4 Reasons Kids Learn when they Play

“Play is the work of the child”
—Maria Montessori (Italian Physician & Educator)

children-463563_1920Generation after generation of children have played. This seems to tell us that play is an important part of healthy development.

An area of study called the science of learning is showing that there is more to play than meets the eye. When children play they are engaging in activities which help them to make sense of the world around them, and how to learn how to learn. And learning occurs best when children are mentally active, engaged, socially interactive, and building meaningful connections to their lives.

1. Play is Mentally Active

Children explore their world with their five senses. Rarely do children stop to think about what they are going to touch and then touch it. They launch forward—touching, hearing, seeing, smelling, and tasting—and then they think about what they have discovered.

2. Play is Engaging

It would be difficult to find playing children who are bored. Engagement is the very essence of play. Children are naturally curious and excited to learn new things, and play is the way they make sense of their world.

3. Play is Socially Interactive

Play helps children practice their skills for getting along with others and learn how to make friends. Imagination allows children to pretend to be bold superheros or parents, while still feeling safe. When parents remember how to play, they become part of their children’s play space and are then welcome to share their play world.

4. Play Builds Meaningful Connections

Our Literacy Links workshops place the focus on play, making connections in the world of the children and their parents. One little fellow exclaimed that the volcano he made was “erupting.” His dad was surprised at such a big word until the little boy reminded him that it was in the dinosaur book that they read together every night. Another mom commented that she already had everything at home that she needed to play the “Build a Robot” game with her little guy, to help him learn his numbers.

If you are interested in hosting or attending a Literacy Links workshop, check the Centre for Family Literacy website for more information!

“Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn.”
—O. Fred Donaldson

 

 

What is STEM and How Do I Teach it to my Kids?

STEM. This is catching a lot of attention these days. Do you know what it means?

- science
- technology
- engineering
- mathematics

Did you think it was exclusive to older children, or even adults? Not at all! These concepts are all part of children’s learning through exploration and discovery. Each week at our 3,2,1, Fun! program, parents explore STEM concepts with their children.

Did you know all children are little scientists? Everything about their world is open for discovery. They want to know “why,” “what happens if I do this,” “where does it go,” “how did that happen.” Children will repeat actions such as building a tower over and over again even though it keeps falling apart. They want to learn how to make it more stable and  they want to build it taller. Have patience! Though they may get frustrated, they are learning a STEM concept! Encourage questions from your children by prompting them with questions of your own, such as, “why do you think the tower fell,” “should we try it again,” “what do you think will happen this time,” and “what should we do differently?”

Allowing children to experience concepts hands on—by creating a learning environment where they can touch, manipulate, and explore their surroundings—will benefit them far more than only reading a book about a topic or watching a video.

Try these activities at home:

Science: Little scientists investigating the natural world

GLOVE-garden

  • Try planting some seeds. Watching something grow from a seed can be exciting and doesn’t have to be done outdoors. You can start the growing season early by planting seeds indoors
  • You don’t have to start them in a pot or container either. Try using a plastic glove! Children can drop a moistened cotton ball into each finger length, add a seed and then hang it in the window
  • Discussion about what plants need to grow—sun, air, and water—can occur as you daily monitor the changes together as the roots begin to break free from the seed
  • Once the seed has sprouted, transplant it to a little pot with dirt and continue to watch it grow

 

Technology: Exploring ways to use what they build for a purpose or action

Balloon Car2

  • Think “outside the box” and do activities that have less to do with an electronic device and more to do with hands on. There are plenty of apps available that offer activities related to technology, and children are getting more and more time on screens; offer something new by taking the device out of technology
  • Use technology to “research” a project to make with your children
  • A project we like to make is a little car or boat that can be powered for simple movement. You only need common supplies such as cardboard, a couple of wooden skewers (sticks), milk jug tops for the wheels, some tape, a balloon, and a straw. After the car is built you blow the balloon up, and as the air escapes through the straw it propels the car forward. You can find complete instructions here http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Balloon-Car

 

Engineering: Using their knowledge of the world around them to build and create

Build-Engineer

  • Yes, build and create!
  • Make blanket forts
  • Build simple structures using toothpicks and mini marshmallows or small candies
  • Use building toys, such as stacking blocks
  • Make things from recycled materials

