The last days of summer have slipped away, so it’s time for you to work with your family to get school-year routines back in place. Consider introducing something new this autumn. School Lunches: Made by Kids!
D (no. of days of school per year ~180) x K (no. of kids) = A (as in A LOT!)
There are so many reasons to get your kids packing their own lunches. Who better to gauge how hungry they are and what snacks are likely to be eaten? What better lessons in autonomy and, if you make lunches the night before, the benefits of planning ahead? But the best reason – if I am being honest – was well put on PopSugar: “After all, of the thankless and often unproductive exercises parents submit to over the school year, making lunch, well takes the cake.”
Hear, hear to that! Now, you must recognise that it may make the process longer to begin with but the return is well worth the investment. And I do recommend doing it the night before as mornings are already busy: there is no reason to add to the stress.
If you have made the mental leap (I know, I know… twist your arm!), start at the beginning and let your kid choose the lunch box or sandwich bags or whatever! Let them choose how they will be carrying their lunch every day for the next year.
And set them up for success: plan ahead for balanced meals. Take your kids shopping; create their own accessible space in the kitchen; take advantage of some breaks from lunch-making such as a “lunch at school”; and make it fun!
Find time towards the end of each week to talk about what they liked and did not like about their lunches over the week and then make a plan for their lunches for the coming week. You know what they say – planning is 80% of the job!
When planning, help them consider building a well-balanced lunch. Yes, it would be nice if we lived in a world in which potato chips, sugar drinks and chocolate bars equalled good health but alas… You will likely have your own views on what constitutes well-balanced but the basics should include: protein, whole grains, dairy and fruit and veg. Don’t forget to reinforce any restrictions your school has: nuts, peanuts or other!
Armed with your plan for a week of well-balanced lunches, it is time to head to the grocery store. Not only should you involve your kids in the full “lifecycle” of lunch-making but the grocery store is also a great place to get new ideas. And when you get home, let your kids unpack their lunch supplies to a place that is their designated lunch space such as a kid-level shelf in the pantry. This will keep things focused when the packing begins.
And as with everyone thing in life, create some breaks from the routine and have some fun! It is the only way to keep things going over a long period like a school year. If your kids school offers lunch, choose a day when he or she buys versus brings. I still remember Taco Thursdays fondly! And consider introducing some fun such as “Whacky Wednesday” where the rules are loosened on what can go into that lunch box.
Congratulations! You get your first gold star of the school year! One thing off your Mommy (or Daddy!) list of things to do and a great life lesson for your kids.
In the short term you can enjoy the empty lunch boxes coming home at the end of each day. [Although not scientifically proven – it has been suggested that lunches packed by kids are more likely to be eaten.] And over the long term, you can feel satisfied that your independent and well-adjusted kids are free to pursue their big dreams and make time for fun, rather than struggling with the basic maintenance of life. And just think – all because you got them to make their own lunches. ☺
If you or someone you know is looking for a Nanny, check out qualified candidates in your area at http://www.sossitter.ca. SOSsitter.ca is a Canadian portal designed to help you find local caregivers in your area, easily and quickly. The caregiver who is right for your family is only a click away.
The great outdoors. You love it and you want your kids to love it as well. And why not! According to research referenced in a Washington Post article, “spending time in nature has tremendous benefits, including improved concentration, better motor coordination, improved overall cognitive functioning and a greater ability to engage in creative play”. Who does not want that for their kids?!
So how do you get your little ones interested in the outdoors? Simple really – give them experiences that make them want to do it again and again! And you don’t have to go to one of our great National Parks – although they are wonderful – or on an expensive holiday to do it. You can spark that love of the outdoors right in your own garden! Here are five things to do in the garden to get the little ones interested in the outdoors:
Backyard Camping: The fastest and cheapest way to introduce your kids to the fun and wonder of the outdoors is to organise a backyard camp out. Whether you go all out with a tent or simply tie a hammock between two trees or throw some sleeping bags on the ground, a backyard campout is easy and fun for all. And once the sun goes down and you’re snuggled into your sleeping bags, the nights sky will provide you with an adventure that can last a lifetime: stargazing. You will have the best luck when the moon is fuller and when it is darker in your immediate surroundings.
