depot and to my delight, she followed, walking, hopping and running. It was fun, it was memorable, it was easy and, we both benefitted from it.

A few things happened in this short time:

  1. Feelings of frustration were lessened. It started out as a frustrating, ‘what do I do now’ situation, but with the use of a simple rhyme, the mood was changed. We were happily making our way down the street, turning a potentially stressful wait into an effortless 30 minutes.
  2. My child was developing oral literacy. Oral literacy has to happen first. A child learns to read and write after they learn to speak. The stronger they are in oral literacy, the stronger the connection and transition to reading and writing. The rhythm, the easy and repetitive vocabulary, and the body actions of a simple rhyme create new pathways in a child’s brain. My daughter wouldn’t have been learning anything while sitting in the car, eyes glued to a phone.
  3. Our relationship was strengthened. The bonding that happens during this kind of interaction with a child is priceless. We laughed, sang, hugged, and held hands. There is no better feeling than seeing a child happy and in love with you! This relationship is really important to any child’s learning, and instead of just killing time, I was sharing a fun and loving moment with my daughter.
  4. It gave me a sense of accomplishment and competence, of being actively involved in my child’s learning. I was able to say, “I made this happen, not my phone. I turned this annoying situation into a fun experience.”

Simple rhymes can be used in the daily activities and care of a child. They are guaranteed to lessen frustration, develop oral literacy, and strengthen relationships between caregiver and child.

Come to a Rhymes that Bind program and see for yourself how fun rhyming can be, and learn a new rhyme or two. Check the Centre for Family Literacy website for a free drop in program near you. And in the meantime, here’s a rhyme to try with your little one:

Walking, Walking (tune: Freres Jacques)

Walking, walking
Walking, walking
Hop, hop, hop
Hop, hop, hop
Running, running, running
Running, running, running
Now we stop
Now we stop

*skating, crawling, skipping

 

Not Enough Time to Really Connect with Your Preschooler?

LTGT-3Have you ever wondered where to find the time to really connect with your preschooler? It is important to foster healthy relationships to help them grow intellectually, emotionally, socially, and even spiritually. It is important for a child to grow up feeling connected to an adult caregiver.

It isn’t necessary to spend large amounts of money on gadgets, toys, and fads that claim to give your child educational gains. It isn’t necessary for your child to be enrolled in every sport and activity that you can get to in a day. It is necessary to take a few moments out of your day, every day, to be intentional with your child. This practice is highly beneficial—not only to your relationship, but also to your child’s learning.

Be present. Spend time with them. Connect!

I recently read that the average parent spends only 49 minutes a day with their child. 49 minutes. I thought, “no, that can’t be possible, that has to be wrong.” Reading further, I found that the 49 minutes does not include the time it takes to care for the child, to feed, bathe, and drive them to lessons or practices. That number has to be much higher if you include the time spent caring for your child.

So 49 minutes a day is the average amount of time parents feel they can set aside in a day to intentionally be with their child—whether it be reading a book for fun, walking or playing outside, building blanket forts, making crafts, or exploring activities together. Less than an hour out of the day for the purpose of fun and togetherness.

When there isn’t enough spare time to play at length, there are still daily chores and tasks that need to be done, and many of those are caring for your child. In our family literacy programs, our goals are reached when parents learn tools and tricks to turn those daily routines into fun learning experiences that can increase the quality time parents spend with their child.

At Learn Together – Grow Together, we share ideas that parents can use to include their child—books, activities, songs, games, routines, and more—all with the goal of the parents being their child’s first teacher. All with the goal of strengthening bonds, and securing confident growth for the child.

At the Learn Together – Grow Together program, you can learn about your child’s early learning and how to support literacy development, success in school, and lifelong learning. No program near you? You can still add some tips, tricks, and knowledge to your parenting tool kit by checking out Flit, our free App on Google Play and the App Store. You’ll find over 100 fun family literacy activities to do with your child!