Simple Ways to Entertain your Baby with a Book

When I talk about which books are age appropriate for babies, I am less concerned about what is in the book and more interested in what we can do with the book. A great example of this is books that require our imagination to make sense of what the pictures are telling us, which is not something babies are very good at.

That doesn’t mean these types of books are inappropriate for babies. Monkey & MeFor example, Emily Gravett’s Monkey and Me depicts a young girl acting out the motions that we associate with different zoo animals. Even if your baby is very familiar with elephants, a picture of a girl hunched over with her arm stretched out in front of her face is probably not going to make your baby think of elephants. Even with pictures of the girl in mulitple poses, your baby will not know that one pose is meant to transition into the other. However, if you make those motions yourself, and you make your best elephant trumpet noises, and you flap your hands beside your head like big ears… well, your baby still might not be thinking of elephants and that’s okay, you’ve just transformed a confusing picture into a fun and engaging interaction.

Pete's a PizzaI think William Steig’s Pete’s a Pizza can work beautifully for this. Of course your baby won’t understand from the story how Pete’s parents pretending to make him into a pizza can cheer him up when he’s feeling down. The connection between managing emotions and imaginary food preparation are more than a little abstract. But if you gently massage your baby, roll them back and forth like dough, and tickle them as you make your way through the book, it will probably become a favourite nonetheless.

This won’t work with every book, but when you notice the book you are sharing lends itself to different actions, take the cue to bring the book to life, and see how your baby likes it.

For information about the Books for Babies program, or to find the Edmonton program schedule, please visit the Centre for Family Literacy website program page. For more information about sharing books with your baby, your toddler, or your preschool aged children, please visit the Centre for Family Literacy website resources page.  

Real Pictures = Real Understanding

Drawings are hard for your baby to understand—they don’t always look like what your baby sees around them. Real pictures help with their understanding!

LET’S GO!

Choose books with pictures of real people, pets, or objects.

DO IT TOGETHER!

Share these books with your child by looking at the pictures, reading the words, and connecting what they see in the book to real objects in their life.

For example, if there is a picture of a teddy bear, point to it and say, “This teddy bear looks like your teddy bear, doesn’t it?”

WHY?

Young children have trouble connecting a drawing or abstract picture to real things in their lives. Books with real pictures will help your child recognize things in their world more easily and understand the connection from the book.

To get over 120 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

Homemade Fun!

Making recipes with your child is fun, but you may be wondering “What does this have to do with literacy?”

Research recognizes that the home environment and parent-child interactions are an important influence on a child’s literacy development. Positive and meaningful parent and child interactions can lead to enhanced language, literacy, emotional, and cognitive development.

When you and your child…

  • talk together and make plans for the day
  • read through a recipe book together and decide which recipe to make
  • talk about the ingredients and what they are
  • write a grocery list together and talk about the words you are writing down
  • go to the grocery store and notice the different road signs or count the red cars along the way
  • read your grocery list together to make sure you have everything you need
  • read the recipe together and measure out ingredients and talk about the fun things you will do with your chalk, bubbles, paint or gak…

… you are providing your child with rich literacy experiences and positive interactions that strengthen family bonds and promote literacy development!

FUN RECIPES

Giant Bubble Mix

Use the following bubble recipe to refill your store bought bubble container. You can also add a drop or two of food colouring to make colourful bubbles. Make your own bubble wands – pipe cleaners bent into interesting shapes, cookie cutters, or yogurt lids with the centres cut out.

  • 3 cups water
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup Joy/Dawn dishwashing liquid
  1. In a large bowl stir water and corn syrup until combined.
  2. Add dish soap and stir very gently until well mixed.
  3. Use mixture to blow giant bubbles.

Homemade Sidewalk Chalk (non toxic)

  • 1 ½ cups of cornstarch
  • 1 ½ cups of water
  • Molds – anything can be used!  Empty egg cartons, Dixie cups, ice cube trays, etc.
  • Food colouring – assorted colors.
  1. Mix the water and cornstarch together until smooth.
  2. Pour into your molds.
  3. Add 3 or more drops of food colouring to the molds to get the colours you desire and mix well.
  4. Allow 2-3 days for the molds to harden completely in a dry, warm place. Pop out your chalk and have some fun! Store the chalk in a dry container.

