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!

 

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

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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!

Digging a Groove Your Child Can Grow In

Singing is a great tool for developing language and literacy skills in your children. Making a ritual of singing during daily routines also adds fun to tasks that children may not always see as Clean upfun (diaper changing/going potty, putting on their shoes or coat, etc.) and it strengthens the connection between you and your children. How many of us sing, “Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere. Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share” when helping our littles put away their toys? (I bet that song is now stuck in your head!)

Routines are practices in place to help children prepare for regular happenings. For example, the morning routine is to have breakfast, get dressed, and brush teeth and hair; the sleep routine is to have a bath, brush teeth, read a story, and off to bed. This repetition allows children to develop a predictable schedule—to know what to expect each day.

Rituals aid in learning and reinforcing new skills. The purpose is connection with your children, strengthening your relationship through small practices—a goodnight song, or asking “what was your favourite part of the day,” for example.

I imagine most of us share a ritual from our own childhood with our children—a cherished memory of the connection we had with our parents, and which built the foundation for the relationships we now have—to become part of our daily routine and enrich our journey with our own families.

A nightly ritual I have included in our bedtime routine is a goodnight song. I have sung it to my daughter since she was an infant, and she now looks forward to this special part of our day. I made up the song by changing the words to “Hey Jude” by John Lennon, and it goes something like this:

Hey you, it’s time for bed
Go to sleep now, ‘cuz you’re so tired
Remember, to kiss your mama goodnight
And have sweet dreams
To wake up happy (happy, happy, happy)

Hey you, just say good night
Sleep will come soon, just close your eyes
Remember to hug your mama real tight
And that I love you
You are amazing

So, try adding a little song to your routines and see what happens! There are all kinds of songs and rhymes for children on YouTube, or you can make up your own. Comment by sharing the rituals that are a part of your family!

C.O.W. bus staff are excited and ready to sing, play, and share books with all the families who visit the bus when it’s in their neighbourhood! Check our website for locations and schedules for the C.O.W. bus and other exciting programs offered by the Centre for Family Literacy!

Celebrate the Joy of the Season on the C.O.W. Bus

During the week of December 12, the C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) bus will be hosting a cozy Christmas pyjama party at each of our locations. We have a great selection of winter holiday-themed books for you to borrow for your family story time, AND, don’t miss out on the annual book giveaway; all children will go home with their own book to keep!

Pete the cat XmasAs always, story time on the bus will be loads of fun as the children help bring the books to life. One of our favourites is a New York Times bestseller, Pete the Cat Saves Christmas by Eric Litwin and James Dean.

“In this rockin’ spin on the traditional tale The Night Before Christmas, Pete the Cat proves that giving your all in the spirit of Christmas is the totally groovy thing to do.”

“ ‘Twas the day before
Christmas and Santa was ill.
In the cold winter wind he
had caught a bad chill.
Will Christmas be canceled?
Will it come to that?
‘Never!’ cried Santa.
‘Let’s call Pete the Cat!’ ”

And don’t forget to give yourself a little gift too – download Flit, our free app which has over 100 fun activities, crafts, and rhymes you can do with your little ones, and four more activities are added each season. For example, try the Letters in the Snow activity by filling a spray bottle with coloured water and decorating some fresh white snow! You’ll find the link for both Apple and Android versions on the Centre for Family Literacy website, or on your device’s app store.

So grab your coziest pajamas and join us as we read, sing, and play during this special time of year on the bus.

Do you have a favourite holiday song or rhyme? Please share it with us in the comments, because we love to learn and share new things!

See you soon!

 

Create Your Own Family Literacy Traditions with the C.O.W. Bus!

Traditions mean a lot. Creating traditions with your family not only helps support early learning but also bonding.

Just ask Denyse, a mother of seven, who has made the COW Bus a tradition in her family for 10 years and counting. The stories, songs, and rhymes she has learned on the bus help her make their daily activities a fun learning experience for her children. For example, singing a favourite song to comfort her son strengthened their bond during a long wait at the doctor’s office.

“A tradition is kept alive only by something being added to it.”
– Henry James

This meaningful quote says it all. You can add your own personal spin to all the books and rhymes we share on the COW Bus, and start your own family literacy traditions!

