The Power of a Rhyme

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Have you ever had to wait with a toddler in a doctor’s office listening in vain for those sweet, sweet words, “He’s ready for you,” or in what looks like the longest lineup to the checkout that you’ve ever seen? Or simply had to wait outside a store for their doors to open?

That time I had to run some errands, toddler in tow…

I recently, and reluctantly, took my two-year-old daughter on an errand run to Staples. Thinking this was going to be a quick and easy stop, I arrived to find it closed and had about 30 minutes to wait. I considered just going home, or getting back into the car and handing her a snack and my phone.

Annoyed at my options, I looked around and saw a Home Depot just down the street. I knew getting her to walk there wouldn’t be easy, and I certainly wasn’t prepared to carry her that far. Nor was I in the mood to wrestle her back into her car seat for a one minute drive. While handing her my phone and a pack of crackers seemed like the least frustrating thing to do, there was another way to pass the time that was far more beneficial to both of us.

This is where the power of a simple rhyme came into play.

I took her by the hand and started singing, “Walking, walking, walking, walking. Hop, hop hop…” in the direction of Home Depot and to my delight, she followed, walking, hopping and running. It was fun, it was memorable, it was easy and, we both benefitted from it.

A few things happened in this short time:

  1. Feelings of frustration were lessened. It started out as a frustrating, ‘what do I do now’ situation, but with the use of a simple rhyme, the mood was changed. We were happily making our way down the street, turning a potentially stressful wait into an effortless 30 minutes.
  2. My child was developing oral literacy. Oral literacy has to happen first. A child learns to read and write after they learn to speak. The stronger they are in oral literacy, the stronger the connection and transition to reading and writing. The rhythm, the easy and repetitive vocabulary, and the body actions of a simple rhyme create new pathways in a child’s brain. My daughter wouldn’t have been learning anything while sitting in the car, eyes glued to a phone.
  3. Our relationship was strengthened. The bonding that happens during this kind of interaction with a child is priceless. We laughed, sang, hugged, and held hands. There is no better feeling than seeing a child happy and in love with you! This relationship is really important to any child’s learning, and instead of just killing time, I was sharing a fun and loving moment with my daughter.
  4. It gave me a sense of accomplishment and competence, of being actively involved in my child’s learning. I was able to say, “I made this happen, not my phone. I turned this annoying situation into a fun experience.”

Simple rhymes can be used in the daily activities and care of a child. They are guaranteed to lessen frustration, develop oral literacy, and strengthen relationships between caregiver and child.

Come to a Rhymes that Bind program and see for yourself how fun rhyming can be, and learn a new rhyme or two. Check the Centre for Family Literacy website for a free drop in program near you. And in the meantime, here’s a rhyme to try with your little one:

Walking, Walking (tune: Freres Jacques)

Walking, walking
Walking, walking
Hop, hop, hop
Hop, hop, hop
Running, running, running
Running, running, running
Now we stop
Now we stop

*skating, crawling, skipping

 

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Not Enough Time to Really Connect with Your Preschooler?

LTGT-3Have you ever wondered where to find the time to really connect with your preschooler? It is important to foster healthy relationships to help them grow intellectually, emotionally, socially, and even spiritually. It is important for a child to grow up feeling connected to an adult caregiver.

It isn’t necessary to spend large amounts of money on gadgets, toys, and fads that claim to give your child educational gains. It isn’t necessary for your child to be enrolled in every sport and activity that you can get to in a day. It is necessary to take a few moments out of your day, every day, to be intentional with your child. This practice is highly beneficial—not only to your relationship, but also to your child’s learning.

Be present. Spend time with them. Connect!

I recently read that the average parent spends only 49 minutes a day with their child. 49 minutes. I thought, “no, that can’t be possible, that has to be wrong.” Reading further, I found that the 49 minutes does not include the time it takes to care for the child, to feed, bathe, and drive them to lessons or practices. That number has to be much higher if you include the time spent caring for your child.

So 49 minutes a day is the average amount of time parents feel they can set aside in a day to intentionally be with their child—whether it be reading a book for fun, walking or playing outside, building blanket forts, making crafts, or exploring activities together. Less than an hour out of the day for the purpose of fun and togetherness.

