Kindergarten Hunting

As another school year starts, I’ve come to the exciting realization that my eldest is due to start kindergarten next year! I was able to determine his age appropriateness by referring to the Edmonton Public Schools’ website and check out their Kindergarten Registration page here.

So, this week I thought I’d talk about my experiences so far in finding the right school for my children! First off, there are three (and maybe more) choices: private schools, charter schools, and public schools. Then there are the different kinds of each of those! You can register your children in immersion schools, where they learn different languages; you can look at different extracurricular activities or advanced programs; there are separate schools, where classes are all girls or all boys; and you have the choice of different religions or no religion schools. On top of that, as if it wasn’t confusing enough, you can decide on how much time they spend away from home from boarding schools to homeschooled – the choice is yours – and it’s a big one!

Here is a little breakdown of the three main kinds and those that are most easily available:

Private Schools – There are around 180 private schools in Alberta. Most private schools are not funded by the Ministry of Education and parents are required to pay for their child’s education. The reviews of private schools and education foundations are outstanding. The price per year for a child in a private school can run between $7,000 and $18,000 (during my searches). Find more information here and look up schools here.

Charter Schools – Alberta has 13 charter schools, most of which reside in Edmonton and Calgary. Charter schools sit in the middle of private and public. They are non-profit schools, meaning that they are like public schools, and are tuition-free, and they provide high-quality education. The catch with charter schools is that they are hard to enrol in. They rely mostly on a lottery system where you register and hope they pick your name. Additionally, if one of your children is chosen, it isn’t a guarantee that the other will be. To find more information, click here and look up schools here.

Public Schools – All public schools are funded by the Ministry of Education (taxes). They usually only require an administration fee, transportation fee, and school supplies. When I looked at the difference between daycare costs and these types of schools, my piggy bank did a happy dance! However, depending on where you live, class sizes of public schools can be very large and the facilities may be run-down from overuse and lack of adequate financing. Another downside is that you can’t simply “choose” your school if living in a large community. Chances are, there will be districts (based on addresses) and, depending on your district, your child may have no choices in the public school they attend. You will need proof of where you live (driver’s licence will suffice) to enrol your child. Find your designated school here.

In addition to these resources, I’ve also been relying a lot on school rankings by grades from the Fraser Institute. This is a nice way to check that the school you’ve fallen in love with consistently achieves high rankings in comparison to others. Check it out here.

Decisions about where your child goes to school are sometimes very personal and can be difficult. It’s common and normal for parents to feel anxious about getting this decision right. These decisions depend on where you live, your personal values, your child’s needs, school-specific factors, religion, and more. When you’re choosing an elementary school (like me), it’s also important to consider things like before-school and after-school care, and proximity to the day-home for any younger children still requiring care.

For some parents, the decision isn’t simple. Mine certainly wasn’t!

My husband and I have determined that the public school system will be a feasible, and still wonderful, option. As we have two children, charter schools were not for us, as we wanted them to stick together. Private schools are not feasible for us (unless I’m holding the winning lottery ticket).

But which public school? Going through our current interests and requirements helped us further determine which one was for us. Our youngest will still be attending the dayhome full-time, so proximity and commute are important factors. There’s nothing like the whirlwind that is our current morning schedule, and minimizing any further stress is very important. Both my husband and I attended immersion schools, me in French and he in Aboriginal, so that was a key interest of ours. We also have two very active youngsters that enjoy the outdoors and sports, so after-school extracurriculars were important too. We also needed to fixate on drop-off and pick-up times as we are both working. To accommodate this, you might consider sharing the load with your spouse. For example, many parents take the morning shift while the other spouse goes to work. The other spouse can then leave work early to pick up the kids and handle the afternoon shift. Many companies are becoming more flexible to accommodate two working parents and this option is very economical and stress-relieving.

So, to what we decided! We are very much looking at a French immersion daycare that is accredited as a public school kindergarten. I am uneasy splitting my youngsters up and when I found this co-preschool-kindergarten option, I was very relieved! As both kids will be in the same building, in different classes, the pick-up/drop-off will be easier, plus both will be with youngsters of their own ages and be learning the approved Alberta curriculum. The costs of daycares exceeded our reach in the past, but because this is a publicly funded school, the costs for my kinder-aged child are low. As it is a daycare, and not a public school, districts are not an issue at the moment (although this daycare is right around the corner too!). We believe that, after the months of research, our efforts have paid off with finding this gem!

We hope you and your family have success in finding the right educational fit for your family too! Whether it’s homeschool, public, charter, private or other (boarding schools sound the best during rough mornings!). Please feel free to share your inputs or other resources with the KARA online family!

Happy School Hunting!

The Overscheduled Child

Children have a lot of free-time during their young lives. This free-time is often good for them, increasing their independence and improving imagination and creativity. However, the organic and idyllic times of “just playing outside” sailed away quite a while ago. These days, free-time is often jeopardized by screen-time.

Screens Always Win

Even in school, children have cellphones and are required to do much of their schoolwork using a computer. This means they have this constant distraction, a digital temptation. Many parents wage war against screens, limiting time using parental controls; however, the screen always wins. My four year old child is in a dayhome for 8 hours a day, has a class once a week, and a pet to walk with me every evening and I still have to restrict screen time. Unless there is another activity to take children away from them, the screen-time wins the free-time!

Overscheduling Myths and Theories

In 2008, a report regarding overscheduled children was published by a non-profit group called Child Trends. At the time of publication, many theories regarding overscheduling children leaned towards the notion that overscheduling had negative effects, and children suffered as a result of too many activities. Contrary to this belief, Child Trends showed that children exposed to overscheduled activities had higher self-esteem, were able to maintain balance in their lives naturally, and had lower rates of drug and alcohol use in later years. These same children also spent more time doing schoolwork, playing informal games, and doing household chores than other children, and still watched TV! How?

They spent less time in front of computers and video games. You can view the publication here.

In 2016, a documentary titled “Screenagers” was released. It explored the challenges of parenting in the digital age and exposed the theory regarding overscheduling children. Psychologists and brain scientists revealed how internet addictions, social media, and video games increased stress and anxiety and reduced the ability to maintain a healthy life balance. Screenagers also goes into detail on how to reduce friction within the home regarding screen-time: scheduling of course! Click here.

Of course, as a parent, we are drawn to other articles regarding children that are depressed or anxious as a result of being too busy. While this has not been proven, the alternative to overscheduling is free‑time, where a child has the freedom to explore the world and create their own fun. The reality, though, is that playing outside, making up a game of your own, or daydreaming in a corner isn’t easy when a screen, of one form or another, is in every room of the home, and sometimes in your back pocket.

