Time to Twinkle!

A favourite song in many languages, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” is fun to do with your child and can be used in different ways throughout your day!

WHY?

Twinkle, twinkle has a well-known tune that rhymes and it repeats sections which makes it easy to learn. The actions are great for helping your child to practice motor skills and to remember the order of the song. It’s easy to work into routines like bedtime, as a lullaby, or as a travel song.

LET’S GO!

Sing the song, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”

DO IT TOGETHER!

Listen to the music together to learn the words. Make up your own actions or use the ideas below.

Twinkle, twinkle little star
Put your hands in the air and wiggle your fingers

How I wonder what you are
Shrug your shoulders

Up above the world so high
Put your arms up in the air

Like a diamond in the sky
Make a shape of a diamond with your fingers

Twinkle, twinkle little star
Put your hands in the air and wiggle your fingers

How I wonder what you are
Shrug your shoulders

To get over 120 of the best activities to do with your children to boost and build key literacy skills from birth to 5 years, download the Centre for Family Literacy FREE Flit app, (Families Learning and Interacting Together).

Click here for the iOS version

Click here to download the Android version

 

Homemade Fun!

Making recipes with your child is fun, but you may be wondering “What does this have to do with literacy?”

Research recognizes that the home environment and parent-child interactions are an important influence on a child’s literacy development. Positive and meaningful parent and child interactions can lead to enhanced language, literacy, emotional, and cognitive development.

When you and your child…

  • talk together and make plans for the day
  • read through a recipe book together and decide which recipe to make
  • talk about the ingredients and what they are
  • write a grocery list together and talk about the words you are writing down
  • go to the grocery store and notice the different road signs or count the red cars along the way
  • read your grocery list together to make sure you have everything you need
  • read the recipe together and measure out ingredients and talk about the fun things you will do with your chalk, bubbles, paint or gak…

… you are providing your child with rich literacy experiences and positive interactions that strengthen family bonds and promote literacy development!

FUN RECIPES

Giant Bubble Mix

Use the following bubble recipe to refill your store bought bubble container. You can also add a drop or two of food colouring to make colourful bubbles. Make your own bubble wands – pipe cleaners bent into interesting shapes, cookie cutters, or yogurt lids with the centres cut out.

  • 3 cups water
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup Joy/Dawn dishwashing liquid
  1. In a large bowl stir water and corn syrup until combined.
  2. Add dish soap and stir very gently until well mixed.
  3. Use mixture to blow giant bubbles.

Homemade Sidewalk Chalk (non toxic)

  • 1 ½ cups of cornstarch
  • 1 ½ cups of water
  • Molds – anything can be used!  Empty egg cartons, Dixie cups, ice cube trays, etc.
  • Food colouring – assorted colors.
  1. Mix the water and cornstarch together until smooth.
  2. Pour into your molds.
  3. Add 3 or more drops of food colouring to the molds to get the colours you desire and mix well.
  4. Allow 2-3 days for the molds to harden completely in a dry, warm place. Pop out your chalk and have some fun! Store the chalk in a dry container.

Homemade Finger Paint

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 Tbs. salt
  • 1 1⁄2 cups cold water
  • 1 1⁄4 cups hot water
  • Food colouring
  1. Combine flour, salt, and cold water in a saucepan.
  2. Beat with a wire whisk until smooth.
  3. Place over medium heat, and slowly stir in hot water.
  4. Continue stirring until mixture boils and begins to thicken.
  5. Remove from heat, and beat with a whisk until smooth.
  6. Divide the mixture into several different containers or bowls.
  7. Add 4-5 drops of food colouring to each container and stir well. Store in the fridge.

For best results, paint on freezer paper or finger paint paper.

For more recipes and other great literacy ideas, check out our other blogs, our Flit app available on Google Play and the Apple App Store, or call the Centre for Family Literacy at 780-421-7323 to find a Literacy Links workshop near you!

 

A COW with a Purpose!

