Risky Play

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

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

 

A Learning Technique

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

 

Benefits of Risk

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

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

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

 

A Young Life Without Risk

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

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

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

Freedom + Fear = Thrill (Danger)

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

Risk – The possibility of something happening

Hazard – A potential source of danger

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

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

Risk now equals hazards divided by parental safeguards.

 

Risky Play in Your Community

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

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

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

 

Last Note on Inspiring Yourself

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

 

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

Sports for Kids

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

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

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

What’s Holding You Back?

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

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

 

Just Do It

The Frontrunners of Funding

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

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

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

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

 

Out of Left Field

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Child Too Young for Sports?

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

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

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

 

The Ball is in Your Court

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

Indoor Crafts

Snowy Days and Indoor Crafts

As the weather turns, it’s difficult to keep our kids active and inspired. Rather than turning to the same old toys and television, I urge parents to try some indoor crafts! And, there’s no better time like the present because there’s another fun holiday around the corner, and terribly low temperatures leading up to it. Knowing this, my sons and I have been working extra hard on decorating our home with DIY Valentine’s Day crafts!

Craft Making – The Importance of it

Craft making is inspirational!  Not only does it help young ones develop fine-motor skills and give them that boost of self-esteem (sometimes I wonder if my kids really need it), it also helps promote innovation, creativity, problem-solving skills, and socializing! Recently, researches in this area have found a connection between the skills developed during arts and crafts time and success in later years of life. They concurred that toddlers and preschoolers develop what are called visual-processing skills when they create a crafty project. Visual-processing skills incorporate our ability to recognize patterns, find sequences in patterns, and identify spacial patterns. In simpler terms, if you have a blue triangle and you’re trying to fit it into a yellow, circular hole, you will be able to recognize that it doesn’t fit before even trying it. These same skills are what mathematics, geometry, and reading rely heavily on. Researchers also found that children who have regular arts and crafts time also have greater memory skills, muscle memory, and planned behavior. These skills are indicative of professional leadership skills (click here).

Woohoo! Now let’s bust out some romantic crafts! I’ve divvied up these crafty ideas based on age for ease of perusing.

Newborn to One Year Old

A Salty Keepsake

You can never have too many cutie-pie feet or handprint décor in your house, so try making this one with your squirmy baby (it’s easier to use and cleaner than paint!). You will need:

1 cup of salt

2 cups of flour

¾ cups of water

5 drops of red food colouring (more if you desire red rather than pink)

1 large mixing bowl

1 mixing spoon

1 rolling pin

1 well-rested baby

Stir the salt and flour together in the mixing bowl. Gradually mix in the water until you have a nice, doughy consistency. Knead in the red food colouring until you have the desired colour and then roll the dough as if you were about to cut it into cookies (but don’t because they won’t taste very good!).

Using your baby’s feet or hands, make a print in the dough. I liked making heart shapes with their feet and then cutting a heart shape around it. I also made a small hole at the top so that I could lace a string through to hang it up.

After your unique baby creations are created, place the salty memories in the oven at 180 °C for about 10 minutes (times vary depending on the size and thickness of creations).

Note: You can also paint and varnish your creations if you desire to make your own homemade toys!

One to Two Years Old

A Sticky Situation

If you’re like me and allow your children as much free rein as possible with arts and crafts (within reason), you’ll want to have a go at this one! What you’ll need:

1 piece of paper (I prefer cardstock as it will allow for a lot of glue without getting soggy)

1 bottle of glue or glue stick

Approximately 30 pieces of coloured paper, roughly 1 x 1 inches in size

1 black marker

1 adventurous toddler

I drew a large heart on a white piece of cardstock with a black marker, added a bunch of glue to the inside of the perimeter, and provided my son with little pieces of coloured paper so that he could decorate as he saw fit. It worked very well – the third time.

Haha! I mean to say he had fun each and every time he tried it but he mastered new skills along the way, making his third attempt worthy of carefully scraping it off the highchair to hang on the wall.

Two to Three Years Old

Fashionista in the Making

Kids at this age love to play dress-up, so why not fashion your own trinkets? If you can get your hands on these, or similar items, try making this DIY Valentine’s Day crown and necklace:

6 pieces of pipe cleaner, red or pink

1 piece of white cardstock (lengthy enough to fit the circumference of your child’s head)

20 to 30 foam or paper hearts

1 pair of children’s scissors (or a holepunch, if available)

1 pencil

Tape or stapler

1 apprentice jeweler

First, measure your child’s head using the cardstock paper. Mark it with a pencil (don’t cut it while it’s near your child for risk of injury or a nasty haircut). Cut and tape it. Let your child decorate it with the hearts and pipe cleaner.

I liked showing my son how to wrap pipe cleaner around his finger to give it a spirally appearance. We then put hearts on them and taped them to either side of the crown to appear as ears.

For the necklace, holepunch or cut holes in the centres of the remaining hearts and let your child poke the other pipe cleaner pieces through them. Twist the pipe cleaner ends together so that they will make a lovely, romantic necklace with heart shaped jewels!

Three to Four Years Old

A Basket of Roses

My son is obsessed with bringing me flowers ever since he was allowed to pick them in my Mom’s garden this summer (she told me he was more accomplished at demolishing her flowers than the neighbourhood rabbits). This year, we made some DIY roses in a freshly decorated Chinese noodle box. They smell excellent.

What you need:

1 Chinese noodle box (or tissue box cut in half width-wise)

18 to 20 coloured mini (or regular sized) cupcake liners

6 green pipe cleaners

1 small floracraft (or styrofoam)

2 sheets of red tissue paper

Tape

1 amateur florist

Help your child turn the cupcake liners inside out so that the coloured portion will end up being the inside of the roses. Stack three liners on top of one another and poke the pipe cleaner through the centre of the stack, so that it is just poking through, and twist slightly so that is remains in place. Do this for all six of the flowers.

For the basket, tape the tissue paper to the outside to give it a beautiful glow. Place the floracraft inside the box and cover with more tissue paper. Then poke your pipe cleaner flowers into the floracraft. Viola! A beautiful centerpiece your guests are sure to comment on!

Four to Five Years Old

A Watercolour World of Hearts

For the most hardened of young artists, there is black paint and watercolours. This project takes a little prep work from parents as it requires a day for the glue to dry before your young creator can get to work, but it’s well worth the wait! What you need:

1 piece of cardstock paper

1 bottle of white glue

1 tablespoon of black paint

1 tray of watercolours

1 glass of water

1 paintbrush

1 pair of child’s scissors

1 aspiring artist

Empty one half of the glue out of the bottle and add the black paint (the bottle should contain ½ white glue, ¼ black paint, and ¼ air), and mix well. Next, draw hearts onto the cardstock paper and let dry for one day. My son seemed to like when the hearts had many sections in them as it gave him more areas to paint with different colours.

After the black glue is dry, let your child watercolour away! The watercolour paint doesn’t take nearly as long to dry (about half an hour). After we cut ours out, we taped them to his bedroom window so that it had a stained glass effect!

Shopping List and Other Indoor Craft Ideas

I do hope you and your family have fun trying these artsy ideas! All of the materials were available at the dollar store, except for the floracraft, which was obtained from Michaels, and the Chinese noodle box, which was left over from lunch. They were all relatively well priced (even the lunch!) and many colour options were available.

If you’d like more DIY craft ideas, I strongly suggest attending KARA’s Creative Play & More program, which is a free, drop-in program. KARA staff will surely astound you with the many crafty ideas they possess. Please come join us for an artsy day this week!

Exercises for Kids

With the New Year now in full swing, my Dad (Grandpa) approached me to engage in a strange conversation.

Dad: “What will your New Year’s resolution be this year?”
Daughter: “I’m not sure, perhaps try to save money. What about yours?”
Dad: “I’m going to start an exercise routine with your kids.”
Daughter: “?????”

That’s right. My Dad was looking to get into shape this year and he was counting on my high-spirited, active children to keep it fun and motivating!
Kudos to him for coming up with this brilliant scheme, one that rivals the methods used by many gyms to get you into shape (and get your money). Surely this is going to benefit him, but would it have a positive impact on my kids?

Why Organized Exercise is Good for Kids

When I was young, we had a TV but exposure to it was limited by parental rules. If I wanted something to do, the number one go to for fun was activity (particularly outdoor activity).

With our kids having more than just a TV to stare at now (my dayhome lady owns more than just one tablet – yikes), it can get a little hard to encourage exercise in little ones…

But you should and here’s why:

Exercise, organized or not, helps children gain and develop gross motor skills. Gross motor skills are one of the five areas of development to determine if your child is on track (see Blog 14). Gross motor skills allow kids to run until
they’re exhausted, score the perfect goal when playing soccer, and jump on parents while they are sleeping. Gross motor skills are fantastic, right?
And gross motor skills gained now last a lifetime, as does a healthy exercise routine.

You may think that your kids get plenty of exercise right now by running, jumping, and just generally gallivanting around, which they do. But just like brushing their teeth, exercise will live with them if you start laying the foundation when they are small children.

When you’re teaching a child to brush their teeth, what you’re really doing is protecting their teeth for many years to come. If they pick up on exercise now, you’ll be laying the foundation for a lifetime of exercise. This is fantastic
because we all know exercise:

Promotes Heart Health: A heart is a muscle that works very hard during exercise. By doing your workout routine, especially cardio workouts, you are strengthening it.

Clears Arteries: Keeping arteries clear and “teaching” them to expand and constrict lowers blood pressure.

Increases Lung Capacity: By increasing the capacity for new air and enabling your lungs to efficiently move air in and out of your body, you are helping all of your cells get the oxygen they need to stay healthy.

Strengthens Bones: Just like muscles, bones strengthen and increase in density when you work out (I actually did not know
this one).

Increases Emotional Well-being: Exercise releases hormones that are associated with calmness and feelings of well-being while simultaneously reducing depression.

To see more benefits of exercise, click here.

So exercise helps kids develop skills now and promotes a healthy routine that could last with them through life – Sign me up, right?

But how do you start exercising with munchkins that can barely keep pace with you in the grocery store? Well we aren’t talking about lifting weights just yet. Start with these easy and fun exercises that are sure to increase the well-being of the entire family!

Exercises for Kids (and You!)

My go-to exercises have always been ballet barre and yoga. Both are exceptional for strength building, improving posture, meditating, breathing control, and even relaxation. Additionally, the poses incorporated are both feasible and fun for kids and adults alike. Check them out, but be wary! Exercising correctly is more important than exercising at all.

So, stretch first and don’t push yourself!

Planking: In this yoga pose, lay down on your tummy, place your elbows on the floor, and raise your body up, straight as a board from your head to your heels. Hold the position for 10 seconds or more depending on your and your child’s ability. I like to do this one with my children five to ten times.

Squats: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Then bend your knees as if you are about to sit on a chair – don’t fool yourself too much because there won’t be one there to catch you! Holding this position is a bit tough the first few times but it really is a good one for strength building and balance! I like to do this one five to seven times with the kids.

Rond de Jambe: This ballet move may be a hit with little girls (my boys like it too!). If you haven’t done this before, it’s nice to start with a chair to hold on to. Stand with your toes pointed out and both knees bent slightly. Raise one leg straight in front of you and your arm up in a curve over your head.

For parents, be sure to rotate your foot so your inner ankle is engaged– this is what actually tones your leg muscles. Bring your leg back and then out to the side. Only go as high with your leg as is comfortable. This one is a bit too easy for my soccer stars so we go until they get bored.

Plie Bend: Another ballet move that’s sure to be fun is the plie. Stand against a wall with your toes pointed out and slowly bend your legs so that you are sliding down the wall. Once you feel the stretch, hold for 5 seconds (or longer). Then slowly raise up to a demi pointe (not on the tips of the toes like true ballet, but on the forefoot). Like squats, I like to do this one five to seven times with my munchkins.

Burpees: My sons’ favourite exercise because it is a lot of movement and gets your heart going! This sequence of movements starts you off in the squatting position. Then put your hands to the ground and kick your legs straight behind you so that you land on your toes. Now that you are in a push-up position, why not do one (ugh) and then jump back so that your feet land by your hands and finish by standing up. My kids think these are so fun that they never really stop doing them (I crash after 10).

Try these exercises at home or come up with some of your own! I bet your kids will love them more than brushing their teeth (but please do still brush their teeth!).

Halloween and Safety

“Halloween! Mommy, I love candy and candy is coming soon! Oh, I do love candy.”

A few weeks ago, I took my munchkins out shopping for their costumes and they had a ball checking out different characters, pressing buttons, and generally making a mess of the store. I felt right at home as I followed them around, picking up after them and discouraging my toddler from chewing on tags. We finally settled on matching Buzz Lightyear and Sheriff Woody getups and they looked fantastic!

As I was standing in line to purchase these wonderful (albeit expensive) costumes when I noticed glow stick bracelets. It was then that I recalled the safety prep portion that ties in with this holiday and I started to take note of a few other things I was forgetting that were Halloween related.
Safety was number one. My family and I must take precautions before and during obtaining free candy. It would be a good reminder for my older Grizzly Bear about roads and holding hands and a good introduction for my younger Polar Bear. Number two was getting to know our community. It’s always nice to meet our neighbours, even if it’s in the dead of night and we’re dressed in costumes asking for sweets.

In regard to safety, Health Canada recommends following these tips for this spooky season!

Costumes
 Choose brightly coloured, flame-resistant costumes. Have you ever been driving at night and seen someone dressed in black walking their black Labrador? Now imagine that person is 3 ft tall and on a sugar high; it’s probably a good idea to go with the flamboyant pink wig than a member from KISS (although hilarious)!

 Use makeup rather than a mask. Masks can interfere with vision and even breathing. Our children are likely to be out of breath running from house to house in a mad dash to get the full-size candy bars, so it’s best not to add to the risks associated with the intake of oxygen or falling over the neighbours’ garden ornaments.

 For youngsters such as my Polar Bear who have taken on the personality of a beaver, remove tags right away and choose costumes that don’t have buttons. For children of any age, do not choose costumes with strings. These can tangle easily and pose a big risk to circulation.

Decorating
 Put any jack-o’-lanterns up out of reach if you’ve decided to put real candles in them. Little ones can easily knock them over in their excitement to get to your door and even littler ones can find the flickering flame more irresistible to touch than waiting in line for candy.

 Make sure lawn decorations are clearly visible and not sharp or pointy. Kids have a knack for not watching where they are going, often tripping over their own feet. It’s a shame when they trip over and break your decor but an even bigger shame if they end up hurting themselves.

 Keep your pets behind closed doors. Many disastrous events happen when pets are involved in Halloween. They can harm a child or harm themselves if they get out of the house when the door opens. Pets don’t understand what Halloween is and little strangers dressed in scary costumes could agitate and worry them, causing injuries.

Candy

 Little hands and big eyes can lead to disaster. It’s important to repeat the same motto your parents told you – don’t touch until you get home. Make sure to check your child’s haul thoroughly. Not everyone has your child’s best interest at heart. It’s hard not to get into the spirit of Halloween, especially when it gives you a chance to make memories with your child. My kids love the candy and I love the goofy pictures. I also like the benefit of getting to know my neighbours a bit more. This holiday is a great way to socialize and build strength in your community.

Last year, my family toured the neighbourhood and met most of the lovely folks that lived around us. For the last year, we’ve been able to strengthen those bonds further and it all stemmed from that first awkward conversation where my child asked for free sweets, shaking a brightly coloured bucket on their front doorstep.

Holidays such as Halloween really do have benefits for parents, even the ones that don’t steal their child’s candy after they fall asleep. So get out there and have a fun, safe holiday with your family. And watch out for tummy aches!

Mini Helpers

This week at KARA you’ll find the guys and gals outside with a Fun In The Sun theme! My little bears love being outdoors and have tremendous fun at spray parks.

The featured photo is of my Polar Bear making his way through a minefield of sprinklers in order to get to me. I feel the right caption to describe the look on his face is “Do I Have a Plan?”

But what if summer days aren’t sunny? We all know The Cat in the Hat children’s classic but do we really want to see our children staring out of windows at the rain in the absence of a large, talking feline? On these kinds of days, I like to get my children involved in something, engaged in what I’m doing, and entertained by simple daily tasks. No, I’m not talking about crafts or building forts out of my freshly laundered towels. We do that often enough during winter months. I’m talking about CLEANING! 􀀀

Cleaning and organizing are what I love to do with my kids and they are young and impressionable enough that they think it’s fun! We put some good, dancing music on, usually a Shania Twain album, and just let loose!
If cleaning, I prep some extra spray bottles of water for my two boys while mine is a combination of water and vinegar. This way, if they pick mine up and spray each other, the worst that happens is that they start to smell like a salad.

Next, I give each of them a scrubby pad and a baby wash cloth. My older Grizzly Bear actually has a fair few muscles now and can actually see the difference when making something clean. We wash floors and mirrors together, after making silly mirror faces of course. My little Polar Bear makes some developmental progress while feeling the different textures of the cloths. The smooth, soft baby cloth versus the rough, bumpy scrubby brush really enthrals him, plus add a bit of water and watch out!

When organizing, I bring my kids into the room that we will be working in and close the door. Clothes, books and long lost forgotten toys move too quickly in the hands of my children and my pulse quickens when watching them cart around dozens of escaping LEGO blocks. I usually only invite my kids to help organize my own room or theirs. They love organizing mommy’s closet and putting on my shoes! When we organize their rooms, I bring down the boxes of toys lingering at the tops of closets. By storing some toys away, it allows me to rotate their toys so old ones become new again, saving a buck, and outdated toys can be sold, making a buck.

There are a few things I’ve learned along the way when it comes to soliciting my children’s help in daily chores, however. Pushing buttons on the laundry machines, using the feather duster, and sweeping dog hair under the rug is all good fun but I’ve learned some areas are just not meant to be cleaned by kids. The dishwasher has led to a few close calls as my little ones are just too little. Likewise, the cleaning of the bathroom isn’t meant for curious little bears. It’s icky enough to clean a toilet as an adult with proper sanitary routines. Add a kid and… well I just don’t want to think about it.

In conclusion, parenthood is a busy time. You’re always doing the right things for your children but the right things often pile up when you add them together. Changing diapers and clothes, potty breaks, brushing hair and teeth, feeding them healthy meals that can take hours to make,
doing arts and crafts, reading to them, taking them to programs, teaching them good manners, and the multitude of other tasks we do for our loved ones add up quick. This is just one way of combining a few tasks together to try and make it easier on yourself as a busy parent. But hopefully our families’ summer continues to be sunny, and if not, at least our houses will be clean!

Summertime Tips

Can you imagine one day without hearing your child laughing? How about imagining a day without spending time outside together? When the warm weather rolls around, I could never live without an abundance of both.

I am a mother of two amazing children (what child isn’t amazing?) and have the time of my life making them smile. Many of those smiles happen when we spend our days at KARA Family Resource Centre. Now, I’ve been with KARA as both a coworker and as a friend; as both a Mom and as a Mom-to-be. I’ve enjoyed all of my moments with my KARA family and know the truth about who I am and who my children are; we would not be the same without KARA (what KARA family would?).

Now for the summer part: when it comes to my children, I’ve come across a few summer related mishaps. By sharing these tips with you, I hope you’ll come out ahead.

Sunscreen. Yes, lather up your little ones (and yourself) with sunscreen SPF 30 of higher. Sun protection factor (SPF) is a rating of how long sunscreen will protect against UVB. Now, the sun emits both UVA and UVB (among other wavelengths) and the higher the SPF factor, the longer the protection against both UVA and UVB. For those of you with kids with an … interesting taste for adventure (pun intended!), make sure to lock up the sunscreen after you’ve used it. My kids don’t have a taste for it but my dog does. It’s best to put it out of harm’s reach either way. For youngsters, and I mean six months or younger, sunscreen is not recommended. Instead, grab a sunshade for the playpen or stroller.

Shades. How many times I’ve tried to convince my baby that sunglasses need to be worn outdoors will astound you. I originally purchased sunglasses without a strap and didn’t have the funds to buy a second pair so I opted to make my purchase work. It took quite some time to wear him (me?) down but this most amazing trick saved us. Every time I put the sunglasses on his face, I’d call him “Cool Dude” and he’d revel in the compliment of being called “Cool”. I learned this trick from a KARA family Dad.  Now, sunglasses should always have 100% UV protection. Choose shades that curve around the face to provide protection from side sunshine. Just like skin, the sun can damage eyes. The damage is worse when you have low levels of vitamin C, so bust out those oranges and strawberries!

Water bottles! Every child enjoys owning their very own accessory, and Mom’s enjoy not sharing the backwash. Get a water bottle that your child finds interesting and easy to use. Write your child’s name on it so it doesn’t go home with a friend. Plastic bottles decompose over time from our own saliva. Heat will also make plastic bottles break down. If you choose plastic, be sure to hand wash it directly after use. Don’t let it end up in the hot dishwasher. You can’t taste plastic but you also can’t digest it. Another, more convenient choice, is a stainless steel kids bottle. A little more expensive but they are relatively indestructible. They normally come with silicone straws (a natural material) so there isn’t anything to worry about when it comes to cleaning.

Lastly, get out there and enjoy summer! Your kids will have a blast at the KARA Summer Program and you’ll have a chance to use these helpful tips! Don’t forget, you’re a “Cool Dude” yourself!