Who Can Schedule Their Family

Screenagers, which is based around families with teenagers, emphasizes the divide between those families with the time and income to increase their child’s amount of extracurricular activities. However, scheduling a child, even ones as young as mine, with a starter-family income, is very feasible! For instance, we purchase one class at a time through our local recreation centre (classes that usually accommodate the entire family to get our monies worth). Additionally, their Grandpa is big into soccer and practices with the boys once a week on “Blog Night.” We schedule arts and crafts time, and park time on weekends. And I even schedule household chores into my children’s lives; right before bedtime, we start cleaning the house together. This also adds to our bedtime routine and keeps me from losing my mind in a dirty home.

How Many Activities

There is no set rule for the amount of scheduling and which kinds are optimal. Researchers agree that it all depends on the child. Additionally, allowing for some downtime is necessary to accommodate relaxation and family-time. The key is to find the balance between activities and unscheduled downtime. You want to minimize boredom, which is often the cause for excessive screen-time. Watch your children or talk to them for indications of what kind of scheduling is beneficial to them to limit screen-time.

Sever the Screen Connection

Like educators, researchers, and exasperated parents everywhere, you and your family can embrace the benefits of a scheduled lifestyle to reduce screen-time and increase your family’s self-esteem! Not to mention productivity!

By scheduling sports, crafts, social interactions, outdoor activities, and household chores, you’re ensuring your child is busy with creative, mind-stimulating, and stress-reducing activities. The activities you choose are up to you and your child!

The Importance of Sleep

Have you ever wondered why all living things need sleep? You might have pondered this question while yawning, and likely after a night spent bouncing your baby or coaxing your child back to his own bed. As new parents, it’s hard to get an adequate amount of sleep at night, but we have to in order to give our bodies and brains a boost. That’s right! Not a rest, but a boost.

What Happens During Sleep

According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep is an active period in which we complete information processing, restoration, and strengthening. The exact mechanics of how our bodies and brains do this is unknown and why we are programmed for such long hours of sleep is still a mystery, but some of the vital roles of sleep have been determined through research.

During sleep, we process and store memories. Memories, shockingly, are not directly logged or recorded as our day goes on, they are stored in our tentative, short-term memory for the time being. Once asleep, our brains process the information and transfer it to long-term memory, a catalogue of important information.

Sleep also rejuvenates and restores our bodies. During our lengthy hours of sleep, we grow muscle and repair tissue. I’m sure this comes as no surprise to new parents as our first years with our child shows an excessive amount of growth paired with extraordinary amounts of sleep!

Lastly, researchers have also shown that sleep allows our bodies to create hormones and improve the immune system.  This certainly holds true if you get a cold and need the extra hours of sleep to help your body fight the fight. It also indicates why teenagers often can’t get out of bed before noon…

For more from the National Sleep Foundation – Click here

For other theories currently being researched – Click here

These activities that occur during sleep have amazing benefits for us – fixing our bodies when we are injured or sick, helping our digestive and circulatory systems function through synthesizing the correct hormones, and processing thoughts, ideas, and memories. Littler ones even sleep to grow. Arguably, sleep, although still mysterious, is more beneficial than most other daily activities. So it’s important to get enough!

How Much Sleep is Needed

What a great question! The amount of sleep that’s needed per person all depends on their age. Kids require more sleep than adults because their bodies are continually growing, making more muscle mass and synthesizing more hormones. Adults can get away with less sleep, but nonetheless, sleep is very important for everyone.

The recommended amount of sleep per age group is as follows (click here):

  1. Newborns require 14 to 17 hours a day. I bet that seems like a lot, but when you’re napping all day, it really doesn’t take long to accumulate.
  2. One year olds require approximately 10 hours a night plus 4 hours of nap during the day. The naps can be split up in the morning and afternoon but it’s important they get a total of 14 hours of sleep a day.
  3. Two year olds should get approximately 11 to 12 at night with a 1 to 2 hour nap during the day, totalling 13 hours a day.
  4. Three to five years and they require 10 to 13 hours a day. They may not take a nap, and just sleep the entire night.
  5. Six to thirteen years and you’re looking at 9 to 11 hours a night.
  6. Fourteen to seventeen and 8 to 10 hours are required.
  7. Hit your eighteenth birthday and celebrate with 7 to 9 hours a night for the rest of adulthood!

The Stages of Sleep

As you may have known, there are different stages: Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3, and the rapid eye movement (R.E.M) Stage (click here). And your brain runs the show!

Stage 1

In this stage, you’re in the lightest form of sleep. You can be woken easily but your body and brain are drowsy. Many people, such as myself, experience the sensation of falling during this stage, waking themselves up. This stage usually lasts less than 10 minutes.

Stage 2

A deeper sleep, your brain gives direction for your muscles to relax, including your heart, which will beat a little slower. You also breathe a little slower and your body temperature drops a smidge. This stage lasts between 30 and 60 minutes.

Stage 3

Now you’re in a deep sleep known as slow-wave sleep, the most restorative stage of sleep. Your brain signals again and your blood pressure drops a bit. It’s very difficult to be woken from this stage of sleep. Both sleepwalking and sleeptalking occur during this stage. Your body also won’t respond to temperature changes in this stage, meaning your spouse can now steal all the blankets and you won’t notice. This stage lasts 20 to 40 minutes.

R.E.M.

The muscles everywhere else in your body are relaxed, but the eye muscles are in action. They move back and forth very quickly beneath your eyelids. This stage is known as the dream stage, where you have very realistic dreams. Your heart may beat faster and your breathing may be irregular to accommodate those lifelike dreams, but your brain paralyses your muscles so you don’t act out what you’re dreaming. You can be woken easier in this stage than in Stages 2 or 3.

These stages of sleep allow your brain to complete the tasks that are needed. Your brain repeats these stages every one to two hours or so until you wake up. For adults, the cycle is repeated three to four times a night. For children, about four or five sleep cycles can occur in a night because they spend more time in R.E.M. sleep than adults. Now you can see why sleep is not exactly resting!

How to Get Your Sleep

Now that we know the importance of sleep, here are a few tips on how to get those much desired ZZZs. These tips are great for both parents and children!

Go to bed at the same time every night. The circadian rhythm, developed by the 24 hour clock that is the rotation of the Earth, is programmed in to all living things. The human clock (our brains) signal drowsiness during the afternoon (napping is normal, even for adults!) and in the evening. For many of us with work schedules or school, napping isn’t feasible, so setting our own programs to the same time every day is the next best thing.

Follow a bedtime routine that is relaxing. Watching TV, playing video games, or staring at a computer is false light and can trick our bodies into thinking it’s the wrong time of day. As well, playing energetic games boosts our blood pressure and hormones into gear, not helping our brain motion towards its sleep signals. Complete a calming, nightly routine, such as having a bath or reading a book to assist your brain in running the program.

Remove or limit caffeine. Coffee, soda, and even iced tea contain caffeine, which is a stimulant affecting your brain’s ability to synthesize the correct hormones for sleep and even normal function.

