# 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

• 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.

# Numbers, Numbers Everywhere!

What is numeracy?

The simple definition is, the ability to understand and work with numbers. Alberta Education defines numeracy as the ability, confidence and willingness to engage with quantitative and spatial information to make informed decisions in all aspects of daily living.

Are numeracy and mathematics the same?

No. They are relatable but definitely not the same. Numeracy covers more of the daily life skills learned from a young age and fine tuned with experience and knowledge. Numeracy includes concepts that help a person with their mathematical understanding.

Mathematical concepts learned in public school are the basis for further technology and specialized fields of study achieved in postsecondary education.

What does numeracy look like to a preschooler?

In a quick summarization, numeracy learning looks like play. When children are playing they are learning about patterns, colours, sizes, measurements, gravity, temperature, days of the week, estimation, prediction, and so much more.

How can adults support numeracy learning?

Adults support their children’s learning by providing a safe and welcoming space in their home for children to explore numeracy. By spending time with their children, encouraging and offering what they can from their own knowledge and experience, their children will benefit by being confident learners and willing to challenge what they know to further their learning.

3,2,1,FUN! is a family numeracy program that adults attend with their children to have fun exploring numeracy concepts together through play. At the program, adults learn strategies to support their children’s numeracy development at home, in their day to day lives. Parents can support this learning through activities, book sharing, storytelling, songs, games, and more, without the use of expensive toys and gadgets. Parents discover how to lead their children’s learning with a deeper understanding of how numeracy concepts are learned—concepts such as patterning and sorting, following recipes or instructions, exploring shapes, sizes and colours, measurements and spatial awareness.

So the next time you play with your children, try talking about what they are doing, even if you are just playing alongside them. Remember it is the little things you do daily that help reinforce what your children learn.

You can:

• ask them how many stairs they are going up or down as you walk beside them
• ask them about the colours they see as you go for a walk or a drive
• ask them what they think goes next if they are stacking toys or building blocks
• ask them to help in the kitchen if you are preparing a simple meal or snack
• count how many steps it will take to walk to their room, the front door, or the bus stop
• ask them to predict what bath toys will sink or float before the toys are added to the water
• talk about how many minutes until the next activity, or how many days until grandma visits
• enlist your children’s help with sorting laundry, by size, by colour, or by which family member the item belongs to

Share your ideas for developing numeracy skills with your children in the comments by clicking on the talk bubble at the top of this blog!

And, if you want to find out more about the 3,2,1,FUN! program, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website

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# Making Sense out of the Holiday Season

Do you ever feel like this time of year goes by too quickly? Maybe you feel that you aren’t giving your child enough time. The one-on-one time you would normally have with your child too often gets put on hold during this busy time of year.

With all the extra preparation to be done, parents often feel exhausted and stretched thin. Throw in a few extra festive gatherings, and some sleepless nights as small children battle minor sniffles, coughs and ear aches (ouch). Any parent, even with the best of intentions, can easily feel like skipping the bedtime story, craft, or activity they had planned to share with their child.

Don’t worry, that’s okay! Sometimes you need a break too! It’s okay to just spend time together, chilling out. Maybe you just get to sit next to your child and watch her play while you enjoy a coffee and your own “time out.” Maybe you cuddle up together with blankets and watch a favourite holiday show. Maybe you get to squeeze in a nap with your baby or toddler. That’s all okay. Its okay to turn down an expected appearance when you or your child are feeling unwell. Remember to take time for yourself and your child.

Don’t stress about ensuring that you’re providing your little one with learning. You are providing her with learning whenever you do things together! Or you can simply talk to your child about what is around her, remembering the five senses. There are plenty of learning opportunities that happen naturally.

1. What do they see? Snow, Santa, nativity scenes, trees with lights, white rabbits, birds, inflatable characters decorating the front lawns in every neighbourhood, etc.
2. What do they hear? Bells, music, noisy crowds, carollers, birds, etc.
3. What can they feel? Tree branches, snow, some decorations, gifts, hugs, snowflakes, etc.
4. What can they taste? Trying new foods is often part of any holiday celebration, candies, popcorn, etc.
5. What can they smell? Cookies, trees, candles, etc.

