Early Writing Skills

Writing with felts2

Learn Together – Grow Together is one of our family literacy programs for parents and caregivers and their children ages 3-5 years old. The program encompasses a variety of activities that range from sharing stories and rhymes, to gym time, free play, crafts and games. Parents learn ways to help their children in the early stages of reading and writing.

During one of our parent-time sessions, we discuss the beginning stages of writing. Children are not born knowing how to hold a pencil or even what to do with it. This is a skill that must be taught and modelled by parents. From an early age, children are eager to use their hands to grab things. Allow your little ones to use crayons or markers, for example, to scribble on a piece of paper. The scribbles may not mean much to you, but they are the beginnings of letter and word formation, as well as fine motor skill practice.

Often I hear from parents that their children don’t want to sit down and work on their writing skills. So at Learn Together – Grow Together, I always have examples of new and fun ways to practice writing. Here are a few:

  • use sidewalk chalk
  • use just your finger and write in the sand or snow
  • cut up numbers and letters made of sandpaper, and use your finger to trace them
  • in the bathtub or outside, write with shaving cream, or write on a big glob of it
  • put acrylic paint in a Ziploc bag and tape the top, then practice writing on the bag with just your finger
  • tape a long piece of ribbon to a pencil or stick and practice making letters in the air by waving your wand
  • paint letters and numbers on large blank sheets of plain paper

Can you think of more fun ideas to add to the list?

It is also important for your children to see you modelling your writing skills. For example, if you are making a grocery list, or printing an address onto a piece of mail, ask your children to take part in the activity. Or let them watch you fill out forms and documents. As you show your children these skills, they will begin to understand that written print has meaning and that it is an important skill to have.

One of the tip sheets available for free download on the Centre for Family Literacy website is titled “Signs of Reading and Writing Development in Young Children.” It is on side 2 of the “Tips for Sharing Books” pdf. Here is the link to the webpage.

www.famlit.ca/resources/resources_p.shtml

If you are interested in the fall session of Learn Together – Grow Together in Edmonton, please give us a call at 780-421-7323 for more information. Have fun learning and growing together with your children!

6 Benefits of Hands-on Learning

Hands-onA statement that you will hear again and again at the Centre for Family Literacy programs is, “Literacy develops in families first.” Parents are their children’s first, and best, teachers. Yes, that’s right, the best. Who knows your children better than you? Who loves your children better than you? Who has more patience, more desire to see success, more invested in your children’s future, than you.

Literacy skills are learned together. Whether it is through teaching your children the basic building blocks of communication, or learning how to be better skilled at teaching your children, you are all a part of the learning process. Siblings can learn from each other, and as we grow as parents we learn as much from our children as they do from us. Our parents and grandparents have much to offer as well. Experiencing life with a hands-on approach is more than just beneficial for the children—it is fun for everyone and creates long-lasting memories; it strengthens bonds that will benefit the family for many years to come.

Hands-on learning is gained by actually doing something rather than learning about it from books or demonstrations, etc.

The following are some of the benefits of hands-on learning as a family:

1.  Fun

Children love being hands-on with everything, and a lot of parents do too! Hands-on activities increase our motivation to “discover.” Your children will be more enthusiastic and pay more attention to their activities. Learning becomes a by-product of discovery. Hands-on learning works because it involves each of the learning styles: visual (see it), auditory (hear it), or kinesthetic (do it). Young children typically do not have a preference and benefit from using methods from each style.

2.  Creativity

Working on a project is the perfect opportunity to highlight your children’s creative skills. Offer some guidance and a lot of raw materials, and let your children be free to create an original product that reflects their own ideas of the theme or concept being explored.

Warning to parents: be careful not to diminish the creative aspect of hands-on learning by over planning, over managing, or by unrealistic expectations. The finished product needs to be your children’s and not your own. For example, if they want, let them use their own drawings instead of the lovely colour images you printed from the Internet. The learning is in the process of creativity; do not place importance on the final product.

One key element of discovering one’s creativity is boredom. Some of the most brilliant ideas have come from people who had the time to experience boredom, which led to discovering their own creativity. Allowing children to be “bored” and not having to direct them to be creative will have larger benefits in the long run!