Homemade Finger Paint

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 Tbs. salt
  • 1 1⁄2 cups cold water
  • 1 1⁄4 cups hot water
  • Food colouring
  1. Combine flour, salt, and cold water in a saucepan.
  2. Beat with a wire whisk until smooth.
  3. Place over medium heat, and slowly stir in hot water.
  4. Continue stirring until mixture boils and begins to thicken.
  5. Remove from heat, and beat with a whisk until smooth.
  6. Divide the mixture into several different containers or bowls.
  7. Add 4-5 drops of food colouring to each container and stir well. Store in the fridge.

For best results, paint on freezer paper or finger paint paper.

For more recipes and other great literacy ideas, check out our other blogs, our Flit app available on Google Play and the Apple App Store, or call the Centre for Family Literacy at 780-421-7323 to find a Literacy Links workshop near you!

 

3 Pretend Bear Adventures

Children love to pretend, and they love animal stories. When their favourite adult plays pretend with them, it can be like opening a door to another place for them.

Following are 3 great bear adventures to go on with your children. While these songs and stories are fun with your children at home, at the playground, or while going for a walk, it’s the extra pretend play that brings the rhymes to life!

Adding stories and songs to your daily routine and playtime will build and support your children’s brain development, and strengthen the bond between you. The laughter and fun you have together will create fond memories for you all to look back on someday.

Stories and rhymes are also great ways to encourage memory through use of repetition and sequencing, which is a form of numeracy literacy.

Have fun pretending!

GOING ON A BEAR HUNT

Going on a bear hunt.
I’m not afraid.
I’m feeling really brave.
Uh Oh..
Oh look! It’s some tall grass!
Can’t go over it.
Can’t go under it.
Can’t go around it.
Got to go through it!
(Move arms as if wading through tall grass)

Going on a bear hunt.
I’m not afraid.
I’m feeling really brave.
Uh Oh..
Oh look! It’s a tall tree!
Can’t go over it.
Can’t go under it.
Can’t go around it.
Got to go climb up it!
(Pretend to climb a tree)

Going on a bear hunt.
I’m not afraid.
I’m feeling really brave.
Uh Oh..
Oh look! It’s a wide river!
Can’t go over it.
Can’t go under it.
Can’t go around it.
Got to swim across it!
(Pretend to swim)

Going on a bear hunt.
I’m not afraid.
I’m feeling really brave.
Uh Oh..
Oh look! It’s a deep, dark cave!
Can’t go over it.
Can’t go under it.
Can’t go around it.
Got to go through it!
(Close eyes and pretend to enter the cave)

Uh oh! It’s dark in here!
I feel something
It has lots of hair
It has sharp teeth!
IT’S A BEAR!!
I’m not afraid. I’m running home…
(Pretend to run home)

(You can repeat backwards just the motions and places you just went through—cave, river, tree, tall grass, and then safe at home.)

You can also find the book of the same title by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury, and have fun reading and acting out each sequence of events.

This book is a great example of sequencing. It also uses great spatial words such as over, under, and around. You can take it a step further, as in the book, and use descriptive words: swish, swish through the grass; splash, splash through the water; etc. Sharing this activity with your children is a wonderful bonding and learning opportunity.

Following are 2 songs about sleeping bears. Build a little blanket fort and pretend it is for the sleeping bears. Make up some of your own actions and sounds, make up more verses!

BIG BEAR

Big bear, big bear,
Hunting near the trees.
Feasting on the honeycomb,
Made by busy bees.
Bzzzzz Bzzzzz Bzzzzz

Big bear, big bear,
Wading in the lake.
Fish is your favorite dish:
Which one will you take?
Swish  Swish  Swish

Big bear, big bear,
Resting in your den,
Sleeping through the winter,
Before you’re out again.
Zzzzzz Zzzzzz Zzzzzz

BROWN BEAR, BROWN BEAR

Brown bear, brown bear sleeping in his den
Brown bear, brown bear sleeping in his den
Please be very quiet
Very, very quiet
‘Cause if you wake him!
If you shake him!
He’ll get very mad!! Grrrrr!!!!

 

If you would like to join our 3,2,1,FUN! program and learn more about supporting your children’s numeracy and literacy skills, please visit the Centre for Family Literacy website for program information.

You can also download our free app, Flitwhich is a great resource for parents looking for  games, recipes, activities, songs, etc. to do with your children. It’s available from Google Play or the App Store.

