6 Ways to Have Fall Family Fun!

Leaves4

As summer winds down and families get back into their regular busy routine, it is easy to forget to take advantage of opportunities to learn together as a family.

Fall is a beautiful time of year when the leaves start changing colour and begin to fall off the trees. Leaves provide many learning opportunities for you and your child – so simple and fun!

Here are six leaf activities to try with your child during this fall season:

1. Create a Leaf Scavenger Hunt!

  • Work with your child to create a list of items to look for on your scavenger hunt. For example:
    • Find 2 orange leaves
    • Find 3 red leaves
    • Find 1 leaf with smooth edges
    • Find 1 big leaf
    • Find 4 small leaves

Go for a walk outside!

  • Talk about the different colours of the leaves.
  • Ask your child questions like, “Is this leaf bigger or smaller than this leaf?” “Does the leaf have smooth or sharpe edges?”

Practice Counting

  • Have your child gather up a bunch of leaves and practice counting how many they collected.

Learn Textures

  • Collect different types of leaves and feel the different textures with your hands. Ask your child, “Does this leaf feel soft?” “Does this leaf feel rough?”

Leaf Artwork

Leaves3

  • Collect some leaves and use them to make some fun artwork. Using the leaves, a thin sheet of paper and some crayons, you can make “leaf rubbings.”
    • First, place the leaves under a thin sheet of paper. You will want to place the leaves bottom side facing up.
    • Second, rub the crayon(s) on the paper and watch the leaf print come through.

Just Have Fun!

  • If you have access, rake together a pile of leaves for you and your child. Have fun jumping into the pile!

We hope that you are able to enjoy this fall season, learning and growing together with your child. Have fun with the leaves and all the nature that surrounds you!

 

I Want to Play Outside Today!

Both children and parents are probably very happy for the break from the busy school routine. But learning shouldn’t stop when school is out! Did you know that in addition to all the reading activities you can do during the summer, you can also turn math and science into fun-in-the-sun activities?

To keep young minds active this summer—as well as their bodies—check out some of these outdoor activities to do with your kids. They are a good way to use language and motor skills to play and bond with your children, and at the same time reuse materials you may already have.

Make a giant game (see pictures below)

  • Board games use counting and simple addition. For Snakes and Ladders, all you need is a tarp and some masking or duct tape to make a giant portable board game. Dust off your real game, or download a printable one, and copy it onto your tarp using the tape as the squares. The kids are the playing pieces! You can take it camping or to the park, or play in your own backyard.
  • Use bowls, plates, or Frisbees to create a toddler bean bag toss game.
  • You can also make an outdoor kerplunk with pvc pipe or doweling and a plastic clothes hamper.

I love all of these ideas!

 

 

 

 

 

Fun with Water

  • Set up a water table outside in the grass. Fill it with different sizes of cups and spoons, sieves and bowls as well as sponges, and play in the water. Just have fun with language that comes naturally to you when talking about amounts—more than and less than, empty and full, squeezing and absorbing.
  • Create a water sensory table/tub with water beads, sponges, or toys. Also talk about what floats and what sinks, and why. Try to predict what will happen when you add an item to the water.
  • Balloon piñata can help with motor skills and coordination, and it’s a fun way to cool down in the hot sun.

Most importantly, share your enthusiasm and language with your children and watch them blossom! What were your favourite summer activities? Try some with your own children! Often the best ones use supplies found at home, without buying expensive ‘one time’ purchases.

At the Centre for Family Literacy, we believe that children learn best through play. For more literacy fun and resources, please download our free FLIT app, available at Google Play and the APP store, and follow us on Facebook.

How to Avoid the Dreaded “I’m Bored” this Summer

The dreaded “I’m bored!” is just around the corner as school is out for the summer. Although many families still have a routine for summer (maybe daycare or day camps), it can also mean a lot more time spent with the kids. Holidays are taken. Maybe your work is at home or you’re off for the summer. As much as we look forward to the changes summer brings, too much free time can result in “I’m bored” coming up again and again. It doesn’t take long to realize that some sort of routine is needed.

