60 Days of Summer!

Summer has just started, so why am I writing about the end of summer already?

While I hate to write about summer’s end so soon, for some parents the end of summer marks a new and exciting beginning—Kindergarten!

In Alberta, children who are four years of age, on or before March 1, may register in Kindergarten‌ for the 2018-19 school year.

Whether you’re a first time parent or a seasoned one, this time of year comes with many hopes and fears for your little ones, who themselves are hardly bigger than the backpacks they carry.

But you know what parents? You have done a great job in preparing them for this day, and your children likely have most of the skills they need to be successful as they start school. However, why not take the opportunity to spend the next couple of months practicing some of these skills, and maybe introduce a few new ones.

SUMMER ACTIVITIES THAT PREPARE YOUR CHILDREN FOR KINDERGARTEN:

1. Sidewalk chalk

Writing doesn’t have to be inside on a piece of paper with a pen. Make it fun by getting some sidewalk chalk and heading outside! Make sure you get the big sidewalk chalk—they are easier to grip, while regular chalk sticks break too easily. Have your children write their name or the alphabet on the sidewalk.

2. Go on a picnic

Bring a deck of letter flashcards with you and play alphabet “Go Fish.” You could also count flowers, trees, or insects. Nature provides us with endless learning materials.

3. Scavenger hunt

Kids are multi-modal learners, which means they learn best when they can use all of their senses. Make a colours and shapes scavenger hunt and go for a walk. In this kind of activity, your children use body movement, sight, sound, smell, and laughter. Bonus: they can carry their backpacks to collect their treasures.

4. Quiet time

On a rainy day, or an extremely hot day, you may find yourself sitting indoors. Find a pair of child-safe scissors and practice cutting play dough. To make the task more difficult, give your children some old magazines and make a collage of things they like about summer.

5. Reading

Make reading a part of your daily routine. This can be done at any time during the day, inside or outside. Let the kids pick which book they would like to read and follow along with your finger as you read to them. Try picking up The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn— it’s for children starting school or separating from their parents for the first time.

6. Go to the playground

Earlier I had mentioned your children likely have many skills needed for Kindergarten already. I will assume this summer won’t be your first time at the playground. Playgrounds are perfect settings for developing social skills. Allow your children to play on their own and alongside other children, and step in when they need help assessing their feelings and problem-solving. Or play with them! Model confidence in tackling the ‘big’ slide or take turns going across the monkey bars. Invite other children to play a round of grounders with you and your little ones.

7. Sing

Sing some songs with your children as you walk or play outside. Rhymes are a good way to practice sounds and follow simple directions. Try “Open Shut Them” (see below) and “Old McDonald.”

8. Make a chore chart

Chore charts have many uses. Try making one that incorporates their school day morning routine. You could include things such as: brush your teeth; get dressed; have breakfast; and put on your shoes and coat. I like these because you get to put what you need your children to do on the chart, and they get to complete it with a sticker or another type of marker. Start practicing the routine before school starts.

You are probably practicing some of these skills already. Just keep it fun and don’t make it stressful for you or your children. Remember, you will always be their best and favourite teacher. Have a great summer and we hope to see you in the fall when all of our programs start up again. Mark your calendar to check the Centre for Family Literacy website in late summer to find a fun program for your 0-6 year old.

Open Shut Them

Open shut them, open shut them
Give a little clap (clap clap)
Open shut them, open shut them
Place them on your lap

Shake them, shake them, shake them, shake them
Shake them just like this (shaking hands)
Place your hands upon your lips
And blow a great big kiss

Making Sense out of the Holiday Season

Sense of Touch-webDo you ever feel like this time of year goes by too quickly? Maybe you feel that you aren’t giving your child enough time. The one-on-one time you would normally have with your child too often gets put on hold during this busy time of year.

With all the extra preparation to be done, parents often feel exhausted and stretched thin. Throw in a few extra festive gatherings, and some sleepless nights as small children battle minor sniffles, coughs and ear aches (ouch). Any parent, even with the best of intentions, can easily feel like skipping the bedtime story, craft, or activity they had planned to share with their child.

Don’t worry, that’s okay! Sometimes you need a break too! It’s okay to just spend time together, chilling out. Maybe you just get to sit next to your child and watch her play while you enjoy a coffee and your own “time out.” Maybe you cuddle up together with blankets and watch a favourite holiday show. Maybe you get to squeeze in a nap with your baby or toddler. That’s all okay. Its okay to turn down an expected appearance when you or your child are feeling unwell. Remember to take time for yourself and your child.