Butterfly Garden: Did you know that there is such a thing as butterfly gardening? It simply means creating an environment that will attract butterflies. Pretty cool right. There are lots of resources online that can help you design and build your own. Or you can always order a kit from Amazon! And then watch the transformation of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly!
Fairy Houses: Remember the magic of Tinker Bell from Peter Pan’s world of Neverland? Why not bring a little bit of that magic to your back garden and into the life of your little one. They say that building a fairy house will attract fairies to your garden. Whether that is true or not, designing and building one will certainly introduce a sense of wonder.
Bean Pole Teepees: These creations help you kill two birds with one stone – building support for your pole beans and creating a fabulous hiding spot for kids to play in all summer long. However, building a bean pole teepee is not for the weak hearted; it does require some skill. So be sure to plan it out in advance. Remember that kids have a fairly short attention span so you don’t want to lose them while you are losing the battle with the teepee!
Bug Hunting: Goggles, magnifying glasses, bug hut, bug book…. All the things you need to go on your first bug hunt! As with most things, you can either build your kit yourself with things you have around the house or buy a bug hunting kit already made. Regardless of which way you go, you will likely want a book about bugs to help guide you and your kids on your hunt. Alternatively, you can find the bugs and then try to find them online using google! Just remember to teach your kids to treat all living things with respect!
These are just five ideas to get your started. There are likely 500 ways to get your kids interested in the outdoors and what a gift that is! So get out to the back garden! Create adventures for you and your kids! And spark a love of the outdoors that will bring them happiness for the rest of their lives.
If you or someone you know is looking for a Nanny, check out qualified candidates in your area at www.sossitter.ca. SOSsitter.ca is a Canadian portal designed to help you find local caregivers in your area, easily and quickly. The caregiver who is right for your family is only a click away.
In the blink of an eye summer will be over and the kiddos will be back in school. Make the most of these last few
precious moments by unplugging, unwinding, and really connecting with your little ones. Now you are probably thinking, “Sure I’ll fit that right in between laundry, dishes, chores, soccer practice…” The trick is not to make bonding time one more thing on the to-do list, but to fit it in naturally throughout your day.
The Sock Match Game
You’re a busy parent, you love your family, but the chores still need to be done. How about playing the helping game? The next time you’re folding laundry, turn the socks into a matching game. Lay out all of the socks, and while you fold and hang the laundry let your little one match socks. It’ll be fun watching your little one work on those matching skills and the laundry will still get done. With the older kids, you can make putting away the laundry a race, or see who can hang/fold the most clothes in 60 seconds.
Kitchen Dance Party
Does your child beg to help in the kitchen? Instead of turning them away, let the time you spend in the kitchen become family time. Depending on age, kids can wash produce, chop veggies with a kid safe knife, stir, mix, count and crack eggs, measure, or set the table. You can use this time to talk about your day, teach basic kitchen skills, or just turn on music and dance together while whipping up snacks or meals. As an added bonus, kids are much more likely to eat their veggies when they helped wash and prepare them.
A Family Workout
Exercise is important for keeping you physically and mentally healthy, and many busy moms and dads make fitness time non-negotiable in their day. Instead of jogging around the block solo, get your kiddo in on the act. Exercise is good for them too, and you may (or may not) be surprised to find that it’s you trying to keep up with them. You can push little ones in a stroller or carry them in a kid pack on your back, and get an even better calorie burn in your workout. There is no wrong way to bond, and bonding while getting healthier is full of benefits for the entire gang.
Deborah Shure is the owner and founder of , the premier nanny payroll service in Canada. With over 25 years of combined financial experience, Deborah and her team are the most trusted source of nanny payroll information. When she isn’t busy providing “nanny tax frustration relief”, Deborah is spending time with her 3 kids doing all the things that supermoms do!
Do you remember some of the movies you watched when you were a kid?
I remember watching Stripes at the first boy / girl birthday party I went to when I was nine. NINE! Stripes was rated R and included topless women, drug references, profanity (four F-bombs) and some violence.
