4 Ways to Celebrate Autumn with Your Child & Reap the Benefits of the Outdoors

autumn

The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.” – e.e. Cummings

Fall is almost here with its whimsical, whirling leaves and wind. There’s no better time to make sure we, and our children, are getting enough outdoor fun. With screen time increasing for both kids and adults, it’s more important than ever to consciously make the time to play in nature.

There is no shortage of information about why our kids need the great outdoors. Vitamin D exposure, healthy eye development, opportunities for exercise, improved sleep quality and brain development, Mother Nature provides it all. Thanks to the nature of outdoor play, (the jackpot of early childhood development), kids can discover confidence, independence and resiliency.

Playing outside forces kids to be inventive. It requires them to make choices and choose adventures, take risks and adapt. They move their whole bodies, and use all of their senses when in nature; they can see, hear, smell and touch the world around them, and research tells us that multi-sensory experiences promote better learning. Outdoor play supports coordination, balance, and motor skills; it feeds a sense of wonder, forces our kids to ask questions, and it even reduces stress, which is important because stress is a huge barrier to brain development.

Below are four ways to take advantage of the outdoors to promote healthy brain development and early literacy.

1. Do something that helps out Mother Nature, such as make a bird feeder, plant a tree, or make a birdbath.

How to make a bird feederbirdfeeder

You will need:

  1. natural peanut butter
  2. suet (or lard)
  3. cornmeal
  4. pinecone
  5. wild birdseed
  6. cotton thread

Directions:

  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 the pinecone in the wild birdseed mix
  5. String or tie cotton thread to the pinecone and hang from a tree in your yard

2. Start an art project. For example:

  1. Collect and press fall leaves between wax paper, or do leaf rubbings (place a piece of paper over the leaf and lightly rub over it with a pencil or crayon)
  2. Collect rocks and paint them to look like animals
  3. Create a “stained glass” window with fall leaves. After picking your colourful leaves outside, press them to the sticky side of some transparent contact paper, and place on your window

3. Read a non-fiction book about birds. Try About Birds: A Guide for Children by Cathryn Sill, and see if you can find any of the birds outside.

Pair it with fiction books about birds or animals, like the Little Owl’s series by Divya Srinivasan, or any of the Pigeon series by Mo Willems. Extend your books even further by drawing and colouring your favourite birds together.

little-owls-nightpigeon-book              

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Learn a rhyme together that involves nature. Here’s one to start you off:

September Leaves

Leaves are floating softly down;
Some are red and some are brown.
The wind goes whooshing through the air;
When you look back there’s no leaves there.

 

Mother Nature provides for a rich learning experience, so get out there and seize the season—make those mud pies, and jump in those puddles!  

Frozen Fruits

Making a healthy snack together is fun! You can count pieces of fruit, time how long it takes to freeze, look at the shapes, and more!

LET’S GO!

What you need:

  • 2 cups green seedless grapes
  • 2 cups purple seedless grapes
  • 2 bananas

What to do:

  1. Wash the grapes and cut them lengthwise.
  2. Cut the bananas into slices about 2cm thick.
  3. Put all the fruit on a baking tray and place it in the freezer for at least an hour until it is frozen.

DO IT TOGETHER!

Let your child help you wash the grapes, cut the fruit (using a child-safe knife) and lay the pieces on a baking tray.

Talk about the measurement, and count how many grapes fit into two cups. Count how many pieces of banana you cut. Enjoy a fresh frozen dessert or snack together when it’s ready!

WHY?

Recipes give an opportunity to use reading and numeracy (numbers) in a different way. Talking about measurements, counting, and making something together helps build vocabulary and skills in a way that your child feels very involved with.

The end result, no matter what you’ve made, helps make them want to do it again!

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.

Hot Day Relief and Writing – What Could Be Better?

Combining water on a hot day with an opportunity for writing can be great fun!

LET’S GO!

Use the hose and your bodies to create letters or words on a dry fence or wall.

DO IT TOGETHER!

On a nice hot day, get your hose out and have some fun! Find a dry spot on a fence or wall (the wall has to be one that gets darker when water hits it). Have your children and other family members line up in front of the dry area and strike a letter pose by making the shape with their body. You might need two people to make some letters!

Ask everyone to freeze and spray them with the hose, making sure to soak the dry area around their bodies. Once everyone’s nice and wet, have them step away and look at the dry areas left behind.

Have fun with it. Once it’s dry again, challenge yourselves to write a simple word or someone’s name! Give your children a turn with the hose, so they can be the one “writing”.

WHY?

