Books – and Tunes – for Babies

Hispanic mother and baby at homeA great way to keep the interest of a baby when you’re reading with them, or a child of any age really, is to add some rhythm or melody to your book sharing.

The rhyme and repetition in many childrens’ books makes this easy in many cases, and if you have a rhyming book, a quick search on Youtube can sometimes give you a few different musical styles to choose from. Beyond that, there are many books that are meant to be sung with verses, choruses, and sometimes even music or information for where you can find the music online.

Don’t worry about your singing voice, I promise your baby doesn’t mind if you’re out of key or can’t really carry a tune, and it’s perfectly fine if you would rather settle into more of a chant than a full-on melody.

Even when the book does not rhyme, sometimes a picture can give you an idea for a song or a rhyme to sing, adding a little extra fun to your book sharing time. For example, a book might feature an animal, and there are a lot of songs and rhymes about animals. It’s okay if the animal song or rhyme you want to sing doesn’t exactly match the plot of the story for 2 big reasons:

  1. Babies don’t have the longest attention spans; you probably won’t get through more than a few pages of the book anyway
  2. We want our child to be able to relate the things they see in books, and the words they hear, to other things that they know. If you are reading Runaway Bunny with your toddler and they start singing Sleeping Bunnies, you’ll know that they are making those connections, and you can tell everyone how brilliant your child is.

You won’t always feel like singing, and your child might not always be receptive to it. Think of it as one more tool that you can use to make book sharing more fun for you and your baby.

If you would like to learn more about sharing books, songs, and play with your baby, you’ll find tip sheets on the Centre for Family Literacy website, you can try our free Flit app with family literacy activities to do with your little ones, or better yet, find a Books for Babies program near you and come have some fun with us!

 

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.

Literacy Links – the Logo Says it All!

LitLinks LogoBack in 2012, the Centre for Family Literacy noticed an increase in the number of requests for family literacy services from our community partners and other organizations that work with families. They weren’t necessarily looking to partner in programs, like Rhymes that Bind or Books for Babies, but were looking for presentations, workshops, or taster sessions that would look at specific aspects of emergent literacy and language skills. They wanted ways to reach out to the busy families in their community that weren’t able to attend ongoing programs.

Because of their understanding of the Centre’s mission and vision, and our reputation for excellence in programming, they came to us with their requests. And so it began. Literacy Links workshops were developed to address the needs of both the families and the community organizations.

Jump ahead to 2017 and Literacy Links is busier than even we anticipated. With much appreciated funding from the City of Edmonton Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), the Government of Alberta (GOA) and Edmonton Community Adult Learning Association (ECALA), we have been able to offer workshops to more families across the city in the first months of 2017 than in all of 2016. We are also presenting at a number of conferences—some for the first time.

We are doing the Literacy Links workshops in the evenings and on weekends in community leagues halls, community agencies, and child care centres. We are working with Parent Link Centres and the Early Childhood Coalitions in the Edmonton area and with others across the province. Our goal is to connect families with their communities, to help develop knowledge and grow understanding of the importance of family literacy. The program that initially started off as one off presentations has come full circle.

For more information about Literacy Links, or if you would like to explore hosting a workshop, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website

Tips for Keeping Family Game Night Fun!

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Have you ever pictured yourself playing a game with your family just like in a board game advertisement? It looks like so much fun, right? And each game you see on a store shelf would surely provide your home with hours of entertainment! So you carefully pick out the perfect game and bring it home to your children with such high expectations of fun.

As you open up the game, with eager hands reaching for all of the pieces, you hear yourself say, “wait, wait, wait.” You groan as you realize there is assembly required. After you put it all together (if your children are still interested) you say, “wait, let me read the rules!”

Not quite the experience you imagined in the store when you saw the picture on the box. Older children want to follow the rules, or bend them. Younger children make up their own rules and frustrate the older children. Parents wonder what on earth they were thinking when they bought the game, and perhaps the game gets thrown back in the box and put in the closet for another time, when the kids are “older” and “more mature” and have “longer attention spans.” Does this scenario sound familiar to you? Don’t despair, and don’t give up!