Don’t stress about ensuring that you’re providing your little one with learning. You are providing her with learning whenever you do things together! Or you can simply talk to your child about what is around her, remembering the five senses. There are plenty of learning opportunities that happen naturally.

  1. What do they see? Snow, Santa, nativity scenes, trees with lights, white rabbits, birds, inflatable characters decorating the front lawns in every neighbourhood, etc.
  2. What do they hear? Bells, music, noisy crowds, carollers, birds, etc.
  3. What can they feel? Tree branches, snow, some decorations, gifts, hugs, snowflakes, etc.
  4. What can they taste? Trying new foods is often part of any holiday celebration, candies, popcorn, etc.
  5. What can they smell? Cookies, trees, candles, etc.

It is easy to relate any of the senses to numeracy as well. For example, try asking how many, what colour, what shape, what size, what pattern your child can see, or hear, or feel etc. In our 3,2,1, FUN! program, we support parents by celebrating what they do with their children, and offer more ideas to extend each family’s learning journey.

Enjoy your little ones in their moments of discovery and exploration, and you will be making memorable moments with little effort.

 

A Tip to Help Get Ready for the Holidays with Kids

Singing-webIt’s December already! Do you feel a little frazzled, the way I do? I’m rushing around and running out of time to get things done before the holidays. During this time, it’s easy to lose track of what the season is really all about. To me, it’s a time to spend with family and friends that I don’t see often, and to think of others less fortunate than myself.

With this in mind, I was thinking of the parents who are struggling with the same holiday tasks as myself and have infants and toddlers to take care of at the same time. Preparing for the holidays often means cooking or baking, cleaning the house, decorating, shopping, and wrapping presents, and doing all of this while keeping your child happy can be a challenge.

Rhymes can help make these tasks easier. A child can often be distracted and calmed when they are fussy, and rhymes and songs are a quick, hands free (mostly) way to do that.

Singing your child’s favourite rhymes when they seem about to have a meltdown in a store, or while you are cooking, is not only playful and fun, it also engages your child in literacy. Sing, even when the in-laws are around. They will likely join in, or at the very least they’ll think it’s adorable to see their grandchild singing and even dancing. Here’s one of our favourite winter rhymes to try:

Snowflakes Falling
(Tune of Jingle Bells) 

Snowflakes falling, snowflakes falling
One fell on my toes
Snowflakes falling, snowflakes falling
One fell on my nose
Snowflakes falling, snowflakes falling
One fell on my head
Snowflakes falling, snowflakes falling
Now it’s time to sled!

You can also use rhymes like this while you are doing any activity, such as sledding or building a snowman. I find rhymes and songs make any activity more fun!

What are your favourite holiday rhymes or carols?

In our Rhymes that Bind program, parents enjoy rhymes, finger plays, songs, and simple movement games with their infants and toddlers in a supportive group. If you would like to join us for some rhyming fun, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website to find a program near you in Edmonton!

Celebrate the Joy of the Season on the C.O.W. Bus

During the week of December 12, the C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) bus will be hosting a cozy Christmas pyjama party at each of our locations. We have a great selection of winter holiday-themed books for you to borrow for your family story time, AND, don’t miss out on the annual book giveaway; all children will go home with their own book to keep!

Pete the cat XmasAs always, story time on the bus will be loads of fun as the children help bring the books to life. One of our favourites is a New York Times bestseller, Pete the Cat Saves Christmas by Eric Litwin and James Dean.

“In this rockin’ spin on the traditional tale The Night Before Christmas, Pete the Cat proves that giving your all in the spirit of Christmas is the totally groovy thing to do.”

“ ‘Twas the day before
Christmas and Santa was ill.
In the cold winter wind he
had caught a bad chill.
Will Christmas be canceled?
Will it come to that?
‘Never!’ cried Santa.
‘Let’s call Pete the Cat!’ ”

And don’t forget to give yourself a little gift too – download Flit, our free app which has over 100 fun activities, crafts, and rhymes you can do with your little ones, and four more activities are added each season. For example, try the Letters in the Snow activity by filling a spray bottle with coloured water and decorating some fresh white snow! You’ll find the link for both Apple and Android versions on the Centre for Family Literacy website, or on your device’s app store.

So grab your coziest pajamas and join us as we read, sing, and play during this special time of year on the bus.

Do you have a favourite holiday song or rhyme? Please share it with us in the comments, because we love to learn and share new things!

See you soon!

 

Countdown to Christmas with 3,2,1, Fun!

The countdown to Christmas will be starting soon! Many of us have seen or even used the traditional Advent calendar, which houses a delicious chocolate behind each of the 25 doors leading up to Christmas. Children love these calendars and the excitement that comes with the Christmas countdown. At 3,2,1, Fun! we have compiled a fun list of Advent ideas and Christmas activities to share with you. These ideas combine fun and learning into creative Christmas experiences and potentially new traditions that your children and family will love.

