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!

Spring is in the Air

Spring is in the air and we can all peek our heads outside and breathe a sigh of relief. Winter is over. (We’ve had Second Winter, yes?)

CELEBRATE WITH BOOKS, SONGS, AND OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES


BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

HopHop!Share the book Hop, Hop! by Leslie Patricelli together.

“The Easter Bunny is coming! It’s time to dye eggs. Did you know that red and blue make purple? That blue and yellow make green? That an art project may result in a multicolored Baby? There are bunny ears to wear (for the dog and cat, too) and an Easter basket to put out before bedtime. What will Baby find inside it the next morning?”

Stretch Your Book

There are many things related to the story that you can do to stretch out the learning opportunities and fun. Try these:

  • As you read through, talk about what the characters are doing in the story. Talk about any similarities and differences to your own family’s springtime traditions.
  • Talk to your child about the different colours and what happens when you mix them.
  • Colour your own eggs and dress up like a bunny, just like in the book!

EASTER EGGS

Easter_eggMaterials:

  • White-shelled hard-boiled eggs
  • Hot water
  • White vinegar
  • Food dye (yellow, red, and blue)
  • 3 small bowls
  • Large spoon
  • Newspaper to protect your table

 

Instructions:

  1. In each bowl, combine ½ cup of hot water, 1 tsp. of vinegar, and about 20 drops of food colouring (one colour per bowl).
  2. The story says, “Yellow and red make orange!” So dunk an egg into yellow, then dunk it in red and see how it changes.
  3. Do the same for the rest of the colours, and do your own mixing experiments as well. Don’t forget to refrigerate the eggs before and after your egg hunt!

BUNNY EARS

BunnyEarsCraft

Materials:

  • White cardstock paper
  • Pink paper or
  • Pink crayon/pencil
  • Scissors
  • Glue Stick
  • Pencil

 

BunnyEarsInstructions

  1. Cut white cardstock into strips for the headpiece and ears
  2. Use a pink crayon or the pink paper to make the inside of the ears
  3. Tape or glue the headpiece and ears into place
  4. Hop around like bunnies, just like in the book

 

 

 

 


SONG FOR SPRING BUNNIES

(Try wearing your bunny ears for this!)

“5 Little Bunnies”

* a bunny version of the traditional song “5 Little Ducks”

(Try asking your child what sound they think a bunny makes, and change it to whatever they say!)

Five little bunnies went out one day,
Over the hills and far away,
Mother bunny said squeak, squeak, squeak,
But only four bunnies came hopping back.

Four little bunnies went out one day,
Over the hills and far away,
Mother bunny said squeak, squeak, squeak,
But only three bunnies came hopping back.

(Continue counting down to “none”)

Sad mother bunny went out one day,
Over the hills and far away,
Mother bunny said squeak, squeak, squeak,
And all the five bunnies came hopping back!


THE GREAT OUTDOORS

EasterEggHuntIf you coloured Easter eggs, get outside and hide them for your little ones! And if you didn’t, create your own scavenger hunt.

Create a list, using pictures and words, of the items they need to find. For example, you could hide golf balls, search for certain colours, find things in nature like a green leaf or a pine cone, or search for objects that begin with different letters of the alphabet…. The options are limited only by your imagination!

Check the Centre for Family Literacy’s website for the tip sheets “Families just want to have FUN! Party Activities” here

Happy Spring!

 

Advent Calendars for Kids

As December quickly creeps up on us, our kids’ minds turn to Advent calendars. The anticipation the calendars build with each day is a fun part of the season.

The Wikipedia definition of an Advent calendar is a special calendar used to count or celebrate the days in anticipation of Christmas. The Advent calendar was first used by German Lutherans in the 19th and 20th centuries but is now found everywhere.

If you go into any large chain store you will find an array of Advent calendar choices. Traditional Advent calendars conceal 24 small chocolates to be opened one a day until December 24th, but more and more choices are becoming available every year. Lindt has a full chocolate every day, and Lego has 2 or 3 different calendars to choose from every year. Toy or candy calendars, ranging from Disney, Crayola, Playmobil, Hot Wheels, Kinder surprise, Jelly Belly and more, can also be found.

