Vaccines

Vaccinations are one of the most important defenses against dangerous diseases. They protect our bodies by giving our immune systems a glimpse at the diseases that are really out there. And this little sneak peek makes all the difference!

My son loves to play “fight-to-the-death” imaginary games. He will take his little foam sword and hide behind a curtain, under a desk, or behind a couch and pop out when I’m least expecting it – or so he thinks! I know what my son looks like and his favourite hiding spots. It’s not that hard to find him and anticipate those little jabs. Now, imagine that my son was disguised as furniture, and I was searching for him but couldn’t distinguish him from the other furniture. It would be so much harder to find him because he looks like everything else! Kapow! That little foam sword is sharper when you didn’t see it coming! This is what our immune systems deal with every day.

Vaccinations come into the mix. Vaccinations are literally made up of pieces of viruses so our immune systems can learn to recognize the virus without getting sick. Yes, our bodies are tricked into thinking it’s the real deal, so we get immune response symptoms like fevers, but not the symptoms associated with the disease – like vomiting! Vaccinations peel back the disguises so our immune systems are that much more prepared because they are given the power of recognition. We fight off diseases much more effectively, experience less symptoms, and don’t carry diseases to other people.

Once our immune systems are given this glimpse of the potential disease, it carries the memory forward, enabling us to build up a resistance to the actual disease, which could be very dangerous otherwise (click here).

Herd Immunity

There are some folks out there that can’t get vaccinated. I know one of them! She is a nurse (no joke!) and she is unable to be vaccinated because she has a certain allergy to the metal in the needle. Now, thanks to the vast majority of the population that is vaccinated, the chances that she will run in to someone carrying a very dangerous disease is slim (but not impossible!). She is lucky, thus far, and also has the power of being the right age and having a healthy body. If she does contract something, she is likely able to fight it off with a few days in hospital. Others, like babies or the elderly, are susceptible to more detrimental effects, so it is that much more important that everyone who can, get vaccinated to protect others (click here)!

Where to Get Vaccinations

Now that you know the benefits of vaccinations, you’re probably wondering where to go! The Immunization Program in Alberta is free to those with Alberta Health Care cards. To find the location nearest to you, call Health Link at 811. Likewise, your doctor will give you the location information of the one that applies to you and your children. When you have a new baby, it’s likely that there will be a location designated to you based on where you live.

Routine Immunization Schedule

When I had my first child, I ensured he was immunized right on schedule, practically to the day that was recommended. With my second, being a busier Mom, we ended up doubling up on appointments after missing some scheduled days. We were very fortunate that we did not cross paths with a virus during this time of catch-up. This is because the vaccination schedule has been adapted from years of research by hundreds of doctors and virologists. The range of dates given to have a child vaccinated is based on the child’s likeliness to contract a virus as well as their ability to combat the vaccine (the immune systems response). If you’d like to read more on the prescribed vaccination routines for children, there is a very long book called The Childhood Immunization Schedule and Safety. Not shockingly, a very long synopsis is also available, and can be found here.

Immunizing on schedule ensures your child gets the maximum possible protection from vaccine-preventable diseases and gives your child the best immunity possible.

The schedule outlined below has been in effect in Alberta since January 1, 2019 (click here).

2 months (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (whooping cough), Hepatitis B, Polio, and Haemophilus influenzae type b, Pneumococcal conjugate, and Rotavirus)

4 months (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (whooping cough), Hepatitis B, Polio, and Haemophilus influenzae type b, Pneumococcal conjugate, Meningococcal conjugate, Rotavirus)

6 months (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (whooping cough), Hepatitis B, Polio, and Haemophilus influenzae type b, Pneumococcal conjugate, Rotavirus)

6 months and older (annual Influenza 2)

12 months (Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Varicella (Chickenpox), Meningococcal conjugate, Pneumococcal conjugate)

18 months (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (whooping cough), Hepatitis B, Polio, and Haemophilus influenzae type b)

4 years  (Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis (whooping cough), Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Varicella (Chickenpox))

Grade 6                (Hepatitis B, Human papillomavirus)

Grade 9                (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (whooping cough), Meningococcal conjugate)

When listed out like that, it certainly does seem like a lot! However, usually only one needle is given at each appointment – lucky for those wee babes and the heartbroken parents!

Immunization Records and Statistics

If you are reading this and can’t recall your child’s last vaccine – don’t fret! Immunization records are kept by Alberta Health Services (AHS) at the health zone level. However, this has only been recently done and records for us older generations are unlikely to be found. If it has been more than 7 to 10 years since your last immunization, AHS may not have a copy of the record. But the records will be available for your child or children! If you have questions about your immunization records, contact Health Link at 811.

A Moment to Consider

“And when I knew that that’s what they had, and I knew that there was a fairly recent vaccine for rotavirus, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh. Maybe we didn’t have to just suffer through this.’” – Kirsten O’Meara, Mother of three

Hope you and your family benefit from this info! Please share your comments below!

Back with Summertime Tips

It’s Wednesday, May 29, 2019, at precisely 6:00 pm. It also happens to be 32 degrees Celsius outside. It appears that summer is, at long last, officially upon us!

While this is exciting, it begs the question: how am I going to occupy my children with fun, safe, affordable outdoor activities?

The first activities that come to mind for me are KARA summertime programs. These are free, drop-in programs running from the start of July to the end of August. They are largely spent outdoors and follow weekly themes and adventurous outings around the city. Until these programs start up though, you can usually find my family at Drop-In Fun, Creative Play & More, and Playtime Drop-In. These programs are also a blast – the ladies and gentlemen running the drop-in programs put in a lot of effort to make family time fun and educational! Connie’s cooking is also worthy of the long trek it takes to get there!

For those who are as familiar with KARA’s wonderful resources as I am, here’s a bit more about our great city:

Edmonton is home to 70 completely free to access spray/water play parks! These are typically my go-to and they are easy to find close to any home. They always provide a way for my family to cool off on hot days as well! Some of these sites are still under construction, but to find one near you and see their availability and hours, visit the City of Edmonton’s website here.

Another fun water activity (my kids LOVE the water) is Edmonton’s several outdoor pools. Edmonton has announced that, for the third year in a row, all of its outdoor swimming pools will be open to the public with no cost of admission! If you happen to live near KARA, the Borden Natural Swimming Pool is where you will want to be this summer! It is the first of its kind in Canada – a man-made natural pool surrounded by sand and disinfected without chemicals! This pool is set to open June 22 – just in time for the really hot weather! For more information on the Borden Natural Swimming Pool, including hours of operation, special facility guidelines, and how it is cleaned, click here. Interested in other free pools? Click here.

Did you know that Edmonton has the second largest metropolitan park in all of North America? It’s second only to the famous Central Park in New York City. Conveniently, a river runs straight through ours, and the Riverboat Queen is accepting passengers 6 and under for free this summer! Enjoy the cost-effective boat ride or a free bike-ride in the park!

