Come Play With Me!

One of the workshops offered through our Literacy Links workshop series is called “Come Play with Me.” This has been one of the more popular training opportunities and is booked regularly. Learning through play is a concept that has been trending for many years and is widely supported by parents and practitioners. But what is play and why is it important?

The Webster’s dictionary provides thirty-four definitions for the word play, and Oxford dictionary has over 100. Not all of us view play through the same eyes. There are many variables that influence our definition of play. These can be cultural, societal, historical, personal, educational, and global. Even our age can influence how we see play. I define play as the way our children learn about themselves, people around them, and how things work in their world. What does play mean to you?

The Importance of Play

Children learn through their everyday experiences. They do not know or particularly care about what they are learning—they are simply focused on having fun! When children play they interact with their world and use things they experience. For instance, children will draw upon things they have heard, or seen, or done, and use these experiences to play games and engage in activities. Play also gives children the opportunity to explore new things and begin making sense of them. Through play children recreate what they have learned and are able to practice all these new skills!

Play enhances almost every skill critical to the development of children. When they play, they are learning and developing:

  • Language
  • Sharing
  • Social skills
  • Cooperation
  • Creativity
  • Risk Taking
  • Imagination
  • Leadership
  • Problem solving
  • Self Awareness
  • Cultural awareness
  • Boundaries
  • Communication
  • Numeracy
  • And SO MUCH MORE!

Stages of Play

Between the ages of 0-6 years, play has been broken down into a series of stages. These stages form a continuum of growth and development that all children experience in their own unique way.

The first stage of play is called Unoccupied Play. This stage begins at birth and lasts about 3 months. Unoccupied Play is characterized by the random movements and jerks that your baby makes. These simple movements are how your baby becomes aware of their body and how to use their body parts.

Typically at 2-3 months children will move into the next stage of play which is called Solitary Play, and this stage usually lasts until children turn 3 years old. Solitary Play begins when your child is able to start holding objects. In this stage, children will play alone and will not be very interested in others. Solitary Play is considered to be the longest stage because, although they will progress through this stage, children will always return to it in some capacity even as they move into their teen years.

Onlooker Play is the stage that commonly occurs between the ages of 2.5 and 3.5. This is the observation stage where children still prefer to play alone, but now they are beginning to take an interest in how other children play. You will notice them staring at other children as they play, but remain hesitant to join them.

The next stage, Parallel Play, mimics Onlooker Play in that children will keenly observe play in other children. However, now you will find that they are beginning to ask many questions about what they observe in other children’s play. “What are they doing with those blocks?” “Why are they using red lego?” This is also the stage where children will be more interested in communicating with other children in play.

Typically between 3-4 years of age, children will progress into the stage referred to as Associative Play. There are no rules or roles in their play and children are more interested in the interactions and less interested in the toys. In this stage, children are learning cooperation, problem solving, and language, among other skills.

The final stage of play is the one parents are most excited for, Coorperative Play. Between the years of 4 and 6, children move into the Cooperative Play stage, where their play is generally focused around working with others towards a common goal. Roles are defined, and you will often see children playing house or school and during these activities they will have a role—mother, father, teacher, etc.

The final stage of play is only reached when children have had the time they need to progress through each stage before it. It is important to be patient through the stages, and let your children take as much or as little time as they need to explore each stage and move to the next. Although there is a common timeline, remember that all children are different and there is no right or wrong way to explore these stages.

In my next blog, which will be coming out May 4th, I will be exploring 7 Types of Play and sharing ideas on the role parents have in their children’s play. For more information about the importance of play, please do a search for our blogs about play in the search field above.

If you would like to find out more about attending or hosting a Literacy Links workshop, please check the Centre for Family Literacy website and/or contact the Centre for Family Literacy by email info@famlit.ca or by phone: 780.421.7323

 

3,2,1,Fun! That’s Right, Numbers are Fun!

When we think of literacy, our minds go directly to reading and words. But literacy is more than words, it is the combination of many everyday skills that you may use without even thinking about or categorizing as literacy.

Numeracy is one such skill, and includes number sense, predictability, calendars, patterns and relationships, measurement, time, puzzles, problem solving, and shapes.

Using numeracy skills and teaching them to your children might be easier than you think. Numbers are everywhere! If you are baking, you can ask your child to help measure, and as they get older they can help double or halve the recipe. Making cookies, you can talk about the shapes, or place them in patterns on the cookie sheet before baking; circle, square, triangle… circle, square, triangle.

Using patterns and shapes to decorate Easter eggs is another great way to talk about colours and patterns. You can also count the eggs, making sure there are enough for the whole family, and that everyone gets the same amount. You can divide other Easter candies or jelly beans according to their colour, and make a pattern or even a jelly bean rainbow.

We all learn differently. Some learn best by reading, some through watching, and some through doing. Children are still finding their best learning style and therefore learn best by doing all three. Keeping this in mind, how might you adapt playing or chores into learning moments?

