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

• 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.

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Not Enough Time to Really Connect with Your Preschooler?

Have you ever wondered where to find the time to really connect with your preschooler? It is important to foster healthy relationships to help them grow intellectually, emotionally, socially, and even spiritually. It is important for a child to grow up feeling connected to an adult caregiver.

It isn’t necessary to spend large amounts of money on gadgets, toys, and fads that claim to give your child educational gains. It isn’t necessary for your child to be enrolled in every sport and activity that you can get to in a day. It is necessary to take a few moments out of your day, every day, to be intentional with your child. This practice is highly beneficial—not only to your relationship, but also to your child’s learning.

Be present. Spend time with them. Connect!

I recently read that the average parent spends only 49 minutes a day with their child. 49 minutes. I thought, “no, that can’t be possible, that has to be wrong.” Reading further, I found that the 49 minutes does not include the time it takes to care for the child, to feed, bathe, and drive them to lessons or practices. That number has to be much higher if you include the time spent caring for your child.

So 49 minutes a day is the average amount of time parents feel they can set aside in a day to intentionally be with their child—whether it be reading a book for fun, walking or playing outside, building blanket forts, making crafts, or exploring activities together. Less than an hour out of the day for the purpose of fun and togetherness.

When there isn’t enough spare time to play at length, there are still daily chores and tasks that need to be done, and many of those are caring for your child. In our family literacy programs, our goals are reached when parents learn tools and tricks to turn those daily routines into fun learning experiences that can increase the quality time parents spend with their child.

At Learn Together – Grow Together, we share ideas that parents can use to include their child—books, activities, songs, games, routines, and more—all with the goal of the parents being their child’s first teacher. All with the goal of strengthening bonds, and securing confident growth for the child.

At the Learn Together – Grow Together program, you can learn about your child’s early learning and how to support literacy development, success in school, and lifelong learning. No program near you? You can still add some tips, tricks, and knowledge to your parenting tool kit by checking out Flit, our free App on Google Play and the App Store. You’ll find over 100 fun family literacy activities to do with your child!

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Rhymes that Bind is an Adult Literacy Program?

Nursery rhymes and lullabies for adults? The goal of the Centre for Family Literacy is to empower adult caregivers with the skills necessary to teach and pass on literacy and learning to the children in their care. In our programs, parents are the learners and at home, they are the teachers.

The Rhymes that Bind program is based on strong research that indicates how significant early rhymes, singing, and language play are to children’s learning and literacy development. The rhyming, playing, cuddling, and tickling that occur in the Rhymes that Bind programs are the sensory stimulations that help promote early brain development.

By frequently attending and participating at these programs and then modelling at home, caregivers are often able to memorize their children’s favourite rhymes and use them in daily routines and activities to help increase their children’s vocabulary and overall language development. Many rhymes and songs can also be used as parenting strategies or ’tools’ when you need to transition, soothe, comfort, or distract young children.

Rhymes that Bind is a free drop-in oral literacy program that runs for 10 weeks at a time. Parents and their children, ages 0-3, attend the hour-long program together. In a supportive peer group, parents learn to enjoy rhymes, finger plays, songs, and simple movement games with their infants and toddlers.

Rhymes, stories, songs, and oral language use are modelled by facilitators and discussed in a relaxed, fun, and supportive environment. At each program, there is a snack break half way through. This built-in informal social time gives parents the opportunity to talk with other parents of young children, creating a non-judgmental atmosphere in which to share ideas and experiences or to ask questions of the facilitators.

Printed booklets are handed out at the end of each 10-week session for parents to keep and use at home. The program also offers opportunities for parents to find out about other resources available to them in their community, such as other literacy programs, supports, libraries, and events.

Have you ever used a song or rhyme to distract, soothe, or transition through your day with your toddler? Here are a few good rhyme/song examples from our programs that parents told us they have found useful.

Walking, Walking

Tune: Frere Jacques
This song can be used while shopping, going to get the mail, etc.

Walking, walking (x2)
Hop, hop, hop (x2)
Running, running, running, (x2)
Now we stop!

Continue with other ways to move your body such as skipping, etc

It’s a Beautiful Day

This is a good song to sing when getting up and ready for the day.

It’s a beautiful day. It’s a beautiful day.
It’s a beautiful day for singing.
It’s a beautiful day. It’s a beautiful day.
It’s a beautiful day for clapping.
It’s a beautiful day. It’s a beautiful day.
It’s a beautiful day for walking.

