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

hashtag: #LT_GT

A Learn Together – Grow Together Halloween

Learn Together – Grow Together is a family literacy program for parents and their children ages 3-6 years. The program is run in Edmonton in partnership with Edmonton Catholic Schools. More information about Learn Together – Grow Together at www.famlit.ca/programs_and_projects/programs/learn-GT.shtml

The program runs on Thursdays, so this year we will be meeting with the families the day before Halloween. There are many learning opportunities for parents to share with their children for Halloween (other than trick-or-treating), so we are going to spend time doing a few Halloween-themed activities together.

We will be sharing some children’s Halloween books. Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley, and Pumpkin Eye by Denise Fleming, are just two of many interactive books that are easy for parents and children to share together.

Go_AwayHalloween_Eye

Rhyming is a fun and easy way to learn about rhythm and rhyme. Here are a couple that we will be sharing:

Go to Sleep Little Pumpkin

Go to sleep little pumpkin,
You must cover your toes.
If you sleep now my pumpkin,
You will turn to a rose.

Go to sleep little baby,
You must cover your feet.
When you wake in the morning,
They’ll be muffins to eat.

Go to sleep now (baby’s name),
You must cover your tum.
When you wake in the morning,
There’ll be kisses from Mom.

Jack-O-Lantern

I made a jack-o-lantern for Halloween night.
He has three crooked teeth, but he won’t bite.
He has two round eyes, but he cannot see.
He’s a jolly jack-o-lantern, as happy as can be.

Halloween_pumpkins2Carving jack-o-lanterns is a lot of fun, but since the children who participate in Learn Together – Grow Together are very young, we are going to decorate some smaller gourd pumpkins instead. The parents and children will be able to colour, paint, and glue decorations on them. This activity will give the adults and children a chance to communicate and work together, use their imaginations, and be creative.

We hope you have a safe and happy Halloween with your family! Enjoy the many learning opportunities for sharing stories, rhyming, and decorating pumpkins together.

 

hashtag: #LT_GT

3,2,1,FUN!

Let’s Make the Holidays COUNT!

holiday_baking

Holidays are a busy time for many families; there is so much to do! You might want to clean and decorate the house, plan and prepare the meal, and entertain guests. You might also travel to spend time with family. While the holidays are full of opportunities to share time and traditions with family and friends, they are also the perfect time to explore and encourage numeracy with your children.

For example, this Thanksgiving 3,2,1, Fun! focused on providing easy, meaningful and everyday ways to work on numeracy skills in the home and community over the holidays. We used inexpensive materials to create paper bag turkeys and numbered them 1-10. We used yellow beads for corn feed and glued feathers on clothes pins. Then each child picked a paper bag turkey and used the number on the front of the turkey to determine how many pieces of corn to feed their turkey and how many tail feathers to clip on. As each child built their turkeys 1-10, we sang about 5 fat turkeys as they gobbled and waddled their way through Thanksgiving!

(Sung to the tune of Frere Jacques. Count down from 5-1)

Five fat turkeys, five fat turkeys
In a barn, in a barn
Gobble, gobble, gobble
Waddle, waddle, waddle
Run away, it’s Thanksgiving Day

Holiday preparations and celebrations offer many opportunities to learn together as a family. Here are a few of the activities we share in 3,2,1, Fun! to encourage numeracy skills:

Planning and Preparing the Meal

  • Let your child look through the grocery store flyer and circle all of the holiday foods they see, cut them out and sort them into food groups.
  • Ask your child to help you number or sort the items while creating your shopping list.
  • Baking and cooking are wonderful occasions to work on numeracy. Recipes are full of opportunities for children to measure, count, order, and sort. When serving the meal, ask your children to help you carve the turkey or cut the pie. Talk to them about how many pieces of pie or turkey you will need for the number of guests you have. Ask them to help set the table. How many forks and napkins will we need?

Decorate the House

  • Create decorations from seasonal items outside. Instead of raking all those leaves and acorns, have your children collect some. They can create wonderful decorations from these items and in the process they will be identifying shapes, sorting, and creating patterns.

