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.

Family Literacy Day

Monday, January 27, 2020Board_game

Family Literacy Day — created by ABC Life Literacy Canada and held annually on January 27 — highlights the “importance of reading and engaging in other literacy-related activities as a family.”

Literacy is the foundation for learning, and it begins at home. Family Literacy takes place during daily routines in life as parents, children, and family members use literacy at home and in their community. Research tells us that we can set kids up for success as learners when we engage them in conversations, read together regularly, provide meaningful writing experiences, and let them see us reading and learning too.

Positive parent-child interaction every day is key at every stage of a child’s language and literacy development. As a parent, grandparent, or caregiver, you’re likely already engaging the children in your life in meaningful family literacy activities.

Looking for fresh ideas? Inspired by ABC Life Literacy, here are 10 ways to engage your family in literacy and learning on Family Literacy Day, and every day:

  1. Start the day with a story. It beats the morning grumps every time.
  2. Write a note for another family member. Leave it somewhere you know they’ll find it – in their favourite box of cereal, their sock drawer or lunch box. (We know a mom who writes on bananas: “Have a great day! Now eat me.”)
  3. Search online for fun things to do. Plan your next family day.
  4. Hunt in the newspaper together for a “good news story,” enjoy the comics, or see how your favourite sports team is doing.
  5. Start a family communication book. Leave a blank notebook out in a common area where anyone can leave a message for other family members. Messages can range from “Thanks for tidying the play room” to “Remember to buy cheese!” In the short term, it can help with communication and increase family connectedness. In the long run, it might just become a family heirloom.
  6. Create a story with your family around the dinner table. Take turns writing one sentence at a time, then read the whole story aloud when you’re done. If you illustrate it, even the youngest can help.
  7. Older kids? Have a laugh with mad-libs. Use a published book or create your own!
  8. Driving? Try the alphabet game. Work together to find the letters of the alphabet — in order — on signs and license plates.
  9. Play a board game together.
  10. End the day with a new book or an old favourite.

Learning can happen at any time. “Practicing literacy together every day has tremendous benefits for both children and parents.” The possibilities are endless. Why not add a few  new activities from over 160 available on our Flit App to what you’re already doing as a family?    

7 Crazy Fun Family Games to Play Over the Holidays

Have you ever watched Minute to Win It types of games and thought it would be fun to play them with your family? Family games are a great way to bring everyone together over the holidays, or any time, to have a little fun! The games can be simple or complex, depending on the participants, and you can often use things you have around the house. Try to encourage all family members to play, no matter their age. Games are also a fun way to incorporate family literacy into your holiday activities by talking, following directions, counting, etc.
 
The Games:
 
Try to split everyone who would like to participate into two teams, trying to keep both sides as even as possible. The great thing about these games is that they only last for one minute, so participants only have to make it through 60 seconds.
 
img_2933-11. This first game involves stacking cups so they look like a tree. Remember you only have 60 seconds. To make this activity more difficult for adults, have them put one arm behind their back and use their non-dominant hand.

 

 

 

 
 

 

img_2936-22. This game requires mini marshmallows, straws, and cups (or other containers). Using the straw, you must get as many marshmallows into the cup as you can in one minute. To make this game harder for adults or older kids, do not allow them to hold the straw with their hands.

 

 

 

 

 

3. Our next game requires two pairs of pantyhose with the toes cut out and a hole for your face, as you will be making antlers on your head. This game takes great team effort as balloons are stuffed into the pantyhose legs. An option can be that the winner is whoever finishes first, instead of having a one minute time limit.

 

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img_2955-94. This game is about making a Christmas Tree. We used long ribbon, however you could use toilet paper and make a snowman, or wrapping paper to wrap a present (the entire person). Once again you could time the teams or just judge them after the first one is done.

 

 

 

 
 

 

5. Starting to get hungry after all this work? How about a cookie challenge? Place a cookie over one eye and try to get it into your mouth. For the younger kids, if the cookie falls off they could pick it up and try again. For adults and older kids, I suggest no hands and if they fail then another player from their team has to try until at least one person is successful.
 
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6. On to some full body movements you will need two more pairs of pantyhose without holes, two tennis balls (or heavy balls) and some targets to knock over. Putting the nylons on your head with the ball in each leg, try knocking down as many of the targets as you can. We used paper cups but water bottles or pop cans work too.
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img_2969-87. Lastly we have the candy cane pick up. Stack up a bunch of candy canes, and putting one in your mouth, hook as many candy canes as you can and transfer them into a cup. For little fingers, just let them use their hands instead of putting the candy cane in their mouth.