Want more hot tips??? Edmonton is known as “The Festival City,” for good reason. While attending the theme parks can be quite expensive, Edmonton also plays host to many festivals and parades accompanying these events – which can be free to watch! Most notably, and hosting their 35th anniversary starting on July 5th, the Edmonton Street Performer’s Festival is certainly one of the most beloved festivals in Edmonton! Featuring approximately 1,500 performers and having a long tradition of accommodating free shows for infants/toddlers, how could it not be? Note that tips to the performers are encouraged, but in no way expected. More information can be found here.

Don’t forget Edmonton’s parades! Many of these parades stretch for long distances throughout the city – the most notable being the K-Days parade! Set to happen on July 19th, your family will surely enjoy the musical theme this year as they set the stage by partnering with Alberta Music! Your children are sure to love all the charismatic performers and talented musicians. Mark this one in your calendar – click here.

Raising late-night owls rather than sun-loving salamanders? Check this one out! Perhaps a lesser known program because it just started, but still a super value – Edmonton offers the “Kids Bowl Free” program. Located at the Bonnie Doon Bowling Lanes and Gateway Entertainment Centres, find all of the info here. Please note that sign-up is required.

Or perhaps your little one is more of an “intellectual”. My family seems to be raising a grown up rather than a child – last Wednesday, he shook his soccer coach’s hand rather than giving him a high-five (I suppose that’s better than what his brother tried to do, which was head-butt him). If a sophisticated aura appears to be wafting off of your child too, have I got news for you! The beautiful Art Gallery of Alberta is offering free admission on Thursday evenings between 5 and 8 pm! Children are always free at this majestic museum but on Thursdays, consider yourself a child too! You’ll certainly feel like one after you get in for free and start discovering the secrets of King Tutankhamun or exploring your fascination with dinosaurs. It’s sure to be a treat so check them out here!

Anything else spark your or your children’s fancy? Leave a note for other families to check out! Hope to see you at KARA and cheers to a wonderful summer!

Pets and Families

When I was little (littler), I had many pets and adored them all. I grew up on a farm, one of the luckiest kids in the world I thought, and cherished each of my companions. I had herding dogs named Emma and Kirby, a brawny mousing cat named Socks, a cow named Mable, pigs named Beans and Bacon, and about a hundred chickens, all named Sue. Despite constant wonderful interactions with all of the animals, my most meaningful companionship was with a kitten I rescued from a nearby highway culvert. I named her Ginger to match her (and my) hair.

My early memories of rescuing animals and caring for them, I believe, has given me the compassion and patience I exhibit now as an adult. It led to my course choices during my post-secondary education and to the organizations I choose to volunteer with. It probably also helped me in the choice to become a parent.

“Nothing less than alchemy is involved when animals and children get together, and the resulting magic has healing properties that work well.” – Elizabeth Anderson, The Powerful Bond Between People and Pets

Are Pets Beneficial?

After pondering my upbringing, I wondered if pets have been proven to show benefits to a family. Turns out having a pet in the home may have remarkable positive effects on people. Studies have shown that by having a pet you: are less likely to have depression, are more likely to have lower blood pressure and cholesterol, are more likely to be calm and relaxed as a result of good hormones, and are more likely to live longer. I believe these attributes would help create more positive family relationships.

If you’re excited about the idea of the benefits of a companion but would rather a creepy-crawlie over a snuggly one, it’s no problem! The science even shows that the pet doesn’t have to be a cat or dog. Even watching a fish swim has shown the positive benefits indicated above.

There are a few other benefits that are more lifestyle benefits than health (although they are intertwined). Pets can help you get exercise (by demanding it themselves). They can help you meet new people (by running up to strangers and licking their faces). They can even help regulate sleep by forcing you to build a daily routine (what’s Saturday?).

Health benefits for kids; they have them too! Unlike some family members or friends, pets are never critical or bossy, so they are a great source of support for rough days. They can also provide a sense of security and ease separation anxiety. Pets can help teach a child responsibility and how to build relationships. It’s also been shown that pets can help children with attention deficit disorder, autism, or with overly aggressive attitudes, but that is dependent on proper pet and child training.

 

To learn more about the benefits of pets, click here.

Should We Get a Pet?

While everything sounds wonderful and easy, it can certainly be challenging to raise a pet while raising a family. Pets don’t “grow up” like children do. They do learn but not in the same astonishing and exponential way kids do. A pet will never be able to clean up after itself or get its own food. In this way, pets can be thought of as perpetual toddlers that will need care for their entire lives, which could be a while.

If considering a pet, it is recommended you scrutinize your lifestyle and living situation before taking the plunge. It’s best to assess your living situation. Do you have the room and finances to support a pet, particularly a large or energetic one? Assess your family; are you unanimously decided on adopting a furry or scaly companion and are your children ready to make room in their lives and hearts? Does anyone in your family have allergies to pets? Assess your lifestyle and unconditional devotion for the lifespan of your pet; are you willing and do you have the time to give a pet the attention it needs? Do you have a vet close by? Dogs in particular need daily exercise provided by humans. Cats need daily litterbox cleanings. All animals need food, baths, regular vet checkups, and love.

If you’d like to discuss or read more on how to determine your family’s pet-readiness, contact the Edmonton Humane Society or another local SPCA. They can provide plenty of information to prepare and help you. Also visit this site with advice from Canadian pediatricians (here).

We’re Ready, Let’s Do It!

When a pet first comes home, it can be stressful on both the animal and your children – and YOU! The change in the environment leaves everyone feeling distinctly out of place. In order to minimize risk, it’s usually best to keep children and new pets separated until the new pet has settled into its new environment. It’s important to give your new family member time to adjust by allowing them to explore undisturbed and in a quiet environment.

After your companion has had a chance to explore, you’re ready to introduce them to their new friends – your children. Children tend to make erratic movements, and this startles many animals. For this reason, it’s commonly recommended to introduce children to new pets whilst outdoors or in large, open rooms. Just remember to keep dogs on a leash!

It’s important to encourage any curiosity on behalf of either party but take care to notice the signs that anyone may be feeling uncomfortable. Common signs for dogs include a stiff posture, stiff tail, and raised hair on his or her back. The most common sign of alertness for cats is typically a stiff and bristling tail. Animals make themselves look larger when uncomfortable or afraid. This is an evolutionary tactic to scare off unwanted visitors. If your pet is trying to make itself look larger, it’s a sign he or she is uncomfortable.

Once the introductions are complete, it’s important to teach children that animals aren’t the same as their stuffed toys. Children should know to respect the boundaries of their animals – they’re your children’s responsibility too! It’s very important not to leave children and pets alone together until both are comfortable and your children are of a responsible age. The Edmonton Humane Society has Pet Sitter Courses for kids to help them learn the best ways to interact and care for pets (click here).

Last note: another important point that many adults don’t realize is that dogs and cats alike have extremely sensitive whiskers. While they may look cute to a baby or toddler (or you!), disturbing them can be extremely uncomfortable for your new friend.

Already a Pet Family and Bringing Home a Child?

