Beat the Cold! Bring the Outdoors In with Learn Together – Grow Together!

This last month has been a snowy, blowy and cold one. However the team at Learn Together – Grow Together has found a way to beat the cold! When it is too cold for our families to go outdoors, we simply bring the outdoors in!

 

Books that we read:

  • 10 on a Sled by Kim Norman
  • All You Need for a Snowman by Alice Schertle
  • Snowballs by Lois Ehlert
  • The Mitten by Jan Brett

 

Activities we did:

  • After reading the storybook The Mitten, each family spent the afternoon creating their own storysack. Each storysack contained the characters from the story as well as a large white mitten. These storysacks provided families with a fun, unique and memorable way to read and share the story at home.
  • Using recycled newspaper and packing tape, we made a big basket full of “snowballs”. We then headed to the gymnasium for a variety of snowball throw and toss games, ending with a big group snowball fight!
  • After reading All You Need for a Snowman, we brought in a huge plastic bin of snow from outside. Then, wearing mittens, the children and their families spent the afternoon creating their own snowmen and snow castles!
  • Using plastic containers of varying sizes we froze “treasures” in water. Once frozen, we took the ice blocks out of the containers and the children spent the afternoon exploring methods to melt and chip the treasures from the ice. The children used a variety of methods including: warm water, hand held tools, salt etc. to extract their treasures. In order to keep this activity literacy based, our treasures included letters from the alphabet that corresponded with other items in the ice block. For instance, when a child extracted a letter “Y” from the ice, they would then begin to look for the items in the ice that corresponded with that letter, such as a yellow yo yo.

 

Snacks we shared:

banana-snowmen

Banana Snowmen
Ingredients: bananas, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and pretzels.

 

bear-pretzel

Pretzel Polar Bears
Ingredients: pretzel sticks, peanut butter, coconut and black icing.

 

Songs and Rhymes we shared:

I’m a Little Snowman (to the tune of I’m a Little Tea Pot)
I’m a little snowman, short and fat.
Here are my buttons and here is my hat.
When the sun comes out, I cannot play.
I just slowly melt away.

Five Little Snowmen
Five little snowmen all made of snow,
five little snowmen standing in a row.
Out came the sun and stayed all day,
and one little snowman melted away.

(count down to 0)

Zero little snowmen all made of snow,
zero little snowmen standing in a row.
Down came the snow that fell all day,
and five little snowmen came back to play.

To go along with these rhymes, our families constructed five popsicle stick snowmen and one popsicle stick sun to use while they recited the rhyme. These props were a fun activity for the families and they really brought the rhyme to life!!

With a little creativity and our families’ eager participation, Learn Together – Grow Together has succeeded in bringing the outdoors in and now you can too!!

More about the Learn Together – Grow Together program

hashtag: #LT_GT

 

Stop Just Reading Books! Start Living Books!

321Fun

Every child has a favourite book, a story that they want read to them over and over again. For parents, this can become quite boring. At 3,2,1, Fun! we have spent the last few weeks showing families how to stop just reading books and how to start living books. To support families in increasing their children’s learning, we have been sharing ideas and activities to extend a simple story book.

Children choose their favourite books or stories for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they love the drawings, or maybe they can relate to the characters in the story. Once children have chosen their favourite books, it is only a matter of time before they begin to learn the words and predict the events. Before you know it, they can recite the story from start to finish! When this happens, it does not mean they have become bored with the story, though the parents may have. It simply means we need to take the book to the next level. Let me show you how to bring your children’s favourite books to life!

 

Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

Go Fishing!

You don’t need a boat or even a lake to take your children fishing. Fill the bathtub or a plastic bucket with water. Attach paper clips to some plastic fish and drop them in the water. Use a wooden dowel with string and a magnet as the fishing rod. You can challenge your children to count each fish they catch or to only catch certain colours or shapes. The possibilities are endless and the fun is guaranteed!

Make your own Rainbow Fish

Using paper plates and any other craft or recyclable materials you have around the house, your children can create their own Rainbow Fish or fish aquarium. They can explore shapes, sizes, and patterns as they create. Use the finished craft as a prop the next time you read the book.

