Category Archives: Literacy Skills

Multilingualism in the Early Years

Despite years of research to the contrary, the idea often still persists that using more than one language to speak to very young children somehow delays or confuses their language acquisition…

But children’s brains are HARDWIRED to learn language — as much and as many language[s] as they possibly can — and it is actually hugely adaptive and beneficial for them to do so!

We’ve gathered some of our favourite external resources in one place to help spread this message! Let us know if you love one that we’ve missed!

Patricia Kuhl “The Linguistic Genius of Babies”(available with subtitles and transcripts here)

 

Mia Nacamulli “The Benefits of a Bilingual Brain”

 

 

Articles:

“BILINGUALISM FINE-TUNES HEARING, ENHANCES ATTENTION: Dual language speakers better able to encode basic language sounds and patterns” (April 30, 2012 | Northwestern University | by Wendy Leopold)
“Why Bilinguals Are Smarter” (March 17, 2012 | The New York Times | by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee)
“The Benefits of Multilingualism” (May 1, 2010 | Institute of Applied Linguistics, University of Warsaw | Michał B. Paradowski)

“The Pros and Cons of Raising a Multilingual Child” (2004 | Multilingual Children’s Association)
“Preserve rare languages to spread benefits of multilingualism, says expert” (February 15, 2016 | The Guardian | Press Association)

bubble talk watercolor abstract background. hand drawn illustration. language and speech

It is important to remember that multiple languages are best learned from people who can speak confidently and fluently using them! Our models for language-learning can be found easily in a culturally diverse city like Calgary! Make new friends that can speak languages you can’t! Encourage family and friends to speak in their first languages around your children! Join a fun bilingual program! Open your lives up to the sounds of multiple languages and you’ll also open up to some amazing benefits and experiences!

Babies and Board Books

It’s no secret that babies need books, and it just makes sense that the best books for babies are the hardier, more durable Board Books that are a unique joy of modern parenting.

Mother and her daughters reading a book.

Often printed on recycled cardboard with vegetable and food-grade inks, these books are meant to be explored by babies in the same way they explore everything — orally.

Yes, they’re going to get soggy; yes, they’re going to have chunks taken out of them; and yes, you are going to have to recycle them eventually… but that is literally what they are built for. If you need to “learn to stop worrying and love the destruction of baby books”, check out this great blog post from A.J. O’Connell at Book Riot.

Providing a stock of board books for our babies to devour fosters an early love of reading, an exposure to words, language, and literacy, and a comprehension of the mechanics of books (In English we read books from left to right across a page, top to bottom, and turn pages to the left)! On top of that, sharing a book with YOU also provides them with a huge rush of those feel-good hormones (dopamine, seratonin, and oxytocin) that increases the bond between you both, and builds positive associations around reading and learning.

Keep your eyes peeled for board books for every age and stage including high-contrast black and white books for newborns and their developing eyesight, bathtime books that can get wet, and books with lots of flaps and movable parts — we’ll follow-up next month with a list of our favourites!

Favourite Activities for Fall

Our practicum student, Miss Becky, shares her favourite activities, crafts, songs, and rhymes for you to enjoy with your little ones during the beautiful autumn weather that seems to be sticking around (knock on wood)!

Little boy in a pumpkin patch

Pumpkin Patch and/or Corn Maze

What better way to embrace fall than to go a Pumpkin Patch?! Picking the perfect pumpkin can be a great deal of fun! It sure beats scrimmaging through a bargain bin only to find the ‘perfect’ pumpkin is at the very bottom of the bin — or not there at all! The fresh air and many acres provide for lots of space and running around, to blow off some of your little one’s steam.

Here are some tips for visiting a Pumpkin Patch:

  • Dress in layers
  • Arrive early and plan to spend a couple of hours there
  • If allowed, bring along a picnic lunch to really enjoy the fall atmosphere

Follow this link that allows you to find a Pumpkin Patch near you:

Scavenger Hunt

This activity is free and gets both you and your child/ren outside for some fresh, fall air! Here is our example of a quick and easy scavenger hunt checklist.

fall scav hunt

Tips:

  • Laminating a checklist and using dry erase markers allows you to take this scavenger hunt to more than one place.
  • Finding multiples of the same item encourages counting and numerical skills. For example, 3 red leaves or 5 lawn decorations! Reinforce the valuation of the numbers!
  • Turning ‘Twig’ into ‘Twig that looks like the letter Y’ helps to develop alphabetical skills.