3.  Retention

It has been proven through educational research that students will have a vivid and lasting understanding of what they DO much more than what they only hear or see. Make sure that your project/activity can tie into the idea/book/concept you are presenting. As you are creating, use rich language to remind your children WHY you are doing this activity. The project gives them a concrete, visible foundation for learning the abstract concepts you want them to learn. (Which again reminds us why the process is more important than the final product.)

4.  Accomplishment

Persevering through a project and seeing it to completion gives your children a great sense of accomplishment. Seeing your children’s pride in a job well done is worth the trouble of organizing and cleaning up a hands-on project.

5. Review

This one is wonderfully tied to the sense of accomplishment. Your children will love to look at their hands-on projects again and again. By doing so, they are reviewing what they learned! When a relative or friend comes to visit and your son pulls out his model ship, he again reviews what he learned. This review fosters memory retention!

6.  Family Literacy

Your children can work together on a hands-on project, but if you have only one child you can work together. This cooperation, this working together, is what being a family is. Doing hands-on projects, whether you’re making puzzles, building games or forts, or creating a craft, creates family memories and strong relationships; it creates your own family language of shared experiences and discovery.

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
– Benjamin Franklin

If you would like information on our family literacy programs, please visit our website at www.famlit.ca

 

 

Sharing Stories vs. Reading Stories

Fam_Lit044Here at the Centre for Family Literacy we like to talk about sharing books with children as opposed to just reading books to them.

When you are sharing a book, as opposed to reading it, it becomes interactive. It becomes much more than just reading the words on the page. Two ways to do this are:

  • Ask open-ended questions such as “What are they doing in this picture?” or “What do you think is going to happen next?” This encourages children to stop and think about what is on the page, to make connections to real life, and to really step inside the story.
  • Find ways to extend the story.

What does it mean to extend a story?

To extend a story is to build on it—to add activities that are related to the subject of the story. But why should we extend stories?

Children learn best by doing—by being active. When they’re being active they are using all five senses to learn, and these multi-sensory experiences build neural connections in the brain. If they are having fun, they will want to do it again and again, and this repetition makes the connections even stronger. This is how children gain the confidence needed to learn new things.

Simple summertime story extender

one dog canoeA great book to share in the summer is one of our favourites, One-Dog Canoe by Mary Casanova.

In One-Dog Canoe, a girl and her dog set out on a canoe trip, just the two of them, when one by one they are approached by other creatures like Loon, Wolf and Moose, who want to join in on the fun.

I set off one morning in my little red canoe.
My dog wagged his tail.
“Can I come, too??
“You bet, I said.
“A trip for two – just me and you?”

It doesn’t take long before this canoe trip becomes a little more crowded!

“I swished past ferns,
where dragonflies flew.
Loon stretched her wings, “Can I come too?”

What you’ll need:

  • The book One-Dog Canoe
  • Stuffed animals or toys to match the characters: Beaver, Loon, Wolf, Bear, Moose, Frog, Dog, and Girl
  • A “canoe” made with construction paper or bark

(You can always improvise using what you have on hand.)

Give each child a character to hold on to (or multiple characters), and as each character comes up in the story, the child holding that character places it in the canoe. At the end of the story, there are too many animals in the canoe and it tips over, so act this out too by dumping out your canoe!

After the story we like to pair it with a song. Rhymes and songs are critical for developing oral language, and oral language is at the root of all future learning.

Try singing “Row Your Boat”

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.

Row, row, row your boat,
Down a jungle stream.
If you see a crocodile,
Don’t forget to scream.
Ahh!

Row, row, row your boat,
Underneath a stream,
Ha, ha, fooled you,
I’m a submarine!
Bing!

Other ideas:

  • Act out the story using a big box, couch, or outdoor picnic table for the canoe
  • Bring a make-belief canoe into the bathtub
    • Experiment with what floats and what sinks
    • Ask “how many items will fit in your canoe before it tips over?”

Have fun sharing stories! For more ideas on how to make the most of your books, check out Flit, our family literacy app on the iTunes App store here!

 

Letting Your Child Lead

iStock_LTGT

At Learn Together Grow Together, we have been talking about learning through play. It is amazing to observe any child as they play! Everything is new and exciting and they want to soak up every experience they can. A lot of skills are being developed as your child plays: physical, fine motor, cognitive, language, and social skills.

