Sidewalk Scribbles

Drawing and scribbling lead to writing as your children get older, and sidewalk chalk is a great way to do it!

Encourage your children to make scribbles, shapes, pictures, numbers, or letters. Let them tell you about what they have drawn. You could also do your own sidewalk art with letters and numbers so they can see how you do it.

WHY?

Creativity is a bridge to learning, and art and drawing help young children develop early writing skills. Those scribbles and drawings are their first steps to writing. Provide your children with the materials they need to practice becoming a writer. Children are great mimics so make sure they see you writing as well. Then they know it’s important!

To get over 120 of the best activities to do with your children to boost and build key literacy skills from birth to 5 years, download the Centre for Family Literacy’s FREE Flit app, (Families Learning and Interacting Together).

Click here for the iOS version

Click here to download the Android version

Pudding Patterns

This is a fun craft to build together and a different way to draw, scribble, and try out writing!

WHY?

Drawing and scribbles at a young age are the first steps to learning how to write later on.

WHAT YOU NEED:

1 large plastic zip lock bag

1 package of instant pudding (made beforehand) or a can of shaving cream

Packing or duct tape (optional)

WHAT TO DO:

Put the pudding or shaving cream into the bag. Make sure not to fill it too full.

Finish by flattening all of the air out of the bag and close it tightly. You may want to tape the top so it doesn’t pop open.

Lay the bag on a flat surface and let the creativity begin!

DO IT TOGETHER!

Your toddler will enjoy squishing the mixture around making abstract patterns. If you have an older child, encourage them to make letters or draw pictures.

Have some fun yourself by copying their designs and talk with them about what they are doing.

To get over 120 of the best activities to do with your children to boost and build key literacy skills from birth to 5 years, download the Centre for Family Literacy’s FREE Flit app, (Families Learning and Interacting Together).

Click here for the iOS version

Click here to download the Android version

What Do You Spy?

This game is a fun way to make the waiting or travelling go by more quickly, or when you just want to play a game. But it’s much more than that.

WHY?

“I Spy” gives your child a chance to think of words to describe what they see and also helps them sort objects into groups. They are learning to group by colours, numbers, shapes, and sizes, which helps develop their vocabulary and math skills.

HOW TO PLAY

Find something in clear view and say, “I spy with my little eye, something that is __________.” Fill in the blank with words that describe what you are looking at, like “round like a ball.”

Once your child has found the item you picked, switch roles and let them spy something for you. Take turns, and as the game progresses, you can add more detail to the object. For example, “I spy something that is round like a ball and has 4 legs.”

The whole family can play this  game. The first person that guesses correctly gets to “spy” the next object.

To get over 120 of the best activities to do with your children to boost and build key literacy skills from birth to 5 years, download the Centre for Family Literacy’s FREE Flit app, (Families Learning and Interacting Together).

Click here for the iOS version

Click here to download the Android version

Show your Baby You Love Reading Too

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Literacy Trust, 2012

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

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

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

 

What is Emergent Literacy?

Mum playing with two children

Emergent Literacy is what children know about reading and writing before they can actually read or write. Strong early literacy skills are naturally the foundation for reading and writing later on. Children begin learning at birth—many agree even before birth—and continue learning long after school begins.

At the Centre for Family Literacy, we believe parents are their children’s first and best teachers. Emergent literacy skills are developed with experiences children have alongside an adult in their life guiding the way. Young children enjoy repeating favourite activities (for example reading, singing, and craft activities) with the ones they love. An adult such as a parent, grandparent, or other primary caregiver, that provides one-on-one experiences, can do more “teaching” than can be done in a group setting.

Children prepare for reading long before they can actually read or start school. Learning opportunities are best when they happen naturally in the everyday activities you do at home and in the community, including grocery shopping, doing chores, playing games, or travelling somewhere by car or bus. Letters and numbers are not only in books, they are everywhere!

Talk with them and explain things that you see and do. Before children can learn to read they must understand language. Sing and rhyme. (See below for tips for supporting emergent literacy.)

People tend to call children between the ages of 3 – 4 years preschoolers, although you have had them busy learning preschool lessons their whole lives up until now. Most preschoolers will be displaying their emergent literacy development by:

  • Enjoying stories read to them that they can retell afterwards
  • Beginning to understand that print carries a message to be decoded
  • Attempting to read aloud while looking at a book
  • Attempting to write or print on paper with a pencil or crayon
  • Participating in singing and rhyming
  • Identifying familiar print on signs to favourite stores or brand names
  • Identifying letters in their name, or family member’s names, and some sounds of those letters

iStock_000009413407XLarge-SMBy age 5, most children are beginning kindergarten and are becoming experts at:

  • Sounding like they are reading aloud while they look through a favourite book
  • Using descriptive language to explain or answer questions
  • Recognizing letter and sound matches
  • Understanding that print is read left to right and starts at the top of the page
  • Beginning to group letters and letter sounds together to form words
  • Beginning to match spoken words with written ones
  • Beginning to write stories with recognizable words

Tips for supporting emergent literacy in your family:

  • Attend community programs with your child such as the ones offered by the Centre for Family Literacy
  • Make book choices based on your child’s interests
  • Encourage your child to make predictions as the story is being shared with them, take time to pause and ask them what they think will happen next, or how a character feels etc.
  • Visit the library regularly
  • Give your child different materials that encourage drawing, scribbling, painting, cutting, and gluing. Learning can be messy work, but worth it!
  • Have fun with your child, play, and pretend! Let them lead the way in their play. They are used to following your rules every day, give them the key to imagination and follow them as they lead the way to creativity

Download Flit, our free literacy App, for fun activities you can do with your children at home to help develop emergent literacy! You’ll find the links on our website, or go directly to the App Store or Google Play.