 

Books for Sophomore Babies

Older babies can choose their favourites

The Books for Babies program focuses on the first 12 months of baby’s development. So, I thought I would take some time to talk about sharing books in baby’s 2nd year.

  • Older babies show more obvious preferences. You can use that information to choose books that you know your baby will enjoy.
  • Babies will start to point to things to learn new words. They will also start to invite you to read again the books they like. Or they will bring books to you to read to them. Follow their lead. Their drive to explore and understand will lead to deeper engagement and learning.
  • Your baby is getting better and better at turning pages—it might look like flipping pages back and forth. They are opening and closing books, over and over. But in time, page turning will become less interesting than what they can find on the pages. And when that happens, you might finally get to read a book, page by page, from beginning to end.
  • Keep in mind that your baby’s attention span is still pretty limited. You’ll have to work to keep their attention. Use voices, sound effects, props and actions to get a few extra seconds of their attention when you can.
  • Don’t force reading on them. They often want to move around and explore at this stage, and that kind of learning is important too.
  • Even when you can’t hold your child’s attention, you can still read to them. They are listening and learning even if they aren’t sitting with you. As the book becomes more and more familiar, they will come by to check out the pictures from time to time.
  • They’ll start to sing along with you and chime in when books repeat a familiar phrase over and over. Reading and singing together is an important step to independent reading. Enjoy it!

  • Long after your baby starts asking about pictures and objects, they start pointing at words for you to name. You can try pointing to common words. Or try following along with your finger underneath words as you read. Take it easy, and watch for your child’s reaction. If they’re not into it yet, that’s okay. You can try again later.
  • Toddlers are busy! Sometimes book sharing works best at the end of the day as part of a bedtime routine. Reading together can be a cozy way to bond, relax and unwind after a hectic day.

If you’re interested in the Books for Babies program, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website at www.famlit.ca

The Magic of a Rhyme

Silent night, Holy night. All is calm, all is bright…”

You have probably sung this song to yourself, or along with a choir or the radio  every year. I know I sang it to myself as I wrote that line. Do you ever catch yourself reminiscing as you hum a song you have known since childhood?

Think back to one of your happiest, warmest memories of the holidays when you were a child. What do you remember? You may recall smells and songs, and how those things are attached to your family traditions and celebrations.

Perhaps there was a song passed down to you from your parents or grandparents, and hearing or singing that song will always remind you of them and that time. Songs can evoke strong memories and the feelings related to them, and maybe you want to share them with your own family. That is the power of a song.

For fun, while I was writing this, I had a conversation with my 21 year-old daughter. I wanted to know what songs she remembered from her childhood Christmases. It made her smile and laugh as she remembered and replied “Shrek – 12 days of Christmas. I don’t think there has been a Christmas that we haven’t played it.” I had to laugh and smile with her because it made my heart feel so warm remembering my daughter when she was younger. I had no idea it had meant that much to her. And the Shrek Christmas CD had became part of our family holiday tradition just by playing it once years ago.

Songs and rhymes not only elicit fond memories but they can also be a handy parenting tool. If you haven’t tried it or witnessed it, try this next time your child is fussy, mad, pouty or generally uncooperative. Start singing Itsy Bitsy Spider. Or any rhyme that comes to mind. Your child might be surprised and distracted enough with a little song that they want to join you in singing, or just quiet down to listen to you. The distraction might stop a tantrum from coming on.

When can you use this distraction? Anytime! Where can you use this distraction? Anywhere! Kids can easily get frustrated when moving from one task or errand to another, so these transition times are great times to use songs. The holiday season line-ups and car trips are also good times to try singing with your little one to make the moment happier for both of you!

A couple of bonuses are that anyone can use some extra bonding time during this hectic season, and without even realizing it, you are supporting your child in their development of oral literacy.

As Buddy the Elf would say “the best way to spread Christmas cheer, is singing loud for all to hear!” —from the movie Elf.

Have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Please join us in the new year for a Rhymes that Bind program for more rhymes you can sing with you children! Check the Centre for Family Literacy website mid December for the winter program schedule.

A COW with a Purpose!

This fall the COW (Classroom on Wheels) bus welcomed many returning families, and enjoyed the opportunity to connect with new ones as well! We are happy to be a part of the learning that is happening in our families.

