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!  

Tips for a Great Road Trip with Your Family!

For our vacation this summer, many of us will choose to hit the highways. I love road trips with my family—there are so many places and things to learn about. If you share your enthusiasm and find ways to use all of your senses while you travel, your kids will not only learn but will be happy too.

With children young or old, you can point out all that can be seen with their eyes. From mountains to waterfalls, rivers to forests, prairie lands to animals, both farm and wild. Show everyone where you are on a map. Point out signs. Visit historic sites. Learn about our past. Play I Spy. You can let your children use binoculars to help them search the land for scavenger hunt items, or try playing a variety of license plate games while on your road trip.

With digital cameras it is easy to allow your children to take as many photographs as they like (deleting ones that don’t make the final cut won’t disappoint them). You can see the world through their eyes, and you may be surprised by how great their photography skills can be. 

You can use your ears to hear things you may not hear if you are from a big city! Things such as quiet or animals in the forest. If you stop somewhere for a picnic, for stretching legs and relieving restlessness, you may hear a train travelling nearby. You might hear water rushing down a waterfall if you’re on a mountain escape. You can even hear insects buzzing around in summer; we don’t like them, but they are there! Is that a cow lowing in the distance? Talk about what farmers are doing this time of year.

How about singing to pass the time away? If you aren’t comfortable with your own voice leading the family choir, how about some family friendly music borrowed from your local library? There is so much more to children’s songs today than in the past. One of our favourites is a CD called “Snack Time” by the Bare Naked Ladies. My teenagers will still sing along! For lyrics that mom and dad can laugh at, and a very original version of “ABCs”, it’s a must have.

Smells! You cannot dismiss the power of your sense of smell. The air smells cleaner as we leave our city homes behind. We can point out smells our children may not be familiar with. There are plenty of smells that accompany any farm, whether grain, livestock, or vegetable and fruit. Find some flowers to sniff. Do trees have a scent? Sniff an evergreen! What about leaves or moss on the forest floor? The air by a stream? A factory?

Hands on! Why can’t a road trip be hands on? Have you ever stopped to see the monument that makes a town special? Plan your breaks for places with something interesting to see, do, and learn. Run, play, burn off some energy before the next leg of your trip. Collect post cards and things like kids’ paper menus (the kind kids can draw on if you stop for a restaurant meal), random memorabilia, or maybe a picked flower. I still have a little flower picked by my son almost 10 years ago. It has a story behind it of what lengths he and his dad went through to get that flower back to me. My son drew me a picture to go with the flower that helps tell the story. I will treasure it always.

Back in the car again, hand your child a pencil, maybe some crayons, and a sketchbook. Have them write or draw pictures about what they have learned along the way. It is easy to keep a little box of things needed for creativity in the vehicle. You can also find an assortment of lap trays (which resemble dining trays) to use on your trip. They are perfect for snacks, drawing, puzzles, and more. Prepared ahead of time, scavenger hunts are fun—check things off as they are found, or places discovered.

    

Try this website before you head out on your next Canadian road trip, www.bigthings.ca. There is a list by province of things to see! To me, finding some of these things is reason enough for a trip in the car!

Family Stories

Many oral traditions have been lost, but you can bring them back. Your child will love to hear your own family stories about themselves and people they love!

LET’S GO!

Tell your child how you picked their name.

DO IT TOGETHER!

Sitting with your child on your lap or near you, tell them the story of how you picked their name. Tell it in your own way and don’t worry about not telling it “right”.

WHY?

Oral storytelling is a great way to pass on family traditions and information. Your child will love to hear stories about themselves and your family and it will help them practice using language and to tell their own stories.

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.

Time to Twinkle!

A favourite song in many languages, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” is fun to do with your child and can be used in different ways throughout your day!

WHY?

Twinkle, twinkle has a well-known tune that rhymes and it repeats sections which makes it easy to learn. The actions are great for helping your child to practice motor skills and to remember the order of the song. It’s easy to work into routines like bedtime, as a lullaby, or as a travel song.

LET’S GO!

Sing the song, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”

DO IT TOGETHER!

Listen to the music together to learn the words. Make up your own actions or use the ideas below.

Twinkle, twinkle little star
Put your hands in the air and wiggle your fingers

How I wonder what you are
Shrug your shoulders

Up above the world so high
Put your arms up in the air

Like a diamond in the sky
Make a shape of a diamond with your fingers

Twinkle, twinkle little star
Put your hands in the air and wiggle your fingers

How I wonder what you are
Shrug your shoulders

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 FREE Flit app, (Families Learning and Interacting Together).

Click here for the iOS version

Click here to download the Android version

 

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.

 

A Simple Way to Make Dressing Your Child Fun!

Hello everybody! We are back for another season of fun with rhymes for you and your 0-3 year old. Autumn can be such a terribly busy time—back to school, dance classes, swimming lessons, hockey, homework, etc.—that we often forget to enjoy the little moments.