 

 

Math: Increasing knowledge of counting, patterns, colours, and shapes to strengthen their ability to build and create with purpose

Color Mix

  • Get messy. Mix colours to learn about primary and secondary colours. Partly fill a sandwich bag with a small amount of shaving cream. Add a few drops from 2 different colours of food colouring. Have your children mix it all together to see what new colour is created. Have them predict ahead of time what will happen
  • Using different coloured recycled jug lids and stickers, make your own memory matching game
  • Create a container filled with random things you may find in a junk drawer (child safe of course), and have your children sort the things from smallest to biggest, or by colour or shape
  • Have fun with food! Break apart a chocolate chip cookie to count how many chocolate chips are in it. Estimate how many will be in each cookie, and compare the totals with the actual chocolate chip count

Looking for activities to do with your children, with STEM concepts in mind, can be a super way for you both to learn, be creative, get messy, and have fun!

 

What’s in Your Rhymes Toolbox?

ClappingBoyHave you ever considered that you carry a toolbox as a parent? A toolbox used to be primarily for people of the trades, such as plumbers, mechanics, and electricians, but they are really for anyone who needs more than one tool to get the job done!

At the Centre for Family Literacy, we like to promote the Rhymes Toolbox to the parents in our Rhymes that Bind programs. We advise the parents that they have their own toolboxes and that using their tools can help teach their children language and communication skills.

  • The ideal tools for doing this are Voices, Fingers, and Faces
  • The Voice tool is great for singing and chanting a wide variety of songs and rhymes
  • The Finger tools are perfect for the tickling and body part songs
  • The Face tool is the most important tool of them all, as the children will be able to see the exuberant expression on their parent’s face and know that fun is coming
  • There are no plug-ins required in this toolbox

Transitioning, routines, and parent/child bonding are perfect times to take full advantage of these tools. The easiest way to transition children through one event to the next is through rhymes, songs, and finger play.

Children flourish with structure, predictability, and connection with their parents. The normal day to day routine may begin with waking up, having breakfast, getting dressed, travelling to daycare, and saying goodbye. Then transitioning home, playing, having dinner then a bath, story time, and bedtime.

The Rhyme Toolbox will help keep things calm and fun in the many other activities that come into your children’s day. A great little tickle song will help transition them whether they are getting dressed in the morning or going with you to get groceries. Here are some fun ones to try:

Pat Your Head

Pat your head
And rub your tummy,
Tickle your knees
And hug your mommy/daddy/caregiver

Here is a great song for transitioning into the car for a ride to the daycare, or anywhere for that matter. It is a body part song and is also perfect for getting into the tub and learning body parts.

Tommy Thumbs

Tommy Thumbs are up and Tommy Thumbs are down
Tommy Thumbs are dancing all around the town (dance them to the left and to the right)
Dance them on your shoulders and dance on your head
Dance them on your knees and tuck them into bed. (Fold your arms and tuck thumbs into your hands)
You can repeat this little song changing up the body parts.

Round and Round the Garden

Round and round the garden, I lost my teddy bear,
(using a gentle pointer finger use your child’s tummy, back, or hand)
1 step, 2 steps, I found him under there.
(walking fingers to under the chin or the under arms)
Round and round the garden, through the wind and rain,
1 step, 2 steps, I found him there again.
This little rhyme and finger play is great anywhere you need to redirect your little one.

Hush a Bye Baby

Hush a bye baby up in the sky
On a soft cloud it is easy to fly.
Angels keep watch over you as you sleep,
So hush a bye baby don’t make a peep.
(You can substitute your child’s name for the baby and use this for bedtime or when your child needs a cuddle)

Come and join us at various locations around Edmonton and we can help you fill your Rhyme Toolbox! Check the Centre for Family Literacy website for the Rhymes that Bind schedule!

 

Spring is in the Air

Spring is in the air and we can all peek our heads outside and breathe a sigh of relief. Winter is over. (We’ve had Second Winter, yes?)

CELEBRATE WITH BOOKS, SONGS, AND OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES


BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

HopHop!Share the book Hop, Hop! by Leslie Patricelli together.

