Advent Calendars for Kids

As December quickly creeps up on us, our kids’ minds turn to Advent calendars. The anticipation the calendars build with each day is a fun part of the season.

The Wikipedia definition of an Advent calendar is a special calendar used to count or celebrate the days in anticipation of Christmas. The Advent calendar was first used by German Lutherans in the 19th and 20th centuries but is now found everywhere.

If you go into any large chain store you will find an array of Advent calendar choices. Traditional Advent calendars conceal 24 small chocolates to be opened one a day until December 24th, but more and more choices are becoming available every year. Lindt has a full chocolate every day, and Lego has 2 or 3 different calendars to choose from every year. Toy or candy calendars, ranging from Disney, Crayola, Playmobil, Hot Wheels, Kinder surprise, Jelly Belly and more, can also be found.

But ever since my kids were born, I have been interested in making my own Advent calendars. They are more personal than the bought versions and I can add anything I want, from toys or books to candy. You can find many Advent calendars to make with your kids at Growing A Jewelled Rose.

One of our yearly traditions is a Book Tree Advent Calendar. I love it because it combines my love of reading with my kids and a surprise for the kids each day.

I found the following Book Tree Advent Calendar at Reading Confetti. Every year we enjoy opening up some of our favourite Christmas classics and a few new ones.

book-tree-advent-4

 

Non-fiction Books Your Kids Will Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The C.O.W. is Coming Soon, but in the Meantime…

Edm-COW

We hope that while you are enjoying summer to the fullest, you are still able to find fun ways to keep a little literacy in your busy days. It really helps to prevent the summer slide, where children lose some of what they had learned during the program or school year.

Here are a few simple ideas:

  • Sing songs or nursery rhymes, and play rhyming words games while in the car
  • Point out print on traffic signs, cereal boxes, restaurants, anywhere!
  • Play games such as Simon Says, Hopscotch, or I Spy
  • Take your children to the library and let them choose their books
  • Tell stories to each other
  • Read aloud to your child
  • Encourage older siblings to read with younger children
  • Look for shapes in the clouds
  • Have books around the house and let your child see you reading
  • Do Splash Time Rhymes that Bind while at the beach, pool, or water park (blog with rhymes can be found here http://www.famlit.ca/blog/?p=3077)
  • Download the Flit app with 100 fun literacy activities to do with your child

Meanwhile, at the Centre for Family Literacy, the Edmonton Literacy C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) Bus program is busy preparing for your visits in the fall, with new themes, new books, and new games and puzzles for parents and their children ages 0-6 years old.

We have extensively added to our books for adults and now have a fiction section. We have books that are science fiction, love stories, memoirs, and many others. Of course we still have an abundance of non-fiction books for adults on various parenting topics, from how to get your kids to sleep with a no-cry solution, to humour in our everyday lives as parents. And as always we have a great selection of books for young children.

So keep soaking up the sunshine while you can (and maybe add some story time under a tree); the Edmonton Literacy C.O.W. Bus staff are busy planning and preparing a great 2016/2017 season for you.

Please check the Centre for Family Literacy website in mid August to find the most convenient location and time for you to drop in and see us at the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus. Hope to see you in September!

 

Bathtub Fun on the C.O.W. Bus!

Waves in the Bathtub

A popular read on the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus is Waves in the Bathtub by Eugenie Fernandes. In this story, Kady takes her regular bath at night and sings the bathtub song about all of the ocean creatures she pretends are in the tub with her. From pelicans to large whales, Kady imagines many different creatures.

To extend this story and involve the children on another level, we have stuffed toys of all the creatures she pretends are in the bath with her. We use an inexpensive blue shower curtain as the ocean. This way each child can grab hold of the ocean by the edges and help make the waves in the bathtub for Kady.

As we progress through the story, each creature is eventually put into the ocean to swim in the waves with her. Both the children and the adults pick up the tune fairly quickly as it is catchy and repetitive.

A parent can have their own conversation with their children about what creatures they would like to pretend to swim with in the the ocean. Maybe the children are huge fans of the Ogopogo or sea horses. The song and story can be created entirely by children using their own imaginations and the props they may already have at home.

