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

 

The C.O.W. is Coming Soon, but in the Meantime…

Edm-COW

We hope that while you are enjoying summer to the fullest, you are still able to find fun ways to keep a little literacy in your busy days. It really helps to prevent the summer slide, where children lose some of what they had learned during the program or school year.

Here are a few simple ideas:

  • Sing songs or nursery rhymes, and play rhyming words games while in the car
  • Point out print on traffic signs, cereal boxes, restaurants, anywhere!
  • Play games such as Simon Says, Hopscotch, or I Spy
  • Take your children to the library and let them choose their books
  • Tell stories to each other
  • Read aloud to your child
  • Encourage older siblings to read with younger children
  • Look for shapes in the clouds
  • Have books around the house and let your child see you reading
  • Do Splash Time Rhymes that Bind while at the beach, pool, or water park (blog with rhymes can be found here http://www.famlit.ca/blog/?p=3077)
  • Download the Flit app with 100 fun literacy activities to do with your child

Meanwhile, at the Centre for Family Literacy, the Edmonton Literacy C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) Bus program is busy preparing for your visits in the fall, with new themes, new books, and new games and puzzles for parents and their children ages 0-6 years old.

We have extensively added to our books for adults and now have a fiction section. We have books that are science fiction, love stories, memoirs, and many others. Of course we still have an abundance of non-fiction books for adults on various parenting topics, from how to get your kids to sleep with a no-cry solution, to humour in our everyday lives as parents. And as always we have a great selection of books for young children.

So keep soaking up the sunshine while you can (and maybe add some story time under a tree); the Edmonton Literacy C.O.W. Bus staff are busy planning and preparing a great 2016/2017 season for you.

Please check the Centre for Family Literacy website in mid August to find the most convenient location and time for you to drop in and see us at the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus. Hope to see you in September!

 

Value the Learning Process, not the Final Product

Happy small boy crafts with scissors, paper, glue

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 Boardgame3may 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.

 

A Walk with the Kids Fun? Absolutely!

Walk3

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!

 

 

Flit the App: Fun literacy activities to do WITH your 0-5 year old!

As a mother of 3 children now 9, 7 and 5, and a former teacher, literacy learning has been a big part of our family and my career. I’m familiar with how important it is for a parent to engage and read with their children. Still, I would sometimes wonder how to build their language and literacy skills. There are only so many times you can sing “Paddy Cake” with your children before you get bored.

Where did I turn to find activities? Pinterest, of course. If you are not familiar with Pinterest, you can search a topic of interest and find a multitude of ideas. I would sort through numerous Pinterest boards searching for literacy learning activities, but it takes a lot of time. Wouldn’t it be great if there was an app that provided us with some of the best ideas to help our kids gain literacy skills, so we could easily find what we wanted?

Now there is! The new Flit app by the Centre for Family Literacy is not just another literacy app to put in front of your kids. This app is for us, the parents and caregivers of children from birth to 5 years. The Flit (Families Learning and Interacting Together) app offers a curated resource of some of the best activities to connect and do with your child to boost and build key literacy skills.

Here is how it works:

First, scroll across the top to choose from 8 categories: Books, Rhymes, Games, Crafts, Writing, Numbers, Cooking, or Reading.

Flit1

Once you choose a category, you will see the activities in that category. Simply choose an activity and you will be taken to that activity screen.

For example:

Flit2

Once you click on an activity you will be taken to that activity screen.

 Flit3

There you will find:

  • What you need
  • What to do
  • How to do it together with your child

Flit4

At the end of each activity you will find:

  • What concepts can be learned from the activity
  • Additional resources or ideas
  • Related activities

You can also heart favourite activities for use another time or share your activity with family and friends on Facebook.

 

HOW ELSE CAN THIS APP HELP YOU AS A PARENT?

  • Imagine you are sitting in a restaurant that doesn’t have any activities to keep children busy. Yikes! You could easily open this app and choose an activity to help you occupy your children before their food arrives.
  • Kids are at home for their day off from school and you’re not sure what to do with them to pass the day. Take a peek at the app for ideas to get your day moving.
  • You can’t make it to the Rhymes that Bind family literacy program today because your toddler is sick. You can open the app and do the activities in your own home until you can make it back to the group.
  • It gives you an opportunity to engage with your children in a meaningful way.

The app will also benefit: parents, grandparents, babysitters, nannies, day home providers, preschool teachers, and early learning professionals.

Are you ready to get the free Flit app? Here’s more information and the link to iTunes to download the app.

Currently Flit is only available to Apple users, however the Centre for Family Literacy is working on securing funding for an Android version. Please do the quick survey on the website if you are interested in the Android version of the app.

Bonnie Dani
Educator, Writer, Blogger, Mom

I blog over at Adalinc to Life where you can find children’s book reviews, activities, diy projects, and other inspiration for you and your home.

email: bonniedani@adalinc.org

 

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

placeit (1)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!

APP-web 400pxThe 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