“The Easter Bunny is coming! It’s time to dye eggs. Did you know that red and blue make purple? That blue and yellow make green? That an art project may result in a multicolored Baby? There are bunny ears to wear (for the dog and cat, too) and an Easter basket to put out before bedtime. What will Baby find inside it the next morning?”

Stretch Your Book

There are many things related to the story that you can do to stretch out the learning opportunities and fun. Try these:

  • As you read through, talk about what the characters are doing in the story. Talk about any similarities and differences to your own family’s springtime traditions.
  • Talk to your child about the different colours and what happens when you mix them.
  • Colour your own eggs and dress up like a bunny, just like in the book!

EASTER EGGS

Easter_eggMaterials:

  • White-shelled hard-boiled eggs
  • Hot water
  • White vinegar
  • Food dye (yellow, red, and blue)
  • 3 small bowls
  • Large spoon
  • Newspaper to protect your table

 

Instructions:

  1. In each bowl, combine ½ cup of hot water, 1 tsp. of vinegar, and about 20 drops of food colouring (one colour per bowl).
  2. The story says, “Yellow and red make orange!” So dunk an egg into yellow, then dunk it in red and see how it changes.
  3. Do the same for the rest of the colours, and do your own mixing experiments as well. Don’t forget to refrigerate the eggs before and after your egg hunt!

BUNNY EARS

BunnyEarsCraft

Materials:

  • White cardstock paper
  • Pink paper or
  • Pink crayon/pencil
  • Scissors
  • Glue Stick
  • Pencil

 

BunnyEarsInstructions

  1. Cut white cardstock into strips for the headpiece and ears
  2. Use a pink crayon or the pink paper to make the inside of the ears
  3. Tape or glue the headpiece and ears into place
  4. Hop around like bunnies, just like in the book

 

 

 

 


SONG FOR SPRING BUNNIES

(Try wearing your bunny ears for this!)

“5 Little Bunnies”

* a bunny version of the traditional song “5 Little Ducks”

(Try asking your child what sound they think a bunny makes, and change it to whatever they say!)

Five little bunnies went out one day,
Over the hills and far away,
Mother bunny said squeak, squeak, squeak,
But only four bunnies came hopping back.

Four little bunnies went out one day,
Over the hills and far away,
Mother bunny said squeak, squeak, squeak,
But only three bunnies came hopping back.

(Continue counting down to “none”)

Sad mother bunny went out one day,
Over the hills and far away,
Mother bunny said squeak, squeak, squeak,
And all the five bunnies came hopping back!


THE GREAT OUTDOORS

EasterEggHuntIf you coloured Easter eggs, get outside and hide them for your little ones! And if you didn’t, create your own scavenger hunt.

Create a list, using pictures and words, of the items they need to find. For example, you could hide golf balls, search for certain colours, find things in nature like a green leaf or a pine cone, or search for objects that begin with different letters of the alphabet…. The options are limited only by your imagination!

Check the Centre for Family Literacy’s website for the tip sheets “Families just want to have FUN! Party Activities” here

Happy Spring!

 

MOOOve Over Winter – the C.O.W. Bus is ready for spring!

Join us on the bus and help us celebrate all things spring! This season is about new beginnings and we have plenty of new songs, stories, and toys to keep you and your family busy and actively learning all spring. We will be getting a visit from the tickle monster, reading about hunting for eggs, and singing about spring rain and garden snails.

TickleMonster Book If your toddler or pre-schooler loves to be tickled, this book, with the loveable extra-terrestrial, will be a big hit. “A loveable monster has just flown in from Planet Tickle on a mission to tickle any child who happens to be following along with the Tickle Monster book. Parents read aloud and do the tickling, while children laugh and squirm with delight.”

Great Easter Egg HuntHere is a sneak peek at another one of the fun books we’ll be reading—you’ll want to read this one over and over again as it is jam-packed with surprises and hidden messages. “With its suspenseful treasure-hunt plot, this magical picture book set in the land of the Easter bunnies offers more than 200 hidden objects to find, puzzles to solve, and intriguing clues that lead to a surprise ending—a meeting with the Great Easter Bunny himself!”