Stripes, although the 5th most popular movie in the US and Canada in 1981, was not appropriate for a group of nine-year-old boys and girls in my opinion. It was exciting to be able to see it (I guess my wild streak started at an early age), I can remember being uncomfortable and pretty surprised we were watching it. I had seen nothing like it before!
What were those parents thinking, right? Although truth be told, my friends and I watched Purple Rain at my all girls 13th birthday slumber party. I don’t really remember the movie but I can imagine that Prince did not shy away from mature content. And my parents were conscientious and fell into the “strict” category!
Most parents are interested in ensuring the movies, TV and other content their kids see are age appropriate. Why? Well, essentially because as your kids develop, they need to have experiences that they can understand and process before they are ready to move on to more advanced experiences. Jumping ahead is thought to negatively impact a child’s development. Also – and without seeking to fuel the debate – some studies say excessive exposure to violence and risky behaviours can desensitize children, leading to poor life decisions. Whether that’s true or not, every parent has to decide what they consider to be appropriate for their kids.
But what is a parent to do when they’re just not sure?
First, you should be knowledgeable about the movie rating systems. In Canada, movie ratings are done at a provincial level by seven ratings boards. The Ontario Film Review Board, for example, uses the following ratings:
The other provinces are fairly similar although most included an additional rating: Adult – Content is sexually explicit, or graphically and excessively violent. Nova Scotia jumps from 18A to XXX and includes a designation “E” for material it has not reviewed, whilst Quebec includes a rating for movies appropriate for those over 16 and stops its ratings at 18A.
In the United States, the Motion Picture Association of America provides the ratings which are fairly similar to Canada: G, PG, PG13, R, NC-17. Television shows have ratings too, with TV-14, for example, indicating that a show is not appropriate for children under 14. Keep in mind, however, that there are different attitudes around the world. There is more leniency for sexual content in some European countries for example.
Ultimately, deciding what your kids can handle is for you as a parent to decide. If you want to go beyond the rating systems, which is generally a good idea, there are websites that lay out the facts for you to make a decision. IMDB, for example, has a parent’s guide. But the bottom line is that you will need to decide what is right for your kid.
If you are looking for a Nanny or Babysitter and DO NOT want a repeat of the movie Adventures in Babysitting, you have come to the right place! SOSitter.ca is a Canadian portal designed to help you find local caregivers in your area, easily and quickly. The caregiver who is right for your family is only a click away.
The ants going marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah!
The ants going marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah!
The ants go marching one by one, the little one stops to suck his thumb.
And they all going marching down…
Whenever I hear that song I am immediately transported to the backseat of my parent’s car and one of our driving holidays. Gosh, I have a lot of good memories of those trips—and strangely, the time in the car is clearer in my mind than some of our destinations:
Falling asleep on my sister’s shoulder (and her pushing me off!); writing in the new notebook that we got for each trip as a travel journal; homemade sandwiches wrapped in wax paper and a little note inside with the initials of the family member it was intended for; the joke that someone was busy sightseeing (i.e. eyes closed, mouth open, fast asleep); and always the same thing said in unison as we drove into our driveway on our return—it was nice to go but it is nice to come home!
To ensure you and your kids have equally great memories of holidays on the road, we have come up with the four Ps: Planning, Packing, Pacing and Playing.
What do they say? Planning should be 80% to the 20% of doing. And that is true here too. Plan not only the route but all that follows well in advance. When it comes to directions, you likely have GPS to guide you. However, why not get the old atlas out and plan the trip with the kids? Then they can take it in the car and follow your progress.
If you are going on a long trip, you might consider driving through the night (only if you have enough drivers to make it safe) or plan deliberately to take advantage of nap times. Pack some small pillows and blankets, to make the kids more comfortable.
In addition to the main luggage in the trunk or back of the car, pack a backpack for each kid. Include some “clothing layers” in case there are temperature changes or juice accidents on the journey. Books, games, and snacks should be included too. And why not hit the dollar store and include some fun surprises for the kids to find along the way? You likely want to keep some in your own bag as an easy way to diffuse any backseat tensions.
