Autumn Provides Easy Literacy Lessons to Share with Your Kids

Leaves4

Autumn leaves are falling down, falling down, falling down,
Autumn leaves are falling down, red, yellow, orange and brown!

Rake them up and pile them high, pile them high, pile them high,
Rake them up and pile them high, till they reach the sky!

Just reading these simple words paints a vivid picture in my mind: being sent out to clean up the yard before the holiday guests arrived for dinner. They bring back childhood memories of working so hard to rake up leaves into giant mounds that called to me to drop my rake and jump in! I can almost smell the slightly sweet odour of decay and hear the crunch of the brittle brown leaves as I scattered all my hard work.

So many opportunities for building literacy skills can be found in the simple act of cleaning up the yard. You and your child can talk about:

  • all the different colours and shapes of leaves you find
  • how the wind sounds as it blows through the leaves still clinging to the branches
  • why some plants lose their leaves while others stay green year-round
  • the different textures of the leaves—some brittle, some pokey, some soft and flexible
  • how many empty bags will be needed
  • what happens when it gets cold—where do the bugs go
  • why do the days seem shorter and so much more!

Literacy is about so much more than just reading a book or writing a letter. It encompasses learning vocabulary and how to put the words together to get an idea across, problem solving on your own or working together to find a solution, learning the meaning of our numbers—the one to one correspondence of word, numeral and object.

Autumn also means Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and literacy is embedded in the preparation and sharing of the meal. Talk with your children about:

  • recipes that have been tweaked just that much to make them unique to your family
  • how many more chairs will be needed so everyone has a seat
  • what is the true meaning of Thanksgiving and why do we celebrate it in the fall
  • the difference between a yam and a sweet potato
  • family traditions that have been passed down over the ages
  • how many pieces that pumpkin pie has to be cut into!

In our Literacy Links workshops, we focus on how you can find literacy in just about everything you do. We help adults, parents, and caregivers discover the many simple activities they can do at home and out in the community that support and build numeracy and literacy skills. As for me, I am going to go back to painting some pictures!

I made a jack-o-lantern for Halloween night,
He has three teeth, but he doesn’t bite,
He has two eyes, but he doesn’t see,
He’s a happy jack-o-lantern, as you can see!

Please visit the Centre for Family Literacy website for more information about Literacy Links workshops. If you are interested in either hosting or attending a workshop, please call the Centre, 780.421.7323

 

Say Hello to the New COW on the Block!

COW-SummerThe Classroom on Wheels (COW) Bus will be the ‘new kid on the block’ this coming October, with four new locations in Edmonton. Maple Ridge, Rundle Heights, Baturyn, and Walker are the newest communities we have added to our roster, and we’ll be welcoming both new and familiar families back in six other neighbourhoods. If you’re nearby you’re welcome to come aboard—you’ll have a blast bonding with your little ones while sharing books and singing songs!

The COW bus is a FREE drop-in program for parents and their children from birth to 6 years old, that helps support family learning. You can:

  • borrow books for free
  • share books and  puzzles with your child
  • listen to stories and songs
  • win free books

We have so many wonderful books for you to borrow, with no late fees. Come listen to stories and songs that will soon become family favourites! But we need you and your family to help bring these stories to life and build excitement!

Duck RabbitOne of our many favourites is Duck, Rabbit by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld, “a clever take on the age-old optical illusion: is it a duck or a rabbit? Depends on how you look at it! Readers will find more than just Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s signature humour here, there’s also a subtle lesson for kids who don’t know when to let go of an argument. A smart, simple story that will make readers of all ages eager to take a side, Duck! Rabbit! makes it easy to agree on one thing, reading it again!”

The fun starts October 3rd with weekly stops at 10 locations. Visit the Centre for Family Literacy website to find out when the bus will be in your area.

See you in October!

 

Pick up a Book and Get Active?

A little counter-intuitive, isn’t it? For me, reading a book means finding a comfortable spot to curl up without distractions. How do you get active with something that’s typically relaxing?

