Multicultural Rhymes that Bind

Multi-RTB

Twinkle,Twinkle Little Star (in Mandarin)

一闪一闪亮晶晶,满天都是小星星
挂在天空放光明,好像许多小眼睛
一闪一闪亮晶晶,满天都是小星星

 
On Friday mornings, at the Multicultural Rhymes that Bind at Ellerslie Baptist Church, the program is a mix of Mandarin and English children’s tickle, action, and bouncy songs and lullabies.

My first encounter with the large group, about 70 people, brought me far away from my daily English speaking life. I was welcomed immediately by all the smiling faces, and was in awe of the group and how important learning my language was to them. The room was bursting with grandparents, moms, dads, toddlers and babies, all singing Twinkle,Twinkle Little Star in Mandarin.

The demand for the program was so overwhelming, it had to be split into two. The second location is at Edmonton Intercultural Centre (McCauley School) on Tuesday afternoons.

Multicultural Rhymes that Bind is a one-hour program. The partner agencies often extend it a second hour to provide other learning opportunities for the families, ending with a fun arts and crafts activity to encourage fine motor development in the children. A healthy snack is provided afterwards to give the families a chance to develop friendships and share their stories.

It all started when, in 1997, Miranda Fung, a community health nurse, saw a huge need to form a Cantonese-speaking parent group in the Chinese community. Cantonese was the language of communication at that time as few people were speaking Mandarin. She formed partnerships with Capital Health and Multicultural Health Brokers Cooperative to help with the expansion of the program. Miranda then became a trained facilitator to provide the Rhymes that Bind programming, and a partnership was formed with the Centre for Family Literacy.

The families communicate their love of the program continually to the facilitators through comments made at the end of the session.

Some of my favorite comments are:

Because I love it! It is good for my whole family.

We feel less isolated as a family. RtB helps us integrate into English-speaking community.”

My child feels less stranger anxiety, he has learnt to make friends and laugh and have fun.

RtB shares the harmony of songs and I enjoy the beauty of music.”

I feel like a hero as a parent because I know all these songs I can sing to my child.“

Having the opportunity to be a part of Multicultural Rhymes that Bind adds a unique dimension to my job. I am thankful to be able to provide the opportunity for other cultures  to do Rhymes that Bind.

Please check our website for all the Rhymes that Bind locations in Edmonton.

hashtag: #RTB_Edm

 

Snowmen on the C.O.W. Bus

snowmen

On the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus we are very excited to start 2015 off right. We brought out our best snowman activities and are eager to share some wonderful winter stories with our visitors. One of our favourites is The Mitten by Jan Brett. This book is about a grandmother who knits snow-white mittens for her grandson, who takes them on an adventure. This story comes with some fun props that all ages are sure to enjoy.

TheMitten

During the winter months, many easy outdoor activities—like building snowmen—are available for families. Try some of these:

  • Have a snowball fight
  • 
Go sledding
  • 
Catch snowflakes on your tongue
  • 
Make a snow angel
  • 
Build a snow fort
  • 
Collect pine cones

When it’s time to come inside and warm up, consider building a snowman inside. Use things such as paper plates or cotton balls for the body, and scraps of fabric or craft supplies to finish the snowman.

Enjoy this great interactive snowman activity we found online!

Sing along with this “I’m a Little Snowman” tune!

Check our website for the bus schedule and more information

Watch a video of a program on the bus

hashtag: #edm_cow

 

 

Digital Technology

technology

“…New digital technologies have entered every aspect of our reality, including families and the lives of young people. They have already affected preschool children’s play and learning as well.”

UNESCO (2010)

I recently did a presentation on technology at the Alberta Early Years conference. I opened the session with a confession – I am not a technology expert and I have been a reluctant user of new technologies.

However, as the above quote from UNESCO states, technology is in every aspect of our lives. Families are using technology, and in family literacy we work with the strengths and tools that families are bringing. So the debate is no longer “do we use it,” it is “how do we use it.”

Major studies (“Electronic Media in the Lives of Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers” – Kaiser Family Foundation Report – 2006, American Academy of Pediatrics and Canadian Paediatric Society) have advised that 0-2 year olds should not have any “screen time” at all and it should be limited for toddlers and pre-schoolers.

In my session, we discussed the research versus the reality. Like anything, there has to be balance – between the use of technology (by both parents and children) and meaningful interactions (that promote positive family relationships and healthy development). I challenged participants to pick their favourite app, perhaps one they thought families would be using at home, and answer the following questions:

  1. Why are we using this technology or app? Is it for fun, for learning, or for some other purpose?
  1. What kind of time is being spent with it? Is it high quality and interactive (e.g. can we use the technology as we would use a board game) or is it time being spent alone?
  1. Is what we are doing developmentally appropriate for children?
  1. Do we have guidelines/rules about when and how long it’s used (for parents and children)? Do you have technology-free zones or times?
  1. What are we modelling? What are our children and families seeing?

