MOOOve into Summer!

COW-SummerWith stops in La Perle, Brander Gardens, and Primrose, the Edmonton C.O.W. bus summer programming has begun! Our first week was a huge success with a total of 81 participants joining us for some “monkeying” around; we launched monkeys with a specially made catapult, caught them with our parachute that doubled as a popcorn maker, and sang about 5 little monkeys jumping on the bed.

COW-Summer2Some of the fun activities we are looking forward to sharing this summer:

  • feeding a hungry caterpillar and then crafting one, as well as a beautiful butterfly
  • DIY backyard games using dollar items like pool noodles
  • practicing our “Eye Spy” skills with a family scavenger hunt
  • exploring measurement and prediction though H2O
  • exercising our lungs in a bubble blow-out
  • expressing ourselves artistically with a colour explosion

Some of the books we are going to bring to life:

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Mix it Up by Herve Tulle
  • Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
  • Waves in the Bathtub by Eugenie Fernandez
  • Tickle Monster by Josie Bissett

Kiddie karaoke will be featuring such favourites as:

  • “5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed”
  • “Fuzzy Little Caterpillar”
  • “Colour Song”
  • “Going on a Treasure Hunt”
  • “5 Green and Speckled Frogs”
  • “Bugs Bugs Bugs”

We won’t divulge all of our plans — you’ll have to attend the program to see what other tricks we have up our sleeves!

Kristin and Crystal

You’ll find our Edmonton bus schedule here

hashtag: #edm_cow

Have Fun and Build Brains Using “Serve and Return”

More brain connections form in the first six years of life than at any other time, and the more you use these connections the stronger they get. Brain connections are built on a foundation of “serve and return” interactions. Serve and return refers to give-and-take —healthy interaction that goes both ways. For example, if your baby “serves” by smiling at you, you “return” by smiling back. By doing this, you are showing baby that you understand them and they matter; you are giving them the feedback they need to learn.

TheBigAnimalMix-upReading a story together is a great example of a serve and return activity, and many have an interactive nature built right into them. On the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus we love The Big Animal Mix-up, a lift-the-flap book by Gareth Edwards and Kanako Usui. It has bright pictures, humour, and a lot of rhythm and rhyme. In the story, Little Bear’s dad tries to teach him about animals: “Hello Little Bear, here’s a story for you, that’s all about animals and what they can do.” Only as the title suggests, they’re all mixed up! He has snakes mixed up with birds, and mice mixed up with whales, now Little Bear (and your child) have to set the record straight.

Here is a bird. It slithers around. And slides through the jungle with a soft hissing sound.”

“Hang on a minute! You made a mistake. If it hisses and slithers it must be a..… [open flap] SNAKE!”

We never tire of this book, but remember that any book can be made interactive by talking about the pictures, having the child help you with the story, asking open-ended questions, and relating the story to real life.

Building brain connections through serve and return has a big impact on the rest of a child’s life, providing the solid foundation needed for language and emotional health. But don’t forget to have fun while doing it!

Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus information and schedule

hashtag: #ab_cow

The C.O.W. has Mice & Pretty Bugs in May!

Mouse_CountMay is full of mice on the bus. First we will be reading Mouse Count. In this charming companion to Mouse Paint, Ellen Stoll Walsh introduces the concept of counting forward and backward in a suspenseful story that will keep young readers guessing. We have some furry little props to add to this exciting story.

 

Lunch

Lunch is also on the bus this month. It’s time for lunch, and one little mouse is famished! In fact, he’s so hungry that once he starts eating, he can’t stop. He sinks his teeth into a crisp white turnip, gobbles up some orange carrots, devours an ear of yellow corn, and then tosses back some tender green peas. He’s full, but this mouse keeps on munching until his bulging belly won’t hold another bite. Come and see all the stuff author Denise Fleming has this little mouse devouring!

 

Butterflys2Still on the fun theme, we will be singing B.I.N.G.O. on the bus. We have some new puzzles and activities like “Who Knows Whose Nose,” and some giant bugs that snap together. We also welcome a kaleidoscope of beautiful butterflies in the bus this month. Join us for some great stories, fun activities, and pretty bugs!