Repeat using whatever the children/parents suggest.

Charlie Chaplin

This song is handy to use when baby has belly aches, gas or just needs a diaper changed.

Charlie Chaplin went to France
To teach the ladies how to dance.
First, they did the Rumba, the Rumba, the Rumba.
Then they did the kicks, the kicks, the kicks.
Next, they did the Samba, the Samba, the Samba.
Then they did the splits, the splits, the splits.

Rock‐A‐Bye Baby

A song list isn’t complete without a lullaby to soothe and/or put baby to sleep.

Rock‐a‐bye baby in the tree top.
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock.
‘Cause it’s time for sleeping,
Now baby good night.

Please visit the Centre For Family Literacy website at www.famlit.ca for more information about Rhymes that Bind and our other literacy programs, or download our free app, Flit. You’ll find the link to the App Store and Google Play at the bottom of our website homepage.

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Celebrate the Joy of the Season on the C.O.W. Bus

During the week of December 12, the C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) bus will be hosting a cozy Christmas pyjama party at each of our locations. We have a great selection of winter holiday-themed books for you to borrow for your family story time, AND, don’t miss out on the annual book giveaway; all children will go home with their own book to keep!

As always, story time on the bus will be loads of fun as the children help bring the books to life. One of our favourites is a New York Times bestseller, Pete the Cat Saves Christmas by Eric Litwin and James Dean.

“In this rockin’ spin on the traditional tale The Night Before Christmas, Pete the Cat proves that giving your all in the spirit of Christmas is the totally groovy thing to do.”

“ ‘Twas the day before
Christmas and Santa was ill.
In the cold winter wind he
Will Christmas be canceled?
Will it come to that?
‘Never!’ cried Santa.
‘Let’s call Pete the Cat!’ ”

And don’t forget to give yourself a little gift too – download Flit, our free app which has over 100 fun activities, crafts, and rhymes you can do with your little ones, and four more activities are added each season. For example, try the Letters in the Snow activity by filling a spray bottle with coloured water and decorating some fresh white snow! You’ll find the link for both Apple and Android versions on the Centre for Family Literacy website, or on your device’s app store.

So grab your coziest pajamas and join us as we read, sing, and play during this special time of year on the bus.

Do you have a favourite holiday song or rhyme? Please share it with us in the comments, because we love to learn and share new things!

See you soon!

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What is Emergent Literacy?

Emergent Literacy is what children know about reading and writing before they can actually read or write. Strong early literacy skills are naturally the foundation for reading and writing later on. Children begin learning at birth—many agree even before birth—and continue learning long after school begins.

At the Centre for Family Literacy, we believe parents are their children’s first and best teachers. Emergent literacy skills are developed with experiences children have alongside an adult in their life guiding the way. Young children enjoy repeating favourite activities (for example reading, singing, and craft activities) with the ones they love. An adult such as a parent, grandparent, or other primary caregiver, that provides one-on-one experiences, can do more “teaching” than can be done in a group setting.

Children prepare for reading long before they can actually read or start school. Learning opportunities are best when they happen naturally in the everyday activities you do at home and in the community, including grocery shopping, doing chores, playing games, or travelling somewhere by car or bus. Letters and numbers are not only in books, they are everywhere!

Talk with them and explain things that you see and do. Before children can learn to read they must understand language. Sing and rhyme. (See below for tips for supporting emergent literacy.)

People tend to call children between the ages of 3 – 4 years preschoolers, although you have had them busy learning preschool lessons their whole lives up until now. Most preschoolers will be displaying their emergent literacy development by:

• Enjoying stories read to them that they can retell afterwards
• Beginning to understand that print carries a message to be decoded
• Attempting to read aloud while looking at a book
• Attempting to write or print on paper with a pencil or crayon
• Participating in singing and rhyming
• Identifying familiar print on signs to favourite stores or brand names
• Identifying letters in their name, or family member’s names, and some sounds of those letters

By age 5, most children are beginning kindergarten and are becoming experts at:

• Sounding like they are reading aloud while they look through a favourite book
• Using descriptive language to explain or answer questions
• Recognizing letter and sound matches
• Understanding that print is read left to right and starts at the top of the page
• Beginning to group letters and letter sounds together to form words
• Beginning to match spoken words with written ones
• Beginning to write stories with recognizable words

