Road Trips!

I LOVE road trips with my family! With long weekends such as Canada Day, many of us will hit the highways. I love road trips on my own as well. I just can’t get enough of all the places to learn about – using all of your senses. With children young or old, you can point out all that can be seen with their eyes. From mountains to waterfalls, rivers to forests, prairie lands to animals, both farm and wild. Show everyone where you are on a map. Point out signs. Visit historic sites. Learn about our past.

With digital cameras it is easy to allow your children to take as many photographs as they would like (deleting ones that don’t make the final cut won’t disappoint them). You can see the world through their eyes and you may be surprised by how great their photography skills can be. You can also give your children binoculars to help them search the land for scavenger hunt items, or try playing a variety of license plate games while on your road trip!

You can use your ears to hear things you may not hear if you are from a big city! Things such as quiet or animals in the forest. If you stop somewhere for a picnic, for stretching legs and relieving restlessness, you may hear a train travelling nearby. You might hear water rushing down a waterfall if you’re on a mountain escape. You can even hear insects buzzing around in summer; we don’t like them, but they are there! Is that a cow lowing in the distance? Talk about what farmers are doing this time of year.

How about singing to pass the time away? If you aren’t comfortable with your own voice leading the family choir, how about some family friendly CD’s borrowed from your local library? There is so much more to children’s songs now than there was in the past. One of our favourites is a CD called “Snack Time” by the Bare Naked Ladies. My teenagers will still sing along! For lyrics that mom and dad can laugh at, and a very original version of ABC’s, it is a must have.

Smells! You cannot dismiss the power of your sense of smell. The air smells cleaner as we leave our city homes behind. We can point out smells our children may not be familiar with. There are plenty of smells that accompany any farm, whether grain, livestock, or vegetable and fruit. Find some flowers to sniff. Do trees have a scent? Sniff an evergreen! What about leaves or moss on the forest floor?

Hands on! Why can’t a road trip be hands on? Have you ever stopped to see the monument that makes a town special? Plan your breaks for places with something interesting to see, do, and learn. Run, play, burn off some energy before the next leg of your trip. Collect post cards and things like kids’ paper menus (the kind kids can draw on if you stop for a restaurant meal), random memorabilia, or maybe a picked flower. I still have a little flower picked by my son almost 10 years ago. It has a story behind it of what lengths he and his dad went through to get that flower back to me. My son drew me a picture to go with the flower that helps tell the story. I will treasure it always.

Back in the car again, hand your child a pencil, maybe some crayons, and a sketchbook. Have them write or draw pictures about what they have learned along the way. It is easy to keep a little box of things needed for creativity in the vehicle. You can also find an assortment of lap trays (which resemble dining trays) to use on your trip. They are perfect for snacks, drawing, puzzles, and more. Prepared ahead of time, scavenger hunts are fun—check things off as they are found, or places discovered.

    

Try this website before you head out on your next Canadian road trip, www.bigthings.ca, there is a list by province of things to see!

To me, finding some of these things is reason enough for a trip in the car!

Children are Born Scientists

Science: Understanding the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation.  –Merriam-Webster


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Children are born scientists. They learn about their world by:

  • Exploring what’s around them with their senses – seeing, touching, smelling, tasting, and listening
  • Trying to do things again and again until it works the way they want it to, or they discover a new way to do it
  • Observing what happens
  • Asking questions like why? What if? How come?
  • Watching those who mean the most to them do things

iStock_WaterPlantsChildren naturally learn this way beginning as babies, until there comes a time when hands-on learning is replaced by watching, listening, and reading about how the the world works.

Summer is the perfect time to take science outdoors. Nature itself provides a wonderful, ready made lab to observe changes in the life cycles of plants and animals. Helping to water plants, tending to a small part of a garden, or watching for various critters on a walk through the river valley or the back yard, helps children develop the skills they will need later on in school. How many different types of trees do you see on the walk? Did you know that many children can list more marketing logos than they can types of trees? Talk about the difference between deciduous and coniferous trees and what types of birds like to build their nests in them. A book from the library on plants or birds can help identify them in your neighbourhood.

