Language and Literacy

Language and Literacy

Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch

Your YMCA Child Care Team is bringing you an online storytime with the book 'Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch,' written by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Paul Yalowitz. Join us in a story about Mr. Hatch, who receives a very special Valentine's Day package by accident. This package shows Mr. Hatch and his community the power and importance of kindness. After reading this story, talk with your child about how to spread kindness in your community! If you don't have the book, you can find the book online as well.

"School-age children gradually become aware of their work beyond home, school and their neighborhoods. While they first need to feel secure in their sense of belonging to the family unit and in their education and child care settings, their worlds can be extended to the community at large. This can be a two-way process that ultimately benefits the community and each child. 

When the children can see how they fit into their bigger world, they can start to take some responsibility for that world. They can soon become activists about matters such as recycling, assisting others, and making a contribution to society." (Martin and Huggins, YMCA A Place to Connect, 2009)

Library Lion

This week, your YMCA Child Care Team is bringing you the story 'Library Lion' by Michelle Knudsen. This story is about a lion who begins to come to the library and learns all of the library rules so that he can stay for storytime each day. But when something terrible happens, he has to break one of the rules to help the librarian, Miss Merriweather. Who's ready for an online storytime!

After reading this story, have a discussion with your children about some of the different rules and expectations that they follow at home, school, or out in public. During this pandemic, there are many additional rules that your children are following, so it is important to talk about them as government guidelines are always changing. You can also have a discussion about if there are any times where it would be alright to break the rules, just like Library Lion does in the story. 

"When children begin school, they expand their social network from membership in a family culture to a school culture. This is further extended when the child enters other programs such as sport or school-aged-child care. Children's own peer culture exists within and apart from this school culture. As members of their own peer group, children share commonly understood rules, rituals, humor, expectations, beliefs, ways of resolving conflicts, and ways of defining and demonstrating membership hierarchy and status. This system of behaviours, knowledge and customs shared by members of the peer group serves to regulate group behaviour and provide a sense of cohesion and belonging." (Martin and Huggins, YMCA School-Age Curriculum A Place to Connect, 2009)

Choose your own adventure

Remember the storybooks where, at each turn, you were able to choose your next steps and create your own adventure? Here is a collaborative game that focuses on verbal storytelling and literacy while adding a twist to create your own adventure, thanks to our YMCA Child Care team!

As a family, sit down together and create your own story by having each member take turns adding their own lines one at a time. Maybe build your own make-believe indoor campfire to sit around, or a fun indoor cozy fort to sit in. Once you are settled, start the story with an easy sentence such as “Today we walked to the park and when we got there, we…” and then continue to build on it together, remember the sillier the story, the better. Enjoy!

“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.” (Martin and Huggins, YMCA Playing to Learn, 2015)

Icicle Writing

Today’s activity will allow your child work on their letter writing skills while using an icicle as a unique writing tool to do this.


  • Water
  • Ziploc Bags
  • Construction Paper


  1. Place about ¾ of a cup of water in the bottom of a Ziploc bag and place the bag upright in the freezer so that the water freezes in an icicle shape on the bottom of the Ziploc bag.

  2. Once your icicle is frozen remove from the Ziploc bag, if it is stuck to the bag run the bag under some warm water until it’s melted enough to come free.

  3. Grab your construction paper and using the icicle as your pen start writing letters and words.

    Modification: If the weather permits and icicles have started to from outside go on a nature walk to collect your own icicle pens rather then making them.

“The writing process is dependent upon two concepts – composition and graphic representation…Graphic representation is both the physical act of handwriting and the mastering of the conventions of written language, including punctuation and spelling.”

(Martin and Huggins, YMCA Playing to Learn, 2015, pg. 209)

Hannukah in Alaska

Your YMCA Child Care is bringing to you an online storytime with the book 'Hannukah in Alaska' written by Barbara Brown. In this story, a young girl finds the magic of the holiday season, even though there are a few challenges along the way. After reading this book, talk to your child about what makes the holidays special for them and your family. You can even encourage them to create their own story about the holiday season and read it to others in your family. Click here to read the story online.

"School-aged children enjoy books, stories, listening and speaking. They usually like the sound of their own voices; they may make up new words, poems and rhymes, and tell stories and jokes. Situational humour is particularly important."(Martin and Huggins, YMCA A Place to Connect, 2009)

Bubble Wrap Letters

Who doesn’t love to take a big sheet of bubble wrap and pop the bubbles? Today’s YMCA Child Care activity will not only help work on your child’s letter recognition, but it will also bring the fun of popping bubbles on a sheet of bubble wrap! Here's what you'll need:
🔘 Bubble wrap
🔘 Different coloured felt markers


  1. On the backside of a piece of bubble wrap, write both the lowercase and uppercase letters of the alphabet.
  2. Either spread the bubble wrap out on a table or, using some painter's tape, attach it to the wall at your child’s level. 
  3. Once the bubble wrap is in place, call out either upper or lowercase and have your child search for the letter. Once found, have them pop it and then repeat the process. 

