Reaching Out After the Season

RTBAt 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

 

Get Moooving and Learning!

Child-Play

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.

Sound Collection

  • 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

 

 

Introducing Babies to the Classics

B4B

With both gift giving guides and “Best of 2015″ articles flying at us from every direction, I think it’s safe to say that you are going to see at least a few lists of recommended book titles at this time of year.

But rather than try to convince you that I know which specific books are going to work best for you and your baby, I am going to ask you to think about which books meant the most to you when you were very young. While most of us will have no memories going quite that far back, maybe there is another family member you could ask. Or even if you can only remember the books you enjoyed as a preschooler or from your first few years of school, those books could do the trick if you remember them fondly.

In Books for Babies, we talk about a number of different aspects of books that will appeal to babies, but sometimes nothing will matter more to a baby than the things that are important to you. They can see it in your face and hear it in your voice when you are sharing a story that is special to you. They might not even understand what you’re talking about, but they can be irresistibly drawn to that kind of genuine warmth and care.

That, in my opinion, is what will make a book a classic to your child. And while nostalgia probably isn’t the best measure of literary greatness, it is a perfect demonstration of how we learn everything through relationships.

If you ever ask someone about their favourite book, they will probably defend it as if they are defending a part of themselves. That doesn’t just happen. That kind of bonding is very similar to the bonding that happens between close friends. By sharing books with babies, we are teaching them to relate to books in a way that connects to them personally.

I know not everyone has had a positive experience with books in their past, so I won’t try to tell you that a best-of list is not a useful tool. We even have our own lists of recommended books available on our website.

But don’t limit yourself to books either. If there is a family story or memory that you hold close, that is a perfect gift to share with your baby, even if it was never written down.

Books for Babies Edmonton program schedule

hashtag: #books_for_babies

The Many Benefits of Crafts

iStock_000008336394XLargeDoing a craft together is a great way to build the skills needed for future lifelong learning, such as thinking skills, working together and continuous learning.

Crafts incorporate different learning styles, and are hands-on activities that build fine motor skills. By giving your child a project  that can be worked on together until completion, you are also working on setting goals and building confidence and self-esteem.

On the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus, we have a variety of simple crafts you can do at home – all geared towards early learning and literacy.

One such craft is a do-it-yourself playmat. Try it in conjunction with your child’s favourite book. One of our favourite children’s books is I Went Walking, by Sue Williams and Julie Vivas, and it goes especially well with this project. This book is about a little boy who goes on a walk and sees many different animals along the way. It is simple, repetitive, rhyming and entertaining,

I went walking.
What did you see?
I saw a black cat
Looking at me.

The following is just an example of what you can do. Tailor it to your own child’s interests. You might even want to make up your own story to go with your mat!

When the playmat is finished, you can use it with toys you already have at home.

Craft1

You will need:

•  Plain cloth placemat or
other material such as pillowcase or tablecloth (the possibilities are endless)
•  Felt of various colours
•  Hot glue or fabric glue
•  Scissors
•  Paper and pencil for sketching

Optional:
Foam or felt letters to spell the title

Directions:

  1. Sketch out the setting on a piece of paper
  2. Cut out your felt pieces that go with the story
  3. Glue felt pieces onto placemat, then cut out and glue a path winding its way through the setting.
  4. Decorate with more felt as desired.

Craft2

Optional:

Draw, trace or print out play pieces from the story, then colour, cut and laminate (or use packing tape or contact paper). You might want to add Velcro to the backs of these pieces so they stick to the felt on the play-mat.

You want this to be a positive experience, so try to start simple. Don’t stress; have fun instead!

 

Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus information and schedule

hashtag: #ab_cow

The Wheels on the Bus…

We have replaced the St. Catherine’s site with a new partnership – the Primrose Place Family Resource Centre. This new site meets at the Ottewell Community League parking lot. After a successful summer program in the same area, we expect this to be a thriving location!

We started September with Busapalooza at the Idylwylde library. The Edmonton C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) bus was a hit and we were interviewed by CBC.

The fall bus schedule officially started on September 15th and we have our fall books and activities all ready to go. This month we are sharing some fall favourites such as, There was an Old Lady that Swallowed Some Leaves by Lucille Colandro.

Book-Leaves-2

One of our favourite songs on the bus is ”The Wheels on the Bus” by Jane Cabrera, which we sing and support with some fun animal props.

Book-Wheels on Bus

Another favourite is “This Old Man.” It is an easy song, with actions and a prop that both children and adults enjoy. We count to ten and rhyme while we “knick knack paddy-whack”!

Book-This Old Man

Drop by with your children! You’ll find our Edmonton C.O.W. bus schedule here

hashtag: #edm_cow

What to Expect When You Read to a Baby

BabyCry

What if you have never seen anybody read to a baby before? What if all you can find are vague assertions that this is something you need to do, but you can’t find more details or instructions? What if YouTube is only showing you more and more videos of cats? How will you know what to expect? It may be comforting to know that babies can be different, such as the little guy in the photo who cries every time a story is finished.