All I can say is that it’s a good thing literacy isn’t just about reading a book. It can be about many activities, including:

Rhymes and songs help build vocabulary and a foundation in language necessary for future literacy learning, and they are a lot of fun!

In my small town, we have an amazing program team that comes up with activities for kids to participate in all summer. One activity is based on the television show “Mantracker.” (Here’s the link for those of you who have never seen it: http://www.mantracker.ca/)

My kids were given a map and a legend for checkpoints where their team had to get a flag. If our summer programmer—all dressed in camouflage with fake leaves and everything—caught them, they had to give up a flag.

Not only did my kids have fun, but what a great way to engage in a literacy activity around maps and legends! Linking it to the popular show ensured the activity was well attended and the kids knew what to expect.

This summer when kids are bored, or become couch potatoes stuck to an electronic device—with the usual excuses of “my friends aren’t home,” or “it’s too hot outside,” (you know I could go on and on here)—challenge them to find a way to get active in literacy! They could make up their own “mantracker” game, find a skipping rope and rhymes, or put on a scavenger hunt.

The possibilities are endless and limited only by imagination. And you never know, someone may even enjoy reading a book while bouncing on a trampoline!

The Centre for Family Literacy has a free app called Flit, for parents of 0-6 year olds, that has plenty of fun and active literacy activities, available on both iOS and Android.

Watch a demo:

Click here for more information or to download the free iOS version of Flit

Click here for more information or to download the Android version

Centre for Family Literacy website

How to Add the Fun of a Scavenger Hunt into Everyday Activities

I’m sure there are many sticklers who would argue that what I’m suggesting here is not a real scavenger hunt, but let’s skip past the dictionary definitions and focus on how you can incorporate the fun of a scavenger hunt into everyday activities.

Dad & daughter

YOU CAN SEARCH FOR ANYTHING

You can make a list of specific things to find, or try to see how many things you can find that fit a certain category. Personally, I’m a fan of categories and descriptions because they are great for developing vocabulary and they require a lot less preparation. Here are a few examples:

  • colours
  • sounds
  • shapes
  • words or letters (or things that start with a letter or sound)
  • movements (things that roll, fly, bounce, walk, slide, never move…)
  • sizes (what things are huge? what can you find with a magnifying glass?)
  • textures
  • groups of things (things found in pairs, 3s, 4s, 5s…)
  • things that fit a theme (tools, animals, plants, wet things, things that rhyme…)

YOU CAN SEARCH ANYWHERE

Really, anywhere:

  • outside (what do you notice: walking down the street, on the bus, in the park, around a pond, at the zoo…)
  • at home (in a particular room or searching the whole house)
  • in other buildings (the garage, the grocery store, a greenhouse, the library, the post office…)
  • in books, magazines, and newspapers (newspapers are great for finding words and letters, and you might be amazed how many things they can remember seeing in the books you have shared together)
  • in your imagination (very handy when you run out of things to spot on long car rides)
  • in the garbage (maybe you’re learning about recycling or composting?)

YOU DON’T NEED A LIST

While traditionally you start by handing out copies of a written list, a lot of young children don’t find that very helpful—most often you are reading the list to them. You can also use pictures with, or instead of, words, but that takes time; you are probably only going to do that for special occasions or with things you use all the time (like turning your grocery list into a scavenger hunt).

Some people like checking things off on a list, but I don’t understand the appeal myself. Instead, if you want to keep track of what you find in your search, you can draw together, take pictures, use the voice recorder on your phone, collect the items themselves in a bag/box/backpack/basket (half the fun is remembering where the things you collected came from), or scribe for them (they will love seeing their words in print).

Or, you can skip the list altogether. Just pick a category or theme and go exploring together to see what you can find, or take turns deciding what you’re going to look for next.

CONSIDER YOUR AUDIENCE

It’s easy to be overwhelmed if you think that a scavenger hunt needs to play out like the script to a blockbuster movie or an episode of a reality TV show. I’m not saying that wouldn’t add to the appeal, but young children are natural explorers. They will notice all kinds of things that you never thought to look for, and they bring a level of excitement to “let’s go find things that are red” that you rarely get from older kids or teenagers.

