# Free Outdoor Fun with 3,2,1, Fun!

Supporting your child’s numeracy development does not have to cost you anything but time and creativity, especially when you can head outdoors! At 3,2,1, Fun! we have started our spring session by sharing with our families a variety of numeracy activities that are free, support strong numeracy development, and are a ton of FUN!

Cloud search

Find a comfortable spot on the grass and lay down with your child. Take a look at the clouds in the sky. What shapes do you see in the clouds? What do the clouds look like? Are some bigger or smaller than others? Do the clouds tell a story? Do the shapes of the clouds change?

Jump to it!!

This is a fun game to play with your child in your back yard or at the park. Have your child choose a place to stand; this will be their starting position. Next choose a destination for them such as the swing set or the garage. Ask your child how many jumps they think it will take for them to reach the destination. Once they have made their estimate, have them “jump to it!” This activity is not only great exercise and fun, but it also allows your child to practice estimation, measurement, and counting. Try to use different forms of movement; try, for instance, baby steps, skipping, crab walking, etc.

Float or sink, what do you think?

Any activity that involves water is a sure hit with children! Fill up a bucket of water. Collect some natural items like rocks, sticks, and leaves, as well as some of your child’s favourite toys. Have your child predict which items they think will sink in the water and which items they think will float. Then test their predictions. Ask them why some items sink while others float. Support this activity using terms like heavy, light, weight, deep, shallow, etc.

Drop it!

This activity is similar to float or sink. Collect a variety of items that can be safely dropped onto the grass or a blanket outside. Ask your child which items they think will fall to the ground quickly and which will take longer to fall. Let them test their predictions by holding up the objects and dropping them! Discuss with them why some items fall faster than others.

You can make this activity even more challenging and fun for your child if you let them use a small step stool, the back steps, or a step ladder (with your supervision). This variation allows them to explore how different heights change the time it takes for an item to fall.

Scavenger Hunt

You do not need a paper, pen, or a list for a scavenger hunt. Head outside and use nature and your imagination! Use your child’s body as a tool of measurement to have them seek out scavenger items. For example, find something longer than your foot, bigger than your hand, thicker than your finger, or taller than you. You can also use shapes to inspire your search; find something shaped like a circle, triangle, square, etc.

This activity can be done anywhere. The only limit with this activity is your imagination! Have fun and let your child come up with some of the scavenger tasks!

For more ideas on how to support your child’s numeracy development in ways that are both free and fun, please visit us at 3,2,1, FUN! Tuesday afternoons at Callingwood School from 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm.

Visit our website for information about the 3,2,1,Fun! program.

hashtag: #321_Fun

# 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.

On 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.

Why 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

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# Beat the Cold! Bring the Outdoors In with Learn Together – Grow Together!

This last month has been a snowy, blowy and cold one. However the team at Learn Together – Grow Together has found a way to beat the cold! When it is too cold for our families to go outdoors, we simply bring the outdoors in!

Books that we read:

• 10 on a Sled by Kim Norman
• All You Need for a Snowman by Alice Schertle
• Snowballs by Lois Ehlert
• The Mitten by Jan Brett

Activities we did:

• After reading the storybook The Mitten, each family spent the afternoon creating their own storysack. Each storysack contained the characters from the story as well as a large white mitten. These storysacks provided families with a fun, unique and memorable way to read and share the story at home.
• Using recycled newspaper and packing tape, we made a big basket full of “snowballs”. We then headed to the gymnasium for a variety of snowball throw and toss games, ending with a big group snowball fight!
• After reading All You Need for a Snowman, we brought in a huge plastic bin of snow from outside. Then, wearing mittens, the children and their families spent the afternoon creating their own snowmen and snow castles!
• Using plastic containers of varying sizes we froze “treasures” in water. Once frozen, we took the ice blocks out of the containers and the children spent the afternoon exploring methods to melt and chip the treasures from the ice. The children used a variety of methods including: warm water, hand held tools, salt etc. to extract their treasures. In order to keep this activity literacy based, our treasures included letters from the alphabet that corresponded with other items in the ice block. For instance, when a child extracted a letter “Y” from the ice, they would then begin to look for the items in the ice that corresponded with that letter, such as a yellow yo yo.