It is easy to relate any of the senses to numeracy as well. For example, try asking how many, what colour, what shape, what size, what pattern your child can see, or hear, or feel etc. In our 3,2,1, FUN! program, we support parents by celebrating what they do with their children, and offer more ideas to extend each family’s learning journey.

Enjoy your little ones in their moments of discovery and exploration, and you will be making memorable moments with little effort.

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# Countdown to Christmas with 3,2,1, Fun!

The countdown to Christmas will be starting soon! Many of us have seen or even used the traditional Advent calendar, which houses a delicious chocolate behind each of the 25 doors leading up to Christmas. Children love these calendars and the excitement that comes with the Christmas countdown. At 3,2,1, Fun! we have compiled a fun list of Advent ideas and Christmas activities to share with you. These ideas combine fun and learning into creative Christmas experiences and potentially new traditions that your children and family will love.

Unwrap one book a day to read as a family.

Some of our favourite numeracy-themed books to share are:

• 12 Days of Christmas – Rachel Isodora
• The Doorbell Rang – Pat Hutchins
• Bedtime Math – Laura Overdeck
• Christmas Activities MATHS – Irene Yates
• A Frog in the Bog – Karma Wilson and Joan Rankin
• Ten Apples Up On Top – Dr. Seuss

Choose 25 fun family activities and secure each one in an envelope. Choose one envelope to open each day and enjoy!

Some of the numeracy activity ideas we share in 3,2,1, Fun! are:

• Baking
• Holiday theme BINGO
• Make paper snowflakes and explore their unique shapes
• Craft Christmas cards or write your wish list
• Build a snowman
• Go for a walk and count how many houses are decorated, predict how many Christmas trees you will see, or collect pine cones along the way to turn into Christmas crafts later

A fun idea we shared at 3,2,1, Fun! is how to make your own advent calendar using  recycled paper towel tubes, cardboard and craft supplies!

In addition to Advent calendars, there are many fun ways to bring numeracy into your Christmas activities. Some of our favourites at 3,2,1, Fun! are:

• Wrapping gifts – a fun way for children to utilize their measuring and estimation skills
• Christmas baking – a delicious way for children to follow a recipe and practice their ordering, number sense, and prediction skills
• Decorating the house – gives your children the perfect opportunity to use their pattern, shape, and sorting skills
• Making Christmas wish lists and shopping for gifts – offers a great chance for children to discover counting, money sense, and emergent budgeting skills

We hope you enjoy these Christmas activity ideas from 3,2,1, Fun! Do you have a favourite countdown to Christmas tradition that you’d like to share?

hashtag: #321_Fun

# 3,2,1,Fun! The Importance of Beginning Numeracy with Everyday Activities

Who remembers saying “I don’t like math” or “I’m not good at math”? Many adults have negative feelings about math that began early in life.

A positive outlook on numeracy skill building with your children will help them later in life. In fact it can change your outlook as well. You don’t have to be completing complex algebra equations in order to be practicing numeracy skills.

In the 3,2,1, FUN! program offered by the Centre for Family Literacy, comments from parents have reflected some of the initial anxiety they feel towards numeracy and teaching it to their children. One parent stated how she felt math was scary and that she could never teach it to her children. She avoided anything she thought related to math prior to attending the 3,2,1, FUN! numeracy program. Upon finishing the program with her child, she said she now feels much less stress, and is more prepared to positively explore numeracy development with her children; she has a better understanding of the relationship between early numeracy learning and continuing success in school.

The parents and their children meet once a week to learn about the many everyday activities in which we use numeracy skills. When we estimate the cost of groceries, count the days leading up to a special event, follow a recipe, measure material for a sewing or building project, or even give directions, we are using numeracy skills.

These real life situations make numeracy meaningful for children, and are important in helping them build strong numeracy skills for later math learning. Part of our program enlists the parent as the teacher as they work alongside their children, participating in activities that are developmentally appropriate and supportive to the individual children.