You’ll find our Edmonton bus schedule here

hashtag: #edm_cow

 

2 Easter Egg-tivities, a Song and a Book

“See the bunnies sleeping, ‘til it’s nearly noon
Shall we awake them with a merry tune
Oh so still. Are the bunnies ill? Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh,
Wake up little bunnies, hop, hop, hop!
Wake up little bunnies, hop, hop, hop!
Wake up little bunnies, hop, hop, hop and GO!”

Usually we end this song with “stop” so our little bunnies will pretend to go back to sleep for another round of the song. For Easter, it’s only fitting that we use this song as is to start the morning or the egg hunt. If your kids are anything like mine at Easter, you probably don’t have to wake them up!

Easter for us means a family get-together, good food, and many different activities. Colouring eggs is a big part of our traditions, but we like to try something new each year – sometimes it doesn’t even involve dye!

“Mod Podge Egg” was a hit last year, providing many opportunities to talk about colours and shapes, and to just have fun.

mod-podge

Mod Podge Egg

You need:

  • Egg (boiled, or blown out if you want to keep it)
  • Tissue paper (many colours)
  • Mod Podge (a sealer – like glue, but it hardens and keeps the egg strong)
  • Paint brush

 What to do:

  1. Tear or cut up the tissue paper into different shapes and sizes.
  2. Spread Mod Podge on the egg and put tissue paper all over.
  3. Spread another layer of Mod Podge over the tissue paper on the egg, and add more tissue paper until you’re happy.
  4. Add one last layer of Mod Podge to seal it completely.

Another Easter favourite for our family is the great Easter Egg hunt. It gets more complicated every year, and sometimes we like to add a little variety to what the Easter Bunny brings.

One year we made “goldfish carrots.” The kids had so much fun pulling them out of our pretend garden.

carrots

Goldfish Carrots

You need:

  • Goldfish crackers (or something else orange)
  • Clear disposable icing bags (not cut)
  • Green ribbon

What to do:

  1. Fill the icing bag with the goldfish so the pointy end is down.
  2. Tie the ribbon around the top of the bag when you get the size of carrot you want.
  3. Hide them in a houseplant or make your own “garden”.

Finally, what is Easter without a good book? For some bunny-themed books, scroll down to Darren Hinger’s blog, “Babies Touching Books… with Bunnies.” A great Easter themed book is Duck and Goose: Here comes the Easter Bunny by Tad Hill. It’s about two little birds trying to find a hiding place so they can see the Easter Bunny. It’s perfect for bedtime the night before the big day.

There are many fun Easter activities. Does your family have Easter traditions you would like to share? We would love to hear about them!

 

“Stuck” on the C.O.W. Bus

The C.O.W. Bus is ready for Spring! We have new puzzles and literacy activities as we do at the start of every month.

To celebrate the big thaw, we are reading some great stories. Wiggle Waggle by Jonathan London is a fun favourite. Everyone can jump up and dance along with camels, horses, and kangaroos in their lively animal parade.

We use great characters made of felt to help tell the story Stuck by Oliver Jeffers. Delightful chaos ensues when a young boy gets his kite stuck in a tree. He throws up his shoe to shift it, but that gets stuck too. So he throws up his other shoe and that gets stuck, along with…a ladder, a pot of paint, the kitchen sink, an orangutan and a whale, among other things! This is a hilarious book with a wonderful surprise ending.

For Easter we will have some fun stories to share about this bright and “hoppy” holiday.  To help you celebrate here are some quick tricks for dying eggs. http://www.kidspot.com.au/Easter-Crafts-Quick-tricks-to-dye-eggs-for-Easter+4566+162+article.htm

Peanut Butter and Jelly will be everyone’s favourite song (and sandwich) when we sing this sweet little ditty on the bus. Below is a link to this catchy tune. http://youtu.be/EpPRpSi8Czk

 

Check our website for the bus schedule and more information

Watch a video of a program on the bus

hashtag: #edm_cow

Babies Touching Books… with Bunnies

family with baby read book 2

When I first started facilitating the Books for Babies program, I was struck by the thought, “Wow, there are a lot of board books about bunnies.” And if the combination of books, babies, and bunnies rings any bells for you, there is a good chance you’re thinking of Dorothy Kunhardt’s Pat the Bunny, which has been in print since 1940 and is one of the best selling children’s books of all time.