Pet introductions to new babies or adopted children can also be challenging. A pet can see the new baby as competition, just as they would another pet. They are animals after all.

It’s very important to keep careful watch over your child at all times and never to leave him or her alone with your pet. Your pet can get jealous, which can quickly escalate into a disaster.

To help your pet adjust, there are some steps to complete before you bring home your new addition (3 weeks beforehand is recommended):

If you have a dog, ensure they are trained to follow basic commands such as sit, stay, no, and are willing to complete a solid recall. If this is not your dog’s forte, obedience training classes may be well worth the price.

Make gradual changes to your pet’s routine before the new arrival. Change where they will be sleeping or when they will be playing/walking beforehand so they don’t associate the changes with the new child. This also includes decreasing the amount of attention they get to the amount they will have when the new child arrives. It’s not nice to think about, but you won’t have much time for your pet with a newborn, so prepare them! Don’t make the mistake of lavishing them with last minute attention just to take it away when the new child arrives.

If you have a nervous or grumpy-type animal, it’s advisable to play recordings of a baby crying. Just jump on Youtube and play new baby crying sounds – it could help you and your partner to adjust too!

Help your pet acclimatize to new baby things and odours (the good ones) by letting them explore new furniture, check out new clothes and toys, and smell baby lotions.

If you have a dog, teach them where his “bed” is. This will help a dog with any type of personality, from excitable and jumpy to older and uncomfortable. This “bed” or “place” is a safe place for your dog or cat, acting as a buffer for commotion and a place for them to reset. I’m sure we all remember being “grounded” or having “time-outs” as children and having to stare endlessly at the ceiling above our beds. This is the same type of zone for your dog. Praise them when they are let out of their bed. If training, praise them when they get into their bed too to encourage the behavior.

Now for the arrival of your child! When you bring the baby or child home:

Greet your pet alone, if possible, to avoid them jumping on the baby or child.

Allow your pet to adjust to the sight, sound, and smell of the child before making a closer introduction. What this looks like is allowing your pet to take his time to come and go freely into the room you and the child are in without calling him over.

After a few days, allow the pet to get close enough to smell the baby. If you have an adopted child, this length of time is more dependent on the comfort of the child. Most pets adapt easily but some pets require more precautions, such as a leash or muzzle. Never approach the animal with the child, always allow the pet to approach you. This will keep the pet calm and you in the stable seat, able to jump into action if needed.

Give your pet attention when the baby or child is around to prevent them from thinking they are in competition. Also, never scold the dog from touching things that belong to the baby, like toys or food. If you have an adopted child, this also has the additional benefit of teaching the child to share with the pet.

When the new baby starts becoming more mobile, this will be the time for the dog or cat to learn his bed is his refuge. Teach your baby or your adopted child that when the pet is in his bed, he’s tired and does not want to play. This will help your pet relax and prevent potential bites or scratches.

Never leave a pet alone with a baby or small child! Even the most trusted animals that you’ve had for years can be a danger. They are animals!

To learn more, click here.

A Pawsitive Ending

If you find yourself adopting a pet, please be mindful of the feasibility of your family to care for them and consider the wellbeing of your children. Remember that pets do not make good gifts, as they are not toys. They are animals that need the same care and devotion as another child. Also remember that not all families are suited to having pets. If anyone in your family has allergies to pets, it won’t be feasible or fair to either party.

Pets can make wonderful additions for the right families though and can have positive effects! So after careful consideration, take the plunge and enjoy the benefits of a furry or scaly creature! My family and I have a wonderful pet, a dog named Wylie Coyote. She’s been in my children’s entire lives and mine for eight years. She is well loved in this household and properly looked after. We could never imagine such a full, well-rounded family without her – I wish the same applies to you and your family!

We Are Experts

Now that you’ve entered into the parenting realm, it’s a guarantee that you’ve mastered a skill that you never imagined would occupy your time. You’re likely so good at it that it’s a shame to keep it off of your resume. I too came to this realization as I wielded a Q-tip through the slots of a computer modem, removing the remaining remnants of the smoothie that was poured over it. The art of cleaning up after toddlers, now that’s a fine skill to be proud of!

I asked my husband, “Now that you are a parent, you are an expert at (what)?”

My husband claims to be an expert in all things poop. His nose can pick up a whiff of waste from a different household floor. He even claims that each baby facial expression during the act indicates what type of poop he will find in the diaper. A hard one, a soft one, a green one – it’s a practiced art. With having been peed on in the first 24 hours of being a Dad, this parenting scouts badge should not have come as a surprise to me.

My family had some interesting answers too!

My Mom indicated she is “an expert at taking care of my grown children’s pets after they move into a dorm or a boyfriend’s place.” I could hear her grumbling as my sister choked on a nervous laugh! I do remember my Mom also being very practiced at having a split personality (which I have thankfully adopted and hope to perfect soon). She could be furious with one of us one moment, a venomous tone that could freeze and petrify, and then next minute, cool as a cucumber, answer the phone with a calm, collected voice, “Hi Susan, so glad you called!”

My Dad was always skilled at fixing broken toys and electronics. He must have been an expert with patience as well while he removed a grilled cheese sandwich from the VCR. Now that his kids are grown and gone, he claims to be an expert at relaxing but the jury may still be out on that one!

My sister-in-law is an expert in all things baby food! She was always a great chef but now the meals are of a frozen green bean variety. What accompanies this skill is my brother’s ability to Tetris his way through the freezer to get to his meaty portions.

The hilariousness of the answers I came across were so great that I pursued more!

Friends of mine indicated their amusing expertise avenues:

“I’m an expert at finding the bathroom in shopping malls, immediately”

“I’m an expert at sewing a stuffed animal’s ear back on over and over and over”

“I’m an expert at eating cold supper”

“I’m an expert at sharing slobbery sippy cups”

“I’m an expert at memorizing children’s books and spouting them off by heart”

“I’m an expert at contradicting myself.”

“I’m an expert at getting full from imaginary food”

“I’m an expert at wondering why my kids are always talking”

“I’m an expert at turning away from my kids when they are in trouble because I’m silently laughing”

“I’m an expert at having my own temper tantrums”

“I’m an expert at admitting I was clueless before I had kids – a TV is not a babysitter, KD is not food, kids should never backtalk”

“I’m an expert at holding down my child with an arm and leg to give them medicine”

“I’m an expert at ignoring siren imitations while driving”

“I’m an expert at finding terrible hiding places during hide-and-go-seek”

“I’m an expert at deluding myself into thinking I’ll clean the house tomorrow”

I asked my husband, “what am I an expert in?”

He responded, “ you’re an expert in everything other than negotiations. When the kids ask for a cookie and you say you can only have half of a cookie, they are winning, Marn.”

I also pondered what my kids will say when they are older. This evening they likened me to a “Sharptooth,” the Tyrannosaurus Rex from the Land Before Time collection, while running away cackling. Perhaps I’m an expert at non-threatening dinosaur imitations – a truly lost art!

 

If you’re a practised raspberry-belly-blower or invisible-tea-party-host, please share your gifts with us! Who knows, you may be the best favourite-toy-locator in the world and you never knew it!