WHY ARE WE DOING THIS AGAIN?

  • It’s fun!
  • You can encourage the children to be more observant and methodical. Often children forget to look everywhere, or they take a running approach to everything. By looking for things together, you can teach them some helpful strategies, like how to slow down or form a plan before you start looking.
  • We are building vocabulary! If your little one is starting to read, then circling all the words they recognize by sight on a newspaper page is great practice.
  • As exciting as it can be, this can also be really relaxing. How often do you take the time to look for shapes in the clouds? Or really listen to all the sounds in your neighbourhood?
  • There are all kinds of categories, themes, and ideas that you can explore with these kinds of activities, so you’re helping them develop a broader, deeper, and more coherent worldview.
  • If you are missing a few things (your keys for example) this can be a sneaky way to recruit some help. I’m kidding, but not really. If you approach everyday tasks in a playful manner, you can keep the kids engaged, help them learn, still get everything you need done, and have fun doing it.

If you are interested in family literacy resources, or programs in Edmonton, please visit the Centre for Family Literacy website at www.famlit.ca

How to Avoid the Dreaded “I’m Bored” this Summer

The dreaded “I’m bored!” is just around the corner as school is out for the summer. Although many families still have a routine, albeit a different one for summer (maybe daycare or day camps), it can also mean a lot more time spent at home and with family. Holidays—maybe a road trip—are taken, and grandparents visit. Some parents are home with their children all summer. As much as we look forward to the change from hectic scheduling, too much free time can result in “I’m bored” coming up again and again. It doesn’t take long to realize that some sort of routine is needed.

One of the things I’m using at home to combat that dreaded phrase is a Summer Challenge. My young daughter and I put a list of activities into a jar and pull one out whenever we need something to do. The challenge can be used on many different levels. For younger children you can keep it simple. Older children can be more involved in the planning of an activity, which we have learned can be more fun than the activity itself. What was that saying about the journey and the destination?

When I first described this idea to my daughter she was right on board! We love making lists, and pulling ideas out of a jar is a really fun way of checking off a To-Do List! We found a dollar store jar and decorated it for our ideas. I cut the strips of paper and she was so excited to read through each strip before she folded it and added it to the jar. She is already hopeful for her favourite ideas to be pulled first. Such anticipation!

She even wanted to add some of her own ideas to the jar. I thought “why not,” as long as I approved them first. Her list so far: pulling weeds (what a wonderful idea!); going for a walk in the field with gopher holes; and, chasing butterflies.

So we have begun. Lucky for us the weather cooperated for challenge #38: sitting around a campfire. Of course we enjoyed s’mores and told stories as well. The age range around the fire was 7-38 years—that’s a lot of stories! What an excellent kick-off to summer in a home full of kids!

 

Road Trips!

I LOVE road trips with my family! With long weekends such as Canada Day, many of us will hit the highways. I love road trips on my own as well. I just can’t get enough of all the places to learn about – using all of your senses. With children young or old, you can point out all that can be seen with their eyes. From mountains to waterfalls, rivers to forests, prairie lands to animals, both farm and wild. Show everyone where you are on a map. Point out signs. Visit historic sites. Learn about our past.

With digital cameras it is easy to allow your children to take as many photographs as they would like (deleting ones that don’t make the final cut won’t disappoint them). You can see the world through their eyes and you may be surprised by how great their photography skills can be. You can also give your children binoculars to help them search the land for scavenger hunt items, or try playing a variety of license plate games while on your road trip!

You can use your ears to hear things you may not hear if you are from a big city! Things such as quiet or animals in the forest. If you stop somewhere for a picnic, for stretching legs and relieving restlessness, you may hear a train travelling nearby. You might hear water rushing down a waterfall if you’re on a mountain escape. You can even hear insects buzzing around in summer; we don’t like them, but they are there! Is that a cow lowing in the distance? Talk about what farmers are doing this time of year.