Here are some helpful guidelines to get you started:

  1. Babies do not have much of an attention span. That’s normal. Sharing books for just a few minutes at a time when you have their attention is more helpful than sharing books for any length of time when they are hungry, fussy, or sleepy.
  1. Babies under 3 months don’t understand much. Not a lot interests them. They can’t even be bothered to hold a book. Don’t be discouraged. They mostly enjoy hearing your voice, so you can read whatever you want, or tell your own stories.
  1. Babies like simple pictures. If a picture is busy your baby will probably find it confusing. They also like photographs more than drawings and they like pictures of faces more than almost anything else.
  1. Babies are not born knowing how books work; so don’t expect them to start leafing through novels like a pro. They will probably start by holding the book and tasting it.
  1. Once they start opening and closing books on their own, or turning the pages, they will probably want to keep doing that. So if you were expecting to read books from start to finish, it can be frustrating.

This doesn’t make reading with babies sound very exciting, but really all this means is that you need a different approach. You will need to get used to talking about the pictures, and telling your own stories. Play with the books and play with your baby. Have fun sharing photo albums with your baby and making noises when you see pictures of animals and machines.

Reading with babies is very different than reading with older children, and having an idea of what is an age-appropriate reaction for a baby can make the difference between enjoying the experience and thinking that something is wrong.

Books for Babies Edmonton program schedule:

hashtag: #books_for_babies

Fall Family Fun!

Leaves4

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

Leaves3

  • 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

Numeracy can be fun… for Everyone!

mother-and-child-baking

All children are unique individuals. They all act, play, and express themselves differently. As parents, we quickly discover our children’s preferences in all things. We also generally try to accommodate these preferences – preparing our children’s favourite foods, reading their favourite stories, or getting them clothing in their favourite colours or styles. Children even learn in different ways, for instance they can be:

  • Hands on learners
  • Visual learners
  • Auditory learners

Below is a list of activities that appeal to a wide variety of learning styles. There is no need to set aside time in your busy day to sit with paper and a pencil. Find what works best for your children and remember that the best opportunities for learning are the ones that are fun and occur naturally.

Sing!

If your children love to sing and dance, here are some great songs to share. These songs are not only fun, but they support the numeracy concepts of number sense and counting. Once your children have learned these songs, try making up your own!

  • 5 Green and Speckled Frogs
  • Ten in the Bed
  • 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed
  • 5 Little Ducks

Get Creative!

If your children have an artistic interest, let them create! Provide them with a variety of items to use in their creations. To support the concept of early numeracy, let your children explore colours, textures, shapes and sizes. Here are some ideas to inspire your little artists to create some fun art.

  • Choose a number and draw it on a piece of art paper. Have your children glue that number of items on the page.
  • Have your children choose their favourite colour and draw all the things they can think of that are that colour. Choose a new colour each day.
  • Collect items from nature to use in a collage. While creating the collage, discuss the shapes of the items, which items are bigger and which are smaller, and which are smooth, bumpy or rough.

Play With Your Food!

Cooking and baking with your children are perfect opportunities to explore early numeracy in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Following a list of instructions: what do you add first, second, etc.
  • Measuring ingredients: fill it full, use half, add 2 spoonfuls, etc.
  • Timing: bake for 25 minutes, mix for 2 minutes, etc.

Measure It!

Hand your children a ruler, a stick, or even their shoe and let them measure items around the house or outside. How many shoe lengths is the kitchen table? How many stick lengths is your bed? Is the bed longer than the table or shorter?

Game On!

Board and card games are wonderful opportunities to spend time with your family and practice numeracy skills. Rolling the dice, moving spaces along a game board, and following directions are just a few of the numeracy concepts supported by playing games.

Don’t feel the need to go out and purchase a board game if you don’t already have one. There are many games that you can play as a family that do not require any materials at all.

  • I Spy: focussing on colours, shapes and textures in your search
  • Scavenger Hunt: let your children choose the items to go searching for
  • Simon Says: Take turns being Simon, giving commands such as Simon says jump forward, Simon says spin 3 times, Simon says move fast

Once Upon a Time

Most children love to read or be read to. Sharing stories is a perfect opportunity to explore numeracy with your child.

  • Count items on the page
  • Find all the circles, squares, or triangles in the drawings
  • List all the colours you see
  • Predict what will happen next in the story

Opportunities to support your children’s early numeracy exist in the everyday activities that you are already doing! For more ideas on how to explore these learning opportunities visit us at 3,2,1, Fun! Tuesday afternoons from 1:00 to 2:30 pm at Brander Gardens Elementary School.

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

hashtag: #321_Fun

 

 

 

11 Tips To Help Your Kids Get Ready for Back-to-School

September is just around the corner and — whether this news makes you want to weep or dance a jig — the kids will soon be back in school. Making the transition from sandals to sandwiches can be challenging for children — and parents! We’ve got some ideas to help your family get ready for a new school year.

