Rain, Rain, Go Away, I Want to Play Outside Today!

The school year is almost over. Both children and parents are probably thinking they’ve had enough schoolwork for awhile. But the learning shouldn’t stop when school is out! Did you know that in addition to all the reading activities you can do during the summer, you can also turn math and science into fun in the sun activities?

To keep young minds active this summer, as well as their bodies, check out some of these activities you can do with them outside. It’s a good way to reuse materials, keeping costs low and at the same time using language and motor skills to play and bond with your children.

Make a giant game

  • Board games use counting and simple additions. All you need is some tape and a tarp to make a portable board game. Dust off your snakes and ladders game and copy it onto your tarp using the tape as the squares, the kids are the playing pieces! You can take it camping or to the park, or play in your own backyard.
  • If you have bowls, plates, or Frisbees, you can create a toddler bean bag toss game.
  • You can also make an outdoor kerplunk with pvc pipe or doweling and a plastic clothes hamper.

I love all of these ideas!

 

 

 

 

 

Fun with Water

  • Set up a water table outside in the grass. Fill it with different sizes of cups and spoons, sieves and bowls as well as sponges and play with water. Just have fun with language that comes naturally to you when talking about amounts. More than and less than, empty and full, squeezing and absorbing.
  • Create a water sensory table/tub with water beads, sponges, or toys.
  • Balloon piñata can help with motor skills and coordination, and it’s a fun way to cool down in the hot sun.

Most importantly, share your enthusiasm and language with your children and watch them blossom! What were your favourite summer activities? Try some with your own children! Often the best ones use supplies found at home, without buying expensive ‘one time’ purchases.

In the Centre for Family Literacy’s 3,2,1,FUN! program, we believe that children learn best through play, and in our programs we do many of the above activities and so much more. We invite you to visit our website in late summer and register for a program. Put it on your calendar!

For more literacy fun and resources, please download our free app, FLIT, available at Google Play and the APP store.

Lifelong Skills for Your Children are Worth the Extra Time


Our kids are important to us—their health, their well-being, their happiness, their growth and success. Pretty much everything about our children is top of our ‘to-do list’. Sometimes we get so busy trying to do our best for them, we forget to slow down and just be with them.

I know many parents are with their children every day, and some all day, but that doesn’t necessarily mean their time is truly with them. It is so important to slow things down and do those routine  daily activities with your kids.

I’m aware that it takes more time (and patience) to let your little ones zip their own zippers, button their own buttons, and tie their own laces. It takes more time to let them choose their own meals at restaurants, pick out their own outfits for the day, and sign their own name on cards. Nothing gets done quickly when they help you with your daily chores such as laundry sorting, carrying groceries, and setting or clearing the meal table. But it is so worth it!

Just the other day I saw a dad playing with his son on their way into a store. They had a little race down the sidewalk, dad kept pace with his son and they tied. The way the boy looked up at his dad was pure love, and the dad ended it with a little hug, ruffled his hair, and they continued to talk about what sort of things they could buy mom for Mother’s Day.  I doubt it took this little family extra time to bond in this way, but the effects will be long lasting.

Another mom had her two boys checking off a list and finding items to add to their cart. It probably took her longer to collect everything, but her children were learning how to do big things!

Today, the busier we get, the easier it is to let our kids mind themselves and hope they are content with a device in their hands. I’ll admit there are days when you might just want to get things done quickly, and this is one of the less painful ways to do it, in the moment. But your children will miss out on so many learning opportunities if this is their normal routine.

Allowing your children some freedom to help, and to make choices in their tasks or play, will benefit them now and as they grow older. They learn:

  • how to make choices and accept the outcomes
  • how to problem solve and compromise
  • confidence and patience

These are skills that will help your children their entire lives—as they begin school, into their  teen years, and beyond as adults. Skills that will be lifelong assets are worth the extra time it takes to nurture them in your children.

Who says it has to be work? It can be frustrating when you are in a rush, so perhaps on days when you are feeling overwhelmed or running late, dealing with illness or appointments, those aren’t the best days to slow it down. But I’m certain time can be found in even the busiest of schedules to take a few moments daily to just have a bit of fun together.