Having a good foundation in numeracy means that we have an understanding of numbers, shapes, and measurement, and how they relate to each other. We learn to ask questions, solve problems, and share ideas. This numeracy understanding helps us become better communicators and problem solvers and allows us to participate fully in our communities.

Children benefit when we show them that numeracy is part of our daily lives and we use it all the time. This familiarity with various numeracy concepts, and children’s own experiences with everyday math, will help them become fluent math thinkers. It will prevent anxiety about more formal math learning when they reach school.

If you would like more information about the 3,2,1, FUN! drop-in program, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website. I can guarantee you will have fun with your children exploring numeracy together.

Positive early experiences in mathematics are as critical to child development as are early literacy experiences (Alberta education, 2007).

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# What does Reading a Book Together have to do with Numeracy Skills?

Have you ever read a book to a child and counted objects on the pages, looked for shapes, found different colours, or noticed patterns in the storytelling? Believe it or not, you are introducing numeracy skills.

Stories are a powerful way to explore numeracy concepts. They:

• Provide simple and easy ways for children to relate the pictures and words to their lives
• Encourage the use of numeracy language by using phrases like: How many? How far? How much?
• Develop concepts like following directions, following recipes
• Offer opportunities to problem solve, count backwards or forwards or by 2’s, introduce basic math skills
• Increase memory skills by retelling stories in the correct order. Beginning, middle, and end can be recalled without the book in front of you

TIPS!

• Read together often, when you can spend the time relaxed and not rushed
• You do not need a hundred different books, a variety of books is best
• You do not have to find math books for numeracy. Books rich in colour, shapes, and numbers are appealing to children and there are so many available
• Find books that have a clear beginning, middle, and end (sometimes they start with Once upon a time)
• Look for books that have a repeating sequence of events
• Use recipe books, craft books, Lego building books (following instruction and direction step by step)
• It is okay and expected for children to want to read the same book over and over again for weeks before they are ready to move on to another. As they become more familiar with the story, they are also understanding it better each time. The predictability is important for young children to want to follow along
• Take time to revisit old favourites
• When reading, talk together. Pause the story to ask questions, and give your child  time to answer. Ask questions like, “what do you think happens next?” “Can you count all of the red spots?” “Do you spot the dog?” “How many girls are wearing yellow dresses?”
• Give children a chance to explain what they think and see
• Look for opportunities to talk about routines like nap time, dinner time, bath time, bed time, days of the week and/or months, and seasons

We enjoy exploring numeracy with families at our 3,2,1,FUN! numeracy program. Some   books we like to share are:

• If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Numeroff
• The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins
• Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
• Looking For A Moose by Phyllis Root
• The Napping House by Audrey Wood
• Memoirs Of A Goldfish by Devin Scillian
• How To Babysit a Grandpa by Jean Reagan

Visit the Centre for Family Literacy website to find out more about the 3,2,1,FUN! drop-in program in Edmonton.

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# 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

• 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

• 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

• 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

• 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!

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# Tips for Keeping Family Game Night Fun!

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.

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# Numbers are Literacy Too!

Numbers are everywhere. They can be the first and last thing we see every day. From clocks and phones to money and preparing meals—they are a part of our everyday lives.  Yet a lot of adults lack confidence in teaching their children numeracy skills. We talk about the importance of reading and writing all the time, but not about numeracy. In fact, when we hear the term literacy, most adults think of reading and writing, though literacy is so much more. Literacy is a part of everything we do—from answering a text, to driving, to going to the grocery store—it surrounds us from the moment we wake to the moment we go to sleep. So why are we so afraid to talk about numbers?

Teaching children about numeracy doesn’t have to be scary. You can start talking about numeracy with babies. Scaffolding language—adding descriptive words when naming objects, is a great way to bring numeracy to your children. Colours, shapes, and amounts are all early numeracy vocabulary. Whether you are talking about the round red ball or the striped socks, the two green triangles or the three orange cats—you are teaching your children about numeracy. You are creating the foundation for matching, sorting, and grouping—numeracy skills we use throughout our daily lives.