This fall the COW (Classroom on Wheels) bus welcomed many returning families, and enjoyed the opportunity to connect with new ones as well! We are happy to be a part of the learning that is happening in our families.

If you haven’t yet visited the COW bus when it makes a scheduled stop in your neighbourhood, following is the purpose of the 1.5 hour weekly program, and we share this information on the bus in a comfortable, fun, supportive way using songs and stories:

  1. We want to encourage you to be your child’s first and most important teacher. Literacy begins at birth – long before your child starts school. It begins at home, in families. Learning can even happen in your daily routines. For example, when you are out walking, talk to your child about the things you see around you. Sing silly songs when you are driving. Add a lullaby to their bedtime routine and it may help make this transition time easier for your child.
  2. We want to remind you that learning happens best in relationships. Children learn best when they feel loved and cared for. They learn best through interaction with others. Talk with your child rather than at them. Let them ask questions, and answer them. Listen to what they have to say. Developing language and literacy skills happens through everyday loving interactions, such as sharing books, telling stories, singing songs, and talking to one another.
  3. We want you to know that the early years – birth to age 5 – are crucial to the physical, emotional, social, and educational development of prereading, language, vocabulary, and number skills. This learning occurs through sight, sound, and memory. It is never too early or too late to talk, sing, and read with your child. Even babies are ready to start learning about language and books.
  4. We are here to support, encourage, and give ideas. When you join us on the COW bus, we love to hear your challenges and successes. We are always excited to hear that you are using an idea at home that you learned on the bus. Let us know – by telling us, sharing a video, or sending an email to info@famlit.ca – we are happy to thank you with a free book!

This fall, a favourite song that we share on the bus is “Have You Ever Seen an Apple.” The children enjoy singing the song and having an opportunity to lead us as we call out the colours of the apples. One of our moms shared an adorable video of her daughter singing this song at home.

 

So be sure to join us on the COW bus for some fun with a purpose! For the program schedule, check the Centre for Family Literacy website. We look forward to seeing you on the bus!

Our Babies can Talk to Us?

Our babies can talk to us? What does that look like and how do we respond?

Serve and Return

Early forms of communication between parents and babies are referred to as serve and return. Babies serve by cooing, smiling, reaching, crying, etc. and we return by mimicking them or caring for them. We can also serve by making faces and sounds and waiting to see if they return by laughing, kicking, or mimicking us.

Research has been done in this field, and videos show that when the caregivers did not return their babies’ serve, the babies became uncomfortable and upset. Try this yourselves to see how important it is to acknowledge your babies and children this way.

Below are some fun songs we sing in our Rhymes that Bind programs. Try singing them at home with your babies (serve) and watch their reactions (return).

Benefits of talking with your babies:

  • The more we hear words and expressions, the more quickly we understand language.
  • The rhymes and songs we sing, plus the fun gestures we add, build new brain connections and strengthen old ones.
  • The more you sing with your babies, the larger their vocabulary and the better their foundation in literacy, education, and success later in life.

Peek-A-Boo
(Tune of Frere Jacques)

Peek a boo, peek a boo
I see you, I see you
I see your button nose
I see your tiny toes
Peek a boo, I see you.

Treasure Hunt
(You can do actions for this rhyme on baby’s tummy or back for fun, or while changing clothes and diapers)

We’re going on a treasure hunt
X marks the spot
Boulder here, boulder there
Dot. Dot. Dot.
Crabs crawling up your back
Bubbles rolling down
Tight squeeze, cool breeze
Now you’ve got the shivereeze.