 

 

Try this:

  • If you are shopping at the grocery store, try asking your children ‘this or that?’ Let them help decide. Let the older children help gather items up and down the aisles. They can read signs and learn how to check ingredients. Younger children can look for individual letters on signs or food items, and search for fruits and vegetables in certain colours.
  • When it is time to leave a place, maybe have a little race. Count forwards or backwards until it’s time to go, to reinforce numeracy skills. How many buttons need to be done up? How many seconds will it take to tie your shoes? Who can make it to the car first?
  • While driving, sing some favourite songs. Try songs that count down or repeat many verses such as “The Wheels on the Bus,” “5 Little Monkeys,” “B-I-N-G-O,” “This Old Man,” or “Old MacDonald.”
  • Try giving your children tasks to ‘help’ you with your daily routines. Sorting laundry (tell them how you would like it sorted or ask them how they think it should be sorted), setting the dinner table (how many plates, spoons, glasses, etc.), picking up around the house and putting toys away, even straightening out the family shoe shelf is a good matching activity for toddlers!

There are numerous ways to squeeze in a few extra minutes of play/learning activities into your day. In family literacy programs such as the free ones offered by the Centre for Family Literacy, we share many of these ideas with parents.

Visit our website www.famlit.ca for program information and information about our free App, Flit, for fun, everyday learning ideas (available at both the App Store and Google Play).

 

The 7 Types of Play and the Role of the Parent in Play-Based Learning

In my previous blog, “Come Play with Me,” we explored the concept and importance of play-based learning and the different stages of play that children experience as they develop. We now know that play is critical to children’s early development and key to supporting their emergent literacy skills. We also know that children will move through a variety of stages in their own unique way. These stages form a continuum of growth and development and, although there are age guidelines for each stage, children will move through this continuum at their own pace. Only when they have successfully experienced one stage will they move to the next.

THE 7 TYPES OF PLAY

Think back to when you were children yourselves. What were some of your favourite ways to play? Did you enjoy creating art? Perhaps you preferred tag or hide and seek. Maybe you were more interested in building towers and constructing Lego towns. Did you gravitate towards board games, or prefer getting messy while experimenting in the kitchen?

Regardless of which type of play you enjoyed the most, you would have naturally explored all 7 types of play at one time or another. Each type of play is very similar to the different learning styles and, although they will explore them all, children will choose one strong style of learning and one type of preferred play. Knowing how your children learn best, and which type of play they prefer, allows you to plan activities that best suit your children’s needs.

Physical Play

  • Often described as rough and tumble play
  • Children develop their gross and fine motor skills
  • Children develop coordination, body control, body awareness, sense of self, and risk taking and impulse control
  • Children who prefer physical play often have a strong understanding of what their body is capable of

Language Play

  • Children will rhyme, sing, tell stories, and make up songs
  • They will explore language by making up new words, phrases, or sounds
  • Children will turn anything into a pencil and paper, i.e. writing letters in the sand using a stick
  • Children who enjoy language play will often have strong early reading and writing skills

Exploratory Play

  • This type of play is all about exploring
  • Children will be learning how to learn and developing a curiosity and love of learning
  • Children will explore by using all of their senses, testing ideas and asking many questions
  • Children who prefer exploratory play are often lifelong learners

Constructive Play

  • This type of play involves building, taking things apart, and putting them back together
  • Children use blocks, clay, playdough, tinker trays, loose parts, anything they can get their hands on
  • This type of play supports many skills: numeracy, trial and error, planning, self-expression, hand-eye coordination, and more
  • Children who gravitate towards this type of play are often referred to as “future engineers”

Fantasy Play

  • In fantasy play, children imagine and explore
  • This is the type of play where children will be anything but themselves
  • They create their own characters and stories and act them out
  • Children explore all kinds of possibilities and experiences
  • Children who prefer fantasy play often have very strong comprehension and predictability skills

Social Play

  • Children play together with others
  • All the children work towards a common goal
  • They will be developing their skills in team work, problem solving, taking turns, and following rules
  • Children learn the manners associated with play and competition
  • Children who primarily enjoy social play often work well with others and have problem solving skills

Expressive Play

  • These children are your artists, musicians, or poets
  • They enjoy expressing their feelings, thoughts, and personalities through art, music and writing
  • Children display their feelings and what they know in a visual way
  • Children who enjoy expressive play are incredibly creative and natural problem solvers

THE PARENT’S ROLE IN SUPPORTING PLAY-BASED LEARNING

We know that play is our children’s job. Through play they develop in all ways. But what is our role as parents? How can we support our children’s development through play?

Be Patient

Children need to explore activities in their own way. Some children explore at great length while others move very quickly from activity to activity. Allow your children the time they need to experience all activities in the way they choose.