And with the mom in the book hopping into the bath at the end of the story and singing the same song, parents can create their personal version too!

Get the tune for the song from the following video, and see how we use it on the bus.

 

Why not join us for some fun on the Edmonton C.O.W. bus! Here’s our schedule

 

Permission Granted to Let Your Inner Child Out!

PlayAs adults we have so many responsibilities, from our jobs to cooking and cleaning at home to tending to the children, that we tend to focus our attention on only those things. So when it comes time to play with our kids, we are in Responsible-Adult-Mode. This limits our creativity, imagination, energy, and ability to laugh and fully engage in play with our kids. For children though, play is how they learn the best.

Play is often associated with children and to adults it can seem like wasted time. However, play is some of the most important work your children can do. Play is their full time job, and as their parents you are their best teacher. Being able to join them on their terms, and in their environment, makes their play more meaningful; the connection you build with your children during play is even stronger.

For many adults, play with their children can be awkward or hard. As we get older we have more responsibilities and less time to play. We may not have actually played for several years, or see any value in it. Other adults may feel silly singing kids songs and running around the room like animals. The thing is that by joining your children in play, by saying “come play” versus “go play,” you are opening up an entirely new world.

For me, play is also the best way to get my children to listen! I try to connect first. Observe them. What are they doing? What are they playing?

A good example is if you are trying to get your children to have lunch, and calling to them over and over is not working. Maybe your children are playing racecars and zooming around the room – how could you let your inner child out? Join in the race. Find the right opportunity to enter your car into the race, and playfully be a losing, yet competitive race car. After a few laps, when you are all laughing and tired, pretend to be the commentator and call all cars to take a pit stop and refuel. This gives you the opportunity to join your children’s play, then redirect them to the table to have lunch and refuel before heading back out on the track.

Not only have you let your inner child out and connected with them as a competing race car, but you have also enhanced their depth of play and learning. Through practice we can all get better at playing with our kids and letting our inner child out!

For more ideas on how to join your kids in play, see the following books. We have them on the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus if you’d like to take a look next time you drop by!

Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen
The Art of Roughhousing by Lawrence J. Cohen

The Edmonton C.O.W. bus schedule is here

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The Wheels on the Bus…

We have replaced the St. Catherine’s site with a new partnership – the Primrose Place Family Resource Centre. This new site meets at the Ottewell Community League parking lot. After a successful summer program in the same area, we expect this to be a thriving location!

We started September with Busapalooza at the Idylwylde library. The Edmonton C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) bus was a hit and we were interviewed by CBC.

The fall bus schedule officially started on September 15th and we have our fall books and activities all ready to go. This month we are sharing some fall favourites such as, There was an Old Lady that Swallowed Some Leaves by Lucille Colandro.

Book-Leaves-2

One of our favourite songs on the bus is ”The Wheels on the Bus” by Jane Cabrera, which we sing and support with some fun animal props.

Book-Wheels on Bus

Another favourite is “This Old Man.” It is an easy song, with actions and a prop that both children and adults enjoy. We count to ten and rhyme while we “knick knack paddy-whack”!

Book-This Old Man

Drop by with your children! You’ll find our Edmonton C.O.W. bus schedule here

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MOOOve into Summer!

COW-SummerWith stops in La Perle, Brander Gardens, and Primrose, the Edmonton C.O.W. bus summer programming has begun! Our first week was a huge success with a total of 81 participants joining us for some “monkeying” around; we launched monkeys with a specially made catapult, caught them with our parachute that doubled as a popcorn maker, and sang about 5 little monkeys jumping on the bed.

COW-Summer2Some of the fun activities we are looking forward to sharing this summer:

  • feeding a hungry caterpillar and then crafting one, as well as a beautiful butterfly
  • DIY backyard games using dollar items like pool noodles
  • practicing our “Eye Spy” skills with a family scavenger hunt
  • exploring measurement and prediction though H2O
  • exercising our lungs in a bubble blow-out
  • expressing ourselves artistically with a colour explosion

Some of the books we are going to bring to life:

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Mix it Up by Herve Tulle
  • Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
  • Waves in the Bathtub by Eugenie Fernandez
  • Tickle Monster by Josie Bissett

Kiddie karaoke will be featuring such favourites as:

  • “5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed”
  • “Fuzzy Little Caterpillar”
  • “Colour Song”
  • “Going on a Treasure Hunt”
  • “5 Green and Speckled Frogs”
  • “Bugs Bugs Bugs”

We won’t divulge all of our plans — you’ll have to attend the program to see what other tricks we have up our sleeves!