Try to balance your desire to get to your destination with interest in the journey. Get your kids to pick out some places they would like to visit along the way. If you see something—like a great public park or place to take a swim—pull over. You will want to provide ways for the kids to release some of their energy.
If you plan to stop and spend the night at a motel along the way, pack small overnight bags with the essentials so you do not have to do a full unpack and repack.
And no car trip is complete without the games and fun. The classics (license plate game anyone?) are good but there are lots more options out there. Look online for new versions of games to play together. And for some good songs to sing together. You will quickly remember that there are a lot of those ants marching one by one and will welcome some variety. You don’t always have to play together—DVD players and portable games are great for making the time pass quickly; just be careful that “screens” are not the only things your kids see whilst in the car.
Happy travels! And remember – it is nice to go but it is nice to come home!
Whether you need help whilst you are away (pet sitter anyone?!) or when you get home (summer babysitters maybe?), you have reached your destination. SOSitter.ca is a Canadian portal designed to help you find local caregivers in your area, easily and quickly. The caregiver who is right for your family is only a click away.
Congratulations! Another school year is behind you and your family. For a couple of blissful months your kids can leave early morning alarms, school projects, quizzes and tests behind. So why not mark the occasion! Here are five wacky ways to celebrate the start of summer vacation:
ONE: Host a “Year in Review”
Get each of your kids to share some of the highlights from their year – things they learned in school, awards won, sports played or progress made in learning an instrument.
Let each child decide how they want to showcase their year. It could be a play that covers some of the history they learned, they could pull out their science experiment and do an at-home demonstration, they can write a short story about something that happened in the year, or set up a stand showcasing all their achievements.
This a lovely way to share experiences as a family, celebrate the progress kids have made and draw the school year to a close.
TWO: Invent your own holiday
Isn’t it strange that there are not that many official holidays over the summer months? It would seem like the perfect time. But no bother: invent your own this year! Give it a name (such as Summer Start! or First Day of Summer!) and make it an annual tradition. Invite friends and family over to celebrate with a barbeque in the backyard. You could top it off with a watermelon seed spitting contest!
THREE: Throw a Festival of Colours!
Okay, we borrowed this one from India. More specifically, the Indian celebration of Spring and the victory of good over evil, called Holi. Each March in India, people take to the streets and throw brightly coloured powder at each other and have a ball doing it!
Why not celebrate the start of summer fun with your own “Holi”. Look online for fun and easy ways to make your own powder, get everyone dressed up in old white clothes and then let the fun begin! We would recommend keeping the celebration to the backyard where a hose down can easily clean this festive mess up.
FOUR: Build a fire pit in your backyard
I have no formal evidence to back this up, but it seems the world has gone fire pit crazy recently. And why not?! It is magical to sit outside, in the backyard, around a blazing fire.
There are many options if you are looking to buy a ready-made fire pit. But why not make your own as a family project. Look online for sites to help you – whether you are looking to have something simple to contain the fire or something fancy to elicit “oohs and ahhs” from your friends and family.
Remember to use good sense and take precautions when mixing kids and fire and check your local municipal laws before lighting one up
FIVE: Make a summer bucket list flag
There is no better way to start the summer than to plan out what everyone wants to do, experience and achieve. This is your summer bucket list! Your kids will likely be able to come up with oodles of things they want to do; help them add a few sensible items such as not leaving any school projects or required reading to the last minute. Find a balance between fun and educational, individual and things to do as a family.
As a twist, design a bucket list flag to fly in the backyard. This makes it fun and colourful and always present. And you can make one each year and keep it as a record of each of your summers.
And if you are looking to kick off the summer with some extra help in your home, look no further. SOSitter.ca is a Canadian portal designed to help you find local caregivers in your area, easily and quickly. The caregiver who is right for your family is only a click away.
Should I stay or should I go?
If I go, there could be trouble.
And if I stay it could be double.
So come on and let me know.
Should I stay or should I go?
If you have had that famous song from The Clash on your mind since school let out and summer holidays began, leaving you plagued with “this indecision’s bugging me”, let us help. Stay! As in Staycation!
What? You have heard of The Clash but not a staycation? According to Wikipedia, “A staycation is a holiday spent in one’s home country rather than abroad, or one spent at home and involving day trips to local attractions.”