Leaf Prints

This is a cheap and easy craft to keep children entertained! Below is a link from Nurture Store with easy-to-follow ideas as well as picture resultss — lots of opportunity to get creative with using colors that aren’t associated with fall (pinks, purples, blues), and/or adding glitter, gems, buttons etc. to create texture!

http://nurturestore.co.uk/autumn-leaf-print-crafts

Books

Reading books associated with seasons and holidays is a great way to get children excited about upcoming or current events. Below is a link with some great recommendations, as well as what age they are directed to.

http://www.kcedventures.com/blog/fall-books-for-kids-autumn-stories

Rhymes/Songs

Some of our favourite fall songs include:

Five Little Pumpkins/Witches/Scarecrows

Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.

The first one said, “Oh my it’s getting late.”

The second one said, “There are leaves in the air.”

The third one said, “But we don’t care!”

The fourth one said, “Let’s run and run and run.”

The fifth one said, “We are ready for some fun!”

Then OOOhh OOOhh went the wind

And out went the lights

And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight.

Autumn Leaves are Falling (to the tune of London Bridge)

Autumn leaves are falling down, falling down, falling down

Autumn leaves are falling down, all around the town.

The wind will blow them round and round, round and round, round and round

The wind will blow them round and round all around the town.

They’re drifting gently to the ground, to the ground, to the ground

They’re drifting gently to the ground, all around the town.

Take a rake a rake them up, rake them up, rake them up,

Take a rake and rake them up all around the town.

Have You Ever Seen an Apple? (To the tune of The More We Get Together)

Have you ever seen an apple, an apple, an apple

Have you ever seen an apple, that grows on a tree?

A red one, a yellow one, a red one, a yellow one

Have you ever seen an apple, that grows on a tree?

Autumn Winds

Autumn winds are blowing free,

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh!

Leaves fall down from ev’ry tree,

Ooh, ooh, ooh!

Red and yellow, gold and brown,

Softly leaves come tumbling down,

Autumn winds are blowing free,

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh!

Autumn winds are whistling ’round,

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh!

Leaves go spinning to the ground,

Ooh, ooh, ooh!

Big or little, all will fall,

As they heed the windy call,

Autumn winds are whistling ’round,

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh!

A Squirrel Song

I’ll be gathering all the acorns till they’re gone.

I’ll be gathering all the acorns till they’re gone.

I’ll be gathering all the acorns, gathering all the acorns,

Gathering all the acorns till they’re gone.

And I’ll put them all inside my little home.

I will put them all inside my little home.

I will put them all inside, put them all inside,

Put them all inside my little home.

And I’ll eat the nuts until the winter’s gone.

I will eat the nuts until the winter’s gone.

I will eat the nuts until, eat the nuts until,

Eat the nuts until the winter’s gone.

Then I’ll do it all again come next fall.

I will do it all again come next fall.

I will do it all again, do it all again,

Do it all again come next fall.

Adding objects, finger puppets, movement, and/or instruments are enthusiastic ways to interactive ways for children to participate in these songs and rhymes

Leaf Play

autumn fallen maple leaves isolated on white background

This activity makes for a interactive afternoon for both you and your little ones, and is sure to tire you both out! All you need for Leaf Play are leaves and an imagination — if you don’t have a yard full of leaves, adventure to the nearest public park or field, take a rake, and start piling! Jump in the leaves, throw them as far up as you can so that it’s ‘raining leaves’, bury one another, make tunnels, organize smallest to biggest piles, etc. This can go on for hours, so pack a picnic and make an afternoon of it!

Carving/Painting Pumpkins

Since visiting the Pumpkin Patch, your family has now picked the perfect pumpkin(s)! So, what better way to celebrate your victory than to carve or decorate them? From our experience, especially with younger children, it typically ends with the adults doing most of the work for carving; the kids usually want to play with the ooey gooey insides (and we have no problem with that)! A great way to get children involved in creating their own pumpkin design is to have them paint and/or decorate their own. Go to the dollar store, pick up some cheap acrylic paint of their choice, and some accessories: buttons, gems, sparkles, stickers, beads etc., and let them get creative. Whatever the result, they’ll be incredibly proud!

Decorate pumpkin for halloween night on wooden background

 

 

 

NOOOO! (a.k.a. tantrums and how to deal)

We always discuss in our classes that tantrums often occur when we are transitioning from one activity to another and the child resists or isn’t prepared for the change. To (try to) prevent this, we recommend using songs to ease the transition from one activity to the next. Well! I recently got the chance to try it out for myself. About two weeks ago, my normally good-natured son turned into a tantrum-throwing monster, seemingly overnight. SO. MUCH. FUN.

