# Early Years Numeracy… in Planting

At 3,2,1, Fun! we explore numbers through play, stories, and rhymes with children 3-5 years old and their parents. Learning about sequences is important to children’s ability to grasp the concept that numbers have a special order.

We can demonstrate sequences by using a recipe, or step-by-step instructions. Another way is to say, “first we do this,” using words to describe the first step, “then we do that.”

There are plenty of opportunities to use simple numeracy concepts in planting activities, whether you are planting in a pot, the ground, or seedlings from another method. Recently in 3,2,1, Fun! we planted a variety of seeds inside a plastic glove.

First we compared the seeds—discussing the different sizes, shapes, and colours, and how some represented more visually the food they grow into. For example, watermelon seeds are familiar to us because we see the seeds in the fruit we eat. We tried sorting the seeds into big, medium, and small, and by shape. How many big ones? Then we planted the seeds—squash, pumpkin, bean, marigold, cucumber, watermelon, carrot, and sunflower—in our garden gloves.

You can also use the opportunity to discuss what plants need to grow (water, sunlight, etc).

Supplies needed for a garden glove:

• A plastic glove (the kind you would use in food preparation)
• Cotton balls
• Water
• Variety of seeds
• Twist tie
• Marker

Steps:

1. Soak five cotton balls in water, squeeze out the excess water
2. Put a wet cotton ball in each of the glove fingers and thumb
3. Add a seed to each cotton ball
4. Write down the name of each seed on the glove finger where it was planted; you can add the date if you like
5. Twist tie it shut at the top
6. Hang the glove in a window that gets a lot of sun
7. Wait to see what grows

It really works! As plants grow, or germinate, we have more opportunities with the children to observe the changes and compare them. Some seedlings have more shoots than others; some grow quicker than others. Watch for changes and see what happens. Sometimes something goes wrong and nothing happens, but we can be scientists and repeat the experiment to see if the results change.

Try journaling what you observe. Your children can draw the pictures and you can scribe the words for them.

Later on, you can transplant your seedlings into pots of soil or into a garden. Some children have already planted their new seedlings into their home gardens.

Good luck growing!

The Spring 3,2,1,Fun! program will be ending mid-June, but please phone the Centre for Family Literacy in Edmonton at 780-421-7323 for more information or visit our website www.famlit.ca

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# Value the Learning Process, not the Final Product

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 may 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.

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# A Walk with the Kids Fun? Absolutely!

As I sit here, looking out the window at the falling snow on the second day of spring, a poem pops into my head:

Spring has sprung, the grass has ris
I wonders where the birdies is?

I have known this poem forever. I don’t know where I learned it, or why it popped into my head today of all days, but I thought I’d investigate further. It turns out the poem has more to it:

Spring has sprung, the grass has ris
I wonders where the birdies is?
They say the birds is on the wing
Ain’t that absurd?
I always thought the wing was on the bird.

The poem’s original author is unknown, but it reminds me of the style of one of my favourite poets, Ogden Nash, known for his short, funny and often nonsensical poems.

What does this have to do with anything? I promise, there is a point. As we finish this first week of spring (that is, of course, supposed to be filled with snow) and head into Easter and spring break, what types of activities can we do with our families? For those of you with young children, have a look at our previous blog for information on the Flit app. It’s filled with great activities for the 0-5 crowd.

For those with older kids, here are a few ideas inspired by the poem (see, there really is a connection)! Get outside to enjoy the snow or sun (whatever the case may be) and go for a walk. Try these activities:

1. Create your own funny poem. Choose something you notice on your walk and see how many words you can think of, or make up, that rhyme with what you chose. When you get home, write the words down and arrange them into your own poem! For example:

I see a bee, right on that tree
Leave it alone, or maybe flee?
If I wave and dance, it may sting me
But flowers won’t grow if I hit she.

