3 DIY Puzzles to Make with Your Kids

The Alberta Prairie C.O.W. program visits communities around the province for 12 months a year. To each visit we bring a variety of great family literacy activities and ideas for parents to explore with their young children.

We have books, puppets, blocks, and puzzles that have been purchased, but we also bring a wealth of activities that the families can make for themselves. For example, we have homemade “I Spy” bottles made from old pop bottles that are filled with rice and random trinkets (with the bottle lid glued on tightly afterwards). We also have a homemade cash register and a stove that are made out of cereal boxes, as well as matching games made from old calendars. We encourage parents to use materials they already have at home; materials that don’t cost a lot of money.

Among the homemade activities that we bring with us are a selection of DIY puzzles. Puzzles are a wonderful way for your children to develop their fine motor and problem-solving skills. Puzzles can also be made for different ages and stages of development. You can even create puzzles geared toward your children’s interests, so go ahead—be creative and have fun together!

 

Paper Plate Puzzle

Using a plain paper plate, have your child scribble or draw a picture. Depending on the age of your child, cut the paper plate into as few or as many pieces as they can put back together.

paperplatepuzzle

 

Box Puzzle

Cut the front of a cereal, cracker, or cookie box into as many pieces as your child will be able to put back together.

puzzle-cerealbox

 

Popsicle Stick Puzzle

Tape together approximately 5 to 10 wide popsicle sticks so that they are parallel to one another and lying flat on the table. Glue a picture your child drew, a picture you cut out of a flyer or magazine, or a photograph, on top of the popsicle sticks. Once the glue is dry, you can cut the popsicle stick puzzle into its individual pieces for your child.

puzzle-popsiclestick

These are a just a few examples of DIY puzzles. Can you think of more? We would be happy to share your ideas, and create new homemade puzzles with families across the province.

For more easy and inexpensive craft ideas, check out the newsletters on the Centre for Family Literacy C.O.W. program page

 

Homemade Book Making

make-your-own-book

Learn Together – Grow Together is a program for parents and their children (ages 3-5 years old), to attend and participate in activities together as a family. We encourage the parents to recognize their role as first teacher of their children. In order for parents to help their children become lifelong readers and writers, we show the parents simple activities they can do at home to help foster the early literacy skills needed for their little ones to grow into literacy.

At Learn Together – Grow Together, a fun  activity we have done was to make a homemade book. We showed the parents that you can use inexpensive materials and/or materials you may already have at home, to make your own books.

One of the books the parents created with their children is called a “Straw Book.”

make-your-own-book1Supplies Needed:

  • 3+, 8 ½ x 11 plain white sheets of paper
  • 1 piece of coloured construction paper
  • 1 pair of scissors
  • 1 drinking straw
  • 1 elastic band
  • markers and/or pencil crayons and/or crayons
  • optional: stickers

 

make-your-own-book2Directions:

  •  Fold the white pieces of paper in half, as they will become the inside pages of the book
  • Fold the piece of coloured construction paper in half, as this will become the cover of the book

 

 

make-your-own-book3

  • Carefully cut two small triangles into the folded sides of the plain paper and the folded side of the construction paper. Make sure the triangles are a long enough distance apart to be able to weave your straw in between them

make-your-own-book4

 

 

  • Put the straw through the holes on the inside of the book

 

 

 

make-your-own-book5

  • On the outside cover, put the elastic band on the top and bottom ends of the straw, keeping the cover and inside pages together
  •  Have fun decorating, writing, and drawing in your book!

 

 

 

At Learn Together – Grow Together, the families used pencil crayons, markers, stickers, objects cut out of magazines, etc. to decorate, draw, and write in their straw books. The children were very pleased that they were able to scribble and/or write whatever they wanted in their book; it gave them a sense of pride and ownership!

It was exciting to see that even a simple and inexpensive activity, like making a book from a drinking straw, an elastic band, and some paper, was able to foster early literacy skills. The children were able to be creative on their own and practice their writing and drawing skills. The parents learned that it doesn’t cost a lot of money, or take a lot of time, to have a literacy activity for their children to work on.

Have you made any other types of homemade books with your children? We would love to hear more of your ideas to help foster early reading and writing skills in young children!