My initial response to these tantrums was probably like most. This was my 3-step plan:

  1. Clench fists
  2. Scream
  3. Pour wine (once said tantrum-throwing monster was safely in crib, of course)

But then I remembered our class teachings and thought that this would be a perfect opportunity to practice what I preach. (I make this sound so fluid, but in actuality I spent about a week responding to the tantrums with above 3-step plan).

The first step of my new 3-step plan was to figure out the times that were most often causing his tantrums:

  • Getting dressed/undressed
  • Getting out of the bath
  • Leaving the park (the popular out-in-public tantrum…though at least at the park you are likely surrounded by other moms, as opposed to the grocery store which is filled with judgemental college kids)
  • Bedtime

So far so good. The second step of my new plan was to assign a specific song to each activity. This would signal to my son that we were now transitioning to a new activity while also providing an enjoyable distraction during this transition time. Therefore:

  • Getting dressed/undressed – we now sing:
    Baby put your pants on, pants on, pants on
    Baby put your pants on, 1-2-3.
    Baby put your shirt on, shirt on, shirt on

    Baby put your shirt on, 1-2-3.
    …etc.
  • Getting out of the bath – we now sing:
    Fishies in the water, fishies in the sea,
    We all stand up on the count of three!
    1-2-3.
  • Leaving the park – we now sing:
    The ponies are walking, they’re walking along
    Walking along, walking along.
    The ponies are walking, they’re walking along
    Woah! Woah! Woah!
  • Bedtime – a lullaby of course! However here’s where the plan breaks down and exemplifies why we say that transition songs will often work (but not always): lately when I try to sing a lullaby to my son he responds by screaming NOOOO in my face, over and over and over. So there you have it…even the teacher’s son can be a little jerk sometimes, despite my best efforts.

Which brings us to step 3 of my new 3-step plan: pour wine.

So the moral of the story is to try out the transition songs. Maybe they will work! Maybe they won’t! But hopefully they will work at least part of the time and that makes your life partly better. Right? And when it doesn’t? Go directly to step 3!!

Make the Outdoors your Classroom

puddleNow that it’s summer, my 1-year-old wants to spend all of his time outside. Before we’ve even had our breakfast, he’s running to the door, shoes in hand, shouting, “Outside? Outside?” If you’re child is anything like mine, you’ve packed up and relocated to your backyard for the summer too. Here are a few activities you can do that are not only fun, but will turn your outdoor space into a little classroom of sorts.

Sidewalk Chalk
Summer is a great time to let your little one get messy. The rain will wash away any toddler-graffiti and if your child gets a little dirty, it’s pretty easy to give them a quick douse of water on the lawn to clean up. Chalk is a fun way to explore art and drawing together. Let them draw on their own, or take turns drawing lines until you’ve created a collaborative masterpiece! Of course chalk is also a great opportunity to practice scribbling and writing letters. We like to write little messages on the sidewalk for daddy to read when he comes home from work.

Water Painting
Similar to chalk, paint brushes provide a great opportunity for writing and drawing. You may be wary of using actual paint, so why not try a clean brush and a pail of water. Wet the brush and then draw on the sidewalk for some (very) temporary works of art.

Bubbles
I think all kids love bubbles, and they are an easy and relatively cheap activity in the summer. Older kids can develop their gross motor skills chasing after and popping them, and will also develop hand-eye coordination as they learn to dip the wands and blow. Even the youngest of babies will enjoy watching bubbles, while also developing their eye sight and eye muscles as they track the bubbles floating in the air. I love this little rhyme about bubbles too:

I dip my wand, and gently blow
A tiny bubble begins to grow!
And grow…and grow…and grow…and…
POP!

Sensory Nature Walk
When you venture outside your yard, take a little sensory nature walk with your little ones. Encourage them to use their senses as they smell flowers and fresh cut grass; listen to the birds chirping; and see the clouds moving across the sky. Stop in a park and see how many textures you can find: a rough pinecone, a smooth pebble, a wet puddle! And remember to name the things that you see as you walk. A leisurely stroll around the neighbourhood is a great opportunity for some vocabulary development.

There are lots of ways to have fun this summer while incorporating some learning and literacy development, and they don’t have to cost a lot of money. I am always looking for more ideas to keep my little busy-body occupied…what kinds of activities do you like doing with your children in the summer?