 

 

 

 
These are just a few of the hundreds of games available on the internet, so grab your family and friends, be creative, and have a great time!
 
Find more game ideas, as I did, with these sites:
 
 
 
 

 

Colours, Counting, and Matching Fun

Have fun with early numeracy ideas in this game you can make and play together with your preschooler!

WHY?

Numbers are an important part of early math and numeracy and can be found all around us. Counting, sorting, and matching all help with learning math later.

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • Different coloured milk jug lids (or other big lids)
  • Stickers

  

WHAT TO DO:

  1. Choose two lids that are the same colour
  2. Choose two stickers that are the same and put one on each of the lids
  3. Repeat the process until you have used up all of the lids

 

DO IT TOGETHER! Make numbers and math fun by playing different games. You could count the lids, match the lid colours, match the stickers, or flip the lids over so you can’t see the sticker and play a game of memory.

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 Importance of Play

Parents do not always understand the importance of play, and, in today’s competitive world, the temptation is to have children stop “wasting time” and to put that time to what they believe is more constructive use.

But for a child, there is no more constructive activity than play. Play is so important to optimal child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child.

What do children learn from play? It allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development and paves the way for learning. Children who play regularly tend to perform better in mathematics and reading in comparison to those who have fewer opportunities to play.

Play helps children learn about the world in which they live. They can investigate and discover, test their theories, develop spatial relationships, and explore cause and effect, societal roles, and family values in a caring and safe environment.

Play builds self-esteem and social skills. Children will often play at something they know they can do well, at which they can be successful. They will begin with solitary play using inanimate objects like dolls, stuffed animals, trucks, and blocks. Later they will play with other children as they learn to share, negotiate, and cooperate.

Play with parents should not be underestimated as research has shown children whose parents play with them ultimately develop superior social skills. When parents play or join with their children in child-driven play, they are given a unique opportunity to see the world from their children’s vantage point. They learn to communicate more effectively with their children and are given another setting to offer gentle, nurturing guidance.

Play helps with language development. Think of the vast number of words a child uses during play, many of them repeatedly, enhancing their language skills.

Consider the importance of pretend play in stimulating a child’s creativity and imagination. Making a castle in the sand, or a barn out of a shoe box, preparing dinner in their imaginary kitchen or playing dressing up allows children to stretch the limits of their world and experience the fun of make-believe. They are using imagination, storytelling, and problem solving skills that are the foundation of reading, writing, and communication.

Physical play provides various health benefits and promotes early brain development and learning in infants and young children. It helps a child to develop connections between the nerve cells and the brain. As these connections develop, a child’s motor skills, socialization, personal awareness, language, creativity, and problem solving are improved.

Quite simply, play is a cherished part of childhood that inspires fun and laughter and creates a happy family environment in which both children and adults thrive.

Pudding Patterns

This is a fun craft to build together and a different way to draw, scribble, and try out writing!

WHY?

Drawing and scribbles at a young age are the first steps to learning how to write later on.

WHAT YOU NEED:

1 large plastic zip lock bag

1 package of instant pudding (made beforehand) or a can of shaving cream

Packing or duct tape (optional)

WHAT TO DO:

Put the pudding or shaving cream into the bag. Make sure not to fill it too full.

Finish by flattening all of the air out of the bag and close it tightly. You may want to tape the top so it doesn’t pop open.

Lay the bag on a flat surface and let the creativity begin!

DO IT TOGETHER!

Your toddler will enjoy squishing the mixture around making abstract patterns. If you have an older child, encourage them to make letters or draw pictures.

Have some fun yourself by copying their designs and talk with them about what they are doing.

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

What Do You Spy?

This game is a fun way to make the waiting or travelling go by more quickly, or when you just want to play a game. But it’s much more than that.

WHY?

“I Spy” gives your child a chance to think of words to describe what they see and also helps them sort objects into groups. They are learning to group by colours, numbers, shapes, and sizes, which helps develop their vocabulary and math skills.

HOW TO PLAY

Find something in clear view and say, “I spy with my little eye, something that is __________.” Fill in the blank with words that describe what you are looking at, like “round like a ball.”

