Strocel, Podcasts and Being a “Dadpreneur”

Mar

29

Our first podcast interview! Jason recently had a chance to chat with Amber Strocel on her popular blog Strocel.com. On top of discussing what makes Coco and Tini so special, Jason also gave his thoughts on being a “dadpreneur”.

You can check out the full post here.

Best Bath Toys for Toddlers

Mar

21

Older babies and toddlers who can sit up and pour, stack, splash and topple toys are ready to add bath toys to their bath time fun.  Bath toys for toddlers can be really simple or more elaborate toys that twirl, spray and turn when water is poured through.  Need some ideas?  Try these!

Empty bottles. Simple, economical and an endless source of fun, toddlers love to fill, pour out, squirt and squeeze empty plastic bottles.  Raid your recyling bin for water, shampoo or juice bottles, wash them thoroughly and let the games begin.

Stacking cups. A set of colourful stacking cups is an excellent bath toy.  They can be filled, poured into each other, nested together or stacked on top of one another, all of which are excellent hands-on learning opportunities for curious toddlers.

Foam letters, numbers and animal shapes. Bath “stickers” made from foam shapes are especially fun for older toddlers and preschoolers who are starting to identify letters and learn their names.  Animal shaped stickers are fun for creating nature scenes and storylines.

Plastic animals. These wonderful plastic animals by Schleich do double-duty as bath toys and playroom toys.  Just make sure any other animals or people you might be inspired to bring into the bath are fully solid and airtight – Little People figures in particular have a small hole at the bottom that will let them slowly fill with bathwater, which is then impossible to get out.

Boats. Simple plastic boats are a timeless bath toy, for good reason.  Make them float or sink, send your valiant fleet on a perilous expedition or launch a pirate attack.  The possibilities for creative play are endless.

Rubber ducky. Another classic bath toy, especially good for older babies or young toddlers who are still delighted and surprised by the squeak!

Water wheels. These toys use the force of water being poured into them to move, twirl and spray. They’re also great to put in a plastic bin or water table for sensory play outside of bath time.

Bubbles. A bath full of bubbles is a toy in itself.  Bubbles easily transform themselves into dress-up clothes, beards or hats.  Just add a mirror to let the kids see just how silly they look!

Bath toys are great fun for kids, but if you’re finding yourself overwhelmed at the thought of your bathroom being overrun with toys, choose one toy to bring out each week and put the rest away.  Rotating through bath toys keeps them fresh for the kids and keeps the bathroom easy to clean up afterwards.  Whether you choose to put out recycled bottles or an elaborate set of water wheels, bath toys are an opportunity for kids to have fun and learn about water at the same time.

A Calgary’s Child Magazine Best Bet

Mar

07

We thrilled to have been named a “Best Bet” by Calgary’s Child! Click here to see the layout.

3 Pictures of Perfect Parenting

Feb

28

I recently attended a parenting talk at the children’s school on the topic of “Being the Parent You Always Wanted To Be.” It was quite enlightening and certainly gave us parents a lot to talk about the following week.  The presenter, Lynn, suggested that we tend to think of ourselves as parents using a series of mental “pictures” of how we expect family life to be.   We have perfect pictures of ourselves as capable parents who can handle everything; the always patient, loving, cooking, sewing, do-it-yourself parent who also manages a fabulous career.  In our mental pictures, our children are well behaved little angels and everyone in the family is perfectly happy, all the time. And when our world doesn’t match those perfect mental pictures, we feel like failures as parents, beating ourselves up for our imperfections.  It’s a lot of pressure to put on ourselves.

Lynn suggested we toss those pictures aside and try to focus on 3 things that are most important to us as parents. That at the end of the day, all that really matters is x, y and z.  After a group brainstorm, we all agreed, more or less, on two things;  1) it’s really important to have good, honest communication with our children and 2) it’s really important to have fun together.  The third one varied from person to person but truly had nothing to do with keeping a perfect house or making lots of money.   One parent admitted that their child had decided that they didn’t want to have children of their own because it seemed like it was too much work!  Another parent told us that her child asked why she’s always so serious and doesn’t smile.  It made all of us reflect on our own behaviours and what our children might think of us.

Lynn’s message was very simple.  If what we’re doing is not contributing to those three things we feel are most important to being a good parent, then they are really not our priorities.  This realization was so liberating!  Of course we have to hold jobs to provide for our family and we must take time to manage the household affairs. However, a few extra dandelions in the front garden is not the end of the world.

