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learn_298x198.jpgOntario's full-day kindergarten program encourages kids to learn through play. Studies show that kids gain many skills through play, and these early skills help kids become successful learners.


Here are some tips on how to help your child play to learn at home.


How to Encourage Play in Your House:

  • Put on some music and dance or move around.
  • Create an obstacle course and crawl under, climb over, or move around the obstacles.
  • Go for a walk around your neighbourhood (this also helps your child become familiar with the school and the way to school).
  • Roll, throw, catch, and kick balls of different sizes.
  • Go skating or swimming.
  • Visit the park or playground.
  • Whenever possible, respond when your child initiates play.
  • Talk to your child while he is playing, explain and name things he is playing with.
  • Ask your child questions about his play (for example: what, where, why, when, who and how?). This will help him learn to self-reflect and encourage his thinking skills.
  • Read stories with your child and act them out (for example: stories about children starting school).
  • Add dolls, unbreakable dishes, pretend food, and dress-up clothes to your child’s play area.
  • Add paper and crayons to your child’s play area so he can make scribbles, lists, drawings, and plans. This helps help your child develop writing skills for school.
  • Add measuring cups and rulers to stimulate his interest in mathematical and scientific concepts.
  • Use music to move and dance with your child, or to help him become quiet.
  • Take your child out for a walk around your neighbourhood or a hike through the park.
  • Talk about the things you have seen together.
  • Pretend play what you have done together (for example: going to the grocery store).
  • Develop a routine so your child has a time for active play and a time for quiet play.
  • Let your child help you with simple chores and talk about them.
  • Bake, cook and prepare food with your child.


For more great tips, read Learning to Play and Playing to Learn: Getting Ready for School

hints_reading_w_kids.jpgResearch shows that parents who are readers have kids who are readers. But even if books are not your thing, you can do a lot to help your kids succeed at reading.


Parents who rarely read, as well as parents who do not speak English, may think it's almost impossible to promote reading at home. The good news is that you can read to your kids in any language. Or, if you hate to read long books or novels, as long as your kids see you reading the newspaper or a magazine they'll get the message that reading is important in your home.


How to start making reading and literacy important at home:


  • Show your kids that reading is important and enjoyable for YOU.
  • Let them see you reading on your own time. Language and content are not important.
  • Invite them to sit beside you as you both read your own books.
  • Set up a weekly library trip to select books. Give them their own library card and attend readings at the library or bookstore.
  • Exchange books with other families and start a neighbourhood or classroom book club.
  • Check out the Read to Achieve program where public figures encourage children's literacy in the video section.
  • Encourage having a pen pal. It's fun and a great way to learn about people and cultures from around the world!
  • Show your kids how to keep a journal. Let them choose a notebook and special pen/pencil. Encourage them to write about anything they wish, adding pictures and drawing if they'd like.
  • Get into a writing routine, such as establishing a time for writing in journals every evening to reflect on their day.
  • Get them to read the labels on packages.
  • Have them help in the kitchen by reading recipes aloud as you prepare dinner or by creating the evening menu.
  • Write a letter or greeting card  and mail or e-mail it to your child. This is great on special occasions like a birthday or graduation.
  • Have reading materials in every room in the house.
  • Select books carefully. Keep a large selection of different genres of books at home. This can often help pique the interest of a finicky child.
  • Have a "library" bookshelf in your home and get your kids to be the librarians.
  • Watch television or movies and play games that will encourage children to gain pre-reading skills, reading skills, writing skills and critical thinking skills.
  • Don't give in to the pressure to "hyper-parent" your child and overload them.
  • Continue the family tradition of spending some time with your kids reading every night before bedtime, even once they have learned to read on their own.


Helpful hints on reading to your child (ages 0-8):
  • Allow your child to turn the pages and follow the words with their/your fingers.
  • Ask your child to predict what might happen next.
  • Use funny voices for the characters.
  • Change parts of the story and encourage them to correct you.
  • Take your time when reading. Don't rush. This should be a relaxing time for the both of you.
  • Don't shy away from discussing the characters, plot, pictures and concepts in the book with your kids.
  • Allow them to interrupt you to ask questions and encourage them to think about the story or talk about the pictures with pauses in the reading.
  • Ask your grade one or older child to summarize the story, connect the plot to something in their lives, or to evaluate the story orally or through a written book review. Remember, literacy is about understanding!


