It’s Okay to Just Play!

iStock_PlayThese days there is no shortage of advice on how to raise your children, and it’s not just from your friends, family, and neighbours anymore. With the world of social media, and access to bloggers and experts from any corner of the planet, it can be overwhelming to try to make the best choices for your family. When it comes to being a parent, you really just have to go with what feels right to you. I know this has been said many times, and I have read it many times, being a parent of four myself.

Many of us have huge “to do” lists of crafts, games and puzzles we have found on various websites and social media. These look like great activities to try, and they often are. We search online for the most educational games and apps, or how to be the handiest, craftiest parent, and the list goes on and on. With all of this activity we have the best intentions for our children. But all of this can be so overwhelming that we miss out on the most fun part. PLAY!

We do need reminders now and then to just play. Simple as that, play. One word that has so much to offer—not only the small people in your life but yourself as well.

Ask your children what game they’d like to play. Then go with it; let it happen naturally. It is so beneficial for us adults to remember how to do this. It can be so relaxing to put our minds to rest and just play with our children. In a world paced so quickly, we need to do this now and then to put things back into perspective. Don’t forget to put your device on silent and out of reach, so you can truly be present to enjoy free time with your children.

So whether it is jumping in puddles, sledding down a hill, making blanket forts, having a mini wrestling match in the living room, swinging at the park, or just colouring on paper, try to put the world aside and take advantage of being able to just play, and play often.

Play helps bring us closer together. The memories, as your children grow up, will help define your children’s relationships with you. Children who have healthy relationships with the grown ups around them develop a solid foundation for their future success.

We don’t need books to be able to play with our kids, but if you’re interested in the science and research behind why play is so important, here are just a few of the many great reads available!

  • The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It — by Anthony T. DeBenedet and Lawrence J. Cohen
  • Big Body Play  by Frances M. Carlson
  • The Case for Make Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World — by Susan Linn

Art of Roughhousing Big Body PlayThe Case for Make Believe

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please phone the Centre for Family Literacy in Edmonton at 780-421-7323 for more information about the 3,2,1,FUN! program, or visit our website www.famlit.ca

hashtag: #321Fun

Children Love Your Stories

iStock_storytelling

Oral skills include both speaking and listening, and are at the root of literacy. Listening to the rhythm of the language spoken around them will help your children discover the rules of that language. When your children experiment with their voices, they will try to mimic how you speak to them. The words they understand best and use first are the ones that represent what is most important to them, such as names or titles of family members or pets, or their favourite foods and toys. As their understanding of the language expands, so does their vocabulary.

Some simple ways you can expose your children to language are to:

  • Narrate what you are doing around them as if you are telling a story—while you are diapering, bathing or feeding for instance
  • Make up stories or retell stories
  • Tell them what you were like as a child or what they were like as newborns
  • Tell them over and over again about the many things related to what they love most—their families and themselves

Babies and toddlers will pay close attention to a rhyme or story they hear repeatedly to pick out words they are familiar with. When you repeat your story several times, toddlers understand the beginning, middle and end, anticipating what happens next. You can expand your stories as your children gain more experience.

It is important for children to have a good understanding of the mechanics of their language before they can move to the next step—reading and writing! Singing rhymes to your children increases their phonemic awareness, among other things. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds—phonemes—in spoken words. Before children learn to read print, they need to become aware of how the sounds in words work.

Young children, who have been exposed to a rich vocabulary and ways to use it, can become the storytellers. It is a great exercise for a preschooler to be able to retell what happened yesterday, what they saw at the zoo, or what a grandparent gave them on their birthday. They have to remember in what order the things happened without a picture book to help with the story. They may get the details mixed up, but encourage them to tell their story the way they recall it. They are learning how to remember the beginning, middle and end. They are trying to put the correct words in place of images in their minds. Prompt them if needed.

One of the best experiences I have had as a parent is sitting around a table, living room, or campfire with my children, friends and extended family, retelling stories of our past. My older children have heard these stories so many times, they are eager to share them with  the youngest family members. “Tell the one about you and Uncle when you were…” the little ones might say! There are so many stories for them to pick from! Our family shares stories of our elders who are now gone, and our children can retell some of them as if they were there themselves.

So another important thing that happens with oral storytelling, especially when it is about your family, is the bonding that brings you together. Every family has a story! Don’t forget to teach yours to your children, especially since many of our families are spread around the world.

Sing with your child, talk with your child, read with your child, play with your child, everyday!

Check our website for more information about Rhymes that Bind in Edmonton and find a program near you.

hashtag: #RTB_Edm

 

Don’t Forget to Plug In this Family Day Weekend!

placeit (1)You may say “Hey Kim, last year you told us to unplug! You told us that we should unplug and get out as a family! What’s going on?”

That’s all very true, but I’ve got a good reason to change my mind this year. I’d like to ask you to plug in, just for a bit, to download flit, our new Family Literacy app. On it, you’ll find some great activity ideas to try with your family—then unplug and have fun!

