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!

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Life Sized Alphabet

Can you and your child make the letters of the alphabet with your bodies? Try numbers and shapes too!

LET’S GO!

Use your whole body to make letters of the alphabet.

DO IT TOGETHER!

Go outside or find some space in your home and make the letters of the alphabet by posing with your child. Explore which letters they can make on their own and which ones they need you to be part of to make it work. Try it laying down or standing up.

Involve other members of your family or friends and add the challenge of singing the ABCs while making the letters with your body.

What to do:

  1. Put two people in each group.
  2. Go around and have each group make the next letter in the song with their bodies (first group does “A,” second group “B,” and so on).
  3. See how fast you can get going without making a mistake.

WHY?

This is another way to explore the shape of letters with your child. Connecting the letters with big body movements will help them remember what the letter looks like and can help them when they are trying to write letters.

 

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Satisfying Smoothies

With your child, experiment with this snack to try to make it the yummiest!

LET’S GO!

What you need: 

  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup yogurt (flavoured or plain)
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen berries (strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries)
  • 4 ice cubes (if not using frozen berries)
  • Squeeze of honey (optional to sweeten)

What to do: 

  1. Put all the ingredients into a blender and mix until smooth.

DO IT TOGETHER!

Let your child help you measure, mix the ingredients, and push the buttons on the blender. Show them the recipe and talk about how you know how much you need of each ingredient.

Play with this recipe by adding your child’s favourite fruits, yogurt, or juice to create something different.

WHY? 

Cooking together gives you a chance to have some great conversations with your child. There will be new words, ideas, and fun along the way while you make something together.

By experimenting with the recipe, your child will learn how to start thinking differently, even critically, as they taste and decide how to improve their creation.

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.

 

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Homemade Father’s Day Present!

I often find Father’s Day one of the most difficult days to make special. What am I supposed to get a Dad who has every power tool, every tie, and every “Best Dad in the World” coffee mug?

I started to think about what I used to do for Father’s Day when I was a kid. First there came the crafts from daycare or preschool. This gradually evolved into presents made in art class, and eventually the store bought coffee cups, ties, and finally the dreaded set of golf balls that seemed to re-emerge every year as a last resort.

Thinking back over all the gifts that I have given, it made me realize that it was the homemade crafts that really made an impression on my father. It’s not golf balls that my father keeps in a drawer with all the gifts that mean the most to him. In fact, I’m sure he can’t tell which golf balls I gave him from the multitude of golf balls he found in the bush while looking for the wayward shot he took.

I can remember how happy I was making those crafts for my dad, and I can remember how it made me feel when I saw his face as he opened them. It is the gifts that come from the heart that are often the most memorable.

Here is a Father’s Day craft that comes straight from the heart. All you will need to make this unforgettable Father’s Day gift with your child is:

  • Popsicle sticks or craft sticks – at least 8
  • Markers
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • White paper – thicker paper works best

Directions:

  1. Color the Popsicle sticks with the markers – if you are using paint complete step 2 first.
  2. Glue the Popsicle sticks together using the hot glue gun to form a square frame.  You will want to make two individual frames. *Note: If you would like to make your frame thicker you can place 2 Popsicle sticks side-by-side.
  3. Measure and cut a square piece from the white paper. You will want it to be big enough to be able to glue on the Popsicle stick frame.
  4. Get your child to draw a picture on the paper – it doesn’t have to be about Father’s Day. *Note: Writing a personal note to Dad on the back of the picture is a nice touch as well.
  5. Now it’s time to assemble the frame – you might want to double check that the picture will fit into the frame before you start gluing. Trim down the picture if needed.
  6. On the back of one frame, in each corner, place a dot of hot glue. Place your picture face up on the glue to attach it to the frame.
  7. Turn it over. On the back of the picture place another dot of hot glue in each of the corners and attach the second frame. Make sure the colored side of the second frame is facing outwards.
  8. The picture frame is now complete. Your dad will be able to hang it from either side.

Other suggestions:

  1. If you would like to hang up the picture frame on the fridge attach magnets to the backside of the frame. Only one Popsicle frame is needed for this purpose.
  2. You can glue a piece of thread on the back of the first frame – after you have attached the picture and before you attach the second frame – this will allow you to hang the photo up on either side. Please let us know how these crafts turned out and any other Father’s Day suggestions that you found worked for you!    
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Searching for Signs

Doing this scavenger hunt will give you a chance to talk with your child about the print they see every time you go outside!