If you haven’t yet visited the COW bus when it makes a scheduled stop in your neighbourhood, following is the purpose of the 1.5 hour weekly program, and we share this information on the bus in a comfortable, fun, supportive way using songs and stories:

  1. We want to encourage you to be your child’s first and most important teacher. Literacy begins at birth – long before your child starts school. It begins at home, in families. Learning can even happen in your daily routines. For example, when you are out walking, talk to your child about the things you see around you. Sing silly songs when you are driving. Add a lullaby to their bedtime routine and it may help make this transition time easier for your child.
  2. We want to remind you that learning happens best in relationships. Children learn best when they feel loved and cared for. They learn best through interaction with others. Talk with your child rather than at them. Let them ask questions, and answer them. Listen to what they have to say. Developing language and literacy skills happens through everyday loving interactions, such as sharing books, telling stories, singing songs, and talking to one another.
  3. We want you to know that the early years – birth to age 5 – are crucial to the physical, emotional, social, and educational development of prereading, language, vocabulary, and number skills. This learning occurs through sight, sound, and memory. It is never too early or too late to talk, sing, and read with your child. Even babies are ready to start learning about language and books.
  4. We are here to support, encourage, and give ideas. When you join us on the COW bus, we love to hear your challenges and successes. We are always excited to hear that you are using an idea at home that you learned on the bus. Let us know – by telling us, sharing a video, or sending an email to info@famlit.ca – we are happy to thank you with a free book!

This fall, a favourite song that we share on the bus is “Have You Ever Seen an Apple.” The children enjoy singing the song and having an opportunity to lead us as we call out the colours of the apples. One of our moms shared an adorable video of her daughter singing this song at home.

 

So be sure to join us on the COW bus for some fun with a purpose! For the program schedule, check the Centre for Family Literacy website. We look forward to seeing you on the bus!

Linking Numeracy and Literacy

Stories are an enjoyable and effective way to explore mathematical ideas with children.

When you read books together, take time to explore and talk about mathematical ideas. It will help your children see and understand the math that happens all around them every day.

 

Children’s Books:

  • Encourage children to re-create stories in their own way, as well as to practice math skills
  • Provide a meaningful context to explore mathematical ideas
  • Suggest problems that can be solved using different strategies
  • Develop math concepts such as following directions, finding shapes in the environment and ideas about greater than and less than
  • Encourage the use of math language such as How many? How far? How much?
  • Help make sense of the world

When Reading Together:

  • When reading, talk together. Ask questions that need more than a yes or no answer
  • Introduce related math ideas
  • Don’t be afraid to use math vocabulary
  • Give children a chance to explain their thinking

Story Books:

  • Talk about the page numbers. What comes next? What number is the last page?
  • Talk about the pictures and what is happening in the story. Did something change? Why?
  • Talk about patterns in the story. Notice rhyming word patterns too
  • Notice the sequence of events: “What happened first? What happens next? What happened first? Second?
  • Wonder aloud about more than, less than and equal to
  • Count items on a page

Counting Books:

There are a number of good counting books that are enjoyable for both children and adults, and help to develop early numeracy and literacy skills. Books that count 0 to 5 or 0 to 10 are best for preschoolers.

Look for books that contain:

  • Engaging and colorful pictures
  • Easy to count items
  • Numerals that are easy to identify and are printed clearly

Things to Do with Counting Books:

  • Count the objects together
  • How many do you think will be on the next page?
  • How many would there be if there was one more? How many if there was one less?
  • Have your child place out a toy or other item for each number you read
  • If your child is familiar with the story, have them tell you what comes next

Some Good Books

Title Author
Tall Jez Alborough
Ship Shapes Stella Blackstone
Big Sarah’s Little Boots Paulette Bourgeois
The Greedy Triangle Marilyn Burns
1,2,3, to the Zoo Eric Carle
The Hungry Caterpillar Eric Carle
Pumpkin Soup Helen Cooper
Freight Train Donald Crews
Carry Me, Mama Monica Devine
I Am Small Emma Dodd
Ten Little Caterpillars Lois Ehlert
Color Zoo Lois Ehlert
Round like a Ball Lisa Campbell Ernst
Turtle Splash Cathryn Falwell
Two Shoes, Blue Shoes, New Shoes Sally Fitz-Gibbon
My Sister Ate One Hare Bill Grossman
Lots of Dots Craig Frazier
A Second is a Hiccup Hazel Hutchins
The Doorbell Rang Pat Hutchins
Stuck Oliver Jeffers
Five Creatures Emily Jenkins
Actual Size Steve Jenkins
Mama, Do You Love me? Barbara Joosse
The Wheels on the Bus Maryann Kovalski
We All Went on Safari Laurie Krebs
Who Took the Cookies from the Cookie Jar? Bonnie Las
Inch by Inch Leo Lionni
Ten Cats Have Hats Jean Marzello
I Spy book series Jean Marzello
Lessons from Mother Earth Elaine McLeod
Quack, Quack, Moo We See You! Kelly Mij

