Bugs on a Branch!

This yummy snack is easy and fun to make together. Pair it with a book or a trip outside to see real bugs to make it more meaningful!

WHY?

Cooking gives you many ways to talk and build language with your child. Oral language is the foundation upon which reading and writing are built. Having fun together while using language builds a strong foundation for your child to become a reader and a writer!

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • Celery (branches)
  • Peanut butter, cream cheese, or processed cheese
  • Raisins, chocolate chips, nuts, or dried cranberries (bugs)

WHAT TO DO:

  1. Cut off the ends and wash and dry the celery. Slice into “branches”
  2. Spread the peanut butter or cheese on the celery
  3. Arrange the bugs along the branch
  • Talk about what you are doing as you do it!
  • Make up a story about how your bugs got on their branches. You could also count your bugs!

DO IT TOGETHER!

Depending on their age, your child can help with different parts of the recipe. If you have an older child, they can use a child-safe knife to help cut. Everyone should be able to help with the rest.

OTHER RESOURCES:

Mom and Me Cookbook by Annabel Karmel Flit App: 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

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!

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!

 

Talking to Babies in Different Languages

We work with mothers, fathers, grandparents, and caregivers from a number of countries and backgrounds. Together they speak more than 60 languages, and for many of these families, that means that more than one language is being spoken at home.

Children born into these homes are incredibly fortunate. There are many benefits to being able to speak more than one language. Languages create connections between generations, between cultures, and between places all around the world. And having more connections to our world and the people in it is a wonderful gift.

So, how can babies best learn more than one language?

The first part is easy: they need to learn from people. Face-to-face interaction is by far the best way for babies to learn new languages. Videos, apps, and recordings will not help babies. Video chat is the only exception. The second part is that, when they are old enough to speak, they have to use the new language regularly.

When I first started in this field, there were concerns about confusing babies with different languages, so recommendations were quite rigid. But research from the last 10 years  suggests that babies are not that easy to confuse, so you can explore an approach to multiple languages that works best for you and your family.

Here is an excellent guide from Nexus Health in Ontario. It discusses the benefits, different  strategies, and ways children learn multiple languages: “When children speak more than one language”.

Whether you are fluent in one language or can speak in many, have fun singing and talking with your babies. I promise that they want to hear from you.

Visit the Centre for Family Literacy website for more resources and tip sheets for parents.

 

The 5 W’s of Rhyming

Who?

Anyone can learn a rhyme and use it. Moms, dads, grandparents, childcare providers, siblings, everyone!

Where?

You guessed it, anywhere! The obvious place is at home, but you can use rhymes at the doctor’s office, in the car, at the grocery store or mall, Grandma’s house, and daycare. Wherever you and your child are, a rhyme can be used. You don’t need props, just your voice and your body.

What?

Rhymes help to develop oral literacy through their repetitive and rhythmic nature. When you include them in daily activities, your child learns new words and the rules of language. Rhymes can be songs you remember from your childhood, folk songs, nursery rhymes or lines from a favourite book. They can be chants. They can be made up, or classics like “Itsy-Bitsy Spider” and “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”

When?

Anytime! Bathtime, bedtime, playtime, mealtime. During chores, diaper changes, getting dressed, travelling, or running errands. There’s no need to set aside a special time for rhyming. Rhymes can be used during any daily routine or outing.

Why?

We encourage the use of rhymes for a number of reasons:

  1. A rhyme can build vocabulary. The words you hear in a rhyme are probably out of the ordinary. How often do you use the words ‘itsy-bitsy’ or ‘water spout’ in your daily conversations? Your child can learn many new words from rhymes.
  2. A rhyme helps to develop communication skills. Communication skills are important to your child’s development. In addition to oral language, some rhymes teach hand signals. As you’re setting the table for supper, you could sing “I like to eat.” With this rhyme, a pre-verbal child can learn how to say eat, drink, milk, and water in sign language.
  3. A rhyme can lessen frustration for both caregiver and child. A rhyme has the power to turn a meltdown into a calming and enjoyable moment. Think lullabies. You both might even end up laughing!
  4. A rhyme can teach patience and anticipation, when it ends with a tickle or a lift. These skills are invaluable later on in life, but right now your child just wants to be tickled and thrown up to the sky. What they don’t know is that you are preparing their body and mind to deal with stressful situations that may arise in the future.
  5. A rhyme builds healthy relationships between caregiver and child. You are doing wonders for your relationship with your child when you interact with them in this way. You give them a sense of safety and a feeling of being loved. As a result, studies show your child’s mental health will be better now and especially later in life.
  6. A rhyme is fun!

So what are you waiting for? Search your memory for one of your favourite lullabies, or come to a Rhymes that Bind program and learn some new ones! Rhymes that Bind offers numerous old and new rhymes for you to choose from. And you’ll learn new ways to incorporate them into your day.

Check out the Centre for Family Literacy website for a free drop in program near you. http://www.famlit.ca/

In the meantime, here’s the tune and sign language for I like to eat:

I Like to Eat

I like to eat, eat, eat
Apples and bananas (x2)
I like to drink, drink, drink
Milk and water (x2)
I’d like some more, more, more
Please and Thank you (x2)

 

3,2,1,Fun! That’s Right, Numbers are Fun!