Speak with your doctor if stress is affecting your sleep. Stress can have negative effects on all daily functions. It can double the negative effects if you are also losing stress-reducing sleep as well.

For more sleeping tips, especially ones for children, click here.

Have a Wonderful Sleep

Although some of the mysteries of sleep still elude us, I hope you won’t lose any sleep over them! Check out the links I’ve included within the text to learn more. As we saw, sleep is deeply important, so I hope you and your family are able to sleep deeply tonight!

Back to School for Tots!

It’s that time of year again – back to school! What an exciting time for those that are returning to school or for those who will be attending for their first time! But for those kids that are still preschool aged, not getting to hop on the yellow bus with their friends, this time of year can be a little disheartening. We experienced this in our household this year. Our two boys attend a dayhome that is full of school-aged children during the summer months. This week, when school was up-and-running again, and my boys were faced with saying goodbye to their new friends, we noticed their faces looked as gloomy as the rainy weather.

To help blow their troubles away, with the added perk of educating them in all-things-school, we sat down together to do some back-to-school crafts! This really helped brighten their moods and learn a thing or two about what their friends were up to while they’re away!

Tissue Box School Bus

Every morning, my kids and I arrive at the dayhome at the same time the older kids are leaving to catch the bus. Sometimes, we even see the bus coming to get them. Longingly, my boys, especially my older four year old, watches the bus and gets excited when it stops to pick up his friends. Last weekend, we decided to make his own school bus with a tissue box, paint, and a picture of him and his brother. Here’s how:

  1. Help your child paint a tissue box to look like a school bus using yellow, black, white, and red paint. The tissue box can be full or empty.
  2. Cut out square-shaped pictures of your child(ren) and yourself. Glue them into the windows of the school bus.
  3. Let your child(ren) play with the school bus and pretend to go to school!

Apple Stamps

Apple and paint crafts are a staple in all kindergarten classrooms; I even remember doing them when I was little! They are very easy to prep, do, and enjoy. My little ones had a blast! Here’s how:

  1. Get a couple of apples and cut them in half from the top to the bottom, allowing the classic heart‑shaped apple look to be your guide. If you are lucky enough to have crab apples growing in your backyard, these are perfectly sized for little hands.
  2. Use any kind of paper to be your canvas. Help your little ones paint the heart-shaped side of the apple and make apple prints on your paper! You can also jazz these up with sparkles or (what my boys preferred) using stamp pads to mix and match colours.

Popsicle Pencil Bookmark

Help your kids develop a love of reading big books with their very own bookmark! I explained to my kids that when I read big books, I use a bookmark to help me remember the last thing I read. This may inspire them to pick up big books and use their own special bookmark to keep their place! Here’s how:

  1. Cut a piece of cardboard as thick as three popsicle sticks wide (wider or thinner also works!), making sure to leave a triangular shape at the top for the top of the pencil.
  2. Help your little ones to glue the popsicle sticks into place on the cardboard and colour them yellow with a marker, pencil crayon, or paint. We also coloured them silver and pick at the bottom to make our pencil have an eraser.
  3. Help your little one colour the top of the pencil, the triangular shape, white and then black on the tip. You’re done!
  4. Help your little one mark his or her page in their book using their new bookmark!

Monster Pencil Cases

This final craft was one that really excited my children and also helped them develop superior fine-motor skills. It was so exciting because they got to use Mommy’s crochet yarn and boog googly eyes! They, with a little help, made their own pencil cases – in monster form! Here’s how:

  1. Using one full sized piece of craft foam paper, fold it 4 ½ inches up from the bottom. Then fold the remaining top down. When folded, the top of the paper should reach approximately halfway down, giving the monster a mouth. The monster should now have the appearance of an envelope.
  2. Mark out 15 dots along the edges of the envelope, not along the folded top, but along the folded bottom and back of the envelope. Do this to both edges.
  3. With a child-safe plastic yarn needle and contrasting coloured yarn, help your child pierce the craft foam on the dots, sewing the sides of the envelope together. This should close the envelope sides and provide a pencil case structure. Tie off the yarn on each side.
  4. Lastly, let your child draw teeth and put googly eyes on his or her monster pencil case! In our house, we even used sticky-backed Velcro to allow the pencil case to open and shut. It was a hit!

Summer is Over – But Back to School is Only Beginning!

Try out these school crafts with your little ones! Enjoy being the first to introduce them to bookmarks, pencil cases, apple art, and school buses! It won’t be long before they are bringing home school projects that they’ll be teaching you!

Dinner Recipes

As a parent, cooking tasty meals that our kids will eat can be difficult. Too often, our lives get busy and we lose ambition in the kitchen. We may even end up ordering pizza or some other form of take‑out to battle the blank faces we get in the grocery store. My husband is here to help! He has a few delicious, quick, and inexpensive meal ideas that might get you into that apron again! But be warned, he’s a huge fan of garlic! So I’ve written each of his favourite go-to recipes with half the amount of garlic he normally uses!

Pan-fried Salmon

Let’s start with the salmon because it’s my favourite! I request it whenever there’s a good sale on. Salmon is an excellent choice for the healthy–minded too! It’s high in vitamins, very high in protein, and contains antioxidants. To get started, get yourself a 250g (approximately half-pound) filet of salmon for a family of four. Pink Salmon is the least expensive option on the list, but other types have distinctly different tastes. Go with your gut (literally) on this one. The best tasting is Sockeye in my opinion. Pair it with rice and asparagus (also pan-friend in butter) and my kids and I go nuts for it! If asparagus is out of season, go with broccoli with melted cheese. Mmmmmm…

Required Ingredients:

250g or ½ lb of salmon, cut into desired portions

125mL/½ cup of butter/margarine

3 cloves minced garlic (double if you’re a fan)

2 tsp basil

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Empty butter/margarine into large skillet/frying pan.
  2. Turn heat to medium on large burner.
  3. Mince garlic.
  4. Add garlic and basil to pan once butter has melted/begins soft boil.
  5. Place salmon skin-up on skillet.
  6. Wait for salmon to grow pink-white half-way though; flip – ensure butter/margarine fills space under filet.
  7. Continue cooking until salmon is fully cooked.
  8. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

That’s it!

Another note: Many people don’t like the skin on their fish, so if you have a dog, give it to them! They love it and it’s very beneficial to their coat.

Butter Chicken

Next is his butter chicken on rice. This one is actually his go-to, favourite comfort food. He typically buys the Asian Home Gourmet powdered spice, which is always at Save-On-Foods and it’s the best priced by far! Try to stay away from the larger brands like VH sauces. I made this mistake once and it didn’t contain a lick of taste. This recipe is very budget friendly, as chicken can be extremely inexpensive, and one packet of spice will make two meals for a family of four (that’s eight husband-sized servings!).

