6 Books You and Your Little Ones will Want to Get Your Hands on

Do you find it difficult to have your child sit with you to read a book? Are you competing with touch screens or big screens for time with your child for sharing a book? Are you finding yourself so busy you realize you haven’t read a book together lately?

These days it can be tough to establish a routine, such as a regular reading time with your child, and sticking with it. Personal and work schedules can be very demanding and time consuming. It can be easier to let your little one have a book read to them by an app on a tablet. Your family might even love books—your child has a bookshelf bursting with them. Or maybe you visit the library periodically to borrow them, however time slips away and the books are due for return before you’ve had the time to enjoy them.

As a child grows more independent and is able to play on their own, it is still very important to set aside time in your busy schedule for reading together. Not only does it model to your child that reading is done for pleasure, it is a simple action that strengthens bonds and can provide a child with positive memories related to reading.

It really doesn’t take long to share a good book with your child. If their attention span and focus don’t seem to be with you, there are a number of books available that encourage interaction with the audience—books that ask the child to touch parts of the page, shake the book, swipe here or there, and many more similar and fun ideas. The result is that the child can “help” you read along. They may also have a job to do—while you read, they can flip the pages. Even when they know the story well, they enjoy being able to predict what comes next, or what happens when they turn the page.

Books such as these may help you and your child look forward to a reading routine. Find the time in your day, whether it is at bedtime, nap time, after breakfast, before a bath, or whenever and wherever! The important thing is making the time to spend with your child.

Try out some of these favourites that encourage touching the pages to see what happens next:

Press Here and Mix It Up! by Hervé Tullet

Press Here3

MixItUp

 

Touch the Brightest Star and Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson

Touch the Brightest StarTap the Magic Tree

 

Don’t Touch this Book! and Don’t Push the Button! by Bill Cotter

Don't Touch this BookDon't Push this Button

 

Books like these are meant to be shared. Try not to see it as one more thing you must do on your to do list. Find the fun! Capture the smiles and giggles in your heart as you share some silliness with your child. If your child learns to read for pleasure, it just might make a difference for them later on, in school, when some find reading a chore.

My children are not small anymore, but I still enjoy showing books like these to them. The appreciation for a fun story can still be shared on a different level. Now we look forward to sharing books with the younger children in our lives whenever we can.

At the Learn Together – Grow Together program, parents learn ways to help their children in the early stages of reading and writing through stories, rhymes, songs and books. Check out the Centre for Family Literacy website for information on literacy programs for parents and their children 6 years and under, and for adults.

 

MOOOve Over Winter – the C.O.W. Bus is ready for spring!

Join us on the bus and help us celebrate all things spring! This season is about new beginnings and we have plenty of new songs, stories, and toys to keep you and your family busy and actively learning all spring. We will be getting a visit from the tickle monster, reading about hunting for eggs, and singing about spring rain and garden snails.

TickleMonster Book If your toddler or pre-schooler loves to be tickled, this book, with the loveable extra-terrestrial, will be a big hit. “A loveable monster has just flown in from Planet Tickle on a mission to tickle any child who happens to be following along with the Tickle Monster book. Parents read aloud and do the tickling, while children laugh and squirm with delight.”

Great Easter Egg HuntHere is a sneak peek at another one of the fun books we’ll be reading—you’ll want to read this one over and over again as it is jam-packed with surprises and hidden messages. “With its suspenseful treasure-hunt plot, this magical picture book set in the land of the Easter bunnies offers more than 200 hidden objects to find, puzzles to solve, and intriguing clues that lead to a surprise ending—a meeting with the Great Easter Bunny himself!”

One of the spring songs we’ll be singing:

Five Garden Snails

Five garden snails
Sleeping in the sun,
Along comes a (yellow) bird,
And flies away with one.

Four garden snails
Sleeping in the sun,
Along comes a (blue) bird,
And flies away with one.