When we think of literacy, our minds go directly to reading and words. But literacy is more than words, it is the combination of many everyday skills that you may use without even thinking about or categorizing as literacy.

Numeracy is one such skill, and includes number sense, predictability, calendars, patterns and relationships, measurement, time, puzzles, problem solving, and shapes.

Using numeracy skills and teaching them to your children might be easier than you think. Numbers are everywhere! If you are baking, you can ask your child to help measure, and as they get older they can help double or halve the recipe. Making cookies, you can talk about the shapes, or place them in patterns on the cookie sheet before baking; circle, square, triangle… circle, square, triangle.

Using patterns and shapes to decorate Easter eggs is another great way to talk about colours and patterns. You can also count the eggs, making sure there are enough for the whole family, and that everyone gets the same amount. You can divide other Easter candies or jelly beans according to their colour, and make a pattern or even a jelly bean rainbow.

We all learn differently. Some learn best by reading, some through watching, and some through doing. Children are still finding their best learning style and therefore learn best by doing all three. Keeping this in mind, how might you adapt playing or chores into learning moments?

When possible, try to be aware of the language you are using, or not using, during play and chores. Think of yourself as the narrator; while narrating you are teaching your children language, self-expression, and building on their vocabulary.

Some good numeracy words to use throughout play and learning are:

  • ciircle, square, triangle
  • round, flat, curved, straight, corners
  • same, different, opposite
  • sorting
  • more, less
  • short, long, bigger, smaller

Some good questions to ask:

  • What comes next?
  • Which are the same? Why?
  • Which is different? Why?
  • Where would this go? Why?

While narrating you could also try to include a singing narrative. Singing and music help develop children’s brains and make stronger brain connections, leading to children who develop stronger literacy skills in life.

At the Centre for Family Literacy’s free 3,2,1,Fun! program, you will enjoy learning activities, tools, and tips to support your children in their early literacy development, which leads to success in school and lifelong learning.

If you are unable to access one of our programs, you can download our free parenting literacy resource app, Flit, from Google Play and the App Store. The app gives you over 100 fun literacy activities, recipes, games to do with your children, and tips and tricks to add to your parenting tool box.

You’ll find more information about 3,2,1,Fun! and Flit on our website at www.famlit.ca

 

The Power of a Rhyme

RTB - hopping to rhymeSM

Have you ever had to wait with a toddler in a doctor’s office listening in vain for those sweet, sweet words, “He’s ready for you,” or in what looks like the longest lineup to the checkout that you’ve ever seen? Or simply had to wait outside a store for their doors to open?

That time I had to run some errands, toddler in tow…

I recently, and reluctantly, took my two-year-old daughter on an errand run to Staples. Thinking this was going to be a quick and easy stop, I arrived to find it closed and had about 30 minutes to wait. I considered just going home, or getting back into the car and handing her a snack and my phone.

Annoyed at my options, I looked around and saw a Home Depot just down the street. I knew getting her to walk there wouldn’t be easy, and I certainly wasn’t prepared to carry her that far. Nor was I in the mood to wrestle her back into her car seat for a one minute drive. While handing her my phone and a pack of crackers seemed like the least frustrating thing to do, there was another way to pass the time that was far more beneficial to both of us.

This is where the power of a simple rhyme came into play.

I took her by the hand and started singing, “Walking, walking, walking, walking. Hop, hop hop…” in the direction of Home Depot and to my delight, she followed, walking, hopping and running. It was fun, it was memorable, it was easy and, we both benefitted from it.

A few things happened in this short time:

  1. Feelings of frustration were lessened. It started out as a frustrating, ‘what do I do now’ situation, but with the use of a simple rhyme, the mood was changed. We were happily making our way down the street, turning a potentially stressful wait into an effortless 30 minutes.
  2. My child was developing oral literacy. Oral literacy has to happen first. A child learns to read and write after they learn to speak. The stronger they are in oral literacy, the stronger the connection and transition to reading and writing. The rhythm, the easy and repetitive vocabulary, and the body actions of a simple rhyme create new pathways in a child’s brain. My daughter wouldn’t have been learning anything while sitting in the car, eyes glued to a phone.
  3. Our relationship was strengthened. The bonding that happens during this kind of interaction with a child is priceless. We laughed, sang, hugged, and held hands. There is no better feeling than seeing a child happy and in love with you! This relationship is really important to any child’s learning, and instead of just killing time, I was sharing a fun and loving moment with my daughter.
  4. It gave me a sense of accomplishment and competence, of being actively involved in my child’s learning. I was able to say, “I made this happen, not my phone. I turned this annoying situation into a fun experience.”

Simple rhymes can be used in the daily activities and care of a child. They are guaranteed to lessen frustration, develop oral literacy, and strengthen relationships between caregiver and child.

Come to a Rhymes that Bind program and see for yourself how fun rhyming can be, and learn a new rhyme or two. Check the Centre for Family Literacy website for a free drop in program near you. And in the meantime, here’s a rhyme to try with your little one:

Walking, Walking (tune: Freres Jacques)

Walking, walking
Walking, walking
Hop, hop, hop
Hop, hop, hop
Running, running, running
Running, running, running
Now we stop
Now we stop

*skating, crawling, skipping