One Little Finger

One little finger, one little finger, one little finger,
Tap, tap, tap,
Put your fingers up,
Put your fingers down,
Put your fingers on your _____. (body part)

One little finger, one little finger, one little finger,
Tap, tap, tap,
Put your fingers up high,
Put your fingers down low,
Put your fingers on your _____. (body part)

(Repeat with different body parts, and it’s fun to end with a tummy tickle)

Poor Old Horse
(A fun, bouncy lap song – put your child on your knees, facing you. Let him hold your
hands as if holding the reins to a horse)

Poor old horse, he goes so slow.
He never stops, in rain or snow.
(Say these two lines very slowly, while moving your knees
up and down slowly.)
Buuut…
(Draw this word out and look at your child with anticipation.)
Give him a kick, and there he goes,
There he goes, there he goes.
Give him a kick, and there he goes,
All the way to town!
Whoa, horsey!
(Let your child fall backwards a bit, as if he is pulling on the
reins to stop the horse.)

We would love to sing with you in one of our programs. Please visit the Centre for Family Literacy website for a Rhymes that Bind location and time that works for you. For added fun, rhymes with videos, and family literacy resources, please download our free App, Flit, available on Google Play and the App Store.

Have fun talking with your baby!

 

Books, Books, and More Books!

There are many great reasons to visit the C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) Bus, and one of them is that we have fantastic books for you to borrow! We have thousands of books on the bus, including board books for our youngest readers, an excellent selection of lift-the-flap books, touch and feel books, books with CDs, wordless books, French books, early readers, and books for adults as well. There is something for everyone from babies to grandparents!

If you or your little ones are excited about dinosaurs, then maybe you would enjoy How Do Dinosaurs Eat Cookies? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague. Or maybe sharks are popular at your house. Try The Thanking You Sharks by Giles Andreae. We also have a great selection of princess books, like Jonathan Emmett’s The Princess and the Pig and Lisa McCourt’s Good Night Princess Pruney Toes.

Some of our children especially enjoy reading the non-fiction books to learn about different types of animals, vehicles, space, cooking, and anything you can imagine. We also have helpful books about potty training and teaching manners. We have many books to inspire and encourage parents as well as books that provide humour and escape.

You are welcome to borrow books (up to 6) every time you visit the bus. We want to make borrowing as easy as possible so there are no late fees. If you are a regular book borrower, we reward you with a free book (your choice) to take home and keep.

We are happy to help you choose a book that you or your children will enjoy, and we have a “staff picks” area to give you ideas as well.

We also have a bin containing donated books. Each family can take one book from the bin each week. If you have books that you are no longer using, you are welcome to donate them to the bus, and maybe another family would enjoy reading them!

One of the books we will be reading with all of our friends on the bus this month is The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. Bringing the book alive, the children will have fun feeding a pretend caterpillar all sorts of yummy foods and then watching it turn into a beautiful butterfly. The story is colourful, fun, and educational. Your children will be excited to find real caterpillars and butterflies outside. And the story might even give you ideas to start conversations with your inquisitive children.

We’d love to have you join us on the COW Bus and enjoy some books together! Check the Centre for Family Literacy website to find out when the bus is in a neighbourhood near you!

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).

 

Talking to Babies in Different Languages

We work with mothers, fathers, grandparents, and caregivers from a number of countries and backgrounds. Together they speak more than 60 languages, and for many of these families, that means that more than one language is being spoken at home.

Children born into these homes are incredibly fortunate. There are many benefits to being able to speak more than one language. Languages create connections between generations, between cultures, and between places all around the world. And having more connections to our world and the people in it is a wonderful gift.

So, how can babies best learn more than one language?

The first part is easy: they need to learn from people. Face-to-face interaction is by far the best way for babies to learn new languages. Videos, apps, and recordings will not help babies. Video chat is the only exception. The second part is that, when they are old enough to speak, they have to use the new language regularly.

When I first started in this field, there were concerns about confusing babies with different languages, so recommendations were quite rigid. But research from the last 10 years  suggests that babies are not that easy to confuse, so you can explore an approach to multiple languages that works best for you and your family.

Here is an excellent guide from Nexus Health in Ontario. It discusses the benefits, different  strategies, and ways children learn multiple languages: “When children speak more than one language”.

Whether you are fluent in one language or can speak in many, have fun singing and talking with your babies. I promise that they want to hear from you.

