6 Ways to Have Fall Family Fun!

Leaves4

As summer winds down and families get back into their regular busy routine, it is easy to forget to take advantage of opportunities to learn together as a family.

Fall is a beautiful time of year when the leaves start changing colour and begin to fall off the trees. Leaves provide many learning opportunities for you and your child – so simple and fun!

Here are six leaf activities to try with your child during this fall season:

1. Create a Leaf Scavenger Hunt!

  • Work with your child to create a list of items to look for on your scavenger hunt. For example:
    • Find 2 orange leaves
    • Find 3 red leaves
    • Find 1 leaf with smooth edges
    • Find 1 big leaf
    • Find 4 small leaves

Go for a walk outside!

  • Talk about the different colours of the leaves.
  • Ask your child questions like, “Is this leaf bigger or smaller than this leaf?” “Does the leaf have smooth or sharpe edges?”

Practice Counting

  • Have your child gather up a bunch of leaves and practice counting how many they collected.

Learn Textures

  • Collect different types of leaves and feel the different textures with your hands. Ask your child, “Does this leaf feel soft?” “Does this leaf feel rough?”

Leaf Artwork

Leaves3

  • Collect some leaves and use them to make some fun artwork. Using the leaves, a thin sheet of paper and some crayons, you can make “leaf rubbings.”
    • First, place the leaves under a thin sheet of paper. You will want to place the leaves bottom side facing up.
    • Second, rub the crayon(s) on the paper and watch the leaf print come through.

Just Have Fun!

  • If you have access, rake together a pile of leaves for you and your child. Have fun jumping into the pile!

We hope that you are able to enjoy this fall season, learning and growing together with your child. Have fun with the leaves and all the nature that surrounds you!

 

60 Days of Summer!

Summer has just started, so why am I writing about the end of summer already?

While I hate to write about summer’s end so soon, for some parents the end of summer marks a new and exciting beginning—Kindergarten!

In Alberta, children who are five years old on or before December 31, 2021 may register in Kindergarten for the 2021-22 school year.

Whether you’re a first time parent or a seasoned one, this time of year comes with many hopes and fears for your little ones, who themselves are hardly bigger than the backpacks they will carry.

But you know what parents? You have done a great job in preparing them, and your children likely have most of the skills they need to be successful as they start school. However, why not take the opportunity to spend the next couple of months practicing some of these skills, and maybe introduce a few new ones.

SUMMER ACTIVITIES THAT PREPARE YOUR CHILDREN FOR KINDERGARTEN:

1. Sidewalk chalk

Writing doesn’t have to be inside on a piece of paper with a pen. Make it fun by getting some sidewalk chalk and heading outside! Make sure you get the big sidewalk chalk—they are easier to grip, while regular chalk sticks break too easily. Have your children write their name or the alphabet on the sidewalk.

2. Go on a picnic

Bring a deck of letter flashcards with you and play alphabet “Go Fish.” You could also count flowers, trees, or insects. Nature provides us with endless learning materials.

3. Scavenger hunt

Kids are multi-modal learners, which means they learn best when they can use all of their senses. Make a colours and shapes scavenger hunt and go for a walk. In this kind of activity, your children use body movement, sight, sound, smell, and laughter. Bonus: they can carry their backpacks to collect their treasures.

4. Quiet time

On a rainy day, or an extremely hot day, you may find yourself sitting indoors. Find a pair of child-safe scissors and practice cutting play dough. To make the task more difficult, give your children some old magazines and make a collage of things they like about summer.

5. Reading

Make reading a part of your daily routine. This can be done at any time during the day, inside or outside. Let the kids pick which book they would like to read and follow along with your finger as you read to them. Try picking up The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn— it’s for children starting school or separating from their parents for the first time.

6. Go to the playground

Earlier I had mentioned your children likely have many skills needed for Kindergarten already. I will assume this summer won’t be your first time at the playground. Playgrounds are perfect settings for developing social skills. Allow your children to play on their own and alongside other children, and step in when they need help assessing their feelings and problem-solving. Or play with them! Model confidence in tackling the ‘big’ slide or take turns going across the monkey bars. Invite other children to play a round of grounders with you and your little ones.

7. Sing

Sing some songs with your children as you walk or play outside. Rhymes are a good way to practice sounds and follow simple directions. Try “Open Shut Them” (see below) and “Old McDonald.”

8. Make a chore chart

Chore charts have many uses. Try making one that incorporates their school day morning routine. You could include things such as: brush your teeth; get dressed; have breakfast; and put on your shoes and coat. I like these because you get to put what you need your children to do on the chart, and they get to complete it with a sticker or another type of marker. Start practicing the routine before school starts.