ADVENT CALENDARS

25 Books for Advent

DSC00200-2

Unwrap one book a day to read as a family.

Some of our favourite numeracy-themed books to share are:

  • 12 Days of Christmas – Rachel Isodora
  • The Doorbell Rang – Pat Hutchins
  • Bedtime Math – Laura Overdeck
  • Christmas Activities MATHS – Irene Yates
  • A Frog in the Bog – Karma Wilson and Joan Rankin
  • Ten Apples Up On Top – Dr. Seuss

Advent Activity Envelopes

Advent-Envelopes

Choose 25 fun family activities and secure each one in an envelope. Choose one envelope to open each day and enjoy!

Some of the numeracy activity ideas we share in 3,2,1, Fun! are:

  • Baking
  • Holiday theme BINGO
  • Make paper snowflakes and explore their unique shapes
  • Craft Christmas cards or write your wish list
  • Build a snowman
  • Go for a walk and count how many houses are decorated, predict how many Christmas trees you will see, or collect pine cones along the way to turn into Christmas crafts later

 Make Your Own Advent Calendar

AdventCalendar

A fun idea we shared at 3,2,1, Fun! is how to make your own advent calendar using  recycled paper towel tubes, cardboard and craft supplies!

In addition to Advent calendars, there are many fun ways to bring numeracy into your Christmas activities. Some of our favourites at 3,2,1, Fun! are:

  • Wrapping gifts – a fun way for children to utilize their measuring and estimation skills
  • Christmas baking – a delicious way for children to follow a recipe and practice their ordering, number sense, and prediction skills
  • Decorating the house – gives your children the perfect opportunity to use their pattern, shape, and sorting skills
  • Making Christmas wish lists and shopping for gifts – offers a great chance for children to discover counting, money sense, and emergent budgeting skills

We hope you enjoy these Christmas activity ideas from 3,2,1, Fun! Do you have a favourite countdown to Christmas tradition that you’d like to share?

Visit our website for more information about this program.

hashtag: #321_Fun

How Rhymes can Encourage Play

Leaves4

Play is the highest form of research.    – Albert Einstein

Halloween is one of our favourite times of year—families can have so much fun together with rhymes, games, crafts, snacks, and parties—and it provides a lot of opportunity for purposeful play.

Play is a child’s ‘job’. Through play children explore the world around them, expanding their understanding and making connections, while developing their innate curiosity and creativity. They are ‘building’ their brains through thinking skills, problem solving, and language expression.

Rhymes, songs, and chants are an excellent way to encourage play, and therefore  language and brain development, during both everyday activities and special occasions.

Save your children’s halloween costumes for dress-up and role playing throughout the rest of the year. An astronaut could sing ‘Zoom, Zoom’ while blasting to the moon. A fireman could sing ‘Hurry Drive the Firetruck’ while he/she puts out imaginary fires. A chef could sing about how he/she is preparing all the yummy meals with the ‘Fruit & Veggie Song’. Don’t worry about singing in key, or that the song doesn’t make sense; children LOVE it when their caregivers are playing and being silly with them.

For fun make up your own silly rhymes for halloween or for any time and use the classic tunes, such as “Row, Row Your Boat”, “London Bridge is Falling Down”, “Jingle Bells”, and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” to make them easy to remember. Add some simple actions to go with them for even more fun!

“Play and sing with your children like no one is watching!”
… and they will thrive!

Here are a couple of examples of rhymes that can be used for fall or halloween using those tunes:

All the Leave Are Falling Down
(Tune: London Bridge is Falling Down)

All the leaves are falling down, falling down, falling down.
All the leaves are falling down. It is fall.
Grab a rake and rake them up, rake them up, rake them up.
Grab a rake and rake them up. It is fall.
Make a pile and jump right in, jump right in, jump right in.
Make a pile and jump right in. It is fall.

Flutter, Flutter, Little Bat
(Tune: Twinkle, Twinkle)

Flutter, flutter, little bat.
How I wonder where you’re at.
Swooping through the darkest night-
You find your way without a light.
Flutter, flutter, little bat.
How I wonder where you’re at.

Here are a couple of examples of everyday rhymes using those tunes:

Peek-A-Boo
(Tune: Frere Jacques)

Peekaboo, peekaboo
I see you, I see you
I see your button nose
I see your tiny toes

Rolly Polly 
(Tune : Frere Jacques – Opposites song*)

Rolly polly, rolly polly
Up, up, up.  (x2)
Rolly rolly polly. Rolly rolly polly.
Down, down, down (x2)
Peekaboo, peekaboo

* use actions such as up/down, in/out, fast/slow, loud/quiet, left/right

Do you have a favourite rhyme that you’d like to share?