Tips for supporting emergent literacy in your family:

• Attend community programs with your child such as the ones offered by the Centre for Family Literacy
• Make book choices based on your child’s interests
• Encourage your child to make predictions as the story is being shared with them, take time to pause and ask them what they think will happen next, or how a character feels etc.
• Visit the library regularly
• Give your child different materials that encourage drawing, scribbling, painting, cutting, and gluing. Learning can be messy work, but worth it!
• Have fun with your child, play, and pretend! Let them lead the way in their play. They are used to following your rules every day, give them the key to imagination and follow them as they lead the way to creativity

Download Flit, our free literacy App, for fun activities you can do with your children at home to help develop emergent literacy! You’ll find the links on our website, or go directly to the App Store or Google Play.

Learn Together – Grow Together is a program in Edmonton by the Centre for Family Literacy for parents and their children ages 3 – 6 years. Families meet once a week for 3 ten-week sessions to learn about their children’s early learning and how to support literacy development, success in school, and lifelong learning. The sessions offer some adult only instruction and lots of parent-child together time for fun learning activities. Spaces are still available so register quickly. For more information visit the Centre for Family Literacy website, call 780-421-7323, or email info@famlit.ca

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APPsolutely Amazing!

As one of the developers of our Flit (Families Learning and Interacting Together) app, I am amazed and humbled at the support and feedback we have received since Flit was first launched on Family Literacy Day in January, 2016. Here are some of the things we’ve heard:

• “Simple activities that are fun and able to be enjoyed by kids. Would recommend this app to any parent, in particular stay at home dads who need a bit of inspiration around activities, reading, and crafting. Fantastic for kids.” (5/5 Stars)
• “What a great app to support literacy activities with the kids! Easy to use, provides great resources for parents to reference when looking for ideas to support a child’s reading, singing, etc.”
• “Helpful and easy to use! I love this app! For those of us who are sleep deprived, tools like these are invaluable! The layout is easy to understand and use and the songs/rhymes are engaging and definitely promote language! Can’t wait to see what else the Centre for Family Literacy comes up with next!”

The app was even reviewed by Montreal Families! Read the review titled “Free mobile app aims to boost literacy in kids.”

Here’s an excerpt: “Created by the Centre for Family Literacy, an organization that develops educational programs in Alberta, Flit (families learning and interacting together) is a phone and tablet application that offers 116 activities parents and kids can do together to enhance literacy skills. These include reading, writing, numbers, cooking, games, rhymes and crafts.

Although it is an app, the intention isn’t for kids to spend more time with technology. Rather, it suggests day-to-day activities that teach kids about numbers or words in a fun way…

And to top it off (at least for me), we were contacted by a researcher who is going to recommend Flit in her project with the National Center on Parent, Family, & Community Engagement at the University of Washington. They are trying to identify resource information for parent engagement with early language and literacy, and were focusing on digital resources and apps when they came across Flit.

In addition to this amazing feedback, we also have some numbers about how people are using it, how many, and how often. Our partner in this venture, Punchcard Systems, is impressed with how the app has done and had this to say:

We’ve reached a great deal of users (3519 – across 76 countries), and they’ve spent a crazy amount of time inside the application (405 hours), not to mention that since the application is designed to try and give people a spring board, 5 minutes in the application might be a whole day of fun and learning for parents and kids.”

This has been, and continues to be, an exciting venture for Centre for Family Literacy. We are looking forward to hearing your feedback either by reviewing the app itself or by leaving a comment here. Watch for an update with new activities coming very soon!

Here’s a screenshot of the homepage:

Flit is FREE and available for both Apple and Android devices.

Read our blog “Teaching Your Child Literacy and Numeracy: There’s an App for That!”

Visit the Centre for Family Literacy website for more resources.

Teaching Your Child Literacy and Numeracy: There’s an App for That

“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is most important.” – Bill Gates

For a lot of parents, the idea of “teaching literacy and numeracy skills” to our children is intimidating—and if it’s not intimidating, it’s definitely overwhelming: there are only so many times we can recite the alphabet and sing nursery rhymes between doing the laundry, getting groceries, making meals, changing diapers, changing more diapers, loading and unloading children from vehicles, cleaning puke from our hair, and occasionally showering. Sitting down with our kids on the daily to intentionally “teach literacy” is a bit of a lofty goal: even if we have the time, we might not know what to do. And so it’s sometimes easier—let’s face it—to sit our kids down with Dora and hope they learn through cartoon osmosis.

