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

 

The Many Benefits of Crafts

iStock_000008336394XLargeDoing a craft together is a great way to build the skills needed for future lifelong learning, such as thinking skills, working together and continuous learning.

Crafts incorporate different learning styles, and are hands-on activities that build fine motor skills. By giving your child a project  that can be worked on together until completion, you are also working on setting goals and building confidence and self-esteem.

On the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus, we have a variety of simple crafts you can do at home – all geared towards early learning and literacy.

One such craft is a do-it-yourself playmat. Try it in conjunction with your child’s favourite book. One of our favourite children’s books is I Went Walking, by Sue Williams and Julie Vivas, and it goes especially well with this project. This book is about a little boy who goes on a walk and sees many different animals along the way. It is simple, repetitive, rhyming and entertaining,

I went walking.
What did you see?
I saw a black cat
Looking at me.

The following is just an example of what you can do. Tailor it to your own child’s interests. You might even want to make up your own story to go with your mat!

When the playmat is finished, you can use it with toys you already have at home.

Craft1

You will need:

•  Plain cloth placemat or
other material such as pillowcase or tablecloth (the possibilities are endless)
•  Felt of various colours
•  Hot glue or fabric glue
•  Scissors
•  Paper and pencil for sketching

Optional:
Foam or felt letters to spell the title

Directions:

  1. Sketch out the setting on a piece of paper
  2. Cut out your felt pieces that go with the story
  3. Glue felt pieces onto placemat, then cut out and glue a path winding its way through the setting.
  4. Decorate with more felt as desired.

Craft2

Optional:

Draw, trace or print out play pieces from the story, then colour, cut and laminate (or use packing tape or contact paper). You might want to add Velcro to the backs of these pieces so they stick to the felt on the play-mat.

You want this to be a positive experience, so try to start simple. Don’t stress; have fun instead!

 

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

hashtag: #ab_cow

Numeracy can be fun… for Everyone!

mother-and-child-baking

All children are unique individuals. They all act, play, and express themselves differently. As parents, we quickly discover our children’s preferences in all things. We also generally try to accommodate these preferences – preparing our children’s favourite foods, reading their favourite stories, or getting them clothing in their favourite colours or styles. Children even learn in different ways, for instance they can be:

  • Hands on learners
  • Visual learners
  • Auditory learners

Below is a list of activities that appeal to a wide variety of learning styles. There is no need to set aside time in your busy day to sit with paper and a pencil. Find what works best for your children and remember that the best opportunities for learning are the ones that are fun and occur naturally.

Sing!

If your children love to sing and dance, here are some great songs to share. These songs are not only fun, but they support the numeracy concepts of number sense and counting. Once your children have learned these songs, try making up your own!

  • 5 Green and Speckled Frogs
  • Ten in the Bed
  • 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed
  • 5 Little Ducks

Get Creative!

If your children have an artistic interest, let them create! Provide them with a variety of items to use in their creations. To support the concept of early numeracy, let your children explore colours, textures, shapes and sizes. Here are some ideas to inspire your little artists to create some fun art.

  • Choose a number and draw it on a piece of art paper. Have your children glue that number of items on the page.
  • Have your children choose their favourite colour and draw all the things they can think of that are that colour. Choose a new colour each day.
  • Collect items from nature to use in a collage. While creating the collage, discuss the shapes of the items, which items are bigger and which are smaller, and which are smooth, bumpy or rough.

Play With Your Food!

Cooking and baking with your children are perfect opportunities to explore early numeracy in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Following a list of instructions: what do you add first, second, etc.
  • Measuring ingredients: fill it full, use half, add 2 spoonfuls, etc.
  • Timing: bake for 25 minutes, mix for 2 minutes, etc.

Measure It!

Hand your children a ruler, a stick, or even their shoe and let them measure items around the house or outside. How many shoe lengths is the kitchen table? How many stick lengths is your bed? Is the bed longer than the table or shorter?

Game On!

Board and card games are wonderful opportunities to spend time with your family and practice numeracy skills. Rolling the dice, moving spaces along a game board, and following directions are just a few of the numeracy concepts supported by playing games.

Don’t feel the need to go out and purchase a board game if you don’t already have one. There are many games that you can play as a family that do not require any materials at all.

  • I Spy: focussing on colours, shapes and textures in your search
  • Scavenger Hunt: let your children choose the items to go searching for
  • Simon Says: Take turns being Simon, giving commands such as Simon says jump forward, Simon says spin 3 times, Simon says move fast

Once Upon a Time

Most children love to read or be read to. Sharing stories is a perfect opportunity to explore numeracy with your child.

  • Count items on the page
  • Find all the circles, squares, or triangles in the drawings
  • List all the colours you see
  • Predict what will happen next in the story

Opportunities to support your children’s early numeracy exist in the everyday activities that you are already doing! For more ideas on how to explore these learning opportunities visit us at 3,2,1, Fun! Tuesday afternoons from 1:00 to 2:30 pm at Brander Gardens Elementary School.

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

hashtag: #321_Fun

 

 

 

MOOOve into Summer!

COW-SummerWith stops in La Perle, Brander Gardens, and Primrose, the Edmonton C.O.W. bus summer programming has begun! Our first week was a huge success with a total of 81 participants joining us for some “monkeying” around; we launched monkeys with a specially made catapult, caught them with our parachute that doubled as a popcorn maker, and sang about 5 little monkeys jumping on the bed.

COW-Summer2Some of the fun activities we are looking forward to sharing this summer:

  • feeding a hungry caterpillar and then crafting one, as well as a beautiful butterfly
  • DIY backyard games using dollar items like pool noodles
  • practicing our “Eye Spy” skills with a family scavenger hunt
  • exploring measurement and prediction though H2O
  • exercising our lungs in a bubble blow-out
  • expressing ourselves artistically with a colour explosion

Some of the books we are going to bring to life:

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Mix it Up by Herve Tulle
  • Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
  • Waves in the Bathtub by Eugenie Fernandez
  • Tickle Monster by Josie Bissett

Kiddie karaoke will be featuring such favourites as:

  • “5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed”
  • “Fuzzy Little Caterpillar”
  • “Colour Song”
  • “Going on a Treasure Hunt”
  • “5 Green and Speckled Frogs”
  • “Bugs Bugs Bugs”

We won’t divulge all of our plans — you’ll have to attend the program to see what other tricks we have up our sleeves!

Kristin and Crystal

You’ll find our Edmonton bus schedule here

hashtag: #edm_cow