How about singing to pass the time away? If you aren’t comfortable with your own voice leading the family choir, how about some family friendly CD’s borrowed from your local library? There is so much more to children’s songs now than there was in the past. One of our favourites is a CD called “Snack Time” by the Bare Naked Ladies. My teenagers will still sing along! For lyrics that mom and dad can laugh at, and a very original version of ABC’s, it is a must have.

Smells! You cannot dismiss the power of your sense of smell. The air smells cleaner as we leave our city homes behind. We can point out smells our children may not be familiar with. There are plenty of smells that accompany any farm, whether grain, livestock, or vegetable and fruit. Find some flowers to sniff. Do trees have a scent? Sniff an evergreen! What about leaves or moss on the forest floor?

Hands on! Why can’t a road trip be hands on? Have you ever stopped to see the monument that makes a town special? Plan your breaks for places with something interesting to see, do, and learn. Run, play, burn off some energy before the next leg of your trip. Collect post cards and things like kids’ paper menus (the kind kids can draw on if you stop for a restaurant meal), random memorabilia, or maybe a picked flower. I still have a little flower picked by my son almost 10 years ago. It has a story behind it of what lengths he and his dad went through to get that flower back to me. My son drew me a picture to go with the flower that helps tell the story. I will treasure it always.

Back in the car again, hand your child a pencil, maybe some crayons, and a sketchbook. Have them write or draw pictures about what they have learned along the way. It is easy to keep a little box of things needed for creativity in the vehicle. You can also find an assortment of lap trays (which resemble dining trays) to use on your trip. They are perfect for snacks, drawing, puzzles, and more. Prepared ahead of time, scavenger hunts are fun—check things off as they are found, or places discovered.

    

Try this website before you head out on your next Canadian road trip, www.bigthings.ca, there is a list by province of things to see!

To me, finding some of these things is reason enough for a trip in the car!

Children are Born Scientists

Science: Understanding the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation.  –Merriam-Webster


DSCN0586-crop

Children are born scientists. They learn about their world by:

  • Exploring what’s around them with their senses – seeing, touching, smelling, tasting, and listening
  • Trying to do things again and again until it works the way they want it to, or they discover a new way to do it
  • Observing what happens
  • Asking questions like why? What if? How come?
  • Watching those who mean the most to them do things

iStock_WaterPlantsChildren naturally learn this way beginning as babies, until there comes a time when hands-on learning is replaced by watching, listening, and reading about how the the world works.

Summer is the perfect time to take science outdoors. Nature itself provides a wonderful, ready made lab to observe changes in the life cycles of plants and animals. Helping to water plants, tending to a small part of a garden, or watching for various critters on a walk through the river valley or the back yard, helps children develop the skills they will need later on in school. How many different types of trees do you see on the walk? Did you know that many children can list more marketing logos than they can types of trees? Talk about the difference between deciduous and coniferous trees and what types of birds like to build their nests in them. A book from the library on plants or birds can help identify them in your neighbourhood.

Activities such as these help children understand that science is everywhere and they build early skills that will serve them for a lifetime.

Bubble playThere are plenty of messy experiments that cost very little but provide an opportunity to develop a love of science. The simple act of blowing bubbles can teach children so much. How can I make huge bubbles? Does the wind direction make a difference? What’s the right ratio of water to soap that will make the sturdiest bubbles? What happens if I twirl round and round with my bubble wand full of solution? Here are two bubble recipes to try with your little scientists:

Home Made Bubble Solution

  • ¾ cup Joy or Dawn dishwashing soap
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tsps. Sugar
  1. Mix the sugar and water together
  2. Add the dish soap and stir gently until well mixed
  3. Dip bubble wand into bubble liquid and then blow

Giant Bubble Mix

  • 3 cups water
  • I cup Joy or Dawn dishwashing soap
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  1. In a large bowl stir water and corn syrup until combined
  2. Add dish soap and stir very gently until well mixed
  3. Make a bubble wand out of pipe cleaners or string

Goop2Another great way to explore science is by experimenting with Goop (a mixture of corn starch and water). Did you know that cornstarch and water can form a non-Newtonian fluid? What is that you ask? When you press on the mixture it becomes a solid, but when you release the pressure it runs like a liquid. This is definitely one experiment that can go outside and the whole family can have fun with it. Hide treasures in the Goop for them to discover, and try to squeeze it into a ball and then release it. You can even put it in a plastic swimming pool and walk through it.