 

Learning About Colours

There are many things you can do to help your child learn about different concepts, such as reading books, making crafts, and singing songs. One of the concepts your child will need to learn is colours.

Read Books

The Day the Crayons QuitIn the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) program, we like to share a book called The Day the Crayons Quit, written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. In addition to learning about colours, this book can help your child understand their own emotions, as well as help to develop their empathy skills.

“Poor Duncan just wants to color. But when he opens his box of crayons, he finds only letters, all saying the same thing: His crayons have had enough! They quit! Beige Crayon is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown Crayon. Black wants to be used for more than just outlining. Blue needs a break from coloring all those bodies of water. And Orange and Yellow are no longer speaking – each believes he is the true color of the sun. What can Duncan possibly do to appease all the crayons and get them back to doing what they do best?”

Make Crafts

Here are some activities you can pair with this book:

Dear Crayon craft1.  Use a box of crayons to extend the story. As you read each crayon’s letter, ask your child to take that colour of crayon out of the box. What can they draw with it?

2.  Ask your child how they think each crayon was feeling when they wrote their letter. Use a large index card to write back to one of the crayons in the story. Draw and colour in the crayon that you are addressing, and tell your crayon why they should not quit. Make one for as many colours as you like!

3.  Make your own crayon box.

Materials:

•  Crayons
•  Markers
•  Pencil
•  Glue
•  Scissors
•  One sheet of yellow cardstock (8.5” X 11”)

Crayon Craft x 2Instructions:

  1. Draw and colour your own paper crayons (or use different colours of construction paper) and cut them out.
  2. Fold the yellow cardstock sheet in half and crease it.
  3. Open it up, and with your pencil, draw the opening of the box (a half circle) on the left-hand side of the sheet, making sure to leave about ¼” on either side.
  4. Cut out the opening, fold it back in place, and glue only the edges, so that you are still able to fit your paper crayons inside the “box”.
  5. Decorate your crayon box with crayons or markers!

 

 

Sing Songs

Teaching Mama” has some great resources, including “10 Preschool Songs About Colors.” One of my favourites is “Pass the Colour,” in the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat:”

Sit in a circle and pass a crayon around, singing the song until the following verse is done. Then yell out the crayon’s colour! Continue with as many crayons as you like.

Pass, pass, pass the colour,
This is the game we play.
When the little song is through,
The colour name we’ll say.
(YELLOW!)

For more craft ideas and book recommendations, check out the Centre for Family Literacy webpage: Resources for Parents

 

6 Benefits of Hands-on Learning

Hands-onA statement that you will hear again and again at the Centre for Family Literacy programs is, “Literacy develops in families first.” Parents are their children’s first, and best, teachers. Yes, that’s right, the best. Who knows your children better than you? Who loves your children better than you? Who has more patience, more desire to see success, more invested in your children’s future, than you.

Literacy skills are learned together. Whether it is through teaching your children the basic building blocks of communication, or learning how to be better skilled at teaching your children, you are all a part of the learning process. Siblings can learn from each other, and as we grow as parents we learn as much from our children as they do from us. Our parents and grandparents have much to offer as well. Experiencing life with a hands-on approach is more than just beneficial for the children—it is fun for everyone and creates long-lasting memories; it strengthens bonds that will benefit the family for many years to come.

Hands-on learning is gained by actually doing something rather than learning about it from books or demonstrations, etc.

The following are some of the benefits of hands-on learning as a family:

1.  Fun

Children love being hands-on with everything, and a lot of parents do too! Hands-on activities increase our motivation to “discover.” Your children will be more enthusiastic and pay more attention to their activities. Learning becomes a by-product of discovery. Hands-on learning works because it involves each of the learning styles: visual (see it), auditory (hear it), or kinesthetic (do it). Young children typically do not have a preference and benefit from using methods from each style.

2.  Creativity

Working on a project is the perfect opportunity to highlight your children’s creative skills. Offer some guidance and a lot of raw materials, and let your children be free to create an original product that reflects their own ideas of the theme or concept being explored.