Snack

Place a handful of Gold Fish crackers at the bottom of a small bowl. Using a short piece of stringy liquorice, tie a gummy worm to the end of a pretzel stick. Voila!! You have an edible fishing snack for your children.

Sing!

“1, 2, 3, 4, 5 once I caught a fish alive,
6, 7, 8, 9, 10 then I threw him back again.
Why did you let him go?
Because he bit my finger so!
Which finger did he bite?
The little finger on my right!”

 

Going on a Bear Hunt by M. Rosen

We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we’ll have to go through it!

Course

Build an obstacle course in your living room, basement, or back yard using furniture, cardboard boxes, etc. Have your children go through the obstacle course in a pattern of their choosing. They can explore going over, under, and through. Not only is this a fun activity for your children, but they will be working on their patterning and predicting skills at the same time.

Go on a Bear Hunt!

Create a scavenger hunt for your children. If you really want to get creative, you can even craft a treasure map for them to follow.

Snack

To reinforce the theme of patterns you can cut up a variety of fruits and cheeses and have your children create their own snack pattern on a skewer, or on an edible necklace made with a long piece of stringy liquorice and fruit loops.

 

The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins

Bake Cookies

Following a recipe and baking allow your children to work on a wide variety of numeracy and literacy skills while having fun. Once you are finished baking you can read the story and split the fresh baked cookies among family and friends!

Sing

“Way up high in a cookie tree,
two little cookies smiles at me.
So I shook that tree as hard as I could,
down came the cookies!
MMMMMMM they were good!”

These are just a few ideas on how you can turn a simple story into an adventure full of fun and learning for your children. By choosing to live your children’s favourite story books you are not only bringing to life their literary world, but you are providing them the opportunity to learn through their experiences. These learning opportunities will shape them for years to come and will surely build your family’s legacy of learning.

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

hashtag: #321_Fun

Family Day – Unplugged

FamilyDay

Family Day falls on Monday, February 16 this year. Don’t have plans yet? Let us inspire you with some fun ideas for the whole family. Whatever you do on Family Day, try to stay unplugged. Better yet, stay plugged in to each other!

  1. Get outside and have some fun! How about skating, tobogganing, skiing or snowshoeing? Try making snow angels or a family-sized snow fort. Put food colouring in spray bottles and make snow art! And remember, chilly outings are best followed by hot chocolate and freshly baked cookies. (Have we mentioned that following a recipe together is a great family literacy activity?)
  2. Don’t like the cold? Play a board game or make a craft together. Sculpt snowflakes out of paper to hang in the window, or sprinkle salt on a watercolour painting!
  3. Family can extend to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even friends. Have the kids help with a card, letter or email to someone who can’t be with you on Family Day.
  4. Does your community offer special public events on Family Day? Many art galleries, museums and family-friendly places offer a reduced price or free entry.
  5. National Heritage Day falls on the same date as Family Day in Alberta. It’s a great reason to explore your family history. Pull out the old photo albums or research your family’s geneology. To focus on more recent history, create a scrapbook together of the past year or update your child’s school memory album. Be sure to include pictures, artwork, and your child’s writing!
  6. Turn up the volume. Look up the lyrics to your favourite songs. Print them and have a family sing-off! Not up for singing? Try turning one of your family’s favourite stories into a play or puppet show.
  7. Quiet down to connect. If you need some calm later in the day, try working on a puzzle together. If you’re an artistic bunch – or even if you’re not – you might get a kick out of family art time. Give everyone paper and a pencil to draw a favourite family memory or try sketching the same scene at the same time. You’ll be surprised at the unique perspectives each of you will bring. Be sure to put them on display afterwards!
  8. Want to grow your financial goals as a family? Create money jars. Decorate three jars and label them: ‘Give’, ‘Save’, and ‘Spend’. Write out your family’s plans for the money that will go in each jar.
  9. Take a trip to the library. Seek out a classic or discover a new family favourite. Have an absolute favourite family book? Write a letter to the author together, and then send it by mail or email.
  10. Share a little love with another family. Put some books or clothes you no longer use in a gift bag. Pass them on to another family, with a note, of course!

Whatever you plan to do this Family Day, we invite you to disconnect from technology in order to better reconnect with your family, friends and community.

Happy Family Day!

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