Pat-the-BunnyPat the Bunny was actually one of the first interactive books for children. Instead of telling a story, it is more of a collection of things you can do with your toddler. You can try on mommy’s ring by putting your finger through a hole in the page, look into a mirror, flip through a smaller book inside the book, and of course, pat the bunny’s (fake) fur. This also makes it one of the first “touch and feel” books.

Fast-forward 75 years and there are a lot of touch and feel books for children, and a lot of them feature bunnies. I won’t try to explain all the bunnies, but there are good reasons why these interactive touch and feel books are so popular with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.

Bunny_book1.  Babies and toddlers are busy exploring and learning about the world around them, and many things are not as smooth as the pages of a book. The added dimension of texture in a touch and feel book helps our little ones connect what they are seeing in the book with things they have discovered around the house, or on any trips you have taken together outside the home. Babies around 4 – 6 months old are especially drawn to things they can distinguish by touch (and taste) because their vision started out quite blurry. The more things they feel, the easier it is for them to understand the difference between textures, which makes things easier to recognize by touch.

2.  Babies and toddlers find these books so engaging because they are learning to control the fine movements of their hands and fingers. This might not sound very exciting, but if you can remember the excitement of learning a musical instrument, or the satisfaction of getting better at a sport, think of how satisfying it must be to go from near-random flailing to actually willing your fingers to explore something that catches your eye.

3.  While our tiny human friends are busy exploring their environments, they have an easier time remembering and identifying things they can associate with more than one of their senses. So if you are sharing a book with your child that features an actually fuzzy bunny, they get to see the bunny, hear you talk about the bunny, and also feel how soft the bunny is.

Sensory exploration is an important part of child development. So as gimmicky as these books might appear, they offer quite a range of experiences to growing children, and even when they enter school, many kids will still gravitate towards the books that offer them something different to touch. This bias is quite strong in young children and for good reason.

 

Books for Babies program schedule:

http://www.famlit.ca/programs_and_projects/programs/babies.shtml

hashtag: #books_for_babies

Beat the Cold! Bring the Outdoors In with Learn Together – Grow Together!

This last month has been a snowy, blowy and cold one. However the team at Learn Together – Grow Together has found a way to beat the cold! When it is too cold for our families to go outdoors, we simply bring the outdoors in!

 

Books that we read:

  • 10 on a Sled by Kim Norman
  • All You Need for a Snowman by Alice Schertle
  • Snowballs by Lois Ehlert
  • The Mitten by Jan Brett

 

Activities we did:

  • After reading the storybook The Mitten, each family spent the afternoon creating their own storysack. Each storysack contained the characters from the story as well as a large white mitten. These storysacks provided families with a fun, unique and memorable way to read and share the story at home.
  • Using recycled newspaper and packing tape, we made a big basket full of “snowballs”. We then headed to the gymnasium for a variety of snowball throw and toss games, ending with a big group snowball fight!
  • After reading All You Need for a Snowman, we brought in a huge plastic bin of snow from outside. Then, wearing mittens, the children and their families spent the afternoon creating their own snowmen and snow castles!
  • Using plastic containers of varying sizes we froze “treasures” in water. Once frozen, we took the ice blocks out of the containers and the children spent the afternoon exploring methods to melt and chip the treasures from the ice. The children used a variety of methods including: warm water, hand held tools, salt etc. to extract their treasures. In order to keep this activity literacy based, our treasures included letters from the alphabet that corresponded with other items in the ice block. For instance, when a child extracted a letter “Y” from the ice, they would then begin to look for the items in the ice that corresponded with that letter, such as a yellow yo yo.

 

Snacks we shared:

banana-snowmen

Banana Snowmen
Ingredients: bananas, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and pretzels.

 

bear-pretzel

Pretzel Polar Bears
Ingredients: pretzel sticks, peanut butter, coconut and black icing.