Staycations have likely been around forever but the label is more recent. In fact, it was the credit crunch in 2008 that really put gas in the staycation engine (pun intended) as most families had smaller budgets for vacations.
Staycations, although rarely free of charge, are a good way to save some money, particularly when exchange rates make travel abroad that much more expensive. They save you the stress of finding passports, packing, airports and navigating destinations in a foreign language. Staycations also afford you the opportunity to discover and appreciate the hidden treasures in your own backyard.
Convinced? Hurrah! Now… what to do?
If you are staying in your local area, using your home as a base, start researching what is available within a two hour or less drive. Zoos, museums, heritage sites and amusement parks are obvious choices. But more offbeat ideas – such as strawberry picking, outdoor concerts and festivals or helping a local charity for a day – can also be fun and rewarding. Look to your tourism office for ideas. And ask around; some of the best ideas can come from friends and colleagues.
One word of warning – there are some staycation traps to avoid. Being at home can leave you at risk of going into work, doing personal administration, tackling DIY projects or abandoning plans at the last minute because the weather is bad or everyone is tired. Be committed and make your staycation memorable!
With ten provinces and three territories in Canada, there are so many options. From the tip of Nunavut to the bottom of Ontario, from Victoria Island to St Princes Island, Canada is packed with wonders for your family to explore this staycation! Just a few ideas to get the wheels turning are:
Rent a lake house – There is no way around it, going to the lake is a guaranteed holiday success. And since Canada has more “lake area” than anywhere else on earth, it would be a shame to miss out!
Go camping – Whether you pitch a tent in your backyard or head out to one of Canada’s many campsites, the fun and adventure of sleeping under the stars and cooking on the open fire will make up for a sore back and squatting in the woods.
Visit one of Canada’s great cities – See the CN tower in Toronto, the Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal, the Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver, Heritage Park in Calgary, the Rideau canal in Ottawa, the beautiful streets of Quebec City and much, much more!
Appreciate some of Canada’s natural beauty – Niagara Falls, Dinosaur Provincial Park, Quebec’s Magdalen Islands, Vancouver Island, Gros Morne National Park, Spotted Lake in the Okanagan Desert in B.C, Lake Louise in Banff National Park and the list goes on!
Explore Canada’s rich history – Prince Edward Island’s Charlottetown, Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Lower Fort Garry in Manitoba, Batoche in Saskatchewan, Dawson City in the Yukon Territory or the Grand Pré in Nova Scotia. Again, the list goes on!
Whether you are staying or going, if you need some additional help in your home, SOSsitter can help. SOSsitter.ca is a Canadian portal designed to help you find local caregivers in your area, easily and quickly. The caregiver who is right for your family is only a click away.
Parents: Two equal parts. But are they? Doesn’t it seem that there is a lot more talk (research, articles, Google searches, you name it) about mothers than fathers?
Why should that be? It might be because children develop in their mother’s womb for 40 weeks, creating an indelible bond. In many cases babies get all their nutrients for the first months of their lives from their mother’s breast milk. And there is that old “maternal instinct” and the popular view of mothers as the primary caregivers. Many women say becoming a mother changes them fundamentally.
But what about dads? Fathers may not carry babies as they develop from a small number of cells into a human being but “a research study from UNC School of Medicine reveals that although we inherit equal amounts of genetic mutations from our parents — the mutations that make us who we are and not some other person — we actually “use” more of the DNA that we inherit from our dads.” It is our Dad’s genes who determine if we will be a boy or girl after all!
Wow! Our fathers have a huge impact on us even before we are born! But what about the impact of having children on men? Whilst fathers of newborns and young children might feel overly tired and exposed to every germ going, research says fathers are healthier and live longer than men that are not fathers. There is even research that says having children impacts male hormone levels and brains, although not as dramatically as mothers. Most fathers would agree it materially impacts the way they spend their time and money. And even though it is not easy to make these types of “sacrifices”, most would say the rewards of being a father more than compensate.
Current ideas of what being a father means are rather recent. The roles of father – including the amount of time fathers spend with their children – has changed a lot over the ages. Interestingly, Wikipedia’s page on fathers talks specifically about the impacts of the wars in the last century and government intervention on the role of fathers in Canada.