Explore all Types of Play

Similar to learning styles, children naturally gravitate towards one type of play; however, it is important that they are exposed to all types of play. As parents, we can support this by offering our children a variety of activities, experiences, and methods of play. Share with them your favourite ways to play!

Let Them Take the Lead

Let your children guide the direction of their play. Sit back and follow their lead. Let your children show you how they want to do the activity or play the game. Give them a turn at being the leader and then you take a turn to guide their play in a new direction!!

Throw Out the Rule Book

There is no right or wrong way to play. Toss out the rule book and explore new ways to do things. This is often one of the hardest things for us to do as adults. We each have our own way of doing something and often impose this on our children. However, play follows no rules and the best learning comes from the ability to explore things in new ways.

Model, Model, Model

Show your children that play is a lifelong skill that does not have an expiry date. Even as adults we still play. Whether you are part of a sports team, enjoy doing puzzles, love playing Candy Crush, or enjoy making a mess in the kitchen, your children will see you having fun and that will influence them to do the same!

PLAY!!

You are your child’s first and best teacher, so naturally you are their best playmate! Be silly, have fun, be open to doing things their way, and make memories together!

For more information on our Literacy Links workshop “Come Play with Me” or any of our other early literacy workshops, please contact the Centre for Family Literacy: email info@famlit.ca or phone 780-421-7323.

 

Come Play With Me!

One of the workshops offered through our Literacy Links workshop series is called “Come Play with Me.” This has been one of the more popular training opportunities and is booked regularly. Learning through play is a concept that has been trending for many years and is widely supported by parents and practitioners. But what is play and why is it important?

The Webster’s dictionary provides thirty-four definitions for the word play, and Oxford dictionary has over 100. Not all of us view play through the same eyes. There are many variables that influence our definition of play. These can be cultural, societal, historical, personal, educational, and global. Even our age can influence how we see play. I define play as the way our children learn about themselves, people around them, and how things work in their world. What does play mean to you?

The Importance of Play

Children learn through their everyday experiences. They do not know or particularly care about what they are learning—they are simply focused on having fun! When children play they interact with their world and use things they experience. For instance, children will draw upon things they have heard, or seen, or done, and use these experiences to play games and engage in activities. Play also gives children the opportunity to explore new things and begin making sense of them. Through play children recreate what they have learned and are able to practice all these new skills!

Play enhances almost every skill critical to the development of children. When they play, they are learning and developing:

  • Language
  • Sharing
  • Social skills
  • Cooperation
  • Creativity
  • Risk Taking
  • Imagination
  • Leadership
  • Problem solving
  • Self Awareness
  • Cultural awareness
  • Boundaries
  • Communication
  • Numeracy
  • And SO MUCH MORE!

Stages of Play

Between the ages of 0-6 years, play has been broken down into a series of stages. These stages form a continuum of growth and development that all children experience in their own unique way.

The first stage of play is called Unoccupied Play. This stage begins at birth and lasts about 3 months. Unoccupied Play is characterized by the random movements and jerks that your baby makes. These simple movements are how your baby becomes aware of their body and how to use their body parts.

Typically at 2-3 months children will move into the next stage of play which is called Solitary Play, and this stage usually lasts until children turn 3 years old. Solitary Play begins when your child is able to start holding objects. In this stage, children will play alone and will not be very interested in others. Solitary Play is considered to be the longest stage because, although they will progress through this stage, children will always return to it in some capacity even as they move into their teen years.

Onlooker Play is the stage that commonly occurs between the ages of 2.5 and 3.5. This is the observation stage where children still prefer to play alone, but now they are beginning to take an interest in how other children play. You will notice them staring at other children as they play, but remain hesitant to join them.

The next stage, Parallel Play, mimics Onlooker Play in that children will keenly observe play in other children. However, now you will find that they are beginning to ask many questions about what they observe in other children’s play. “What are they doing with those blocks?” “Why are they using red lego?” This is also the stage where children will be more interested in communicating with other children in play.

Typically between 3-4 years of age, children will progress into the stage referred to as Associative Play. There are no rules or roles in their play and children are more interested in the interactions and less interested in the toys. In this stage, children are learning cooperation, problem solving, and language, among other skills.

The final stage of play is the one parents are most excited for, Coorperative Play. Between the years of 4 and 6, children move into the Cooperative Play stage, where their play is generally focused around working with others towards a common goal. Roles are defined, and you will often see children playing house or school and during these activities they will have a role—mother, father, teacher, etc.