Required Ingredients:

500g/1lb chicken breast

1 package [sauce]

2 cups rice

1 cup milk/coconut milk.

½ cup butter/margarine

Garlic to taste

Directions:

  1. Set rice to cook depending on your preference – He normally finds a rice cooker produces best results. I prefer the pot.
  2. Pour milk into medium pot, set burner to medium-low.
  3. Add sauce mix – whisk immediately, and every minute or so thereafter.
  4. Empty butter/margarine into large skillet/frying pan.
  5. Turn heat to medium-high on large burner.
  6. Mince garlic.
  7. Add garlic to pan.
  8. Cut chicken into 1cm cubes – add to skillet/frying pan.
  9. When sauce reaches just slightly under desired consistency, remove from heat. Let final thickening occur as it cools.
  10. When chicken is completely cooked, mix with sauce.
  11. Pour sauce/chicken mixture over rice on plate.

Enjoy! But there are no leftovers for puppies here! The spice doesn’t mix well with them so best to enjoy all of it by yourselves.

Tasty Tortellini

And finally, my husband’s favourite pasta recipe! He typically tries to avoid using premade tomato sauces as they’re loaded with sugar. A healthy oil sauce may be similar calorie-wise, but with less of the negative effects of a high-sugar meal. Like the other recipes, this one only requires a pot and frying pan, along with a chopping board.

Required Ingredients:

1 package tortellini

Mushrooms or veggies (zucchini is great) to your preference

1/3 cup of grated parmesan cheese

1/3 cup of your favourite cooking oil

1 tbsp butter/margarine

5 cloves of garlic

1 tsp basil

Directions:

  1. Heat oil and butter in large frying pan/skillet.
  2. Boil tortellini in large pot.
  3. Mince garlic.
  4. Add garlic and basil to frying pan/skillet.
  5. Chop mushrooms veggies. Add to frying pan skillet.
  6. When tortellini is cooked, drain.
  7. Add parmesan cheese to frying pan skillet. Whisk until cheese melts into oil/butter mixture.
  8. Add tortellini to frying pan/skillet; stir to coat tortellini in sauce.

Ready to serve!

Full Bellies

I hope you give these a try. With minimal cleanup and only about 20 minutes start to finish, these meals will satisfy both your stomach and your schedule, while allowing you to avoid the fast food trap. Leave me a note if you try any of them or want to share your own recipes!

The Organized Parent

Apart from my time spent blogging, I also have two full-time jobs. I am a consultant with a firm and I’m a parent (both equally hard!). I recently went from one firm to another and in my interview, I was asked how I kept myself organized. My interview panel was significantly impressed with how I managed my time between my daily work activities and deliverables. I had wonderful answers for them in regard to keeping up with tasks, clients, and ever-changing regulatory frameworks. What shocked me most, and what I didn’t know how to answer when it was asked, was how I managed my work-life balance with respect to keeping myself organized. It wasn’t until I’d given it a few moments of thought that I realized how organized I’d made myself as a parent too!

If you’re interested in a life with less chaos or just keeping your family on schedule, check out these tips I’ve compiled! They are handy for any super-organized parents out there or those looking to manage their time a bit better too!

The Daily Activities

This list of tips includes the activities I do daily – I really notice a difference when it comes to saving time here!

Get Yourself Ready First

As a mom waking up at obscene hours of the early morning on weekdays, I always cherished my child‑free moments. I take lengthy showers and try on two or three outfits while I procrastinated waking my children. I always did this to enable myself a bit of free time to be myself! What I never realized was that this greatly expedited the process of getting out the door. The few times my children have woken up before me on a weekday always ended with tardy attendance. They would halt my progress by asking for toys or food or getting into my make-up bag (they also try on my shoes!). When I am the first to be freshened, I can devote my time to helping them, which speeds everything up! Try it out and see if it’s a speedy morning for your family!

Do One Load a Day

When it comes to household chores, I keep up by doing one load a day! Of course, I’m talking about dishes and laundry. For dishes, I wait until after breakfast and turn the dishwasher on right before leaving for work. When we arrive back at home, all the dishes are ready for dinner! I load the dishes throughout the day to keep the area tidy and turn it on the next day after breakfast.

For laundry, it really helps that my washer and dryer are on the main floor, right beside the kids’ and our bedrooms. Our kids are also too young to change themselves, so clothes never actually touch the floor (or the hamper). They go right from my hands to the washer and once a full load is in, it gets turned on. I don’t worry too much about sorting colours, I only keep my fancy clothes separate to do on the weekends. An extra tip – I also keep a garbage next to the washer too for those disposable diapers!

Clockwork Meals

I make very simple meals to keep our schedule on track. Breakfasts are raw foods like grated cheese, cut up fruit, yogurt, peanuts and mushrooms. The low prep time allows me to get a healthy meal put together in no time at all and my children learn to appreciate healthy choices. Lunches are similar with smoked salmon or deli meats, crackers, and raw vegetables. Dinners are pre-made from the weekend or are made with similar raw foods and a smoothie. This low prep time really helps my children stay healthy and have a consistent schedule. Their little tummy alarms go off at the same time everyday too, so I can also anticipate their needs!

Bathroom Cleaning

Before I was a parent, I used to pick one household cleaning chore to accomplish a day (along with sweeping up dog and kitty hair, which was truly out of hand!). My apartment was always spic-and-span! Now that I’m a parent, and have more than just a one bedroom apartment to clean, the days of having a perfect household are gone (for now). I’ve changed my tactic to always cleaning the dirtiest part of the house daily and leaving other chores until the weekend. I don’t doubt if you’ll agree; the bathroom is always the messiest place in our home. Giving it a once over every morning has really helped make me less anxious when leaving my home, knowing that it is glowing. How I manage to do it quick is by using the most available thing in my home – wet wipes! After hair and make-up, I wipe everything down in a jiffy.

An extra tip – I also learned a neat trick from my sister. Keep a pack of wet wipes in the bathroom and when surprise visitors come to call, tell them you would love a chat after your own potty break. Wipe your bathroom clean under the pretense of using the loo. They need never know your bathroom wasn’t clean! My sister has been doing this for years, keeping a supply of baby wet wipes in her lavatory, even though all of her children are teens (the messiest of all but at least they’re potty trained!).

Schedule Procrastination

Every parent needs downtime. I myself need two breaks a day. On top of my morning beautification process, I also relax for an hour in the evening, every evening. The best way is to schedule it in daily. Make it known to the entire family by being consistent with it too. After I pick my boys up from their dayhome, I usually spend an hour with them outside or exercising (5 pm to 6 pm), have dinner with them (6 pm to 6:30 pm), then put snacks and a show on (6:30 pm to 7:30 pm). During snacks and show‑time, you will find me taking up an entire couch and enjoying my favourite kid-friendly documentary. I don’t feel badly about this feet-up time either because my children have full bellies and are usually learning a great deal from Bill Nye or David Attenborough. They also wander off to play with toys or colour too, allowing them downtime too!