Activities such as these help children understand that science is everywhere and they build early skills that will serve them for a lifetime.

Bubble playThere are plenty of messy experiments that cost very little but provide an opportunity to develop a love of science. The simple act of blowing bubbles can teach children so much. How can I make huge bubbles? Does the wind direction make a difference? What’s the right ratio of water to soap that will make the sturdiest bubbles? What happens if I twirl round and round with my bubble wand full of solution? Here are two bubble recipes to try with your little scientists:

Home Made Bubble Solution

  • ¾ cup Joy or Dawn dishwashing soap
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tsps. Sugar
  1. Mix the sugar and water together
  2. Add the dish soap and stir gently until well mixed
  3. Dip bubble wand into bubble liquid and then blow

Giant Bubble Mix

  • 3 cups water
  • I cup Joy or Dawn dishwashing soap
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  1. In a large bowl stir water and corn syrup until combined
  2. Add dish soap and stir very gently until well mixed
  3. Make a bubble wand out of pipe cleaners or string

Goop2Another great way to explore science is by experimenting with Goop (a mixture of corn starch and water). Did you know that cornstarch and water can form a non-Newtonian fluid? What is that you ask? When you press on the mixture it becomes a solid, but when you release the pressure it runs like a liquid. This is definitely one experiment that can go outside and the whole family can have fun with it. Hide treasures in the Goop for them to discover, and try to squeeze it into a ball and then release it. You can even put it in a plastic swimming pool and walk through it.

Goop Recipe

  • 1 ½ to 2 cups cornstarch
  • 1 cup water
  • food colouring if you want
  1. Put the water in a bowl and add a few drops food colouring if you want colour
  2. Gradually add 1½ cups cornstarch to the water and stir with a spoon or your hand
  3. A little at a time, add the remaining ½ cup of cornstarch. When you can form a ball by pressing the mixture and it turns into a liquid when you release it, it is ready. If you add too much or too little you can always adjust with more water or more cornstarch.

* DO NOT DUMP ANY LEFT OVER GOOP INTO THE SEWER OR DRAIN.

Let the water evaporate from the mixture and then put it in a plastic bag or container and throw it out with your garbage. As it dries, it resembles concrete and you don’t want to have to call a plumber.

Children are born scientists. It can be easy and inexpensive to set up fun activities for them to explore their world. The best part is when the whole family gets messy together! Have fun experimenting this summer.

Blogs are provided by the staff of the Centre for Family Literacy, www.famlit.ca

Take Your Rhyming Outside with these Fun Activities (and Rhymes)!

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One activity that always brings me back to childhood is singing nursery rhymes. This includes clapping, skipping, and group rhymes, and anything learned from friends in the playground. I’ve never claimed to have a great singing voice, but that has never stopped me. While growing up I spent a lot of time memorizing verses, actions, and the rules that went with any singing games. While having fun, I was learning about language, relationships, my spatial awareness, and much more, all without even realizing it!

Who else remembers walking down the sidewalk singing “don’t step on the cracks or you’ll break your mothers back?” When we remember those moments we realize the importance of our children having those experiences as well. Rhyming verses are not just for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. They are fun, silly, the laughter is contagious, and the simple act of playing brings us closer to the people around us. Whether you are 2 or 92, you are never too young nor too old to keep singing and playing!

To this day I still enjoy learning new rhymes. I am fortunate enough to have many opportunities to share both my old favourites and my newly discovered (or adapted) favourites with children and adults alike. As a kid I had fun making up new lines in songs to suit my likes and interests. I still do this today; it is always fun to make up silly verses!

CLAPPING SONGS

Typically, a clapping rhyme alternates clapping your own hands and your partner’s hands with each beat. When words repeat, you clap your partners hands each time. With more experience the game can get more complicated, adding actions and other ways to clap. Adding challenges makes it an activity you can continue to do with children as they grow older.