Goop Recipe

  • 1 ½ to 2 cups cornstarch
  • 1 cup water
  • food colouring if you want
  1. Put the water in a bowl and add a few drops food colouring if you want colour
  2. Gradually add 1½ cups cornstarch to the water and stir with a spoon or your hand
  3. A little at a time, add the remaining ½ cup of cornstarch. When you can form a ball by pressing the mixture and it turns into a liquid when you release it, it is ready. If you add too much or too little you can always adjust with more water or more cornstarch.

* DO NOT DUMP ANY LEFT OVER GOOP INTO THE SEWER OR DRAIN.

Let the water evaporate from the mixture and then put it in a plastic bag or container and throw it out with your garbage. As it dries, it resembles concrete and you don’t want to have to call a plumber.

Children are born scientists. It can be easy and inexpensive to set up fun activities for them to explore their world. The best part is when the whole family gets messy together! Have fun experimenting this summer.

Blogs are provided by the staff of the Centre for Family Literacy, www.famlit.ca

Take Your Rhyming Outside with these Fun Activities (and Rhymes)!

Rhyme-SkipRope copy

One activity that always brings me back to childhood is singing nursery rhymes. This includes clapping, skipping, and group rhymes, and anything learned from friends in the playground. I’ve never claimed to have a great singing voice, but that has never stopped me. While growing up I spent a lot of time memorizing verses, actions, and the rules that went with any singing games. While having fun, I was learning about language, relationships, my spatial awareness, and much more, all without even realizing it!

Who else remembers walking down the sidewalk singing “don’t step on the cracks or you’ll break your mothers back?” When we remember those moments we realize the importance of our children having those experiences as well. Rhyming verses are not just for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. They are fun, silly, the laughter is contagious, and the simple act of playing brings us closer to the people around us. Whether you are 2 or 92, you are never too young nor too old to keep singing and playing!

To this day I still enjoy learning new rhymes. I am fortunate enough to have many opportunities to share both my old favourites and my newly discovered (or adapted) favourites with children and adults alike. As a kid I had fun making up new lines in songs to suit my likes and interests. I still do this today; it is always fun to make up silly verses!

CLAPPING SONGS

Typically, a clapping rhyme alternates clapping your own hands and your partner’s hands with each beat. When words repeat, you clap your partners hands each time. With more experience the game can get more complicated, adding actions and other ways to clap. Adding challenges makes it an activity you can continue to do with children as they grow older.

A Sailor Went to Sea

A sailor went to sea, sea, sea
To see what he could see, see, see
But all that he could see, see, see
Was the bottom of the deep blue sea, sea, sea

Miss Mary Mack

Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack
All dressed in black, black, black
With silver buttons, buttons, buttons [butt’ns]
All down her back, back, back

She asked her mother, mother, mother
for fifty cents, cents, cents
To see the elephants, elephants, elephants
Jump the fence, fence, fence

They jumped so high, high, high
they reached the sky, sky, sky
And didn’t come back, back, back
Till the 4th of July, ‘ly, ‘ly!

She asked her mother, mother, mother
For 5 cents more, more, more
To see the hippos, hippos, hippos
Jump over the door, door, door

They jumped so low, low, low
They stubbed their toe, toe, toe
And that was the end, end, end
Of the great big show, show, show!

SKIPPING SONGS

Skipping songs are often sung with verses that end in counting to see how many jumps you can get in before you fumble. Other times they are sung in bigger groups to invite a skipper in, jump a few beats, and then out again. Many skipping songs can be sung by a large group in a circle, just improvise the movements.

This Way Thatta Way

*With two people handling the large skipping rope a lineup of others in pairs wait for their turn to skip in and skip out. Everyone sings.