Bullying

I take my boys to an indoor playground once in a while. A few weeks ago, we were playing in the ball pit when one of my boys, Polar Bear, made a break for it (he’s a bit of a runner). I chase after him and on my way back through the mesh that separates us from my other son, Grizzly Bear, I see another boy push Grizzly Bear down to the ground.

Not only was I upset, but Grizzly Bear was devastated. It was our first negative encounter with another child. I probably reacted a little strongly by lecturing the other child before letting him leave, making him give an apology, but I learned very quickly that my child needed support and love before being able to interact with that child again.

 

Bullying or Dispute

Now, I’ve seen my two youngsters go at it over a toy, and at times, I’ve made an impeccable referee. But there is a difference between a dispute or fight between kids and an act which can be a form of bullying.

You may be thinking that children so young, within the preschool age category, could not possibly be bullies. They are just kids being kids, correct? Sadly, this isn’t the case, and all parents should be aware that kids three years and up have the cognitive ability to feel empathy, meaning they are able to understand another’s point of view, and meaning that they should know better. Please never dismiss an act of bullying as “kids being kids.” Ignoring it will certainly have an effect on the victim, as they are extremely vulnerable to confidence and self-esteem issues, as well as the bully, who will likely develop issues regarding any kind of friendship or relationship in later years. Intervention is required during the smallest of incidents, not only to prevent immediate escalation, but to teach lessons and prevent life-long issues.

So how to recognize bullying? Not all confrontation is a form of bullying. Kids are impulsive and have disputes over objects all of the time. They have wrestling matches and friendship squabbles. My two kids are the best of friends one day and the worst of enemies the next. These forms of disputes make kids stronger, help them learn the ins and outs of relationships, and teach them compromise and forgiveness. However, bullying does the exact opposite. Bullying lowers self-esteem and confidence through systematic acts of aggression such as negative physical or verbal behaviour.

To determine if an action was a form of bullying or not, the best way is to scrutinize the intent of the action. Tug-of-war over a toy is purely for the possession of the toy. Stealing the toy and threatening further harm after possession of the toy implies the child intends harm. If two children are squabbling and both are upset, that is likely conflict. If one child inflicts harm and smiles while doing it, that’s bullying, a very serious kind in fact.

Sneaky or secretive behaviour also implies bullying. This signals that the child knows he is doing something wrong and does not wish to be caught. Recruiting other children to aid in the negative act, such as shunning, is also a sign of bullying.

It’s also hard to recognize bullying if the victim strikes back. If after being taunted, the child retaliates, it is hard to identify if the confrontation was a squabble between the two or a reaction from the victim.

To learn more, click here.

 

Discussing Bullying with Your Child

The ball pit incident was a very minor event in comparison to systematic bullying, but knowing that children are very vulnerable at all ages, I felt setting up a structured course of events expected to occur even after a small event would help him in later situations. Therefore, I showed and completed actions that would follow greater bullying experiences (click here).

The important thing to do after your child experiences any bullying is to listen to him. I witnessed what happened but it was still crucial that Grizzly Bear should talk about what happened and know that I cared about his account of the story. He was given the opportunity to tell me everything that was on his mind, and feel and know that it was okay to show his emotions. I helped him recount the story by trying to summarize the event (as he is still quite young and doesn’t have the vocabulary to identify everything that occurred), praised him for not retaliating, and let him know that I would do everything I could to help and support him.

After he had successfully told me everything he felt he needed to share, and letting him know he did the right things, I proceeded to give him a few other pointers on what he could do the next time it occurred. I told him to stand tall and tell the bully to go away in a loud voice. Just acting brave and drawing attention to the situation is sometimes all it takes to discourage a bully. I even had him practice on me a few times. I also told him to tell an adult right away. It’s the best way to get support and stay safe. Other ideas I will share with him as he grows are to ignore bullies as some bullies only act a certain way to get attention, and to stick with friends to avoid being isolated with a bully.

Grizzly Bear did encounter the same boy again during our playdate together. I did notice his stance seemed stronger and he did stand taller, eyes narrowed in, and the other boy did keep his distance. I admit to being mother vulture hovering over the situation (while Polar Bear made another attempt at freedom), but was endlessly proud of my son, and told him so later in the car.

 

Discussing Bullying with Your Preschool/Dayhome

After discussing bullying with your child, it’s important to bring the situation to the attention of the other adults involved. If that involves an organization, set up a meeting with the teacher or dayhome staff. Calmly present your concerns and be specific about your knowledge of the facts. If the others are unaware of the situation, it’s not necessarily a sign of a bad caregiver, just a good bully. Ask for the caregivers views, the plan going forward, and the organization’s teachings on emotions and treating others. By being assertive, not accusatory, you will likely see the ultimate result, a safe place for your child. Additionally, keep in touch with the caregiver. While picking up your child, ask how everything went that day. This will keep tabs on the situation and let your child know he has your full support.

The child that pushed Grizzly Bear was unaccompanied by an adult in the ball pit. I did watch him for some time move about the jungle gym. He knew I was watching him and deliberately avoided his parents so that I would not know who they were. It was about 25 minutes before he finally made contact with them and I did go over to tell them what I had seen. Fortunately, his mother was a very kind woman, very embarrassed about the situation, and did correct it by having a talk with her son. I could tell my son was watching me and felt better emotionally. He also seemed to understand the consequences of being a bully were negative, which I felt was a fringe benefit of the event.

 

Recognizing the Signs

After reading this blog and you’re not quite sure if this applies to you or your child, here are some things to think about while reminiscing about past conversations you’ve shared. Preschool children can’t quite articulate what they are going through (and older kids just don’t want to for that matter). A few scenarios that may indicate your child is facing bullying outside of the home are: previously liking preschool or dayhome but now he no longer wants to attend, even making excuses not to go; no longer wanting to play with a child he used to; says that a child is bothering him or bugging him; suddenly becomes fearful, clingy, quiet, or depressed; makes negative comments about himself; or, cannot explain bruises or marks on his skin.

Similarly, here are a few scenarios that may indicate your child is being a bully: your child likes feeling powerful and in control of situations, often telling adults what to do; he is quick to resort to anger or aggression; he does not apologize and feels he has not done anything wrong; he shows little empathy for others; or, he has shown aggression towards adults.

If you feel like your child may be a bully, don’t fret. There are methods to improving a child’s behaviour and helping him move away from negative actions. Firstly, talk to him about playtime and continually remind him what it is like to feel someone else’s feelings. Empathy may be a great way to discourage bullying. Discuss consequences such as other children not wanting to play with him and how teachers will view him. Always make your child correct wrong actions. If he stole something, make him give it back and apologize. If he pushed someone, make him give them a hand up and apologize. Always praise his positive actions and encourage new and existing relationships.

