Sports for Kids

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

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

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

What’s Holding You Back?

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

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

 

Just Do It

The Frontrunners of Funding

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

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

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

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

 

Out of Left Field

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Child Too Young for Sports?

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

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

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

 

The Ball is in Your Court

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

Car Seat Safety

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

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

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

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

 

Alberta Car Seat Laws

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

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

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

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

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

 

Rear-facing Car Seats

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

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

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

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

 

Forward-facing Car Seats

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

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

 

Booster Seats

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

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

 

Other Car Seat Tidbits

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

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

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

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

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

 

Foolish Complacency

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

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

 

Make Every Ride a Safe Ride

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

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

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!

Child Proofing

Like many Mom’s, I’m overconfident in my children’s understanding of what is okay to touch and what isn’t. In fact, when my second child arrived, my Polar Bear, I did very little to childproof my new home. I felt that children were inherently smart and that they could take most of what the world could dish out, especially in this modern-day age.

The truth is that childproofing will minimize your child’s chances of getting hurt, or worse. According to The National Center for Health Statistics, approximately 10.4 million children under three were admitted to emergency rooms in the United States as a result of household accidents in the last decade. The number one cause of injuries was attributed to falls and the number one cause of serious injuries resulting in death was attributed to furniture falling on the child. It’s no doubt that children need our protection. And the best way to protect is to prevent.

The Huffington Post Canada recommends using anchors rather than latches as effective solutions to preventing furniture from falling on loved ones. They recommend childproofing before children are mobile and state that getting on your hands and knees to explore your home from the child’s point of view really helps parents identify areas of concern.

The University of Alabama conducted a study where they arranged for first-time-moms of children aged 12 to 36 months to walk through scenarios and identify potential hazards. The study concluded that fewer than half the hazards were recognized. Parents Magazine put together their own project for readers to use to educate themselves; they incorporated drawings of typical households and circled potential hazards. I have included a few for reference and more can be found here: https://www.parents.com/toddlers preschoolers/safety/toddlerproofing/home-safe-home-childproofyour-
home-room-by-room/

It’s smart to be prepared for the worst, so I’ve compiled a short list of childproofing must-haves that are nearly universal. I’ve used these products before and can say with certainty that they helped protect my
children:

• Toilet lock – As you can plainly see, I didn’t invest in this must-have soon enough (Mommy was
• present through this adventure but it could have happened when I wasn’t there). Childproofing
• the toilet is extremely important and the toilet lock, any brand, is a must-have
• Bath spout covers – These nifty covers are to be placed over your tub spout to protect your baby’s
• head from the faucet
• Finger pinch guards – These guards are placed high up on doors (out of reach) and prevent doors
• from closing all the way, protecting fingers
• Tamper-proof plugs – Have a professional install these for you. I know it’s expensive but I can’t
• stress the importance of this must-have enough. Electricity and children don’t mix.
• Drawer and cupboard latches – These are what come to mind when most people think of
• childproofing. Common as they are, they should not be overlooked when making your home childfriendly.
• Baby gates – A pain to install and use but nothing compared to the pain a child feels when falling
• down stairs. This type of accident always results in a trip to the hospital so it’s crucial to have this
• must-have. Additionally, only hardware mounted gates are approved for stairs. Do not use
• pressure mounted gates as these can come loose and fall with your baby, adding extra danger to
• the situation.

If you need help determining the right childproofing gadgets for your unique home, please contact KARA. Additional tips and resources on childproofing can be obtained during programs or just having a chat with a wonderful staff member. They have years of experience and know quite a few talented handymen to
help make your home safe for your loved ones. All the best and stay safe!

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!