There’s no “right” answer to any of these questions, but perhaps they can help us think more critically about our use of technology, both personally and professionally.

Ending the session, we talked about how it can be a challenge to start the discussion about technology use. Here are some great books that could help break the ice. Enjoy them and have fun as you explore how you are using technology!

Goodnight IPad by Ann Droyd

Hello, Hello by Matthew Cordell

School for Babies

I like it when 3-BLOGThe fall season signals back to school for children and adults of all ages and in all sorts of schools. And while it’s probably true that someone somewhere is making lots of money running a school for babies, I am not that guy.

I don’t want to intimidate you with frightening statistics and insist that you need my help. I’m also not about to tell you an elaborate story about how I’ve divined the secret to making your baby a genius. Those would be lies, and I want to encourage you to think very carefully if you meet anyone who tries to sell you a story like that.

The things that we discuss in Books for Babies are pretty tame by comparison, but no less amazing if you think about what babies learn and how much there is to learn about babies. Babies are born into a life they know nothing about, and you are almost perfect strangers to one another. It’s pretty incredible if you think about how well you know them, and how much they understand about their world, by the time they are only a year old.

The trick, if you want to call it that, is that almost everything babies learn, they learn through relationships with the people they care about and who care about them. This is why we can say that parents (and other family members) are children’s first and best teachers. Babies are born wanting to understand the things around them, and they learn by watching and interacting with the important people who share their life.

Everything you do with or near your baby helps them learn about the things that are most relevant to them. If books are a part of your life, babies will want to understand them and want to be part of that experience. It’s the same reason you often see babies reaching for their parents cell phones, and why so many parents have that fond memory of the brief period when their toddler loved nothing more than to vacuum the carpet.

If you’d like to chat about how book sharing can benefit you and your baby, sing rhymes, get free books, and meet other parents, then I welcome you and your baby to join us at Books for Babies, or leave a comment below.

There is more information about the program and a full schedule of upcoming groups on our website: famlit.ca

 

hashtag: #books_for_babies

The Edmonton Literacy C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) Bus is coming!

Edm_Bus100_1195crop

Tuesday, September 16th, was the kickoff for our fall program on the Edmonton Literacy C.O.W Bus. Back again for the 2014-2015 season, the C.O.W bus staff – Eileen, Joanne, and Maureen – are excited and ready to sing, read, and sign out books with all of the families who come for a visit when the bus stops by their neighbourhood!

For us, coming back to the Edmonton Literacy C.O.W bus ignites many cheerful feelings, like the happy feeling of back to school we once had as children. We look forward to  seeing old friends and families on the bus and welcoming new ones as well. Moms will once again hear the routine question from their little ones, “is it C.O.W bus day?”

We have kept our old traditions of giving a stamp to the children as they leave the bus and giving out prizes to families each week, at each site, for returning their borrowed books. We have some new things on the bus as well. You will find several new books such as Teach Your Buffalo to Play the Drums by Audrey Vernick, and new robot puzzles that challenge balance, gravity and your imagination!

Teach your Buffalo

Every month, whether you have been coming to the bus for years or will be coming by for the first time, there is a variety of changing things that will challenge and engage your children, at any age or stage. We hope to see you soon on the Edmonton Literacy C.O.W Bus!

Check our website for the bus schedule and more information: http://www.famlit.ca/programs_and_projects/programs/cow.shtml

Watch a video of a program on the bus: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Wmo628paVg

hashtag: #edm_cow

Edmonton C.O.W. Makes Do-it-Yourself Popsicle Puzzles!

On the Edmonton COW (Classroom on Wheels) bus, we try to create our own games and puzzles to encourage the families who visit the bus to do the same at home.

One of our newest do-it-yourself activities is to create popsicle stick puzzles. These are great because they require few supplies and are very inexpensive to make. After an internet search, I found these easy, step-by-step instructions on www.mamamiss.com

popsicle1-2

I even found a DIY Mod Podge recipe (50% white glue & 50% water) and was able to start within minutes.

Step 1: round up the supplies

Step 2: line up the popsicle sticks and tape them in place

Step 3: coat the popsicle stick picture space with a first layer of Mod Podge

Step 4: immediately add the picture and a second thin layer of Mod Podge over it

Step 5: after it dries completely, use an exacto knife to separate each stick

popsicle2

This was my first attempt.  It was not a success, but I learned that thick paper tends to curl up and is harder to cut; normal paper worked better.

image-2

I added the alphabet and numbers to make it a sequencing activity as well.