But ever since my kids were born, I have been interested in making my own Advent calendars. They are more personal than the bought versions and I can add anything I want, from toys or books to candy. You can find many Advent calendars to make with your kids at Growing A Jewelled Rose.

One of our yearly traditions is a Book Tree Advent Calendar. I love it because it combines my love of reading with my kids and a surprise for the kids each day.

I found the following Book Tree Advent Calendar at Reading Confetti. Every year we enjoy opening up some of our favourite Christmas classics and a few new ones.

book-tree-advent-4

 

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!

 

Another Long Weekend?

HeritageDays2

What will you and your family do this long weekend? Will you take part in one of the many local celebrations, like Heritage Days to learn about many of the diverse cultures in our area or the Blueberry Bluegrass Music Festival to listen to some great music? Will you check out one of the city’s numerous attractions, or maybe hike or bike through the River Valley? Will you head out of the city to visit with family or friends? Or will you visit one of the many lakes not far down the road?

If you head out of town or even to one of the celebrations or attractions in your area, chances are you will find that:

  • Traffic to and from will be hectic
  • Long lineups will be the rule rather than the exception
  • Somebody will be hungry, thirsty, or tired
  • Quiet time will be needed at some point

To keep everyone happy despite these obstacles, it is a good idea to be well prepared before your long weekend adventures. Here are some things to do to make travel time more enjoyable:

  • Have everyone pack an activity bag – include things like a favourite toy, books, paper and pencils/crayons/pens, a cookie sheet with some magnets (this makes a really neat portable desk for their drawings, colouring sheets, word games or activity sheets – just make sure the magnets stick to the cookie sheet and they are not too tiny), a music player with headphones so that everybody does not have to listen to your favourite music, and a travel game or two.
  • Have your children help to choose and prepare individually portioned, car friendly snacks (not ones that need to be refrigerated or are messy). It’s a great way to build numeracy skills – how many containers do we need, what size should they be. It also saves money, helps cut down on the pleas for treats on the way in to the gas station, and helps avoid $5 bottles of water at the festival. You can keep the snacks all together or distribute them into the activity bags. Don’t forget the pre-moistened washcloths in a zip-lock bag.
  • Involve everybody in the car in games like:
    • Bingo – make up Bingo cards ahead of time with letters, numbers, or words that they will see along the way and that they can cross off the card. The first to get 15, wins!
    • I Spy – make sure that what they spy is something that doesn’t just go by in a flash!
    • What am I thinking of – think of something and each person gets to ask five questions to guess what you are thinking of.
    • Build me a story – decide on a character and a problem they face. Each person then gets a turn to build the story for three minutes (give or take). You’ll be surprised by the twists and turns the story takes along the way!
    • Sing a long – sing everybody’s favourite song at least once during your travels.

With my children off with their own long weekend plans, as many of my neighbours pack up their trailers, I look forward to:

  • a visit to the library on my way home on Friday to grab a couple of books from my wish list
  • a stop at the grocery store for goodies to last the weekend
  • a quick change into something comfortable
  • the next three days basking in the quiet of my backyard

Whatever you choose to do this long weekend, be safe and take time to enjoy it!

“O Canada, our home and native land…”

CanadaDay1As Canada Day approaches, many families are gearing up to celebrate. They are stocking up on red and white decorations and Canadian flags, making plans to participate in local festivities, and planning get-together barbeques. These are just a few ways to mark the day.

Here are some different activities to try with your family this Canada day:

Make your Own Flag

  1. Take a large piece of white paper and paint the two sides red.
  2. Put red paint on your child’s hand and make a print in the middle of the paper as the maple leaf.

Make a Canada Flag Cake

CanadaDay2

  1. Choose a cake mix (I like white for this one) and follow the directions on the box (or use your own recipe). Read the steps out loud and let your kids add the ingredients.
  2. After the cake is baked and cooled, spread whipped cream over the top as icing.
  3. Let your kids use sliced strawberries to create the flag on the cake by putting them on the sides and in the middle.