This way, thatta way, this way thatta way, this way thatta way all day long
Here comes “Sarah,” here comes “Sarah,” here comes “Sarah” skipping along

*when Sarah’s name is called, she jumps into the skipping and skips, next line is her partner being called in to join her

Here comes the other one, just the like the other one, here comes the other one skipping along

*now their turn is over and they jump out of the skipping rope and you repeat calling the next partners in

CIRCLE SONGS 

Circle songs are classic for young children. These are songs where everyone typically holds hands and does the same or similar actions.

Ring Around the Rosie

Ring around the rosie, pockets full of posies
Husha, husha we all fall down

*now everyone is on the ground, clap your hands or knees and sing the next verse

Cows are in the meadows, eating buttercups
Husha, husha we all jump up

Sally Go Round the Sun

*in this rhyme you change the direction the circle is going (clockwise or counterclockwise) after every verse when you call switch, you can speed it up and add a switch to each line to make it more silly for older children

Sally go round the sun
Sally go round the moon
Sally go round the chimney tops
Every afternoon “switch”

There are endless rhymes and equally endless ways to do them. Get up and get moving with a child this summer and have fun teaching them. Reminisce with another parent, clap your hands, and test your memories at some old rhymes. Guaranteed giggles and smiles. Be silly, have fun, keep singing!

If you would like to have fun singing and rhyming with your children 3 and under, check the Centre for Family Literacy website mid-August for the Rhymes that Bind fall program schedule.

 

What is STEM and How Do I Teach it to my Kids?

STEM. This is catching a lot of attention these days. Do you know what it means?

- science
- technology
- engineering
- mathematics

Did you think it was exclusive to older children, or even adults? Not at all! These concepts are all part of children’s learning through exploration and discovery. Each week at our 3,2,1, Fun! program, parents explore STEM concepts with their children.

Did you know all children are little scientists? Everything about their world is open for discovery. They want to know “why,” “what happens if I do this,” “where does it go,” “how did that happen.” Children will repeat actions such as building a tower over and over again even though it keeps falling apart. They want to learn how to make it more stable and  they want to build it taller. Have patience! Though they may get frustrated, they are learning a STEM concept! Encourage questions from your children by prompting them with questions of your own, such as, “why do you think the tower fell,” “should we try it again,” “what do you think will happen this time,” and “what should we do differently?”

Allowing children to experience concepts hands on—by creating a learning environment where they can touch, manipulate, and explore their surroundings—will benefit them far more than only reading a book about a topic or watching a video.

Try these activities at home:

Science: Little scientists investigating the natural world

GLOVE-garden

  • Try planting some seeds. Watching something grow from a seed can be exciting and doesn’t have to be done outdoors. You can start the growing season early by planting seeds indoors
  • You don’t have to start them in a pot or container either. Try using a plastic glove! Children can drop a moistened cotton ball into each finger length, add a seed and then hang it in the window
  • Discussion about what plants need to grow—sun, air, and water—can occur as you daily monitor the changes together as the roots begin to break free from the seed
  • Once the seed has sprouted, transplant it to a little pot with dirt and continue to watch it grow

 

Technology: Exploring ways to use what they build for a purpose or action

Balloon Car2

  • Think “outside the box” and do activities that have less to do with an electronic device and more to do with hands on. There are plenty of apps available that offer activities related to technology, and children are getting more and more time on screens; offer something new by taking the device out of technology
  • Use technology to “research” a project to make with your children
  • A project we like to make is a little car or boat that can be powered for simple movement. You only need common supplies such as cardboard, a couple of wooden skewers (sticks), milk jug tops for the wheels, some tape, a balloon, and a straw. After the car is built you blow the balloon up, and as the air escapes through the straw it propels the car forward. You can find complete instructions here http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Balloon-Car

 

Engineering: Using their knowledge of the world around them to build and create

Build-Engineer

  • Yes, build and create!
  • Make blanket forts
  • Build simple structures using toothpicks and mini marshmallows or small candies
  • Use building toys, such as stacking blocks
  • Make things from recycled materials