Weekender Tips

These activities are reserved solely for weekends so that things run smoothly during weekdays! Check them out!

All Other Chores

Weekends are the days to get any other chores done around the house. It really doesn’t take too long either since the laundry, dishes, and bathroom have all been taken care of. I do a general, low‑maintenance pickup of out-of-place items, Swiffer wet-jet the floor, and mow the lawn or shovel the walk. These activities really help me stay efficient the rest of the week. My neighbours also appreciate that I keep my outdoor activity noises on the weekend schedule.

Groceries and Meal Prep

I do any big grocery orders on the weekend. I take my kids along too, which they consider a nice family outing, saving me time and money elsewhere. We get the raw foods for the week and items to make a big meal to keep in the fridge, which is usually a hearty pasta. We make the meal together too so I usually do this before I Swiffer the floor as I’m usually mopping up garlic flakes!

Fancy Outings or Occasions

Have you ever gone into work and run into tired coworkers? My coworkers and I chat about our weekends and sometimes I learn that they’ve completed several big events all in two days! They always sound like a lot of fun, going on multiple hikes or attending several birthday parties. I limit our weekends to just one grand event, whether we’re hosting a garage sale or going to the zoo, it’s only ever one big occasion. This prevents my family becoming drained and requiring more time off than was scheduled. It helps my children stay on top of sleep and me on top of everything else!

Anytime Organization

Lastly, one thing I do to keep myself organized is email myself. I do this anytime. This really helps me remember plans, outings, birthdays, grocery store items, checked-off tasks, upcoming events – you name it! If I’ve emailed it to myself, I’ll be ready and on top of it!

Your Organization Tips

I really hope these do-it-yourself organization tips for the busy parent help you build your dream of staying on top of everything that’s going on in your life! They may have also inspired you to feel good about the tricks you use in your daily, weekly, or anytime schedules! Feel free to share your pro‑organization parenting tips with us – I can always use more tips in my personal schedule!

Apologizing to Kids

My son came up to me the other day to tell me that one of his family members had pushed him and didn’t say sorry. The family member was within earshot and came right over to say that “No, no, no, I didn’t do that,” making my son feel embarrassed for telling me. It hurt me to see that my son was conflicted with telling the truth, feeling embarrassed, and learning that apologizing was seen as a ‘bad thing’ all within one single event. It was also a tough situation for me as I was then faced with criticizing an adult, taking the word of a preschooler over them, and scolding someone that wasn’t my child. It certainly wasn’t an easy situation for anyone, but what parenting moment is?

Look at Apologies in Your House

I recall when I was a child. I was no stranger to mistakes and I certainly stole a toy or two from my siblings. The instant I made a mistake, I was chastised for an apology and was expected to deliver one on the spot. Children today are treated no different but when an adult makes a mistake, especially wronging a child, they often delay or don’t offer an apology. The reasoning could be embarrassment, believing that it was too small of a mistake for an apology or that no one would notice. The reason could also be that they believe they are too old and wise for apologies or that children aren’t smart enough to understand the mistake made. It could also be due to adults believing that apologies are a sign of weakness and that children would no longer respect them or would start to take advantage of them.

Whatever the reasoning, the opposite is the case. All mistakes warrant an apology, children really do see everything, no one is ever too old to make a mistake, children are very intelligent and empathy is build right into them, and children do not view our actions as signs of weakness, only as moments to learn from and mimic.

The Importance of Apologizing

There are numerous benefits to apologizing to a child, so many that I’ve barely succeeded at summarizing them into a blog.

First of all, children watch our every move and aspire to be just like us. They learn much more from our actions than from our words. Recall building your child’s foundation, as discussed in so many other blogs? The ones about dental hygiene, sports, or proper nutrition? Empathy and kindness are no different when it comes to building connections and memories in your child’s behavioural blueprint. Your child will mimic your actions, so when you’ve used strong language, broken promises, or even accidentally bumped them to the ground, they won’t just remember what you did but how to responded after the fact. Build the blueprint to include a genuine apology, being the role-model for them and leading by example. It’s a guarantee they will use your guiding principle when they make their own mistakes.

Genuinely apologizing to children also strengthens the bond we share with them and lets them know we are listening and care about them and their feelings. They are people too and grow from positive self-esteem knowing that you think of them as an equal. This gives them, and you, the knowledge that everyone has worth and is equally human, no matter the virtue of their age or relationship to one another. By watching you apologize, your child learns to distinguish right from wrong. You also grow in the eyes of your child, and that cements the bond of mutual respect that you share.

Apologizing to children also helps them learn to take responsibility for their actions, just as you have done by modelling a sincere apology. It teaches them the virtue of honesty and how to be accountable. When adults accept their follies and apologize, it sends a very strong message – that everyone makes mistakes and the right way to make amends is to accept it and do what it takes to make it right. Hiding a mistake or lying about it sends the worst of messages to a child. It tells them you are above others and they will mimic this behaviour and feelings when interacting with others. Instead, be honest, own the mistake, apologize genuinely, and make amends by resolving it. No one is perfect, so show your child how you rise after you’ve made a mistake. Take responsibility, and be honest and accountable.

If you hadn’t guessed it yet, there are also benefits for the parent who practices apologies. It builds our self-esteem too by accepting one’s mistakes and doing the right thing by making amends. It also presents opportunities for adults to learn and grow. If you find yourself apologizing, take a moment to learn from the experience, whether that be learning how not to make a similar mistake or how to make the most of your apology.

What Not to Teach a Child

What your child will learn if you don’t apologize for a folly is shocking and not worth the risk. They will make the assumption that apologizing means you’ve done something bad, or that you are bad. They will assume there’s a feeling of shame attached to apologizing and will be hesitant to apologize when they make their own mistakes. They will also learn that it’s okay to damage a relationship and not acknowledge it or try to repair it. It’s likely that they won’t show or feel respect for others. They will also assume that when you apologize, you lose your status. A parent or adult has the most status in a child’s life and if you are scared to apologize for fear of showing weakness, a child will also fear the same and not show remorse. Lastly, a child will learn that apologizing is something you wouldn’t want to do unless you were forced to. This leads them to being dishonest and lack responsibility and accountability.

Don’t underestimate your child, they certainly do learn by example, so avoid making the additional mistake of not apologizing. You will gain more by taking the time and effort to do the right thing for your child.

How to Give a Genuine Apology

Apologize easily and often. Even for very small “Oops” moments where a short “Sorry!” is appropriate, be sure to admit it readily. Small apologies like this show your child that apologies are just a part of life, as are mistakes that accompany them. Anytime you act in a way that you wouldn’t want your child to, like accidentally interrupting someone who is speaking, offer an apology to show your child that it’s easy and natural to do the right thing.