One of the things I’m using at home to combat that dreaded phrase is a Summer Challenge (click the link for printable activity ideas and instructions).

My young daughter and I put a list of activities into a jar and pull one out whenever we need something to do. The challenge can be used on many different levels. For younger children you can keep it simple. Older children can be more involved in the planning of an activity, which we have learned can be more fun than the activity itself.

When I first described this idea to my daughter she was right on board! We love making lists, and pulling ideas out of a jar is a really fun way of checking off a To-Do List! We found a dollar store jar and decorated it for our ideas. I cut the strips of paper and she was so excited to read through each strip before she folded it and added it to the jar. She is already hopeful for her favourite ideas to be pulled first. Such anticipation!

She even wanted to add some of her own ideas to the jar. I thought “why not,” as long as I approved them first. Her list so far: pulling weeds (what a wonderful idea!); going for a walk in the field with gopher holes; and, chasing butterflies.

We have already begun. Lucky for us the weather cooperated for challenge #38: sitting around a campfire. Of course we enjoyed s’mores and told stories as well. What an excellent kick-off to summer with the kids!

For more fun ideas, download our free Flit appIt gives you over 125 fun literacy activities, recipes, games to do with your young children, and tips to add to your parenting tool box.

Click here for the iOS version.

Click here to download the Android version.

Watch a video demo of the app.

 

 

Sharing Stories vs. Reading Stories

Here at the Centre for Family Literacy we like to talk about sharing books with children as opposed to just reading books to them. When you share a book, it becomes interactive. It becomes much more than reading the words on the page.

Two ways to make a book interactive:

  • Ask open-ended questions such as “What are they doing in this picture?” or “What do you think is going to happen next?” This encourages children to stop and think about what is on the page, to make connections to real life, and to really step inside the story.
  • Find ways to extend the story.

What does it mean to extend a story?

To extend a story is to build on it—to add activities that are related to the subject of the story. But why should we extend stories?

Children learn best by doing—by being active. When they’re being active they are using all five senses to learn, and these multi-sensory experiences build neural connections in the brain. If they are having fun, they will want to do it again and again, and this repetition makes the connections even stronger. This is how children gain the confidence needed to learn new things.

Simple summertime story extender

one dog canoeA great book to share in the summer is one of our favourites, One-Dog Canoe by Mary Casanova.

In One-Dog Canoe, a girl and her dog set out on a canoe trip, just the two of them, when one by one they are approached by other creatures like Loon, Wolf and Moose, who want to join in on the fun.

I set off one morning in my little red canoe.
My dog wagged his tail.
“Can I come, too??
“You bet, I said.
“A trip for two – just me and you?”

It doesn’t take long before this canoe trip becomes a little more crowded!

“I swished past ferns,
where dragonflies flew.
Loon stretched her wings, “Can I come too?”

What you’ll need:

  • The book One-Dog Canoe
  • Stuffed animals or toys to match the characters: Beaver, Loon, Wolf, Bear, Moose, Frog, Dog, and Girl
  • A “canoe” made with construction paper or bark

(You can always improvise using what you have on hand.)

Give each child a character to hold on to (or multiple characters), and as each character comes up in the story, the child holding that character places it in the canoe. At the end of the story, there are too many animals in the canoe and it tips over, so act this out too by dumping out your canoe!

After the story pair it with a song. Rhymes and songs are critical for developing oral language, and oral language is at the root of all future learning.

Try singing “Row Your Boat”

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.

Row, row, row your boat,
Down a jungle stream.
If you see a crocodile,
Don’t forget to scream.
Ahh!

Row, row, row your boat,
Underneath a stream,
Ha, ha, fooled you,
I’m a submarine!
Bing!