 

Songs and Rhymes we shared:

I’m a Little Snowman (to the tune of I’m a Little Tea Pot)
I’m a little snowman, short and fat.
Here are my buttons and here is my hat.
When the sun comes out, I cannot play.
I just slowly melt away.

Five Little Snowmen
Five little snowmen all made of snow,
five little snowmen standing in a row.
Out came the sun and stayed all day,
and one little snowman melted away.

(count down to 0)

Zero little snowmen all made of snow,
zero little snowmen standing in a row.
Down came the snow that fell all day,
and five little snowmen came back to play.

To go along with these rhymes, our families constructed five popsicle stick snowmen and one popsicle stick sun to use while they recited the rhyme. These props were a fun activity for the families and they really brought the rhyme to life!!

With a little creativity and our families’ eager participation, Learn Together – Grow Together has succeeded in bringing the outdoors in and now you can too!!

More about the Learn Together – Grow Together program

hashtag: #LT_GT

 

Stop Just Reading Books! Start Living Books!

321Fun

Every child has a favourite book, a story that they want read to them over and over again. For parents, this can become quite boring. At 3,2,1, Fun! we have spent the last few weeks showing families how to stop just reading books and how to start living books. To support families in increasing their children’s learning, we have been sharing ideas and activities to extend a simple story book.

Children choose their favourite books or stories for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they love the drawings, or maybe they can relate to the characters in the story. Once children have chosen their favourite books, it is only a matter of time before they begin to learn the words and predict the events. Before you know it, they can recite the story from start to finish! When this happens, it does not mean they have become bored with the story, though the parents may have. It simply means we need to take the book to the next level. Let me show you how to bring your children’s favourite books to life!

 

Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

Go Fishing!

You don’t need a boat or even a lake to take your children fishing. Fill the bathtub or a plastic bucket with water. Attach paper clips to some plastic fish and drop them in the water. Use a wooden dowel with string and a magnet as the fishing rod. You can challenge your children to count each fish they catch or to only catch certain colours or shapes. The possibilities are endless and the fun is guaranteed!

Make your own Rainbow Fish

Using paper plates and any other craft or recyclable materials you have around the house, your children can create their own Rainbow Fish or fish aquarium. They can explore shapes, sizes, and patterns as they create. Use the finished craft as a prop the next time you read the book.

Snack

Place a handful of Gold Fish crackers at the bottom of a small bowl. Using a short piece of stringy liquorice, tie a gummy worm to the end of a pretzel stick. Voila!! You have an edible fishing snack for your children.

Sing!

“1, 2, 3, 4, 5 once I caught a fish alive,
6, 7, 8, 9, 10 then I threw him back again.
Why did you let him go?
Because he bit my finger so!
Which finger did he bite?
The little finger on my right!”

 

Going on a Bear Hunt by M. Rosen

We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we’ll have to go through it!

Course

Build an obstacle course in your living room, basement, or back yard using furniture, cardboard boxes, etc. Have your children go through the obstacle course in a pattern of their choosing. They can explore going over, under, and through. Not only is this a fun activity for your children, but they will be working on their patterning and predicting skills at the same time.

Go on a Bear Hunt!

Create a scavenger hunt for your children. If you really want to get creative, you can even craft a treasure map for them to follow.

Snack

To reinforce the theme of patterns you can cut up a variety of fruits and cheeses and have your children create their own snack pattern on a skewer, or on an edible necklace made with a long piece of stringy liquorice and fruit loops.

 

The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins

Bake Cookies

Following a recipe and baking allow your children to work on a wide variety of numeracy and literacy skills while having fun. Once you are finished baking you can read the story and split the fresh baked cookies among family and friends!

Sing

“Way up high in a cookie tree,
two little cookies smiles at me.
So I shook that tree as hard as I could,
down came the cookies!
MMMMMMM they were good!”

These are just a few ideas on how you can turn a simple story into an adventure full of fun and learning for your children. By choosing to live your children’s favourite story books you are not only bringing to life their literary world, but you are providing them the opportunity to learn through their experiences. These learning opportunities will shape them for years to come and will surely build your family’s legacy of learning.