“Oops! Sorry bud, I didn’t see you there!”

“Oops, sorry for interrupting you!”

Always apologize when you lose your cool. Grown-ups have tantrums too and it’s critical that we explain that we had an emotion, but the action that accompanied the emotion was not acceptable. There’s no need to apologize for setting limits, but it is important to enforce limits with a calm, respectful manner.

“I’m sorry I yelled at you for not staying in your bed. That was my mistake and I should not have gotten angry. I do need you to stay in bed at bedtime. How can I make it easier for you to stay in bed?”

If your child thinks something was a big deal and wants an apology, acknowledge that, even if you don’t think it was. There will certainly be times when you think an action was worth an apology but your child doesn’t. You will want to role model good behaviour at all times to ensure your child respects the feelings of others.

“I’m very sorry for stepping on your play-doh ball. I did not see it and I’m sorry. I know you’re upset. Is there a way I can help fix it?”

By apologizing for all shapes and sizes of mistakes, this also ensures your child will feel comfortable telling you any mistake that he or she thinks is afoot. This was particularly helpful to me as I struggled with leaving my children at dayhomes. Knowing that my child was comfortable telling me everything and never felt embarrassed to come to me was a huge emotional load off of my shoulders.

Also, always resist the urge to blame. Many of us start off by apologizing and then veering off to an excuse, like why you did what you did. This normally comes in the form of using “but.”

“I should not have thrown out your toy, but you should not have thrown it at your brother.”

Everything that was said before the “but” no longer has any meaning. Your child will not learn how to properly apologize without strong examples. It’s important to deliver a full apology after describing what happened.

“You threw a toy at your brother. Then I threw the toy in the garbage. I’m sorry, I should not have yelled at you or thrown out your toy. I am very sorry for yelling and for throwing out your toy. Please go apologize to your brother.”

It’s a very good strategy to explain the events leading up to a mistake, but do not let the explanation ruin a good apology by making excuses. A child needs to know that what you did was a mistake if they are to learn what they did was a mistake. By saying you threw out their toy because they deserved it for throwing it at their brother, they will in turn rationalize their mistake by thinking their brother deserved it.

The Take Away

When I was faced with my difficult situation, I am very proud to say that I took my son’s side, knowing what I know of the importance of apologies. I calmly told the accused that a real apology was required because it will show my son that his feelings are important and that all mistakes, even accidents, warrant an apology. It had the added benefits of showing the adults that mistakes do not have to be a big deal and that the littlest of children learn from the behaviours of adults. I was proud to stick up for my child and teach everyone involved, including him, that he has value.

Loose Parts Play

Have you ever heard of loose parts play? When I first heard about it, it sounded like a cross between messy play and outdoor learning, and it is! With a whole lot more…

The History

The theory of loose parts play was first proposed by an architect in the 1970s. It has since been the inspiration for many physical education teachers and play space designers! In a one sentence answer, loose parts play is a form of play that incorporates moving parts to allow children to move around their environment in a natural way and empower their creativity (click here). The loose parts can be natural or synthetic, for instance, both sticks and pinecones, as well as spoons and boxes, can be used as objects in loose parts play. The best objects for loose parts play, I’m sure is no surprise to parents, are objects that can be molded or adapted, taken apart and put back together, and irregularly shaped.

The P.E. Class

Physical education teachers use loose parts play to encourage children to be more active in everyday life, not just in the gymnasium! By bringing imagination into the classroom (or open outdoor space), children move away from organized sports and competition and towards natural, everyday movements, such as carrying, lifting, bending, turning, and fine motor skills. Along with the movement comes the inspiration to be creative and well-rounded social skills! By encouraged to use objects as they so choose, children can create a wider variety of play exercises than those that are purely adult led activities. The loose parts that can be moved, carried, redesigned, lined up, and taken apart help foster problem-solving and innovation skills required in later life. In other words, it helps them think outside the box! As for amazing social skills, teachers have noticed that rather than teaming up with their friends like they do while playing sports, children start to play together and interact based on shared interests! Collaboration at its finest! Click here!

The Play Spaces

Play designers utilizing this theory have started developing play spaces that are no longer a one size fits all kind of notion. By moving away from expensive play equipment that are one-type uses, they’ve started having loose items for children to manipulate as they please. It is most obvious in newer childcare centres, recreation centres, or preschools, where children have the opportunity to gather outdoor items, like rocks and paint them, or play kitchens with all the mini accessories (click here). I myself take my children to Millennium Place in Sherwood Park, where they have a large room dedicated to camping toys. Children are encouraged to build toy fires out of wood and cook over the stove.

The Con

So is there a downside to loose parts play? I myself have only noticed one – the clean-up! Just like messy play, with its many advantages and brain-developing powers, loose parts play can be a bit of a chore at the end. Personally, I like loose parts play outdoors so my children and I get the added benefits of sunshine and fresh air, and the clean-up is practically non-existent. However, in the winter months, I also preferred having boxes of sticks, pinecones, rocks, and dried flowers over the synthetic loose parts. My reasoning was I just had to scoop them all back into the box and do a quick sweep to get the debris. If using synthetic loose parts, it often meant washing my dishes after they’d been dragged across the floor a bunch. Plus it’s nice to have summer stuff to remind you winter doesn’t last forever!

The How To

Only two steps are required for loose parts play, gathering the materials and playing with your child! To engage your child in loose parts play, be sure to choose items that have no set purpose. If you give your child his toothbrush to play with, it’s likely that he won’t be as adventurous with it as he would something that doesn’t appear to have a defined use. Great choices that have worked for my children are:

Pinecones

Flowers

Seed pods

Nut shells

Leaves

Sticks

Rope

Baskets

Buckets

Sand

Shovels

Gravel or rocks

Larger stones

Old bird’s nests

Water

All of these items and more can be used for loose parts play, just let them roll with their imagination! However, be sure to choose items that are developmentally appropriate for your child (small objects aren’t recommended for littler ones).

Next, support your child when they make a change to the shape or object that they are pursuing. If they started out making a castle but it looks more like a sinkhole, let them adapt to their wishes. Resisting the urge to “fix” the project can be difficult for the more practiced creative types, but try to let your child follow their desires. For me, this can sometimes mean intervening when older or younger brothers try to “help.” I usually resolve the situation by saying “Oh, I love sinkholes! They are my favourite!” and both boys usually get a look of ambition and confidence when I compliment their work. It also helps the other brother understand that any project is worth admiring.

The Upkeep

Lastly, in order to keep loose parts play a success in your child’s play repertoire, be sure to keep them accessible for everyday use and keep the materials properly replenished and added to. My children don’t choose to play with their loose parts bucket everyday (thank goodness) but it is important that they always have the opportunity to! I also like to restock with different items that we find on outdoor walks to the park! This keeps items new and exciting for my boys, especially when they found the item themselves!