 

Moving Forward

I’m sure Grizzly Bear knows his personal vulture won’t be around forever, but I feel he is confident with his new tools to discourage bullies and his support network at home. If your child indicates not liking another child or not liking a certain place, don’t dismiss it, follow up on it. It could be their little kid way of identifying a bullying situation. Give them the tools and support they need to prevent and diffuse negative situations. Then follow up with the other adults involved.

If you need further help to prevent bullying, Alberta has helplines and online chats with trained counsellors. Find them here.

Likewise, call on your social support network. If you are surrounded by love and support, so is your child.

 

 

Parenting Failures

Two days before I was due, still looking like I swallowed a beach ball, my midwife gave me a piece of advice. She started off a friendly chat themed around my readiness to be a parent.

“How are you feeling emotionally,”

“When will you stop working,”

“Do you have everything you need for the baby,”

That sort of thing.

What she was leading up to was how I was going to handle the giant life curveball that is parenthood and what my expectations were. I was so excited and ready to be a mom, and was so certain I had everything under control, that I didn’t take much away from the conversation other than, “Babies don’t know when you haven’t showered.”

 

What Baby Books Don’t Let On

What my midwife was getting at were some of the realities that the mom-to-be books don’t cover. Plenty of parenting books I read were how to do all of the parenting things – and how to do them perfectly. They didn’t embellish on how I was supposed to find time, money, or energy to do them.

I’ll be honest, one baby wasn’t as much of a time vacuum in the hygiene department as my midwife let on, but adding his little brother forced me to come up with alternatives to some things I had taken for granted. Furthermore, it wasn’t until I was pregnant with a third that I actually researched how children changed my life (I certainly felt the change, but didn’t read material on it).

 

What to Expect After Expecting

Here are a few topics that I took notice of after the whirlwind that are the few months (and few years) after having a child: lack of sleep (so much so that my doctor thought I was anemic!); declining personal hygiene (it caught up with me and I eventually had to start wash-training my hair); irrational outbursts (probably due to the lack of sleep and not helped by the crazy Game of Thrones hair); trouble articulating (a no‑brainer with a pun intended!), a loud and messy household (especially if you have older children that are really into helping you “cook”); a car to be embarrassed about (old baby snacks have actually melted to my clothes without me noticing more than once); never-ending laundry (hooray for potty training?); gourmet chef to frozen dinner surprise (sometimes still partly frozen); parents turning from parents into grandparents overnight (green veggies are history at my parents’ house and my kids get presents every other week); and my social life started resembling Cast Away (without Tom Hanks so it was a real bummer).

With all of this going on, only Captain Marvel would be able to replicate the perfect parenting strategies I’ve read so many times in parenting books.

FYI – If you don’t know who Captain Marvel is, I was in the same boat until I had to exchange my son’s birthday gift after he told me it was for girls! I must have missed Parenting Failure 101 class the day they lectured on female superheroes!

 

Parenting Failures Can Benefit Kids

At the end of the day (even if it’s an extremely long and exhausting day), parenting failures like forgetting to buy something your child needed or dropping them off late to a play date, will not affect your children. In fact, according to some parenting experts, some flaws can actually benefit children.

A fixed-mindset empowered by constant praise doesn’t foster room for growth (click here). While it seems logical to protect a child from failure, because it is an unpleasant experience, by doing this, you may be hindering a child’s ability to cope and learn from consequences (click here).

When you have a small outburst or make a terrible meal, you’re sending the message that you aren’t perfect, but that you are still trying and resilient. Seeing this, a child knows that mistakes aren’t the end of the world and, by watching you, will know what the correct steps are after making a mistake.

 

Bouncing Back from Parenting Failures

I once stumbled across a parenting failure on social media. It was titled Toddler Discovers Flour Power.

You probably don’t need to see the photos to envision how dearly that parent paid for their hilarious mistake. Bouncing back from minor, relatable parenting failures is easy though, and it can help your child learn how to cope and be resilient. Here’s how:

  1. Acknowledge the Mistake – even if you are just saying “oops” to yourself in your own head, be sure to admit and accept it was a mistake.
  2. Think Positive – don’t beat yourself up, pick yourself up! Remember, you’re only human (not Captain Marvel that looks remarkably like Captain America – ugh). Everyone makes mistakes and, encouragingly, you can use your mistake to benefit your child.
  3. A Teachable Moment – use the mistake to teach your child. Tell them what the mistake was and how you’re going to sharpen your parenting skills to avoid it in the future. If your child is too young to talk to, say it anyway; it will likely make you feel better.
  4. Apologize – especially if it was an outburst. There have been a few moments in my house where the noise volume got out of hand or mommy didn’t want to share her phone and the result was an apology. Letting the kids know I lost my cool and didn’t mean to have an outburst really helped my kids learn the importance of apologies.
  5. Get Support – seek and find the support you need if you need someone to talk to. Social media and the stranger behind you in the grocery store can be quite cruel to your emotional well-being. Talk to a good friend or relative. Also, KARA’s newest program, Kids Have Stress Too!, can be the place to find a good confidant and learn a thing or two about how to help kids manage mistakes and stress!
  6. Create a Plan – learn from your mistakes and develop a plan to become the parent you want to be! Prep for outings the night before, use child locks on the flour container, put the camera down and catch your child, research superhero attire before purchasing it, and above all, maintain a sense of humour!

 

In Conclusion

“Everyone knows how to raise children, except the people who have them.” – P.J. O’Rourke

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that being the perfect parent is impossible and isn’t beneficial. It’s being the perfect role model that is attainable and valuable. We’re going to mess up, everyone does, and if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be doing our children any favours. Learning to grow from failures is an important life skill, and learning to take responsibility and rise up afterwards, well they learn that from us!

Easter Traditions

I’m a mom to two cunning and adventurous boys, aged almost four and two, and even though I’ve been in the parent role for almost four years, I feel like I’m still fairly new to the family tradition-starting game. I don’t even want to get into my response to my toddler pointing out that Santa did indeed look a lot like Grandpa; I will forever remember not having a clever response to his shocking observation. Therefore, for Easter, I wanted to be on my game, so I asked around my mom-circle of friends for some crafty new-age and old-family Easter traditions. Here were a few egg-tastic ideas I came across!

 

Growing Your Own Egg Grass

Many families, including mine, put together big baskets of goodies and toys for their children. It’s a real treat to follow the trail of Easter eggs to the treasure basket at the end, right? Well for this tradition, instead of using that plastic grass or green paper shreddings for the bottom, it’s a neat idea to grow the grass yourself ahead of time – with your kids! My family purchased wheatgrass from the farmer’s market and are currently taking turns watering it until the big day. I explained to my boys that the Easter Bunny needs to have a place to leave his gifts to us, so we need to grow some grass for him to hide our presents. They really like helping me take care of it; it gives them some responsibility and excites them quite a bit. It’s also cheaper than the plastic grass and will go nicely in our smoothies afterwards. Plus, it won’t end up all over my floor or in the landfill.

