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Jun 9, 2020 |
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NCFL understands the struggle families face caring for and teaching their children as life at home continues this summer. Many of our staff have school-aged and preschool children and are experiencing several of the same challenges. In addition to juggling work and other obligations, it can be tough to think of what to do, particularly with young children.

Following are some ideas to help foster active learning, a time when a child interacts with people, ideas, objects, and events to construct new understanding.

Embark on a scavenger hunt. This can be done indoors or outdoors. You could build your list based on colors or shapes. Or if you’re feeling ambitious, you could build your list based on the alphabet (“something that starts with the letter A, B, C, and so on...”). If 26 letters is too long, try using the letters of your child’s name instead. 

If you’re able to get outside, build your list with things found in nature—for example, insects, flowers, tree leaves, pine cones, birds’ eggs—as well as human made objects like vehicles, lawn furniture, and street signs.

Getting outdoors has the added benefit of easing stress, but if you’re unable to go outside, there are plenty of items to seek indoors too. In addition to using colors, shapes, and letters, you could also build your list with one item from each room of your home.

Build math into mealtime. The kitchen is a fun place where math concepts like multiplication, division, and fractions come to life. Whether making a box of mac and cheese or a loaf of homemade banana bread, measurement is key to any recipe. Food products that come with pre-measured ingredients can still be measured at home using measuring cups, tablespoons, and teaspoons. 

Young children can assist in pouring measured ingredients into a mixing bowl and also help stir. Older children can measure the ingredients themselves, as well as help chop produce and stir food on the stove top, both with adult supervision.

Find a creative outlet. Survey what you have on hand to produce art. Doodling and coloring on paper, molding Play Doh, and building with blocks are all ways for children to practice fine motor skills (think hand and finger movements). These are also ways for you to temporarily shift your focus from all the worries you’re faced with today to something tactile and tangible. Mindfulness—concentrating only on what you’re doing in the moment—is a great way to relieve stress.

Make screen time active. Let’s face it, there are times when you just need to get some things done. Phones, tablets, and television are so helpful in those times. Here are some digital learning resources that foster active learning:

Khan Academy Kids uses an adaptive learning path that allows children to learn at their own pace. The user navigates along a path of interactive activities, read-aloud books, games, and videos. We almost forgot to mention, the app is 100% free! is a great way to explore whatever curious questions pop into youngsters’ minds. The site is free to explore and contains over 2,500 articles called Wonders of the Day®. Each Wonder includes informational text, fun and engaging activities, and related media, all helping to build background knowledge and vocabulary skills. The site also features Microsoft’s Immersive Reader, a new technology that expands content accessibility through a variety of reading assistance features. 

Sesame Street is not only a television show, but also a website loaded with interactive things to do, including games and art. If you sign up for a free account, you receive access to even more content.

GoNoodle uses movement and mindfulness to engage children, which is so needed when you’re stuck inside. Shake your sillies out or practice breathing and calming techniques when you access a variety of free videos on their website.

PBS Kids is also a great resource with videos and games. Plus, check out the APPS tab at the top of the page for not only a big list of PBS apps but also podcasts, albums, and e-books. You can filter by age or skill to learn!

It is challenging to balance work, responsibilities, and caring for our children. We hope you will find some of these ideas and websites helpful as we navigate this new normal.


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NCFL Partners

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Toyota Family Learning Program

Toyota, one of the nation's most successful corporations, began a partnership with NCFL in 1991. In addition to a commitment of more than $50 million, Toyota has also contributed a wealth of in-kind support — including advertising, planning and management expertise — to form one of the most progressive corporate/nonprofit partnerships in the nation.

Three major programs have been developed through the Toyota partnership based on the family literacy model of parents and children learning together. These models have influenced federal and state legislation, leveraged local dollars to support family literacy and led to successful programs being replicated across the country.

Read more about Toyota's commitment to communities

William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust

NCFL received its very first donation in 1989 from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust to promote and implement family literacy programming, first in Kentucky and North Carolina and later nationwide. The Kenan Family Literacy Model in part laid the groundwork for 30 years of subsequent family literacy and family learning programming developed by NCFL.

Kenan has continued to support NCFL’s place-based family literacy programs since our inception. Most recently, they invested in the organization’s Innovation Fund, which will launch emerging ideas and programmatic evolutions in the multigenerational learning space.

Learn more about the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust

Dollar General Literacy Foundation

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation began partnering with NCFL in 2006. A signature effort of this partnership is the National Literacy Directory, a resource that launched in 2010 and strives to reach the 35.7 million adults ages 18-64 who do not have a high school diploma by guiding them to better-paying, more stable jobs.

The National Literacy Directory contains over 10,000 educational agencies located across the United States and has a dedicated toll-free number to help support those wanting to pursue educational opportunities in their communities.

Dollar General also provides support for development of NCFL’s innovative family learning resources centered on financial literacy and Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®.

Learn more about the Dollar General Literacy Foundation

PNC Grow Up Great

PNC Grow Up Great believes deeply in the power of high-quality early childhood education and provides innovative opportunities that assist families, educators and community organizations to enhance children's learning and development.

PNC Grow Up Great has partnered with NCFL since 1994 to advance early literacy and learning resources for vulnerable families. Current efforts supported by PNC include a collaborative initiative in two at-risk Detroit communities that engages families to support vocabulary development for children under age 5.

NCFL's work is also featured on the PNC Grow Up Great Lesson Center website. The Lesson Center includes over 100 free, high-quality preschool lesson plans and research-based instructional techniques and strategies. All lesson plans contain Home/School Connections printouts, in English and Spanish, to help families extend and reinforce the learning at home.

Learn more about PNC Grow Up Great

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

NCFL was named a recipient of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s "Voices for Economic Opportunity Grand Challenge," which seeks to elevate diverse voices in order to broaden the conversation about the issues inhibiting economic mobility and generate deeper awareness along with actionable understanding. NCFL will develop and launch a podcast series that will highlight the remarkable stories of low-income, diverse families across the U.S. who have improved their communities through Family Service Learning.

Foundation Website

Goodling Institute

NCFL has partnered with the Goodling Institute for Research and Family Literacy at Penn State University since 2001, working collaboratively to further research, professional development, and policy efforts for family literacy and intergenerational learning.

The work of this partnership includes, but is not limited to, a strong research strand at NCFL's national annual convening, the Families Learning Summit; advocacy for family literacy and learning to further support for and inclusion of family-focused education in new and ongoing legislation; and dissemination of the latest research, resources, information, and professional development opportunities for literacy and learning practitioners and advocates, including the Certificate in Family Literacy provided by the Goodling Institute.

Learn more about the Goodling Institute for Research and Family Literacy at Penn State University