Not Enough Time to Really Connect with Your Preschooler?

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

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

Be present. Spend time with them. Connect!

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

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

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

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

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

Stop and Smell the Roses

Stop and smell the roses? Have you ever wondered what that really means? You’ve probably heard the expression before, maybe even said it yourself. I’ve come to appreciate the phrase in a different way as a parent. I identify it with slowing down and taking a moment to appreciate the simplicity of childhood, how everything can be new, and being grateful for the chance of discovery in the eyes of my child.

Playtime4-smWhile watching little ones play, it may seem like a simple, easy, and carefree life. Far from it! There is so much magic going on in a child’s brain as they explore their world and experience things for the first time—or even the first 15 times. They are developing at an incredibly fast pace and at no other time in their lives will their brains learn at the same rate as it does in the early years.

As a parent it can be easy to worry about whether we are providing our child with enough opportunity and activity. It is easy to get caught up in the parenthood shuffle—so easy that we forget to slow down. Stop. And smell the roses.

Playtime2-smTake the time to let your child play freely as they choose with the materials they want. If your child loves stacking blocks, let them stack and build over and over again. There’s no need to change the activity all the time. If your child prefers to colour, scribble, paint and draw, provide them with the supplies and space they need. If your child prefers collecting cars or miniature figures, and sorts them and puts them all in a line for no apparent reason, let them.

The point is, children need time to do what they love best. It doesn’t matter which activity they love, all are full of learning opportunities. A child will give much more time and attention to an activity they love—that is how they learn best.

Playtime-smWhen I sit back and watch a young child at play, I like to take the time to stop and really watch what they are doing. Are they learning about balance and gravity? Texture and colour? Making sorting rules, counting, adding and subtracting? Like the young scientists they are, they are learning the cause and effect of many things they do. Play really is child’s work, and that work is  important.

So today, I challenge anyone with a child in their life to stop, watch and listen. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to be invited into their play. Just remind yourself its okay to take the time to stop everything and just enjoy the beauty and wonder of childhood—the same way you might stop in a beautiful garden to enjoy the roses.

For information on FREE programs like the Centre for Family Literacy’s, Learn Together – Grow Together, where parents and their children meet each week to explore and discover many things together, check out our program schedules on our website www.famlit.ca

For ideas on meaningful play with your child, check out Flit, our APP! It’s available for both  Apple and Android devices. For more information, please visit our website www.famlit.ca

 

 

What is Emergent Literacy?

Mum playing with two children

Emergent Literacy is what children know about reading and writing before they can actually read or write. Strong early literacy skills are naturally the foundation for reading and writing later on. Children begin learning at birth—many agree even before birth—and continue learning long after school begins.

At the Centre for Family Literacy, we believe parents are their children’s first and best teachers. Emergent literacy skills are developed with experiences children have alongside an adult in their life guiding the way. Young children enjoy repeating favourite activities (for example reading, singing, and craft activities) with the ones they love. An adult such as a parent, grandparent, or other primary caregiver, that provides one-on-one experiences, can do more “teaching” than can be done in a group setting.

Children prepare for reading long before they can actually read or start school. Learning opportunities are best when they happen naturally in the everyday activities you do at home and in the community, including grocery shopping, doing chores, playing games, or travelling somewhere by car or bus. Letters and numbers are not only in books, they are everywhere!

Talk with them and explain things that you see and do. Before children can learn to read they must understand language. Sing and rhyme. (See below for tips for supporting emergent literacy.)

People tend to call children between the ages of 3 – 4 years preschoolers, although you have had them busy learning preschool lessons their whole lives up until now. Most preschoolers will be displaying their emergent literacy development by:

  • Enjoying stories read to them that they can retell afterwards
  • Beginning to understand that print carries a message to be decoded
  • Attempting to read aloud while looking at a book
  • Attempting to write or print on paper with a pencil or crayon
  • Participating in singing and rhyming
  • Identifying familiar print on signs to favourite stores or brand names
  • Identifying letters in their name, or family member’s names, and some sounds of those letters

iStock_000009413407XLarge-SMBy age 5, most children are beginning kindergarten and are becoming experts at:

  • Sounding like they are reading aloud while they look through a favourite book
  • Using descriptive language to explain or answer questions
  • Recognizing letter and sound matches
  • Understanding that print is read left to right and starts at the top of the page
  • Beginning to group letters and letter sounds together to form words
  • Beginning to match spoken words with written ones
  • Beginning to write stories with recognizable words

Tips for supporting emergent literacy in your family:

  • Attend community programs with your child such as the ones offered by the Centre for Family Literacy
  • Make book choices based on your child’s interests
  • Encourage your child to make predictions as the story is being shared with them, take time to pause and ask them what they think will happen next, or how a character feels etc.
  • Visit the library regularly
  • Give your child different materials that encourage drawing, scribbling, painting, cutting, and gluing. Learning can be messy work, but worth it!
  • Have fun with your child, play, and pretend! Let them lead the way in their play. They are used to following your rules every day, give them the key to imagination and follow them as they lead the way to creativity

Download Flit, our free literacy App, for fun activities you can do with your children at home to help develop emergent literacy! You’ll find the links on our website, or go directly to the App Store or Google Play.

Learn Together – Grow Together is a program in Edmonton by the Centre for Family Literacy for parents and their children ages 3 – 6 years. Families meet once a week for 3 ten-week sessions to learn about their children’s early learning and how to support literacy development, success in school, and lifelong learning. The sessions offer some adult only instruction and lots of parent-child together time for fun learning activities. Spaces are still available so register quickly. For more information visit the Centre for Family Literacy website, call 780-421-7323, or email info@famlit.ca

 

 

6 Books You and Your Little Ones will Want to Get Your Hands on

Do you find it difficult to have your child sit with you to read a book? Are you competing with touch screens or big screens for time with your child for sharing a book? Are you finding yourself so busy you realize you haven’t read a book together lately?

These days it can be tough to establish a routine, such as a regular reading time with your child, and sticking with it. Personal and work schedules can be very demanding and time consuming. It can be easier to let your little one have a book read to them by an app on a tablet. Your family might even love books—your child has a bookshelf bursting with them. Or maybe you visit the library periodically to borrow them, however time slips away and the books are due for return before you’ve had the time to enjoy them.

As a child grows more independent and is able to play on their own, it is still very important to set aside time in your busy schedule for reading together. Not only does it model to your child that reading is done for pleasure, it is a simple action that strengthens bonds and can provide a child with positive memories related to reading.

It really doesn’t take long to share a good book with your child. If their attention span and focus don’t seem to be with you, there are a number of books available that encourage interaction with the audience—books that ask the child to touch parts of the page, shake the book, swipe here or there, and many more similar and fun ideas. The result is that the child can “help” you read along. They may also have a job to do—while you read, they can flip the pages. Even when they know the story well, they enjoy being able to predict what comes next, or what happens when they turn the page.

Books such as these may help you and your child look forward to a reading routine. Find the time in your day, whether it is at bedtime, nap time, after breakfast, before a bath, or whenever and wherever! The important thing is making the time to spend with your child.

Try out some of these favourites that encourage touching the pages to see what happens next:

Press Here and Mix It Up! by Hervé Tullet

Press Here3

MixItUp

 

Touch the Brightest Star and Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson

Touch the Brightest StarTap the Magic Tree

 

Don’t Touch this Book! and Don’t Push the Button! by Bill Cotter

Don't Touch this BookDon't Push this Button

 

Books like these are meant to be shared. Try not to see it as one more thing you must do on your to do list. Find the fun! Capture the smiles and giggles in your heart as you share some silliness with your child. If your child learns to read for pleasure, it just might make a difference for them later on, in school, when some find reading a chore.

My children are not small anymore, but I still enjoy showing books like these to them. The appreciation for a fun story can still be shared on a different level. Now we look forward to sharing books with the younger children in our lives whenever we can.

At the Learn Together – Grow Together program, parents learn ways to help their children in the early stages of reading and writing through stories, rhymes, songs and books. Check out the Centre for Family Literacy website for information on literacy programs for parents and their children 6 years and under, and for adults.

 

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.

Recognizing and Learning Emotions

EmotionsHave you ever had one of those days? The day that never ends, when everything that could go wrong, does? As adults, we’ve learnt strategies and techniques to deal with tough situations. We’ve learnt to recognize that we have reached our limits of sanity and that we need to take five minutes to regroup and calm down. How did we learn those strategies? How did we learn to recognize when we’d had enough? How do we teach our children to recognize those signs in themselves?

Social and emotional development is a huge part of literacy development. Have you ever tried teaching a child something when they were feeling frustrated, cranky, or tired? Have you ever tried to learn something when you were feeling frustrated, cranky, or tired? We all need a safe and comforting environment to be able to develop and learn skills. Children especially need to feel acceptance, patience, and guidance from adults in order to develop literacy skills.