 

Planting Magic Beans

This was the cutest tradition I’d ever heard of and I can’t wait to do it with my family! The evening before the Easter Bunny arrives, my family and I will be planting jellybeans in our garden. Yes, that is correct! We will be digging holes in the soil, putting candy jellybeans inside, burying and watering them. The next morning (with a little help from Mom), the jellybeans will have sprouted into large, muti-coloured lollipops (or peeps on sticks, I haven’t decided yet)! This will be the sweetest tradition because any lollipop-shaped treats are my children’s favourite candy and I know I will be catching amazing memories on camera!

 

Visiting a Farm

One of my mom friends told me she takes her kids to a farm once or twice around the Easter holidays. This really makes me think of spring because you’re bound to see bounding lambs, chirping chicks, and porky piglets. I think this is a great idea for a spring outing and is sure to teach young ones about outdoor farm activities. If you’re interested in making this a tradition, I recommend Prairie Gardens just north of Edmonton. They are opening a little later this year than normal (May 1st) but they always have great farm activities, including a petting zoo, and festivals (click here)!

 

Easter Scavenger Hunts – In the Dark

Lots of families do the chocolate and toy scavenger hunts, even personalized ones or ones with riddles and clues! I love the idea of all of them as my parents also did these for us while growing up, but have you ever heard of an Easter egg scavenger hunt at night!? When my tots are a little older, I will certainly be bringing the fun with this game! What you do is get the plastic Easter egg containers, the chocolate eggs or toys, and glow-in-the-dark bracelets – crack the bracelets, add them and the chocolate to the Easter egg containers, turn off all the lights and hide them. I’m certain no child will forget this cool and spooky Easter tradition (beware of terri-fried little chickens)!

 

Rainbow Brunch

Again, many people probably recall the lovely family brunch they grew accustomed to on Easter morning, cracking open and enjoying numerous coloured eggs (after handfuls of chocolate I’m sure). But a few Mom friends of mine have brought the Easter egg coloured breakfast one step further – rainbow pancakes! Just separate your favourite pancake batter into different bowls and add food colouring. Watch the happy faces enjoy their rainbow stack of pancakes with their favorite juice (which you can also add colour to)!

 

Egg Carton Picnic

This one is also really cute – instead of using plates for our Easter picnic at the park, we will be eating out of egg cartons! And I have so many cartons saved up already, it won’t be hard at all. Cut up some cheese, broccoli, carrots celery, nuts, raisins (all of the Easter Bunny’s favourites of course) and add them to their own egg compartment for a portable lunch outdoors! Of course, one of the egg compartments will have chocolate eggs; I’m not a total Momster.

 

Remnants of the Easter Bunny

Lastly, try this one out if you enjoy a goofy way to end the holiday (it’s a total Dad joke but hilarious; I’m a comedi-hen myself). Take those jellybeans you planted in the garden (since no one wants to eat them now) and put them in the toilet bowl. Add a sign from the Easter Bunny to the inside of the toilet lid that reads, “Easter Bunny was here – Sorry I forgot to flush!”

If your kids are old enough to read, they’ll either love it or be disgusted – if this joke is a bad egg, don’t blame me, I only laid the table!

 

Add Your Easter Story

If you have Easter traditions you’d like to share, please feel free to leave a comment or story! I know we’re all funny-side-up yolkers here!

Risky Play

Have you ever found yourself enjoying a nice cup of tea and watching the morning news in peace when suddenly a pint-sized person jumps from the arm of the couch into your unsuspecting face?

Children love risky play, especially my children. They are constantly looking for ways to increase the thrill of the game, even if it means sacrificing safety. The purpose (other than to give me a heart attack) is to increase the fun and explore the rules of their environment.

 

A Learning Technique

Risky play is a learning technique – what I mean by this is that when children are engaging in risky play, they are conducting a science experiment (without knowing it). They are using reasoning and chance, as scary as it is, to determine what they are comfortable with, and what their bodies and environment will allow.

 

Benefits of Risk

Risk management skills, along with self-confidence, resilience, and reducing the chance of injury, are all learnings a child gains from engaging in risky play.

I know what you are about to ask; how can risky play reduce the chance of injury? The science tells us that those children who engage is risky play have a much greater understanding of what is likely to cause injury. A child that has continually experimented with tree climbing knows the best routes to take, which trees are safe to climb, and how to go back the way they came.

If you had never climbed a tree as a small child and then are asked to climb one as an adult, your body, being longer and stronger, would allow you to climb to the top without difficulty. But now you’re in a pickle because you’re at the top of a tree and don’t know how to get down. A child can only climb as high as his or her body and environment allows, not to the top. They take small steps as they mature, pushing themselves just as much as is allowable.

 

A Young Life Without Risk

Risky play certainly seems dangerous and it can result in injury, so why hasn’t natural selection weeded it out?

Experiments have been done on rats to deprive them of risky play and the outcome was less than appealing. The researchers did not deprive them of other types of socializing, just risky play, and they found that the rats grew up emotionally crippled. When faced with the unknown, instead of showing curiosity and adaptability like their risky play counterparts, the emotionally crippled rats would seize up in fear or lash out with aggression (click here). Not a rat-ical way to grow up.

On the flipside, the science has shown that risky play has quite the evolutionary advantage. I’m sure everyone can recall their puppy or kitten play wrestling with them or another animal. Perhaps to wolf cubs, this is practice for later squabbles over meals. Monkeys will leap for branches that are just within reach, pushing themselves further and further each time. This experience will certainly come in handy when leaping away from challengers. Certainly one of the most perilous types of risky play can be seen in mountain goats (kids) that frolic on incredibly steep, rocky slopes. Undoubtedly this will make them hard prey to catch. All animals engage in risky play and it benefits them tremendously.

Freedom + Fear = Thrill (Danger)

So now that we are all aware that risky play is a benefitting activity to engage in, should we just let our youngsters have at it – absolutely not. There are still real dangers in hazardous play (which often accompanies risky play), so parents have to be vigilant in identifying and removing the hazards.

Risk – The possibility of something happening

Hazard – A potential source of danger

Hazards are often beyond a child’s ability to recognize. Risks are uncertainties that a child often recognizes and challenges (click here).

Back to our lovely tree example, the child sees a challenge and is uncertain about what will happen if they climb to a certain branch. What the child does not recognize is that the branch they’ve chosen to climb to has rotted out – a hazard the parent needs to control. Removing the hazard can be done by removing the branch, or, even better, teaching the child how to recognize rotted branches. By controlling the hazards, the child is still able to engage in risky play without an increase in the chance of injury.

Risk now equals hazards divided by parental safeguards.

 

Risky Play in Your Community

I love the tree examples I’ve shared with you but when I look around the current area where I’ve chosen to raise my family, not many trees pop out to say “climb me.”

Living in a city rather than countryside can seem a little challenging when it comes to engaging in risky play, but it’s important to note that risky play hotspots can be found anywhere! Your local park, your backyard, your living room – anywhere! When it was too cold and slippery outside for hazardless risky play, my family and I set up an obstacle course throughout the house. My preschooler would run and jump from chair to chair and my toddler would bound into piles of pillows. When we play in the backyard, my kids love to use the short beam surrounding my yard to perfect their gymnastic skills. The chance of a small drop to the grassy lawn below certainly livens up the game! And local parks encourage plenty of risky play activities with its monkey bars, twisty slides, and swings. All you have to do to be a vigilant parent in these scenarios is to remove debris, check for the correct signage for safety standards, and be a helping hand when your child needs it!