The final stage of play is only reached when children have had the time they need to progress through each stage before it. It is important to be patient through the stages, and let your children take as much or as little time as they need to explore each stage and move to the next. Although there is a common timeline, remember that all children are different and there is no right or wrong way to explore these stages.

In my next blog, which will be coming out May 4th, I will be exploring 7 Types of Play and sharing ideas on the role parents have in their children’s play. For more information about the importance of play, please do a search for our blogs about play in the search field above.

If you would like to find out more about attending or hosting a Literacy Links workshop, please check the Centre for Family Literacy website and/or contact the Centre for Family Literacy by email info@famlit.ca or by phone: 780.421.7323

 

Numbers, Numbers Everywhere!

What is numeracy?

The simple definition is, the ability to understand and work with numbers. Alberta Education defines numeracy as the ability, confidence and willingness to engage with quantitative and spatial information to make informed decisions in all aspects of daily living.

Are numeracy and mathematics the same?

No. They are relatable but definitely not the same. Numeracy covers more of the daily life skills learned from a young age and fine tuned with experience and knowledge. Numeracy includes concepts that help a person with their mathematical understanding.

Mathematical concepts learned in public school are the basis for further technology and specialized fields of study achieved in postsecondary education.

Play-numeracyWhat does numeracy look like to a preschooler?

In a quick summarization, numeracy learning looks like play. When children are playing they are learning about patterns, colours, sizes, measurements, gravity, temperature, days of the week, estimation, prediction, and so much more.

How can adults support numeracy learning?

Adults support their children’s learning by providing a safe and welcoming space in their home for children to explore numeracy. By spending time with their children, encouraging and offering what they can from their own knowledge and experience, their children will benefit by being confident learners and willing to challenge what they know to further their learning.

Mother and daughter in kitchen making a salad smiling3,2,1,FUN! is a family numeracy program that adults attend with their children to have fun exploring numeracy concepts together through play. At the program, adults learn strategies to support their children’s numeracy development at home, in their day to day lives. Parents can support this learning through activities, book sharing, storytelling, songs, games, and more, without the use of expensive toys and gadgets. Parents discover how to lead their children’s learning with a deeper understanding of how numeracy concepts are learned—concepts such as patterning and sorting, following recipes or instructions, exploring shapes, sizes and colours, measurements and spatial awareness.

So the next time you play with your children, try talking about what they are doing, even if you are just playing alongside them. Remember it is the little things you do daily that help reinforce what your children learn.

You can:

  • ask them how many stairs they are going up or down as you walk beside them
  • ask them about the colours they see as you go for a walk or a drive
  • ask them what they think goes next if they are stacking toys or building blocks
  • ask them to help in the kitchen if you are preparing a simple meal or snack
  • count how many steps it will take to walk to their room, the front door, or the bus stop
  • ask them to predict what bath toys will sink or float before the toys are added to the water
  • talk about how many minutes until the next activity, or how many days until grandma visits
  • enlist your children’s help with sorting laundry, by size, by colour, or by which family member the item belongs to

Share your ideas for developing numeracy skills with your children in the comments by clicking on the talk bubble at the top of this blog!

And, if you want to find out more about the 3,2,1,FUN! program, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website

Stop and Smell the Roses

Stop and smell the roses? Have you ever wondered what that really means? You’ve probably heard the expression before, maybe even said it yourself. I’ve come to appreciate the phrase in a different way as a parent. I identify it with slowing down and taking a moment to appreciate the simplicity of childhood, how everything can be new, and being grateful for the chance of discovery in the eyes of my child.

Playtime4-smWhile watching little ones play, it may seem like a simple, easy, and carefree life. Far from it! There is so much magic going on in a child’s brain as they explore their world and experience things for the first time—or even the first 15 times. They are developing at an incredibly fast pace and at no other time in their lives will their brains learn at the same rate as it does in the early years.

As a parent it can be easy to worry about whether we are providing our child with enough opportunity and activity. It is easy to get caught up in the parenthood shuffle—so easy that we forget to slow down. Stop. And smell the roses.

Playtime2-smTake the time to let your child play freely as they choose with the materials they want. If your child loves stacking blocks, let them stack and build over and over again. There’s no need to change the activity all the time. If your child prefers to colour, scribble, paint and draw, provide them with the supplies and space they need. If your child prefers collecting cars or miniature figures, and sorts them and puts them all in a line for no apparent reason, let them.

The point is, children need time to do what they love best. It doesn’t matter which activity they love, all are full of learning opportunities. A child will give much more time and attention to an activity they love—that is how they learn best.