A Sailor Went to Sea

A sailor went to sea, sea, sea
To see what he could see, see, see
But all that he could see, see, see
Was the bottom of the deep blue sea, sea, sea

Miss Mary Mack

Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack
All dressed in black, black, black
With silver buttons, buttons, buttons [butt’ns]
All down her back, back, back

She asked her mother, mother, mother
for fifty cents, cents, cents
To see the elephants, elephants, elephants
Jump the fence, fence, fence

They jumped so high, high, high
they reached the sky, sky, sky
And didn’t come back, back, back
Till the 4th of July, ‘ly, ‘ly!

She asked her mother, mother, mother
For 5 cents more, more, more
To see the hippos, hippos, hippos
Jump over the door, door, door

They jumped so low, low, low
They stubbed their toe, toe, toe
And that was the end, end, end
Of the great big show, show, show!

SKIPPING SONGS

Skipping songs are often sung with verses that end in counting to see how many jumps you can get in before you fumble. Other times they are sung in bigger groups to invite a skipper in, jump a few beats, and then out again. Many skipping songs can be sung by a large group in a circle, just improvise the movements.

This Way Thatta Way

*With two people handling the large skipping rope a lineup of others in pairs wait for their turn to skip in and skip out. Everyone sings.

This way, thatta way, this way thatta way, this way thatta way all day long
Here comes “Sarah,” here comes “Sarah,” here comes “Sarah” skipping along

*when Sarah’s name is called, she jumps into the skipping and skips, next line is her partner being called in to join her

Here comes the other one, just the like the other one, here comes the other one skipping along

*now their turn is over and they jump out of the skipping rope and you repeat calling the next partners in

CIRCLE SONGS 

Circle songs are classic for young children. These are songs where everyone typically holds hands and does the same or similar actions.

Ring Around the Rosie

Ring around the rosie, pockets full of posies
Husha, husha we all fall down

*now everyone is on the ground, clap your hands or knees and sing the next verse

Cows are in the meadows, eating buttercups
Husha, husha we all jump up

Sally Go Round the Sun

*in this rhyme you change the direction the circle is going (clockwise or counterclockwise) after every verse when you call switch, you can speed it up and add a switch to each line to make it more silly for older children

Sally go round the sun
Sally go round the moon
Sally go round the chimney tops
Every afternoon “switch”

There are endless rhymes and equally endless ways to do them. Get up and get moving with a child this summer and have fun teaching them. Reminisce with another parent, clap your hands, and test your memories at some old rhymes. Guaranteed giggles and smiles. Be silly, have fun, keep singing!

If you would like to have fun singing and rhyming with your children 3 and under, check the Centre for Family Literacy website mid-August for the Rhymes that Bind fall program schedule.

 

APPsolutely Amazing!

placeit (4)As one of the developers of our Flit (Families Learning and Interacting Together) app, I am amazed and humbled at the support and feedback we have received since Flit was first launched on Family Literacy Day in January, 2016. Here are some of the things we’ve heard:

 

  • “Simple activities that are fun and able to be enjoyed by kids. Would recommend this app to any parent, in particular stay at home dads who need a bit of inspiration around activities, reading, and crafting. Fantastic for kids.” (5/5 Stars)
  • “What a great app to support literacy activities with the kids! Easy to use, provides great resources for parents to reference when looking for ideas to support a child’s reading, singing, etc.”
  • “Helpful and easy to use! I love this app! For those of us who are sleep deprived, tools like these are invaluable! The layout is easy to understand and use and the songs/rhymes are engaging and definitely promote language! Can’t wait to see what else the Centre for Family Literacy comes up with next!”

The app was even reviewed by Montreal Families! Read the review titled “Free mobile app aims to boost literacy in kids.”

Here’s an excerpt: “Created by the Centre for Family Literacy, an organization that develops educational programs in Alberta, Flit (families learning and interacting together) is a phone and tablet application that offers 116 activities parents and kids can do together to enhance literacy skills. These include reading, writing, numbers, cooking, games, rhymes and crafts.