Celebrate Change

Make a special plan with your family to say farewell to summer. A special outing or a gathering of friends or family are memorable ways to celebrate the season and bring it to a close in a positive way.

Take Time to Look Back

On the first day of school, kids can expect to be asked some form of the question: “What did you do this summer?” Help them get ready by taking time to look back and recall highlights of the summer. Kids could make a ‘Summer Gifts’ list of what they are thankful for. Enjoy looking at photos you’ve captured. It could even be an opportunity to make a scrapbook of their memories.

A Place to Do Homework

Even kindergarteners get homework these days, and older grade-schoolers definitely need a quiet place to where they can do their homework. Your homework area can be the kitchen table, counter, or a desk in your child’s room. What matters most is that it is a quiet place your child can count on to do their work each day.

School Supplies

Time to dust off the backpack and lunch containers, test the markers, and stock up on all the school supplies you’ll need. Making a list together before you shop can help ensure you have everything, and that you will stick to the items you need.

Learn Something New

No need for summer brain drain! We don’t need to wait for school to begin in order to keep learning. The library is full of wonders to discover, and so are nearby walking trails. Is it time to try a new recipe with your child? How about trying an outdoor science experiment?

Bedtime Routine

Ensuring your child gets enough sleep is essential for their success at school. Experts say school-age children need roughly ten hours of sleep. If your current routine needs a shift, try making a gradual transition to the new schedule by backing up bedtimes by 15 minutes each night. Staying off screens at least an hour before bedtime can help children fall asleep and stay asleep. Bedtime is a wonderful opportunity to cuddle up and read together. Whatever you do, keep consistent rituals at bedtime so your child can move easily through routines towards sleep.

Address Anxieties

Naturally, a new school year comes with unknowns. Is your child anxious about the coming year? It helps some children to know who their teacher will be, and whether a good friend will be in their class. Other children need to know that it’s okay to tell their new teacher if something is hard for them. Most schools are open the week before classes begin and staff may be able to answer questions about busing, classes, or any other questions your child may have. If fears persist, encourage your child to draw pictures or journal about their hopes for the coming year.

Schedule Your Priorities

Figure out priorities for after-school activities, homework, chores, TV time, and video games before the first day of school. This will allow you to agree on a schedule and avoid confrontation later on.

Love Your Lunches

Do your children sigh at the thought of returning to sandwiches? Try brainstorming new ideas for lunches that everyone can look forward to. Research online together if you need to — creative and healthy lunch ideas abound!

Daily Reading

They may be learning to read now, but soon they will be reading to learn for a lifetime. Even if your child is old enough to read on their own, reading together every day is an excellent way for you to spend time together. When you share a book, you are building a love of reading in your child that will carry into adolescence and beyond.

Picture Routines

Wondering when your child will become more independent with morning and after-school routines? To avoid becoming the ‘routine police,’ try a visual daily routine chart for your child. Better yet, create one with your child! You just might be amazed how well they can learn to manage before-school, after-school, and bedtime routines when they have a chart or list with pictures to guide them.

Routine1Routine2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our family listed our daily routines, and then crafted our own wall hangings — one for before and one for after school. Or if you’re crafty, you can try this version — you can change the order of your tasks as needed: https://listeninginthelitany.wordpress.com/tag/chore-chart-for-kids/

You can also search the internet for free “printable daily routine charts” to find one that will work for your family. For example: free printable daily routine chart

MOOOve into Summer!

COW-SummerWith stops in La Perle, Brander Gardens, and Primrose, the Edmonton C.O.W. bus summer programming has begun! Our first week was a huge success with a total of 81 participants joining us for some “monkeying” around; we launched monkeys with a specially made catapult, caught them with our parachute that doubled as a popcorn maker, and sang about 5 little monkeys jumping on the bed.

COW-Summer2Some of the fun activities we are looking forward to sharing this summer:

  • feeding a hungry caterpillar and then crafting one, as well as a beautiful butterfly
  • DIY backyard games using dollar items like pool noodles
  • practicing our “Eye Spy” skills with a family scavenger hunt
  • exploring measurement and prediction though H2O
  • exercising our lungs in a bubble blow-out
  • expressing ourselves artistically with a colour explosion

Some of the books we are going to bring to life:

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Mix it Up by Herve Tulle
  • Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
  • Waves in the Bathtub by Eugenie Fernandez
  • Tickle Monster by Josie Bissett

Kiddie karaoke will be featuring such favourites as:

  • “5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed”
  • “Fuzzy Little Caterpillar”
  • “Colour Song”
  • “Going on a Treasure Hunt”
  • “5 Green and Speckled Frogs”
  • “Bugs Bugs Bugs”

We won’t divulge all of our plans — you’ll have to attend the program to see what other tricks we have up our sleeves!

Kristin and Crystal

You’ll find our Edmonton bus schedule here

hashtag: #edm_cow