(Continue with Three, Two, and One garden snail, changing the colour of the bird each time)

Action:

  1. Select 5 children to be the snails
  2. For lines 1 and 2 the snails lie curled up sleeping
  3. Select a child from the rest of the group wearing the appropriate colour to be the bird and fly away with a snail.

You can use your new spring songs while digging in the garden, splashing in puddles, or walking through your neighbourhood. Stories and songs are a great way to support language development with your children, while having fun and creating memories.

Here are two more ways to learn with your children and try something new this spring:

Tissue Paper Decorated Eggs

Easter Egg Slime

Check out the Centre for Family Literacy website to find out when the bus is in your area, or for more information!

 

Books – and Tunes – for Babies

Hispanic mother and baby at homeA great way to keep the interest of a baby when you’re reading with them, or a child of any age really, is to add some rhythm or melody to your book sharing.

The rhyme and repetition in many childrens’ books makes this easy in many cases, and if you have a rhyming book, a quick search on Youtube can sometimes give you a few different musical styles to choose from. Beyond that, there are many books that are meant to be sung with verses, choruses, and sometimes even music or information for where you can find the music online.

Don’t worry about your singing voice, I promise your baby doesn’t mind if you’re out of key or can’t really carry a tune, and it’s perfectly fine if you would rather settle into more of a chant than a full-on melody.

Even when the book does not rhyme, sometimes a picture can give you an idea for a song or a rhyme to sing, adding a little extra fun to your book sharing time. For example, a book might feature an animal, and there are a lot of songs and rhymes about animals. It’s okay if the animal song or rhyme you want to sing doesn’t exactly match the plot of the story for 2 big reasons:

  1. Babies don’t have the longest attention spans; you probably won’t get through more than a few pages of the book anyway
  2. We want our child to be able to relate the things they see in books, and the words they hear, to other things that they know. If you are reading Runaway Bunny with your toddler and they start singing Sleeping Bunnies, you’ll know that they are making those connections, and you can tell everyone how brilliant your child is.

You won’t always feel like singing, and your child might not always be receptive to it. Think of it as one more tool that you can use to make book sharing more fun for you and your baby.

If you would like to learn more about sharing books, songs, and play with your baby, you’ll find tip sheets on the Centre for Family Literacy website, you can try our free Flit app with family literacy activities to do with your little ones, or better yet, find a Books for Babies program near you and come have some fun with us!

 

Literacy Links

Lit-Links3

Picture this, tables set around the room covered with all kinds of interesting materials, inquisitive preschoolers pulling their parent toward a table to check out all the amazing set ups. You have just entered a “The Scientist in Us All” workshop—just one of the many offered through the Centre for Family Literacy’s Literacy Links program. For the next hour or so the children lead their parents through a series of activities and experiments that amaze, amuse—and sometimes even make them believe in magic!

Children learn through play and explore their world by touching, hearing, seeing, and smelling—in other words by using their senses. They question everything, wanting to know how come? Why does? What if? A workshop like this allows parents to learn the value of following their children’s lead, to explore with them and to answer their questions. The parents may even have some questions of their own! The workshop also helps parents remember how to get into the play space, and why it is so important to connect play with their children’s learning.

Mingle about the room and you will hear chatter about exploding volcanoes, dancing spaghetti, magic flowers, and making a rainbow of colours. One dad wonders where his three-year-old learned a word like erupting, until his son points out that it is in his dinosaur book that they read almost every night. A mom is astonished when her little one, who doesn’t like to get her hands dirty, plunges wrist deep into a bowl of Goop in search of hidden treasure. A parent is amazed at her little guy as he sits still watching ever so patiently, waiting to see if a piece of spaghetti will make it to the surface before the raisin.

You may hear a facilitator explaining more about the science behind the activities, or modelling to the parents about how to ask their children questions to get more than a yes or no answer (to enhance their language skills). The facilitators will also provide parents with information about where they can find more experiments to do at home—with items they already have around the house.