When there isn’t enough spare time to play at length, there are still daily chores and tasks that need to be done, and many of those are caring for your child. In our family literacy programs, our goals are reached when parents learn tools and tricks to turn those daily routines into fun learning experiences that can increase the quality time parents spend with their child.

At Learn Together – Grow Together, we share ideas that parents can use to include their child—books, activities, songs, games, routines, and more—all with the goal of the parents being their child’s first teacher. All with the goal of strengthening bonds, and securing confident growth for the child.

At the Learn Together – Grow Together program, you can learn about your child’s early learning and how to support literacy development, success in school, and lifelong learning. No program near you? You can still add some tips, tricks, and knowledge to your parenting tool kit by checking out Flit, our free App on Google Play and the App Store. You’ll find over 100 fun family literacy activities to do with your child!

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Investing in Literacy is Good for Business

110616-F-TY749-009WHAT IS LITERACY?

Literacy is the foundation for all learning. An individual’s literacy level impacts their success in reading, writing, understanding, speaking, and listening. This impact extends to all areas of their life, including home, work, and community.

Family Literacy is the way parents, children, and extended family members use literacy at home, work and in the community. Family literacy is foundational to the overall wellness of an individual and their family.

Today, 45% of Albertans struggle with literacy.

Imagine the challenges that an individual will face on a daily basis—job applications, safety manuals, menus, prescriptions, instructions, signs, maps, etc.

Imagine the cost to society—to education, healthcare, social services, the criminal system, employers, the economy, you.

 

WHY BUSINESSES SHOULD INVEST IN LITERACY

A Statistics Canada survey found that lifting literacy scores by 1% could lift labour productivity by 2.5% and raise output per capita by 1.5%.

Companies who invest in family literacy workshops as part of their commitment to employee wellness are innovative and forward thinking. These companies are also smart investors because the increase of employee wellness in the workplace reduces costs and increases employee productivity.

Research shows that workplace programs that aim to do more than increase job-specific skills, that use functional materials from not only the workplace but also from home and community, are more effective than programs with a narrower scope. Family literacy activities and materials can enhance the effectiveness of workplace training.

Family Literacy helps to produce young adults, who are just entering the workforce, with the ability to read directions carefully and thereby reduce waste in the form of accidents and mistakes.

—Plant supervisor, Lucerne Foods

 

EMPLOYER BENEFITS OF INVESTING IN FAMILY LITERACY IN THE WORKPLACE:

Literacy for Business

  • Attract new employees
  • Better employee and client retention
  • Build diversity in skills and personnel
  • Improve employee morale and corporate culture
  • Reduce sickness and absenteeism
  • Enhance working relationships between colleagues and improved labour relations
  • Encourage employees to show more initiative and teamwork
  • Increase output, quality of work, and overall profitability
  • Improve health and safety records

 

EMPLOYER BENEFITS OF INVESTING IN FAMILY LITERACY IN THE WORKPLACE:

  • Earn more income
  • Employees feel supported and valued
  • Increase job satisfaction
  • Fewer occupational injuries
  • Have greater opportunities for job mobility
  • More likely to participate in further training
  • Greater economic security
  • Increase confidence and self-esteem
  • Increase social awareness and self-advocacy
  • Better able to support their children’s language, literacy, and numeracy development

Each dollar invested in a family literacy workshop goes twice as far, supporting early childhood development as well as adult basic and continued education.

This investment supports a family’s intergenerational cycle of achievement.

 

HOW THE CENTRE FOR FAMILY LITERACY CAN HELP

LitLinks5Employees with children often struggle to achieve a work/life balance. There simply are not enough hours in the day to do all the things we need to do and even less time to do the things we want to do. There is no doubt that parents feel guilty when they have reduced time to spend with their children and as a family. This “unbalance” can result in low performance at work and increased stress at home.

Our workshops support families to make the most of the time they have together. Each workshop identifies naturally occurring opportunities, already present in their routine, to support both the adult’s and children’s language, literacy, and numeracy development. We give participants the tools to recognize these opportunities and build on them, without adding any more to their day.

