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Alphabet Rocks

Our YMCA Child Care team is taking us outside to do some rock hunting for small smooth rocks! Take a bucket with you and collect 52 rocks about the same size to take home with you. This will be enough rocks for two complete sets of the alphabet if you would like more of a certain letter make sure that you are grabbing the extra rocks that you would need. Once at home, wash the rocks and dig out some permanent markers and together with your child write each letter of the alphabet (the upper case on one size and the lower case on the other).

If your child is just starting to learn their letters have them create the rocks that they know, and role model how to write the ones that they are still learning. Once your alphabet sets are complete have fun creating words out of the rock letters. Try doing this by stating a word and having them try to find the letters and spell it on their own, or call out the letters of a word in order and have them find these letters to put the word together.

“The development of written language is strongly linked to the earliest attempts to read, as they both involve the discoveries about print described above" (YMCA Playing to Learn, Martin and Huggins, 2015).

fun with the very hungry caterpillar
One book you'll find in all of our YMCA Child Care centres is The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. It's fun for storytime, and there are endless activities you can do with your children based on the caterpillar's journey.

If you don't have this book at home, click here for an online storytime.

Here are a few ideas for activities to go along with it:
🐛 Create your own caterpillar using egg cartons, play dough, LEGO or paper
🐛 Create your own butterfly using popsicle sticks or clothes pins and paper
🐛 Do a colour-sorting activity: put out circles of different colours (like the food in the book) and a variety of buttons, pom poms or other small items and have your child sort them onto their corresponding colour
🐛 Create a math activity by making caterpillars in different lengths and counting or measuring how long they are
🐛 Have your children go outside and act out the stages of the caterpillar in the book
🐛 Research the life of a caterpillar

"Children learn to express, represent, and interpret their feelings, ideas, and questions through speaking, listening, reading, writing, dancing, singing, drawing, moving, and constructing." (Makovichuk, Hewes, Litrette, Thomas, Flight: Alberta’s Early Learning and Care Framework, 2014)

Hide and seek letters

Help your child learn and practice their letters through a variation on the game Hide and Seek. All you need is:
🗒️ Post-it notes
🖊️ A marker

🗒️ Write letters that your child is already familiar with on individual post-it notes.
🗒️ Hide the post-it notes through out a room or a couple of rooms at your child’s level and ask them to find the post-it notes.
🗒️ As they find them ask them what letter they have found and what the letter looks like. If they need help, you can prompt them with these questions: how many lines does it have? Do the lines cross each other? Does it have a circle in it?

“The reading process involves two skills – discrimination and prediction. Discrimination is the skill that allows the reader to know which features of print affect the meaning (often referred to as the concepts of print). This involves distinguishing letters, words, and other language symbols.” (YMCA Playing to Learn, Martin and Huggins, 2015)

Lego literacy
Start an activity that brings literacy to LEGO! All you need are LEGO blogs and black marker. Draw letters on the sides of the LEGO blocks so that when they are connected, the letters are right side up.

Some tips:
🔸 Use longer LEGO blocks for tall letters or letters with a tail, and short blocks for short letters
🔸 Try using your child's favourite books to inspire them to make different words
🔸 For younger children, write the letters on paper as well and have them match the blocks to the paper by letter or by size
🔸 For older children, challenge them to create poems or stories

⚠️ Safety tip: for infants and toddlers, use Duplo or larger blocks instead of LEGO, in case they're inclined to put them in their mouths.