100_0797.JPG  Lit-Links

The room is rarely silent—there is plenty of laughter, questions, and learning happening. And as the families leave the workshop with their activities booklet in hand, you might hear things like “that was so much fun,” “can we do this again at home?” or even “can we come here again?”

If you would like more information about this workshop or the many others offered through the Literacy Links program, please check the Centre for Family Literacy website: www.famlit.ca

3 DIY Puzzles to Make with Your Kids

The Alberta Prairie C.O.W. program visits communities around the province for 12 months a year. To each visit we bring a variety of great family literacy activities and ideas for parents to explore with their young children.

We have books, puppets, blocks, and puzzles that have been purchased, but we also bring a wealth of activities that the families can make for themselves. For example, we have homemade “I Spy” bottles made from old pop bottles that are filled with rice and random trinkets (with the bottle lid glued on tightly afterwards). We also have a homemade cash register and a stove that are made out of cereal boxes, as well as matching games made from old calendars. We encourage parents to use materials they already have at home; materials that don’t cost a lot of money.

Among the homemade activities that we bring with us are a selection of DIY puzzles. Puzzles are a wonderful way for your children to develop their fine motor and problem-solving skills. Puzzles can also be made for different ages and stages of development. You can even create puzzles geared toward your children’s interests, so go ahead—be creative and have fun together!

 

Paper Plate Puzzle

Using a plain paper plate, have your child scribble or draw a picture. Depending on the age of your child, cut the paper plate into as few or as many pieces as they can put back together.

paperplatepuzzle

 

Box Puzzle

Cut the front of a cereal, cracker, or cookie box into as many pieces as your child will be able to put back together.

puzzle-cerealbox

 

Popsicle Stick Puzzle

Tape together approximately 5 to 10 wide popsicle sticks so that they are parallel to one another and lying flat on the table. Glue a picture your child drew, a picture you cut out of a flyer or magazine, or a photograph, on top of the popsicle sticks. Once the glue is dry, you can cut the popsicle stick puzzle into its individual pieces for your child.

puzzle-popsiclestick

These are a just a few examples of DIY puzzles. Can you think of more? We would be happy to share your ideas, and create new homemade puzzles with families across the province.

For more easy and inexpensive craft ideas, check out the newsletters on the Centre for Family Literacy C.O.W. program page

 

Homemade Book Making

make-your-own-book

Learn Together – Grow Together is a program for parents and their children (ages 3-5 years old), to attend and participate in activities together as a family. We encourage the parents to recognize their role as first teacher of their children. In order for parents to help their children become lifelong readers and writers, we show the parents simple activities they can do at home to help foster the early literacy skills needed for their little ones to grow into literacy.

At Learn Together – Grow Together, a fun  activity we have done was to make a homemade book. We showed the parents that you can use inexpensive materials and/or materials you may already have at home, to make your own books.

One of the books the parents created with their children is called a “Straw Book.”

make-your-own-book1Supplies Needed:

  • 3+, 8 ½ x 11 plain white sheets of paper
  • 1 piece of coloured construction paper
  • 1 pair of scissors
  • 1 drinking straw
  • 1 elastic band
  • markers and/or pencil crayons and/or crayons
  • optional: stickers

 

make-your-own-book2Directions:

  •  Fold the white pieces of paper in half, as they will become the inside pages of the book
  • Fold the piece of coloured construction paper in half, as this will become the cover of the book

 

 

make-your-own-book3

  • Carefully cut two small triangles into the folded sides of the plain paper and the folded side of the construction paper. Make sure the triangles are a long enough distance apart to be able to weave your straw in between them

make-your-own-book4

 

 

  • Put the straw through the holes on the inside of the book

 

 

 

make-your-own-book5

  • On the outside cover, put the elastic band on the top and bottom ends of the straw, keeping the cover and inside pages together
  •  Have fun decorating, writing, and drawing in your book!