Recognizing facial movements is one of the first things children learn as babies. Babies are extremely responsive to the social and emotional interactions that surround them in the world. When adults interact positively with children, children respond positively—making eye contact, making noises, and pointing to objects. When parents disengage from children and don’t show any emotion to the children’s behaviours, babies become uncomfortable and react with negative emotion—turning away, crying, and avoiding eye contact.

When children are feeling overwhelmed by emotions, it is important for parents to try to talk to their children about why they are feeling that way. The adults should ask questions to find out what made the little one feel that way, and what the adults can do to help make the little one feel better. It is also important to give everyone time to calm down before talking about what made the situation so upsetting in the first place.

It is important to teach your children to self-soothe—remember to talk to your children about ways they can help themselves calm down. A few ways to self-soothe are:

  • sing a lullaby
  • read a book
  • take a couple of deep breaths
  • count to ten

A great way to help your children recognize their emotions, and yours, is to show them pictures of how people look when they are experiencing different emotions. In our Learn Together – Grow Together program, we take pictures of the children and the parents expressing emotions, such as happiness, sadness, frustration, and anger. The families then make a picture chart and label each emotion.

This helps children learn what each emotion is, and how it is expressed. It also helps the parents and children learn the social cues that each other give off when they have reached their emotional limits.

Microsoft Word - Recognizing Emotions.docx

There are also a lot of good children’s books about emotions and how to talk about them and/or give strategies to deal with them. Here are a few:

My Many Coloured Days  by Dr. Suess
Go Away Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley
Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard

If you would like more information about the Edmonton Learn Together – Grow Together program, please check the Centre for Family Literacy website: http://www.famlit.ca/programs_and_projects/programs/learn-GT.shtml

Homemade Book Making

make-your-own-book

Learn Together – Grow Together is a program for parents and their children (ages 3-5 years old), to attend and participate in activities together as a family. We encourage the parents to recognize their role as first teacher of their children. In order for parents to help their children become lifelong readers and writers, we show the parents simple activities they can do at home to help foster the early literacy skills needed for their little ones to grow into literacy.

At Learn Together – Grow Together, a fun  activity we have done was to make a homemade book. We showed the parents that you can use inexpensive materials and/or materials you may already have at home, to make your own books.

One of the books the parents created with their children is called a “Straw Book.”

make-your-own-book1Supplies Needed:

  • 3+, 8 ½ x 11 plain white sheets of paper
  • 1 piece of coloured construction paper
  • 1 pair of scissors
  • 1 drinking straw
  • 1 elastic band
  • markers and/or pencil crayons and/or crayons
  • optional: stickers

 

make-your-own-book2Directions:

  •  Fold the white pieces of paper in half, as they will become the inside pages of the book
  • Fold the piece of coloured construction paper in half, as this will become the cover of the book

 

 

make-your-own-book3

  • Carefully cut two small triangles into the folded sides of the plain paper and the folded side of the construction paper. Make sure the triangles are a long enough distance apart to be able to weave your straw in between them

make-your-own-book4

 

 

  • Put the straw through the holes on the inside of the book

 

 

 

make-your-own-book5

  • On the outside cover, put the elastic band on the top and bottom ends of the straw, keeping the cover and inside pages together
  •  Have fun decorating, writing, and drawing in your book!

 

 

 

At Learn Together – Grow Together, the families used pencil crayons, markers, stickers, objects cut out of magazines, etc. to decorate, draw, and write in their straw books. The children were very pleased that they were able to scribble and/or write whatever they wanted in their book; it gave them a sense of pride and ownership!

It was exciting to see that even a simple and inexpensive activity, like making a book from a drinking straw, an elastic band, and some paper, was able to foster early literacy skills. The children were able to be creative on their own and practice their writing and drawing skills. The parents learned that it doesn’t cost a lot of money, or take a lot of time, to have a literacy activity for their children to work on.

Have you made any other types of homemade books with your children? We would love to hear more of your ideas to help foster early reading and writing skills in young children!

 

Learn Together – Grow Together – Be Active Together

dscn0556-2Learn Together Grow Together is a 10-week program for parents with children  3 to 5 years old. We focus on early learning and literacy, and help the parents to recognize their own importance as first teacher of their children.

An important component of the program is taking the families to the gym (or outside if the weather permits) to play games and to try different activities. From the outside looking in, it may just seem that the time spent in the gym is for the children to burn off some energy. Although there is truth to that, gym time provides learning opportunities for both the parents and the children.