Aside from giving relief on a hot day, writing using different tools and methods will help your children learn to write. Whether it’s making the shape with their body, or outlining someone else’s shape with the hose, they will be able to see what the letters look like and how they are formed. If you try to write words, such as their names, they will start to understand that putting letters together makes something new and meaningful.

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.

Learning About Bugs

For the bug lovers out there, this book has amazing pictures that will make your child want to explore and learn more!

LET’S GO!

Share an information or non-fiction book together, like Incredible Insects by playBac Publishing or Insects by Dr. George C. McGavin.

DO IT TOGETHER!

Sit with your child and let them flip through the book to see which insects capture their attention.

Read them the information about the ones they want to look at or ones that you have seen around where you live.

WHY?

If your child is an insect lover, these books are great to share with them. The pictures let your child get up close to insects and give good information about each one. 

Your child will want to know how you know so much about the insects, and you can point out the words you are reading.

They may start pointing at words and asking about them. Their interest in insects will keep them engaged with the book and help them become readers!

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.

 

Writing in the Air

Big body movements are a fun way to do writing and help your child remember the shapes of letters, numbers and more!

LET’S GO!

What you need:

  • Piece of ribbon or string about 2 feet/60 centimetres in length
  • Wand (popsicle stick, twig, pencil, pen—whatever you have)
  • Masking or scotch tape

What to do:

  1. Tape one end of the ribbon or string to one end of the wand
  2. Let the other end of the string or ribbon hang free
  3. Wave the stick around so the ribbon or string follows it in the air

DO IT TOGETHER!

Help your child make their tracing wand. If you want, you can make one for yourself too.

Have your child try waving the tracing wand to make the shapes of letters or numbers. They may even want to try to spell out their name or phone number!

Have some fun with it by pretending to be magicians or fairies while you write in the air.

WHY?

Giving your child different ways to write makes it more interesting and fun to try. Air tracing is a physical activity that will help them practice the shapes of letters or numbers and remember what those shapes feel like.

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.

 

Strong Books Are Up For Anything!

Board books make it safe for your child to explore on their own, as well as with you!

LET’S GO!

Choose board books for your baby or toddler to explore. Look for a book where the pages flip up on their own when you open it.

DO IT TOGETHER!

You can leave board books out for your child to play with and explore, as well as sharing these books together by reading the words or talking about the pictures.

Young children use all their senses to explore new things, so don’t be worried if they chew on the books or are rough with them—board books are made for this.

WHY?

Your child isn’t born knowing how to use a book. They need to be able to explore and play with books to figure out what they actually are and how to hold them and turn pages.

Good quality board books can stand up to whatever your small child will do to them, even if they are being rough.

To get over 120 of the best activities to do with your child 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.

Let’s Read it Again… And Again… And Again…

There’s a reason your child keeps choosing the same book to read. Stick with it, even if you’re tired of it!

LET’S GO!

Let your child choose the books they want to read, even if it’s the same one over and over again.

DO IT TOGETHER!

Share the book with your child by reading the words or talking about the pictures, even if you’re getting tired of it. They are choosing it for a reason, and it’s helping them become a reader. Follow your child’s lead, and also look for different things you can talk about in the book.

WHY?

Your child may choose the same book over and over again because they remember parts of it, which makes them feel as though they are reading. Often, your child will see something different each time you share a book because their view of the world around them changes as they learn more. This makes it interesting for them each time!

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.

Play Dough Snake Letters

Have fun rolling out play dough into long snakes with your child, then see what you can make them into together – letters, numbers, shapes, and more!

LET’S GO!

Use play dough to make letters, numbers, shapes, or words.

DO IT TOGETHER!

Together, roll out pieces of play dough into long snakes. Bend the snakes, or connect them, to make letters, words, shapes, or numbers. Spell out your child’s name using your snakes and let them copy it if they want to.

WHY?

Writing can happen in many different ways. By using something like play dough, your child can physically move and change pieces, which can help them remember the shapes of letters more easily. It’s also a fun way to do writing together.

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.

Bring a Book to Life

Doing something to extend a book beyond just reading it will help your child to understand the book!

LET’S GO!

Take a favourite story and act it out while you read.

DO IT TOGETHER!

As you read a book together, you can build on the story by acting it out with your child.

You can play dress-up and be the characters, or use your child’s toys, stuffed animals, or puppets as props.

Make up your own story, add new characters, or change the ending!

WHY?

Books don’t just have to be read, they can be starting points for other fun activities like crafts and pretend play. Acting out a story can help your child to understand it more easily and lets them use their imagination to decide how they want to do it.

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.

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