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

Learn, Grow, and Play Together – as a Family

Spring is finally here! At Learn Together – Grow Together we have been focusing on ways in which we can “grow” as families.

Our activities have been showcasing ways in which parents are able to spend quality learning time with their children while having fun. Now that the weather is beautiful again, we encourage all families to spend time outdoors – growing together!

Below are some of the ways that we practiced growing together this session:

  • using cardboard boxes, plastic containers, and other recyclable materials, we made our own robots
  • using construction paper, ribbons, tape, and string, we made our own kites and flew them in the wind
  • using paint and pre-made wooden structures from a dollarstore, we decorated birdhouses for the birds that come to visit
  • using paper and markers, we created our very own scavenger hunt to do outside
  • using a Styrofoam cup (which we decorated with a face), potting soil, and grass seeds, we made our own grassheads by having the grass grow out of the top

Kite1     Kite2

We hope you can take the time to try one or more of these activities. As you are interacting and playing together, you will be growing together as a family too. Enjoy learning as you spend time together!

More about the Learn Together – Grow Together program

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Scrapbooking Your Way to Essential Skills

What was the last thing you read? Maybe it was a road sign to find your way, or the label on a prescription bottle. When did you last use a computer and why? Was it to update your FaceBook status or to fill out an online insurance claim? What could you learn that would make your life easier, or more interesting? Maybe it’s another language, social media, or how to drive.

Reading, computer use, and continuous learning are just a few of the basic skills needed in our daily lives and we don’t often think about them. They’re called the 9 Essential Skills and they include:

  1. Reading
  2. Document use
  3. Writing
  4. Numeracy
  5. Oral Communication
  6. Thinking Skills
  7. Working with Others
  8. Digital Technology
  9. Continuous Learning

These skills are seen as “building blocks” because they are the starting point for all future learning. These “starter skills” are needed whether we are baking a cake at home or balancing a budget at work, so it’s easy to see how important it is to develop them in our children, and for adults to keep them fresh. One way adults can do this is by incorporating family literacy activities into the daily lives of their families.

Making a scrapbook is a great way for the whole family to target those essential skills. On the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus, we have a very simple example of a scrapbook. There are many different types, and they can be as simple or as elaborate as you want. This activity potentially uses all 9 essential skills, so periodically take time to review your creation and talk about what you have learned.

A scrapbook is fun for kids to work on. They love to see themselves in pictures and hear their own stories. The finished product is a great learning tool for the kids, and what you put in the scrapbook can be a record of your other family literacy activities.

Materials Needed:

  • Small photo album
  • Family photos
  • Flash cards
  • Pens
  • Stickers for decoration

Directions:

Choose photos (eg. family vacation). Insert into a sleeve.

ScrapbookOn a flashcard, write a simple sentence that corresponds with the photo. Insert it into the opposing sleeve.

Create a book cover using another flashcard. Insert into front sleeve.

Try letting them narrate their own story while you act as the scribe. If you make new books each week, month or year, you will see how their skills progress over time.

Scrapbook2Why not share a learning activity with your family today? Don’t forget to snap some photos, or keep souvenirs, for your scrapbook!

Learn more about Essential Skills here

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

hashtag: #ab_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!

 

Snowmen on the C.O.W. Bus

snowmen

On the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus we are very excited to start 2015 off right. We brought out our best snowman activities and are eager to share some wonderful winter stories with our visitors. One of our favourites is The Mitten by Jan Brett. This book is about a grandmother who knits snow-white mittens for her grandson, who takes them on an adventure. This story comes with some fun props that all ages are sure to enjoy.

TheMitten

During the winter months, many easy outdoor activities—like building snowmen—are available for families. Try some of these:

  • Have a snowball fight
  • 
Go sledding
  • 
Catch snowflakes on your tongue
  • 
Make a snow angel
  • 
Build a snow fort
  • 
Collect pine cones

When it’s time to come inside and warm up, consider building a snowman inside. Use things such as paper plates or cotton balls for the body, and scraps of fabric or craft supplies to finish the snowman.

Enjoy this great interactive snowman activity we found online!

Sing along with this “I’m a Little Snowman” tune!

Check our website for the bus schedule and more information

Watch a video of a program on the bus

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Building Their Way, Their Rules

bird_feeder1     bird_feeder2

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you let your child loose in a pile of recycled materials without rules or instructions? Throw in a couple of rolls of duct tape, masking tape, scotch tape, a few markers, and maybe some scissors.

Too often these days we are rushing from activity to activity, with tight schedules between daycare and after school to get to sports, music lessons, or play dates. More time than ever before is spent in transportation to and from all the places we need to be.

There is a lot of structure to being a child in the modern world. It can seem in a child’s eyes that they are too often told what to do, perhaps even how to do it. In our mission to make sure we provide the best we can for our kids, sometimes we miss out on opportunities for them to just be kids, to create in their own way, to learn about their world with their own two hands.

A great way to keep kids happy and focused for a long period of time is to give them the opportunity for free play. No rules or instructions, just a whole lot of loose parts. Recycle bins in your home are a great place to start. Anything that is not dangerous is free game. Leftover fabric, yarn, wool, wrapping paper – you cannot get a lower cost activity than this. My kids and their friends build amazing towers, leprechaun traps, hamster mazes, fairy homes, bridges, even an island oasis and toys with working parts, vending machines and clocks. I love that they come up with so many ideas on their own. If your home is like mine, there is never a shortage of supplies. My daughter is always declaring which box, container or paper is for her, “save this for me mom, this would make a great…!”

There are far more benefits than just to provide the kids with an activity to keep them busy: they develop hand eye coordination, practice print skills (if they use markers to draw), maybe learn about gravity or how to balance things, and develop motor skills both large and small to name a few. The creative process builds executive function and promotes physical and spatial development. They have to visualize, plan ahead, and learn the process of outcomes and the consequences of each action. There are numerous other benefits but the most important is the fun they have! I also enjoy a keen glimpse at what interests my child.

You might itch to help out. With your experience you clearly know better, but let them learn from their own experience. Let them feel disappointment when their tower breaks or their bridge won’t hold weight. They learn from their own successes and the accomplishments they achieve are truly their own.

To tie in a few great books with this activity, visit your local library and look for:

Not A Box by Antoinette Portis

Not A Stick by Antoinette Portis

The Dot by Peter H Reynolds

Ish by Peter H Reynolds

Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg

Boy and Bot by Ame Dyckman