Visit the Centre for Family Literacy website for more resources and tip sheets for parents.

 

3,2,1,Fun! That’s Right, Numbers are Fun!

When we think of literacy, our minds go directly to reading and words. But literacy is more than words, it is the combination of many everyday skills that you may use without even thinking about or categorizing as literacy.

Numeracy is one such skill, and includes number sense, predictability, calendars, patterns and relationships, measurement, time, puzzles, problem solving, and shapes.

Using numeracy skills and teaching them to your children might be easier than you think. Numbers are everywhere! If you are baking, you can ask your child to help measure, and as they get older they can help double or halve the recipe. Making cookies, you can talk about the shapes, or place them in patterns on the cookie sheet before baking; circle, square, triangle… circle, square, triangle.

Using patterns and shapes to decorate Easter eggs is another great way to talk about colours and patterns. You can also count the eggs, making sure there are enough for the whole family, and that everyone gets the same amount. You can divide other Easter candies or jelly beans according to their colour, and make a pattern or even a jelly bean rainbow.

We all learn differently. Some learn best by reading, some through watching, and some through doing. Children are still finding their best learning style and therefore learn best by doing all three. Keeping this in mind, how might you adapt playing or chores into learning moments?

When possible, try to be aware of the language you are using, or not using, during play and chores. Think of yourself as the narrator; while narrating you are teaching your children language, self-expression, and building on their vocabulary.

Some good numeracy words to use throughout play and learning are:

  • ciircle, square, triangle
  • round, flat, curved, straight, corners
  • same, different, opposite
  • sorting
  • more, less
  • short, long, bigger, smaller

Some good questions to ask:

  • What comes next?
  • Which are the same? Why?
  • Which is different? Why?
  • Where would this go? Why?

While narrating you could also try to include a singing narrative. Singing and music help develop children’s brains and make stronger brain connections, leading to children who develop stronger literacy skills in life.

At the Centre for Family Literacy’s free 3,2,1,Fun! program, you will enjoy learning activities, tools, and tips to support your children in their early literacy development, which leads to success in school and lifelong learning.

If you are unable to access one of our programs, you can download our free parenting literacy resource app, Flit, from Google Play and the App Store. The app gives you over 100 fun literacy activities, recipes, games to do with your children, and tips and tricks to add to your parenting tool box.

You’ll find more information about 3,2,1,Fun! and Flit on our website at www.famlit.ca

 

Investing in Literacy is Good for Business

110616-F-TY749-009WHAT IS LITERACY?

Literacy is the foundation for all learning. An individual’s literacy level impacts their success in reading, writing, understanding, speaking, and listening. This impact extends to all areas of their life, including home, work, and community.

Family Literacy is the way parents, children, and extended family members use literacy at home, work and in the community. Family literacy is foundational to the overall wellness of an individual and their family.

Today, 45% of Albertans struggle with literacy.

Imagine the challenges that an individual will face on a daily basis—job applications, safety manuals, menus, prescriptions, instructions, signs, maps, etc.

Imagine the cost to society—to education, healthcare, social services, the criminal system, employers, the economy, you.

 

WHY BUSINESSES SHOULD INVEST IN LITERACY

A Statistics Canada survey found that lifting literacy scores by 1% could lift labour productivity by 2.5% and raise output per capita by 1.5%.

Companies who invest in family literacy workshops as part of their commitment to employee wellness are innovative and forward thinking. These companies are also smart investors because the increase of employee wellness in the workplace reduces costs and increases employee productivity.

Research shows that workplace programs that aim to do more than increase job-specific skills, that use functional materials from not only the workplace but also from home and community, are more effective than programs with a narrower scope. Family literacy activities and materials can enhance the effectiveness of workplace training.

Family Literacy helps to produce young adults, who are just entering the workforce, with the ability to read directions carefully and thereby reduce waste in the form of accidents and mistakes.