Warning to parents: be careful not to diminish the creative aspect of hands-on learning by over planning, over managing, or by unrealistic expectations. The finished product needs to be your children’s and not your own. For example, if they want, let them use their own drawings instead of the lovely colour images you printed from the Internet. The learning is in the process of creativity; do not place importance on the final product.

One key element of discovering one’s creativity is boredom. Some of the most brilliant ideas have come from people who had the time to experience boredom, which led to discovering their own creativity. Allowing children to be “bored” and not having to direct them to be creative will have larger benefits in the long run!

3.  Retention

It has been proven through educational research that students will have a vivid and lasting understanding of what they DO much more than what they only hear or see. Make sure that your project/activity can tie into the idea/book/concept you are presenting. As you are creating, use rich language to remind your children WHY you are doing this activity. The project gives them a concrete, visible foundation for learning the abstract concepts you want them to learn. (Which again reminds us why the process is more important than the final product.)

4.  Accomplishment

Persevering through a project and seeing it to completion gives your children a great sense of accomplishment. Seeing your children’s pride in a job well done is worth the trouble of organizing and cleaning up a hands-on project.

5. Review

This one is wonderfully tied to the sense of accomplishment. Your children will love to look at their hands-on projects again and again. By doing so, they are reviewing what they learned! When a relative or friend comes to visit and your son pulls out his model ship, he again reviews what he learned. This review fosters memory retention!

6.  Family Literacy

Your children can work together on a hands-on project, but if you have only one child you can work together. This cooperation, this working together, is what being a family is. Doing hands-on projects, whether you’re making puzzles, building games or forts, or creating a craft, creates family memories and strong relationships; it creates your own family language of shared experiences and discovery.

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
– Benjamin Franklin

If you would like information on our family literacy programs, please visit our website at www.famlit.ca

 

 

Value the Learning Process, not the Final Product

Happy small boy crafts with scissors, paper, glue

More than once I have come across this short verse which reminds me of the goals we set when working with parents in our 3,2,1, FUN! numeracy program. I haven’t been able to discover the source of these words, but you can find them everywhere if you search. I’d love to give credit to the right person if I ever do discover the origin.

If you draw it for me,
cut it for me,
paste it for me. . .
All I learn is that
You do it better
than Me

This short verse describes so well the importance of the process behind the activity. We have to remember that it is not about the final product, especially with young children. If they have the opportunity to cut crooked lines, get glue all over things, and colour using every colour or only their favourites, they are learning! They discover their own creativity. They grow confidence in their abilities. They learn to try again if they fail to make it the way they pictured it. They feel pride in what they do achieve.

There is an abundance of great ideas and projects available. Many can be found in our family literacy app, Flit.* Just keep in mind that what you see as the final product should not necessarily be your goal for your children.

Give them the resources they need to create freely. See what they come up with on their own. Try to resist if you feel the need to take control of the project. Instead, you could create your own alongside your children. Don’t be disappointed if they created a bird with 3 legs when you were hopeful they would copy the Rainbow Fish with many scales that you were going for.

It is okay if your children lose interest in the activity you thought would be a grand idea. Put it aside. Perhaps they just are not ready for the concept involved, or maybe it is too close to lunch time and they can’t concentrate without a snack or meal first.

At 3,2,1, FUN! we come prepared to make projects and games that can be used and reused and recreated at home. Parents need to help with some things that the children can’t do yet, but we emphasize, “let your children pick the colours and the textures, and let them decide how much or how little to add.” This is the process of learning.

When we create a new game, we encourage children to come up with the rules, as silly as they Boardgame3may be. For instance, for a game that involves dice, a rule has been, “If you roll a 3 you need to hop on one foot 3 times.” Another rule has been, “this game must be played wearing pyjamas.” One of my favourites is, “the winner gets a hug!”

Supplies needed to play a random game at home based on your children’s rules are probably easily found at home, such as:

  • Dice, any size, the bigger the better. Children love to use more of their body when rolling giant dice.
  • Paper and markers. If you wish to record the rules of the day, you can write in your children’s words.
  • The inside of a cereal box. If you’d like to create a board game look, have your children draw the shapes they’d like to mark the board and encourage them to mark the start and finish.
  • Random household items. Use them as place markers on your board game.
  • Think big! Why not use a giant piece of paper or cardboard to make a giant board game, where your family members are the place markers!