Other ideas:

  • Act out the story using a big box, couch, or outdoor picnic table for the canoe
  • Bring a make-belief canoe into the bathtub
    • Experiment with what floats and what sinks
    • Ask “how many items will fit in your canoe before it tips over?”

Have fun sharing stories! For more ideas on how to make the most of your books, check out Flit, our family literacy app!

Click here for the iOS version.

Click here to download the Android version.

Watch a video demo of the app.

 

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.

Hop! Hop! Here Comes the Easter Bunny!

Finally, we can all peek our heads outside and breathe a sigh of relief. Winter is over. 

CELEBRATE WITH BOOKS, SONGS, AND OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES with an Easter theme!


BOOK RECOMMENDATIONHopHop!

Share the book Hop, Hop! by Leslie Patricelli together.

“The Easter Bunny is coming! It’s time to dye eggs. Did you know that red and blue make purple? That blue and yellow make green? That an art project may result in a multicolored Baby? There are bunny ears to wear (for the dog and cat, too) and an Easter basket to put out before bedtime. What will Baby find inside it the next morning?”

Stretch Your Book

There are many things related to the story that you can do to stretch out the learning opportunities and fun. Try these:

  • As you read through, talk about what the characters are doing in the story. Talk about any similarities and differences to your own family’s springtime traditions.
  • Talk to your child about the different colours and what happens when you mix them.
  • Colour your own eggs and dress up like a bunny, just like in the book!

EASTER EGGS

Easter_eggMaterials:

  • White-shelled hard-boiled eggs
  • Hot water
  • White vinegar
  • Food dye (yellow, red, and blue)
  • 3 small bowls
  • Large spoon
  • Newspaper to protect your table

 

Instructions:

  1. In each bowl, combine ½ cup of hot water, 1 tsp. of vinegar, and about 20 drops of food colouring (one colour per bowl).
  2. The story says, “Yellow and red make orange!” So dunk an egg into yellow, then dunk it in red and see how it changes.
  3. Do the same for the rest of the colours, and do your own mixing experiments as well. Don’t forget to refrigerate the eggs before and after your egg hunt!

 


BUNNY EARS BunnyEarsCraft

Materials:

  • White cardstock paper
  • Pink paper or
  • Pink crayon/pencil
  • Scissors
  • Glue Stick
  • Pencil

  BunnyEarsInstructions

  1. Cut white cardstock into strips for the headpiece and ears
  2. Use a pink crayon or the pink paper to make the inside of the ears
  3. Tape or glue the headpiece and ears into place
  4. Hop around like bunnies, just like in the book

 

 

 

 


SONG FOR SPRING BUNNIES

(Try wearing your bunny ears for this!)

“5 Little Bunnies”

*a bunny version of the traditional song “5 Little Ducks”

(Try asking your child what sound they think a bunny makes, and change it to whatever they say!)

Five little bunnies went out one day,
Over the hills and far away,
Mother bunny said squeak, squeak, squeak,
But only four bunnies came hopping back.

Four little bunnies went out one day,
Over the hills and far away,
Mother bunny said squeak, squeak, squeak,
But only three bunnies came hopping back.

(Continue counting down to “none”)

Sad mother bunny went out one day,
Over the hills and far away,
Mother bunny said squeak, squeak, squeak,
And all the five bunnies came hopping back!


THE GREAT OUTDOORS

EasterEggHuntIf you coloured Easter eggs, get outside and hide them for your little ones! And if you didn’t, create your own scavenger hunt.

Create a list, using pictures and words, of the items they need to find. For example:

  • you could hide golf balls
  • search for certain colours
  • find things in nature like a green leaf or a pine cone
  • search for objects that begin with different letters of the alphabet….

The options are limited only by your imagination!

Check the Centre for Family Literacy’s website for the tip sheets “Families just want to have FUN! Party Activities” here

Happy Easter!  

What is STEM and How Do I Teach it to my Kids?

