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.


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

5 Great Ways to Prepare Your Children for Their First Day of School (and Beyond)

CHI_027Are your children ready for their first few days of school? Kindergarten is the first step on the academic journey and an important milestone in social development, so it’s normal for parents to wonder if their children are prepared enough. If you are feeling this way, it can be helpful to remember that you are your children’s first teacher—you’ve already helped prepare your children for school through the talking, reading, playing, writing, and singing you do with them every day. You can continue to prepare your children over the next few weeks by engaging them in those same kinds of day-to-day interactions. Here are a few of the activities you can try:

1. Kindergarten Rehearsal

Try to incorporate the idea of kindergarten into as many interactions as possible. Walk your children through the same neighborhood that their new school is in, and if you can, give them a tour of the new school. If your children will be taking the bus, take them on public transit a few times so that they can get used to it. At home, you can “play kindergarten” with them by rehearsing drop offs and picks ups or by playing a game at dinner where they have to raise their hand before answering or asking a question. Talk enthusiastically about the first day of school and encourage you child to talk about it, too.

2. Independence Practice

When children go to their first day of school, they need to be able to do certain tasks on their own. You can help prepare them for these tasks by practicing them at home as much as possible and as often as possible. Offer encouragement and try to incorporate the tasks into everyday activities, games, and situations. Here are a few of the things they will need to know how to do:

  • Tying and untying shoelaces
  • Dressing and undressing (unbuttoning and buttoning pants, pulling off boots, zipping and unzipping coats)
  • Opening and closing backpacks and lunchboxes
  • Knowing full name, age, and phone number
  • Going to the bathroom
  • Following two-step directions (take your shoes off and sit at your desk)
  • Separating from parents and caregivers

3. Group Cooperation

On the first day of school, your children will become part of a larger group made up of classmates and peers. The teacher will expect your children to contribute to this larger group. You can prepare your children for this by giving them simple chores to do around the house, and then explaining why those chores are important. Here are some examples of what you can have them do:

  • Making the bed
  • Putting toys away
  • Setting the table
  • Putting away dishes
  • Putting groceries in the basket
  • Helping with brothers and sisters

4. School Subject Fun

Encourage your children’s interest in science, math, reading and writing by weaving those subjects into daily conversation. If you want your children to learn about science, talk to them about the foods they see at the grocery store or in the fridge—ask them to identify the vegetables, fruits, or grains, and then have a conversation with them about healthy and unhealthy foods. For math, you can have them count their steps when they walk up or down the stairs, or you can get them to practice subtracting and adding when they are putting away their toys. Look at books with them and talk about the pictures and words they see. Ask them questions about how the ideas and pictures relate to episodes and situations from their own lives.

5. Paper, Crayons, Go!

Screens are everywhere—including in the classroom—but children still need to know how to use pencils, paper, glue sticks, and crayons. Teachers say that new students sometimes lack fine motor skills because they spend so much time on screens. You can increase your children’s fine motor skills by encouraging them to write and draw (the old fashioned way) using pencils and papers, and by limiting the time they spend on tablets and phones. If possible, provide your children with art supplies and a dedicated place to write and draw. Let them scribble faces, draw animal pictures, finger paint a landscape, practice letters, or colour in colouring books.

Practicing these activities will surely help your children feel more confident about starting school.

For more information about family literacy, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website: www.famlit.ca