Please phone the Centre for Family Literacy in Edmonton at 780-421-7323 for more information about the 3,2,1,FUN! program, or visit our website www.famlit.ca

* Flit, our FREE family literacy app for activities to do with your 0-5 year-old. For more information or to download, visit the Apple App Store.

 

Build Pre-Reading Skills with Environmental Print

Crosswalk

Symbols are everywhere, and they are often accompanied by text. Go for a short walk to the corner and you are bound to see road signs, bins with recycle logos, business advertising and more. As adults, we are so accustomed to seeing this type of print around us that we barely give it a second thought. It is referred to as “environmental print” and is often the first print your children are exposed to. It is the perfect pre-reading tool as the context provides a clue as to its meaning. Think about well-known logos that your children recognize long before they can read, like McDonald’s golden arches!

Recognition of environmental print is one of the first stages of literacy development and should be encouraged. You can do this by pointing out the symbols and text whenever you see them, and talking about the colours, shapes, letters, and numbers used.

Being able to “read” environmental print is very exciting for children, and this is no small thing. It helps to prepare them for future learning and the reading that is required for the school years by building both confidence and a positive association with reading.

Here are a few ideas to support your children’s efforts:

  • Go on a treasure hunt in the house. Write words (for example, “soup”) on pieces of paper or cue cards, and check them off or stash them away in a special box as you find them
  • Make a homemade puzzle out of a cereal box
    • Cut out the front of a cereal box
    • Draw some wavy lines
    • Cut out the pieces
    • Store in a Ziploc bag

Puzzle

  • Make a grocery list with flyer pictures and have your children help you shop
  • Try “Scavenger Bingo”
    • Draw or print out a table with nine squares
    • Draw, print out, or find pictures of environmental print such as a stop sign, speed limit sign, or recycle bin
    • Cut out the pictures and keep them in a Ziploc bag or small box
    • Go for a walk and look for the items in the pictures (take a roll of tape or a glue stick)
    • As you find them, tape or glue the picture to a spot on the “Bingo card”

Environ. Scavenger Hunt

  • Cut out package labels to create a collage. Use items such as soup labels, cereal boxes, newspapers, greeting cards, or any other packaging on hand
  • Talk about the safety symbols found on household items
  • Make a placemat with your children using a piece of paper. Add stickers, drawings, or cut-outs of environmental print, and seal with packing tape or self-adhesive paper

Supporting your children’s efforts to read and recognize environmental print is one simple way to develop pre-reading skills. Have fun and help your children on the road to literacy!

 

Alberta Prairie C.O.W. newsletters (with more crafts to do with your children)

hashtag: #ab_cow

Family Literacy Fun with Food

Happy small boy crafts with scissors, paper, glue

On the Alberta Prairie Classroom on Wheels bus, we like to emphasize that anything can become a family literacy activity, as long as you do it together. And one thing that every parent has to do at some point? Grocery shopping!

One of the many activity ideas on the flit! app recently released by the Centre for Family Literacy is the “Picture Grocery List”, found under the “Crafts” tab:

  • Make a grocery list, and leave space for a picture
  • Look for the food item in a flyer
  • Help your little one cut the picture out and glue it beside the item on the list
  • Let them scribble their version of the word beside it
  • Go shopping together!

This might also have the added bonus of keeping your child focused on the healthy items you actually need, rather than the potentially unhealthy snacks and cereals they want.

To further extend the learning, why not turn unloading groceries into another literacy activity by sorting your fruits and vegetables into bins, by colour, shape or size.

Go Go GrapesGrocery shopping activities also serve as a great segue into reading about food. Try Go, Go Grapes! A Fruit Chant by April Pulley Sayre—a picture book all about the different colourful fruits available at the grocery store:

Rah, rah, raspberries! Go, go, grapes!
Savor the flavors. Find fruity shapes!
Blackberries. Blueberries. Bag a bunch.
Strawberry season? Let’s munch-a-munch!

How did that - lunchboxOr, how about the non-fiction book Who Put That in my Lunchbox? by Chris Butterworth. It’s all about the steps involved in producing the food we eat, as well as some information on health tips and food groups.