In our Rhymes that Bind program, Parents learn to enjoy rhymes, finger plays, songs and simple movement games with their infants and toddlers in a supportive peer group. If you would like to join us for some rhyming fun, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website to find a program near you in Edmonton!

 

Autumn Provides Easy Literacy Lessons to Share with Your Kids

Leaves4

Autumn leaves are falling down, falling down, falling down,
Autumn leaves are falling down, red, yellow, orange and brown!

Rake them up and pile them high, pile them high, pile them high,
Rake them up and pile them high, till they reach the sky!

Just reading these simple words paints a vivid picture in my mind: being sent out to clean up the yard before the holiday guests arrived for dinner. They bring back childhood memories of working so hard to rake up leaves into giant mounds that called to me to drop my rake and jump in! I can almost smell the slightly sweet odour of decay and hear the crunch of the brittle brown leaves as I scattered all my hard work.

So many opportunities for building literacy skills can be found in the simple act of cleaning up the yard. You and your child can talk about:

  • all the different colours and shapes of leaves you find
  • how the wind sounds as it blows through the leaves still clinging to the branches
  • why some plants lose their leaves while others stay green year-round
  • the different textures of the leaves—some brittle, some pokey, some soft and flexible
  • how many empty bags will be needed
  • what happens when it gets cold—where do the bugs go
  • why do the days seem shorter and so much more!

Literacy is about so much more than just reading a book or writing a letter. It encompasses learning vocabulary and how to put the words together to get an idea across, problem solving on your own or working together to find a solution, learning the meaning of our numbers—the one to one correspondence of word, numeral and object.

Autumn also means Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and literacy is embedded in the preparation and sharing of the meal. Talk with your children about:

  • recipes that have been tweaked just that much to make them unique to your family
  • how many more chairs will be needed so everyone has a seat
  • what is the true meaning of Thanksgiving and why do we celebrate it in the fall
  • the difference between a yam and a sweet potato
  • family traditions that have been passed down over the ages
  • how many pieces that pumpkin pie has to be cut into!

In our Literacy Links workshops, we focus on how you can find literacy in just about everything you do. We help adults, parents, and caregivers discover the many simple activities they can do at home and out in the community that support and build numeracy and literacy skills. As for me, I am going to go back to painting some pictures!

I made a jack-o-lantern for Halloween night,
He has three teeth, but he doesn’t bite,
He has two eyes, but he doesn’t see,
He’s a happy jack-o-lantern, as you can see!

Please visit the Centre for Family Literacy website for more information about Literacy Links workshops. If you are interested in either hosting or attending a workshop, please call the Centre, 780.421.7323

 

Pick up a Book and Get Active?

A little counter-intuitive, isn’t it? For me, reading a book means finding a comfortable spot to curl up without distractions. How do you get active with something that’s typically relaxing?

All I can say is that it’s a good thing literacy isn’t just about reading a book. It can be about many activities, including:

Rhymes and songs help build vocabulary and a foundation in language necessary for future literacy learning, and they are a lot of fun!

In my small town, we have an amazing program team that comes up with activities for kids to participate in all summer. One activity is based on the television show “Mantracker.” (Here’s the link for those of you who have never seen it: http://www.mantracker.ca/)

My kids were given a map and a legend for checkpoints where their team had to get a flag. If our summer programmer—all dressed in camouflage with fake leaves and everything—caught them, they had to give up a flag.

Not only did my kids have fun, but what a great way to engage in a literacy activity around maps and legends! Linking it to the popular show ensured the activity was well attended and the kids knew what to expect.

This summer when kids are bored, or become couch potatoes stuck to an electronic device—with the usual excuses of “my friends aren’t home,” or “it’s too hot outside,” (you know I could go on and on here)—challenge them to find a way to get active in literacy! They could make up their own “mantracker” game, find a skipping rope and rhymes, or put on a scavenger hunt.

The possibilities are endless and limited only by imagination. And you never know, someone may even enjoy reading a book while bouncing on a trampoline!

The Centre for Family Literacy has a free app called Flit, for parents of 0-6 year olds, that has plenty of fun and active literacy activities, available on both iOS and Android.