All of our workshops are hands-on and interactive. Participants work together and draw from their own life experiences as they work through challenges and explore activities, with the information and materials we bring. Participants will leave our workshops with the tools to support their children’s learning and development, and make the most of their time together as a family. Let’s bring back the balance!

Please contact the Centre for Family Literacy for more information on Literacy Links workshops: by email: info@famlit.ca, by phone: 780.421.7323, or visit our website

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Numbers, Numbers Everywhere!

What is numeracy?

The simple definition is, the ability to understand and work with numbers. Alberta Education defines numeracy as the ability, confidence and willingness to engage with quantitative and spatial information to make informed decisions in all aspects of daily living.

Are numeracy and mathematics the same?

No. They are relatable but definitely not the same. Numeracy covers more of the daily life skills learned from a young age and fine tuned with experience and knowledge. Numeracy includes concepts that help a person with their mathematical understanding.

Mathematical concepts learned in public school are the basis for further technology and specialized fields of study achieved in postsecondary education.

Play-numeracyWhat does numeracy look like to a preschooler?

In a quick summarization, numeracy learning looks like play. When children are playing they are learning about patterns, colours, sizes, measurements, gravity, temperature, days of the week, estimation, prediction, and so much more.

How can adults support numeracy learning?

Adults support their children’s learning by providing a safe and welcoming space in their home for children to explore numeracy. By spending time with their children, encouraging and offering what they can from their own knowledge and experience, their children will benefit by being confident learners and willing to challenge what they know to further their learning.

Mother and daughter in kitchen making a salad smiling3,2,1,FUN! is a family numeracy program that adults attend with their children to have fun exploring numeracy concepts together through play. At the program, adults learn strategies to support their children’s numeracy development at home, in their day to day lives. Parents can support this learning through activities, book sharing, storytelling, songs, games, and more, without the use of expensive toys and gadgets. Parents discover how to lead their children’s learning with a deeper understanding of how numeracy concepts are learned—concepts such as patterning and sorting, following recipes or instructions, exploring shapes, sizes and colours, measurements and spatial awareness.

So the next time you play with your children, try talking about what they are doing, even if you are just playing alongside them. Remember it is the little things you do daily that help reinforce what your children learn.

You can:

  • ask them how many stairs they are going up or down as you walk beside them
  • ask them about the colours they see as you go for a walk or a drive
  • ask them what they think goes next if they are stacking toys or building blocks
  • ask them to help in the kitchen if you are preparing a simple meal or snack
  • count how many steps it will take to walk to their room, the front door, or the bus stop
  • ask them to predict what bath toys will sink or float before the toys are added to the water
  • talk about how many minutes until the next activity, or how many days until grandma visits
  • enlist your children’s help with sorting laundry, by size, by colour, or by which family member the item belongs to

Share your ideas for developing numeracy skills with your children in the comments by clicking on the talk bubble at the top of this blog!

And, if you want to find out more about the 3,2,1,FUN! program, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website

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A Book: What’s in it for Baby and You?

I like it when 3-BLOGWhen I started working for the Centre for Family Literacy, I worked with one program that served families with children 0 – 6 years old and another that served families with children 3-5 years old, and storytelling was a go-to activity for capturing the attention of preschool children and keeping them engaged. I loved it, and for years I wouldn’t read any book silently to myself because it was so much more fun to read them aloud.

And then I took on the Books for Babies program, and all my storytelling skills fell flat. Not entirely flat, but the stories written in books were obviously not written for babies. Babies have a much shorter attention span, a limited experience of the world, and only the beginnings of an understanding of what a story is.

So, when we talk about sharing books with babies, reading the words in the books is pretty far down the list of what we are going to do with the books when we share them. We want to help babies understand how books work, what they can do with them, and how the books relate to their world in a way that they can understand.

We will need to get creative, and we will need to experiment to find out what your babies respond to now. I’ll get us started with some ideas, but please add your own in the comments by clicking on the talk bubble at the top of this blog.

Remember:

  • You’re probably not trying to teach your babies to read, but you are helping them to build a relationship with books.
  • The following are prompts for you. Your babies might be able to do some of the things in these lists, but we’ll start by trying to capture their interest.
  • Try only a couple of ideas at a time. You are testing for their reaction, but you already know their patience is limited for trying new things.