As you’re reading a book about food together, talk about what items in the book you saw in the grocery store, or what items you brought home to eat.

As you can see, family literacy activities don’t have to be elaborate; in fact, it’s often better if you simply build on what you’re already doing together as a family to get the most out of each experience.

Check out our new family literacy app for more ideas on everything from books and games to crafts and cooking.

Link to more information or to download the flit! app

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

Alberta Prairie C.O.W. newsletters (with more crafts to do with your children)

hashtag: #ab_cow

 

Search and Find Activities – More Than Just Fun and Games

Hidden-object

Search and find activities are good for children because they help to build vocabulary, and they develop cognitive skills such as the ability to search and locate. There are many books on the market that fall into this category, such as the I Spy series or Where’s Waldo?, but you can also create your own custom search and find game or book. They are easy to make and take very little in terms of supplies.

We have a few examples of how to make your own on the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus. Why not try one of these?

I Spy bottle

You’ll need:

  • empty pop bottle
  • rice, sand or couscous
  • reliable glue
  • small objects found around the house or yard such as figurines/toys, game pieces, feathers, and other odds and ends that can fit through a bottle top

This can also be a good way to explore items that might not otherwise be safe to handle, such as tacks and other sharp objects. Be sure to use hot glue, or something similar, to effectively seal the cap onto the bottle in order to avoid spills and choking hazards.

Keep a list of what’s inside, and play a game of “I Spy” with your child. You can focus on colours, (I spy something that is green), or numbers (I spy four marbles, or something with eight legs), or anything else you like (I spy something that goes “ribbit”).

Use this opportunity to talk about the object. (How do you think this marble feels? Is it smooth or rough? What shape is the marble? Is it round or flat? What could this object be used for? Have you ever seen a bird with feathers like this one?)

Homemade Search and Find Book

You’ll need:

  • Colouring book
  • Markers or pencil crayons
  • Three-hole punch
  • Binder, Duo-Tang or three key rings
  • Packing tape, transparent –self-adhesive paper or lamination

You can use a sheet from any colouring book that has some detail. Colour it in and then write a list of objects to find in the picture. Make several of these pages and seal them with self-adhesive paper, packing tape or lamination. Three-hole punch them and bind in a binder, a Duo-tang, or use three key rings.

Another option is to find objects in your house or yard that would be fun to see in a search and find book, (grapes, marbles, lego, dice etc.), and spread them out on the floor, so they are crowded but still visible. Snap some photos and either print them letter size from a computer or head to your local photo lab and print them 8 x 10″. You can then seal them by the same method as above, three-hole punch and bind. Make a list of the items and there you have it: your very own real-to-your-life hidden-object book!

 

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

Alberta Prairie C.O.W. newsletters (with more crafts to do with your children)

hashtag: #ab_cow

 

The Many Benefits of Crafts

iStock_000008336394XLargeDoing a craft together is a great way to build the skills needed for future lifelong learning, such as thinking skills, working together and continuous learning.

Crafts incorporate different learning styles, and are hands-on activities that build fine motor skills. By giving your child a project  that can be worked on together until completion, you are also working on setting goals and building confidence and self-esteem.

On the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus, we have a variety of simple crafts you can do at home – all geared towards early learning and literacy.

One such craft is a do-it-yourself playmat. Try it in conjunction with your child’s favourite book. One of our favourite children’s books is I Went Walking, by Sue Williams and Julie Vivas, and it goes especially well with this project. This book is about a little boy who goes on a walk and sees many different animals along the way. It is simple, repetitive, rhyming and entertaining,

I went walking.
What did you see?
I saw a black cat
Looking at me.

The following is just an example of what you can do. Tailor it to your own child’s interests. You might even want to make up your own story to go with your mat!

When the playmat is finished, you can use it with toys you already have at home.

Craft1

You will need:

•  Plain cloth placemat or
other material such as pillowcase or tablecloth (the possibilities are endless)
•  Felt of various colours
•  Hot glue or fabric glue
•  Scissors
•  Paper and pencil for sketching

Optional:
Foam or felt letters to spell the title

Directions:

  1. Sketch out the setting on a piece of paper
  2. Cut out your felt pieces that go with the story
  3. Glue felt pieces onto placemat, then cut out and glue a path winding its way through the setting.
  4. Decorate with more felt as desired.