Almost any activity you do with your children can incorporate numeracy. We often forget that our day-to-day activities are filled with great opportunities to include our children and show them what we are doing. In this way, we are teaching them the skills they will need throughout their lives to solve problems and become quick thinkers.

2 Easy Ways to Include Numeracy in Your Day:

1. Include your children in preparing meals—cooking and baking are filled with opportunities to teach numeracy. Ask them how many plates or spoons you need for everyone, talk about the amounts of each ingredient needed, and get your children to help adding them and mixing. Cooking is also helpful in teaching about sequencing, following directions, and problem solving. For example, if you skip a step in the directions, what will happen? How do we fix it? Can we fix it?
2. When reading books, try asking your children about the pictures; for example, can they find the red balloon? How many puppies are there on the page? Talking about the pictures and what is happening in the story will also help children comprehend the story better—remembering more of the details and what the story was actually about.

For more ideas on engaging activities that are numeracy based, you can visit our 3,2,1,Fun! program or try our Flit app, available on both Google Play and the App Store.

For more information and the schedule for 3,2,1,Fun!, please visit the Centre for Family Literacy website: www.famlit.ca

Watch the app demo:

What time is it? Ten days until your birthday. Five more minutes. We hear these kinds of phrases every day. But what do they actually mean, especially to children? Time plays a huge role in our daily lives and we expect our children to understand what time is and how we represent it—without us ever thinking about it or explaining what time means.

The only memory I have of learning to represent time and read a clock is a brief unit in Grade 2. I can remember struggling to learn the difference between the three hands and adding two “times” together, all while trying to understand what time represents. And when it was done, we were expected to have mastered time.

Skip 25 years into the future and we’re surrounded by digital clocks, smart phones, and computers. Who wears a watch anymore, or has a clock in their house that’s not digital? Who has a calendar hanging in their house? All these changes and advances in technology can hinder children’s understanding of time.

It doesn’t help that we say things like “5 more minutes” and 5 minutes turns into 20 before we realize it. Or when an actual 5 minutes feels like an hour—especially when we are in trouble. What about when we’re having fun and 5 minutes feels like 30 seconds?

Five minutes will always be 5 minutes on a clock. Young children learn best by having hands-on, tangible objects to visualize and manipulate, and learning about the concept of time is no different. Having egg timers and non-digital clocks around allows children to see the passing of time and get an actual sense of time.

Helping your children understand what time means and how to read a clock doesn’t have to be scary. An easy way to begin teaching your children about time is to start with recognizing the numbers on a clock and the order they go in. Talk about the different hands on a clock and what each one means and does. Show them an egg timer and how it works. When you set a time limit, set the egg timer, or show your children on a clock what the end time is. For example, if you say 5 more minutes, show your children where the big hand will be in 5 minutes.

When talking about days and weeks, it can be even harder for children to understand the passing of time. Having a calendar in your house can be a fantastic way to show time passing. If you are counting down the days to an event, your children can cross out each day on the calendar in the morning after breakfast or in the evening before bedtime, and see the number of days remaining becoming less and less.

Below is a fun countdown calendar that families made in our 3,2,1, Fun! program. You can make this calendar for any activity—Christmas countdown, birthday countdowns, special event countdowns, etc.

Materials:

Paper plate
Paint, Markers, Crayons, Bingo Dabbers, etc.
Clothes Pins (31)
Paper
Scissors
Glue

Instructions:

• Get your child to paint the paper plate. You can gear it toward a specific event or just general use. Our calendar examples are a birthday countdown and a countdown to Christmas
• While the paper plate dries, draw and cut out fun designs for your clothes pins. Once they are finished, number the pins from 1 – 31 (or however many pins you use)
• Glue the designs onto the ends of the clothes pins and clip the clothes pins around the edge of the plate
• Remove a pin each day, so you can see and keep track of the days left until your event or the end of the month

*** If you have younger children, you can place the pins in correct number order. For older children you can mix up the numbers (like an advent calendar).