 

 

 

At Learn Together – Grow Together, the families used pencil crayons, markers, stickers, objects cut out of magazines, etc. to decorate, draw, and write in their straw books. The children were very pleased that they were able to scribble and/or write whatever they wanted in their book; it gave them a sense of pride and ownership!

It was exciting to see that even a simple and inexpensive activity, like making a book from a drinking straw, an elastic band, and some paper, was able to foster early literacy skills. The children were able to be creative on their own and practice their writing and drawing skills. The parents learned that it doesn’t cost a lot of money, or take a lot of time, to have a literacy activity for their children to work on.

Have you made any other types of homemade books with your children? We would love to hear more of your ideas to help foster early reading and writing skills in young children!

 

The Parenting Tool that Gets Giggles out of Your Kids (and Yourself)

tickleImagine a tool for parenting that could make your day-to-day life easier? What if it didn’t cost you anything? What if you could pull it out of your back pocket any time you need to?

A well loved rhyme leads to laughter, giggles, tickles, and smiles. It can help diffuse a toddler heading towards a tantrum, and can help pass the time  while waiting in long line ups (at grocery stores, doctor’s offices, etc.). Even diapering and bathing routines can be  fun when we sing or chant a little, and they also incorporate learning opportunities.

Rhymes benefit both children and adults. For children, hearing mom or dad’s voice while playing, cuddling, and tickling creates bonding and a safe learning environment. Feeling loved is important for learning language and learning to understand concepts.

For adults, the benefit is that many stressful situations can be diffused with songs. Sing a song that helps your children wait for the meal you’re preparing, a song that helps get those teeth brushed, or a song that helps get them buckled into a car seat. Doing rhymes and songs with your children also allows you to be a kid again, even if only for moments at a time.

Tickling not only strengthens your bonds with your children, it is said to have the positive effects of increased trust and strengthened relationships. It is a way to share laughter, even before young children are old enough to understand humour. When they get older, children want to make you laugh. Most 3 year olds I know love to tickle their parents back when they sing tickle songs, and the adults laugh and get to share a moment of happiness with their children.

I’ve read that the average child laughs around 300 times a day, compared to the average teenager who may only laugh 160 times a day and the average adult who only laughs 25 times a day. Maybe because children are so honest with their emotions, they can laugh so easily and so easily crack a smile. And those smiles are infectious, so spending time laughing and smiling with children might increase the daily amounts of laughter you get in return!

While not every moment in parenthood is picture perfect, you can be certain that the more you share of yourselves and your time with your children, the more long lasting memories you will have.

Set some time aside for a few tickle songs this season; share the joy of hearing your children laugh with other family members. Here are some to try:

Gingerbread Man

Mix it and stir it and pat it in a pan (circle baby’s tummy with fingers)
I’m going to make me a Gingerbread Man
With a nose so neat, and a smile so sweet (tap nose and mouth gently)
And some gingerbread shoes for his gingerbread feet (tickle feet)

Tickle Monster

What will you do when the tickle monster comes? (hold hands palm up like a question)
Are you going to hide (hide eyes like in peek a boo)
Or are you going to run (pretend to run with arms in motion)
What will you do when the tickle monster comes? (same as first line)
You better decide right……now! (take your time to come closer and try to tickle child)

Walking Through The Garden

(This rhyme you are circling babies tummy or back round and round and then walking fingers up to their neck or under arms and tickle tickle tickle when you find the teddy bear)

Walking through the garden,
Lost my teddy bear
One step, two step
Found him under there

Walking through the garden
Through the wind and rain
One step, two step
Found him there again

Treasure Hunt

Going on a treasure hunt (crawl fingers up baby’s back)
X marks the spot (draw big X with your finger)
Boulder here (draw little circle on one side with finger)
Boulder there (draw another circle on the other side with finger)
Dot dot dot (connect the boulders with a light touch dot dot dot)

Crabs crawling up your spine (crawl fingers lightly up towards baby’s neck)
Water rolling down (roll fingers lightly down towards baby’s bum)
Tight Squeeze (give a little hug)
Cool Breeze (gently blow in their hair)
Now you’ve go the shivereeze (lightly tickle everywhere)

 

Rhymes that Bind is an oral literacy program where we share rhymes, finger play, lullabies, and even moving-around-the-room songs with parents and caregivers and their young children. Through rhymes and songs, the adults discover tools to play with, distract, and even enjoy teachable moments with their children. To join us for some very interactive fun, check our website for a Rhymes that Bind program near you!