You are probably practicing some of these skills already. Just keep it fun and don’t make it stressful for you or your children. Remember, you will always be their best and favourite teacher. Have a great summer and we hope to see you in the fall when all of our programs start up again. Mark your calendar to check the Centre for Family Literacy website in late summer to find a fun program for you and your 0-6 year old.

Open Shut Them

Open shut them, open shut them
Give a little clap (clap clap)
Open shut them, open shut them
Place them on your lap

Shake them, shake them, shake them, shake them
Shake them just like this (shaking hands)
Place your hands upon your lips
And blow a great big kiss

Sharing Stories vs. Reading Stories

Here at the Centre for Family Literacy we like to talk about sharing books with children as opposed to just reading books to them. When you share a book, it becomes interactive. It becomes much more than reading the words on the page.

Two ways to make a book interactive:

  • Ask open-ended questions such as “What are they doing in this picture?” or “What do you think is going to happen next?” This encourages children to stop and think about what is on the page, to make connections to real life, and to really step inside the story.
  • Find ways to extend the story.

What does it mean to extend a story?

To extend a story is to build on it—to add activities that are related to the subject of the story. But why should we extend stories?

Children learn best by doing—by being active. When they’re being active they are using all five senses to learn, and these multi-sensory experiences build neural connections in the brain. If they are having fun, they will want to do it again and again, and this repetition makes the connections even stronger. This is how children gain the confidence needed to learn new things.

Simple summertime story extender

one dog canoeA great book to share in the summer is one of our favourites, One-Dog Canoe by Mary Casanova.

In One-Dog Canoe, a girl and her dog set out on a canoe trip, just the two of them, when one by one they are approached by other creatures like Loon, Wolf and Moose, who want to join in on the fun.

I set off one morning in my little red canoe.
My dog wagged his tail.
“Can I come, too??
“You bet, I said.
“A trip for two – just me and you?”

It doesn’t take long before this canoe trip becomes a little more crowded!

“I swished past ferns,
where dragonflies flew.
Loon stretched her wings, “Can I come too?”

What you’ll need:

  • The book One-Dog Canoe
  • Stuffed animals or toys to match the characters: Beaver, Loon, Wolf, Bear, Moose, Frog, Dog, and Girl
  • A “canoe” made with construction paper or bark

(You can always improvise using what you have on hand.)

Give each child a character to hold on to (or multiple characters), and as each character comes up in the story, the child holding that character places it in the canoe. At the end of the story, there are too many animals in the canoe and it tips over, so act this out too by dumping out your canoe!

After the story pair it with a song. Rhymes and songs are critical for developing oral language, and oral language is at the root of all future learning.

Try singing “Row Your Boat”

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.

Row, row, row your boat,
Down a jungle stream.
If you see a crocodile,
Don’t forget to scream.
Ahh!

Row, row, row your boat,
Underneath a stream,
Ha, ha, fooled you,
I’m a submarine!
Bing!

Other ideas:

  • Act out the story using a big box, couch, or outdoor picnic table for the canoe
  • Bring a make-belief canoe into the bathtub
    • Experiment with what floats and what sinks
    • Ask “how many items will fit in your canoe before it tips over?”

Have fun sharing stories! For more ideas on how to make the most of your books, check out Flit, our family literacy app!

Click here for the iOS version.

Click here to download the Android version.

Watch a video demo of the app.

 

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. (See the words and video below.)
  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 learn some new ones! Our Rhymes that Bind program offers numerous old and new rhymes for you to choose from. And you learn new ways to incorporate them into your day.

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)

 

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

Baby Girl on a Messy Couch with her Parents “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 fruit-loopsthen 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, which was completely upgraded last fall, has more than 125 activities 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.

Click here for the iOS version.

Click here to download the Android version.

Watch a video demo of the app.

Spring into Learning!

Spring has arrived! It is a pleasure to get outside now that the snow is melting and the air is warmer. Outside, there are many things to learn in spring. Children are like little sponges ready to soak up new information. It doesn’t take extra time to give your children the chance to learn; family literacy can occur naturally during daily routines.