 

 

Math: Increasing knowledge of counting, patterns, colours, and shapes to strengthen their ability to build and create with purpose

Color Mix

  • Get messy. Mix colours to learn about primary and secondary colours. Partly fill a sandwich bag with a small amount of shaving cream. Add a few drops from 2 different colours of food colouring. Have your children mix it all together to see what new colour is created. Have them predict ahead of time what will happen
  • Using different coloured recycled jug lids and stickers, make your own memory matching game
  • Create a container filled with random things you may find in a junk drawer (child safe of course), and have your children sort the things from smallest to biggest, or by colour or shape
  • Have fun with food! Break apart a chocolate chip cookie to count how many chocolate chips are in it. Estimate how many will be in each cookie, and compare the totals with the actual chocolate chip count

Looking for activities to do with your children, with STEM concepts in mind, can be a super way for you both to learn, be creative, get messy, and have fun!

 

Meaningful Mess

Child PaintingSpring. Get ready for puddles, mud, and messes! Thinking of a nice, clean house getting covered in puddles and grit, and having to start cleaning all over again sends shivers down my spine. And what about the extra time it will take to bathe the kids and clean their clothes and shoes, with all the other errands we need to run. Just remember, it really is worth it!

As adults, we often forget the joys of playing in dirt and mud or just getting messy; of throwing away paint brushes and getting our hands dirty instead; of changing out of our good shoes and clothes and exploring without the concern of staying clean. We forget that the learning that happens during this kind of play outweighs the need to keep things tidy and orderly.

Children are messy by nature. It is critical to children’s development to be allowed to explore, and interact with, their world. Sometimes this means that we, as parents, need to take a deep breath and say “sure, you can play in the mud!” By allowing our children to get messy, we are fostering growth in all areas of their development. Messy play encompasses, but is not limited to:

  • Physical development: hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills
  • Emotional and social development: self-confidence and self-esteem, respect for themselves and others; can be an outlet for feelings, experiences, and thoughts
  • Intellectual development: problem solving, concentration, planning, grouping, matching, prediction, observation, and evaluation

Spring is the perfect time to allow our children to be messy while exploring the outside world. The weather is warming up, snow is melting, and all sorts of new life is happening. Being messy doesn’t mean allowing our children to run wild though. It is important that they are still dressed appropriately for outside weather, and monitored and guided through safe play. Here is a list of activities to do outside the house:

  • Playing in puddles: allow your children to explore puddles in the spring. See how high they can make the water splash as they jump in it. Can they make a boat that floats or float other objects in the puddle?
  • Mud pies: exploring mud is a great way to get creativity going. What can we create with the mud (castles, pies, pretend food)? What objects can we add to the mud (i.e. rocks, twigs, leaves, etc.)? What happens if we add more water? If we add more dirt?
  • Sidewalk chalk paint: take your cornstarch and water mixture outside! Add a few drops of food colouring and you have sidewalk chalk; the best part is no paint in the house!

Messy play isn’t only for outside, and can be done any time of year inside. Below is a list of fun, educational, and most importantly, messy activities to do inside with your children:

  • Shaving cream dough: try hand mixing equal parts of shaving cream and cornstarch together to make dough. Keep mixing, as it can take a while for the cornstarch to mix with the shaving cream
  • Cornstarch and water: see what happens when you mix cornstarch and water. This activity is a great way to explore ratios (how much of each ingredient to mix) and textures, and learn problem solving skills
  • Finger painting: learn all about colours and how to mix and match new ones, develop fine motor skills, language, and thinking skills

Remember that it is important for you to be messy too. Don’t forget to join in the fun and get your hands dirty! We, as adults, might be surprised by how much we can still learn from messy play, and there is nothing better than creating memories with your children.  They will remember the fun you all had long after you forget how messy everything was.

If you would like to learn more about your children’s early learning and how to support literacy development, you might enjoy one of our family literacy programs. Visit the Centre for Family Literacy website for more information.