One of the spring songs we’ll be singing:

Five Garden Snails

Five garden snails
Sleeping in the sun,
Along comes a (yellow) bird,
And flies away with one.

Four garden snails
Sleeping in the sun,
Along comes a (blue) bird,
And flies away with one.

(Continue with Three, Two, and One garden snail, changing the colour of the bird each time)

Action:

  1. Select 5 children to be the snails
  2. For lines 1 and 2 the snails lie curled up sleeping
  3. Select a child from the rest of the group wearing the appropriate colour to be the bird and fly away with a snail.

You can use your new spring songs while digging in the garden, splashing in puddles, or walking through your neighbourhood. Stories and songs are a great way to support language development with your children, while having fun and creating memories.

Here are two more ways to learn with your children and try something new this spring:

Tissue Paper Decorated Eggs

Easter Egg Slime

Check out the Centre for Family Literacy website to find out when the bus is in your area, or for more information!

 

Books – and Tunes – for Babies

Hispanic mother and baby at homeA great way to keep the interest of a baby when you’re reading with them, or a child of any age really, is to add some rhythm or melody to your book sharing.

The rhyme and repetition in many childrens’ books makes this easy in many cases, and if you have a rhyming book, a quick search on Youtube can sometimes give you a few different musical styles to choose from. Beyond that, there are many books that are meant to be sung with verses, choruses, and sometimes even music or information for where you can find the music online.

Don’t worry about your singing voice, I promise your baby doesn’t mind if you’re out of key or can’t really carry a tune, and it’s perfectly fine if you would rather settle into more of a chant than a full-on melody.

Even when the book does not rhyme, sometimes a picture can give you an idea for a song or a rhyme to sing, adding a little extra fun to your book sharing time. For example, a book might feature an animal, and there are a lot of songs and rhymes about animals. It’s okay if the animal song or rhyme you want to sing doesn’t exactly match the plot of the story for 2 big reasons:

  1. Babies don’t have the longest attention spans; you probably won’t get through more than a few pages of the book anyway
  2. We want our child to be able to relate the things they see in books, and the words they hear, to other things that they know. If you are reading Runaway Bunny with your toddler and they start singing Sleeping Bunnies, you’ll know that they are making those connections, and you can tell everyone how brilliant your child is.

You won’t always feel like singing, and your child might not always be receptive to it. Think of it as one more tool that you can use to make book sharing more fun for you and your baby.

If you would like to learn more about sharing books, songs, and play with your baby, you’ll find tip sheets on the Centre for Family Literacy website, you can try our free Flit app with family literacy activities to do with your little ones, or better yet, find a Books for Babies program near you and come have some fun with us!

 

Meaningful Mess

Child PaintingSpring. Get ready for puddles, mud, and messes! Thinking of a nice, clean house getting covered in puddles and grit, and having to start cleaning all over again sends shivers down my spine. And what about the extra time it will take to bathe the kids and clean their clothes and shoes, with all the other errands we need to run. Just remember, it really is worth it!

As adults, we often forget the joys of playing in dirt and mud or just getting messy; of throwing away paint brushes and getting our hands dirty instead; of changing out of our good shoes and clothes and exploring without the concern of staying clean. We forget that the learning that happens during this kind of play outweighs the need to keep things tidy and orderly.

Children are messy by nature. It is critical to children’s development to be allowed to explore, and interact with, their world. Sometimes this means that we, as parents, need to take a deep breath and say “sure, you can play in the mud!” By allowing our children to get messy, we are fostering growth in all areas of their development. Messy play encompasses, but is not limited to:

  • Physical development: hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills
  • Emotional and social development: self-confidence and self-esteem, respect for themselves and others; can be an outlet for feelings, experiences, and thoughts
  • Intellectual development: problem solving, concentration, planning, grouping, matching, prediction, observation, and evaluation

Spring is the perfect time to allow our children to be messy while exploring the outside world. The weather is warming up, snow is melting, and all sorts of new life is happening. Being messy doesn’t mean allowing our children to run wild though. It is important that they are still dressed appropriately for outside weather, and monitored and guided through safe play. Here is a list of activities to do outside the house:

  • Playing in puddles: allow your children to explore puddles in the spring. See how high they can make the water splash as they jump in it. Can they make a boat that floats or float other objects in the puddle?
  • Mud pies: exploring mud is a great way to get creativity going. What can we create with the mud (castles, pies, pretend food)? What objects can we add to the mud (i.e. rocks, twigs, leaves, etc.)? What happens if we add more water? If we add more dirt?
  • Sidewalk chalk paint: take your cornstarch and water mixture outside! Add a few drops of food colouring and you have sidewalk chalk; the best part is no paint in the house!