To find out more on how Canada is improving your child’s access to independent and unstructured outdoor play, click here.

 

Last Note on Inspiring Yourself

“Security is mostly a superstition. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” — Helen Keller

 

Please feel free to leave a comment or story about the risks you and your child take together!

Sports for Kids

Coming out of the winter coma are the bright and fresh faces that perk up in the new light of spring! If your kids are like mine, just coming to terms that Mom was right, that the world really does have seasons, you would also laugh at their astonished faces as you push them into the year’s first muddy puddle!

And now that my spring babies are another year older, what does it mean for new activities this year? Of course I had this planned since they started walking – sports!

Every parent loves watching their child grow and master new skills. For preschoolers playing sports, these skills can include better coordination, increased stamina, healthier lungs and hearts, stress reduction and improved sportsmanship. For the family as a whole, it promotes bonding and healthy living! A home run for everyone!

What’s Holding You Back?

For our family, sports can be a huge undertaking. They can be pretty expensive as they usually require gear in addition to registration fees. They are usually held on weeknights, which can be exhausting. Plus, there are so many kinds to choose from – a hurdle on its own! But these red flags shouldn’t hold you back! After all, raising children is a lot like building a recreation centre. The first five years can be likened to laying the foundation, the most crucial part as it sets the pretense for the rest of the structure. A strong foundation with core morals and values will enable your child to grow into a beautiful building, I mean person.

And sports have the power to help build that strong foundation because they teach leadership, trust, patience, discipline, respect, and sportsmanship!

 

Just Do It

The Frontrunners of Funding

There are a few organizations out there that can help low income families pay registration fees and/or provide funding for equipment. One of these programs is called KidSport, a local non-profit whose mission is to allow any kid to benefit from sports and to remove the financial barrier that could be preventing them. To check out their website, click here.

Likewise, Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart program is very similar. The criteria to qualify are similar and they are happy to help families fill out application forms. Find them here.

Also, your local YMCA has funding options for low income families and they host a huge variety of programs! For qualification, check them out here.

Lastly, this hidden gem is not so hidden. AllSports Replay is a used sports store where you can buy and sell secondhand sports gear! This is a great way to save a buck and also give your old sports equipment a new home. Find them here.

 

Out of Left Field

As for knowing which sports your child is ready for… Were you or have you ever been like me – new to the world of sports but wanted to drive that soccer-mom minivan with an air of expertise? I’m happy to say I’ve now lived through an entire season of kids in sports and know a thing or two! Check out these sports and their corresponding benefits!

Soccer – One of the more popular sports for kids. It’s easy to learn, with young stars starting out at the tender age of two, and one of the more reasonably priced ones (I recently paid $115 per child for the spring season and no gear was required). Soccer is fast-paced, adrenaline pumping, and promotes teamwork and discipline. As children age, they will also have the benefit of learning to control and juggle the ball, improving coordination and flexibility (click here).

Badminton – Racket ball sports like badminton have additional benefits because they encompass a large variety of athletic movements, including running, lunging, swerving, and diving. Small children can easily hold and handle small badminton rackets and learn to handle the birdie with practice and patience. When older, sports like badminton encourage kids to become nimble and strategize their moves. To learn from the experts on gear and game, click here.

Swimming – A must-learn survival skill and wonderful pastime, swimming is a sport that is learned through competition with no one but the water. Once learned, swimming will never be forgotten, and strangely enough, no one is a newbie as swimming is actually learned in the womb. My babies and I did Mommy muscle toning swim classes together when they were only four months old! Classes were $75 and only required swim diapers! See here.

Lacrosse – Another sport that is knocking it out of the park is lacrosse! A great starter game for hockey enthusiastic parents that cherish their children’s front teeth, lacrosse is a strategic game that requires dexterity and quick-footedness. Starting at four years, my older son has just come out of his first season of lacrosse and has learned quite a bit about teamwork. The season wasn’t too expensive ($120 for three months) but the gear was quite pricey. Still, if you dream of cheering on your little star, check out the specs on proper hockey helmets as I believe this is the most important part of this sport (here).

Bicycling – This is one sport I love to do with my kids and it is terrific for cardiovascular exercise! It promotes balance, coordination, and love for the outdoors! You can pick up fairly inexpensive balance bikes or training wheel bikes at Sportchek ($60) or buy secondhand, or likewise, baby ride-along seats that fit on your bicycle ($100)! For the experts in bicycle and helmet reviews for kids, check out two wheeling tots here!

 

Child Too Young for Sports?

Is your child too young to pass a ball but you’re itching to get back into the active world of sports? Were you previously an active person and find it hard to get back into the swing of things after being dubbed the parent title? I recall a time when I could go running or swimming any time I wanted – Now I have to get creative!

The jogging stroller – try picking up one of these! They can run fairly prices but if you have Kijiji at your fingertips, you can usually score a good deal as many parents love them and they usually last through more than one child. Likewise, Once Upon a Child usually has discounted secondhand ones that you can testdrive in the store. Jogging strollers are very useful and maneuverable. They double as a mode of transportation and as running equipment (especially if you find one with snow runners). Plus, running is a free sport!

If running isn’t your thing and you crave the atmosphere of the gym or class, check out the City of Edmonton’s Kids Dens located in these rec centres: Clareview, The Meadows, Commonwealth, Terwillegar, and Kinsmen. They have childminding staff that will watch your little one while you work on your bod for one to two hours. If you’re interested, click here.

 

The Ball is in Your Court

Now that you have the knowledge, it’s time to get active! Remember, building a strong foundation with your child now will help them out in years to come! They need a strong foundation to rely on for their entire lives – let sports help you impart knowledge and values to your kids now – you won’t regret the effort!

Car Seat Safety

Last year, I was driving along a moderately quiet street when I noticed police on either side of the road. I slowed down as I approached, knowing that this was a check stop for something or other. I saw them peer into my vehicle windows as I drove closer to them. They must have seen the cutie pie toddler strapped into his car seat behind me because next thing I know, I’m being ushered along into a very full parking lot stuffed with young families.

“Hi miss, we are doing a car seat check stop this afternoon, would you mind to open the door to the rear seat and your trunk?”

After full cooperation, much joking and gratitude for their service, I’m handed a $155 fine.

Yep, my son’s car seat, after all the hassle of pouring over online car seat reviews, reading the very detailed manual front to back, and painstaking assembly into my cramped car, was not fit for safety. What went wrong? Ah yes, foolish complacency (find out below).