LET’S GO!

Go for a scavenger hunt—walk and look for signs.

DO IT TOGETHER!

When you go for a walk with your child, decide together what to look for along the way. It might be stop signs or signs with a picture of a truck on them—whatever your child is interested in looking for.

When you find the signs, talk about what you see. You can extend the activity when you get home by drawing pictures of what you saw on your scavenger hunt.

WHY?

This game helps your child notice the signs around them and gives you a chance to talk about what they mean. It will help your child understand that signs and the writing on them have meaning—one of the first steps in becoming a reader.

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.

 

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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.

Watch a video demo of the app.

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What Time is it Mr. Wolf?

Mr. Wolf introduces the idea of time and counting in this fun game!

LET’S GO!

What to do:

  1. Decide which player is going to be the wolf.
  2. All the other players line up in front of the wolf (have lots of space between the wolf and other players).
  3. The wolf turns around so his back is to the other players, and all the players ask together “What time is it Mr. Wolf?”
  4. The wolf picks a time and the players have to take that many steps (e.g. 2:00 is 2 steps).
  5. This repeats until the wolf thinks (without looking) that the players are close enough to catch, and yells “lunchtime!”
  6. The wolf chases the other players and tries to touch as many as he can. One of the players caught becomes the wolf for the next round.

DO IT TOGETHER

Before the game, tell your children that when the wolf says the time, it’s like reading it on a clock. 

To start, you should be the wolf so your children see how the game is played.

When you are calling times, say how many steps that means until everyone understands. When it’s “lunchtime,” turn the catching into some tickling fun.

WHY?

This game helps introduce children to the idea of time.

They won’t understand it all, but it’s good for them to hear the words used to tell time.

Counting and time are both important numeracy skills needed in life.

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.

Watch a video demo of the app.

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Meaningful Mess

Spring. Get ready for puddles, mud, and messes! Thinking of a nice, clean house getting covered in puddles and grit, and having to start cleaning all over again, sends shivers down my spine. And what about the extra time it will take to bathe the kids and clean their clothes and shoes, with all the other errands we need to run. Just remember, it really is worth it!

As adults, we often forget the joys of playing in dirt and mud or just getting messy, of throwing away paint brushes and getting our hands dirty instead, of changing out of our good shoes and clothes and exploring without the concern of staying clean. We forget that the learning that happens during this kind of play outweighs the need to keep things tidy and orderly.

Children are messy by nature. It is critical to children’s development to be allowed to explore and interact with their world. Sometimes this means that we, as parents, need to take a deep breath and say “sure, you can play in the mud!” By allowing our children to get messy, we are fostering growth in all areas of their development. Messy play encompasses, but is not limited to:

  • Physical development: hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills
  • Emotional and social development: self-confidence and self-esteem, respect for themselves and others; can be an outlet for feelings, experiences, and thoughts
  • Intellectual development: problem solving, concentration, planning, grouping, matching, prediction, observation, and evaluation

Spring is the perfect time to allow our children to be messy while exploring the outside world. The weather is warming up, snow is gone, and all sorts of new life is happening. Being messy doesn’t mean allowing our children to run wild though. It is important that they are still dressed appropriately for outside weather, and monitored and guided through safe play. Here is a list of activities to do outside the house:

  • Playing in puddles: allow your children to explore puddles in the spring. See how high they can make the water splash as they jump in it. Can they make a boat that floats or float other objects in the puddle?
  • Mud pies: exploring mud is a great way to get creativity going. What can we create with the mud (castles, pies, pretend food)? What objects can we add to the mud (i.e. rocks, twigs, leaves, etc.)? What happens if we add more water? If we add more dirt?
  • Sidewalk chalk paint: take your cornstarch and water mixture outside! Add a few drops of food colouring and you have sidewalk chalk; the best part is no paint in the house!

Messy play isn’t only for outside, and can be done any time of year inside. Below is a list of fun, educational, and most importantly, messy activities to do inside with your children:

  • Shaving cream dough: try hand mixing equal parts of shaving cream and cornstarch together to make dough. Keep mixing, as it can take a while for the cornstarch to mix with the shaving cream
  • Cornstarch and water: see what happens when you mix cornstarch and water. This activity is a great way to explore ratios (how much of each ingredient to mix) and textures, and learn problem solving skills
  • Finger painting: learn all about colours and how to mix and match new ones, develop fine motor skills, language, and thinking skills

Remember that it is important for you to be messy too. Don’t forget to join in the fun and get your hands dirty! We, as adults, might be surprised by how much we can still learn from messy play, and there is nothing better than creating memories with your children.  They will remember the fun you all had long after you forget how messy everything was. If you would like to learn more about your children’s early learning and how to support literacy development, you might enjoy one of our family literacy programs. Visit the Centre for Family Literacy website for more information.