However, families – including the roles of fathers – are so diverse and society is increasingly accepting of whatever model is chosen and works. This is progress. But it also makes it impossible to describe what makes dads so great. Dads, like mom’s, provide security, support and discipline. They are serious sometimes, yet silly other times. They let us figure things out for ourselves in some cases, and guide us to the best answer in others. They love us unconditionally.
Hurrah for fathers! Whilst we should and do appreciate our dads every day, thank goodness there is a special day – Father’s Day – designated for us to take a moment to very deliberately celebrate our Dad’s! There are lots of ways to celebrate Father’s Day. One that we particularly liked is to celebrate Father’s Day with a book.
Well make that two books! One book that Dad has been dying to read. And one book that Dad can read to the kids. Reading to kids has so many benefits for their development but it is also a really special way to bond.
This Father’s Day, take the time to communicate all the ways that the dad in your life makes a difference, and say thank you!
No one can replace Dad, or Mom for that matter. But sometimes, families need a little support – whether it is with housekeeping or caring for a senior loved one, a loved one with special needs or the kids. SOSitter.ca is a Canadian portal designed to help you find local caregivers in your area, easily and quickly. The caregiver who is right for your family is only a click away.
Now that the good weather is here to stay, your kids and their nanny will probably be spending a lot more time outdoors.
So make sure they’re properly equipped with some basic things:
But do you know the other social media sites and applications kids are using? Heard of Whisper, Yik Yak, Burn Note, ooVoo and Kik Messenger? That’s right! There are more and more outlets every day that enable us (and particularly teens) to communicate in new ways. passes 50 in number by the time it gets to F, as in Facebook.
[A cheat sheet is included at the bottom for anyone scratching their heads right now!]
Technology and social media in particular opens up new ways for you to stay connected to your home – i.e. your kids and babysitter or nanny – that did not exist previously. That is wonderful!
And the first thing you should do is find out what social media your babysitter or nanny uses. Don’t be shy! Life is busy and social media moves fast. Find out what they are using and then how it is used. Then decide what you are comfortable using for communicating with each other or more widely.
Next, that includes your kids. You want to consider whether you are comfortable with your kids’ image, name, location or situation (i.e. home without parents) being online. If you are comfortable with some combination of the above, ensure that you are notified of posts.
Agree . Do you want those super cute moments captured and texted to you? Do you want a live stream of how activities are going (homework done, veggies eaten, teeth brushed, good night routine)? Set rules for taking images and photos of your kids away on their devices.
One word of warning – be sensible: if your babysitter or nanny is texting you every 5 minutes how is she or he paying attention to the kids? And what are you getting done? Also have clear rules on when devices should be down – like when driving or watching the kids on the playground or in the pool.
And don’t forget your children. Kids today are glued to their devices. Talk frankly with your nanny or babysitter about what apps and sites are allowed and when devices need to be put away.
Finally: Here is a quick run-down if you DID NOT know any of the social media sites we mentioned:
Twitter – 140 character microblogs called tweets
Instagram – app for positing pictures and short videos, both publically and to private networks
Tumblr – short streaming blogs (tumblogs) including text, audio, video and photos
Snapchat – app for messaging (including pictures and videos) that disappear after a set period of time; note that this is increasingly becoming a standard means of communications for kids today
WhatsApp – app to send text, audio, photos and images directly to one person or a group
Vine – app for posting short videos
Whisper – app for putting out messages (that are paired with an image) anonymously
Yik Yak – short messaging app that is accessible to the 500 closest users
Burn Note – app for messaging (text only) that deletes messages after a set period
ooVoo – app for messaging, voice and video, including a group chat function
Kik Messenger – app that lets you text for free
Facebook – if you do not know this one, well...more than 1.5 billion people on earth are using it so worth checking it out to be a little more current!
Do you need to find a babysitter or nanny before you even start thinking about this? You have come to the right place. SOSitter.ca is a Canadian portal designed to help you find local caregivers in your area, easily and quickly. The caregiver who is right for your family is only a click away.