There’s no harm in that—I know lots of toddlers who can teach me Spanish because of that show. But it’s important to remember that you are your child’s first and most effective teacher; Dora and her purple monkey companion are merely extending the lessons you’ve already taught. And though you might not know it, you are teaching your children all the time.

Your children develop most of their literacy and numeracy skills during the routine, day-to-day activities that are already part of your family life. While you are sorting laundry with your two-year old, she is picking up on patterns, numeracy, sizes, and categories. The most effective way to improve and develop your child’s literacy is to recognize these moments and build on them. This is easier said than done—most of us go on auto-pilot when we do routine tasks, so it’s a bit of a stretch to expect that you will remember to recognize (and build on) those moments of literacy in every mundane thing you do. Luckily, there’s an app for that.

Flit, our free family literacy app, was developed for parents like you to identify those moments of literacy and build on them. Whether you are in the middle of grocery shopping, doing laundry, or cooking dinner, you can click open the app, choose a category and quickly find a literacy activity you can incorporate into the task at hand. Here’s an example of what you’ll find:

• Making Breakfast?

Click the “Cooking” category. Choose an activity that corresponds to what you are making for breakfast—there’s a fun activity for everything from Smoothies to Fruit Loops.

Say it’s a Fruit Loop day: the app suggests laying the fruit loops out in a pattern of colours, having you or your child string them on a string in the laid out pattern, and then tying the ends of the string to make a fruit loop necklace.

While you do this activity, you can talk to your child about the different colours and pattern of the fruit loops. To extend the activity, you can share a book like We All Went on Safari by Laurie Krebs or Elmer by David McKee and have your child look for different colour patterns in it.

Each activity also has a section that explains the “Why?” of the activity—in the case of the Fruit Loops, the app explains that “Patterns are everywhere—in language, reading, writing and numeracy. This type of activity lets you make pattern recognition a natural part of your child’s routine.”

The app has a total of 116 activities that fall under eight categories: books, rhymes, games, crafts, writing, numbers, cooking, and reading. With so many activities, you can use it to incorporate literacy activities into most of your daily routines for a long time to come. After awhile, you will learn to come up with your own activities and see the literacy potential in all of the things you are already doing with your child each day… you might not even need an app for it.

Available on iOS since January, the free app is now also available on Android thanks to funding from TELUS Edmonton Community Board.

Centre for Family Literacy website

The C.O.W. is Coming Soon, but in the Meantime…

We hope that while you are enjoying summer to the fullest, you are still able to find fun ways to keep a little literacy in your busy days. It really helps to prevent the summer slide, where children lose some of what they had learned during the program or school year.

Here are a few simple ideas:

• Sing songs or nursery rhymes, and play rhyming words games while in the car
• Point out print on traffic signs, cereal boxes, restaurants, anywhere!
• Play games such as Simon Says, Hopscotch, or I Spy
• Take your children to the library and let them choose their books
• Tell stories to each other
• Encourage older siblings to read with younger children
• Look for shapes in the clouds
• Have books around the house and let your child see you reading
• Do Splash Time Rhymes that Bind while at the beach, pool, or water park (blog with rhymes can be found here

Meanwhile, at the Centre for Family Literacy, the Edmonton Literacy C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) Bus program is busy preparing for your visits in the fall, with new themes, new books, and new games and puzzles for parents and their children ages 0-6 years old.

We have extensively added to our books for adults and now have a fiction section. We have books that are science fiction, love stories, memoirs, and many others. Of course we still have an abundance of non-fiction books for adults on various parenting topics, from how to get your kids to sleep with a no-cry solution, to humour in our everyday lives as parents. And as always we have a great selection of books for young children.

So keep soaking up the sunshine while you can (and maybe add some story time under a tree); the Edmonton Literacy C.O.W. Bus staff are busy planning and preparing a great 2016/2017 season for you.

Please check the Centre for Family Literacy website in mid August to find the most convenient location and time for you to drop in and see us at the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus. Hope to see you in September!

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Value the Learning Process, not the Final Product

More than once I have come across this short verse which reminds me of the goals we set when working with parents in our 3,2,1, FUN! numeracy program. I haven’t been able to discover the source of these words, but you can find them everywhere if you search. I’d love to give credit to the right person if I ever do discover the origin.