Messy play isn’t only for outside, and can be done any time of year inside. Below is a list of fun, educational, and most importantly, messy activities to do inside with your children:

  • Shaving cream dough: try hand mixing equal parts of shaving cream and cornstarch together to make dough. Keep mixing, as it can take a while for the cornstarch to mix with the shaving cream
  • Cornstarch and water: see what happens when you mix cornstarch and water. This activity is a great way to explore ratios (how much of each ingredient to mix) and textures, and learn problem solving skills
  • Finger painting: learn all about colours and how to mix and match new ones, develop fine motor skills, language, and thinking skills

Remember that it is important for you to be messy too. Don’t forget to join in the fun and get your hands dirty! We, as adults, might be surprised by how much we can still learn from messy play, and there is nothing better than creating memories with your children.  They will remember the fun you all had long after you forget how messy everything was.

If you would like to learn more about your children’s early learning and how to support literacy development, you might enjoy one of our family literacy programs. Visit the Centre for Family Literacy website for more information.

Literacy Links – the Logo Says it All!

LitLinks LogoBack in 2012, the Centre for Family Literacy noticed an increase in the number of requests for family literacy services from our community partners and other organizations that work with families. They weren’t necessarily looking to partner in programs, like Rhymes that Bind or Books for Babies, but were looking for presentations, workshops, or taster sessions that would look at specific aspects of emergent literacy and language skills. They wanted ways to reach out to the busy families in their community that weren’t able to attend ongoing programs.

Because of their understanding of the Centre’s mission and vision, and our reputation for excellence in programming, they came to us with their requests. And so it began. Literacy Links workshops were developed to address the needs of both the families and the community organizations.

Jump ahead to 2017 and Literacy Links is busier than even we anticipated. With much appreciated funding from the City of Edmonton Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), the Government of Alberta (GOA) and Edmonton Community Adult Learning Association (ECALA), we have been able to offer workshops to more families across the city in the first months of 2017 than in all of 2016. We are also presenting at a number of conferences—some for the first time.

We are doing the Literacy Links workshops in the evenings and on weekends in community leagues halls, community agencies, and child care centres. We are working with Parent Link Centres and the Early Childhood Coalitions in the Edmonton area and with others across the province. Our goal is to connect families with their communities, to help develop knowledge and grow understanding of the importance of family literacy. The program that initially started off as one off presentations has come full circle.

For more information about Literacy Links, or if you would like to explore hosting a workshop, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website

Tips for Keeping Family Game Night Fun!

iStock_000036123052XLarge-cs

Have you ever pictured yourself playing a game with your family just like in a board game advertisement? It looks like so much fun, right? And each game you see on a store shelf would surely provide your home with hours of entertainment! So you carefully pick out the perfect game and bring it home to your children with such high expectations of fun.

As you open up the game, with eager hands reaching for all of the pieces, you hear yourself say, “wait, wait, wait.” You groan as you realize there is assembly required. After you put it all together (if your children are still interested) you say, “wait, let me read the rules!”

Not quite the experience you imagined in the store when you saw the picture on the box. Older children want to follow the rules, or bend them. Younger children make up their own rules and frustrate the older children. Parents wonder what on earth they were thinking when they bought the game, and perhaps the game gets thrown back in the box and put in the closet for another time, when the kids are “older” and “more mature” and have “longer attention spans.” Does this scenario sound familiar to you? Don’t despair, and don’t give up!

Playing games with young children is an excellent way for them to learn literacy and numeracy concepts. And don’t forget the important social skills learned in playing a game: taking turns, playing fair (no cheating), feeling disappointment at losing and excitement at winning.