With cold weather fast approaching (or here), we will also have to layer up our littles, which can be a time-consuming process. Rhymes can help that process to be a little smoother and hopefully a little faster, and maybe even a little more fun.

To help you both with that task, I’d like to share a few rhymes that I recommend to the parents and caregivers who come to Rhymes that Bind programs.

Baby Put Your Pants On

Tune of “Mama’s Little Baby Loves Shortnin’ Bread”

Baby put your pants on, pants on, pants on
Baby put your pants on, 1, 2, 3
Legs to the left, legs to the right
You wiggle and jiggle and you pull them on tight
Baby put your pants on, pants on, pants on
Baby put your pants on, 1, 2, 3

Baby put your shirt on, shirt on, shirt on
Baby put your shirt on, 1, 2, 3
Arms to the left, arms to the right
You wiggle and jiggle and you button up tight
Baby put your shirt on, shirt on, shirt on
Baby put your shirt on, 1, 2, 3

Baby put your shoes on, shoes on, shoes on
Baby put your shoes on, 1, 2, 3
Feet to the left, feet to the right
You wiggle and jiggle and you do them up tight
Baby put your shoes on, shoes on, shoes on
Baby put your shoes on, 1, 2, 3

Add more clothing verses if needed

Clap your hands to this tune or sing while dressing your littles.

Mitten Weather

Thumbs in the thumb place.
Fingers all together!

(Wiggle thumbs, then fingers together)

We sing this song in mitten weather.
When it’s cold it doesn’t really matter
Whether mittens are wool or made of fine leather.
Thumb in the thumb place,
Fingers all together
We sing this song in mitten weather.

(Wiggle thumbs, then fingers together)

Here is another mitten song you could sing while dressing your littles or sing for fun using the hands gestures.

Mitten Chant

Here is a mitten (Hold up one hand)
A snug and fuzzy one (Rub palms together)
With a place for my fingers (Wiggle fingers)
And a place for my thumbs (Wiggle thumbs)
Here are two mittens (Hold up two hands)
A colourful sight (Move hands back and forth)
One for my left (Hold up left hand)
And one for my right (Hold up right hand)
Here are our mittens (Hold up two hands)
As soft as can be (Stroke the back of one hand)
A warm pair for you (Point to a friend)
And a warm pair for me (Point to yourself)

I hope you enjoy singing these songs and that I’ll see you all at Rhymes that Bind this fall!

If you would like to learn more about us and our programs, please call the Centre for Family Literacy at 780-421-7323 and/or visit the Centre for Family Literacy website, www.famlit.ca.

You can also download Flit, our free appfrom Google Play or the App store. Flit is loaded with fun songs and activities to do with your child, with pictures, descriptions, step by step directions, and information on why and how these activities benefit your child and you.

 

Sharing Stories

Stories are so important to children’s development, and the following short list barely scratches the surface. Stories help children:

  • develop creativity and imagination
  • develop their language and thinking skills
  • build the knowledge and skills they will eventually need to learn to read

Books are just one of the tools you may use to share stories with your children, and there is so much more to sharing a book than just reading the words!

It is important to help your children actively engage in the book, and this can happen in a variety of ways.

Books may be shared in different ways with children of different ages. You don’t always need to read the words. It is alright to use your own words, in your own language, to tell the story. And, it is always more fun if you use lots of expression and different voices for each character, to bring it alive!

Some children may want to hold the book upside-down or skip a page. Or they may want to repeat a part over and over. Let your children lead the way and enjoy the book, so that reading is a positive experience for them.

Sometimes children will need to move around or will want to play close by, but don’t worry—they are still listening. You may try to keep them involved by having them supply missing words, repeating phrases with you, or by asking them questions such as, “where did it go?” or “what do you think is going to happen next?”

Children love to have stories told in a variety of ways. Sometimes they may enjoy acting out stories using stuffed animals or other props. It is also great for children to act out or retell the story in their own words. Children may want to extend a favourite story by doing a puppet show using the characters, dressing up like one of the characters, or drawing a picture. Some stories may lead to a treasure hunt or specific craft.

On the C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) bus, we love to share stories! One of the books we have enjoyed sharing recently is “Wheels on the Bus.” All of the children seem to love this one! It is especially fun because they can sing along and do the actions.

Most people are familiar with the common version, which includes “the doors on the bus go open and shut” and “the wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish.” But our “Wheels on the Bus” book is about the animals on the bus.

If you borrow this book or have it at home, you could let your children make the animal sounds, and choose additional animals to extend the story. For example: “The cows on the bus go moo, moo, moo.” They could also use stuffed animals or draw pictures. This is also a book that they could “read” on their own by using the pictures as clues.