Although it is an app, the intention isn’t for kids to spend more time with technology. Rather, it suggests day-to-day activities that teach kids about numbers or words in a fun way…

And to top it off (at least for me), we were contacted by a researcher who is going to recommend Flit in her project with the National Center on Parent, Family, & Community Engagement at the University of Washington. They are trying to identify resource information for parent engagement with early language and literacy, and were focusing on digital resources and apps when they came across Flit.

In addition to this amazing feedback, we also have some numbers about how people are using it, how many, and how often. Our partner in this venture, Punchcard Systems, is impressed with how the app has done and had this to say:

We’ve reached a great deal of users (3519 – across 76 countries), and they’ve spent a crazy amount of time inside the application (405 hours), not to mention that since the application is designed to try and give people a spring board, 5 minutes in the application might be a whole day of fun and learning for parents and kids.”

This has been, and continues to be, an exciting venture for Centre for Family Literacy. We are looking forward to hearing your feedback either by reviewing the app itself or by leaving a comment here. Watch for an update with new activities coming very soon!

Here’s a screenshot of the homepage:

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Flit is FREE and available for both Apple and Android devices.

More information or to download from the Apple App Store!

More information or to download from Google Play!

Watch a video demo of the app.

Read our blog “Flit the App: Fun Literacy Activities to do WITH your 0-5 Year Old!

Read our blog “Teaching Your Child Literacy and Numeracy: There’s an App for That!”

Visit the Centre for Family Literacy website for more resources.

Write Away

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Family Literacy is about more than the ability to read, it’s about having the skills needed to build a strong foundation for future learning and lifelong success. One of those foundational skills is the ability to write. Writing will be needed to communicate effectively in the classroom, in the workplace, and more. It is also a form of self-expression that can really help us sort through our thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

Pre-Writing

In the pre-writing stage, your children will need help understanding that writing is connected to reading, and that writing is a way to communicate information through symbols.

At this stage, they will show emergent writing skills through scribbles, drawing pictures, copying symbols, drawing lines and circles, and attempting to write their name.

It is easy to practice writing with your children throughout your day.

  • Make sure they have easy access to pens, pencils, crayons, and paintbrushes so your children can develop the fine motor skills needed for writing. Keep the supplies all in one place with some paper
  • Encourage your children’s drawing as it helps them to express their stories and ideas. Ask them to “write” down what it is
  • Point out environmental print (such as billboards, signs, cereal boxes) every chance you get so they can see how writing relates to everyday life. For more on this topic, read our blog Build Pre-Reading Skills with Environmental Print
  • Help them learn the letters in their name
  • Help your children label items around the house (such as lunch boxes and toys)
  • Use play dough to make letter shapes
  • Create a shopping list and menu using pictures from flyers. Have them “write” what it is next to the picture
  • Spend time finger painting and colouring
  • Sing rhymes and songs that use actions to develop finger strength. For example:

One little finger,
One little finger,
One little finger,
Tap, tap, tap!
Put your fingers up!
Put your fingers down!
Put them on your nose!

Chalk

  • Go outside and let them loose with some sidewalk chalk. (Pair this with Chalk, a wordless book by Bill Thomson)

Beginning Writers

For those a little further along, try these activities:

  • Writing with chalk2Writing prompts. For example:

“Imagine you have been shrunk to the size of a mouse. What would you see? How would objects around you look?”

or

“If you could make anything come to life just by drawing it, what would you draw?” (Also pair this activity with the wordless book Chalk by Bill Thomson). Read our blog Reading Books Without Words for more about wordless books.

  • With your children, make a homemade book for them to write in. For more information, see our blog Homemade Book Making
  • Make a photo album story book and have your children write the story. (You can always write the translation!) Find out how: Scrapbooking Your Way to Essential Skills
  • Write letters and valentines to loved ones

Helping your children to build their writing skills means giving them ample opportunity to practice. Weave these activities into your normal routine and write away!

For early literacy tip sheets, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website