In Closing

Loose parts theory is best enjoyed with others in a fluid environment! Children gain more skills and confidence in fluid environments rather than static ones. Try loose parts play with your child and watch as their creativity, imagination, and self-assurance develop! As always, happy playing!

Diapering 101

The first time I changed my oldest son’s diaper was a very memorable experience. After watching him sleep for the first hour of his life, I saw the little yellow stripe on his diaper turn blue, an indication that he had just peed. Of course, this was very exciting because my midwife told me to watch his every bodily function. Count his bowel movements. Track his nursing. And call her if he wasn’t peeing.

Being a first-time-mom and over the moon in love with him, I scooped him up and chatted away to him as I prepared everything for his first diaper change. I laid him down on my bed, next to where his Dad was peacefully snoozing after the events of child birthing (I was too exhilarated to sleep). I took the old diaper off and wiped his parts clean. Before I knew it, the cool air and wet wipe must have triggered another episode. His little wee-wee shot pee high into the air and, like all priceless, memorable moments would predict, the pee coated my husband’s sleeping face, washing away whatever moment of tranquility  previously rested on the room.

I burst into silent giggles, trying to apologize through little squeaks of laughter as my husband removed himself from the room without a word.

Before We Do the Do-do

Before starting a diaper change, ensure you have everything you need. This is likely to include proper sized diapers, wet wipes, a change pad, diaper rash cream (if required), and a toy (for older babies). I also like to pack my diaper bag or change table drawers with extra pairs of pants and shirts in case things get out of control, like they did the first time.

The Dirt on Diapers

To ensure a diaper fits properly, check for signs it is too small or too big. Diapers that are too small will leave red marks around the legs or tummy. Too big, and you’ll notice the diaper isn’t catching everything, so to speak. You can use either disposable or cloth diapers. I’ve used both; cloth for my first baby when I wasn’t working and disposable for the second when I was. I found there are pros and cons for both. Cloth diapers are a hefty upfront expense (mine were $370 new) but last for years and through multiple children. They are easy to clean but take a lot of time because there’s the washing, drying, and folding involved. The best part is that they are adorable, soft, not harmful to your child, and good for the planet. Disposable diapers are a grocery expense. They don’t cost a lot at first, but if adding up from birth to potty training, it’s around $2,400. Quite the difference in price! Disposable diapers also come with fragrances and additives that can be harmful to sensitive skin. You will know if it’s irritating your little one if he or she develops a rash around the openings of the diaper.

Know Your Ointments

Zinc oxide creates an impermeable barrier to liquids. It’s actually preventing pee or poop from touching the skin it was applied to. My first baby did get a few diaper rashes and Penaten worked wonders for us! Other brands can be found here.

My second baby brought a different challenge. He was not prone to diaper rashes but did have sensitive skin. It would dry very quickly and needed moisturizing (all over his little body). For this, I used coconut oil! It worked wonderfully!

Tricky Changers

I have two tricks for my children if they are ever in the mood to put up a diapering fight! I have chewable toys to keep their hands busy and songs to help them stay calm. They rarely need the bribes but I’ve found they come in handy, especially in public washrooms.

The chewable Broccoli Bite toy I found at ToysRUs was simply marvelous! It’s 100% silicone, which means no harmful chemicals and feels just like a baby bottle. It only comes out during diaper changes too, which means it is special and not your average toy.

I also have a diapering song which I read off the wall of a washroom in a public library. It goes:

“One button, two button, three button, four,

Changing little one’s diaper like I’ve done before,

Four button, three button, two button, one,

Look we’re done! Nice clean bum! That was fun!”

Works every time!

Safety and Hygiene First

Always ensure your changing space is a safe environment. There shouldn’t be anything that can harm your child if he or she rolls off of the changing pad. Check the space. If you’re using a public change area, there should be straps to hold your child but never leave him or her unattended, even if it seems like he or she is secure. Keep one hand on the baby at all times. Never move away from your baby to get items. If you forgot to gather all of the necessary items beforehand, bring your baby with you to get them. It’s always fun to snuggle a naked baby and play the chance game that he or she won’t pee on your favourite shirt!

When thinking about safety, it’s also important to remember good hygiene. You are dealing with a lot of potentially harmful bacteria after all. Always wash your hands before and after the entire process. Also, wipe your child from front to back. This means that you clean the pee producing area before the poop producing one. Poop, if spread to other areas, can have negative impacts like rashes to skin or infections to the urinary tract (very painful and requiring doctor visits). Always practice good hygiene, if only to protect your loved ones.

Step by Step

Now down to the nitty-gritty! Ensure your hands are clean and lay your baby on his or her back. Fasten any safety belts, if available. Take the old diaper off the front and wipe around the baby parts with a clean, wet wipe, front to back, avoiding the umbilical cord stump, if present. If there are any red marks in the creases, apply your choice of ointment. If you’re changing a boy, the tale told by wizened mothers goes to cover “it” with the clean diaper. This is to prevent the unfortunate mishap that happened to my husband all those years ago. I find the clean diaper does not stay put very well. Either my son will reach down and pull it away or the pee will actually launch it into the air and have zero of the intended effect. I also found the adorable pee-pee teepees that were all the rage were a waste of resources. Cute as they were, they did not work for us. I actually place a wet wipe on the pee-pee. It doesn’t absorb the pee but it does contain it and sends it down into the dirty diaper that my son is still lying on. Hooray!

After the front is spic and span, covered, and innocent, move towards the back. Wipe front to back even if there’s no poop because bacteria isn’t visible to the naked eye. It’s still there. As you work, place the dirty wet wipes into the soiled diaper that is still open. Lift your baby’s bum into the air by holding into his or her ankles. Wipe the last of the area and remove the dirty diaper.

Place the clean diaper under at the same time. This is easy if using cloth ones. If using disposable ones, you can open it with one hand but it’s a little tricky and best to do beforehand. Apply the ointment to the bum now if needed and lay your child back down on the clean diaper. Secure the diaper and tell your child he or she did a good job!

Wrap the dirty diaper up and place it in the garbage if disposable or in your wet bag if using cloth. Keep the area clean for the next change or the next parent and baby.

So, What Did It Taste Like?

After finishing up my firstborn’s first diaper change, my husband walked back into the room. I could not help but ask! Amid attempts not to smile at the hilariousness of the situation, he murmured, “Exactly what it smells like.”

I hope your diaper changing stories are just as memorable with a hint less pee taste testing. If you need more tips on diaper changing, ask any of the KARA staff! The ladies and gentlemen that host the Books for Babies and Caring Families courses are very knowledgeable about young ones and are likely to have diaper changing stories to crack you up as well (pun intended)!

Bicycling Basics

Even in the dreary weather we’ve been having, I’m sure many of you are excited to start your little ones off on a new adventure – BICYCLING! Teaching a small child can be a fun, rewarding, and albeit, tricky experience. Also, don’t forget nerve-wracking!