Books as pictures

  1. What is this a picture of?
  2. What sound does it make?
  3. What colour is it?
  4. What shape is it?
  5. What would it feel like?
  6. What would it taste like?
  7. Do we have one of those?
  8. How does it make you feel?
  9. Where did you last see one of those? Could you go see one of those?
  10. What does that remind you of?
  11. What does it look like upside-down?
  12. That person/animal/robot looks just like/nothing like you.

Books as objects

  1. Pile them up.
  2. Line them up.
  3. Knock them down.
  4. Open and close them.
  5. Turn the pages back and forth.
  6. Shake them.
  7. Spin them.
  8. Slide them around.

Books as prompts

  1. Does it remind you of a song or rhyme?
  2. Does it remind you of another story?
  3. Does it remind you of your father/grandmother/guinea pig/etc.?
  4. Is there an idea for something to eat?
  5. Is there an idea for something to do?
  6. Can you pretend to do/be that?
  7. Act out this story together, with puppets and toys, or on our own.

When there’s a face

  1. Peek-a-boo!
  2. Make that same face/expression.
  3. Make up a name and backstory for this character.

If you would like more information about books and babies, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website for tip sheets, a link to Flit the fun family literacy app, and program information for Edmonton.

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Rhymes that Bind is an Adult Literacy Program?

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Nursery rhymes and lullabies for adults? The goal of the Centre for Family Literacy is to empower adult caregivers with the skills necessary to teach and pass on literacy and learning to the children in their care. In our programs, parents are the learners and at home, they are the teachers.

The Rhymes that Bind program is based on strong research that indicates how significant early rhymes, singing, and language play are to children’s learning and literacy development. The rhyming, playing, cuddling, and tickling that occur in the Rhymes that Bind programs are the sensory stimulations that help promote early brain development.

By frequently attending and participating at these programs and then modelling at home, caregivers are often able to memorize their children’s favourite rhymes and use them in daily routines and activities to help increase their children’s vocabulary and overall language development. Many rhymes and songs can also be used as parenting strategies or ’tools’ when you need to transition, soothe, comfort, or distract young children.

Rhymes that Bind is a free drop-in oral literacy program that runs for 10 weeks at a time. Parents and their children, ages 0-3, attend the hour-long program together. In a supportive peer group, parents learn to enjoy rhymes, finger plays, songs, and simple movement games with their infants and toddlers.

Rhymes, stories, songs, and oral language use are modelled by facilitators and discussed in a relaxed, fun, and supportive environment. At each program, there is a snack break half way through. This built-in informal social time gives parents the opportunity to talk with other parents of young children, creating a non-judgmental atmosphere in which to share ideas and experiences or to ask questions of the facilitators.

Printed booklets are handed out at the end of each 10-week session for parents to keep and use at home. The program also offers opportunities for parents to find out about other resources available to them in their community, such as other literacy programs, supports, libraries, and events.

Have you ever used a song or rhyme to distract, soothe, or transition through your day with your toddler? Here are a few good rhyme/song examples from our programs that parents told us they have found useful.

Walking, Walking

Tune: Frere Jacques
This song can be used while shopping, going to get the mail, etc.

Walking, walking (x2)
Hop, hop, hop (x2)
Running, running, running, (x2)
Now we stop!

Continue with other ways to move your body such as skipping, etc

It’s a Beautiful Day

This is a good song to sing when getting up and ready for the day.

It’s a beautiful day. It’s a beautiful day.
It’s a beautiful day for singing.
It’s a beautiful day. It’s a beautiful day.
It’s a beautiful day for clapping.
It’s a beautiful day. It’s a beautiful day.
It’s a beautiful day for walking.

Repeat using whatever the children/parents suggest.

Charlie Chaplin

This song is handy to use when baby has belly aches, gas or just needs a diaper changed.

Charlie Chaplin went to France
To teach the ladies how to dance.
First, they did the Rumba, the Rumba, the Rumba.
Then they did the kicks, the kicks, the kicks.
Next, they did the Samba, the Samba, the Samba.
Then they did the splits, the splits, the splits.

Rock‐A‐Bye Baby

A song list isn’t complete without a lullaby to soothe and/or put baby to sleep.