Playing games with young children is an excellent way for them to learn literacy and numeracy concepts. And don’t forget the important social skills learned in playing a game: taking turns, playing fair (no cheating), feeling disappointment at losing and excitement at winning.

If you start with the expectation for the experience to be just as advertised, you may be disappointed. Learning how to play a game takes time and small steps. There are often tears of frustration (from both the adults and the children) when things aren’t going as planned. Keep in mind the more often children play a game, the better they will get at it. Not just playing it, but understanding it as well.

Many games can be easily made at home for very little cost. With some paper, markers, scissors, dice, and maybe a homemade spinner, you can easily make your own “board games.” Keep the rules simple, it doesn’t even have to make sense. With younger children, focus on taking turns. It might not be important to focus on where their game piece sits or how they move their piece. Try teaching one concept at a time. If you add silly rules that incorporate large body movements to your game, you may be able to hold their attention for longer. For instance, “each time a player rolls a 4 they have to stand up and do 4 jumping jacks.”

Memory matching games can be made very easily at home using paper, recycled bottle lids, stickers, or even an old deck of cards. With younger children, start out by using only 4 pairs to match. As they get better at the game, increase the difficulty by adding more matching pairs.

Dice and cards are terrific tools for numeracy skills and the games you can play are endless!

The benefits of making your own games include:

  • They cost very little, using materials you may already have at home or things you can buy at a dollar store
  • You can personalize a game to your children’s interests. If they love dinosaurs, you can use dinosaur stickers, or print pictures from the internet to make puzzles or memory games. If they love turtles, you can make a board game in the shape of a turtle shell and have the pieces move slowly around to the finish
  • If a game is not a hit, you can easily discard it and try a different one. Or save it for another time when your children are older and perhaps have more interest
  • You can make a new game each month by just changing it up slightly, maybe changing the characters to one of your children’s favourite books. This keeps it new and exciting for you both
  • Making games at home also becomes a family activity. As your children get older they can assist in the assembly or creation of new games to play. Older children can do some research on games from around the world and pick out favourite concepts to make their own version

At the end of the day, through the trials and tears of teaching children how to enjoy a game and be a good sport, you are also teaching them so much more, and these skills are ones that they will need for a lifetime of success! So bring back the family game night, even if it only lasts 20 minutes to start. Someday you’ll enjoy a games night with much older children, and you will at long last feel all of the work and effort was worth it.

 

 

 

 Intergenerational Rhymes that Bind

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Singing is a joyful and uplifting experience. It can make a huge difference in your day, and even more so in the days of the elderly. Singing offers many benefits, some of which are:

  • It stimulates the body to release dopamine, which helps produce positive feelings
  • For seniors, singing can increase confidence, thereby improving interaction with others in a social setting
  • There are fewer incidents of mental and physical health issues for those of all ages who sing on a regular basis

The Centre for Family Literacy offers a free Intergenerational Rhymes that Bind program for parents and their 0 – 3 year old children which is housed at a senior centre in Edmonton. We meet once a week and play, sing, and have fun together while we support the children’s oral language development, and of course the residents are encouraged to join in!

We sing nursery rhymes like “Yankee Doodle,” “Baa, Baa Black Sheep,” “Here We Go Around the Mulberry Bush.” One of the residents sings “You are My Sunshine” and it gives everyone an opportunity to join in and sing.

You Are My Sunshine

You are my sunshine
My only sunshine
You make me happy, when clouds are grey
You never know dear how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away.

As we sing these and other songs familiar to the seniors from their childhood, we are happy to see that they sing along or tap their fingers. The human brain is remarkable for its ability to retain the songs of childhood years. The facilitators also mix in current songs and it becomes a wonderful mix of fun.

RTB-MultiGenThe majority of the seniors are immobile and are brought to the program room by a lovely volunteer who is also a senior at the centre. It isn’t easy for the seniors to interact with the parents and children, so the parents and children are asked to interact with the seniors. One of the ladies in the program has told our facilitator that she can’t wait for Tuesday mornings when she can sing and see the little ones!

The spring session begins on April 4, 2017. If you and your infant or toddler would like to be a part of our Intergeneration Rhymes that Bind program, please contact us at 780-421-7323 as registration is required for this program.

For more information, please visit the Centre for Family Literacy website