Sing a Canadian Song

  1. Make one up using a tune you know, like this one (http://www.dltk-kids.com/canada/songs/ourcountry.html) sung to the tune of “The Muffin Man.”

Do you know our country’s name,
our country’s name, our country’s name.
Do you know our country’s name.
C-A-N-A-D-A!

2.   Another favourite song for this special day is, of course, our national anthem. I love hearing the random outbursts of it everywhere. Each time I hear it, I’m reminded of a story from our Rhymes that Bind program.

A parent came to the program worried because she knew it was really important to sing to her baby, but she only knew one song. I asked which song she had been singing and she sheepishly confessed it was “O Canada.” After reassuring her that her baby loved hearing her voice, no matter what song she sang, we supported her goal of learning more songs to share with her baby.

You and your children will treasure the memories made, not only on these special days but all the time. Sing anything, anytime, but sing our anthem especially loud this Canada Day – I’ll be waiting for it!

 

What books are we reading over the holidays?

 

young mother reading bedtime story to her little childrenTurn off the TV, put your phone on silent, and warm your heart with some great books over the holiday season. Below are some books the Centre’s staff will be reading and sharing over the holidays.

•  Box Socials by W.P. Kinsella
The story is told from a young boy’s perspective and spans about 10 years. It is about growing up in rural Alberta in the 1930s and its rituals.

•  150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids: The Very Best and Easiest Playtime Activities by Asia Citro
This book is a must for parents and educators/facilitators. The photos are spectacular, the ideas are wonderful, and there are variations for each activity. It wil provide hours of fun!

•  Gossie by Oliver Dunrea
This delightful book about Gossie, “a bright yellow gosling who likes to wear her bright red boots – everyday” is written in simple, everyday language with lots of predictable words that children pick up right away.

•  Bedtime Math by Laura Overdeck
A book that makes math a fun part of children’s everyday lives.

•  The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear by Audrey Wood and Don Wood
The Little Mouse will do all he can to save his strawberry from the big hungry bear. A staff member said, “Our son received this book as a gift when he was 2, and it was one of our family favourites.”

•  Where Children Sleep by James Mollison
A beautiful coffee table book that is both a captivating photo essay for adults, and an educational book that engages children themselves in the lives of other children around the world.

•  The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper
An oldie but goodie that reminds us all to keep trying, whether we are young or old.

•  The Back of the Turtle by Thomas King
Filled with well-drawn characters, told with wit and a thorough knowledge of native myth and storytelling, this novel tackles the years of history between native and non-native people.

Enjoy and let us know what books will be on your list.

Merry Christmas from Learn Together – Grow Together

Christmas-dad-kids-baking

With Christmas right around the corner, the team at Learn Together, Grow Together wanted to emphasize family literacy opportunities through the holiday season. Our focus was on identifying everyday occasions to learn while participating in holiday activities. These were some of the ideas shared by our program families.

–   Sharing a children’s book. Some of our family’s favourites were:

  • Pete the Cat Saves Christmas – Eric Litwin
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas – Dr. Seuss
  • Santa’s Noisy Night – Julie Sykes and Tim Warnes
  • A Porcupine in a Pine Tree: A Canadian 12 Days of Christmas – Helaine Becker and Werner Zimmerman
  • The Penguin who Wanted to be Different: A Christmas Wish – Maria O’Neill

–   Singing together as a family. Some of our family’s favourites were:

  • Jingle Bells
  • Frosty the Snowman
  • Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer
  • Deck the Halls

–   Cooking and baking together for family and friends. Some of the favourite recipes shared were:

  • Gingerbread
  • Sugar Cookies
  • Egg Nog
  • Spicy cheese ball

–   Spending time with family. Some of the favourite holiday activities were:

  • Writing letters to Santa
  • Tobogganing
  • Decorating the house
  • Building a snowman

As you can see from our list, there are many opportunities for you and your children to foster literacy during the holidays when activities are done together as a family. Have fun creating holiday memories this season!

More about Learn Together, Grow Together

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