—Plant supervisor, Lucerne Foods

 

EMPLOYER BENEFITS OF INVESTING IN FAMILY LITERACY IN THE WORKPLACE:

Literacy for Business

  • Attract new employees
  • Better employee and client retention
  • Build diversity in skills and personnel
  • Improve employee morale and corporate culture
  • Reduce sickness and absenteeism
  • Enhance working relationships between colleagues and improved labour relations
  • Encourage employees to show more initiative and teamwork
  • Increase output, quality of work, and overall profitability
  • Improve health and safety records

 

EMPLOYER BENEFITS OF INVESTING IN FAMILY LITERACY IN THE WORKPLACE:

  • Earn more income
  • Employees feel supported and valued
  • Increase job satisfaction
  • Fewer occupational injuries
  • Have greater opportunities for job mobility
  • More likely to participate in further training
  • Greater economic security
  • Increase confidence and self-esteem
  • Increase social awareness and self-advocacy
  • Better able to support their children’s language, literacy, and numeracy development

Each dollar invested in a family literacy workshop goes twice as far, supporting early childhood development as well as adult basic and continued education.

This investment supports a family’s intergenerational cycle of achievement.

 

HOW THE CENTRE FOR FAMILY LITERACY CAN HELP

LitLinks5Employees with children often struggle to achieve a work/life balance. There simply are not enough hours in the day to do all the things we need to do and even less time to do the things we want to do. There is no doubt that parents feel guilty when they have reduced time to spend with their children and as a family. This “unbalance” can result in low performance at work and increased stress at home.

Our workshops support families to make the most of the time they have together. Each workshop identifies naturally occurring opportunities, already present in their routine, to support both the adult’s and children’s language, literacy, and numeracy development. We give participants the tools to recognize these opportunities and build on them, without adding any more to their day.

All of our workshops are hands-on and interactive. Participants work together and draw from their own life experiences as they work through challenges and explore activities, with the information and materials we bring. Participants will leave our workshops with the tools to support their children’s learning and development, and make the most of their time together as a family. Let’s bring back the balance!

Please contact the Centre for Family Literacy for more information on Literacy Links workshops: by email: info@famlit.ca, by phone: 780.421.7323, or visit our website

Conversations with Babies

Baby loveThere are behaviours that babies are born with, like reflexes and how they are naturally drawn toward faces, but if you want your baby to grow up into someone who can tell you things and understand the things you tell them, then you need to talk with them.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you chat with your baby:

  • Babies aren’t very talkative to start, but they are excellent listeners
  • Share your thoughts with your baby, talk about the things you are doing, or tell stories
  • Even before their first words, leave room for them to respond, and reply to their babbles and coos to help them learn about the pattern of conversation
  • Speak and sing to your babies in however many languages you speak. Babies are super good at picking up additional languages if they are learning them from the people in their lives
  • Babies don’t always want to talk. If they look like they’ve had enough, give them a break
  • On the other hand, don’t ignore your baby when they’re trying to talk to you. When you respond, you are letting them know they’re on the right track for developing speech
  • Maintain eye contact and use facial expressions
  • Babies are using cues from your lips and mouth to learn about the sounds coming out of your face. They are simultaneusly learning to lip read!
  • Use expression in your voice, as much as your baby loves you and your voice, there is still such a thing as too boring

An extra note about that last point. You’ve probably noticed that people sound different when they talk to babies. They’ll use a high energy sing-song voice that usually makes babies smile. There are studies that show this helps babies to recognize the differences between different speech sounds, which is pretty cool. You might try to tone it down, but there’s evidence that we all do it on some level.

On another level, it’s one of the many ways that you can show your baby that you are engaging with them personally. You are reinforcing that back and forth communication with your baby is foundational for language development and brain development in general.

What works best for you? Does your baby particularly like entries from your old high school diary, or your celebrity impressions? Let us know in the comments!

You might also be interested in a Books for Babies program offered by the Centre for Family Literacy in Edmonton. Here’s a link to the webpage.