1. Make your own spring walking game. Let your kids make up the rules, and how to start and end the game! Tell your kids you will follow their rules no matter what (as long as it’s not dangerous of course). It might be that every time you see a bird, you have to splash in a puddle or run around in a circle clucking like a chicken. Maybe the first person to spot a squirrel wins.
1. Make up a story. See what you can find outside and take turns creating the story, line by line. For example, if you see a piece of fur in a tree, you can start the story by making up a reason why it’s there. Then your child can add to it.

One day, a tiny rabbit thought it would try to jump up into a tree. As it jumped, it caught it’s tail on a branch and a big piece of fur pulled out…

Have fun and enjoy your time together!

# Don’t Forget to Plug In this Family Day Weekend!

You may say “Hey Kim, last year you told us to unplug! You told us that we should unplug and get out as a family! What’s going on?”

That’s all very true, but I’ve got a good reason to change my mind this year. I’d like to ask you to plug in, just for a bit, to download flit, our new Family Literacy app. On it, you’ll find some great activity ideas to try with your family—then unplug and have fun!

You might say we are more than a little excited about our venture into the app world. Families Learning and Interacting Together, or flit, is perfect for your unplugged Family Day.

The activities and information are divided into eight categories—each one supporting an aspect of literacy and numeracy development in an easy and fun way. Best of all, you can do them all as a family and work them into your daily routine!

The activities are also divided into age groups for zero to five year olds, and really are directed at those ages. However I experimented with my own children (who are 10 and 12 years) to see how they would like the activities, and I’m pretty sure they had fun with many of the games, cooking, and craft activities even at their age (with a few suggestions for changes).

My kids’ favourite is the fry-bread activity. We use it as a base for tacos and they are delicious! Download the app, and check out this recipe, along with the book Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith. Let me know how it goes!

See a demo of the flit App

Android users—please ask your Apple friends to like and rate our app—it could help us get funding to create a version for you too!

Do you think we should develop flit for Android? Take the short survey!

More about the Centre for Family Literacy at www.famlit.ca

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# Family Literacy Fun with Food

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.

Grocery 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!

Or, 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.

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

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# Celebrate the New Year with 3,2,1, FUN!

Happy New Year! 2016 is shaping up to be a busy year for our early numeracy program – 3,2,1, FUN! We are  growing and expanding the program to three locations in Edmonton. This is very exciting both for the program and for the new families that we will learn and grow with along the way.

Here are a few things to look forward to with 3,2,1, FUN! this year:

• 3,2,1… BLAST OFF into space with your own homemade spaceship counting game
• bring a favourite story to life when we create a story board from scratch
• put the recipes in order and tempt your taste buds with some sweet treats
• explore snow like you have never done before
• put the pieces of the puzzle together as you create your own numeracy games from recycled materials
• get lost on a treasure hunt
• explore numbers with all five of your senses

We are looking forward to sharing new ideas with our returning families, and meeting new families as the program expands. 3,2,1, FUN! offers your family the opportunity to explore numbers in a hands on way that is both meaningful and fun. Following is the upcoming schedule:

Brookside Community Hall
5320 143 Street NW, Edmonton
Tuesdays 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm
January 12 – March 15

Primrose Place Family Centre
6311 92 Avenue NW, Edmonton
Wednesdays 10:00 am – 11:30 am
February 10 – March 16

One World… One Centre
12050 95A Street NW, Edmonton
Thursdays 9:30 am – 11:30 am
April 7 – June 16

Please phone the Centre for Family Literacy at 780-421-7323 for more information, or visit our website www.famlit.ca

hashtag: #321Fun

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# Reaching Out After the Season

At this time of year there is a lingering festive atmosphere as people are slow to get back into their pre-holiday routines. Many people are still with their families and friends, extending the holiday seasons.

Though the holidays are over for many of us, we still need other people in our lives to thrive and be well. Being around other people makes us happy, and when we are happy we are more fun to be around, creating an “upward spiral “of happiness! Happy people are more helpful, pleasant, and sociable.

Belonging to a group or a community gives us a sense of identity. Community helps us to understand who we are and feel part of something larger than ourselves.