Craft2

Optional:

Draw, trace or print out play pieces from the story, then colour, cut and laminate (or use packing tape or contact paper). You might want to add Velcro to the backs of these pieces so they stick to the felt on the play-mat.

You want this to be a positive experience, so try to start simple. Don’t stress; have fun instead!

 

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

hashtag: #ab_cow

11 Tips To Help Your Kids Get Ready for Back-to-School

September is just around the corner and — whether this news makes you want to weep or dance a jig — the kids will soon be back in school. Making the transition from sandals to sandwiches can be challenging for children — and parents! We’ve got some ideas to help your family get ready for a new school year.

Celebrate Change

Make a special plan with your family to say farewell to summer. A special outing or a gathering of friends or family are memorable ways to celebrate the season and bring it to a close in a positive way.

Take Time to Look Back

On the first day of school, kids can expect to be asked some form of the question: “What did you do this summer?” Help them get ready by taking time to look back and recall highlights of the summer. Kids could make a ‘Summer Gifts’ list of what they are thankful for. Enjoy looking at photos you’ve captured. It could even be an opportunity to make a scrapbook of their memories.

A Place to Do Homework

Even kindergarteners get homework these days, and older grade-schoolers definitely need a quiet place to where they can do their homework. Your homework area can be the kitchen table, counter, or a desk in your child’s room. What matters most is that it is a quiet place your child can count on to do their work each day.

School Supplies

Time to dust off the backpack and lunch containers, test the markers, and stock up on all the school supplies you’ll need. Making a list together before you shop can help ensure you have everything, and that you will stick to the items you need.

Learn Something New

No need for summer brain drain! We don’t need to wait for school to begin in order to keep learning. The library is full of wonders to discover, and so are nearby walking trails. Is it time to try a new recipe with your child? How about trying an outdoor science experiment?

Bedtime Routine

Ensuring your child gets enough sleep is essential for their success at school. Experts say school-age children need roughly ten hours of sleep. If your current routine needs a shift, try making a gradual transition to the new schedule by backing up bedtimes by 15 minutes each night. Staying off screens at least an hour before bedtime can help children fall asleep and stay asleep. Bedtime is a wonderful opportunity to cuddle up and read together. Whatever you do, keep consistent rituals at bedtime so your child can move easily through routines towards sleep.

Address Anxieties

Naturally, a new school year comes with unknowns. Is your child anxious about the coming year? It helps some children to know who their teacher will be, and whether a good friend will be in their class. Other children need to know that it’s okay to tell their new teacher if something is hard for them. Most schools are open the week before classes begin and staff may be able to answer questions about busing, classes, or any other questions your child may have. If fears persist, encourage your child to draw pictures or journal about their hopes for the coming year.

Schedule Your Priorities

Figure out priorities for after-school activities, homework, chores, TV time, and video games before the first day of school. This will allow you to agree on a schedule and avoid confrontation later on.

Love Your Lunches

Do your children sigh at the thought of returning to sandwiches? Try brainstorming new ideas for lunches that everyone can look forward to. Research online together if you need to — creative and healthy lunch ideas abound!

Daily Reading

They may be learning to read now, but soon they will be reading to learn for a lifetime. Even if your child is old enough to read on their own, reading together every day is an excellent way for you to spend time together. When you share a book, you are building a love of reading in your child that will carry into adolescence and beyond.

Picture Routines

Wondering when your child will become more independent with morning and after-school routines? To avoid becoming the ‘routine police,’ try a visual daily routine chart for your child. Better yet, create one with your child! You just might be amazed how well they can learn to manage before-school, after-school, and bedtime routines when they have a chart or list with pictures to guide them.

Routine1Routine2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our family listed our daily routines, and then crafted our own wall hangings — one for before and one for after school. Or if you’re crafty, you can try this version — you can change the order of your tasks as needed: https://listeninginthelitany.wordpress.com/tag/chore-chart-for-kids/

You can also search the internet for free “printable daily routine charts” to find one that will work for your family. For example: free printable daily routine chart