Once your child has found the item you picked, switch roles and let them spy something for you. Take turns, and as the game progresses, you can add more detail to the object. For example, “I spy something that is round like a ball and has 4 legs.”

The whole family can play this  game. The first person that guesses correctly gets to “spy” the next object.

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

Lifelong Skills for Your Children are Worth the Extra Time


Our kids are important to us—their health, their well-being, their happiness, their growth and success. Pretty much everything about our children is top of our ‘to-do list’. Sometimes we get so busy trying to do our best for them, we forget to slow down and just be with them.

I know many parents are with their children every day, and some all day, but that doesn’t necessarily mean their time is truly with them. It is so important to slow things down and do those routine  daily activities with your kids.

I’m aware that it takes more time (and patience) to let your little ones zip their own zippers, button their own buttons, and tie their own laces. It takes more time to let them choose their own meals at restaurants, pick out their own outfits for the day, and sign their own name on cards. Nothing gets done quickly when they help you with your daily chores such as laundry sorting, carrying groceries, and setting or clearing the meal table. But it is so worth it!

Just the other day I saw a dad playing with his son on their way into a store. They had a little race down the sidewalk, dad kept pace with his son and they tied. The way the boy looked up at his dad was pure love, and the dad ended it with a little hug, ruffled his hair, and they continued to talk about what sort of things they could buy mom for Mother’s Day.  I doubt it took this little family extra time to bond in this way, but the effects will be long lasting.

Another mom had her two boys checking off a list and finding items to add to their cart. It probably took her longer to collect everything, but her children were learning how to do big things!

Today, the busier we get, the easier it is to let our kids mind themselves and hope they are content with a device in their hands. I’ll admit there are days when you might just want to get things done quickly, and this is one of the less painful ways to do it, in the moment. But your children will miss out on so many learning opportunities if this is their normal routine.

Allowing your children some freedom to help, and to make choices in their tasks or play, will benefit them now and as they grow older. They learn:

  • how to make choices and accept the outcomes
  • how to problem solve and compromise
  • confidence and patience

These are skills that will help your children their entire lives—as they begin school, into their  teen years, and beyond as adults. Skills that will be lifelong assets are worth the extra time it takes to nurture them in your children.

Who says it has to be work? It can be frustrating when you are in a rush, so perhaps on days when you are feeling overwhelmed or running late, dealing with illness or appointments, those aren’t the best days to slow it down. But I’m certain time can be found in even the busiest of schedules to take a few moments daily to just have a bit of fun together.

 

 

Try this:

  • If you are shopping at the grocery store, try asking your children ‘this or that?’ Let them help decide. Let the older children help gather items up and down the aisles. They can read signs and learn how to check ingredients. Younger children can look for individual letters on signs or food items, and search for fruits and vegetables in certain colours.
  • When it is time to leave a place, maybe have a little race. Count forwards or backwards until it’s time to go, to reinforce numeracy skills. How many buttons need to be done up? How many seconds will it take to tie your shoes? Who can make it to the car first?
  • While driving, sing some favourite songs. Try songs that count down or repeat many verses such as “The Wheels on the Bus,” “5 Little Monkeys,” “B-I-N-G-O,” “This Old Man,” or “Old MacDonald.”
  • Try giving your children tasks to ‘help’ you with your daily routines. Sorting laundry (tell them how you would like it sorted or ask them how they think it should be sorted), setting the dinner table (how many plates, spoons, glasses, etc.), picking up around the house and putting toys away, even straightening out the family shoe shelf is a good matching activity for toddlers!

There are numerous ways to squeeze in a few extra minutes of play/learning activities into your day. In family literacy programs such as the free ones offered by the Centre for Family Literacy, we share many of these ideas with parents.

Visit our website www.famlit.ca for program information and information about our free App, Flit, for fun, everyday learning ideas (available at both the App Store and Google Play).

 

Countdown to Christmas with 3,2,1, Fun!

The countdown to Christmas will be starting soon! Many of us have seen or even used the traditional Advent calendar, which houses a delicious chocolate behind each of the 25 doors leading up to Christmas. Children love these calendars and the excitement that comes with the Christmas countdown. At 3,2,1, Fun! we have compiled a fun list of Advent ideas and Christmas activities to share with you. These ideas combine fun and learning into creative Christmas experiences and potentially new traditions that your children and family will love.