“Discrimination is the skill that allows the reader to know which features of print affect the meaning (often referred to as the concept of print). This involves distinguishing letters, words and other language symbols (such as mathematical signs), as well as an appreciation for how books “works” as distinct from other objects.” (YMCA Playing to Learn, Martin and Huggins, 2015)

Poetry Fun

Here’s a fun literacy activity to do with your children while teaching them about poetry, thanks to our YMCA Child Care team! Below is a link to a poem by Shel Silverstein that is about a pair of dancing pants. Read along with them and talk about what they notice is happening with the words and verses allows them to make connections between the different types of poetry. You can read the poem here.

  1. Read through the poem with your child, talking about the form it takes, if words rhyme, and empathizing some of the action words.
  2. Once you have read through the poem, ask your child to help you come up with actions to act it out and read through the poem again together while acting out these movements. 
  3. Research other fun children’s poems in different styles and continue this activity with each of them. 

“Long before a child picks up a book and reads independently, there are signs that she is making connections between the printed symbols and meaningful communication.” (YMCA Playing to Learn, Eden and Huggin, 2001)

Reading Henry Holton Takes the Ice

Today's YMCA Child Care activity is this online story time with Ray Ramano! Join him for the story "Henry Holton Takes the Ice" by Sandra Bradley. This uplifting story is about a family that comes together to support their son Henry in taking a risk and trying something new. After reading this story, why not try something new as a family like playing a new sport together outside or attempting a new project at home?

Click here for the story!

"Understanding that you are a separate person is the first task of the younger child. This seems simple but it is a recurring issue as the child struggles between independence and dependence. Children learn about themselves and school-agers will consider their personal attributes (called the categorical self) and have a relatively accurate concept of themselves — given the right encouragement. As the child learns about herself she becomes better able to manage some of the challenges that are particular to her." (YMCA A Place to Connect, Martin and Huggins, 2009)

Beading with Letters

Help your child with letter, and word recognition, while working on their fine motor skills at the same time, in this beading with letters YMCA Child Care activity! Here's what you'll need:
⚫ Pipe cleaner or string
🔵 Letter beads
Using the letter beads, have your child string them together and spell words that they recognize as they go. 

“Multiple ways of communicating begin at birth. Infants, toddlers, and young children use a variety of ways – or modes – such as gaze, touch, gesture, mark making, movement, speech, image, and sound effects to communicate. These multiple modes help children to form relationships, to grow in their understanding of the conventions of language, and to extend ideas and take action. Learning requires numerous ongoing and varied opportunities for children to engage with others in responsive and reciprocal relationships, immersed in an environment that is rich in language, joy and playfulness.” (Makovichuk, Hewes, Litrette, Thomas, Flight: Alberta's Early Learning and Care Framework, 2014)

Stone Soup

Stone Soup by John J Muth is a story about collaboration and sharing amongst a community. Our YMCA Child Care team is sharing an online reading of this story and some activities that you can do together once you have finished the book! Watch the story here!

Activities to do after reading:
-    Write a grocery list for ingredients for making your own stone soup. Take a trip to the grocery store to get these ingredients.
-    Create invitations for a virtual stone soup dinner to have with family members and friends. 
-    Make decorations for your own stone soup dinner.
-    Complete a sequencing activity where you line up ingredients in order of how they are presented in the story.

“The child’s sense of belonging to family and community is strengthened through respectful and reciprocal relationships, where educators recognize the value of family connections and contributions in understanding how each child makes meaning of the world.” (Makovichuk, Hewes, Litrette, Thomas, Flight: Alberta's Early Learning and Care Framework, 2014)

The Kissing Hand

This week marks many milestones for families as they transition to different classrooms, different schools and for some, coming out of the house and back to the school for the first time since March. The first day of school can be hard for both parents/guardians and kids, especially with different safety measures that have been put in place. To ease the nerves, join us for the story of a little raccoon who is learning how to say goodbye to his mother. For an online version of The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, click here.
After reading this book, take some time to plan with your child how to make school drop-offs easy and special. 

“Children and their families have the right to experience social recognition and acceptance, and to see themselves reflected in their learning communities. Learning requires secure and consistent relationships, the affirmation of social and cultural practices, and opportunities to form connections with new people and places.” (Makovichuk, Hewes, Litrette, Thomas, Flight: Alberta's Early Learning and Care Framework, 2014)

Chicka Chicka boom boom

Practice letters of the alphabet with your child is this fun YMCA Child Care reading activity! You'll also create a fun snack to have after you have read the story! Here's what you'll need:
🌴 Green Apples
🌴 Pretzels
🌴 Raisins
🌴 Alphabet cereal
🌴 A copy of the book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault

What to do:
-    Read with your child the story of the alphabets and the palm tree. If you aren’t able to get a copy of this book, read it online by visiting
-    Once you have finished reading the story, grab the remaining items and create your own palm tree! Using the apples as the leaves, pretzels as the trunk, raisins as the coconuts and the alphabet cereal as the letters in the story. While you eat your snack, recreate the story or make up a new story of your own!

