A Learn Together – Grow Together Halloween

Learn Together – Grow Together is a family literacy program for parents and their children ages 3-6 years. The program is run in Edmonton in partnership with Edmonton Catholic Schools. More information about Learn Together – Grow Together at www.famlit.ca/programs_and_projects/programs/learn-GT.shtml

The program runs on Thursdays, so this year we will be meeting with the families the day before Halloween. There are many learning opportunities for parents to share with their children for Halloween (other than trick-or-treating), so we are going to spend time doing a few Halloween-themed activities together.

We will be sharing some children’s Halloween books. Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley, and Pumpkin Eye by Denise Fleming, are just two of many interactive books that are easy for parents and children to share together.


Rhyming is a fun and easy way to learn about rhythm and rhyme. Here are a couple that we will be sharing:

Go to Sleep Little Pumpkin

Go to sleep little pumpkin,
You must cover your toes.
If you sleep now my pumpkin,
You will turn to a rose.

Go to sleep little baby,
You must cover your feet.
When you wake in the morning,
They’ll be muffins to eat.

Go to sleep now (baby’s name),
You must cover your tum.
When you wake in the morning,
There’ll be kisses from Mom.


I made a jack-o-lantern for Halloween night.
He has three crooked teeth, but he won’t bite.
He has two round eyes, but he cannot see.
He’s a jolly jack-o-lantern, as happy as can be.

Halloween_pumpkins2Carving jack-o-lanterns is a lot of fun, but since the children who participate in Learn Together – Grow Together are very young, we are going to decorate some smaller gourd pumpkins instead. The parents and children will be able to colour, paint, and glue decorations on them. This activity will give the adults and children a chance to communicate and work together, use their imaginations, and be creative.

We hope you have a safe and happy Halloween with your family! Enjoy the many learning opportunities for sharing stories, rhyming, and decorating pumpkins together.


hashtag: #LT_GT

Alberta Prairie C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) Bus

As summer winds down, the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) Bus shifts into high gear! Many preparations have been made for our fall visits – everything from purchasing new bus tires to putting together a wall of Legacy Library boxes.

The bus begins the month with a trip to Cypress County where it will stop at Taber, Irvine, Ralston, Seven Persons, Schuler, Acadia Valley, and Oyen. Bentley and four communities in Flagstaff County are also on our schedule for September.

We are really looking forward to meeting with families across the province and sharing family literacy activities and ideas with them. One example is a matching game booklet, made from an old calendar!

COW craft

A Legacy Library, a collection of 50 books for children ages 0 to 6, is left behind in each community we visit and includes a number of new books. Some of our new titles include: My Heart is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall, Baby Touch and Feel Park by DK Publishing, Little Noisy Trucks by Barrons Publishing, Cranes by Aaron Frisch, and ish by Peter H. Reynolds.

Please check out our AB C.O.W. Bus website for the remainder of the 2014 schedule. We look forward to visiting with you soon!


hashtag: #ab_cow

Great Family Traditions


Every three years in July, my mom’s side of the family gathers for a family reunion, and we alternate the location between British Columbia and Saskatchewan. This year the reunion will be in Saskatchewan at The Battlefords Provincial Park campground.

My aunts, uncles, and cousins are scattered across every province from BC through to Ontario so it is a long drive for some. Not everyone is going to be able to make the trip this year, but there will still be about 30 of us at the campground!

I look forward to reconnecting with family that I haven’t seen in years. It is important to set aside time to get together – we are so spread out and get so busy in our own lives.

I also look forward to camping, swimming, playing games, singing songs, reminiscing over old photo albums and eating a lot of food together. It is so much fun participating in all the different activities with my extended family. It is a great time to learn new things and to learn about each other.

As I am now an adult myself, I enjoy visiting with my aunts and uncles. I love to hear stories about my grandparents and about my mom when she was a little girl. Learning about my family history and where I came from helps me understand more about who I am today.

Have fun with your family this summer. Ask to hear family stories or share some yourself with those who are younger. Learn about old family traditions and even some old recipes. See how you might incorporate them into your family today so that they are not lost!

A Winter Lesson

I had originally signed up to write a blog about my winter travelling experience. I was looking forward to sharing everything I had learned while visiting a new country; its food, culture and language. The plane tickets had been purchased and accommodations finalized. I had my passport ready to go, but I was just waiting for my tourist visa to come. Long story short, my tourist visa was never processed and my trip was cancelled.

I was initially disappointed as I had been so excited about getting on a plane and experiencing something new. However, I learned that although I may plan and expect things to work out the way I want them to, it doesn’t always mean they will.

Looking back now, I know it wasn’t meant to be. Instead of travelling I was able to visit with relatives from out of town that I haven’t seen in months, and I had time to finish a few long-overdue projects at home. I learned the value in “letting go” and to appreciate all of the opportunities I have right here at home. I am so thankful I was able to visit with family that I don’t often see, and that my house is now put back together.

As life goes on, I know I will have plans that may or may not come to fruition. I hope I will continue learning and growing through each experience!

What life lessons have you learned this winter?


What Are You Thankful For?

My favourite part of Thanksgiving is time spent with my family. It usually involves too much eating and a lot of laughing. However when we all get together and sit down to our turkey dinner, my mom always makes us share at least one thing we are thankful for.