How to make reading creative:


  • Encourage your child to think outside the box by having them add parts to a story they already like.
  • Begin brainstorming by creating silly stories about everyday events. Everyone can take a turn adding their own sentence to further the story.
  • Have older children write down the 5 W's of their stories. The WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, and WHY will help them to create their own stories. Add detail and keep their stories organized.
  • Keep a dictionary and thesaurus handy and encourage your kids to use them while writing.


The more you incorporate books into your home, the more likely your children will see reading as a normal part of everyday life. Following just a few of the tips above will help your child become a life-long reader.




Looking for some good books to kick-start reading in your early learner this summer?


Gillian O'Reilly and Meghan Howe of the Canadian Children's Book Centre compiled this top 10 list of great summer reading for early learners.





Top 10 Summer Learning Books for Early Learners



Ghost in the House
by Ammi-Joan Paquette


Wild Berries
by Julie Flett


Dinosaur Countdown by Nicholas Oldland


Goodnight, Canada
by Andrea Beck


Me and You Without You
by Genevieve Cote


Ones and Twos
Where Do You Look?

by Marthe Jocelyn
and Nell Jocelyn


Where Are You, Bear?
What’s Up Bear

by Frieda Wishinsky


Once Upon a Balloon
by Bree Galbraith


Caramba and Henry

by Marie-Louise Gay


Kitten series
by Eugenie Fernandes

Earth Hour Logo2_0.jpgDid you know Earth Hour isn’t about saving energy?

It’s about standing together with people around the world to make a statement to the world that we want a future where climate change is no longer a threat.

Every man, woman and child is encouraged to turn off the lights for just one hour each year to celebrate the event.

Canada has participated in the event for more than 15 years, but in that time the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions increased by 32 percent, according to WWF (the World Wildlife Fund) Canada, the organizer of Canada’s Earth Hour. This puts the country way off track on meeting 2020 reduction targets, the organization says.

So what can you and your family do to help? Below, our friends at Earth Hour Canada have shared some ideas on how your family can celebrate the hour and support the Earth Hour cause. We've also shared some of the organization's interesting Earth Hour facts, which you can share with your kids during the hour or anytime.



Fun Family Earth Hour Ideas:
  • Have a family dinner by candlelight.
  • Take your blankets and pillows (and jackets!) out into the yard for a star-gazing session.
  • Get the neighbourhood kids together for a game of flashlight tag or hide-and-go-seek.
  • Turn your living-room into a darkened theatre and watch an environmentally-themed movie like "The Lorax".
  • Break out your non-electronic board games.
  • Throw a full-on glow-in-the-dark party complete with ’80s outfits and glow sticks.
  • Host a “raw foods” (no cooking involved) pot-luck dinner.
  • Do a family yoga class by candlelight in your living room.



Don't Stop with Just 60 Minutes:
  • Fund a project on the Earth Hour site.
  • Back a Canadian project .
  • Donate to Earth Day Canada.
  • .WWF is always looking for enthusiastic students to write short blog posts about their experiences participating in WWF campaigns like Earth Hour. E-mail for more information.


Interesting Earth Hour Facts:
  • If everyone on the planet switched their incandescent light bulbs to LEDs or  CFLs, we would cut the world’s lighting demand for electricity in half — and prevent 16 billion tonnes of carbon from entering the atmosphere over the next 25 years.
  • On January 1, the government of Canada made it illegal to manufacture 75- and 100-watt incandescent light bulbs (stores can continue to sell bulbs they already have in stock). Since 2009, more than 40 countries have pledged to do the same.
  • Ordinary light bulbs waste 95 percent of electricity emitting heat; only 5 percent of the energy produces light. CFLs, on the other hand, use 75 percent less energy than a traditional bulb and can last ten times as long.
  • In 2013, Earth Hour reached over 1 billion people in over 4,000 cities in over 130 countries around the world.
  • More than 10 million of those people were Canadians, taking part in over 300 cities.