Visit our website for more information about the 3,2,1,FUN! program.

hashtag: #321_Fun

How to Choose Quality Children’s Books

Did you ever wonder how the Alberta Prairie (AB) C.O.W. Bus staff choose the books we give as a Legacy Library to every community we visit? Well, here is your chance to find out! Our shelves are stocked with a new selection of books to give to our partner communities this year.

Each Legacy Library consists of 50 different books – 15 hardcovers, 15 paperbacks, 15 board books, and five others that might include flashcards, a CD, or any other format of books we think families will enjoy. Last year we gave away 4350 books, so you can imagine how much time is spent choosing the books that we use in the AB C.O.W. program.

Choosing good quality children’s books can be difficult as there are no guidelines for what can be published as a children’s book. Not all books are appropriate for all children. At the Centre for Family Literacy, we try to keep three things in mind when we are considering the purchase of a new title. These tips are very helpful, especially when buying multicultural books because we may not be familiar with all aspects of different cultures.

1)   Is the book truthful and respectful?
2)   Would this book hurt or embarrass anyone?
3)   Does this book perpetuate a stereotype?

To help us choose good quality books that are age-appropriate, we keep in mind the following:

1)   How realistic are the pictures in board books?
2)   How wordy are the picture books?
3)   How well are the books are made?

When we see a new book from a familiar author, we generally know if the book will be a good fit for our program. A great example of this is Hervé Tullet’s newest book, Mix it Up! His previous book, Press Here, is a favourite of many of our facilitators and we knew that Mix it Up! wouldn’t disappoint us. Parents and children can explore the wonder of colours in a new, fun, interactive way.

Some of our favourite books that you can expect to see in the AB C.O.W. Legacy Libraries this year, from January to June, are:

1)   Mix it Up! by Hervé Tullet
2)   Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear? by Martin Waddell
3)   Duck & Goose: It’s Time for Christmas! by Tad Hills
4)   The Very Best Daddy of All by Marion Dane Bauer
5)   Boy + Bot by Amy Dyckman

MixItUp Can't You Sleep? DuckGoose BestDaddy Boy&Bot

Remember, everyone does not have to like the same books. You know your children best, and what is okay for some children may not be okay for others. However if you enjoy the book, your children probably will too. Please share some of your favourite books with us!

Visit our website for free tip sheets on how to choose children’s books

Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus schedule

Make a donation to the Legacy Library

hashtag: #ab_cow

What books are we reading over the holidays?

 

young mother reading bedtime story to her little childrenTurn off the TV, put your phone on silent, and warm your heart with some great books over the holiday season. Below are some books the Centre’s staff will be reading and sharing over the holidays.

•  Box Socials by W.P. Kinsella
The story is told from a young boy’s perspective and spans about 10 years. It is about growing up in rural Alberta in the 1930s and its rituals.

•  150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids: The Very Best and Easiest Playtime Activities by Asia Citro
This book is a must for parents and educators/facilitators. The photos are spectacular, the ideas are wonderful, and there are variations for each activity. It wil provide hours of fun!

•  Gossie by Oliver Dunrea
This delightful book about Gossie, “a bright yellow gosling who likes to wear her bright red boots – everyday” is written in simple, everyday language with lots of predictable words that children pick up right away.

•  Bedtime Math by Laura Overdeck
A book that makes math a fun part of children’s everyday lives.

•  The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear by Audrey Wood and Don Wood
The Little Mouse will do all he can to save his strawberry from the big hungry bear. A staff member said, “Our son received this book as a gift when he was 2, and it was one of our family favourites.”

•  Where Children Sleep by James Mollison
A beautiful coffee table book that is both a captivating photo essay for adults, and an educational book that engages children themselves in the lives of other children around the world.

•  The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper
An oldie but goodie that reminds us all to keep trying, whether we are young or old.

•  The Back of the Turtle by Thomas King
Filled with well-drawn characters, told with wit and a thorough knowledge of native myth and storytelling, this novel tackles the years of history between native and non-native people.

Enjoy and let us know what books will be on your list.