Sharing stories in this way brings them alive to children so that they look forward to story time with you. You and your children will both benefit if you make time every day to share a book.

The C.O.W. is out to pasture for the summer, but check the Centre for Family Literacy website to find out where and when you can join us on the bus next fall! In the meantime,  get out some favourite books and have fun!

 

 

Our Babies can Talk to Us?

Our babies can talk to us? What does that look like and how do we respond?

Serve and Return

Early forms of communication between parents and babies are referred to as serve and return. Babies serve by cooing, smiling, reaching, crying, etc. and we return by mimicking them or caring for them. We can also serve by making faces and sounds and waiting to see if they return by laughing, kicking, or mimicking us.

Research has been done in this field, and videos show that when the caregivers did not return their babies’ serve, the babies became uncomfortable and upset. Try this yourselves to see how important it is to acknowledge your babies and children this way.

Below are some fun songs we sing in our Rhymes that Bind programs. Try singing them at home with your babies (serve) and watch their reactions (return).

Benefits of talking with your babies:

  • The more we hear words and expressions, the more quickly we understand language.
  • The rhymes and songs we sing, plus the fun gestures we add, build new brain connections and strengthen old ones.
  • The more you sing with your babies, the larger their vocabulary and the better their foundation in literacy, education, and success later in life.

Peek-A-Boo
(Tune of Frere Jacques)

Peek a boo, peek a boo
I see you, I see you
I see your button nose
I see your tiny toes
Peek a boo, I see you.

Treasure Hunt
(You can do actions for this rhyme on baby’s tummy or back for fun, or while changing clothes and diapers)

We’re going on a treasure hunt
X marks the spot
Boulder here, boulder there
Dot. Dot. Dot.
Crabs crawling up your back
Bubbles rolling down
Tight squeeze, cool breeze
Now you’ve got the shivereeze.

One Little Finger

One little finger, one little finger, one little finger,
Tap, tap, tap,
Put your fingers up,
Put your fingers down,
Put your fingers on your _____. (body part)

One little finger, one little finger, one little finger,
Tap, tap, tap,
Put your fingers up high,
Put your fingers down low,
Put your fingers on your _____. (body part)

(Repeat with different body parts, and it’s fun to end with a tummy tickle)

Poor Old Horse
(A fun, bouncy lap song – put your child on your knees, facing you. Let him hold your
hands as if holding the reins to a horse)

Poor old horse, he goes so slow.
He never stops, in rain or snow.
(Say these two lines very slowly, while moving your knees
up and down slowly.)
Buuut…
(Draw this word out and look at your child with anticipation.)
Give him a kick, and there he goes,
There he goes, there he goes.
Give him a kick, and there he goes,
All the way to town!
Whoa, horsey!
(Let your child fall backwards a bit, as if he is pulling on the
reins to stop the horse.)

We would love to sing with you in one of our programs. Please visit the Centre for Family Literacy website for a Rhymes that Bind location and time that works for you. For added fun, rhymes with videos, and family literacy resources, please download our free App, Flit, available on Google Play and the App Store.

Have fun talking with your baby!

 

A Tip to Help Get Ready for the Holidays with Kids

Singing-webIt’s December already! Do you feel a little frazzled, the way I do? I’m rushing around and running out of time to get things done before the holidays. During this time, it’s easy to lose track of what the season is really all about. To me, it’s a time to spend with family and friends that I don’t see often, and to think of others less fortunate than myself.

With this in mind, I was thinking of the parents who are struggling with the same holiday tasks as myself and have infants and toddlers to take care of at the same time. Preparing for the holidays often means cooking or baking, cleaning the house, decorating, shopping, and wrapping presents, and doing all of this while keeping your child happy can be a challenge.

Rhymes can help make these tasks easier. A child can often be distracted and calmed when they are fussy, and rhymes and songs are a quick, hands free (mostly) way to do that.

Singing your child’s favourite rhymes when they seem about to have a meltdown in a store, or while you are cooking, is not only playful and fun, it also engages your child in literacy. Sing, even when the in-laws are around. They will likely join in, or at the very least they’ll think it’s adorable to see their grandchild singing and even dancing. Here’s one of our favourite winter rhymes to try:

Snowflakes Falling
(Tune of Jingle Bells) 

Snowflakes falling, snowflakes falling
One fell on my toes
Snowflakes falling, snowflakes falling
One fell on my nose
Snowflakes falling, snowflakes falling
One fell on my head
Snowflakes falling, snowflakes falling
Now it’s time to sled!

You can also use rhymes like this while you are doing any activity, such as sledding or building a snowman. I find rhymes and songs make any activity more fun!

What are your favourite holiday rhymes or carols?

In our Rhymes that Bind program, parents enjoy rhymes, finger plays, songs, and simple movement games with their infants and toddlers in a supportive group. If you would like to join us for some rhyming fun, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website to find a program near you in Edmonton!