Now that I had the technique figured out, I decided to make another puzzle. For this one, I printed a photo of myself so the kids could have fun putting me back together.

popsicle4

The glue dried clear and it turned out pretty well!  I added magnets to some of them and I store them in a ziplock bag.

Some other ideas I want to try are:

  • Paint or draw a picture on the sticks instead of using a photo
  • Put several face puzzles together so the kids can mix and match the faces

I am excited about bringing the puzzles on the bus for the children to try, and I hope they will be inspired to go home and make puzzles with their families.

hashtag: #edm_cow

Building Their Way, Their Rules

bird_feeder1     bird_feeder2

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you let your child loose in a pile of recycled materials without rules or instructions? Throw in a couple of rolls of duct tape, masking tape, scotch tape, a few markers, and maybe some scissors.

Too often these days we are rushing from activity to activity, with tight schedules between daycare and after school to get to sports, music lessons, or play dates. More time than ever before is spent in transportation to and from all the places we need to be.

There is a lot of structure to being a child in the modern world. It can seem in a child’s eyes that they are too often told what to do, perhaps even how to do it. In our mission to make sure we provide the best we can for our kids, sometimes we miss out on opportunities for them to just be kids, to create in their own way, to learn about their world with their own two hands.

A great way to keep kids happy and focused for a long period of time is to give them the opportunity for free play. No rules or instructions, just a whole lot of loose parts. Recycle bins in your home are a great place to start. Anything that is not dangerous is free game. Leftover fabric, yarn, wool, wrapping paper – you cannot get a lower cost activity than this. My kids and their friends build amazing towers, leprechaun traps, hamster mazes, fairy homes, bridges, even an island oasis and toys with working parts, vending machines and clocks. I love that they come up with so many ideas on their own. If your home is like mine, there is never a shortage of supplies. My daughter is always declaring which box, container or paper is for her, “save this for me mom, this would make a great…!”

There are far more benefits than just to provide the kids with an activity to keep them busy: they develop hand eye coordination, practice print skills (if they use markers to draw), maybe learn about gravity or how to balance things, and develop motor skills both large and small to name a few. The creative process builds executive function and promotes physical and spatial development. They have to visualize, plan ahead, and learn the process of outcomes and the consequences of each action. There are numerous other benefits but the most important is the fun they have! I also enjoy a keen glimpse at what interests my child.

You might itch to help out. With your experience you clearly know better, but let them learn from their own experience. Let them feel disappointment when their tower breaks or their bridge won’t hold weight. They learn from their own successes and the accomplishments they achieve are truly their own.

To tie in a few great books with this activity, visit your local library and look for:

Not A Box by Antoinette Portis

Not A Stick by Antoinette Portis

The Dot by Peter H Reynolds

Ish by Peter H Reynolds

Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg

Boy and Bot by Ame Dyckman

 

What I Wish We had Done on our Summer Vacations

School is almost over, milestones have been celebrated, the last sport tournament is just around the corner, and thoughts turn to summer vacation – where to go, what to do, and how to fill the time between visits with family and friends. It is also important to think of ways to ensure that during this two-month break our children don’t forget everything they have learned in school.

When my girls were little, we always tried to take advantage of the many free and child friendly activities that happened over the summer. We:

  • joined the Summer Reading Club at the library. The girls picked up a week’s worth of books and rushed home to read them so they could be finished before we headed back to get the next week’s stickers
  • took the train downtown to the Street Performers Festival or the Klondike Days Parade
  • watched the Canada Day fireworks after spending most of the day at the Legislative grounds
  • planned the bus trip to Heritage Days and each of the girls chose what food item they wanted to bring for the Food Bank.

We often wondered through our neighbourhood with no specific destination in mind. It was a way to get out of the house and keep the kids active, but those walks would have been a perfect opportunity to practice their literacy skills without them even knowing. I wish I knew then what I know now. We could have:

  • played a game of street sign bingo – how many stop signs could they count on the way to the park or yield signs on the way to a play date, or what was the most unique sign found
  • searched for all the letters in their names on street or business signs
  • looked for all the numbers from one to ten, or the numbers in our phone number, in the numbers on the houses
  • sung a song about all the colours of the rainbow and looked for them in the beautiful flower gardens we passed along the way
  • planned ahead to make it to our local spray park before the mad lunch rush
  • discussed all the different shapes we could find like the octagon in the stop sign, the triangle in the giant slide, the rectangles made by doors, or the circles in the playground
  • named all the different animals we could see as the clouds passed by in the sky
  • counted how many steps it took to walk to the mailbox and back.