If you draw it for me,
cut it for me,
paste it for me. . .
All I learn is that
You do it better
than Me

This short verse describes so well the importance of the process behind the activity. We have to remember that it is not about the final product, especially with young children. If they have the opportunity to cut crooked lines, get glue all over things, and colour using every colour or only their favourites, they are learning! They discover their own creativity. They grow confidence in their abilities. They learn to try again if they fail to make it the way they pictured it. They feel pride in what they do achieve.

There is an abundance of great ideas and projects available. Many can be found in our family literacy app, Flit.* Just keep in mind that what you see as the final product should not necessarily be your goal for your children.

Give them the resources they need to create freely. See what they come up with on their own. Try to resist if you feel the need to take control of the project. Instead, you could create your own alongside your children. Don’t be disappointed if they created a bird with 3 legs when you were hopeful they would copy the Rainbow Fish with many scales that you were going for.

It is okay if your children lose interest in the activity you thought would be a grand idea. Put it aside. Perhaps they just are not ready for the concept involved, or maybe it is too close to lunch time and they can’t concentrate without a snack or meal first.

At 3,2,1, FUN! we come prepared to make projects and games that can be used and reused and recreated at home. Parents need to help with some things that the children can’t do yet, but we emphasize, “let your children pick the colours and the textures, and let them decide how much or how little to add.” This is the process of learning.

When we create a new game, we encourage children to come up with the rules, as silly as they may be. For instance, for a game that involves dice, a rule has been, “If you roll a 3 you need to hop on one foot 3 times.” Another rule has been, “this game must be played wearing pyjamas.” One of my favourites is, “the winner gets a hug!”

Supplies needed to play a random game at home based on your children’s rules are probably easily found at home, such as:

• Dice, any size, the bigger the better. Children love to use more of their body when rolling giant dice.
• Paper and markers. If you wish to record the rules of the day, you can write in your children’s words.
• The inside of a cereal box. If you’d like to create a board game look, have your children draw the shapes they’d like to mark the board and encourage them to mark the start and finish.
• Random household items. Use them as place markers on your board game.
• Think big! Why not use a giant piece of paper or cardboard to make a giant board game, where your family members are the place markers!

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A Walk with the Kids Fun? Absolutely!

As I sit here, looking out the window at the falling snow on the second day of spring, a poem pops into my head:

Spring has sprung, the grass has ris
I wonders where the birdies is?

I have known this poem forever. I don’t know where I learned it, or why it popped into my head today of all days, but I thought I’d investigate further. It turns out the poem has more to it:

Spring has sprung, the grass has ris
I wonders where the birdies is?
They say the birds is on the wing
Ain’t that absurd?
I always thought the wing was on the bird.

The poem’s original author is unknown, but it reminds me of the style of one of my favourite poets, Ogden Nash, known for his short, funny and often nonsensical poems.

What does this have to do with anything? I promise, there is a point. As we finish this first week of spring (that is, of course, supposed to be filled with snow) and head into Easter and spring break, what types of activities can we do with our families? For those of you with young children, have a look at our previous blog for information on the Flit app. It’s filled with great activities for the 0-5 crowd.

For those with older kids, here are a few ideas inspired by the poem (see, there really is a connection)! Get outside to enjoy the snow or sun (whatever the case may be) and go for a walk. Try these activities:

1. Create your own funny poem. Choose something you notice on your walk and see how many words you can think of, or make up, that rhyme with what you chose. When you get home, write the words down and arrange them into your own poem! For example:

I see a bee, right on that tree
Leave it alone, or maybe flee?
If I wave and dance, it may sting me
But flowers won’t grow if I hit she.

1. Make your own spring walking game. Let your kids make up the rules, and how to start and end the game! Tell your kids you will follow their rules no matter what (as long as it’s not dangerous of course). It might be that every time you see a bird, you have to splash in a puddle or run around in a circle clucking like a chicken. Maybe the first person to spot a squirrel wins.
1. Make up a story. See what you can find outside and take turns creating the story, line by line. For example, if you see a piece of fur in a tree, you can start the story by making up a reason why it’s there. Then your child can add to it.

One day, a tiny rabbit thought it would try to jump up into a tree. As it jumped, it caught it’s tail on a branch and a big piece of fur pulled out…

Have fun and enjoy your time together!