As a parent, it is important that you take the time to play and interact with your child, to help them develop these skills. As your child continues to grow, you will find they develop their own likes and dislikes. Recognizing the interests of your child can be of great benefit to you both.

For example, you may notice that your child would rather pick the dandelions in the grass than kick a ball around. Or maybe your child wants to just play with their blocks, while you are trying to do a craft with them. Perhaps your child would rather read a cartoon strip in the newspaper than read a storybook.

In any of these situations, there is an opportunity to learn something new. As a parent, it may not be what you would like to do, but it is important to follow your child’s lead and recognize what they are interested in doing.

As a parent you know that you have your own likes and dislikes; there are activities you enjoy more than others. So guaranteed it will be the same for your child! Take the time to observe what your child’s interests are and engage with them in those activities. Have fun with them! By doing so, you will be creating positive learning experiences for your child. We all learn more when we are interested; build on the strengths you see in your child everyday and I’m sure their love of learning will continue for years to come.

Check the Centre for Family Literacy website for more about Learn Together – Grow Together

 

Bathtub Fun on the C.O.W. Bus!

Waves in the Bathtub

A popular read on the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus is Waves in the Bathtub by Eugenie Fernandes. In this story, Kady takes her regular bath at night and sings the bathtub song about all of the ocean creatures she pretends are in the tub with her. From pelicans to large whales, Kady imagines many different creatures.

To extend this story and involve the children on another level, we have stuffed toys of all the creatures she pretends are in the bath with her. We use an inexpensive blue shower curtain as the ocean. This way each child can grab hold of the ocean by the edges and help make the waves in the bathtub for Kady.

As we progress through the story, each creature is eventually put into the ocean to swim in the waves with her. Both the children and the adults pick up the tune fairly quickly as it is catchy and repetitive.

A parent can have their own conversation with their children about what creatures they would like to pretend to swim with in the the ocean. Maybe the children are huge fans of the Ogopogo or sea horses. The song and story can be created entirely by children using their own imaginations and the props they may already have at home.

And with the mom in the book hopping into the bath at the end of the story and singing the same song, parents can create their personal version too!

Get the tune for the song from the following video, and see how we use it on the bus.

 

Why not join us for some fun on the Edmonton C.O.W. bus! Here’s our schedule

 

Flit the App: Fun literacy activities to do WITH your 0-5 year old!

As a mother of 3 children now 9, 7 and 5, and a former teacher, literacy learning has been a big part of our family and my career. I’m familiar with how important it is for a parent to engage and read with their children. Still, I would sometimes wonder how to build their language and literacy skills. There are only so many times you can sing “Paddy Cake” with your children before you get bored.

Where did I turn to find activities? Pinterest, of course. If you are not familiar with Pinterest, you can search a topic of interest and find a multitude of ideas. I would sort through numerous Pinterest boards searching for literacy learning activities, but it takes a lot of time. Wouldn’t it be great if there was an app that provided us with some of the best ideas to help our kids gain literacy skills, so we could easily find what we wanted?

Now there is! The new Flit app by the Centre for Family Literacy is not just another literacy app to put in front of your kids. This app is for us, the parents and caregivers of children from birth to 5 years. The Flit (Families Learning and Interacting Together) app offers a curated resource of some of the best activities to connect and do with your child to boost and build key literacy skills.

Here is how it works:

First, scroll across the top to choose from 8 categories: Books, Rhymes, Games, Crafts, Writing, Numbers, Cooking, or Reading.

Flit1

Once you choose a category, you will see the activities in that category. Simply choose an activity and you will be taken to that activity screen.

For example:

Flit2

Once you click on an activity you will be taken to that activity screen.

 Flit3

There you will find:

  • What you need
  • What to do
  • How to do it together with your child

Flit4

At the end of each activity you will find:

  • What concepts can be learned from the activity
  • Additional resources or ideas
  • Related activities

You can also heart favourite activities for use another time or share your activity with family and friends on Facebook.

 

HOW ELSE CAN THIS APP HELP YOU AS A PARENT?