Learn Together – Grow Together is a program in Edmonton by the Centre for Family Literacy for parents and their children ages 3 – 6 years. Families meet once a week for 3 ten-week sessions to learn about their children’s early learning and how to support literacy development, success in school, and lifelong learning. The sessions offer some adult only instruction and lots of parent-child together time for fun learning activities. Spaces are still available so register quickly. For more information visit the Centre for Family Literacy website, call 780-421-7323, or email info@famlit.ca

 

 

Early language development: the first step to literacy

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In today’s fast-paced and highly competitive world, there is a lot of pressure for parents to enrol their child, earlier and earlier, into preschool and pre-kindergarten classes, and before they even enter kindergarten, to teach them the alphabet, numbers, and how to spell their name. Surprisingly, there are no studies as of yet to prove that if you learn to read in those early years, you’re going to have an advantage in school.

We do know, however, that language and social development in the early years lay the foundations for literacy skills and success as an adult.

We encourage you, the caregiver, to empower your little ones with the knowledge and skills to build the ‘scaffolding’ for their language, thinking, and social skills—which are essential for learning to read and write—rather than encouraging you to teach your toddlers to read.

Language development is the first step and the basis for literacy. By age three or four your child’s language ability will strongly predict their literacy skills and learning success throughout school and life.

With these facts in mind, we know that a child’s early environment and experiences significantly impact their language and literacy development. This learning begins at birth.

Infants instinctively respond to sounds and begin vocalizing. Children raised in nurturing, language-rich homes will develop better vocabularies and literacy skills; home environment plays a vital role in your child’s literacy learning. Parents and/or caregivers are the child’s first and best teachers! You are the expert and in the best position to teach and guide your child.

DSC_0006 (1)The bond between you and your child is fundamental in the child’s brain development. By exposing your child to vocabulary, rhythm, rhyme, and body language—through actions or active play—you are not only developing an amazing relationship with your child, you are creating brain pathways, connections, and brain development.

Repetition of rhymes and songs strengthen these pathways and connections. Additionally, you feel more confident and competent as you help in your child’s literacy and social development, resulting in being more actively involved with your child and your child’s learning.

As an added bonus, songs, rhymes, and actions are useful in reducing stressful or frustrating moments for toddlers (and for you), and also help to make smoother transitions between activities throughout the day.

Tips to get you started on your rhyme discovery path:

  1. Go back to basics. The songs that were your favourites as a child will also be enjoyable to your child, and believe it or not, are still children’s favourites today.
  2. Start with short, simple rhymes. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and The Wheels on the Bus are good examples.
  3. Most importantly… have fun with rhyming! There is no wrong way to sing, especially when you and your child are having fun and bonding!
  4. Optional: drop in to a Rhymes that Bind program and have fun learning rhymes and actions with your child

Here is a rhyme to get you started:

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear turn around.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear touch the ground.
Teddy Bear reach up high.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear say Good Bye.

To find an Edmonton Rhymes that Bind program near you, check out the Centre for Family Literacy website. We are excited to meet everyone and have fun singing!

 

Write Away

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Family Literacy is about more than the ability to read, it’s about having the skills needed to build a strong foundation for future learning and lifelong success. One of those foundational skills is the ability to write. Writing will be needed to communicate effectively in the classroom, in the workplace, and more. It is also a form of self-expression that can really help us sort through our thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

Pre-Writing

In the pre-writing stage, your children will need help understanding that writing is connected to reading, and that writing is a way to communicate information through symbols.

At this stage, they will show emergent writing skills through scribbles, drawing pictures, copying symbols, drawing lines and circles, and attempting to write their name.

It is easy to practice writing with your children throughout your day.

  • Make sure they have easy access to pens, pencils, crayons, and paintbrushes so your children can develop the fine motor skills needed for writing. Keep the supplies all in one place with some paper
  • Encourage your children’s drawing as it helps them to express their stories and ideas. Ask them to “write” down what it is
  • Point out environmental print (such as billboards, signs, cereal boxes) every chance you get so they can see how writing relates to everyday life. For more on this topic, read our blog Build Pre-Reading Skills with Environmental Print
  • Help them learn the letters in their name
  • Help your children label items around the house (such as lunch boxes and toys)
  • Use play dough to make letter shapes
  • Create a shopping list and menu using pictures from flyers. Have them “write” what it is next to the picture
  • Spend time finger painting and colouring
  • Sing rhymes and songs that use actions to develop finger strength. For example:

One little finger,
One little finger,
One little finger,
Tap, tap, tap!
Put your fingers up!
Put your fingers down!
Put them on your nose!

Chalk

  • Go outside and let them loose with some sidewalk chalk. (Pair this with Chalk, a wordless book by Bill Thomson)

Beginning Writers

For those a little further along, try these activities:

  • Writing with chalk2Writing prompts. For example:

“Imagine you have been shrunk to the size of a mouse. What would you see? How would objects around you look?”

or

“If you could make anything come to life just by drawing it, what would you draw?” (Also pair this activity with the wordless book Chalk by Bill Thomson). Read our blog Reading Books Without Words for more about wordless books.

  • With your children, make a homemade book for them to write in. For more information, see our blog Homemade Book Making
  • Make a photo album story book and have your children write the story. (You can always write the translation!) Find out how: Scrapbooking Your Way to Essential Skills
  • Write letters and valentines to loved ones

Helping your children to build their writing skills means giving them ample opportunity to practice. Weave these activities into your normal routine and write away!

For early literacy tip sheets, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website

 

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)

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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

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