One of the many songs we sing on the COW Bus is very useful for slowing down your children and keeping their busy hands occupied—with a bonus tickle at the end!

Here are the beehives (have your child make fists)
But where are all the bees? (peek inside closed fists)
Tucked inside where nobody sees
Watch as they come out of their hive
1,2,3,4,5 (open fist one finger at a time)
Buzzzzzzzz buzzzzzzzz (tickle with your fingers)

Brown Bear

Storytelling and reading are excellent ways to promote and enhance language and literacy development in your home.

This month, we are reading Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See by Bill Martin Jr and Eric Carle, where the children bring the story to life with colourful props followed by a puzzle featuring all the characters in this popular, classic book!

Come aboard the COW Bus and make literacy playtime and storytelling a family tradition. Each week we stop in 10 Edmonton neighbourhoods. To find a location near you, go to the Centre for Family Literacy website at www.famlit.ca

Say Hello to the New COW on the Block!

COW-SummerThe Classroom on Wheels (COW) Bus will be the ‘new kid on the block’ this coming October, with four new locations in Edmonton. Maple Ridge, Rundle Heights, Baturyn, and Walker are the newest communities we have added to our roster, and we’ll be welcoming both new and familiar families back in six other neighbourhoods. If you’re nearby you’re welcome to come aboard—you’ll have a blast bonding with your little ones while sharing books and singing songs!

The COW bus is a FREE drop-in program for parents and their children from birth to 6 years old, that helps support family learning. You can:

  • borrow books for free
  • share books and  puzzles with your child
  • listen to stories and songs
  • win free books

We have so many wonderful books for you to borrow, with no late fees. Come listen to stories and songs that will soon become family favourites! But we need you and your family to help bring these stories to life and build excitement!

Duck RabbitOne of our many favourites is Duck, Rabbit by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld, “a clever take on the age-old optical illusion: is it a duck or a rabbit? Depends on how you look at it! Readers will find more than just Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s signature humour here, there’s also a subtle lesson for kids who don’t know when to let go of an argument. A smart, simple story that will make readers of all ages eager to take a side, Duck! Rabbit! makes it easy to agree on one thing, reading it again!”

The fun starts October 3rd with weekly stops at 10 locations. Visit the Centre for Family Literacy website to find out when the bus will be in your area.

See you in October!

 

What’s Happening on the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus

The month of May on the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus was busy and fun, with familiar faces and a lot of visitors that came aboard for the first time. Welcome newcomers!

Very Hungry CaterpillarThe Very Hungry Caterpillar is a classic story by Eric Carle and everyone had fun ‘feeding’ the caterpillar before he made a cocoon and transformed into a beautiful butterfly.

Waves in the Bathtub by Eugenie Fernandes was enjoyed by both children and parents alike. We made big waves on the bus using just a simple blue shower curtain and stuffed toy ocean creatures to bring the story to life. This story can easily be told at home with items you already own.

Pete the CatJune is around the corner and we will be reading and singing along with Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes. Children will see how Pete the Cat takes everything in stride when his new white shoes get stained with every step he takes. You can sing the song with your children when things don’t go according to plan, and they’ll soon realize that ‘it’s all good.’

The week of June 13 -16 is our final week before summer break and we  celebrate with a year end party at each of the 10 sites. Join us with your children, aged 6 and under, for fun outdoor activities (including a take home craft) and say farewell to the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus until the fall. A free book will be given to every child who attends. Please come and feel free to bring a friend with their young children!

Visit the Centre for Family Literacy website for more information and the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus schedule. The website will be updated with the fall start date when available so don’t forget to check back and put the date on your calendar!

 

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!

 

How You can Use Songs to Achieve Goals with Your Kids

Have you ever been in a situation with your children when they were not following directions and you found yourself singing a song and modelling the actions to try and get them to comply? I certainly have; I found that it has worked wonders with my little ones! They love to sing, and suddenly it’s a game not just listening to directions. This is a great way for adults to engage with their children on their children’s level, and is more effective than had we simply told them what to do. This method can help us connect with our children before we try to redirect them.

I will show you some songs that can invite children to connect with you while accomplishing a goal, even if the goal is to have fun. These are just two examples of many ways you can use songs to achieve your particular goals.