You might say we are more than a little excited about our venture into the app world. Families Learning and Interacting Together, or flit, is perfect for your unplugged Family Day.

The activities and information are divided into eight categories—each one supporting an aspect of literacy and numeracy development in an easy and fun way. Best of all, you can do them all as a family and work them into your daily routine!

APP-web 400pxThe activities are also divided into age groups for zero to five year olds, and really are directed at those ages. However I experimented with my own children (who are 10 and 12 years) to see how they would like the activities, and I’m pretty sure they had fun with many of the games, cooking, and craft activities even at their age (with a few suggestions for changes).

My kids’ favourite is the fry-bread activity. We use it as a base for tacos and they are delicious! Download the app, and check out this recipe, along with the book Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith. Let me know how it goes!

See a demo of the flit App

Android users—please ask your Apple friends to like and rate our app—it could help us get funding to create a version for you too!

Do you think we should develop flit for Android? Take the short survey!

More about the Centre for Family Literacy at www.famlit.ca

Family Literacy Fun with Food

Happy small boy crafts with scissors, paper, glue

On the Alberta Prairie Classroom on Wheels bus, we like to emphasize that anything can become a family literacy activity, as long as you do it together. And one thing that every parent has to do at some point? Grocery shopping!

One of the many activity ideas on the flit! app recently released by the Centre for Family Literacy is the “Picture Grocery List”, found under the “Crafts” tab:

  • Make a grocery list, and leave space for a picture
  • Look for the food item in a flyer
  • Help your little one cut the picture out and glue it beside the item on the list
  • Let them scribble their version of the word beside it
  • Go shopping together!

This might also have the added bonus of keeping your child focused on the healthy items you actually need, rather than the potentially unhealthy snacks and cereals they want.

To further extend the learning, why not turn unloading groceries into another literacy activity by sorting your fruits and vegetables into bins, by colour, shape or size.

Go Go GrapesGrocery shopping activities also serve as a great segue into reading about food. Try Go, Go Grapes! A Fruit Chant by April Pulley Sayre—a picture book all about the different colourful fruits available at the grocery store:

Rah, rah, raspberries! Go, go, grapes!
Savor the flavors. Find fruity shapes!
Blackberries. Blueberries. Bag a bunch.
Strawberry season? Let’s munch-a-munch!

How did that - lunchboxOr, how about the non-fiction book Who Put That in my Lunchbox? by Chris Butterworth. It’s all about the steps involved in producing the food we eat, as well as some information on health tips and food groups.

As you’re reading a book about food together, talk about what items in the book you saw in the grocery store, or what items you brought home to eat.

As you can see, family literacy activities don’t have to be elaborate; in fact, it’s often better if you simply build on what you’re already doing together as a family to get the most out of each experience.

Check out our new family literacy app for more ideas on everything from books and games to crafts and cooking.

Link to more information or to download the flit! app

Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus information and schedule

Alberta Prairie C.O.W. newsletters (with more crafts to do with your children)

hashtag: #ab_cow

 

Water-proof Literacy

Bath BookNot all books will disintegrate, or expand and warp into funny shapes when you submerge them in water. Wait! There’s more. Before you start tossing your books into the sink, I’m specifically referring to bath books, the vinyl counterpart to board boards.

Vinyl bath books are great for babies and toddlers for a number of reasons, and they aren’t just for the bath.

  1. Your baby can learn to push the pages back and forth, or grab a whole page with their fist fairly early in their development. Vinyl and cloth books do have an edge over board books here, in how little they weigh and how easily they can be explored.
  1. Whether your baby is chewing on the book, drooling on it, or exploring the book with sticky fingers, vinyl books will withstand the moisture and are easy to clean.
  1. Quite often we keep books in one room of the house, or only take books out at bedtime. Bath books, by their very nature, invite you to bring reading into places that you might not immediately think of sharing a book. Babies and toddlers best learn how books are relevant to them when they can explore them at multiple times and  places throughout their day. You don’t need to read with your babies for hours on end, but those extra few minutes at bath time will add up.

As wonderful as vinyl books are, they do come with a few special considerations:

  1. The pages can sometimes be sharp, so check the edges of the book before giving it to your child. If your baby is going to be chewing on the book, and they probably will, you do not want them to get hurt in the process.
  1. If the book is damaged, water and other debris can seep inside punctures and tears and start to grow inside of the pages, and you probably do not want your baby to be playing with anything that grows in dark wet places. So regularly check your bath books to make sure they are still water tight.

Bonus tip:

Vinyl books are not the only waterproof books out there. You might also find a book, like Indestructibles™ with paper-like pages that are made from a special kind of plastic fiber. They are incredibly durable, as the name suggests.

Books for Babies Edmonton program schedule

hashtag: #books_for_babies