Watch a demo:

Click here for more information or to download the free iOS version of Flit

Click here for more information or to download the Android version

Centre for Family Literacy website

How to Avoid the Dreaded “I’m Bored” this Summer

The dreaded “I’m bored!” is just around the corner as school is out for the summer. Although many families still have a routine, albeit a different one for summer (maybe daycare or day camps), it can also mean a lot more time spent at home and with family. Holidays—maybe a road trip—are taken, and grandparents visit. Some parents are home with their children all summer. As much as we look forward to the change from hectic scheduling, too much free time can result in “I’m bored” coming up again and again. It doesn’t take long to realize that some sort of routine is needed.

One of the things I’m using at home to combat that dreaded phrase is a Summer Challenge. My young daughter and I put a list of activities into a jar and pull one out whenever we need something to do. The challenge can be used on many different levels. For younger children you can keep it simple. Older children can be more involved in the planning of an activity, which we have learned can be more fun than the activity itself. What was that saying about the journey and the destination?

When I first described this idea to my daughter she was right on board! We love making lists, and pulling ideas out of a jar is a really fun way of checking off a To-Do List! We found a dollar store jar and decorated it for our ideas. I cut the strips of paper and she was so excited to read through each strip before she folded it and added it to the jar. She is already hopeful for her favourite ideas to be pulled first. Such anticipation!

She even wanted to add some of her own ideas to the jar. I thought “why not,” as long as I approved them first. Her list so far: pulling weeds (what a wonderful idea!); going for a walk in the field with gopher holes; and, chasing butterflies.

So we have begun. Lucky for us the weather cooperated for challenge #38: sitting around a campfire. Of course we enjoyed s’mores and told stories as well. The age range around the fire was 7-38 years—that’s a lot of stories! What an excellent kick-off to summer in a home full of kids!

 

Road Trips!

I LOVE road trips with my family! With long weekends such as Canada Day, many of us will hit the highways. I love road trips on my own as well. I just can’t get enough of all the places to learn about – using all of your senses. With children young or old, you can point out all that can be seen with their eyes. From mountains to waterfalls, rivers to forests, prairie lands to animals, both farm and wild. Show everyone where you are on a map. Point out signs. Visit historic sites. Learn about our past.

With digital cameras it is easy to allow your children to take as many photographs as they would like (deleting ones that don’t make the final cut won’t disappoint them). You can see the world through their eyes and you may be surprised by how great their photography skills can be. You can also give your children binoculars to help them search the land for scavenger hunt items, or try playing a variety of license plate games while on your road trip!

You can use your ears to hear things you may not hear if you are from a big city! Things such as quiet or animals in the forest. If you stop somewhere for a picnic, for stretching legs and relieving restlessness, you may hear a train travelling nearby. You might hear water rushing down a waterfall if you’re on a mountain escape. You can even hear insects buzzing around in summer; we don’t like them, but they are there! Is that a cow lowing in the distance? Talk about what farmers are doing this time of year.

How about singing to pass the time away? If you aren’t comfortable with your own voice leading the family choir, how about some family friendly CD’s borrowed from your local library? There is so much more to children’s songs now than there was in the past. One of our favourites is a CD called “Snack Time” by the Bare Naked Ladies. My teenagers will still sing along! For lyrics that mom and dad can laugh at, and a very original version of ABC’s, it is a must have.

Smells! You cannot dismiss the power of your sense of smell. The air smells cleaner as we leave our city homes behind. We can point out smells our children may not be familiar with. There are plenty of smells that accompany any farm, whether grain, livestock, or vegetable and fruit. Find some flowers to sniff. Do trees have a scent? Sniff an evergreen! What about leaves or moss on the forest floor?

Hands on! Why can’t a road trip be hands on? Have you ever stopped to see the monument that makes a town special? Plan your breaks for places with something interesting to see, do, and learn. Run, play, burn off some energy before the next leg of your trip. Collect post cards and things like kids’ paper menus (the kind kids can draw on if you stop for a restaurant meal), random memorabilia, or maybe a picked flower. I still have a little flower picked by my son almost 10 years ago. It has a story behind it of what lengths he and his dad went through to get that flower back to me. My son drew me a picture to go with the flower that helps tell the story. I will treasure it always.

Back in the car again, hand your child a pencil, maybe some crayons, and a sketchbook. Have them write or draw pictures about what they have learned along the way. It is easy to keep a little box of things needed for creativity in the vehicle. You can also find an assortment of lap trays (which resemble dining trays) to use on your trip. They are perfect for snacks, drawing, puzzles, and more. Prepared ahead of time, scavenger hunts are fun—check things off as they are found, or places discovered.

    

Try this website before you head out on your next Canadian road trip, www.bigthings.ca, there is a list by province of things to see!

To me, finding some of these things is reason enough for a trip in the car!