 

Teaching Your Child Literacy and Numeracy: There’s an App for That

Baby Girl on a Messy Couch with her Parents

“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is most important.” – Bill Gates

For a lot of parents, the idea of “teaching literacy and numeracy skills” to our children is intimidating—and if it’s not intimidating, it’s definitely overwhelming: there are only so many times we can recite the alphabet and sing nursery rhymes between doing the laundry, getting groceries, making meals, changing diapers, changing more diapers, loading and unloading children from vehicles, cleaning puke from our hair, and occasionally showering. Sitting down with our kids on the daily to intentionally “teach literacy” is a bit of a lofty goal: even if we have the time, we might not know what to do. And so it’s sometimes easier—let’s face it—to sit our kids down with Dora and hope they learn through cartoon osmosis.

There’s no harm in that—I know lots of toddlers who can teach me Spanish because of that show. But it’s important to remember that you are your child’s first and most effective teacher; Dora and her purple monkey companion are merely extending the lessons you’ve already taught. And though you might not know it, you are teaching your children all the time.

Your children develop most of their literacy and numeracy skills during the routine, day-to-day activities that are already part of your family life. While you are sorting laundry with your two-year old, she is picking up on patterns, numeracy, sizes, and categories. The most effective way to improve and develop your child’s literacy is to recognize these moments and build on them. This is easier said than done—most of us go on auto-pilot when we do routine tasks, so it’s a bit of a stretch to expect that you will remember to recognize (and build on) those moments of literacy in every mundane thing you do. Luckily, there’s an app for that.

Flit, our free family literacy app, was developed for parents like you to identify those moments of literacy and build on them. Whether you are in the middle of grocery shopping, doing laundry, or cooking dinner, you can click open the app, choose a category and quickly find a literacy activity you can incorporate into the task at hand. Here’s an example of what you’ll find:

  • Making Breakfast?

Click the “Cooking” category. Choose an activity that corresponds to what you are making for breakfast—there’s a fun activity for everything from Smoothies to Fruit Loops.

Say it’s a Fruit Loop day: the app suggests laying the fruit loops out in a pattern of colours, having you or your child string them on a string in the laid out pattern, and fruit-loopsthen tying the ends of the string to make a fruit loop necklace.

While you do this activity, you can talk to your child about the different colours and pattern of the fruit loops. To extend the activity, you can share a book like We All Went on Safari by Laurie Krebs or Elmer by David McKee and have your child look for different colour patterns in it.

Each activity also has a section that explains the “Why?” of the activity—in the case of the Fruit Loops, the app explains that “Patterns are everywhere—in language, reading, writing and numeracy. This type of activity lets you make pattern recognition a natural part of your child’s routine.”

The app has a total of 116 activities that fall under eight categories: books, rhymes, games, crafts, writing, numbers, cooking, and reading. With so many activities, you can use it to incorporate literacy activities into most of your daily routines for a long time to come. After awhile, you will learn to come up with your own activities and see the literacy potential in all of the things you are already doing with your child each day… you might not even need an app for it.

Available on iOS since January, the free app is now also available on Android thanks to funding from TELUS Edmonton Community Board.

Click here to download the free iOS version of Flit.

Click here to download the Android version.

Centre for Family Literacy website

 

A Tickle Rhyme is More than Just a Tickle Rhyme

Mother and toddler sitting on the sofa at home

Our Rhymes that Bind program has a variety of songs and rhymes, but for some us the tickle rhyme section is our favourite.