If you would like to learn more about integrating math concepts into children’s daily routines, please visit the Centre for Family Literacy website to find out about our programs and training.

Please Read Me a Story about Math!

Children will typically not say math is their favourite thing to do. But what if you could make learning math more fun for both you and your children, and also include some of their favourite activities (such as playing games, going to the park or playground, or story time)? Well, actually you can! You are possibly already doing this without realizing it and the benefits.

Are you familiar with the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears? This story is packed full of math or numeracy concepts, even though the only number mentioned in the story is the number three.

Numeracy includes using words to describe size, shape, textures, and amounts. When we put things in order, sequence, match, or find and make patterns, we are building and developing numeracy skills. I bet you can find the numeracy in the Goldilocks and the Three Bears story now!

Following are some activities to make a story more engaging and fun. You can add story extenders, or props, to make a story come alive. Using the Goldilocks… story as our example, you can try some of these ideas:

 

Sequencing:

  • Talk about what Goldilocks did first, second, third, etc. See if your children can remember the order of events.

Sequencing, Imagination, and Creative Play:

  • Have your children hold toy bears, dolls, or furniture while listening to the story. Encourage them to retell the story later in their own way, using words like “before,” “next,” etc.

Matching:

  • Make pictures of bears, chairs, bowls, and beds, etc. like in the story, and have your children match them to the proper bear owners.
  • Visit a park or zoo, and sing some songs that involve bears.
  • While on a walk or at an appointment, ask your children to find sets of 3. For example, 3 trees, 3 cats, 3 chairs, etc.

Size/Shape/Texture:

  • Talk about who is biggest and smallest, what is hardest and softest, etc. To describe things in the book and around you, try to use different words than the book uses.
  • Use these kinds of words when talking about the sets of 3, making comparisons and talking about opposites.

These are just a few simple and quick ways to have fun with numeracy (math) by using what your children love to do, which will unconsciously make learning fun and easy for both you and your children.

We share many more of these ideas and concepts at the free 3,2,1, FUN! program for parents and your 3-5 year old children.

If you would like more information about this drop-in program, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website. I can guarantee you will have fun with your children exploring numeracy together.

Positive early experiences in mathematics are as critical to child development as are early literacy experiences (Alberta education, 2007).

 

The Books for Babies Community

Books for Babies – Dads Group

We offer Books for Babies as a group program rather than a video series or a booklet for a number of reasons. One of the biggest is that the participating families add so much to the program that we could never replace any other way.

For starters, participants keep us on track. We always strive to keep our programs relevant, so when parents share their successes and challenges, or when babies cry because we’ve been talking for too long, every contribution by the participants makes the program better.

Secondly, we don’t know everything. Shocking as that may sound, participants sometimes ask questions that I don’t know the answer to. Thankfully, we have a room full of brains, and all kinds of lived experiences available, to tackle those questions when we work together as a group. Sure, some questions don’t have easy answers, and some things we just don’t know, but in those cases it’s especially nice to know that, at the very least, you’re not the only person in the room that hasn’t figured something out yet.

There are so many other reasons, but the last thing I’ll mention is how valuable it is to make connections with other people. By participating in a group, you benefit from:

  • adult conversation (which babies are not known for)
  • learning new ideas
  • forging new friendships, and
  • strengthening the communities that we live in

I have been so privileged to meet thousands of people in my time facilitating the Books for Babies program. I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed meeting all of the parents, caregivers, community partners, and of course, all of the babies. All of these meetings, discussions, and great questions have enriched my life in countless ways. And I hope that you’ll find a group that offers you the same thing.

There are several Books for Babies programs still to come this fall. Please look at the schedule on the Centre for Family Literacy website to find a program that works for you and your family.