Snacks we shared:

Banana Snowmen
Ingredients: bananas, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and pretzels.

Pretzel Polar Bears
Ingredients: pretzel sticks, peanut butter, coconut and black icing.

Songs and Rhymes we shared:

I’m a Little Snowman (to the tune of I’m a Little Tea Pot)
I’m a little snowman, short and fat.
Here are my buttons and here is my hat.
When the sun comes out, I cannot play.
I just slowly melt away.

Five Little Snowmen
Five little snowmen all made of snow,
five little snowmen standing in a row.
Out came the sun and stayed all day,
and one little snowman melted away.

(count down to 0)

Zero little snowmen all made of snow,
zero little snowmen standing in a row.
Down came the snow that fell all day,
and five little snowmen came back to play.

To go along with these rhymes, our families constructed five popsicle stick snowmen and one popsicle stick sun to use while they recited the rhyme. These props were a fun activity for the families and they really brought the rhyme to life!!

With a little creativity and our families’ eager participation, Learn Together – Grow Together has succeeded in bringing the outdoors in and now you can too!!

More about the Learn Together – Grow Together program

hashtag: #LT_GT

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# Family Day – Unplugged

Family Day falls on Monday, February 16 this year. Don’t have plans yet? Let us inspire you with some fun ideas for the whole family. Whatever you do on Family Day, try to stay unplugged. Better yet, stay plugged in to each other!

1. Get outside and have some fun! How about skating, tobogganing, skiing or snowshoeing? Try making snow angels or a family-sized snow fort. Put food colouring in spray bottles and make snow art! And remember, chilly outings are best followed by hot chocolate and freshly baked cookies. (Have we mentioned that following a recipe together is a great family literacy activity?)
2. Don’t like the cold? Play a board game or make a craft together. Sculpt snowflakes out of paper to hang in the window, or sprinkle salt on a watercolour painting!
3. Family can extend to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even friends. Have the kids help with a card, letter or email to someone who can’t be with you on Family Day.
4. Does your community offer special public events on Family Day? Many art galleries, museums and family-friendly places offer a reduced price or free entry.
5. National Heritage Day falls on the same date as Family Day in Alberta. It’s a great reason to explore your family history. Pull out the old photo albums or research your family’s geneology. To focus on more recent history, create a scrapbook together of the past year or update your child’s school memory album. Be sure to include pictures, artwork, and your child’s writing!
6. Turn up the volume. Look up the lyrics to your favourite songs. Print them and have a family sing-off! Not up for singing? Try turning one of your family’s favourite stories into a play or puppet show.
7. Quiet down to connect. If you need some calm later in the day, try working on a puzzle together. If you’re an artistic bunch – or even if you’re not – you might get a kick out of family art time. Give everyone paper and a pencil to draw a favourite family memory or try sketching the same scene at the same time. You’ll be surprised at the unique perspectives each of you will bring. Be sure to put them on display afterwards!
8. Want to grow your financial goals as a family? Create money jars. Decorate three jars and label them: ‘Give’, ‘Save’, and ‘Spend’. Write out your family’s plans for the money that will go in each jar.
9. Take a trip to the library. Seek out a classic or discover a new family favourite. Have an absolute favourite family book? Write a letter to the author together, and then send it by mail or email.
10. Share a little love with another family. Put some books or clothes you no longer use in a gift bag. Pass them on to another family, with a note, of course!

Whatever you plan to do this Family Day, we invite you to disconnect from technology in order to better reconnect with your family, friends and community.

Happy Family Day!

# Family Literacy Day

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Family Literacy Day — created by ABC Life Literacy Canada and held annually on January 27 — highlights the “importance of reading and engaging in other literacy-related activities as a family.”

Literacy is the foundation for learning, and it begins at home. Family Literacy takes place during daily routines in life as parents, children, and family members use literacy at home and in their community.

Research tells us that we can set kids up for success as learners when we engage them in conversations, read together regularly, provide meaningful writing experiences, and let them see us reading and learning too. Positive parent-child interaction every day is key at every stage of a child’s language and literacy development.