ADVENT CALENDARS

25 Books for Advent

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Unwrap one book a day to read as a family.

Some of our favourite numeracy-themed books to share are:

  • 12 Days of Christmas – Rachel Isodora
  • The Doorbell Rang – Pat Hutchins
  • Bedtime Math – Laura Overdeck
  • Christmas Activities MATHS – Irene Yates
  • A Frog in the Bog – Karma Wilson and Joan Rankin
  • Ten Apples Up On Top – Dr. Seuss

Advent Activity Envelopes

Advent-Envelopes

Choose 25 fun family activities and secure each one in an envelope. Choose one envelope to open each day and enjoy!

Some of the numeracy activity ideas we share in 3,2,1, Fun! are:

  • Baking
  • Holiday theme BINGO
  • Make paper snowflakes and explore their unique shapes
  • Craft Christmas cards or write your wish list
  • Build a snowman
  • Go for a walk and count how many houses are decorated, predict how many Christmas trees you will see, or collect pine cones along the way to turn into Christmas crafts later

 Make Your Own Advent Calendar

AdventCalendar

A fun idea we shared at 3,2,1, Fun! is how to make your own advent calendar using  recycled paper towel tubes, cardboard and craft supplies!

In addition to Advent calendars, there are many fun ways to bring numeracy into your Christmas activities. Some of our favourites at 3,2,1, Fun! are:

  • Wrapping gifts – a fun way for children to utilize their measuring and estimation skills
  • Christmas baking – a delicious way for children to follow a recipe and practice their ordering, number sense, and prediction skills
  • Decorating the house – gives your children the perfect opportunity to use their pattern, shape, and sorting skills
  • Making Christmas wish lists and shopping for gifts – offers a great chance for children to discover counting, money sense, and emergent budgeting skills

We hope you enjoy these Christmas activity ideas from 3,2,1, Fun! Do you have a favourite countdown to Christmas tradition that you’d like to share?

Visit our website for more information about this program.

hashtag: #321_Fun

Autumn Provides Easy Literacy Lessons to Share with Your Kids

Leaves4

Autumn leaves are falling down, falling down, falling down,
Autumn leaves are falling down, red, yellow, orange and brown!

Rake them up and pile them high, pile them high, pile them high,
Rake them up and pile them high, till they reach the sky!

Just reading these simple words paints a vivid picture in my mind: being sent out to clean up the yard before the holiday guests arrived for dinner. They bring back childhood memories of working so hard to rake up leaves into giant mounds that called to me to drop my rake and jump in! I can almost smell the slightly sweet odour of decay and hear the crunch of the brittle brown leaves as I scattered all my hard work.

So many opportunities for building literacy skills can be found in the simple act of cleaning up the yard. You and your child can talk about:

  • all the different colours and shapes of leaves you find
  • how the wind sounds as it blows through the leaves still clinging to the branches
  • why some plants lose their leaves while others stay green year-round
  • the different textures of the leaves—some brittle, some pokey, some soft and flexible
  • how many empty bags will be needed
  • what happens when it gets cold—where do the bugs go
  • why do the days seem shorter and so much more!

Literacy is about so much more than just reading a book or writing a letter. It encompasses learning vocabulary and how to put the words together to get an idea across, problem solving on your own or working together to find a solution, learning the meaning of our numbers—the one to one correspondence of word, numeral and object.

Autumn also means Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and literacy is embedded in the preparation and sharing of the meal. Talk with your children about:

  • recipes that have been tweaked just that much to make them unique to your family
  • how many more chairs will be needed so everyone has a seat
  • what is the true meaning of Thanksgiving and why do we celebrate it in the fall
  • the difference between a yam and a sweet potato
  • family traditions that have been passed down over the ages
  • how many pieces that pumpkin pie has to be cut into!

In our Literacy Links workshops, we focus on how you can find literacy in just about everything you do. We help adults, parents, and caregivers discover the many simple activities they can do at home and out in the community that support and build numeracy and literacy skills. As for me, I am going to go back to painting some pictures!

I made a jack-o-lantern for Halloween night,
He has three teeth, but he doesn’t bite,
He has two eyes, but he doesn’t see,
He’s a happy jack-o-lantern, as you can see!

Please visit the Centre for Family Literacy website for more information about Literacy Links workshops. If you are interested in either hosting or attending a workshop, please call the Centre, 780.421.7323