“Reading picture books, fiction and non fiction, is one of the most accessible and popular forms of multimodal forms of literacy engagement. Other forms include, singing, painting, dramatic play, blockbuilding, photography, television, and computers.” (Makovichuk, Hewes, Litrette, Thomas, Flight: Alberta's Early Learning and Care Framework, 2014)

Ready Set Go!

Many families are preparing for an important milestone in their child's life — kindergarten! Our YMCA Child Care team wanted to share with you a resource they found that can support your children as they head back to school (in person or online):

The Edmonton Public Library has a virtual program called "Ready Set Go!", which is meant to support your child's kindergarten readiness skills (something we work hard at in YMCA Child Care as well). Click here for their YouTube series! 

You can also click here to check out other activities and resources.

"The transition from play to school activities can be quite natural if the children's play has been allowed to evolve in parallel to their development. The readiness to work co-cooperatively, wait turns, and share materials, and the development of other social skills are often more important than specific academic skills, and these are also indicators of potential school success." (YMCA Playing to Learn, Martin and Huggins, 2015)

No More Noisy Nights

This YMCA Child Care activity brings you the story of Jackson, a boy who is having trouble going to sleep in the book "No More Noisy Nights" by Holly L. Niner and illustrated by Guy Wolek. For a live reading of this book, you can click here!

Once your child has read the story, give these activities a try:
•    Make your own monster and create a language for it.
•    Make a list of quiet activities that would help Jackson sleep.
•    Write a letter to the monsters telling them how their noise makes you feel.

"There is no one method of teaching reading that guarantees success for all children. In addition to the spontaneous and informal experiences of play and storytime, there are some focused activities that have proven beneficial in literacy learning." (YMCA Playing to Learn, Martin and Huggins, 2015)

The story of peter rabbit

We're reading a storytime classic for this morning's YMCA Child Care activity! Let's dive into the timeless tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, where we read about Peter's adventure through Mr. McGregor's garden! Read it online by clicking here.

Here are some Peter Rabbit literacy activities:
📚 Act out the story of Peter Rabbit finding props around your home.
📚 Draw a map of Mr. McGregor's garden.
📚 Make a scarecrow! But don't forget to write a list of materials to collect before you start.
📚 Write a set of 'garden rules' that you would put up in Mr. McGregor's garden.
📚 Find items from the story around your house or garden. Then make your own labels to practice word recognition.
📚 Write your own story just like Beatrix Potter! Help younger children by writing a story as they describe their illustrations. If you need a little help getting started, use this story writing template.

"Composition is creating a story based on a real or imagined event. The earliest resources for composing are personal experience the child reworks through socio-dramatic play. The first compositions will serve personal functions, such as making lists or greeting cards. The initial narratives will be highly personal vignettes from everyday life." (YMCA Playing to Learn, Martin and Huggins, 2015)

Room on the Broom

Today's YMCA Child Care activity will take us to that comfy corner in your home to enjoy the story "Room on the Broom" by Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler. If you don't have this book at home, you can watch a live storytime by clicking here! Join a witch and her cat as they take a ride on a magic broom, meeting different friends along the way for a marvellous adventure. 

After reading the story:
😺 Have your child re-tell the story. You can do this by playing the story again and putting it on mute so that they are narrating what happens in the pictures.
😺 Practice rhyming using words from the story.
😺 Draw pictures of the different animals the witch meets along the way. Move the pictures around and have children put them back in order of when the witch meets them.
😺 Write a recipe for the different things that the witch puts in her cauldron.
😺 Collect items from around your home like the ones in the book and write their names on paper. Practice matching the words to the items.
😺 For even more activities and printable resources based on this book, click here.

"There is no one method of teaching reading that guarantees success for all children. In addition to the spontaneous and informal experiences of play and storytime, there are some focused activities that have proven beneficial in literacy learning." (YMCA Playing to Learn, Martin and Huggins, 2015)

A reading adventure

Our YMCA Child Care team is taking us on an adventure with Michael Rosen, author of the popular children's book "We're Going On a Bear Hunt!" If you want to watch the book, click here.

After storytime, try some of these fun activities:
🐻 Re-enact the bear hunt using the actions that you see in the storytime.
🐻 Go on a community hunt to find different areas, like the ones in the book such as fields, mud, and boulders like caves. Hopefully, you don't find a snowstorm!
🐻 Draw pictures from the story and move them around so they are in the order they happened in the story. You could also make your own story with a new sequence of events.

"Long before the child picks up a book and reads independently, there are signs she is making connections between the printed symbols and meaningful communication" (YMCA Playing to Learn, Martin and Huggins, 2015).

For our older adventurers, J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, has released a new fantasy book free of charge and accessible online. For more details, click here.

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)