Spatial Literacy and Awareness

Follow that MapSpatial literacy is becoming more recognized in recent times as a critical skill. One reason? Students with strong spatial skills are more likely to enter into the increasingly important fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (or STEM).

For success in today’s knowledge and technology-based society, STEM abilities are needed more than ever.

It all starts with awareness

Spatial awareness is the understanding of where you are in relation to another object. It’s also the ability to recognize the relationship of different objects to one another. Spatial thinking skills are required for everyday tasks, such as parking a car, merging into traffic, or estimating material needed for a project.

How does this relate to family literacy?

Spatial awareness starts early. Think of a baby learning to hold an object in her hand, or a toddler who has become obsessed with putting things into containers and taking them out again (and again, and again). This exploration is how spatial skills are developed.

Spatial concepts, along with other basic concepts, are essential for future success, and as your child grows they will need loving adults to help them develop these skills. It doesn’t have to be complicated. You can help with the learning of these concepts just by talking in detail with your child, using directional words. For example, “We put the empty juice bottle inside the blue box on the shelf, under the sink.”

Although it may not seem like it, research shows that spatial awareness skills will translate into skills that effect writing, math, and motor skills, and allow us to problem-solve by visualizing and imagining different perspectives. It’s how we read maps, create charts, think of tactics to win team sports, design blueprints, measure distances, and plan travel routes.

If you doubt the importance of spatial literacy, just think of instructional diagrams for car seat installation and furniture assembly!

Thankfully, there are many ways to boost your child’s spatial skills.

Activities to try as a family

  • Play “I See.” “I see a cup. Where is it?” Use directional words: up, down, under, far, near, behind, in front of, left, north, etc. “The cup is on the table.”
  • Complete puzzles together that require fitting several shapes into a larger one.
  • Build with blocks, play dough, and clay.
  • Use Lego building instructions to play Lego. You can even find them online.
  • Play “Simon Says.” Your child has to copy your movement. “Simon says touch your toes!”
  • Create a “Scavenger hunt” complete with a map.
  • Study a map of your community. Talk about how to get from point A to point B.
  • If you’re going on a road trip, show your child on a map what route you will be taking.
  • Explore a world globe together and point out where you are.
  • Go for a walk and take a compass. Talk about North, South, East, West.
  • Try playing team sports like soccer or baseball with your child. Or, if you are able, enroll your child in a sports activity.
  • And, of course, read books that address spatial concepts. See below for ideas.

Books recommendations

Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins
Follow That Map! by Scot Ritchie
Actual Size by Steve Jenkins
Big Bug by Henry Cole

Rosie's Walk  Follow that Map  Actual Size  Big Bug

In the C.O.W. program, we bring a variety of toys and homemade activity ideas for parent and child to explore together, because developing spatial awareness (like all other literacy skills) requires exploration and interaction above all else.

 

 

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:

 

Do you Need to Track Your Baby’s Words with Technology?

Dad talk w GirlIt seems we are tracking everything these days, and there is no shortage of tools to quantify and chart all kinds of things relating to our babies. Some of these might be helpful; some look gimmicky. Today I want to talk about word tracking apps and devices.

In the early 90s, researchers visited the homes of middle and lower income families to get a glimpse into how the families were using language with their children. They found that by 3 years old, children from “professional” famiiles were hearing 30 million more words than children from low income families. Things are a bit more complicated, of course, but a number like that grabbed people’s attention and almost immediately companies started marketing word tracking devices to concerned parents.

Technology has improved since the 90s, and our understanding of early child development has come a long way too. I won’t say that these devices are useless, but when it comes down to it the things that will actually improve the quantity and quality of language that children are exposed to and engaged with are free, and technology is optional at best. Those millions of words don’t come out of nowhere, they come from doing things together with your children. You can pay to get a number that might motivate you to do more of those things, but do you really need extra motivation to play, talk, read, and sing with your children? If you’re even reading this, I would wager you are already plenty motivated and can skip the tracking tools altogether.

Still, it can be hard to let go of those tempting personalized stats, so here’s an attractive iceberg metaphor to ease your mind:

https://youtu.be/Qj0Nm3YKpEY

If you would like free family literacy tip sheets about Sharing Books, Language Development, Choosing Quality Children’s Books, and more, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website: http://www.famlit.ca/resources/resources_p.shtml

 

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