As a child, I used to think this was a silly and unnecessary activity. However, I am grateful that my mom taught me how to reflect on and appreciate so many things in my life, both big and small. Here are just a few things I am thankful for:

  • family and friends
  • a roof over my head
  • clean water to drink
  • the beautiful colours of fall
  • good health
  • my job
  • pets
  • living in Canada
  • long-weekends!

I hope this Thanksgiving weekend is full of things for everyone to be thankful for! Enjoy spending time with family and friends and don’t be afraid to ask them, “What are you thankful for?”


What Brings Your Family Together?

Our Tree Named Steve is a story about a family who comes together and grows together around a tree in their yard. The parents build the family’s house and leave the tree standing for their family to enjoy. The youngest child isn’t able to pronounce the word “tree” initially, so instead she calls the tree “Steve.” The name sticks and the tree is referred to as Steve for the remainder of the story.

Steve is a constant figure for the family as the children grow up. Through happy times and through tough times, Steve is there.

As I was reading Our Tree Named Steve, I was reminded of the various objects and events in my childhood that brought my family closer together. I lived in five different towns growing up, which always meant changes in houses, schools, friends, etc. However, no matter where we went we had our family dog. This family dog lived for 16 years and was a constant companion for us — no matter where we were living.

My parents also tried to make sure we sat down and had supper together as much as possible. As much as I grumbled about eating together with my family (as I would have rather sat in front of the television), I am thankful for our mealtimes together. It was a consistent event every week that helped us to know what was going on in each other’s lives and get to know one another better. In fact, some of the biggest laughs I had with my parents and my brother growing up were at the supper table!

What brings your family together? Is it a weekly family games night? Do you take a regular family trip to the grocery store? Is it a swing set or a sandbox in the backyard where you can play? Do you have a favourite book that you like to share before bedtime?

Whatever it is, enjoy the things and events in your family that bring you closer together!

Our Tree Named Steve is written by Alan Zweibel and illustrated by David Catrow.

Story in a Box

There are so many ways to engage children with books. One example is our “Story in a Box” craft. We have used the board book “Barnyard Banter” by Denise Fleming, as our starting point for this activity. We created the barnyard setting in the box, as well as the animals found in the story, using materials from a local craft store. This craft provides opportunities for children to interact with the story, or make up their own.
*This craft would work with other children’s books of your choosing as well.
Materials Used:
– 1 Pizza box
– Various colours of felt
– Animal pictures found online
– Hot glue gun and glue
– 1 Permanent black marker
– 1 Pair of scissors
– Take your pizza box (or a box of your choosing) and make sure it is clean and empty.
– Cut out the pieces of felt according to the scene you are creating.
– Using the hot glue gun, glue the pieces of felt into the box. It is best to glue the background colours on first and then glue the smaller felt objects on afterwards.
– Using the animal pictures you found online, glue them onto pieces of felt. It is a good idea to cut and leave a small edge of felt around the animal picture. *You may want to use pictures from flyers, newspapers, magazines, old photographs, etc. instead of pictures found online. Or you could always hand-draw the characters yourself.
–  Using the marker, draw in any extra details you would like.
Now you and your child have created the setting of the story and its characters. Have fun interacting with the story together as a family!

Pizza Box Cash Register

A popular activity that we make for the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. bus is our pizza box cash register.  The children that come to visit us really seem to have fun playing with it. It provides a great opportunity for adults to talk to children about the value of money, how to count money, and how to spend and save money wisely!


1 pizza box and small cardboard pieces from another box




Packing Tape (optional)


1.  Draw a number keypad, scanner, power button, and any other features of a cash register you may wish to add, onto the top of the pizza box.

2.  Measure and cut the cardboard pieces to make sections in the pizza box.

3.  If you would like to make your activity more durable, reinforce the box with packing tape.

We also made a C.O.W. Credit Card out of paper decorated with markers, stickers, and reinforced with cardboard and packing tape.

We purchased our play money from an educational store, but you could make your own play money if you would like.

“Knock-Knock” Guessing Game

The Alberta Prairie C.O.W. bus travels to many communities in Alberta.  We bring books, puzzles, games and other activities for parents and children to share together. Many of the activities on the bus we make ourselves to provide parents with ideas for activities they can make at home.

One of our homemade activities is a “knock- knock” guessing game envelope that has flaps cut out to reveal parts of a picture.  Children are able to guess what the picture might be, then slide the picture out of the envelope to check to see if they were right.

Different size envelopes may be used as well as different kinds of pictures. We used pictures from a 12-month calendar. However, you could try using family pictures or pictures from magazines, flyers, or the Internet.


1- 9×12 inch (22.9 x 30.5 cm) envelope

Pictures of your choice


Felt marker



1. Cut the flap off the end of the envelope (that you would normally use to seal it).

2. In the top left hand corner print “Knock! Knock!”

3. Under “Knock! Knock!” use a ruler to draw the lines needed to make the rectangular flap.

4. Position “Who is there?” approximately in the middle of the remaining space.

5.  Draw flaps above and below “Who is there?”

*Smaller size flaps may make it more challenging for your child to guess what’s underneath. You could also try this with different shaped flaps or perhaps only a small peephole.

6.  Using scissors, cut along the marked lines of the flaps you have just drawn.

7.  Trim the pictures to fit into the envelope.

8.  If you would like to make your activity more durable reinforce with packing tape.