Math Is Everywhere 1.jpg


You can find math everywhere - even when you are just at the local playground. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big playground or a small one, you can help your child engage in math in a way that is fun and educational.


We consulted with Marc Husband, an elementary school teacher and teacher educator, to create these tips on how to find math everywhere at the playground.


Shapes, Geometry and Number Sense


Math Is Everywhere 2.jpg


Playgrounds are full of different shapes, from the play equipment to the natural environment. Talk to your child about all the different shapes you see – asking questions works best.


  • 2-Dimensional Shapes. What shapes do you see? Which are 2-dimensional?  Circles, triangles, squares, rectangles? Once your child has identified a shape, ask questions like: What other shapes can this triangle make? What shapes can fit into this rectangle?
  • 3-Dimensional Figures. What 3-dimensional figures do you see? What makes them 3-dimensional? Do you see any 2-dimensional shapes in any 3-dimensional figures?
  • Counting and Sorting. How many 2-dimensional shapes can you count? How many 3-dimensional figures can you count? How many squares are there in this cube? How many circles are in this cone?
  • "What if?" What if we took two shapes and put them together? What new shapes or structures can you create? Be sure to ask your child to explain his or her answer.


Right Angles, Acute Angles, Obtuse Angles and Geometry


Math Is Everywhere 3.jpg


If there are many shapes, there are also probably a lot of angles. Ask your child questions about the different angles you see.


  • Right angles. What angles do you notice? Can you spot a 90 degree angle or what’s called a right angle? Do you see any more? How can you describe a right angle? (Suggest using an index finger and thumb to make a 90 degree angle.) What shapes have right angles? Squares, rectangles, some triangles?
  • Acute and obtuse angles. Can you spot angles that are more than 90 degrees. What are these called? (obtuse angles) Can you spot angles that are less than 90 degrees? What are these called? (acute angles) Can you spot a 45 degree angle? Can you create these angles with your fingers?
  • "What if?" What if we changed the degree of angles on different shapes? What new shapes can you create?


Symmetry, Geometry and Spatial Sense


Math Is Everywhere 4.jpg


The playground is also full of symmetrical shapes and patterns. Ask your child to spot them and ask questions about them.


  • Symmetrical patterns and shapes. What shapes are symmetrical? What are not symmetrical? How can you check to see if a shape is symmetrical? Can your child locate a line of symmetry? Is there another line of symmetry? Can your child explain?
  • Patterns. Are there patterns in the playground equipment that are symmetrical? For example, you may find symmetry in an Xs and Os game, a ladder, or a pattern in the play structure. How many lines of symmetry can you count? Where are they?
  • "What if?" What if there are shapes or patterns that are asymmetrical? What would you need to add or subtract to make them symmetrical?


What Your Child Will Learn:


  • Different ways to think about and do math.
  • Curriculum - these activities touch on the five strands of the Ontario elementary math curriculum: number sense and numeration, measurement, geometry and spatial sense, patterning and algebra, and data management and probability.
  • Math skills like problem solving, reasoning and proving, selecting tools and computational strategies, reflecting, connecting, representing and communicating.
  • That math is everywhere, and fun!

Stop Sign With Border_631.jpg


You can find math everywhere - even when you are just out for a walk. Whether you and your child are walking to school, to a friend's house, or to the park, you can help your child engage in math in a way that is fun and educational.


Elementary school teacher and teacher educator at York University Marc Husband was consulted to create these tips on how to find math everywhere in your neighbourhood.


Geometry, Spatial and Number Sense


Sgins ALL FINAL_631.jpg


When out walking, take notice of all the different signs in your neighbourhood, and talk to your child about them - asking questions works best.