Here are some ways to use literacy in your activities this spring:

  • talk to your children as they put on their spring gear. Ask why they no longer need to wear winter boots, coats, etc.
  • dressed in rubber boots and raincoats, let them experience the tactile joy of crunching ice and splashing in puddles. Talk about how it feels as they squish through mud and try to pull their feet out. Ask them to make the sounds of squishing mud and splashing and running water.
  • look at snow and ice melting where the sun shines and talk about where the snow goes. Wonder why water sometimes gathers in a puddle and sometimes runs down the drain. Discuss why it rains in warmer weather instead of snowing. How does this helps things grow?
  • encourage your children to use their senses to experience spring. 
Talk about what they see, smell, feel and hear. Look for the first flowers and buds on trees. Notice if it’s lighter at bedtime. Search for bugs. Ask if the air smells different and feels warmer. Hear the different bird sounds.
  • share a book.
  • sing a song.

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers is a favourite of children and parents alike; it is laugh-out-loud funny. In the story, a boy loses his kite in a tree and tries to knock it down by throwing everything he can find into the tree.

Here is a springtime song to enjoy. Try acting it out!

Rain is Falling
(tune: “Skip to My Lou”)

Rain is falling, what shall I do (X 3)
What shall I do my darling?

Put on a raincoat, (rain boots, rain pants, rain coat) that’s what I’ll do (X 3)
That’s what I’ll do my darling.

Grab an umbrella, (jump in some puddles) that’s what I’ll do (X 3)
That’s what I’ll do my darling.

For more fun ideas, download our free parenting literacy resource app, Flit, from Google Play or the App Store. The app gives you over 120 fun literacy activities, recipes, games to do with your children, and tips and tricks to add to your parenting tool box.  

Making Book Sharing Time Count

Family reading in bed.You may have heard that we should be reading to children every day. Some articles will even urge parents to read to their children a minimum of 15 minutes or half an hour every day. This isn’t bad advice, and it’s not even a bad target to shoot for, but I’m not sure how realistic it is for everybody. I would argue that quality matters more than quantity when it comes to sharing books.

Babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers, and the rest of us learn best when we are comfortable and happy. If you try to share books with children when they are tired, in pain, hungry, or otherwise uncomfortable, they will probably resist and quickly become frustrated with your attempts. Our brains operate very differently when we’re scared or upset, and learning necessarily takes a backseat to the desire to feel safe again. So, if your goal is to give your children a lifelong love of reading, do not insist on book sharing when your children have clearly had enough. You want them to associate book sharing with good feelings and not fighting and tears.

Those moments when you can spend one-on-one time with your children are very special, and as much as our organization exists to promote literacy, books are not the only thing that children need. So don’t be too concerned if they don’t want to read all of the time. Playing together, snuggling, making weird noises, and exploring the community are all valuable and worthy pursuits. Add to that all of your daily meals, sleep, work and errands, and some days you might be lucky to find 5 minutes to read together, and that’s still incredibly valuable.

One last thing: asking young children, and especially babies, to pay attention for a long time is often asking too much. If your book sharing time is split up into 15 one-minute chunks, that is no less valuable than one 15-minute session. Look for when the reading opportunities present themselves rather than try to force it to happen at any particular time.

Whether you are reading to calm your children and get them ready to sleep, or to goof around and have some fun, you want book sharing to be a positive experience for both you and your children. That way no matter how often you actually get the chance to read together, it will be something that you both look forward to and benefit from.

#books_for_babies

Have Fun and Build Brains Using “Serve and Return”

More brain connections form in the first six years of life than at any other time, and the more you use these connections the stronger they get. Brain connections are built on a foundation of “serve and return” interactions. Serve and return refers to give-and-take —healthy interaction that goes both ways. For example, if your baby “serves” by smiling at you, you “return” by smiling back. By doing this, you are showing baby that you understand them and they matter; you are giving them the feedback they need to learn.

TheBigAnimalMix-upReading a story together is a great example of a serve and return activity, and many have an interactive nature built right into them. The Big Animal Mix-up, a lift-the-flap book by Gareth Edwards and Kanako Usui is a good one to try. It has bright pictures, humour, and a lot of rhythm and rhyme. In the story, Little Bear’s dad tries to teach him about animals: “Hello Little Bear, here’s a story for you, that’s all about animals and what they can do.” Only as the title suggests, they’re all mixed up! He has snakes mixed up with birds, and mice mixed up with whales. Now Little Bear (and your child) have to set the record straight.

Here is a bird. It slithers around. And slides through the jungle with a soft hissing sound.”

“Hang on a minute! You made a mistake. If it hisses and slithers it must be a..… [open flap] SNAKE!”

Remember that any book can be made interactive by talking about the pictures, having your child help you with the story, asking open-ended questions, and relating the story to real life.

Building brain connections through serve and return has a big impact on the rest of a child’s life, providing the solid foundation needed for language and emotional health. But don’t forget to have fun while doing it!

 

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?    

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 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.