  • Imagine you are sitting in a restaurant that doesn’t have any activities to keep children busy. Yikes! You could easily open this app and choose an activity to help you occupy your children before their food arrives.
  • Kids are at home for their day off from school and you’re not sure what to do with them to pass the day. Take a peek at the app for ideas to get your day moving.
  • You can’t make it to the Rhymes that Bind family literacy program today because your toddler is sick. You can open the app and do the activities in your own home until you can make it back to the group.
  • It gives you an opportunity to engage with your children in a meaningful way.

The app will also benefit: parents, grandparents, babysitters, nannies, day home providers, preschool teachers, and early learning professionals.

Are you ready to get the free Flit app? Here’s more information and the link to iTunes to download the app.

Currently Flit is only available to Apple users, however the Centre for Family Literacy is working on securing funding for an Android version. Please do the quick survey on the website if you are interested in the Android version of the app.

Bonnie Dani
Educator, Writer, Blogger, Mom

I blog over at Adalinc to Life where you can find children’s book reviews, activities, diy projects, and other inspiration for you and your home.

email: bonniedani@adalinc.org

 

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

hashtag: #edm_cow

Get Moooving and Learning!

Child-Play

You may have read the recent article in the Edmonton Journal about the effects of electronic devices on early childhood development. The conclusion was that time spent in front of screens doesn’t really help the brain development of preschoolers, and that screen time can be offset with physical activity.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there are 80,000+ apps labelled as “educational”. Unfortunately, just because something has been labelled as such, doesn’t make it so. Brain connections are built on a foundation of “serve and return”—healthy interaction that goes both ways. Most screen time is passive not active, and involves listening or one-way interaction with a screen.

Some products say they are “interactive,” but as the AAP points out, in order to be truly interactive there needs to be more than “pushing and swiping.” They recommend Common Sense Media to help you decide what’s appropriate.

So, what’s the number one source for physical activity? Interactive play! This gets kids moving, engaging all areas of the brain while increasing blood flow, making learning easier —not to mention fun!

Here are some ideas:

  • Go on a nature walk and scavenger hunt. Put together a list of treasures found in nature, using words and pictures for your checklist. Take pictures and write a story about your scavenger hunt for a scrapbook!
  • Do some gardening together; it’s a fun and multi-sensory way to work on numeracy and literacy skills. Kids can help with counting rows and seeds.
  • Go on a treasure hunt for familiar words using environmental print like magazines, food labels and flyers. Collecting is fun, and this will motivate them to learn new words. Clip out the words and collect them in a newly decorated box!
  • Play with sidewalk chalk. Write letters, numbers or shapes in chalk for your child to run to or jump on when called out. If you’re using numbers, you could try simple addition: One! (Jump to the 1), plus three! (Jump to the 3), equals four! (Jump to the 4).
  • Dig for the alphabet, numbers or sight words. You will need an orange sponge or foam (like a pool noodle or dish sponge), and ribbon for the vegetable tops. Slice the foam into pieces and write letters, numbers or words on them with a marker. “Plant” them in the soil. After digging in your garden, you can even pair the activity with a book about food. On the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus, we like “Rah, Rah, Radishes!” by April Pulley Sayre.

Rah, rah, radishes, red and white!
Carrots are calling. Take a bite!
Oh boy, bok choy, brussels sprout.
Broccoli! Cauliflower! Shout it out!”

  • A great way to incorporate digital technology in an interactive way is to go on a photo hunt for colours. Go for a walk with your smart phone and as you walk, have your child find a colour. Then you can help them take a picture of the item with your phone.

Sound Collection

  • Collect sounds together. Make a checklist for commonly heard sounds and leave a blank space to check off with stickers. Examples of sounds you can search for are: barking dogs, meowing cats, sirens, singing birds, cars honking, or people talking.
  • Make an outdoor obstacle course using whatever you can find around the yard. You might try tires, playground equipment, safety cones, jump rope, beach balls, hopscotch or a broom for limbo. The possibilities are endless!

While we don’t want to rule out all digital fun for kids, it is important to remember the research: physical movement and one-on-one time with parents or caregivers is what feeds our brain and develops oral language. So go play!

Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus information and schedule

Alberta Prairie C.O.W. newsletters (with more crafts to do with your children)

hashtag: #ab_cow

 

 

Can Chores Support Numeracy Development with your Child?