When possible, try to be aware of the language you are using, or not using, during play and chores. Think of yourself as the narrator; while narrating you are teaching your children language, self-expression, and building on their vocabulary.

Some good numeracy words to use throughout play and learning are:

  • ciircle, square, triangle
  • round, flat, curved, straight, corners
  • same, different, opposite
  • sorting
  • more, less
  • short, long, bigger, smaller

Some good questions to ask:

  • What comes next?
  • Which are the same? Why?
  • Which is different? Why?
  • Where would this go? Why?

While narrating you could also try to include a singing narrative. Singing and music help develop children’s brains and make stronger brain connections, leading to children who develop stronger literacy skills in life.

At the Centre for Family Literacy’s free 3,2,1,Fun! program, you will enjoy learning activities, tools, and tips to support your children in their early literacy development, which leads to success in school and lifelong learning.

If you are unable to access one of our programs, you can download our free parenting literacy resource app, Flit, from Google Play and the App Store. The app gives you over 100 fun literacy activities, recipes, games to do with your children, and tips and tricks to add to your parenting tool box.

You’ll find more information about 3,2,1,Fun! and Flit on our website at www.famlit.ca

 

Show your Baby You Love Reading Too

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The best way for your baby to learn is through positive one-on-one interactions with the people they know and love. However, it’s not the only way that she can figure things out.

Your baby is always watching you, listening to you, and even smelling you. Even when your baby is outside of that sweet spot of face-to-face interaction, she is still trying to understand what is going on, and she pays special attention to what you and the rest of your family are doing.

All the important people in your baby’s life are role models for how to be human. And if you need proof of how much your baby is trying to be like you, just think of how quickly she picks up on your bad habits. You are not trying to teach her those things, but if she sees you’re staying up late, she wants to be awake with you. If she sees you on your smartphone a lot, your baby will want almost nothing more than to hold your phone in her tiny hands.

Under the age of two, children do not judge for themselves what is good or bad, they accept everything as normal. During this early stage, your baby understands how the world is supposed to work by what you do at home.

Now think about how much reading you do for yourself. Of course, cuddling up and sharing a board book is helpful to your baby, but what kind of a message are you giving her if she never sees you reading anything else?

A 2011 survey of families in the UK found that young people who see their mother and father read a lot are more likely to:

  • identify themselves as readers,
  • enjoy reading,
  • read frequently
  • have positive attitudes towards reading

National Literacy Trust, 2012

You are not only teaching your baby what things are called and how things work, you are modelling the attitudes that she will adopt for herself as she grows older. If you want your baby to enjoy books and value reading, make sure that you show her that. Your baby is very good at reading your expressions and body language. If you look like you’re having fun or you’re doing something interesting, then she will want that to be a part of her life too.

If you’d like to learn more tips to help your baby grow up to love reading, check out our  Books for Babies program!

What Goes on in that COW Bus? Come and Find Out!

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The C.O.W. Bus is a classroom on wheels that offers a free drop-in program for parents and children 0-6 years. It is wonderful to have babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and their parents on the bus with us, playing, sharing, reading, and laughing together!

The C.O.W. bus is also a bookmobile! Families have the opportunity to borrow books for free! We have a huge selection, so parents can easily find and borrow books that their children will enjoy. Families also have a chance to win a book of their choice!

So, what can you expect when you visit the C.O.W Bus? You are welcomed into a safe, cozy, and fun environment. When our families arrive, they have an opportunity to play with a variety of ever-changing toys and puzzles. Then a facilitator shares stories, rhymes, and songs. We like to choose activities that engage and involve the parents and children. Many families find that these stories, rhymes, and songs become favourites in their homes as they continue to share them together.

The MittenOne of our favourite stories this month is “The Mitten” by Jan Brett. We have a big felt mitten and felt animals. Each of the children enjoys holding one of the animals depicted in the story, placing it into the mitten, and watching the mitten stretch—just like in the story.

We have also learned a new good-bye song this month, which is very popular with parents and children alike. It is called the “Alligator Song” and is to the tune of “Oh My Darlin’ Clementine:”

See you later, alligator
In a while, crocodile
Give a hug, ladybug
Blow a kiss, jellyfish

See you soon, big baboon
There’s the door, dinosaur
Take care, polar bear
Bye, bye, butterfly

Of course, the actions that go with the song make it even more fun!

One of our goals is to support the language and literacy development of the children. We are happy to say that the program achieves this, according to the parents. They also frequently comment that our program helps their children with socialization skills. The children don’t even realize how much they are stretching and growing with us—they are too busy having fun!

We are thrilled to hear many parents tell us that their children wake up in the morning asking excitedly “Is it COW bus day?” If you haven’t had the opportunity to join us, please do! We visit each of our 10 locations around Edmonton on a weekly basis and would be happy to have you join us at a program near you. Please see the Centre for Family Literacy website for times and locations. See you there!