STEM. This has caught a lot of attention. Do you know what it means?

– Science
– Technology
– Engineering
– Mathematics

Did you think it was exclusive to older children, or even adults? Not at all! These concepts are all part of children’s learning through exploration and discovery. 

Did you know all children are little scientists? Everything about their world is open for discovery. They want to know “why,” “what happens if I do this,” “where does it go,” “how did that happen.” Children will repeat actions such as building a tower over and over again even though it keeps falling apart. They want to learn how to make it more stable and  they want to build it taller. Have patience! Though they may get frustrated, they are learning a STEM concept! Encourage questions from your children by prompting them with questions of your own, such as, “why do you think the tower fell,” “should we try it again,” “what do you think will happen this time,” and “what should we do differently?”

Allowing children to experience concepts hands on—by creating a learning environment where they can touch, manipulate, and explore their surroundings—will benefit them far more than only reading a book about a topic or watching a video.

Try these activities at home:

SCIENCE: 
Little scientists investigating the natural world

GLOVE-garden

  • Try planting some seeds. Watching something grow from a seed can be exciting and doesn’t have to be done outdoors. You can start the growing season early by planting seeds indoors
  • You don’t have to start them in a pot or container either. Try using a plastic glove! Children can drop a moistened cotton ball into each finger length, add a seed and then hang it in the window
  • Discussion about what plants need to grow—sun, air, and water—can occur as you daily monitor the changes together as the roots begin to break free from the seed
  • Once the seed has sprouted, transplant it to a little pot with dirt and continue to watch it grow

TECHNOLOGY:
Exploring ways to use what they build for a purpose or action

Balloon Car2

  • Think “outside the box” and do activities that have less to do with an electronic device and more to do with hands on. There are plenty of apps available that offer activities related to technology, and children are getting more and more time on screens. Offer something new by taking the device out of technology
  • Use technology to “research” a project to make with your children
  • A project we like to make is a little car or boat that can be powered for simple movement. You only need common supplies such as cardboard, a couple of wooden skewers (sticks), milk jug tops for the wheels, some tape, a balloon, and a straw. After the car is built you blow the balloon up, and as the air escapes through the straw it propels the car forward. You can find complete instructions here http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Balloon-Car

ENGINEERING:
Using their knowledge of the world around them to build and create

Build-Engineer

  • Yes, build and create!
  • Make blanket forts
  • Build simple structures using toothpicks and mini marshmallows or small candies
  • Use building toys, such as stacking blocks
  • Make things from recycled materials

 


MATH
:
Increasing knowledge of counting, patterns, colours, and shapes to strengthen their ability to build and create with purpose

Color Mix

  • Get messy. Mix colours to learn about primary and secondary colours. Partly fill a sandwich bag with a small amount of shaving cream. Add a few drops from 2 different colours of food colouring. Have your children mix it all together to see what new colour is created. Have them predict ahead of time what will happen

  • Using different coloured recycled jug lids and stickers, make your own memory matching game
  • Create a container filled with random things you may find in a junk drawer (child safe of course), and have your children sort the things from smallest to biggest, or by colour or shape
  • Have fun with food! Break apart a chocolate chip cookie to count how many chocolate chips are in it. Estimate how many will be in each cookie, and compare the totals with the actual chocolate chip count

Looking for activities to do with your children, with STEM concepts in mind, can be a super way for you both to learn, be creative, get messy, and have fun!  

To get over 125 of the best activities to do with your children to boost and build key literacy skills from birth to 5 years, download the Centre for Family Literacy’s FREE Flit app (Families Learning and Interacting Together).

Click here for the iOS version.

Click here to download the Android version.

Watch a video demo of the app.

A Christmas Tree for the Birds

Every year when I was young, my brothers and I would spend a day with my Grandpa and Grandma, and decorate a tree outside with treats for the birds. It was usually on a Saturday close to Christmas, to give my parents time to do their Christmas shopping.