Rhymes that Bind creates both happiness and a sense of community every session. Join us for one session and you will be hooked. Our programs are beginning the week of January 12 throughout the city.

Along with our regular programming, we have Intergenerational (children, parents and seniors together) and Multicultural programming.

Our programs give newcomers an opportunity to make connections and friendships. Rhymes that Bind can help new moms build their own little community that reaches outside our programming.

Here is a great little song to help get you thinking about the week of January 12, 2016:

The More We Get Together
The more we get together, together, together.
The more we get together the happier we will be.
Cause your friends are my friends and my friends are your friends.
The more we get together the happier we will be!

Check our website for more information about Rhymes that Bind in Edmonton and find a program near you.

hashtag: #RTB_Edm

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# Get Moooving and Learning!

You may have read the recent article in the Edmonton Journal about the effects of electronic devices on early childhood development. The conclusion was that time spent in front of screens doesn’t really help the brain development of preschoolers, and that screen time can be offset with physical activity.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there are 80,000+ apps labelled as “educational”. Unfortunately, just because something has been labelled as such, doesn’t make it so. Brain connections are built on a foundation of “serve and return”—healthy interaction that goes both ways. Most screen time is passive not active, and involves listening or one-way interaction with a screen.

Some products say they are “interactive,” but as the AAP points out, in order to be truly interactive there needs to be more than “pushing and swiping.” They recommend Common Sense Media to help you decide what’s appropriate.

So, what’s the number one source for physical activity? Interactive play! This gets kids moving, engaging all areas of the brain while increasing blood flow, making learning easier —not to mention fun!

Here are some ideas:

• Go on a nature walk and scavenger hunt. Put together a list of treasures found in nature, using words and pictures for your checklist. Take pictures and write a story about your scavenger hunt for a scrapbook!
• Do some gardening together; it’s a fun and multi-sensory way to work on numeracy and literacy skills. Kids can help with counting rows and seeds.
• Go on a treasure hunt for familiar words using environmental print like magazines, food labels and flyers. Collecting is fun, and this will motivate them to learn new words. Clip out the words and collect them in a newly decorated box!
• Play with sidewalk chalk. Write letters, numbers or shapes in chalk for your child to run to or jump on when called out. If you’re using numbers, you could try simple addition: One! (Jump to the 1), plus three! (Jump to the 3), equals four! (Jump to the 4).
• Dig for the alphabet, numbers or sight words. You will need an orange sponge or foam (like a pool noodle or dish sponge), and ribbon for the vegetable tops. Slice the foam into pieces and write letters, numbers or words on them with a marker. “Plant” them in the soil. After digging in your garden, you can even pair the activity with a book about food. On the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus, we like “Rah, Rah, Radishes!” by April Pulley Sayre.

Rah, rah, radishes, red and white!
Carrots are calling. Take a bite!
Oh boy, bok choy, brussels sprout.
Broccoli! Cauliflower! Shout it out!”

• A great way to incorporate digital technology in an interactive way is to go on a photo hunt for colours. Go for a walk with your smart phone and as you walk, have your child find a colour. Then you can help them take a picture of the item with your phone.

• Collect sounds together. Make a checklist for commonly heard sounds and leave a blank space to check off with stickers. Examples of sounds you can search for are: barking dogs, meowing cats, sirens, singing birds, cars honking, or people talking.
• Make an outdoor obstacle course using whatever you can find around the yard. You might try tires, playground equipment, safety cones, jump rope, beach balls, hopscotch or a broom for limbo. The possibilities are endless!

While we don’t want to rule out all digital fun for kids, it is important to remember the research: physical movement and one-on-one time with parents or caregivers is what feeds our brain and develops oral language. So go play!

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

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# Fall Family Fun!

As summer winds down and families get back into their regular routine, it may be easy to forget to take advantage of opportunities to learn together as a family. Fall is a beautiful time of year when the leaves start changing colour and begin to fall off the trees. Leaves provide many learning opportunities for you and your child – so simple and fun!