Playtime-smWhen I sit back and watch a young child at play, I like to take the time to stop and really watch what they are doing. Are they learning about balance and gravity? Texture and colour? Making sorting rules, counting, adding and subtracting? Like the young scientists they are, they are learning the cause and effect of many things they do. Play really is child’s work, and that work is  important.

So today, I challenge anyone with a child in their life to stop, watch and listen. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to be invited into their play. Just remind yourself its okay to take the time to stop everything and just enjoy the beauty and wonder of childhood—the same way you might stop in a beautiful garden to enjoy the roses.

For information on FREE programs like the Centre for Family Literacy’s, Learn Together – Grow Together, where parents and their children meet each week to explore and discover many things together, check out our program schedules on our website www.famlit.ca

For ideas on meaningful play with your child, check out Flit, our APP! It’s available for both  Apple and Android devices. For more information, please visit our website www.famlit.ca

 

 

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!

 

4 Reasons Kids Learn when they Play

“Play is the work of the child”
—Maria Montessori (Italian Physician & Educator)

children-463563_1920Generation after generation of children have played. This seems to tell us that play is an important part of healthy development.

An area of study called the science of learning is showing that there is more to play than meets the eye. When children play they are engaging in activities which help them to make sense of the world around them, and how to learn how to learn. And learning occurs best when children are mentally active, engaged, socially interactive, and building meaningful connections to their lives.

1. Play is Mentally Active

Children explore their world with their five senses. Rarely do children stop to think about what they are going to touch and then touch it. They launch forward—touching, hearing, seeing, smelling, and tasting—and then they think about what they have discovered.

2. Play is Engaging

It would be difficult to find playing children who are bored. Engagement is the very essence of play. Children are naturally curious and excited to learn new things, and play is the way they make sense of their world.

3. Play is Socially Interactive

Play helps children practice their skills for getting along with others and learn how to make friends. Imagination allows children to pretend to be bold superheros or parents, while still feeling safe. When parents remember how to play, they become part of their children’s play space and are then welcome to share their play world.

4. Play Builds Meaningful Connections

Our Literacy Links workshops place the focus on play, making connections in the world of the children and their parents. One little fellow exclaimed that the volcano he made was “erupting.” His dad was surprised at such a big word until the little boy reminded him that it was in the dinosaur book that they read together every night. Another mom commented that she already had everything at home that she needed to play the “Build a Robot” game with her little guy, to help him learn his numbers.

If you are interested in hosting or attending a Literacy Links workshop, check the Centre for Family Literacy website for more information!

“Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn.”
—O. Fred Donaldson

 

 

Permission Granted to Let Your Inner Child Out!

PlayAs adults we have so many responsibilities, from our jobs to cooking and cleaning at home to tending to the children, that we tend to focus our attention on only those things. So when it comes time to play with our kids, we are in Responsible-Adult-Mode. This limits our creativity, imagination, energy, and ability to laugh and fully engage in play with our kids. For children though, play is how they learn the best.

Play is often associated with children and to adults it can seem like wasted time. However, play is some of the most important work your children can do. Play is their full time job, and as their parents you are their best teacher. Being able to join them on their terms, and in their environment, makes their play more meaningful; the connection you build with your children during play is even stronger.

For many adults, play with their children can be awkward or hard. As we get older we have more responsibilities and less time to play. We may not have actually played for several years, or see any value in it. Other adults may feel silly singing kids songs and running around the room like animals. The thing is that by joining your children in play, by saying “come play” versus “go play,” you are opening up an entirely new world.

For me, play is also the best way to get my children to listen! I try to connect first. Observe them. What are they doing? What are they playing?

A good example is if you are trying to get your children to have lunch, and calling to them over and over is not working. Maybe your children are playing racecars and zooming around the room – how could you let your inner child out? Join in the race. Find the right opportunity to enter your car into the race, and playfully be a losing, yet competitive race car. After a few laps, when you are all laughing and tired, pretend to be the commentator and call all cars to take a pit stop and refuel. This gives you the opportunity to join your children’s play, then redirect them to the table to have lunch and refuel before heading back out on the track.

Not only have you let your inner child out and connected with them as a competing race car, but you have also enhanced their depth of play and learning. Through practice we can all get better at playing with our kids and letting our inner child out!

For more ideas on how to join your kids in play, see the following books. We have them on the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus if you’d like to take a look next time you drop by!

Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen
The Art of Roughhousing by Lawrence J. Cohen

The Edmonton C.O.W. bus schedule is here

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