Teaching Your Child Literacy and Numeracy: There’s an App for That

Baby Girl on a Messy Couch with her Parents “Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is most important.” – Bill Gates

For a lot of parents, the idea of “teaching literacy and numeracy skills” to our children is intimidating—and if it’s not intimidating, it’s definitely overwhelming: there are only so many times we can recite the alphabet and sing nursery rhymes between doing the laundry, getting groceries, making meals, changing diapers, changing more diapers, loading and unloading children from vehicles, cleaning puke from our hair, and occasionally showering. Sitting down with our kids on the daily to intentionally “teach literacy” is a bit of a lofty goal: even if we have the time, we might not know what to do. And so it’s sometimes easier—let’s face it—to sit our kids down with Dora and hope they learn through cartoon osmosis.

There’s no harm in that—I know lots of toddlers who can teach me Spanish because of that show. But it’s important to remember that you are your child’s first and most effective teacher; Dora and her purple monkey companion are merely extending the lessons you’ve already taught. And though you might not know it, you are teaching your children all the time.

Your children develop most of their literacy and numeracy skills during the routine, day-to-day activities that are already part of your family life. While you are sorting laundry with your two-year old, she is picking up on patterns, numeracy, sizes, and categories. The most effective way to improve and develop your child’s literacy is to recognize these moments and build on them. This is easier said than done—most of us go on auto-pilot when we do routine tasks, so it’s a bit of a stretch to expect that you will remember to recognize (and build on) those moments of literacy in every mundane thing you do. Luckily, there’s an app for that.

Flit, our free family literacy app, was developed for parents like you to identify those moments of literacy and build on them. Whether you are in the middle of grocery shopping, doing laundry, or cooking dinner, you can click open the app, choose a category and quickly find a literacy activity you can incorporate into the task at hand. Here’s an example of what you’ll find:

  • Making Breakfast?

Click the “Cooking” category. Choose an activity that corresponds to what you are making for breakfast—there’s a fun activity for everything from Smoothies to Fruit Loops.

Say it’s a Fruit Loop day: the app suggests laying the fruit loops out in a pattern of colours, having you or your child string them on a string in the laid out pattern, and fruit-loopsthen tying the ends of the string to make a fruit loop necklace.

While you do this activity, you can talk to your child about the different colours and pattern of the fruit loops. To extend the activity, you can share a book like We All Went on Safari by Laurie Krebs or Elmer by David McKee and have your child look for different colour patterns in it.

Each activity also has a section that explains the “Why?” of the activity—in the case of the Fruit Loops, the app explains that “Patterns are everywhere—in language, reading, writing and numeracy. This type of activity lets you make pattern recognition a natural part of your child’s routine.”

The app, which was completely upgraded last fall, has more than 125 activities under eight categories: books, rhymes, games, crafts, writing, numbers, cooking, and reading. With so many activities, you can use it to incorporate literacy activities into most of your daily routines for a long time to come. After awhile, you will learn to come up with your own activities and see the literacy potential in all of the things you are already doing with your child each day… you might not even need an app for it.

Click here for the iOS version.

Click here to download the Android version.

Watch a video demo of the app.

5 Great Ways to Prepare Your Children for Their First Day of School (and Beyond)

CHI_027Are your children ready for their first few days of school? Kindergarten is the first step on the academic journey and an important milestone in social development, so it’s normal for parents to wonder if their children are prepared enough. If you are feeling this way, it can be helpful to remember that you are your children’s first teacher—you’ve already helped prepare your children for school through the talking, reading, playing, writing, and singing you do with them every day. You can continue to prepare your children over the next few weeks by engaging them in those same kinds of day-to-day interactions. Here are a few of the activities you can try:

1. Kindergarten Rehearsal

Try to incorporate the idea of kindergarten into as many interactions as possible. Walk your children through the same neighborhood that their new school is in, and if you can, give them a tour of the new school. If your children will be taking the bus, take them on public transit a few times so that they can get used to it. At home, you can “play kindergarten” with them by rehearsing drop offs and picks ups or by playing a game at dinner where they have to raise their hand before answering or asking a question. Talk enthusiastically about the first day of school and encourage you child to talk about it, too.

2. Independence Practice

When children go to their first day of school, they need to be able to do certain tasks on their own. You can help prepare them for these tasks by practicing them at home as much as possible and as often as possible. Offer encouragement and try to incorporate the tasks into everyday activities, games, and situations. Here are a few of the things they will need to know how to do:

  • Tying and untying shoelaces
  • Dressing and undressing (unbuttoning and buttoning pants, pulling off boots, zipping and unzipping coats)
  • Opening and closing backpacks and lunchboxes
  • Knowing full name, age, and phone number
  • Going to the bathroom
  • Following two-step directions (take your shoes off and sit at your desk)
  • Separating from parents and caregivers

3. Group Cooperation

On the first day of school, your children will become part of a larger group made up of classmates and peers. The teacher will expect your children to contribute to this larger group. You can prepare your children for this by giving them simple chores to do around the house, and then explaining why those chores are important. Here are some examples of what you can have them do:

  • Making the bed
  • Putting toys away
  • Setting the table
  • Putting away dishes
  • Putting groceries in the basket
  • Helping with brothers and sisters

4. School Subject Fun

Encourage your children’s interest in science, math, reading and writing by weaving those subjects into daily conversation. If you want your children to learn about science, talk to them about the foods they see at the grocery store or in the fridge—ask them to identify the vegetables, fruits, or grains, and then have a conversation with them about healthy and unhealthy foods. For math, you can have them count their steps when they walk up or down the stairs, or you can get them to practice subtracting and adding when they are putting away their toys. Look at books with them and talk about the pictures and words they see. Ask them questions about how the ideas and pictures relate to episodes and situations from their own lives.

5. Paper, Crayons, Go!

Screens are everywhere—including in the classroom—but children still need to know how to use pencils, paper, glue sticks, and crayons. Teachers say that new students sometimes lack fine motor skills because they spend so much time on screens. You can increase your children’s fine motor skills by encouraging them to write and draw (the old fashioned way) using pencils and papers, and by limiting the time they spend on tablets and phones. If possible, provide your children with art supplies and a dedicated place to write and draw. Let them scribble faces, draw animal pictures, finger paint a landscape, practice letters, or colour in colouring books.

Practicing these activities will surely help your children feel more confident about starting school.

For more information about family literacy, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website: www.famlit.ca