Kristin and Crystal

You’ll find our Edmonton bus schedule here

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Edmonton COW Wraps Up Spring

It has been another successful Spring session for the Edmonton Literacy C.O.W. Bus. We would like to say thank you to all of our participants, whether you visited the C.O.W. bus once a week or once a month. We looked forward to your visits and appreciated being incorporated into your routines. A big shout out to all the Mom’s, Dad’s, Grandma’s, Grandpa’s, babysitters, and caregiver’s that came to learn and PLAY.

Thanks for reading to your little ones, letting them read to you, doing puzzles, engaging in all kinds of fun activities, participating in the stories and playing pretend. You are your child’s first and most important teachers, so thank you for trying and doing your best.

Over the program year, 22 new babies were born to our families and paraded on the bus. We will see 58 bright shiny faces head off to preschool or kindergarten in the fall and they will truly be missed.

This session we have given away more than 200 books for our Lending Library prizes — we put participant’s names into our draw when they routinely check books in and out. We have also given away around 100 donated books to our families.

We hope to see you again in the fall and hopefully there will be some new faces as well.

The Edmonton C.O.W. Team

COW

You’ll find our Edmonton bus schedule here

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The C.O.W. has Mice & Pretty Bugs in May!

Mouse_CountMay is full of mice on the bus. First we will be reading Mouse Count. In this charming companion to Mouse Paint, Ellen Stoll Walsh introduces the concept of counting forward and backward in a suspenseful story that will keep young readers guessing. We have some furry little props to add to this exciting story.

 

Lunch

Lunch is also on the bus this month. It’s time for lunch, and one little mouse is famished! In fact, he’s so hungry that once he starts eating, he can’t stop. He sinks his teeth into a crisp white turnip, gobbles up some orange carrots, devours an ear of yellow corn, and then tosses back some tender green peas. He’s full, but this mouse keeps on munching until his bulging belly won’t hold another bite. Come and see all the stuff author Denise Fleming has this little mouse devouring!

 

Butterflys2Still on the fun theme, we will be singing B.I.N.G.O. on the bus. We have some new puzzles and activities like “Who Knows Whose Nose,” and some giant bugs that snap together. We also welcome a kaleidoscope of beautiful butterflies in the bus this month. Join us for some great stories, fun activities, and pretty bugs!

You’ll find our Edmonton bus schedule here

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“Stuck” on the C.O.W. Bus

The C.O.W. Bus is ready for Spring! We have new puzzles and literacy activities as we do at the start of every month.

To celebrate the big thaw, we are reading some great stories. Wiggle Waggle by Jonathan London is a fun favourite. Everyone can jump up and dance along with camels, horses, and kangaroos in their lively animal parade.

We use great characters made of felt to help tell the story Stuck by Oliver Jeffers. Delightful chaos ensues when a young boy gets his kite stuck in a tree. He throws up his shoe to shift it, but that gets stuck too. So he throws up his other shoe and that gets stuck, along with…a ladder, a pot of paint, the kitchen sink, an orangutan and a whale, among other things! This is a hilarious book with a wonderful surprise ending.

For Easter we will have some fun stories to share about this bright and “hoppy” holiday.  To help you celebrate here are some quick tricks for dying eggs. http://www.kidspot.com.au/Easter-Crafts-Quick-tricks-to-dye-eggs-for-Easter+4566+162+article.htm

Peanut Butter and Jelly will be everyone’s favourite song (and sandwich) when we sing this sweet little ditty on the bus. Below is a link to this catchy tune. http://youtu.be/EpPRpSi8Czk

 

Check our website for the bus schedule and more information

Watch a video of a program on the bus

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