 

Alberta Car Seat Laws

The driver of any vehicle in use in Alberta has the wonderful obligation to ensure any passenger under 16 years is seat-belted correctly. I myself am lucky enough not to have a 16 year old to negotiate with (can’t wait for that day), but I do have two preschoolers who depend on me and my judgement for safety. This means I have to ensure the correct car seats are being used, they are correctly installed, and my children are properly secured in them. These three tasks, if performed correctly, should reduce the risk of injury during an accident by as much as 71%.

To ensure the correct car seat is being used for your child – check the manufacturer’s manual (Toys R Us is fantastic for giving you the quick specs on each seat they carry but read the manual fully before using)

To ensure they are correctly installed – check the manual and ensure your child rides only in the backseat of any vehicle. No car seat is safety rated for use in the front seat.

To ensure your child is properly secured – check the manual and do the two finger test between the five-point harness or seat belt and your child. Do not bundle your child in thick clothing as this could make the seat belt ineffective.

For those looking at the numbers right now, it’s important to note that Alberta is currently undergoing changes to car seat safely legislation. The changes are said to properly address safety by assessing a child’s height more so than their weight as height is a better indicator of being able to properly fit into a car seat. My stringbean children would agree! Therefore, I have addressed the province’s current views, which pertain to checking the manufacturer’s car seat manual.

 

Rear-facing Car Seats

Rear-facing car seats are the safest option for any child who still fits in one. Car seat manufacturers produce seats that have seat-specific weight and height limits. The longer a child can stay rear-facing, the lower the risk of injury in an accident, so it’s best to pick one up that can stay rear-facing beyond the age of two.

As a parent, I understand the dilemmas in keeping your child rear-facing. For one, children are people, have emotions, and crave being entertained and seeing a parent’s face. My children did not do well in rear-facing seats for very long. They like toys, being handed objects, interacting with me, and sharing food. For the sake of safety, I kept my children in rear-facing seats as long as possible and got by with a few well-chosen tools, namely the Lamaze Jacques the Peacock car seat hanging toy, DMoose Car Seat Travel Tray, and Brica Baby In-sight Mirror.

Jacques the Peacock was hand-chosen by Grandpa. This toy has phenomenal reviews, is easy to install, and keeps munchkins entertained for roughly 20 minute car rides. But, if a short commute to the grocery store isn’t what you’re planning this weekend, I suggest the DMoose Travel Tray. This too was gifted to me, but by my brother who travels from very far to visit me with his young family. Well versed in travel tantrums, he couldn’t say enough positives about this item – it has easy to open compartments to store toys, crayons, bottles, and snacks. It also has good safety ratings, as it is stable but forgivable. Lastly, if you’re a paranoid parent (guilty) and need to watch your child and the road at the same time, pick up a backseat mirror. I started with a small version at first but quickly stepped up to the largest mirror I could find, which is my advice to you. Don’t be afraid to spend the money on this item as it will help your baby stay safe and give you piece of mind.

The rear-facing car seat stage was by far the hardest for me and my boys but I had safety in mind which helped us pull through.

 

Forward-facing Car Seats

If your child has reached the maximum weight and height limitations for the rear‑facing seat, they can move to a forward-facing seat. This normally happens around the age of two. If you have a multi-stage seat, check that your child has reached the minimum height and weight limits for the car seat (see the manufacturer’s manual), before switching to forward-facing. As with the rear-facing seats, the longer you can keep a child in a safer seat, the better, and for forward-facing, this is the five-point harness. The five-point harness allows for maximum immovability and must be used until a child reaches the maximum weight and height limit for the forward-facing seat (can move into a booster).

Both of my children are currently in this stage and don’t mind it one bit. Bonus, I am still able to utilize two of my tantrum diffusing items as the DMoose Travel Tray is usable in either car seat position and the Brica Mirror worked well when strapped to the back of my headrest. Now my sons can check out our puppy riding along behind them or at their own handsome reflections.

 

Booster Seats

It may be that your forward-facing seat can convert into a booster seat too, but if this isn’t the case, it’s nice to know boosters are the least expensive car seats. Children who have exceeded the maximum weight and height limits for a forward-facing seat (keep that manual handy) should use a booster seat as long as the seatbelt properly crosses their chest. If a regular seatbelt does not fit your child properly, you may need to look at purchasing a different forward-facing seat that can accommodate your child, a hard truth for some of the parents I ran into at the check stop parking lot. Choose a high back booster seat if your car does not have an adequate headrest for your child. Once your child has reached the maximum weight and height limitations of the booster seat, it may be time to move to riding co-captain, but be patient as I understand this is usually at age 10.

For tips on choosing the correct car seat, click here.

 

Other Car Seat Tidbits

For safety reasons, buy a new car seat that is being sold in Canada. I’m not so stringent on reading books to the end or checking out early on a diet, but as a parent, I do not want to cut corners when it comes to my children’s safety. Therefore, I buy new and look for the national safety mark sticker on the bottom of any car seat I purchase. For my piece of mind, I cannot rely on previous owners to tell me the entire history of a car seat so this is always an expense I save my pocket money for. And I get to choose my own colour!

From a woman who has purchased gorgeous shoes that were too small for my feet, I know regret. Choose a seat that has room to grow, or save up for that convertible seat. It will pay for itself in the end!

I know they say never to give out your email but this is one of the few times it could save you! A new car seat will come with a personal information card to send to the manufacturer. This will allow them to contact you if there is a recall for the product you purchased. If you are reading this and are cringing at the memory of recycling this card, fear not! You can always check the Transport Canada website (but the onus falls on you to keep checking)!

Stow any projectiles in your car. This goes for any car ride, not just ones with little passengers. Purses, coffee mugs, cuddly Chihuahuas, or any other object not strapped in can cause injury in an accident.

If a car seat is in an accident, whether a child was in it or not, do not use it again. Insurance should cover the cost of the seat and help you pay for a new one. Cut the seat belts of the old seat to prevent anyone else making the mistake of using it.

 

Foolish Complacency

Try your hardest not to be like me and forget the little things. After showing the friendly officers that my child was snuggly in his seat, my heart fell when I saw that the belt that was supposed to be anchoring the seat to the latch in the trunk of my car was not tethered. Switching car seats over from one vehicle to another too often and not double checking myself made for a foolish mistake that, luckily, would only cost me $155.

The police officers that patted me on the back that afternoon also told me that Edmonton offers free car seat courses that anyone is welcome to take. Not only do you get the chance to learn some things you didn’t know but attending will also waive the fine! They really were looking out for my family that day.

 

Make Every Ride a Safe Ride

If you have more questions or need clarification, it is recommended that you contact your car seat manufacturer (details will be in your car seat manual) or take Alberta’s Child Car Seat YES Test to do a self-check on using the correct seat (click here).

If you still don’t feel up to the challenge of installing your own car seat and want expert help, you can check St. John’s Ambulance, police stations, fire departments, and hospitals for a Car Seat Tech. Not every police officer, firefighter, or nurse is a Car Seat Tech so I would recommend asking in advance. For myself, I went to a police station and St. John’s Ambulance for preparatory purposes of my newborns’ rides home, but I’m almost certain this was due to the nesting stages of each pregnancy!