Learning opportunities for parents:

  • Trying new games such as “Tag”, “What Time is it Mr. Wolf”, or “Go, Go, Stop” which don’t require money to buy equipment
  • Opportunities to use different types of equipment that they may not have used before, like scooters or a parachute
  • Exposing their children to new or different action words and vocabulary
  • Interacting with their children in new ways
  • Strengthening the bond they have with their children
  • Socializing with other parents and learning from each other

Learning opportunities for children:

  • Building new coordination and fine motor skills
  • Following directions from the teachers as well as their parents
  • Being exposed to new or different action words and vocabulary
  • Interacting and socializing with others
  • Sharing equipment with others
  • Learning responsibility by cleaning up

These are just a few of the many learning opportunities that both parents and their children may have while playing in the gym together – I’m sure there are many more! So in addition to providing exercise and promoting a healthy lifestyle for your family, kicking a ball around outside or playing tag in a gym together is providing learning opportunities for both of you!

Our first session of Learn Together – Grow Together starts on Thursday November 17, 2016. For more information about the program, please visit the Centre for Family Literacy website; to register call Linda at (780) 944-2001 extension 5116. We look forward to learning and growing together with you and your children!

Early Writing Skills

Writing with felts2

Learn Together – Grow Together is one of our family literacy programs for parents and caregivers and their children ages 3-5 years old. The program encompasses a variety of activities that range from sharing stories and rhymes, to gym time, free play, crafts and games. Parents learn ways to help their children in the early stages of reading and writing.

During one of our parent-time sessions, we discuss the beginning stages of writing. Children are not born knowing how to hold a pencil or even what to do with it. This is a skill that must be taught and modelled by parents. From an early age, children are eager to use their hands to grab things. Allow your little ones to use crayons or markers, for example, to scribble on a piece of paper. The scribbles may not mean much to you, but they are the beginnings of letter and word formation, as well as fine motor skill practice.

Often I hear from parents that their children don’t want to sit down and work on their writing skills. So at Learn Together – Grow Together, I always have examples of new and fun ways to practice writing. Here are a few:

  • use sidewalk chalk
  • use just your finger and write in the sand or snow
  • cut up numbers and letters made of sandpaper, and use your finger to trace them
  • in the bathtub or outside, write with shaving cream, or write on a big glob of it
  • put acrylic paint in a Ziploc bag and tape the top, then practice writing on the bag with just your finger
  • tape a long piece of ribbon to a pencil or stick and practice making letters in the air by waving your wand
  • paint letters and numbers on large blank sheets of plain paper

Can you think of more fun ideas to add to the list?

It is also important for your children to see you modelling your writing skills. For example, if you are making a grocery list, or printing an address onto a piece of mail, ask your children to take part in the activity. Or let them watch you fill out forms and documents. As you show your children these skills, they will begin to understand that written print has meaning and that it is an important skill to have.

One of the tip sheets available for free download on the Centre for Family Literacy website is titled “Signs of Reading and Writing Development in Young Children.” It is on side 2 of the “Tips for Sharing Books” pdf. Here is the link to the webpage.

www.famlit.ca/resources/resources_p.shtml

If you are interested in the fall session of Learn Together – Grow Together in Edmonton, please give us a call at 780-421-7323 for more information. Have fun learning and growing together with your children!

Drawing on Strengths

LTGT-2

One of the guiding principles of family literacy programs is that every family comes with their own strengths, no matter what culture or socio-economic background they are from.

Learn Together – Grow Together is one of our family literacy programs for parents and caregivers and their children ages 3-5 years old. The program encompasses a variety of activities that range from sharing stories and rhymes, to gym time, free play, crafts and games. Parents learn ways to help their children in the early stages of reading and writing.

I’ve been involved in the program for several years and have worked with many different families. The beauty of having the families attend for a minimum of one 10-week session is that it gives me the opportunity to observe the strengths of each parent. Some love singing, while others enjoy making crafts. Some parents are great at running and roughhousing with their children during gym time, while others excel at calming their children when they are upset. Some parents enjoy sitting with their children to share a book, while others like helping their children build with blocks or put a puzzle together.

Parents may not be aware of the variety of strengths they already possess. Although they shouldn’t be afraid to learn and try new things, parents should  be proud of what they are able to accomplish with their children already.

I’ve seen many parents open up and share their own parenting stories and experiences with the other parents, encouraging each other on their parenting journey. A local program like Learn Together – Grow Together is a good way to connect with other parents. You never know what new strengths you may develop, or how you may be able to encourage another parent!

For more about the Learn Together Grow Together program, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website at ww.famlit.ca