Spending time face-to–face with your child will connect you to them on their own level emotionally and physically. This will help to build strong attachment between you and your child.

There is an increasing body of knowledge about infant mental health that states that a huge part of attachment and positive infant development occurs in face-to–face interactions with parents and significant caregivers.

An infant learns how to adapt to stressors by watching their parent or caregiver’s facial expressions. They learn how to move from a negative to a positive emotional state through many stimuli that pass back and forth from caregiver to infant in face-to-face interactions.

A child learns the positive and fun emotional tones from tickle songs. Tickle songs let you and your child have a fun time together with both of you enjoying each other’s laughter.

A favourite at our Rhymes that Bind programs is the following timeless rhyme:

Round and Round the Garden

Round and Round the Garden (use a gentle tickle motion with your fingers on your child’s palm or tummy in a circle)
Like a teddy bear
One step, two step (walk fingers up the arm or tummy)
And I tickle you under there! (tickle the underarm)

Round and round the garden (use a gentle tickle motion with your fingers on your child’s palm or tummy in a circle)
Through the snow and wind (blow gently on their neck)
One step, two step (walk fingers up the arm or tummy)
I’ll tickle you there again! (tickle the underarm)

When repeated enough times your child will anticipate the tickle as soon as you say, “one step, two steps!

This is one of the many wonderful rhymes that you and your child can learn at our Rhymes that Bind program. Check for a program near you on the Centre for Family Literacy website! Happy tickling!

Learning About Colours

There are many things you can do to help your child learn about different concepts, such as reading books, making crafts, and singing songs. One of the concepts your child will need to learn is colours.

Read Books

The Day the Crayons QuitIn the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) program, we like to share a book called The Day the Crayons Quit, written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. In addition to learning about colours, this book can help your child understand their own emotions, as well as help to develop their empathy skills.

“Poor Duncan just wants to color. But when he opens his box of crayons, he finds only letters, all saying the same thing: His crayons have had enough! They quit! Beige Crayon is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown Crayon. Black wants to be used for more than just outlining. Blue needs a break from coloring all those bodies of water. And Orange and Yellow are no longer speaking – each believes he is the true color of the sun. What can Duncan possibly do to appease all the crayons and get them back to doing what they do best?”

Make Crafts

Here are some activities you can pair with this book:

Dear Crayon craft1.  Use a box of crayons to extend the story. As you read each crayon’s letter, ask your child to take that colour of crayon out of the box. What can they draw with it?

2.  Ask your child how they think each crayon was feeling when they wrote their letter. Use a large index card to write back to one of the crayons in the story. Draw and colour in the crayon that you are addressing, and tell your crayon why they should not quit. Make one for as many colours as you like!

3.  Make your own crayon box.

Materials:

•  Crayons
•  Markers
•  Pencil
•  Glue
•  Scissors
•  One sheet of yellow cardstock (8.5” X 11”)

Crayon Craft x 2Instructions:

  1. Draw and colour your own paper crayons (or use different colours of construction paper) and cut them out.
  2. Fold the yellow cardstock sheet in half and crease it.
  3. Open it up, and with your pencil, draw the opening of the box (a half circle) on the left-hand side of the sheet, making sure to leave about ¼” on either side.
  4. Cut out the opening, fold it back in place, and glue only the edges, so that you are still able to fit your paper crayons inside the “box”.
  5. Decorate your crayon box with crayons or markers!

 

 

Sing Songs

Teaching Mama” has some great resources, including “10 Preschool Songs About Colors.” One of my favourites is “Pass the Colour,” in the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat:”

Sit in a circle and pass a crayon around, singing the song until the following verse is done. Then yell out the crayon’s colour! Continue with as many crayons as you like.

Pass, pass, pass the colour,
This is the game we play.
When the little song is through,
The colour name we’ll say.
(YELLOW!)

For more craft ideas and book recommendations, check out the Centre for Family Literacy webpage: Resources for Parents