Rock‐a‐bye baby in the tree top.
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock.
So pull up your blankie,
And close your eyes tight.
‘Cause it’s time for sleeping,
Now baby good night.

Please visit the Centre For Family Literacy website at www.famlit.ca for more information about Rhymes that Bind and our other literacy programs, or download our free app, Flit. You’ll find the link to the App Store and Google Play at the bottom of our website homepage.

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Digging a Groove Your Child Can Grow In

Singing is a great tool for developing language and literacy skills in your children. Making a ritual of singing during daily routines also adds fun to tasks that children may not always see as Clean upfun (diaper changing/going potty, putting on their shoes or coat, etc.) and it strengthens the connection between you and your children. How many of us sing, “Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere. Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share” when helping our littles put away their toys? (I bet that song is now stuck in your head!)

Routines are practices in place to help children prepare for regular happenings. For example, the morning routine is to have breakfast, get dressed, and brush teeth and hair; the sleep routine is to have a bath, brush teeth, read a story, and off to bed. This repetition allows children to develop a predictable schedule—to know what to expect each day.

Rituals aid in learning and reinforcing new skills. The purpose is connection with your children, strengthening your relationship through small practices—a goodnight song, or asking “what was your favourite part of the day,” for example.

I imagine most of us share a ritual from our own childhood with our children—a cherished memory of the connection we had with our parents, and which built the foundation for the relationships we now have—to become part of our daily routine and enrich our journey with our own families.

A nightly ritual I have included in our bedtime routine is a goodnight song. I have sung it to my daughter since she was an infant, and she now looks forward to this special part of our day. I made up the song by changing the words to “Hey Jude” by John Lennon, and it goes something like this:

Hey you, it’s time for bed
Go to sleep now, ‘cuz you’re so tired
Remember, to kiss your mama goodnight
And have sweet dreams
To wake up happy (happy, happy, happy)

Hey you, just say good night
Sleep will come soon, just close your eyes
Remember to hug your mama real tight
And that I love you
You are amazing

So, try adding a little song to your routines and see what happens! There are all kinds of songs and rhymes for children on YouTube, or you can make up your own. Comment by sharing the rituals that are a part of your family!

C.O.W. bus staff are excited and ready to sing, play, and share books with all the families who visit the bus when it’s in their neighbourhood! Check our website for locations and schedules for the C.O.W. bus and other exciting programs offered by the Centre for Family Literacy!

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Making Sense out of the Holiday Season

Sense of Touch-webDo you ever feel like this time of year goes by too quickly? Maybe you feel that you aren’t giving your child enough time. The one-on-one time you would normally have with your child too often gets put on hold during this busy time of year.

With all the extra preparation to be done, parents often feel exhausted and stretched thin. Throw in a few extra festive gatherings, and some sleepless nights as small children battle minor sniffles, coughs and ear aches (ouch). Any parent, even with the best of intentions, can easily feel like skipping the bedtime story, craft, or activity they had planned to share with their child.

Don’t worry, that’s okay! Sometimes you need a break too! It’s okay to just spend time together, chilling out. Maybe you just get to sit next to your child and watch her play while you enjoy a coffee and your own “time out.” Maybe you cuddle up together with blankets and watch a favourite holiday show. Maybe you get to squeeze in a nap with your baby or toddler. That’s all okay. Its okay to turn down an expected appearance when you or your child are feeling unwell. Remember to take time for yourself and your child.

Don’t stress about ensuring that you’re providing your little one with learning. You are providing her with learning whenever you do things together! Or you can simply talk to your child about what is around her, remembering the five senses. There are plenty of learning opportunities that happen naturally.

  1. What do they see? Snow, Santa, nativity scenes, trees with lights, white rabbits, birds, inflatable characters decorating the front lawns in every neighbourhood, etc.
  2. What do they hear? Bells, music, noisy crowds, carollers, birds, etc.
  3. What can they feel? Tree branches, snow, some decorations, gifts, hugs, snowflakes, etc.
  4. What can they taste? Trying new foods is often part of any holiday celebration, candies, popcorn, etc.
  5. What can they smell? Cookies, trees, candles, etc.