  • Counting and sorting. How many stop signs can you count? How many other signs can you count? What’s the total number of signs?
  • Shapes in traffic signs. What do you already know about the shape of a stop sign? Is it 2-dimensional or 3-dimensional? How many sides does it have? How many corners does it have? What other shapes can make this shape? Semi-circle? Rectangle? Square? Triangle?
  • “What if?” What if we placed a speed limit sign on top of a stop sign, would the sign be bigger? Smaller? How many of these signs could fit into that sign?


Measurement, Data Management and Probability




Before you start your walk, note the time and track how long it takes to get to your destination.


  • Measurement using time or steps. How could we measure this distance? By steps? By time? How many hours did it take? Minutes? Seconds?
  • Estimating. Take a different route. Can your child estimate how long it will take? Will it take more time or less time? More steps or fewer steps? Be sure your child explains why his or her estimate is larger or smaller.
  • “What if?” What if we counted the number of signs you saw on the first route and compared the number of signs with a different route? Can you estimate the number of signs the second route has? Be sure your child explains why the estimate is larger or smaller.


Patterns, Probability and Algebra


Sidewalk FINAL_631x224.jpg


Look down at the sidewalk. What do you notice?


  • Patterns. What patterns do you notice in the concrete slabs? What shape are they? Are they the same size? Different?
  • Estimating. How many sidewalk slabs are there in front of your house? If there are 10 concrete slabs in front of your house, and the houses on your street are the same size with the same number of sidewalk concrete slabs, can your child calculate the number of concrete slabs there are on your street? What about on another street?
  • “What if?” What if we estimated the number of concrete slabs in your neighbourhood? How would you calculate the number? By the number of concrete slabs per house? By the number of concrete slabs per street? Be sure to ask your child to explain his or her answer.


What Your Child Will Learn:


  • Different ways to think about and do math.
  • Curriculum - these activities touch on the five strands of the Ontario elementary math curriculum: number sense and numeration, measurement, geometry and spatial sense, patterning and algebra, and data management and probability.
  • Math skills like problem solving, reasoning and proving, selecting tools and computational strategies, reflecting, connecting, representing and communicating.
  • That math is everywhere, and fun!





If you are looking for some good books to read together as a family, our friends at the Canadian Children's Book Centre have these suggestions:









Ages 2-5


"Hoogie in the Middle"

by Stephanie McLellan


"Never Let You Go"

by Patricia Storms


"Nana's Summer Surprise"

by Heather Hartt-Sussman



Ages 6-8



Ages 9-11




Reading to your early learner (ages 2-5) is one of the most important things you can do. Research shows a correlation between early literacy activities and school success.


We have compiled a list of book recommendations from a panel of teachers, authors, book sellers, academics and librarians for your preschooler, under the themes: rhyme, picture books, fairy tales and anti-bullying.







Rhyme Time:

Early rhyming leads to better reading skills in children because it helps them become aware of the sounds that make up words.


"Each Peach Pear Plum"

by Janet Ahlberg, Allan Ahlberg


"Moo, Baa, La La La"

by Sandra Boyton


"Chicka Chicka Boom Boom"

by John Archambault, Bill Martin Jr.


"Don't Call Me Sidney"

by Jane Sutton


"A Slim Queen in a Palanquin"

by Atukwei Okai



Picture Books:

Picture books are the first step towards reading - they give kids the chance to talk about what they are seeing and hearing.


"Picture A Tree"

by Barbara Reid


"Nana's Cold Days"

by Adwoa Badoe


"The Pirate and the Penguin"

by Patricia Storms


Chicken, Pig, Cow series

by Ruth Ohi


"Willow’s Whispers"

by Lana Button



Fairy Tales:

Fairy tales have been passed down in families since storytelling began, span all cultures, and are the most-read book genre at bedtime. These fractured fairy tales have a little modern sass or cultural hook.



Anti-Bullying Books:

Kids who learn empathy at an early age are less likely to bully and one of the best ways to teach empathy is through books.



by Kathryn Otoshi


"You're Mean, Lily Jean!"

by Frieda Wishinsky


"Oliver Button is a Sissy"

by Tomie dePaola