Using Numeracy to Get the Job Done with 3,2,1, FUN!

No one really enjoys doing chores, especially a child. What if I told you that not only could you get your child excited about helping out around the house, but you could be supporting his numeracy development at the same time?

Ready…Set…GO…Set the Table!

Turn this simple chore into a game! First have your child determine how many of each item she will need to set the table.

  • How many places do we need to set?
  • How many plates, forks, knives, spoons and napkins?
  • Do we have enough chairs?

Now ask your child to estimate how long he thinks it will take him to set each item on the table safely.

  • How many seconds will it take you to set each plate safely on the table?
  • Will it take longer to set the spoons than it will the napkins?

Once he has made his estimations or guesses, start the race! Count down the seconds as your child completes each task. This simple game will have your child racing to help at dinner time.

Laundry Basket…ball?

Set up two laundry hampers at one end of a room. One hamper is for lights and the other is for darks. Play a game of laundry basketball! Challenge your child to a game of one-on-one or get the whole family involved and make teams.

  • Keep score! The first team to 10 wins!
  • Try taking shots from different distances. Is it easier to get an item into the basket from close or far away? Are shirts easier to slam dunk or socks? Why?

laundryOnce the laundry has been dried, there are a variety of fun sorting and folding games for the teams to try.

  • The first team to sort their clothes by colour wins!
  • The first team to sort the pants, shirts, socks and underwear into piles wins!
  • The first team to fold each shirt in half and then quarters wins!
  • Match up all the socks. Challenge the other team to another game of laundry basketball using the pairs of socks!

The ideas are endless, and even stinky socks won’t keep your child away from a great game of laundry basketball with the family.

Eye Spy Somebody Cleaning Their Room!

Getting your child to clean their room can be a struggle, but not with this game of Eye Spy.

  1. Choose five items from your child’s room and set them on the bed.
  2. Instruct your child that while she is cleaning her room, she should hide each of the five items.
  3. Once the room is cleaned and the five items are hidden, your child can invite you back into the room. Try to find each item by searching and asking questions. For instance:
  • Is the object hidden on top of something or inside something?
  • Is the object high or low?
  • Am I close to the object or far away?
  • How many steps until I reach the object?

Your child will love to watch as you try to discover where he has hidden the items. This game also gives you the opportunity to make sure the mess hasn’t been shoved into the closet or under the bed!

Getting help with chores shouldn’t be a chore! Taking time to support your child’s numeracy development doesn’t need to be scheduled or planned. These opportunities for learning exist in everyday activities. Chores + learning (really can) = FUN!

For more ideas on how to support numeracy development in the everyday, visit 3,2,1, FUN! Tuesday afternoons from 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm at Brander Gardens school, Edmonton.

Visit our website for more information about the 3,2,1, Fun! program.

hashtag: #321Fun

 

3,2,1, Fun! Blasts Off the Fall Session

Elementary Pupil Counting With Teacher In Classroom

3,2,1, Fun! is back for the fall session. As always, our programs are free. We are now located at Brander Gardens School on Tuesday afternoons, from 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm. We are excited to see the return of some of our families from previous sessions, and are eager to meet some new families from the Brander Gardens area.

Some things that you can look forward to this fall from 3,2,1, Fun!:

Books we will be sharing:

  • A Perfectly Messed up Story by Patrick McDonnell
  • The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
  • Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson
  • The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers
  • The Mitten by Jan Brett

Songs and Rhymes that we be sharing:

  • Zoom, Zoom, Zoom
  • 5 Little Pumpkins
  • The Color Song
  • Mix and Stir
  • If You Are a Ghost

Activities and Games we will explore:

  • Creating a Story Board to bring our favourite stories to life
  • Constructing our own game of BLAST OFF! using items you already have at home
  • Baking and decorating delicious cookies in all shapes, sizes, and colours
  • Creating our own puzzles and matching games using calendars and our imaginations
  • Exploring the colours, smells, and textures of Fall through a scavenger hunt and a hide and seek game

This is just the start of the fun and learning that is set to happen Tuesday afternoons at Brander Gardens School! Please join our community of learners as we explore numeracy through songs, stories and play!

Visit our website for more information about the 3,2,1, Fun! program.

hashtag: #321Fun