“A psycholinguistic view of literacy is based upon the belief that learning to read and write is a natural process in which thought, and language are indivisible. Research now indicates that literacy development starts in the early years…In this view, reading is seen as an active process in which the reader tests and confirms what she thinks the print says. Reading is understood to involve a complex system of physical, psychological and linguistic factors.” (YMCA Playing to Learn, Martin and Huggins, 2015)

Pool noodle letter matching

This afternoon's YMCA Child Care activity is pool noodle letters! Help your child learn to match their uppercase to the respective lowercase letters while stacking pool noodles. Here's what you will need:
🔠 Two different coloured pool noodles
🔡 Black permanent marker
🔠 Exacto knife

🔡 Carefully cut up each noodle evenly (about 2-inch sections) into 26 pieces.
🔠 Pick one colour and start writing the uppercase letters of the alphabet. On the second set of cut up pieces of pool noodle, write the lowercase letters of the alphabet.
🔡 Spread the cut noodles out on the floor and have your child start to match the letters by stacking them on top of each other. As they find the correct match, you can ask your child to name the letter and point to which one is the uppercase letter versus the lowercase letter. If your child is just starting to recognize letters, start with the ones they know and add new letters as you go so that they are successful and don’t get frustrated with the activity. You can add another challenge by adding another set of pool noodle letters and have them start creating words with the letters.

"The reading process involves two skills – discrimination and prediction. Discrimination is the skill that allows the reader to know which features of print affect the meaning (often referred to as the concepts of print)...A child who has attained the skill of discrimination will understand many important concepts. The child will be able to: -Recognize the letters of the alphabet -Understand the relationship between uppercase and lowercase letters (A=a)” (YMCA Playing to Learn, Martin and Huggins, 2015).

Reading "The Rainbow Fish"

Join our YMCA Child Care team in reading a wonderful book about kindness and friendship with "The Rainbow Fish" by Marcus Pfister. If you don't have this book at home, don't worry! You can watch a live storytime for this book by clicking here.

Try these language and literacy activities after you are finished reading:
📚 Ask your children to re-tell you the story or put on some costumes and act it out.
📚 Ask your child about how the characters feel during the story and have them draw or act out what these feelings look like or spell the words.
📚 Create a story about the other characters in "The Rainbow Fish." What is the story of the Blue Fish, the StarFish, or the Octopus? What happens after the Rainbow Fish gives shares its scales?
📚 Your child may choose to tell their story through an illustration or writing, but for those who are not able to write their story write it for them while they tell it.
📚 Create paper plate fish puppets by using plates and other craft supplies and attaching your puppets to Popsicle sticks.
📚 Re-enact the story using your fish puppets.
📚 Write a letter or draw a picture to someone who makes you feel special.

"Emergent literacy, as the current approach has come to be labelled, is based upon these principles:
📘 Children begin the process of learning literacy very early and continue throughout the early years.
📗 The emergency of literacy develops concurrently with the growth of oral language
📕 Children who have a well-established oral language facility acquire literacy skills easily and well
📙 Literacy emerges along a developmental continuum that is observable and documentable in terms of both reading and writing
📖 Children who are read to find it easier to learn to read and write" (YMCA Playing to Learn, Martin and Huggins, 2015).

Story resource: audible
Let your children's imagination roam while listening to children's audiobooks, now free to download on Audible! Get lost in a make-believe land. Explore enchanted forests and castles. Go on adventures through new cities and towns. All without leaving the house!

“Children in complex pretend play situations use more advanced language and have higher levels of narrative structure than they do in other situations. Children become storytellers, creating new versions of familiar stories and composing new stories.” – Early Learning for Every Child Today: A framework for Ontario early childhood settings, 2007 (YMCA Playing to Learn, Martin and Huggins, 2015)
storytime with robert munsch
Enjoy this classic storytelling experience with Robert Munsch himself! Watch this video with your kids, then try some of our suggestions for expanding this experience, below.

To expand this experience:
📖 Try to re-enact the story just like Robert Munsch does
📖 Build the setting from the story using blocks or recycled materials
📖 Create illustrations for the story
📖 Film yourself reading your family's favourite classic book

“It is never too early to introduce children to books. In early childhood, children show their growing awareness of literacy in three ways – listening, participating and doing imitative, or what is sometimes called emergent, reading.” (YMCA Playing to Learn, Martin and Huggins, 2015)