As a parent, grandparent, or caregiver, you’re likely already engaging the children in your life in meaningful family literacy activities. Looking for fresh ideas?

Inspired by ABC Life Literacy, here are 10 ways to engage your family in literacy and learning on Family Literacy Day, and every day:

1. Start the day with a story. It beats the morning grumps every time.
2. Write a note for another family member. Leave it somewhere you know they’ll find it – in their favourite box of cereal, their sock drawer or lunch box. (We know a mom who writes on bananas: “Have a great day! Now eat me.”)
3. Search online for fun things to do. Plan your next family day.
4. Hunt in the newspaper together for a “good news story,” enjoy the comics, or see how your favourite sports team is doing.
5. Start a family communication book. Leave a blank notebook out in a common area where anyone can leave a message for other family members. Messages can range from “Thanks for tidying the play room” to “Remember to buy cheese!” In the short term, it can help with communication and increase family connectedness. In the long run, it might just become a family heirloom.
6. Create a story with your family around the dinner table. Take turns writing one sentence at a time, then read the whole story aloud when you’re done. If you illustrate it, even the youngest can help.
7. Older kids?  Have a laugh with mad-libs. Use a published book or create your own!
8. Driving? Try the alphabet game. Work together to find the letters of the alphabet — in order — on signs and license plates.
9. Play a board game together.
10. End the day with a new book or an old favourite.

Learning can happen at any time. “Practicing literacy together every day has tremendous benefits for both children and parents.” The possibilities are endless. Why not add one or two new ideas to what you’re already doing as a family?

Happy Family Literacy Day!

# Snowmen on the C.O.W. Bus

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.

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

hashtag: #edm_cow

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# A Learn Together – Grow Together Halloween

Learn Together – Grow Together is a family literacy program for parents and their children ages 3-6 years. The program is run in Edmonton in partnership with Edmonton Catholic Schools. More information about Learn Together – Grow Together at www.famlit.ca/programs_and_projects/programs/learn-GT.shtml

The program runs on Thursdays, so this year we will be meeting with the families the day before Halloween. There are many learning opportunities for parents to share with their children for Halloween (other than trick-or-treating), so we are going to spend time doing a few Halloween-themed activities together.

We will be sharing some children’s Halloween books. Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley, and Pumpkin Eye by Denise Fleming, are just two of many interactive books that are easy for parents and children to share together.

Rhyming is a fun and easy way to learn about rhythm and rhyme. Here are a couple that we will be sharing:

Go to Sleep Little Pumpkin

Go to sleep little pumpkin,
You must cover your toes.
If you sleep now my pumpkin,
You will turn to a rose.

Go to sleep little baby,
You must cover your feet.
When you wake in the morning,
They’ll be muffins to eat.

Go to sleep now (baby’s name),
You must cover your tum.
When you wake in the morning,
There’ll be kisses from Mom.

Jack-O-Lantern

I made a jack-o-lantern for Halloween night.
He has three crooked teeth, but he won’t bite.
He has two round eyes, but he cannot see.
He’s a jolly jack-o-lantern, as happy as can be.

Carving jack-o-lanterns is a lot of fun, but since the children who participate in Learn Together – Grow Together are very young, we are going to decorate some smaller gourd pumpkins instead. The parents and children will be able to colour, paint, and glue decorations on them. This activity will give the adults and children a chance to communicate and work together, use their imaginations, and be creative.

We hope you have a safe and happy Halloween with your family! Enjoy the many learning opportunities for sharing stories, rhyming, and decorating pumpkins together.

hashtag: #LT_GT

# Digital Technology

“…New digital technologies have entered every aspect of our reality, including families and the lives of young people. They have already affected preschool children’s play and learning as well.”

UNESCO (2010)

I recently did a presentation on technology at the Alberta Early Years conference. I opened the session with a confession – I am not a technology expert and I have been a reluctant user of new technologies.

However, as the above quote from UNESCO states, technology is in every aspect of our lives. Families are using technology, and in family literacy we work with the strengths and tools that families are bringing. So the debate is no longer “do we use it,” it is “how do we use it.”