Here are some leaf activities to try with your child during this fall season:

Create a Leaf Scavenger Hunt!

• Work with your child to create a list of items to look for on your scavenger hunt. For example:
• Find 2 orange leaves
• Find 3 red leaves
• Find 1 leaf with smooth edges
• Find 1 big leaf
• Find 4 small leaves

Go for a walk outside!

• Talk about the different colours of the leaves.
• Ask your child questions like, “Is this leaf bigger or smaller than this leaf?” “Does the leaf have smooth or sharpe edges?”

Practice Counting

• Have your child gather up a bunch of leaves and practice counting how many they collected.

Learn Textures

• Collect different types of leaves and feel the different textures with your hands. Ask your child, “Does this leaf feel soft?” “Does this leaf feel rough?”

Leaf Artwork

• Collect some leaves and use them to make some fun artwork. Using the leaves, a thin sheet of paper and some crayons, you can make “leaf rubbings.”
• First, place the leaves under a thin sheet of paper. You will want to place the leaves bottom side facing up.
• Second, rub the crayon(s) on the paper and watch the leaf print come through.

Just Have Fun!

• If you have access, rake together a pile of leaves for you and your child. Have fun jumping into the pile!

We hope that you are able to enjoy this fall season, learning and growing together with your child. Have fun with the leaves and the nature that surrounds you!

More about the Learn Together – Grow Together program starting again January 2016 in Edmonton.

hashtag: #LT_GT

# Another Long Weekend?

What will you and your family do this long weekend? Will you take part in one of the many local celebrations, like Heritage Days to learn about many of the diverse cultures in our area or the Blueberry Bluegrass Music Festival to listen to some great music? Will you check out one of the city’s numerous attractions, or maybe hike or bike through the River Valley? Will you head out of the city to visit with family or friends? Or will you visit one of the many lakes not far down the road?

If you head out of town or even to one of the celebrations or attractions in your area, chances are you will find that:

• Traffic to and from will be hectic
• Long lineups will be the rule rather than the exception
• Somebody will be hungry, thirsty, or tired
• Quiet time will be needed at some point

To keep everyone happy despite these obstacles, it is a good idea to be well prepared before your long weekend adventures. Here are some things to do to make travel time more enjoyable:

• Have everyone pack an activity bag – include things like a favourite toy, books, paper and pencils/crayons/pens, a cookie sheet with some magnets (this makes a really neat portable desk for their drawings, colouring sheets, word games or activity sheets – just make sure the magnets stick to the cookie sheet and they are not too tiny), a music player with headphones so that everybody does not have to listen to your favourite music, and a travel game or two.
• Have your children help to choose and prepare individually portioned, car friendly snacks (not ones that need to be refrigerated or are messy). It’s a great way to build numeracy skills – how many containers do we need, what size should they be. It also saves money, helps cut down on the pleas for treats on the way in to the gas station, and helps avoid \$5 bottles of water at the festival. You can keep the snacks all together or distribute them into the activity bags. Don’t forget the pre-moistened washcloths in a zip-lock bag.
• Involve everybody in the car in games like:
• Bingo – make up Bingo cards ahead of time with letters, numbers, or words that they will see along the way and that they can cross off the card. The first to get 15, wins!
• I Spy – make sure that what they spy is something that doesn’t just go by in a flash!
• What am I thinking of – think of something and each person gets to ask five questions to guess what you are thinking of.
• Build me a story – decide on a character and a problem they face. Each person then gets a turn to build the story for three minutes (give or take). You’ll be surprised by the twists and turns the story takes along the way!
• Sing a long – sing everybody’s favourite song at least once during your travels.

With my children off with their own long weekend plans, as many of my neighbours pack up their trailers, I look forward to:

• a visit to the library on my way home on Friday to grab a couple of books from my wish list
• a stop at the grocery store for goodies to last the weekend
• a quick change into something comfortable
• the next three days basking in the quiet of my backyard

Whatever you choose to do this long weekend, be safe and take time to enjoy it!