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Thank You to Our Volunteers!

“Why are you doing this when you’re not getting paid?”

The adult learner this volunteer was working with couldn’t believe his tutor would show up week after week purely to help him reach his employment goals, without asking for anything in return.

“What motivates you to volunteer with us?”

If you want to be inspired, put this question to a volunteer. Then watch them light up. It’s inspiring to hear the passion in their voices as they talk about making a difference, giving back, and their desire to see individuals and families succeed. They also speak about the deep satisfaction they receive from helping others to reach their goals—whether that’s helping a parent to gain new skills as their child’s first teacher, understanding the letters coming home from their child’s school, passing their driver’s test, deciphering a medicine label, or simply gaining the confidence and skills to fill in important forms for themselves.

Our volunteers’ behind-the-scenes commitments typically include board and committee work, assisting with Family Literacy programs, facilitating Adult Literacy Classes, tutoring one-on-one, office support and fundraising events. Their collective impact is extraordinary! Activities are temporarily limited to our distance learning and online programs and communication during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We would like to take this moment to express our gratitude to our volunteers. Together we are working to foster a healthy, literate society where we are all able to contribute and succeed.

Following are some of the responses to our “Why I Volunteer” survey:

It’s the greatest feeling ever to give back in any way I can – and I love seeing the difference the programs the Centre runs makes in our community!
I volunteer because I like to offer my skills to organizations, I want to help my community and because it’s a chance to meet new people.
I love my students and I love their happiness when they know they have learnt something new. They always want to “use” it right away. I also like the people I work with and the atmosphere at the Centre for Family Literacy.
To give back to my community while making new friends.
I wanted to help other families and their children.
I volunteer because I get more back than I give. It fills me up.
I want to help however I can.
I volunteer because I have a deep empathy for the female newcomers who come here and watch their families integrate through their school and work. Left alone for much of the day they feel like they are losing their families to this new world and culture while they sit in loneliness and fear, unable to connect.
The Centre for Family literacy helps people enjoy a better life with dignity and respect.
To meet amazing people in my community and make life a little bit easier for some of them.
To give back to my community and connect with others!
I have been fortunate to have a good job and opportunities to learn. Volunteering is my way of giving back.
I have been a participant with my child in CFL programs for years and wanted to give back.
Because if I don’t who will, and it needs to happen.
For the enjoyment and reward of helping others.
Because I like helping people make a difference in their lives.
Volunteering is good for a community, and it’s a great way to meet people and develop new skills.
It’s fun (though I’ve been away and haven’t volunteered for some time).
I volunteer because giving back teaches me so much more!
Volunteering makes me feel grateful for what I have and provides an opportunity to help improve the lives of the people I touch.
I love to teach and I want to give back to my community.
I enjoy sharing my passions with others.
I volunteer at the Centre because I believe in their Mission Statement and I feel welcomed by the wonderful people who work there.

If you are interested in volunteering to help someone with their literacy skills via online distance learning, click here.

 

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Pancake Alphabet

Writing doesn’t have to be just on paper, and what’s better than being able to eat what you’ve written or drawn!

LET’S GO!

What you need:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 3 tbsp. butter, melted
  • blueberries or chocolate chips (optional)

What to do: 

  1. In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients.
  2. Make a well in the centre and add wet ingredients; stir until still a little lumpy.
  3. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan.
  4. Adults – pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle in the traditional round shape.
  5. When pancakes start to bubble, flip and brown on the other side.

DO IT TOGETHER!

Let your child help you measure and mix the ingredients. Show them the recipe and talk about how you know how much you need of each ingredient.

If you are using chocolate chips or blueberries, you can use them to spell words on the pancakes after you have flipped them over once.

If you are feeling adventurous, place pancake batter in a turkey baster or old ketchup or mustard bottle, and spell out letters or words.

WHY?

Cooking together gives you a chance to have some great conversations with your child. There will be new words, ideas, and fun along the way while you make something together.

Pancakes add to the fun by being able to make different shapes! By including your child in your cooking, you will also make them feel like they are helping you get things done.

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.

Watch a video demo of the app.

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