It is easy to relate any of the senses to numeracy as well. For example, try asking how many, what colour, what shape, what size, what pattern your child can see, or hear, or feel etc. In our 3,2,1, FUN! program, we support parents by celebrating what they do with their children, and offer more ideas to extend each family’s learning journey.

Enjoy your little ones in their moments of discovery and exploration, and you will be making memorable moments with little effort.

 

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Bedtime Reading for Babies

Bedtime story-blogYour baby loves routines. Though he or she might also like your stand-up comedy routine, I’m talking about everyday routines—like bath time, meal time, and bedtime. Your baby works hard to understand what is going on around her, so anything familiar and predictable will help her feel less like she has been stranded in a random and uncaring universe. Cuddling up and sharing a book, or a few books, at bedtime is a great routine to help your baby feel safe and loved, form a relationship with books, and settle down to sleep.

Settling down to sleep doesn’t just happen. We’ve all had restless nights, even before baby came, and sleep doesn’t come any easier for your baby. Having a bedtime routine teaches her a strategy for resting her mind and relaxing her body in preparation for sleep. She’s honestly not going to figure it out on her own, but if you have a routine in place, and follow it as often as you can, your baby will recognize it as familiar, find comfort in the predictability, and be that much easier to soothe to sleep.

Cuddling together to explore a book can be a very helpful tool to relax your baby. Your closeness is key. When you hold her in your arms to share a book, your baby can feel you, smell you, and hear your voice, and she will feel safe and loved. By deliberately slowing your pace, speaking in a more soothing tone of voice, and using more gentle movements, you can calm her further and bring her that much closer to sleep. Like reading, preparing for sleep is best learned when you do it together.

As your baby grows, she will become less and less willing to slow down, and by solidifying that bedtime routine early, you will be giving future you a much easier time. Baby will associate bedtime reading with all of those positive emotions you shared while snuggling together with a book when she was younger. She will fight sleep a little less, and you’ll be giving your baby a strong foundation in her literacy development at the same time.

The more you share books together, the more your baby will understand what those things are for and what can be done with them. By finding regular and positive ways to share books, you teach your baby about all she can get and experience from books. But even the best book will be ignored by your baby unless you show her that it is worthwhile by sharing and enjoying it together.

So take care of yourselves and your babies. And if you haven’t started already, make a bedtime story with your baby part of her daily routine!

Please check our Books for Babies program schedule on the Centre for Family Literacy website for opportunities to learn more with us!

 

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A Tip to Help Get Ready for the Holidays with Kids

Singing-webIt’s December already! Do you feel a little frazzled, the way I do? I’m rushing around and running out of time to get things done before the holidays. During this time, it’s easy to lose track of what the season is really all about. To me, it’s a time to spend with family and friends that I don’t see often, and to think of others less fortunate than myself.

With this in mind, I was thinking of the parents who are struggling with the same holiday tasks as myself and have infants and toddlers to take care of at the same time. Preparing for the holidays often means cooking or baking, cleaning the house, decorating, shopping, and wrapping presents, and doing all of this while keeping your child happy can be a challenge.

Rhymes can help make these tasks easier. A child can often be distracted and calmed when they are fussy, and rhymes and songs are a quick, hands free (mostly) way to do that.

Singing your child’s favourite rhymes when they seem about to have a meltdown in a store, or while you are cooking, is not only playful and fun, it also engages your child in literacy. Sing, even when the in-laws are around. They will likely join in, or at the very least they’ll think it’s adorable to see their grandchild singing and even dancing. Here’s one of our favourite winter rhymes to try:

Snowflakes Falling
(Tune of Jingle Bells) 

Snowflakes falling, snowflakes falling
One fell on my toes
Snowflakes falling, snowflakes falling
One fell on my nose
Snowflakes falling, snowflakes falling
One fell on my head
Snowflakes falling, snowflakes falling
Now it’s time to sled!

You can also use rhymes like this while you are doing any activity, such as sledding or building a snowman. I find rhymes and songs make any activity more fun!

What are your favourite holiday rhymes or carols?

In our Rhymes that Bind program, parents enjoy rhymes, finger plays, songs, and simple movement games with their infants and toddlers in a supportive group. If you would like to join us for some rhyming fun, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website to find a program near you in Edmonton!

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