If you start with the expectation for the experience to be just as advertised, you may be disappointed. Learning how to play a game takes time and small steps. There are often tears of frustration (from both the adults and the children) when things aren’t going as planned. Keep in mind the more often children play a game, the better they will get at it. Not just playing it, but understanding it as well.

Many games can be easily made at home for very little cost. With some paper, markers, scissors, dice, and maybe a homemade spinner, you can easily make your own “board games.” Keep the rules simple, it doesn’t even have to make sense. With younger children, focus on taking turns. It might not be important to focus on where their game piece sits or how they move their piece. Try teaching one concept at a time. If you add silly rules that incorporate large body movements to your game, you may be able to hold their attention for longer. For instance, “each time a player rolls a 4 they have to stand up and do 4 jumping jacks.”

Memory matching games can be made very easily at home using paper, recycled bottle lids, stickers, or even an old deck of cards. With younger children, start out by using only 4 pairs to match. As they get better at the game, increase the difficulty by adding more matching pairs.

Dice and cards are terrific tools for numeracy skills and the games you can play are endless!

The benefits of making your own games include:

  • They cost very little, using materials you may already have at home or things you can buy at a dollar store
  • You can personalize a game to your children’s interests. If they love dinosaurs, you can use dinosaur stickers, or print pictures from the internet to make puzzles or memory games. If they love turtles, you can make a board game in the shape of a turtle shell and have the pieces move slowly around to the finish
  • If a game is not a hit, you can easily discard it and try a different one. Or save it for another time when your children are older and perhaps have more interest
  • You can make a new game each month by just changing it up slightly, maybe changing the characters to one of your children’s favourite books. This keeps it new and exciting for you both
  • Making games at home also becomes a family activity. As your children get older they can assist in the assembly or creation of new games to play. Older children can do some research on games from around the world and pick out favourite concepts to make their own version

At the end of the day, through the trials and tears of teaching children how to enjoy a game and be a good sport, you are also teaching them so much more, and these skills are ones that they will need for a lifetime of success! So bring back the family game night, even if it only lasts 20 minutes to start. Someday you’ll enjoy a games night with much older children, and you will at long last feel all of the work and effort was worth it.

 

 

 

 Intergenerational Rhymes that Bind

RTBmultGEN07 (1)

Singing is a joyful and uplifting experience. It can make a huge difference in your day, and even more so in the days of the elderly. Singing offers many benefits, some of which are:

  • It stimulates the body to release dopamine, which helps produce positive feelings
  • For seniors, singing can increase confidence, thereby improving interaction with others in a social setting
  • There are fewer incidents of mental and physical health issues for those of all ages who sing on a regular basis

The Centre for Family Literacy offers a free Intergenerational Rhymes that Bind program for parents and their 0 – 3 year old children which is housed at a senior centre in Edmonton. We meet once a week and play, sing, and have fun together while we support the children’s oral language development, and of course the residents are encouraged to join in!

We sing nursery rhymes like “Yankee Doodle,” “Baa, Baa Black Sheep,” “Here We Go Around the Mulberry Bush.” One of the residents sings “You are My Sunshine” and it gives everyone an opportunity to join in and sing.

You Are My Sunshine

You are my sunshine
My only sunshine
You make me happy, when clouds are grey
You never know dear how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away.

As we sing these and other songs familiar to the seniors from their childhood, we are happy to see that they sing along or tap their fingers. The human brain is remarkable for its ability to retain the songs of childhood years. The facilitators also mix in current songs and it becomes a wonderful mix of fun.

RTB-MultiGenThe majority of the seniors are immobile and are brought to the program room by a lovely volunteer who is also a senior at the centre. It isn’t easy for the seniors to interact with the parents and children, so the parents and children are asked to interact with the seniors. One of the ladies in the program has told our facilitator that she can’t wait for Tuesday mornings when she can sing and see the little ones!

The spring session begins on April 4, 2017. If you and your infant or toddler would like to be a part of our Intergeneration Rhymes that Bind program, please contact us at 780-421-7323 as registration is required for this program.

For more information, please visit the Centre for Family Literacy website