Hello Songs

Hello songs can be simply saying hello to people, body parts, or even animals. If you are modelling the actions while singing the song, your children will be more likely to join in. These songs can also be used if your kids are grumpy in the morning, or you need a routine to show your children when it is the morning and not the middle of the night. Hello songs can also be used when you go to a friend’s house. There are just as many reasons to use hello songs as there are songs we can use. Here is one of my favourites:

Yumpa Rumpa lyrics:

Hello, hello Sally, how are you today?
Hello, hello Sally, I am fine today.
Yumpa rumpa yumpa, yumpa rumpa yumpa
Hello Hello head, how are you today?
Hello, hello head, we are fine today!
Yumpa rumpa yumpa, yumpa rumpa yumpa

(Continue using neck, shoulders, knees etc)

Goodbye Songs

These songs can especially be useful when you have to separate from your children for a few hours; goodbye songs can assist in easing anxiety with routine. Saying goodbye to  friends, or even toys, are other uses. Here is one of my favourite goodbye songs:

Alligator lyrics:

See you later, alligator (wave goodbye)
In a while, crocodile
Give a hug, ladybug (hug yourself)
Blow a kiss, jellyfish (blow a kiss)
See you soon, big baboon
Out the door, dinosaur
Take care, polar bear
Wave goodbye, butterfly (wave goodbye)

(Originally from Jbrary on YouTube.) I highly recommend that you look at all of the songs from Jbrary!

For more ideas, be sure to check out Flit, our family literacy app! It’s available to both Apple and Android devices.

Click here to download the free iOS version of Flit.

Click here to download the Android version.

Centre for Family Literacy website

Flit demo:

 

7 Crazy Fun Family Games to Play Over the Holidays

Have you ever watched Minute to Win It types of games and thought it would be fun to play them with your family? Family games are a great way to bring everyone together over the holidays, or any time, to have a little fun! The games can be simple or complex, depending on the participants, and you can often use things you have around the house. Try to encourage all family members to play, no matter their age. Games are also a fun way to incorporate family literacy into your holiday activities by talking, following directions, counting, etc.

The Games:

Try to split everyone who would like to participate into two teams, trying to keep both sides as even as possible. The great thing about these games is that they only last for one minute, so participants only have to make it through 60 seconds.

img_2933-11. This first game involves stacking cups so they look like a tree. Remember you only have 60 seconds. To make this activity more difficult for adults, have them put one arm behind their back and use their non-dominant hand.

 

 

 

 

img_2936-22. This game requires mini marshmallows, straws, and cups (or other containers). Using the straw, you must get as many marshmallows into the cup as you can in one minute. To make this game harder for adults or older kids, do not allow them to hold the straw with their hands.

 

 

 

 

3. Our next game requires two pairs of pantyhose with the toes cut out and a hole for your face, as you will be making antlers on your head. This game takes great team effort as balloons are stuffed into the pantyhose legs. An option can be that the winner is whoever finishes first, instead of having a one minute time limit.

 

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img_2955-94. This game is about making a Christmas Tree. We used long ribbon, however you could use toilet paper and make a snowman, or wrapping paper to wrap a present (the entire person). Once again you could time the teams or just judge them after the first one is done.

 

 

 

 

5. Starting to get hungry after all this work? How about a cookie challenge? Place a cookie over one eye and try to get it into your mouth. For the younger kids, if the cookie falls off they could pick it up and try again. For adults and older kids, I suggest no hands and if they fail then another player from their team has to try until at least one person is successful.

 

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6. On to some full body movements you will need two more pairs of pantyhose without holes, two tennis balls (or heavy balls) and some targets to knock over. Putting the nylons on your head with the ball in each leg, try knocking down as many of the targets as you can. We used paper cups but water bottles or pop cans work too.

 

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img_2969-87. Lastly we have the candy cane pick up. Stack up a bunch of candy canes, and putting one in your mouth, hook as many candy canes as you can and transfer them into a cup. For little fingers, just let them use their hands instead of putting the candy cane in their mouth.

 

 

 

These are just a few of the hundreds of games available on the internet, so grab your family and friends, be creative, and have a great time!

 

Find more game ideas, as I did, with these sites: