Making a Birdhouse

Photo courtesy of Birds and Blooms.

 

The other day, I was visiting my parents when my Dad came in from the garage with a little pile of wood, nails, and a hammer under his arm. He had recently been building a new fence from cedar and had an extra board left over – perfect for making a birdhouse he said! My boys were so excited to help their Grandpa build the birdhouse and get a little taste for woodworking too. And Grandpa was also very impressed with their knowledge and familiarity with tools (I reminded him that their Dad was also an avid woodworker and that they had built me a few birdhouses over the years for Mother’s Day). Well, he said, this should be easy!

My Dad started showing them the pieces and tools. Not every birdhouse is built the same, and all are unique. However, these were the materials he used!

Materials

One 5’ (60”) cedar fence board. Although not necessary, cedar is naturally durable and can outlast the outdoor elements better than most other types of wood, even without protective finishing. It won’t hurt the birds that will hopefully find your project worthy to raise their young and won’t harm your child if he/she decides to take a bite like little Polar Bear!

Hammer

Ruler/measuring tape

1-1/2” Finishing Nails

One heavy picture hanger

Hand Saw. Home centres like Home Depot and Rona will do one cut/piece of wood for free, but if you explain the project, they’ll likely do all of them!

Means of drilling a 1” hole. Again, most home centres will drill a hole for you if you explain the project!

Baby oil for finishing. Baby oil is also another non-toxic finish that makes your project stand out a little, smell pretty, and give your young child a fun, rather non-messy task!

Here are the steps to building a birdhouse with your little one. A little bit of prep is required before inviting your young one to the table though. These first few strides (Steps 1 through 5) are best done on your own, or with a second adult there purely for supervision purposes as you won’t be able to watch both your child and your fingers at the same time! Again, if you don’t have a saw or drill, try taking your project to a home centre for a little bit of free help!

Photo courtesy of Birds and Blooms.

 

Saws and Cuts

Step 1:

If using a saw, cut two 10 inch lengths from your board. These will make up the front and roof of your birdhouse. The remaining length should be 40 inches.

Step 2:

Drill a hole in the centre of the front board. Usually a 1 inch hole works great for black-capped chickadees or birds of similar size. If the hole is too big, you may attract a different kind of bird or even a squirrel!

Step 3:

Cut one 7 ¾ inch length from your board. This piece is the back of the house. The remaining length should be 32 ¼ inches.

Step 4:

Cut one 4 inch length from your board. This will be the floor. The remaining length of board should be 28 ¼ inches.

Step 5:

Finally, cut one 18 inch length. The remaining piece of your board will be scrap – or the start of another project as my husband likes to think of it!

On the 18 inch board, make one mark at 10 inches on the left side. Transfer your measuring tape/ruler to the right side of the board and make a mark at 8 inches. Connect the two marks with a line (which will be a diagonal line). Make your cut on this line. This will make up the walls of the birdhouse.

Photo courtesy of Birds and Blooms.

 

Hammer and Nails

This was the part in which Grandpa invited the boys to help. They all sat on the floor with rapt attention and my Dad let them both have a go with the hammer as he held the nail in place (a very brave man indeed!). He always started and finished the nails off to help the project along and keep the boys from losing focus too. It was a pretty awesome and creative project for the group! Here’s how he did it:

Step 6:

Align one wall with the front of the birdhouse and nail them together with a nail at the top and bottom of each piece. Then everyone gets a turn as you repeat this process until you have all walls together. My older Grizzly Bear became a little bossy as he directed the crew and pieces!

Step 7:

Insert the floor of the birdhouse between the walls, and hammer into place. You can do the same for the roof too!

Step 8:

 

Nail the hanger into the centre of the back wall of your birdhouse.

Step 9:

This step is particularly fun for the littler ones. Use paper towel to dab baby oil over the project to give it a nice finish. It will turn the wood a slightly darker colour, so don’t be shocked if your project suddenly resembles a masterpiece!

Step 10:

Place a nail into your desired fence post and hang the birdhouse. Then spread seed on the ground in front of it. Be careful not to put birdseed directly into the birdhouse. I made this mistake a few years go. It only attracted visitors eager for a feast, not a couple eager to raise a family.

Lastly, keep an eye out for your little visitors! There’s nothing better than doing a little birdwatching with your own little chicks in the early months of spring!

Cooped Up With Kids

The new normal of social distancing coupled with the abysmal springless weather has been making my family feel unnaturally penned up! In fact, as soon as the shops and recreation facilities around us started closing, I got panicked texts from some of my mom friends. “What are we going to do all day if we can’t leave the house?” was a common question.

Unsurprisingly, my family and I have dived into a few new activities to keep ourselves entertained and active! The ideas came from a few coworkers, mom friends, family members, and internet searches. If you are looking for some fun things to do with kids while you’re stuck at home, here are some ideas!

The Royal Tyrell Museum

For Polar Bear’s 3rd birthday, which is coming up in May, my family was planning on making a trip to the Royal Tyrell Museum. Unfortunately, the museum isn’t anticipated to be reopening any time soon but we were able to find this little virtual gem! Take a grand tour at your own pace without leaving the house! You’ll feel like you’re really out and get a chance to educate the little ones while you’re at it – click here.

Start a Garden

Get spring going with a little indoor garden! My family and I started with herbs that sprout really quick, like cilantro and parsley. They go great on any pasta dish and allow us to experience a little spring activity. Add to the garden with your favourite vegetables. You can start the fun indoors with potters and move them outside when the right weather arrives.

Teach your Pet a New Trick

Our family pet is a nine year old dog. She is incredibly smart and as my munchkins grow, they are taking on more of an active role in her care. We started teaching her a few new tricks in our free time, involving her more in our family routines and giving her more attention! My boys really like watching her learn more tricks and she loves the resulting treats!

Create a Family Tree

With the present secluded nature of the world, it’s hard for the family to keep up with our social lives, and the little ones seem to forget friends and family quickly (my older Grizzly Bear was playing MarioKart and told me his ‘friends’ – the NPCs – were winning the game). That’s when I decided to help my boys make a family tree! It helps if you have a printer or pictures of your family to cut out and glue to the tree, it helps them understand who they are and who their family is! Beware though! Too much knowledge has led Grizzly Bear to start calling Grandpa “Mom’s Dad.”

Make a Maze

This timeless game of making a maze on the floor using painter’s tape is a great game for those active kids, especially those too young to read clues in a more advanced treasure hunt. If you have a big space and a little kid, the maze can be for them. If it’s a little space and multiple kids, let the munchkins drive cars or roll balls through the maze. I also brought their new favourite movie, Disney’s Onward, into play by giving them wooden spoons for wizard’s staffs, making little bridges, and placing an orange ball at the end for the Pheonix Gem. They loved it!

Note: If your kids are really into this and you want to enchant it up, write secret messages to them and leave them within the maze using lemon juice invisible ink! Find the secret recipe here.

Have a Tea Party

My kids and I have gotten into tea parties as part of our afternoon snack. It gives me a break from work and a fun get-together for the family. My son’s started quoting a scene from the original Toy Story too – asking me, Mrs. Nesbitt, if I would like some more tea! Adorable. It’s helped them learn some table manners too!

Wii Play and Wii Fit

With the current weather and closed recreation centres, it’s been a challenge for the whole family to get exercise. Luckily, my husband was able to find our old Wii and a couple of active games. My sons’ only foray into the video game world thus far has been Mariokart. With these active games, we’ve now enjoyed tennis, fishing, yoga, and other strength training games. It’s been a great way to get exercise and have fun!

Spring Cleaning

Not everyone’s favourite activity but this extra time at home has really helped my husband and I tackle some much needed home organizing. It’s even helped us save a bit of money too! Rather than driving back and forth to work, going out for dinner, shopping for new items, and spending on recreational activities, we’ve been spending more time with each other and saving funds! This gave me the idea to get some tasks done that I normally wouldn’t have time for, such as repairing old toys and clothing, things that would be too cumbersome normally and would result in purchasing new items! Now my kids and I are fixing things, having fun, learning a bit, and saving money! What a show stopper!

Enclosed

See anything on this short list that inspires you? Notice anything missing? Tell us all about it! We’d love to hear more ideas or know what you and your family are up to! It’s important to feel connected while still staying safe! Give us your ideas to share with others or give us a shout to let us know something new you’ve tried. Hope to hear from your family soon!

Coping During a Pandemic

Naturally, in the current medical climate, there is a lot of room for worry. Our families are at the front of our minds and we are finding ourselves in a different situation than we’ve been used to, and likely one we’ve never faced before.

The World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11. A pandemic is a global outbreak, occurring over a wide geographic area and affecting an exceptionally high proportion of people. The last pandemic to occur was the H1N1 Influenza outbreak, which was declared in 2009. I was in college practicing to be a nurse when it was declared, but even still, now that I have a family, I’m more engrossed with the COVID-19 situation and ever-watching as it unfolds. I’m sure many of the parents out there feel similarly, and are thinking of their loved ones as they make family decisions. Therefore, to help my family and yours, I’ve sourced and summarized some coping methods specific to pandemics in the hope that they help empower everyone and make family management easier.

The Psychologists’ Association of Alberta has developed a Psychological Coping During a Pandemic Fact Sheet to help everyone understand normal responses to abnormal events. Such normal responses include anxiety, unrealistic fears, and strong defensive actions. They’ve given recommendations to help improve psychological responses and advice on when to seek help. Let’s walk through the recommendations together.

Staying informed but not overloaded – This is easy to understand but hard to accomplish. With the pandemic currently affecting all of us around the globe, and Alberta just recently joining the fight, the news highlights little else. On top of that, we are living in a time sure to be known as the social media era. It’s hard not to get sucked into conversations regarding the current situation and the current political decisions regarding it. However, I’ve found a little path that I’ve managed to walk regarding social media distancing: I check government websites (Alberta Health Services, the World Health Organization, Public Health Agency of Canada, & the US Center for Disease Control are all reliable information sources) and join the conversation with a few select colleagues whom I find calming in nature. Government websites provides relevant, prompt facts that are not inundated with gossip, and naturally calming people provide social support, as well as points of view that are not anxiety producing. It’s been a few days since I’ve distanced myself from the exceptionally wide world of information and I do already feel less stressed and more able to make sound decisions regarding precautions.

Staying physically healthy – I truly believe the sudden stresses (as well as the time of year) associated with the pandemic declaration are causing some of those around me to come down with the common cold or other common illness. Stress reduces the body’s ability to ward off any illness; therefore, keeping a healthy lifestyle, even in the middle of winter with recreation facility closures, is important. How can we do this? My son and I have found a way. Youtube! Earlier this year, I had planned for us to take a yoga class together down the street at the local recreation centre. Unfortunately, we never got our chance. Therefore, I Amazon’d ourselves a couple of yoga mats and we’ve started working out to Youtube yoga videos every night before bed. It’s been such a hit that I know we will keep it up even after facilities open again. It’s easier on the pocket book and he loves the variety we can get!

Maintaining perspective – “Our government needs to prepare for possible worst-case scenarios in order to protect the public. The public, however, does not need to expect the worst.” Reading this really opened my eyes as to the direction local media was going – perhaps they were blowing things out of proportion a bit, emphasizing every story and repeating tragic news. Yes, our government is making changes that really impact us citizens, but that does not mean the worst case is going to transpire. All of the measures being taken are preventative and are made to prepare, not panic.

Build your and your family’s resilience – Resilience is a profound mental tool that can help in any situation. Building mental resilience takes effort and time, but it’s incredibly beneficial. How to do it? There are many ways, and here are some of the ways that have helped me: practicing thought awareness by preventing negative thoughts from derailing your mental track; practicing cognitive restructuring, such as building positive thoughts and changing the way you perceive new thoughts; choosing positive responses to mistakes, such as letting things go and learning from them; and building your social network to include people that make you a better person. For resilience building exercises, check this resource out.

Communicate with your family – Discuss the news honestly with your family, keeping topics age-appropriate. Many of them may be too young to understand the effects of the current situation, but topics such as hand-washing and covering your cough with your elbow, may help them understand certain aspects and preventative measures. With most children at home now, keeping up with routines is also very important in reducing anxiety in children. Try maintaining a schedule that does not conflict with social distancing policies, like arts and crafts time or outdoor walks. Remember that children will watch your behaviors and emotions for cues on how to manage their own feelings. You may want to limit your family’s media consumption to help reduce collective anxiety.

Making a plan – Developing a plan for a possible outcome, such as prolonged isolation, job loss, or diagnosis, could really help lessen anxiety. Know the correct way to monitor for illness, manage symptoms, and report a suspected case. These details can be found here. Keeping up-to-date on emergency financial assistance (to be available for applications next week at alberta.ca) can also help alleviate stress. Those with mortgages and who qualify can also request to defer mortgage payments for up to six months to help cope financially. Lastly, ensure your household, close friends, and neighbours are aware of plans so that everyone feels supported and strengthened together. You can make a buddy system for checking on each other or helping with errands in the event support is needed. Visit the Federal government’s website on emergency preparedness for more great info.

Seek additional help – Those that feel overwhelmed or have prolonged reactions that negatively affect their daily activities can seek professional help by calling Edmonton’s Mental Health Crisis Services Distress Line. It’s a confidential service provided seven days a week to those requiring additional mental help. Find more info here.

Working Together

All of us at KARA do miss our KARA families and hope these tips on managing stress will empower all of our families during this time. We hope to see you all again when it’s safe to resume programs and look forward to working together again! Stay safe and take care!

Child Photography

Children are always so photographic, with their dimply smiles, wild hair, and endless playfulness. I’ve always wanted to cover my walls in photographs of my children – what parent doesn’t! And with the numerous social media platforms enabling us to share pictures with others, it’s nice to be able to send the best pictures of my kids to my family. However, even with the easy access to photographic children and shareable media, it’s still difficult because children never seem to stop moving!

Nonetheless, over the last couple of years, I’ve met some moms who’ve given me some pro tips on being a successful amateur child photographer. I’ve used quite a few of these different tactics and have found that some work very well at catching that perfect emotional or adventurous portrait. So, I’ve compiled them here for you too, in the hopes that you get what you desire – the perfect picture of your family!

Cameras for Candids

Before getting started, be sure to be familiar with the camera and scenery that you are using. Cameras range in both price and practicality. The camera on a smartphone is a great choice if not looking to invest in something bigger but it has a few limitations when taking shots of moving or shadowy targets. Compact cameras are great for busy families and can be purchased on a budget. I’ve always liked simple cameras that aren’t too difficult to use as whipping it out fast is imperative for those once-in-a-lifetime shots. But the bigger and more functional cameras can also allow you to get stunning candids that can be blown up for a big wall canvas. You can find more on camera types here.

Personally, I use a Nikon D5300 as it was given to me as a gift. This camera generally runs around $500 so it’s actually on the cheaper side of the spectrum. It’s given me some astounding photos of my children though and has been simple to use and adjust for my needs. I believe as long as you are familiar with your camera, it should do you well!

Portrait Particulars

As for scenery, lighting is your object of manipulation. For the best and brightest photos, I always take pictures outside on cloudless days. This provides the best backdrop and lighting to highlight my children’s activities. Almost every photograph is wall worthy if taken outside I’ve found. However, not all memories are made in the wonderful outdoors. Some of my best captured images were taken indoors with bright lighting, natural light, or mirrors.

Natural light and artificial light tend to mix unwell, giving harsh undertones or strange shadows to a picture. I try to choose one or the other when trying to get the perfect shot. Natural light that comes through your windows is soft and mood captivating. Artificial light, when it’s bright and everywhere, can produce outstanding photos (ever wonder why the best selfies are shot in bathrooms)? Mirrors can also provide more light to a shot, if your child will look into one long enough!

The Uncooperative Child

Now that we’ve covered the minor basics (the easy part), let’s look at how to capture candids of those moving targets! Not every kid wants to have their own personal parental paparazzi, so catching them in the zone can be a little tricky. Here are those pro tips from the moms I’ve met with some photographing experience!

  1. Embrace Their Desires

To get your desired picture, you’ve got to give a little! What do your children love to do most in the world? Is it dressing up as a superhero? Jumping wildly into a pile of leaves? Cuddling on the couch with their favourite stuffed animal? Let them do it while you snap away to get that perfect portrait! Letting them do exactly what they want will put the biggest smile on their face and will also help you capture the memory of their favourite pastime. A win-win!

  1. Play a Game

This little trick of misdirection can work wonders on tantrums, chores, and even photography! Invent a game to get your child to do the image you’re trying to capture. If you want a running shot, throw a soccer ball. If you want a goofy shot, play Simon-says with them. If you must have a messy shot, help them finger-paint a picture. Make a game out of the picture and watch them get creative!

  1. Time Your Work

Your child or children do have a schedule to keep. It may not be as diligent as yours, or as precise, but it does make a huge difference in their lives if the schedule is disrupted. You will never get the goofy shots when your child is tired, or the cuddly shots when your child is playful. Work to the schedule you’ve built for them already and you will have tons more luck nabbing that perfect candid!

  1. Let Them be the Photographer

Every child is curious, always wanting to see or do what their parent is doing. Give them a chance behind the lens if they should give this indication. It could help quench their thirst for knowledge a smidge and also give you an opportunity to get a selfie! My children have had so many opportunities to take photos now that they happily let me snap away and then come see the photos afterwards!

Kinds of Candids

There are many different kinds of photography – landscape, architectural, sports, wildlife, aerial, etc.

But when it comes to my kids, I’ve landed on a few that make my heart melt to look at. I’ve listed them as well, and my tips on how to capture them for your wall!

  1. Action Shots

I love taking photos of my kids when they are in the middle of playing particularly active games. To do this without getting a blurry photo, I had to try a few different things. One, I learned the best action shots are taken outside. If taken inside, I had to really brighten my home! Next, I had to focus the camera’s centre on my child. This meant I would not be able to get a photo of them running past me, but more a photo of them running at me. Last, I had to increase my camera’s shutter speed and turn on the continuous shooting mode. These functions are typically on every camera other than phone cameras. If you are using a phone camera, the other tip you can try is to shoot often. This is not an ideal solution but sometimes you will catch that one-in-a-million shot!

  1. Silhouette Shots

Another type of fun shot that can be produced by manipulating lighting is the silhouette shot. I find silhouette shots (or black and white photos) make the best dramatic pictures. Many moms-to-be or new moms get these dramatic shots taken of them, and they make lovely, soft, emotional photos. Other silhouette shots that are hilarious (and super contrasting to the softer photos) are the imaginary play shots. I think the best ones are when children dress up in their favourite costumes and act out their wildest imaginary stories. These are likely the most fun indoor shots for toddlers and preschoolers too!  Turn out the lights, and let the natural lights from the windows make shadows of your kids on the walls. Try to capture both your child and their shadow in the shot. They will love to make more for you once they see what you’re trying to achieve!

  1. Sensitive Shots

I have found that these photos are the easiest ones to take as they only seem to require dramatic lighting and cuddly child. To get the best results, I like to use dark backgrounds for black and white photos (coupled with dark clothing colours and your child’s face will really stand out). If you want a colourful sensitive photo, I also like to shoot with the sun behind my child. It makes for a pretty neat silhouette portrait that’s soft and dreamy in nature.

  1. Portraits

Portraits are easy to take if your child is unnaturally cooperative! They often require a steady hand and a large pile of chocolate for bribery purposes. I find any camera is able to handle these shots too, especially if taken one of two ways: have your child look up at you while you take the picture (vertical shot) or use a mirror for horizontal shots. The vertical shot, when you’re standing and looking down at your child, emphasizes your child’s eyes. Children naturally have large heads and their eyes tend to pop when looking up. These photos make heart-melting portraits. The horizontal shot, just a simple head-on photo, is easiest to take in a mirror I find. You take the photo of the mirror while your child looks into it. This prop helps scatter light all over your child’s face while giving them something to focus on.

  1. Scenery Shots

These shots are also particularly easy to take but require good lighting and a pleasant backdrop, such as the golden hour and the glorious outdoors. These shots focus less on individuals and more on the group, perfect for family action shots! Get the gang together for their favourite pastime and snap away! Shoot away from the sun during the golden hour. The golden hour is the hour after sunrise or the hour before sunset. This time period makes soft, warm pictures. To get more vibrant pictures, I take pictures in the middle of the day and then play with the camera effects to enhance the colours. It helps to focus on one colour, like the background, to do this. Use elevation to your advantage, like being at the bottom of a hill and looking up at everyone to catch the blue sky, or vice versa, to catch the green grass.

Snappy Happy

Well there you have it! Please feel free to use any of these tips to get that perfect picture of the child or family! Also, please don’t forget that I’m still learning the ins and outs of the child photography world and any tips for me are greatly appreciated! Leave your comment for the KARA family or just for me! All are welcome and happy photographing!

Potty Training, Round Two

Potty Training, Round Two

More experienced and better prepared, potty training our second child should have been a breeze, right?

It certainly wasn’t though…

We started just as we did with our first; we bought a small, toddler-sized potty. We got one from IKEA. In my experience, they are the best. They are very well priced and look kind of comfortable (I’ve never tested it, I swear). They also wash easily and come in a very pleasing green colour.

After choosing the right potty for our trainee, it was all uphill.

I recall trying something different this time: ‘acquainting’ our young Polar Bear with the potty before diving right into the affair. We would put Polar Bear on the potty every once in a while, abandoning it for weeks at a time. We also kept it in the rooms we were currently playing in. We think these two differences helped him familiarize himself with his new potty‑shaped friend but, and probably more importantly, it also prevented my husband and I from losing our minds. Keeping a toddler on a potty is tough enough, even with all the mental gadgets we can entertain them with. But our strong-willed and boisterous Polar Bear was too much of a match for us anyway, and sadly, he knew it.

In this beginning stage, we would also ‘announce’ whenever one of us had to use the washroom. I’m not sure if this helped him but I thought it would clue him in to the fact that potty-training wasn’t so different from what everyone else was doing – and that going in a potty was a ‘normal event’.

He was a curious and insightful youngster and he picked up most things quickly. For instance, he knew to hold his pee and run like the dickens when the time called for it. He also loved to flush the potty (what kid doesn’t?) and would spend lengthy amounts of time “washing his hands” if I let him.

The next step, though, was focusing on his number twos. While Polar Bear was a natural at determining his bodily functions and needs, he greatly disliked going number two on the potty. He, like many of us I’m sure, preferred the piece and quiet of a nice smelling library or the comfort of antique furniture. He would disappear for a short length of time and when called, would not respond. It wasn’t long before my husband and I determined his usual haunts; under the walnut table, behind the mahogany piano, inside the oak cabinet, under Grandpa’s cedar desk. He also had to do his business whenever we entered a lumber store. He had a type and it wasn’t hard for me to picture him reading a newspaper at his leisure while knowingly disobeying us.

Well, we had our hands full. And it only became more entertaining.

On an outing one day at the mall, just the two of us, Polar Bear told me very quietly that it was time. Normally, my young and stubborn lad would hold in his number two until we got home, refusing to go in a public washroom, as piece and quiet were his element. Exhilarated and shocked, I practically flew with him on my back to the nearest washroom. We catapulted inside and I placed him on the potty, breathless with anticipation. He stared at me with big, doe-shaped eyes, shaking his head, essentially embarrassed at my antics. But he complied and sat obediently.

And we waited.

And waited. We were alone in the public washroom, something I was remarkably thankful for. This could be it! I recall verbally encouraging him, “Yes, you can do it,” “Push, push, push,” “You’ve got this, you’re such a big boy.” But alas, he eventually declared he didn’t have to go and referenced how he peed, and that that should be good enough.

Crestfallen, I pulled up his trousers and made him wait while I used the washroom. As I sat down to go, a couple of girls entered the washroom and occupied some stalls next to ours. They were chatting away through the cubicles, comparing their purchases and prices.

Polar Bear was playing with a toy car he held in his hand for a moment. Then, noticing that I was on the potty, came right over to me. He looked at me with such concern in his eyes, placing his hand on one of my shoulders.

“Push, Mommy, Push!” he started screeching out loud. “Go, poop! You can do it!”

The girls in the cubicles next to us erupted into hysterical laughter as my face became the colour of a ripe strawberry. My jaw dropped and admittedly I began to shake with laughter too as I tried to shush my son, who persistently continued to encourage me to poop in the potty.

So shocked and embarrassed was I, that I kept my son in our cubicle until the girls had left the washroom, leaving it only when I was certain they would be long gone, likely telling anyone who would listen along the way.

Well, children are nonetheless the most entertaining portion of my life, leaving me shaking my head and smiling with disbelief. Polar Bear did eventually potty train successfully. It only took observant parents who watched his every move to halt his ‘disappearing acts.’

Shockingly, Polar Bear also started moving his potty to his favourite places to obtain the piece and quiet he sought.  A clever boy to boot.

With reflection, every child is indeed different. And we’ve all learned a thing or two!

Valentine’s Day Crafts

Valentine’s Day is such a cute holiday to celebrate with little ones! Kids can exchange cards, parents can gift chocolates, and even the littlest ones can get dressed up in heart-shaped attire. It’s an adorable time for everyone!

This Valentine’s Day (and the 14 days leading up to it), I’ll be babysitting my niece and nephew. I really do have my hands full with four kids under five in the house but I thought it would be beneficial for everyone to let the magic of crafts entertain them! That’s why I’ve decided to post a little something on lovey-dovey crafts that will excite and inspire the munchkins! I’ve found a little something for everyone to partake in too – as I have a one year old Sun Bear, a two year old Polar Bear, a three year old Panda Bear, and a four year old Grizzly Bear. If you’re feeling as adventurous as me this week, give it a glittery whirl too!

Photo courtesy of Easy Peasy and Fun.

 

Infants

Even little babies can benefit from arts and crafts time. The bright colours, messy feel of paint, and fun interactions with parents can boost developmental skills – plus the resulting craft is a wonderful keepsake! Bonus, this craft works well for all ages but it is one of the few that is possible to do with infants.

This Valentine’s craft idea is a super cute, heart-shaped tree! Here is what you will need:

One sheet of white paper

Washable ink pads or finger paint (varying colours)

One black marker

Start by drawing a tree trunk on the white paper with the black marker. Then you can use your child’s feet, hands, or fingerprints to outline a heart at the top of the tree where the leaves would be. If you use your child’s fingerprints, it honestly looks the best as it resembles leaves but your child may not be old enough to retain his or her attention for long enough to do this. If your child is quite young, I recommend using his or her feet and angle the footprints so they resemble a heart. It takes just seconds but it’s a fun one for you and an interesting activity for them!

This craft worked best on my three year old Panda Bear. It was captivating enough for him, as opposed to Grizzly Bear who found it boring, but it also held his attention, which was not the case for the younger two.

Photo courtesy of Events to Celebrate.

 

Toddlers

Toddlers, along with most age groups, love two things – messy art and art that doubles as accessories. So I helped the kids make springy heart crowns and fashionable purses. Both Sun Bear and Polar Bear loved these crafts!

Here’s what you’ll need for the crowns:

White and red paper (thick construction paper works best)

Pipe cleaner (various colours)

White glue

Scissors

Bowl

Q-tips

Use the scissors to cut long strips out of the white paper. You’ll need two strips to glue together, end to end, to make a crown-shaped hat for your child. It’s best to measure the paper against your child’s head before gluing. Cut out little hearts from the red paper.

Now put a dollop of glue into a small bowl. Give a Q-tip to each of the kids partaking in the craft and show them how to apply the glue to the red hearts using the Q-tip. This increases fine motor skills while also reducing the resulting mess from using the glue bottle. Bonus, it also prevents kids from fighting over the glue bottle. Panda bear was best at this stage too. He didn’t load on the glue like Grizzly Bear and he was by far cleaner than the others!

When the crowns are decorated, poke holes in the white paper to insert the pipe cleaners. Twist the pipe cleaners around themselves to keep them pointing upwards. You can then use your finger to twist the remaining pipe cleaner portions to give them bounce. Poke holes through a few hearts to add them to the pipe cleaners to give the crown extra flare. Allow the kids to show off their creations to each other! Polar Bear wore his crown for a full day, often wearing his and others’ whenever possible!

Photo courtesy of The Resourceful Mama.

 

Here’s what you’ll need for the purses:

Two paper plates per purse

Red construction paper (or other colour)

Pipe cleaner (various colours)

White glue

Scissors

Bowl

Q-tips

Use the scissors to cut a third off the top of each paper plate (instead of cutting the plate in half, cut it a little bigger on one side than the other). Discard the smaller portions. Poke holes along the outside perimeters of the plates. Cut multiple red hearts (or other colour) out of the construction paper.

Allow the kids to try winding the pipe cleaner through the holes of the paper plates. You may have to really help with this part as the objective is to stitch the two plates together with the cut portions at the top, being the opening of the purse. You will also use pipe cleaner to make the purse strap that the child can use to carry it around. Grizzly Bear was superior at manipulating his pipe cleaner. All three of the others gave it a valiant effort before manipulating me into doing it!

Put a dollop of glue into a small bowl and give a Q-tip to each of the kids partaking in the craft. Show them how to apply the glue to the red hearts using the Q-tip. Again, this is huge for fine motor skills while reducing the resulting mess from using the glue bottle. And no little bear arguments!

Allow them to decorate and wear their purses/man-bags around the house in a beary cute fashion show! This craft was a hit with all of the munchkins, even if a few pink hearts made it on to the blue-hearted man-bags! This was hugely popular with Sun Bear though, as she is only a few months into walking so a shoulder bag toy was a hit!

Photo courtesy of The Resourceful Mama.

 

Preschoolers

All of the kids partook in these punny card crafts too, although my four year old Grizzly Bear got the most enjoyment out of them by far!

We made two types of punny cards for his friends and relatives and they both landed Grizzly Bear in fits of giggles. He would march all over and chatter to anyone who would listen to him make the jokes over and over. It was too cute watching him get the joke behind it and genuinely laugh each time!

Here’s what you’ll need for punny card number one:

Red construction paper

Green construction paper

A black marker

Scissors

Bowl

Glue

Q-tips

First, fold the red paper in half along the long edge. This will allow you to make four cards. To make one card, cut large hearts out of the folded paper (when you cut the heart shape, you will get two hearts as you are cutting two pieces together). Be careful not to cut the hearts apart (you need to leave two sections at the top of the heart together so that the card opens like a card). Cut a small green ‘T’ shape out of the green paper.

Let your child make little black dots on the card’s face and use the glue and Q-tips (dollop of glue in a small bowl and apply with the Q-tip) to apply the green stem. When finished, the card should resemble a strawberry.

Inside the card, write the words “I Love You Berry Much.”

If your child is on the verge of kindergarten, or has a knack for using a pencil, help them to write the words. I have started teaching Grizzly Bear how to spell by writing words out in dots for him to trace over them. He then connects the dots to spell the words. He is getting quite good at all of his letters and has even starting stringing them together to read.

Photo courtesy of Surviving a Teacher’s Salary

 

Here’s what you’ll need for punny card number two:

Yellow construction paper

Orange or brown construction paper

Red construction paper (or other)

A black marker

Scissors

Bowl

Glue

Q-tips

This one pun lasted days and I bet it will give your child a laugh, especially if they like pizza.

First, fold the yellow paper in half along the short edge. This will allow you to make eight cards. Cut out isosceles triangles (to make pizza shaped cards). When you cut the triangle shape, you will get two triangles as you are cutting two pieces together. Be careful not to cut the triangles apart (you need to leave the top section of the triangle together so that the card opens like a card). Cut rectangular or trapezoid shaped ‘pizza crusts’ out of the orange or brown construction paper. Try to eyeball them to be the same shape as the crust side of the ‘pizza.’ Cut small hearts out of the red paper (or other colour) to be used as ‘pepperoni.’

Let your child use the glue and Q-tips (dollop of glue in a small bowl and apply with the Q-tip) to apply the ‘pepperoni’ hearts. The boys in my group seemed to prefer green ‘pepperoni,’ which I found a little disconcerting.

Inside the card, write the words “Here’s a Pizza My Heart.”

Again, if your child is curious when it comes to the written language, help him or her write the words. You can write words out in dots for him or her to trace over. He or she can then connect the dots to spell the words – Remarkable!

The Big Day

I really hope these ideas give you and your family some fun this Valentine’s Day! They have certainly kept me busy (well, busier!) and we’ve loved every minute of it! They’ve also helped all of the kids in my care build some pretty neat skills. Please feel free to give any one of them a try and let me know how it goes!

Have a sweet Valentine’s!

Resume Writing

As parents, we need income to sustain our growing families. We always dream of a better income in order to afford a better quality of life for our kids, and so we are driven to apply for better jobs. To get one, it all starts with our resume.

It’s a difficult task to write a successful resume and land that interview. I’ve had my fair share of sending one in and never hearing back. Luckily, I’ve also had my fair share of landing an interview, and they say that getting the interview is halfway to getting the job! So for the resume part, that’s half the work, it’s something to be taken seriously!

And it isn’t just the resume, as you’ll see, but it’s all the communication that takes place before an interview that you need to be prepared for. Let’s get started!

Job Search

I think there are two kinds of job searches. Searching for jobs that you have the education and/or experience for, and jobs that you wish you did – in other words, you are passionate about!

These two categories sometimes interlace and that’s the job that’s golden. The job that you are likely to be a good candidate for but also the job that you are excited about and driven to learn more to obtain it. Essentially, you have some of the qualifications but not all of them, so your skills and passion for learning come into play. You can always apply to any one of these three potential jobs, but you will need to alter your resume accordingly. Let’s move on!

Email Subject Line

I never write the email first, I always tackle the resume first. However, to understand how the employer first sees you and your potential skills, let’s look at it from their perspective.

The first thing they see will be the email subject line. I kind of equate this to how you dress for an interview. The first thing the potential employer will see is you. Before you even say hello to one another, they see your wardrobe and how you present yourself, if you are on time and if you come prepared.

Likewise, the email subject line is how professional you appear before you show off your skills and knowledge. The email subject line should be professional and to the point. You certainly don’t want to waste his or her time by making them guess what the email is about. If the job description gives details about how to reference the job, like a job number, use that. If not, still try to convey exactly what the point of your email is. Good examples are below.

Application for Job No. 12345 – Marnie Christensen

Application for Sales Associate – Marnie Christensen

Potential employers are busy folks, and if your email subject line is confusing or has a spelling error, they may not even open the email. The perfect subject line will entice them to open your email.

Email Content

The next piece the potential employer will see is the email itself. With this, it’s best to still stay direct and to the point, but you should elaborate a little as to why you are the ideal candidate. Essentially, as with the email subject line, you want to encourage the employer to take the next step and open your cover letter/resume. I equate the email content to your interview introduction. They now see you are prepared and ready for an interview, and with the proper introduction, you show them you are approachable, courteous, experienced and professional.

I start my email off by directing it to who it was intended for, such as “Dear Mr. Norman.”

If there was no contact listed in the job description, I address it as such, “Dear Hiring Manager.”

I specify as to which position I am interested in and why I believe I would be the ideal candidate. I refer to specific experience or knowledge that I posses or years in which I have worked in similar roles. The detail I use correlates to a very brief summary of what I’ve incorporated into my cover letter. I don’t go beyond two or three sentences as you don’t want them to search for information that should be readily available.

Lastly, I express that I would like to be invited for an interview to discuss my qualifications further. This gives them the opening and call to action to contact you. Be as precise as possible with your contact information, giving them at least an email address and phone number. You can list a couple of numbers to reach you but it’s best to only provide your cellphone to circumvent the risk of a family member answering a home phone.

Cover Letter

The cover letter is probably the most time consuming part of the process, but I think it’s the most telling part, so it’s well worth the time. It needs to be tailored to the specific position you are applying for and have relevant examples of your qualifications. I normally include five short paragraphs within.

Within the first paragraph I detail how many years of experience or education I have that is relevant, and three responsibilities directly from the job description that I have experience with or think that I have the skills to complete exceptionally well.

Within the three body paragraphs, I reference the three responsibilities I took directly from the job description and provide relevant details on my experience or education pertaining to them. I detail not only how I completed the responsibilities but how I excelled and adapted to the positions I had previously. If I have examples of how I managed projects, aided senior staff, or developed new and innovative ways of completing tasks, I certainly elaborate on those as they are great ways to impress your potential employer. A word to the wise, these three examples (or more or less, depending on your cover letter) detailed within your cover letter are likely to be the main topics of conversation during the real interview, so ensure you are prepared to discuss them at length in a sit-down atmosphere.

Lastly, the final paragraph should incorporate a very short summary of your cover letter, along with why the position speaks to you and what experience you want to build on, if applicable. End it with your appreciation of the potential employer’s time and consideration, and contact details. Your sincere thanks speaks volumes and shows the employer you are respectful and considerate.

Resume

The main event is your resume. It may well be that your potential employer skipped right over your cover letter to get the pertinent details fast if they are in a rush or received a surplus of applications. This means that you need to have a great summary of all your skills, experience, education, work experience, accomplishments, certificates, or any volunteer work right in one easy-to-read package.

I like to do this with tables within Word. My name is in a large font, centered at the top of the page. I organize my key experience within a couple of bullets or a very brief paragraph at the top, under my name, under the header “Professional Profile Highlights.” On the left side of this key experience, I’ve placed my contact details.

I also detail my most recent or relevant education and key words along the left side of my resume, under my contact details. These pop-out action words allow my reader to get a very fast impression of what I have to offer. The headers I use for these sections are called “Education” and “Professional Skills.”

To the right of my education and professional skills, I detail my “Relevant Work Experience.” I don’t list all of my work experience as not all of it pertains to the job I’m applying for. I use the experience that is most relevant as the employer may not have time to go through my entire history.

Lastly, I add a section for “Professional Projects and Accomplishments” and detail within any relevant projects I’ve completed on my own, any team projects I’ve been part of, any volunteer work, or any certificates that may be of interest.

I’ve moved away from listing my references within my resume as it’s not the norm now. Also, it gives the potential employer a reason to contact you prior to contacting anyone on your list (and gives you time to prepare your references!).

And that should do it!

Sending the Application

Before you send your application, ensure you are honest with your qualifications. There is no harm in embellishing your talents a bit but never be untruthful. It will be obvious in the interview setting and potentially hurt your chances of future employment. Also, ensure you proofread all of the details, from the subject line to the last line in your resume! If your application is one of hundreds, a spelling or grammatical error could be the one thing that moves your resume from the interview pile to the discard pile.

Measurable Success

All in all, those are the tips and tricks I use to apply for a job! As I mentioned, not all of my applications have been successful but I’ve been particularly lucky with the call backs I do get! I do hope these tips help you land that dream job and excel your family! Leave a note if you’d like to share some of your tips or stories – I’d love to hear them!

Winter Driving

Driving impacts us all, at any time of year, in any condition; however, it’s important to be extra vigilant during rough winter conditions because of the multitude of hazards that are present. I consider myself extraordinarily lucky to have never been in a serious motor vehicle accident, and hearing stories from my friends or on the news makes me ache for those that have. Therefore, I’ve decided to compile a list of do’s and don’ts regarding winter driving in the hopes that they may prevent an event of such occurring to anyone in our KARA family!

Stay Home on Really Rough Days

In Alberta, we see some of the roughest winter conditions in Canada. This is because our province is open to the north artic weather systems, allowing weather to change dramatically and suddenly. Alberta is also home to some of the most mindful safety policies, which stem from our economy and energy sector. To live in a province that often values safety above all else is very favourable, especially for families. Therefore, if weather conditions are judged to be too bad to drive, I caution you to only venture out when necessary and to judge the risks accordingly! The province of Alberta has developed a geographical mapping and alert system to allow you to get a good idea of the conditions before venturing out – check it out here or call 511 to get all the details you’ll need to assess the risks. Likewise, social media and your local news station will also provide you with critical information.

Know Your Vehicle

In bad driving conditions, I caution you to only drive a vehicle you are familiar with. Jumping behind the wheel of a large truck when you are only accustomed to a small car is not a great idea during hazardous conditions. The safest mode of transportation will be a vehicle you know and are comfortable with. You will be more accurate in judgements when you’re familiar with the vehicle, including proper braking and where to find window wipers and headlights.

Lighting

Don’t rely on your daytime running lights as these don’t allow drivers behind you to see your taillights. Use your headlights even during the day.

Match your Speed to the Conditions

A friend of mine recently received a ticket – for driving the speed limit! Privately, I agreed with the law enforcement on this one. It’s true that she was obeying the limit set forth by engineers when designing the road, but those limits are for optimal conditions! When the weather is poor, roads are icy, and visibility reduced, you certainly cannot expect that matching the speed limit is a safe choice, no matter how good a driver you are! Rather, try matching the conditions of the road, and reduce your speed to accommodate the poor conditions. You will certainly be safer and avoid a ticket – haha!

Increase Your Distance

When driving in optimal conditions, the rule is to allow 2 to 3 seconds between you and the vehicle in front of you. This means that when the vehicle in front passes an object on the side of the road, at least 2 seconds should be complete before you pass it. In winter when conditions are icy, increase this time to 5 to 6 seconds. This will allow for more space between the two vehicles and more time for you to stop. This also applies to when you’re changing lanes – allow for extra time by putting your signal on a couple of seconds earlier.

Icy Pitfalls

In addition to increasing your distance, there are other tips to avoid icy pitfalls. These are to never use your cruise control, avoid speeding up or stopping on a hill, and avoid accelerating when coming up to a turn. Cruise control is meant for iceless conditions only. This is because your car cannot read the roads like you can. When cruise control is activated, it doesn’t maintain a perfect speed but rather slows and accelerates to maintain an average speed. If your car accelerates at the wrong time, like when on a hill or curve, you could easily spin out. By knowing your braking system and how it reacts to ice, you will be able to react in time to prevent this. Instead of speeding up on a hill, lightly speed up as you approach the hill and then maintain a speed when on it. Avoid stopping as your vehicle has the potential to slide backwards. Slow down when you come to a curve, maintain a speed, and proceed with caution.

Reduce Fog

Science is pretty neat and fog is no exception. The air all around us contains water in the form of a gas (moisture). Sometimes, the moisture can be released from the air and condense on items. What is needed for this to happen is a very specific temperature, a temperature known as the dew point. When the dew point for the amount of moisture in the air is reached, the moisture condenses – and condenses on anything! The mirror in your bathroom after a hot shower, grassy slopes or your front garden, and even particles in the air (clouds). It’s a wondrous thing!

But in winter conditions, when it’s fog inside your car that makes hazardous driving more hazardous, science can be dangerous. What has happened here is that humid air inside your car (likely from your erratic panting resulting from the disbelief of living in such a place) has come in contact with the cold windows, forming condensate on the glass. How to fix this? You have to remove one of the two conditions. You can reduce the amount of water in the air or heat up your windows. To reduce the moisture, turn on your climate control system (air flow). The dry air from outside will replace the moist air inside, even if doors and windows are closed. Secret vents within your car allow for this. When your climate control system eventually warms up, it will also produce warm air to warm the windows, working doubly in its efforts to keep you safe!

Be Prepared

Even for short trips, it’s always advisable to pack extra warm blankets, a first aid kit, a glass scraper, a flashlight, and a cell phone charger. You may also want to heed the advice of many and never travel on less than half a tank of gas. Having extra gas will allow you to run your car for short periods of time to keep you and your family warm while help is on the way. You can also charge your phone to contact emergency services for help. If you don’t have a phone, I’ve also been told that an old deactivated cellphone still has access to 911.

If you do get stuck in the snow, it’s important to remember these three things: stay with your vehicle, make yourself visible, and clear your exhaust pipe. Don’t ever venture away from your vehicle, it is your only source of protection in very cold conditions and it’s easier for emergency services to spot a vehicle than a person. Make the vehicle very visible by tying brightly coloured objects to the antenna. Lastly, and certainly most importantly, clear your exhaust pipe if it too got covered in snow. Deadly carbon monoxide can build up in the cab of the vehicle if the exhaust pipe is not clear.

Finale

In conclusion, I do hope this information will help you and your family reduce winter driving risks and prevent serious occurrences. For more solutions to winter driving challenges, check out the Government of Alberta website on winter driving guidance here.

Please be safe and stay warm out there!

New Year’s Resolutions for Families

Before starting a family (or when I had an extraordinarily young family), I used to practice New Year’s resolution trends like many younger and older adults! My resolutions were focused on myself of course, and always fixated on healthy or financially beneficial ideas. Now that my munchkins are older though, I’ve become accustomed to including them in my new resolution musings. When I decide to eat healthier, spend more time outside, exercise, or keep my life more organized, I inadvertently increase the benefits to them as well. A family shares the welfares of one another it seems!

This year though, my family is going to start a new resolution that was always meant to incorporate the whole! We did brainstorm together what the resolution would entail and many ideas cropped up during our family briefing: helping each other keep our rooms clean, going on more family outings, eating more chocolate (Polar Bear’s idea), and watching more dinosaur movies (Grizzly Bear) each made the list. We finally settled on a splendid idea that made everyone happy – Family Game Night!

And here’s why:

Quality Time

It’s true that quality time trumps quantity. With the busy life that twins parenthood, making time to spend together as a whole is very difficult. We are often multitasking when we do get together: my older son tells me about his day while I make supper, my younger son and I put a puzzle together while I keep scanning my emails on my phone, and my husband and I try to do things together but often do them apart, like walking the dog or going to the store (for the sake of convenience). Much of our time is eaten up with responsibilities – but fear not! Research has shown that quality time is much more beneficial to family life than the quantity!

Putting in a few hours of undivided, positive, and passionate time with your children has the greater potential to benefit them in their later years. A study published by the Journal of Marriage and Family indicated a very feeble connection exists between the amount of time parents spend with their children and their children’s emotional, academic, and behavioural development. Shockingly, the greater the time spent with children had little impact on them, and even affected them negatively if the parent was anxious, sleep-deprived, or stressed. However, the connection between quality time and positive development was very strong, indicating that children may flourish developmentally when the interactive parent is truly there (mind and body) with a positive and encouraging attitude. To check it out for yourself, click here.

Games for Preschoolers

So now that we’ve settled on a New Year’s resolution that has obvious benefits, what kinds of games are suitable for young children that can’t read? We were certainly not about to pull out Scrabble! But we did come up with some very promising games through a little more research and our own childhood reminiscing! Here are a couple of game ideas we came up with to get us started for our weekly game nights as a family:

· Twister – A game that’s extraordinarily active and full of funny positions is sure to make it to the top of the preschooler pile of fun nights! We received this game as a gift over the holidays and our boys just love it! It also gives them a chance to be in charge and increase their confidence as they can take a turn spinning the wheel and directing others! We played with all kids and adults alike and it was a hoot!

· Operation – A game of silly skills as you take turns playing doctor! This game is also a giant boost in the fine motor skills department as little ones are encouraged to pick up small objects with tweezers! This game is currently on the way to our house and I know it will bring all kinds of laughs!

· Jenga – Another unbeatable game when it comes to problem solving and fine motor skills! Jenga has all the pieces to give the family a laugh and I bet our kids will love it when we bust this one out later this year!

· Guess Who – This game involves some critical thinking as your child tries to guess which character card you are pretending to be! I believe this will be perfect for my older son as he tries to detect his way towards winning! We will also add this game to our weekly rotation when we get it!

· Bingo – My extended family introduced my children to this game a few weeks ago and they both love it! My older son is quite good at reading individual letters and numbers now and we hand-make personalized bingo cards (printed from Word) to help him maintain his skills. My younger son adores the bingo dabber and enjoys playing in teams so that he can continue to develop his skills as well! We also personalize his card with shapes to give him the winning edge!

· Perfection – We’ve had Perfection in the home for a little while now and it’s undoubtedly my younger son’s favourite game! It’s a more advanced and intricate shape sorter than baby toys and adds the fun as we all try to race time before it pops all the pieces back out at us! A great game for any budding child and devoted parent!

· Snakes and Ladders – Lastly, a final classic that is sure to be the first board game in any home. This timeless game of trying to race your opponents to the top helps kids learn to count and complete simple math while using dice. My older son loves this game and he is quite the little teacher as he tries to help his younger brother count too, leading by example when we show him! It’s a very inspiring evening when we play this game.

All of these games are sure to make our family quality time the best and most beneficial weekly activity we undertake for our young children and I hope these ideas benefit your families as well!

As Always, With You in Mind

I hope these game ideas inspire you and your family as they have mine. Please feel free to chime in with your favourite family games or New Year’s resolution! We can all use good ideas to keep our families happy and healthy!

And most of all, Happy New Year to you and yours!

Holiday Safety

Around this time of year, there’s plenty going on so it’s difficult to remember the importance of safety. With all the cheer being spread, the family coming to visit, and the little ones hopped-up on sweets, keeping safety safely in the back of your mind is vitally important for the sake of every family member. Here are a few scenarios that you may find yourself in this holiday season, and some important information you might find useful!

Stringing Holiday Lights

This holiday classic is sure to be on many families’ agendas around this time of year and it’s a particularly tricky one to master. It’s best to use an Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) approved ladder. To find the right type of ladder for the job and how to use it properly, click here.

Never string holiday lights while intoxicated. This can lead to some pretty serious falls and even worse consequences. Also, it’s best to work in pairs or have multiple hands around to help. You never know when you’ll need them!

Snowglobes

This is an interesting and not so well-known fact about these pretty decorations – many of them are filled with antifreeze. This isn’t a problem if the globe is used properly, but if dropped and the glass breaks, not only are the glass shards dangerous, but the antifreeze wafts a tantalizing odour towards your pets. Indeed, antifreeze smells sweet to cats and dogs, and they will happily lumber over to lap it up but this chemical can have disastrous consequences. So please remember to keep both pets and children away if you find yourself part of a snowglobe cleanup crew!

Visiting Family Members

When family comes calling over the holidays, or you go visit other homes, be wary of the unknown. This could come in the form of baby gates, trick steps, cupboards of chemicals, or even off-limit areas. Everyone knows the hazards in their own homes but are less knowledgeable about the hazards in those of others’. To skip this hurdle, it’s best to show your guests around your house and make them aware of any unsuspecting dangers. Remind them that you have little ones and that certain areas are off-limits or certain precautions need to be addressed by everyone – like closing the baby gate!

Likewise, if going to someone else’s home, ask for the grand tour! Make sure to ask about exterior doors that can be opened by curious tots or chemicals that are easy to reach. Keep an eye on those loved ones!

Fire Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Around this colder time of year, we tend to increase the heat in our homes, running a furnace that has been out of action for some time. Carbon monoxide detectors help us identify this odourless, colourless gas and emit a high frequency noise to alert us in the event our furnaces aren’t operating properly.

Likewise, fire departments see an increase in home fires this time of year. These fires are often related to holiday lights, candles, and burning food! To avoid any fire-related mishaps this season, be certain to turn off stringed lights when not in use and blow out candles if not attended. As for burning your holiday feast, a truly unfortunate misfortune, you can keep a fire extinguisher handy in the kitchen (away from little fingers). As a last line of defense, and certainly an important one, ensure your fire alarms are working properly and change any batteries that need it!

Be certain that you have carbon monoxide detectors in all sleeping areas and a fire alarm on every level of your home, and that you test them to ensure they are working properly. If you don’t have them, or need help checking them, The City of Edmonton Fire Rescue Services provides and/or installs smoke alarms free of charge to homeowners in specific residential communities around the city. To learn more, click here.

Tree Decorating

This timeless tradition is a lovely addition to any holiday gathering! Be wary though, it can come with it’s own challenges as the glass ornaments can break if dropped or held too hard. My youngest son, Polar Bear, has a knack for choosing the most breakable objects to use for a game of toss. To prevent any mishaps this season, I put the classically delicate ornaments near the top of the tree and the stuffed-animal ones on the bottom half! Always a step ahead!

As if falling from a great height or igniting your home wasn’t enough, even the lights on a tree can pose problems – shocking ones! To prevent any electrical shocks associated with tree decorating, use strands of lights that are in good condition. Check for frays or shorted out cords and discard them. Never use more plugs than your outlet is approved for and never lay cords across doorways, stairs, or high-traffic areas. To avoid these dangers, I always put my tree in a corner next to an outlet and I only use one socket to prevent the octopus look that can be so dangerous.

And for added precaution, I also tie my tree to a banister or other stationary object to prevent it tipping over and landing on anyone (like the dog while she’s taking a midnight drink!).

Food Safety

Around the holidays, I tend to make too much food. My family has always quoted that it’s better to have too much food for guests than too little – and I’m afraid I’ve fallen into the trap of not having enough room in the fridge for leftovers! This can quickly spiral out of control and end with someone eating something that’s no longer safe to eat. To prevent this, I label any bags or containers that make their way into the fridge during the holidays. The label should always include the date the food was prepared or thawed. Always consume food within 4 days (2 days for ground beef) and discard any foods that have been in the fridge for longer. No one likes getting sick during the holidays and it can be quite dangerous for little ones or pregnant women.

Inappropriate Toys

Lastly, watch what your child(ren) receive over the holidays. You may have plenty of visitors and well-wishers come to your door and dote on your little ones – but not all people know the developmental stage your child is at. Watch for toys that have button batteries, are made of little parts, aren’t age appropriate, or are exceedingly delicate. My four year old son has asked, and asked, and asked Santa for a toy Nerf gun this year. Even though I’ve written to Santa numerous times on my child’s behalf to regretfully decline his request, Santa has approved this toy and I now wait in distress (my internal mental dilemma of wanting my child to be happy, yet safe). Therefore, I have conceded and am now prepping my child with talks on the dangers of guns and how this toy, approved for my four year old, must be kept well away from my two year old, whom it is not age appropriate. *Sigh*

Last Tidbits

 I do hope this short list of precautions helps you and your family prepare for the wondrous holiday season this year! Remember, it is always practical to be safe and take the extra time and thought to do things the safe way!

If you have any tips on holiday safety, please share them with your friendly KARA staff or neighbours. You never know who it could save!