Travel

  • If you are travelling for the holiday, travel games will make the time fly by. Count the number of trucks/cars/bikes that you see, guess which colour of automobile you will see the most of on your trip or identify the shapes of traffic signs as you drive by them.
  • Sing a song!

The holidays are busy and hectic, fun and exciting, but above all else they are memorable. Have fun and be creative because the opportunities to learn as a family and explore numeracy will be COUNTLESS!

hashtag: #321_Fun

National Grandparent’s Day

grandfather and babyThis year, National Grandparents’ Day is on Sunday, September 7. The special day began in Canada in 1995 when Liberal MP Mr. Sarkis Assadourin presented motion number 273 in the House of Commons.

The motion read, “That, in the opinion of this House, the government should consider designating the second Sunday in September of each year as Grandparents’ Day in order to acknowledge their importance to the structure of the family in the nurturing, upbringing and education of children.”

Some of us are cynical and think that Grandparents’ Day was created to support florists and greeting card companies. But when we think about the important role that grandparents play in connecting generations, it is apparent that the stronger the relationship between grandparents, parents, and grandchildren, the stronger the family.

Besides cards and flowers, here are a few ideas that your family might do together this year:

  • Create a family tree using photos so that everyone can put a name to a face. This is also a great way for grandparents to share those family stories.
  • Ask grandparents to share their favourite recipes and compile them into a cookbook so everyone has a copy.
  • Play a favourite board or card game from your grandparents’ youth.
  • Visit the neighbourhood where your grandparents grew up, and talk about how things have changed.

What traditions have your family developed to make this day special?

What do you do if the grandparents live in another place? Maybe there is an elderly couple or person who plays the role of grandparent for your children – include them in your celebrations.

 

What I Wish We had Done on our Summer Vacations

School is almost over, milestones have been celebrated, the last sport tournament is just around the corner, and thoughts turn to summer vacation – where to go, what to do, and how to fill the time between visits with family and friends. It is also important to think of ways to ensure that during this two-month break our children don’t forget everything they have learned in school.

When my girls were little, we always tried to take advantage of the many free and child friendly activities that happened over the summer. We:

  • joined the Summer Reading Club at the library. The girls picked up a week’s worth of books and rushed home to read them so they could be finished before we headed back to get the next week’s stickers
  • took the train downtown to the Street Performers Festival or the Klondike Days Parade
  • watched the Canada Day fireworks after spending most of the day at the Legislative grounds
  • planned the bus trip to Heritage Days and each of the girls chose what food item they wanted to bring for the Food Bank.

We often wondered through our neighbourhood with no specific destination in mind. It was a way to get out of the house and keep the kids active, but those walks would have been a perfect opportunity to practice their literacy skills without them even knowing. I wish I knew then what I know now. We could have:

  • played a game of street sign bingo – how many stop signs could they count on the way to the park or yield signs on the way to a play date, or what was the most unique sign found
  • searched for all the letters in their names on street or business signs
  • looked for all the numbers from one to ten, or the numbers in our phone number, in the numbers on the houses
  • sung a song about all the colours of the rainbow and looked for them in the beautiful flower gardens we passed along the way
  • planned ahead to make it to our local spray park before the mad lunch rush
  • discussed all the different shapes we could find like the octagon in the stop sign, the triangle in the giant slide, the rectangles made by doors, or the circles in the playground
  • named all the different animals we could see as the clouds passed by in the sky
  • counted how many steps it took to walk to the mailbox and back.

We also could have done more literacy activities at home. We could have:

  • used sidewalk chalk to encourage the kids to write and illustrate their own stories – each square in front of the house another page in their book
  • researched what flowers or veggies grow best in our area, then they could have planted their own to take care of over the summer
  • planned a back yard pool and sprinkler party and sent invitations to their friends
  • read the comics and then created our own.

There are so many opportunities at our fingertips to support and build on our children’s literacy skills – we just need to look at things with a different mindset. The next time you see a child scribbling on your sidewalk, take a minute to ask them about the story they are trying to tell.