Major studies (“Electronic Media in the Lives of Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers” – Kaiser Family Foundation Report – 2006, American Academy of Pediatrics and Canadian Paediatric Society) have advised that 0-2 year olds should not have any “screen time” at all and it should be limited for toddlers and pre-schoolers.

In my session, we discussed the research versus the reality. Like anything, there has to be balance – between the use of technology (by both parents and children) and meaningful interactions (that promote positive family relationships and healthy development). I challenged participants to pick their favourite app, perhaps one they thought families would be using at home, and answer the following questions:

1. Why are we using this technology or app? Is it for fun, for learning, or for some other purpose?
1. What kind of time is being spent with it? Is it high quality and interactive (e.g. can we use the technology as we would use a board game) or is it time being spent alone?
1. Is what we are doing developmentally appropriate for children?
1. Do we have guidelines/rules about when and how long it’s used (for parents and children)? Do you have technology-free zones or times?
1. What are we modelling? What are our children and families seeing?

There’s no “right” answer to any of these questions, but perhaps they can help us think more critically about our use of technology, both personally and professionally.

Ending the session, we talked about how it can be a challenge to start the discussion about technology use. Here are some great books that could help break the ice. Enjoy them and have fun as you explore how you are using technology!

Goodnight IPad by Ann Droyd

Hello, Hello by Matthew Cordell

# National Grandparent’s Day

This year, National Grandparents’ Day is on Sunday, September 7. The special day began in Canada in 1995 when Liberal MP Mr. Sarkis Assadourin presented motion number 273 in the House of Commons.

The motion read, “That, in the opinion of this House, the government should consider designating the second Sunday in September of each year as Grandparents’ Day in order to acknowledge their importance to the structure of the family in the nurturing, upbringing and education of children.”

Some of us are cynical and think that Grandparents’ Day was created to support florists and greeting card companies. But when we think about the important role that grandparents play in connecting generations, it is apparent that the stronger the relationship between grandparents, parents, and grandchildren, the stronger the family.

Besides cards and flowers, here are a few ideas that your family might do together this year:

• Create a family tree using photos so that everyone can put a name to a face. This is also a great way for grandparents to share those family stories.
• Ask grandparents to share their favourite recipes and compile them into a cookbook so everyone has a copy.
• Play a favourite board or card game from your grandparents’ youth.
• Visit the neighbourhood where your grandparents grew up, and talk about how things have changed.

What traditions have your family developed to make this day special?

What do you do if the grandparents live in another place? Maybe there is an elderly couple or person who plays the role of grandparent for your children – include them in your celebrations.

# Edmonton C.O.W. Makes Do-it-Yourself Popsicle Puzzles!

On the Edmonton COW (Classroom on Wheels) bus, we try to create our own games and puzzles to encourage the families who visit the bus to do the same at home.

One of our newest do-it-yourself activities is to create popsicle stick puzzles. These are great because they require few supplies and are very inexpensive to make. After an internet search, I found these easy, step-by-step instructions on www.mamamiss.com

I even found a DIY Mod Podge recipe (50% white glue & 50% water) and was able to start within minutes.

Step 1: round up the supplies

Step 2: line up the popsicle sticks and tape them in place

Step 3: coat the popsicle stick picture space with a first layer of Mod Podge

Step 4: immediately add the picture and a second thin layer of Mod Podge over it

Step 5: after it dries completely, use an exacto knife to separate each stick

This was my first attempt.  It was not a success, but I learned that thick paper tends to curl up and is harder to cut; normal paper worked better.

I added the alphabet and numbers to make it a sequencing activity as well.

Now that I had the technique figured out, I decided to make another puzzle. For this one, I printed a photo of myself so the kids could have fun putting me back together.

The glue dried clear and it turned out pretty well!  I added magnets to some of them and I store them in a ziplock bag.

Some other ideas I want to try are:

• Paint or draw a picture on the sticks instead of using a photo
• Put several face puzzles together so the kids can mix and match the faces

I am excited about bringing the puzzles on the bus for the children to try, and I hope they will be inspired to go home and make puzzles with their families.

hashtag: #edm_cow

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