We would spend the morning making treats with my Grandma, and after lunch we would go outside with my Grandpa and decorate the tree.

A garland of stale popcorn and dried cranberries strung together was a treat for the sparrows and little chickadees, and peanuts, threaded through the shell and hung, were for the Blue Jays.

My Grandma would mix up peanut butter, suet and cornmeal, and we would coat pinecones with this mixture and then roll them in birdseed. We hung these on the tree branches with red yarn so the birds would notice them. We would also hang dried apple slices. 

Next we made mesh pouches out of mesh bags (like the ones used for lemons or oranges) and filled them with suet for the other birds. As we were working, my Grandpa would talk about the different birds that would come to eat the treats: pine siskins, grosbeaks, nuthatches, and woodpeckers; he would tell us what they looked like and their funny little mannerisms.

After the tree was all decorated, we would clamor back inside and race each other to the couch, the best place to view the action outside. After the usual jostling and complaining, we would finally settle to watch with delight as the birds visited the Christmas tree filled with treats.

This Christmas tradition is one of my favourite memories of my grandparents. I feel so fortunate that they took the time to do this with us when we were kids.

Pinecone treats for the birds:

  1. Mix equal parts peanut butter (use the natural kind with only peanuts listed in the ingredients) and suet (or lard).
  2. Stir in enough cornmeal to make a thick paste.
  3. Press this mixture into the pinecone.
  4. Roll in a wild birdseed mix.
  5. String or tie cotton thread to the pinecone and hang from a tree in your yard.
  6. Enjoy the birds that come visit!

Halloween Science Fun!

I think I have one of the best hobbies in the world – science! Halloween is especially fun, as I become a mad scientist, performing science shows and demonstrations at events.

One of the things I love about this is that I get to create a character and a story to act out around the science experiments I’m doing. It changes a little with every show, but that’s part of the fun!

This Halloween, why not act out a character that’s different from your everyday life, and add some cool science activities to the fun! Here are a couple of fun, easy ones you can try!

BONE GROWING FORMULA (A.K.A. Goop)

You need:

  • Deep pan or bowl
  • Cornstarch
  • Water

What to do:

Mix the cornstarch and the water until everything is wet, but there is no water sitting on top. To mix it, you have to move slowly and gently.

This neat goop gets hard when squeezed or hit, but oozes when let go. (It’s called a non-newtonian fluid for anyone who wants to look that up.)

It’s entertaining for all ages – trust me, I had more trouble getting the adults out of it than the kids!

FAKE BLOOD

You need:

  • 1 cup Corn syrup
  • 1 tbsp Chocolate syrup
  • 2 tbsp Cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp Red food colouring
  • 2 tbsp Water

What to do:

Put all the ingredients in a blender and mix it up. Add more red or chocolate syrup to get the colour you want, but it works out pretty well.

Want to really gross people out? Taste the fake blood in a way that makes them think it’s real – it actually doesn’t taste bad!

Left Brain Craft Brain is a great blog that lists some spooky science experiments to do as a family. You’ll find links to all the instructions you need to have a great time this Halloween!

 

The Easiest Ever Thanksgiving Craft

Thanksgiving is coming soon! It might be a little different this year, but enjoy a long weekend of fun, food, and lots of family time! Here’s an easy and fun craft for the whole family:

LET’S GO!

What you need:

  • Paper
  • Crayons
  • Optional: felt tip marker

What to do:

  1. Trace your hand or your child’s with a marker or crayon
  2. Use crayons or markers to draw in and colour a turkey
  3. Have fun with it! 

You and your child can make just one, or make a turkey for each person at Thanksgiving dinner! Place them on each plate, not only for decoration but for conversation too! 

 

WHY?

Making crafts together is a good way to bond with your child, and the talking that comes from working together is building an important literacy skill. A bonus is the hand coordination that comes from drawing, which will help with writing skills in the future.