We also could have done more literacy activities at home. We could have:

  • used sidewalk chalk to encourage the kids to write and illustrate their own stories – each square in front of the house another page in their book
  • researched what flowers or veggies grow best in our area, then they could have planted their own to take care of over the summer
  • planned a back yard pool and sprinkler party and sent invitations to their friends
  • read the comics and then created our own.

There are so many opportunities at our fingertips to support and build on our children’s literacy skills – we just need to look at things with a different mindset. The next time you see a child scribbling on your sidewalk, take a minute to ask them about the story they are trying to tell.

 

Who Doesn’t Love Playing with Bubble Wrap?

There is something satisfying about popping bubble after bubble of bubble wrap. Maybe it is the loud pop sound or the feel of the air being forced out; maybe even the gratification we feel as each bubble explodes from the pressure of us crushing it like a bug. Whatever it is, it is fair to say that most people enjoy popping bubble wrap.

So why stop at using bubble wrap only to protect articles while shipping? Why not make bubble wrap shoes, dip your feet in paint and run all over a canvas? I found this exciting idea “Bubble Paint Stomp Painting” on the Mess for Less website. With such simple, clear ideas and endless possibilities, it got me thinking about other fun ways we could upcycle bubble wrap.

The first thing to remember is that Pinterest is our friend! For those of you who are not familiar with Pinterest, Wikipedia describes it as a visual discovery tool that people use to collect ideas for their different projects and interests. People can create and share collections (called “boards”) of visual bookmarks (called “Pins”) that they use to do things like plan trips and projects, organize events or save articles and recipes. So all I did was type “bubble wrap” into the search feature and tons of ideas appeared!

Some of my favourite ideas are listed below!

1.  Bubble Wrap Learning
by Meaningful Mama

I love this idea because it is so simple and yet can be tailored to any age group or interest!  All you need are some small round stickers and a sharpie and you can make practicing reading or numeracy so much fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.  Advents All Wrapped Up
by Chambersmades

I am always looking for ways to take the candy features out of the holidays and I love this bubble wrap advent idea! The kids can even make the stickers that go on the bubbles and each child can have their own.

 

3.  Bubble Wrap Run
by Play Create Explore

This one is SO simple! Nothing complicated about it. Lay down some bubble wrap and just do what you do! Looks like hours of fun to me!

Oh, the endless possibilities of bubble wrap. I love that you can take as little as 2 seconds to prep the fun or 20 minutes to prep stickers or paint. Whatever your time frame you are surely able to find something fun to do with bubble wrap!

 

 

It’s Not Whether You Win or Lose, It’s How You Play the Game

Games are a wonderful way for families to play and learn together. Unfortunately, not all games are well suited for young children and even the “Junior” versions of some board games are not intended for toddlers or preschool aged children. Patience is a fine virtue, but if you can get young children involved earlier, it can be a wonderful opportunity for them to build motor, social, emotional and intellectual skills.

Your first consideration should be safety. A lot of games come with small pieces, and you want to think about what your options are before the pieces in question are swallowed. Can you switch out the pieces with something bigger that would work just as well? Can you switch up the rules or how the game is played so that the pieces aren’t even necessary? For example, you might be able to keep score with a pad and paper instead of moving placeholders.

In terms of motor skills, a lot of games have a hands-on element that is perfect for developing fine motor coordination. Playing Dominos or Jenga by the rules might work well for an older child, but a younger child can still use the blocks and tiles for building, stacking, and balancing. For older children with better motor control, Scrabble tiles and playing cards provide a more challenging building experience.

The very act of playing with the physical pieces helps children to make connections with a lot of abstract concepts. Dice can be a great way to practice counting. Playing cards can be sorted by colour, suit or face value. Recognizing the labels on game boards or building words with Scrabble tiles help children to learn and practice spelling. Learning to think abstractly comes with time, and it starts with concrete real world experiences.

Speaking of which, rules can be tricky, and ideas like sportsmanship and fair play take some time to learn. You can expect most children to go through a phase where they only want to win. They will either want to ignore rules or make up their own on the fly. That’s normal, and they are learning how rules work in the process. In a similar fashion, older children are often incredibly strict about the rules, which can be very frustrating for their younger siblings. Be patient, and try to emphasize the fun and excitement of the game. Being the first across the winning line is exciting, but if you’re just as excited about your “2nd winner” and “3rd winner” you can encourage them to keep trying. If the game is only fun when you win, then it can be hard to convince anyone to play again. On the flip side, if they are having fun they will be very engaged, want to keep playing and learn all kinds of skills and information in the process.