First off, I want to point out a great resource I came across three years ago and still use today! It’s the best guide to correctly sizing your child, narrowing down your bike options, bicycle reviews and much, much more – Two Wheeling Tots (click here). I’ve used this website for all my bicycle information needs as they complete hundreds of reviews and give you all the safety info needed to start your child’s two wheeling adventures. The only thing I caution is their bike buying options though, as they are based in the US and product availability isn’t as great here in Canada. Otherwise, they are phenomenal and I mention them quite a bit throughout!

First Steps – Exploration and Understanding

First off, know that bicycling can be a challenging and even daunting task for children. They almost all want to do it, so they can be like the “cool, big kids,” but when faced with the actual task, it can be a little scary to move from two stable feet to two rolling wheels. So encouragement and patience are key.

At around 18 months, I let my kids explore bikes and the way they move while they were lying on the ground. Also, it helps to point out bicyclists just in your normal, everyday activities or in your child’s books. Let children become familiar with bicycles before getting them on one.

Before getting my son his first bike, I would point and OOO and AHH every time I saw a bike while we were walking , to reinforce a positive interaction and curiosity with them. I started this when he was a year so he would learn the words and become familiar with seeing bikes in a positive light. I was very careful to only draw attention to cyclists who were wearing helmets and other proper safety gear. I didn’t mention them and would pass them by silently if they weren’t wearing helmets, hoping my son was just looking the other way! I’m sure this helped reinforce the normality of helmets and how even adults wear them.

Next Steps – Measuring and Picking Out the Right Bike

While it’s fun to choose the colours and designs of the new bike, it’s more important to pick one that is a proper fit for your child. Bicycles come in all shapes and sizes, but the very best way to get the right bike is by measuring the inseam of your child’s pants and making sure the seat height of the bike is the same distance to the ground.

My son was a fairly squirmy toddler and so I picked his best fitting pair of pants, laid them down flat on the floor, and did my measurements in the relative peace of my own living room. I really caution parents not to do the measuring in the middle of the bike store because your child may be so overwhelmed and excited (or terrified) that you’re not likely to get the most accurate measurement (click here).

Use the measurement to narrow down which bikes will fit your child. You can do either balance bikes or a bicycle with training wheels.

Balance Bikes

Balance bikes all the rage now! They are bikes without pedals, training wheels, or any other do-dads. This makes them incredibly light, enabling an 18 month old to pick them up and move them with ease. They also fit children better, as they are designed more like adult bikes without the added accessories. And they help kids learn to balance on two wheels, which is the most challenging part of riding a bike. Some of them do come with handbrakes and you can add bells and streamers if needed!  The prices range quite a bit but the Nakamura 12 in bike is sold at Sportchek for $80.

For our two boys, we tried the new balance bike wave. While balance bikes may seem odd (they certainly did to me the first time I encountered one in the wild), the idea grew on us, and our children. They were light enough for my son to carry around and maneuver, they were comfortable for him to sit on, and they teach a child to balance! Huge bonus and extra points – when my son grew too tired to keep riding, the bike fit easily in the bicycle trailer used on the back of my bike. The bonus for my child, well he also gets to look like those cool older kids, without all the pressure! Click here.

Training Wheels

Bicycles with training wheels have been around for ages, and if you are sentimental, needing that exhilarating memory of letting go of your child’s bike as they take off for their first ride without their trainers on, then this is the bike for your family! These bikes would also be a great fit for those children needing a little extra encouragement as they have a sense of stability you won’t get with a balance bike. It’s harder for children to turn the bikes and move them because of their extra gear and weight. Bells, streamers, and spiderman stickers can be added to these bikes too!

Helmets

Before we go any further, always stress the importance of wearing a helmet! Never let your child on a bike without this crucial piece of safety gear! To get the right fit, measure your child’s head with a soft measuring tape one inch above his or her eyebrows (the thickest part of the head). A proper fitting helmet should fit squarely on the head, not tilted back or forward, and should not move when he or she shakes her head. Ask your child if they want broccoli for lunch to try this safety test! Click here.

A nice little tidbit – I also stole the chance to reiterate road safety and rules about walking hand in hand when crossing a road while forcing the helmet convo on my child! It worked great!

Other Accessories

Balance Buddy – For small racers who want to keep up with others but haven’t got the feel for balance quite yet, try a balance buddy! They are a long handle to attach to your child’s back axle. They ride, you balance. It can give them a bit of a confidence boost and some exercise for you! One $30 at Canadian Tire!

The Clicker – One interesting thing that many bike manufacturers have noticed is that hesitant riders are often incentivized to keep moving forward if they hear a ‘click, click, click’ sound from their back wheel. It prompts them to keep going to keep hearing the sound. Easy and cheap, just duct tape a card to your child’s rear wheel.

Strap – Some of the best balance bikes come with bags or straps to shoulder carry after your child ditches it to chase a butterfly. I myself bought our balance bike off of Kijiji and it didn’t come with a strap. Luckily, I found a very short bungee cord that worked perfectly as either a shoulder strap or to secure the bike into the stroller, wagon, etc. Worked like a dream!

And Off We Go!

It’s very exciting to bring all the gear home and encourage your child to hop on. But I caution all parents to be patient. Our oldest took almost two years of bumping into walls and falling down on his balance bike before things really happened. And some days he just did not want to practice. But it did eventually happen! Once your child finds his or her comfort zone, the feet come up and the magic begins!

One summer day last year, walking down a paved walking path, laden with a baby and a diaper bag, my oldest son got the feel for it all at once. He pulled his feet up while going down a hill, screaming, “I’m going to win the race!”

I dropped my bag (kept the baby) and took off after him! He was having the time of his little life! I was too, for the most part… Haha!

And now he is a natural! He is ready for his first bike with pedals (no trainers needed) and is doing just fine mastering his “death-defying maneuvers.” And a big bonus – his little bro is all ready to start on his new hand-me-down balance bike (with a few brand new flame stickers to increase it’s speed).

Last Gentle Reminders

Always remember to remind your children of the dangers of riding their bicycle (preferably without terrifying them!). Our children are small and hard to spot, so keeping them away from roads is certainly a good idea until they’re old enough to understand the dangers and do’s-and-don’ts of bicycle safety. And never forget your helmets!

It’s also extremely important for parents to have patience and understanding in this important step of their child’s development. Try to never discourage your child or pressure them to go too far outside of their comfort zone. While some gentle encouragement (“You can do it, just give it a try”), can be hugely beneficial, going too far (“Well, I can’t teach you if you’re not willing to try”) can have some pretty negative effects. Remember that with all things, learning to ride a bike takes time and everyone learns at a different pace.

At the beginning of our adventure, my husband and I were the gentle guides, but two years later and our child takes the lead, often winning the race!