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.

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 Add the Fun of a Scavenger Hunt into Everyday Activities

I’m sure there are many sticklers who would argue that what I’m suggesting here is not a real scavenger hunt, but let’s skip past the dictionary definitions and focus on how you can incorporate the fun of a scavenger hunt into everyday activities.

Dad & daughter

YOU CAN SEARCH FOR ANYTHING

You can make a list of specific things to find, or try to see how many things you can find that fit a certain category. Personally, I’m a fan of categories and descriptions because they are great for developing vocabulary and they require a lot less preparation. Here are a few examples:

  • colours
  • sounds
  • shapes
  • words or letters (or things that start with a letter or sound)
  • movements (things that roll, fly, bounce, walk, slide, never move…)
  • sizes (what things are huge? what can you find with a magnifying glass?)
  • textures
  • groups of things (things found in pairs, 3s, 4s, 5s…)
  • things that fit a theme (tools, animals, plants, wet things, things that rhyme…)

YOU CAN SEARCH ANYWHERE

Really, anywhere:

  • outside (what do you notice: walking down the street, on the bus, in the park, around a pond, at the zoo…)
  • at home (in a particular room or searching the whole house)
  • in other buildings (the garage, the grocery store, a greenhouse, the library, the post office…)
  • in books, magazines, and newspapers (newspapers are great for finding words and letters, and you might be amazed how many things they can remember seeing in the books you have shared together)
  • in your imagination (very handy when you run out of things to spot on long car rides)
  • in the garbage (maybe you’re learning about recycling or composting?)

YOU DON’T NEED A LIST

While traditionally you start by handing out copies of a written list, a lot of young children don’t find that very helpful—most often you are reading the list to them. You can also use pictures with, or instead of, words, but that takes time; you are probably only going to do that for special occasions or with things you use all the time (like turning your grocery list into a scavenger hunt).

Some people like checking things off on a list, but I don’t understand the appeal myself. Instead, if you want to keep track of what you find in your search, you can draw together, take pictures, use the voice recorder on your phone, collect the items themselves in a bag/box/backpack/basket (half the fun is remembering where the things you collected came from), or scribe for them (they will love seeing their words in print).

Or, you can skip the list altogether. Just pick a category or theme and go exploring together to see what you can find, or take turns deciding what you’re going to look for next.

CONSIDER YOUR AUDIENCE

It’s easy to be overwhelmed if you think that a scavenger hunt needs to play out like the script to a blockbuster movie or an episode of a reality TV show. I’m not saying that wouldn’t add to the appeal, but young children are natural explorers. They will notice all kinds of things that you never thought to look for, and they bring a level of excitement to “let’s go find things that are red” that you rarely get from older kids or teenagers.

WHY ARE WE DOING THIS AGAIN?

  • It’s fun!
  • You can encourage the children to be more observant and methodical. Often children forget to look everywhere, or they take a running approach to everything. By looking for things together, you can teach them some helpful strategies, like how to slow down or form a plan before you start looking.
  • We are building vocabulary! If your little one is starting to read, then circling all the words they recognize by sight on a newspaper page is great practice.
  • As exciting as it can be, this can also be really relaxing. How often do you take the time to look for shapes in the clouds? Or really listen to all the sounds in your neighbourhood?
  • There are all kinds of categories, themes, and ideas that you can explore with these kinds of activities, so you’re helping them develop a broader, deeper, and more coherent worldview.
  • If you are missing a few things (your keys for example) this can be a sneaky way to recruit some help. I’m kidding, but not really. If you approach everyday tasks in a playful manner, you can keep the kids engaged, help them learn, still get everything you need done, and have fun doing it.

If you are interested in family literacy resources, or programs in Edmonton, please visit the Centre for Family Literacy website at www.famlit.ca

Non-fiction Books Your Kids Will Love

I have been reading to my children since they were born, so I have noticed a real trend in their choices of non-fiction or fiction books. As babies, they wanted us to read non-fiction—books with real pictures of real things in their daily lives while they were getting to know their world.

Now that my oldest is preschool age, she prefers that we read fiction—stories that expand her ideas of whimsy and make-believe worlds, where princesses always live happily ever after and the super heros always win. She has lost interest in non-fiction books.

animal-teeth2Because of the research on the importance of reading non-fiction, I have been trying to find interesting topics for my daughter. When I came across the series of books “What if you had Animal…” (Feet, Teeth, Hair, or Ears) by Sandra Markle and Howard McWilliam, I knew right away she would love them.

The books combine fiction and non-fiction. They have pictures of real animals and information about their feet, teeth, hair or ears. But what makes the books fun is that they also have illustrated pictures of children with the same animal’s attributes. As you can see on this cover, the child has beaver teeth, which of course look hilarious to children.

The series allows children to read non-fiction literature to get facts and dive into a fantasy world at the same time! What a great bridge for readers to find their way back to non-fiction books. The series can be found on the Edmonton Literacy C.O.W. bus!

animal-feetMy daughter absolutely loves these books! We have read them so often that she can tell me what great super power, as she likes to call them, I would have if I had certain animal features. At the playground she commented that she would love to have kangaroo feet to  jump high over the fence and get to the park faster.

Since we have travelled with my daughter several times, she found an easy interest in maps of our country, continent and world. We have also been venturing into the career and cooking sections at the library.

Here are some ways to spark your children’s interest in non-fiction books:

  • Pursue their passions: do they have a love of dinosaurs or big monster vehicles? Use their current interests to encourage them
  • More is more: by offering a variety of non-fiction reading materials, you may find a format they prefer, such as books, magazines, newspapers, or atlases
  • Parents are their children’s best teachers: if you read a variety of literature, both fiction and non-fiction, and talk with your children about what you are reading, it is likely their interests will grow

Below are links to research on the importance of reading non-fiction books:

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/dec12/vol70/num04/Nonfiction-Reading-Promotes-Student-Success.aspx

http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/non-fiction-why-its-important/

http://scholarworks.wmich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1071&context=reading_horizons

http://www.education.com/reference/article/reasons-teaching-nonfiction/

http://uanews.ua.edu/2014/03/ua-matters-the-importance-of-reading-nonfiction-with-children/