Many of us went home with changed mental pictures of what we thought being a good parent was.  This week, I let the laundry go unfolded for an extra day and instead I played “shoots and ladders”.  One evening, instead of spending hours in the kitchen preparing a well balanced dinner, I ordered in and watched the hockey game on TV with the kids.  Guess what?  The laundry was still waiting there for me the next day, my family didn’t go hungry and I had fun enjoying time with my family.  What are your three pictures of perfect parenting?

Gardening With Children

Feb

22

As we see the first signs of the crocus and cherry blossom buds, many of us are getting the gardening itch! Perhaps you have dug through the shed to find your seed planting flats and shaken out your gardening gloves in anticipation of spring, well you’re not alone!  Anticipation of spring, growth and new life is a great treasure to share with children.  I remember cultivating a love for gardening as a young child with my grandfather who loved to grow anything edible.  I didn’t realize it then, but my education in botany was really rather extensive and included lessons on the care of specific plants, the characteristics of different varieties of tomatoes, peppers and zucchini, and even tree grafting!  Sharing a love of gardening with my children has been a joy we all share- even if they won’t eat the veggies that they work so hard to grow!

Don’t fret if your only real estate is a sunny window sill, you an your children can still enjoy gardening.  If you head down to your local hardware or gardening shop, you can pick up a growing kit very inexpensively.  Where you will want to spend your money is on a bag of good, organic soil and and seeds.  At this time of year, your seedlings should be started indoors to avoid damage to frost and a sunny window sill is the perfect spot.

Your Child-Friendly Planting Activity

Lay out a large garbage bag on the floor or table and dump out a pile of soil.  Let the children fill the pots with the soil. Next, they can use their fingers to create a hole in the soil to drop the seeds.  Cover the seeds with soil, water and wait!  Watering every couple of days should be enough unless you are keeping your planting pots near a heat source, then they should be watered daily.

To learn more about your plants, you and your children can visit the library and take out books about the plants you have selected or browse the internet together to find out how to best care for your chosen plants.

The children can decorate the flower pots in advance with stickers or make labels to place on a popsicle stick to identify the different potted plants.  The possibilities for creativity are endless!

Happy gardening!

3 Empty Jam Jars

Feb

13

We wrote recently about the weekly Responsibility Chart and setting household tasks for the children.  Well, we’re on week 4 and I have to report that overall, the initiative has been a huge success!  Each Sunday the children select their new responsibilities for the week and complete them daily with enthusiasm for the coveted “smily face” magnet and the possibility of earning their allowance at the end of the week.

Something just didn’t sit right with me to see them stuff the coins in their piggy banks and then plotting to spend every cent on candy, toys and hockey cards.  Last week, I gave the children 3 empty jam jars and labeled them; SPEND, SAVE, CHARITY, explaining what each of them was for.  They each have their own set and are to put some of their allowance money into each jar.  It’s a fascinating experiment to watch.  While one child’s “Save” jar is gaining in popularity, the other child’s “Spend” jar is the one with the most coins.  It’s interesting to hear about their allocation rationale each week.

Although the jam jar method might seem pretty simplistic, my hope is that it teaches the children about the value of money.  It has the potential to teach them about the difference between needs and wants.  “Do I need that pack of hockey cards, or do I want them?” “What are things that I actually need?”.  It has the potential to teach them about ethics and sharing and being a responsible citizen by giving their earned money to someone or some cause in actual need.   And lastly, it has the potential of teaching children how to delay gratification by saving up for something and enjoying the anticipation and achievement of their goals.   3 empty jam jars.  Hmmm…..

Turn Learning Into Fun!

Feb

04

Do you ever watch your child in amazement and think about how much they learn every day?  It’s remarkable!  I have heard that a person learns more before the age of four than they do for the rest of their lives after that. In fact Sergey Brin and Larry Page, founders of Google, credit their success (worth over $6 billion each!) to what they learned in Montessori preschool.  So if you have experienced “preschool panic” as we blogged about a few weeks ago, perhaps you will feel justified in your quest to find the perfect preschool.

Having some experience with the Montessori method, I can say with confidence, that the philosophy of fostering a love for learning can take children a long way on their educational path and emotional development.  Creating fun environments for learning can make addition and subtraction seem like fun & games.

Feel like creating an environment of learning at home?  Well, when everyone starts feeling a little squirrly around our house and no one can seem to find anything to occupy themselves with, we often play a game we invented (which was a fun and creative pursuit in itself) called the “Smartie Pants Trivia Game”.  It can take place anywhere with no materials required except a bit of imagination.  Our games, for some reason or another, can only take place in the kitchen between the doorway and the stove…I’m sure you will find your unique place in your home.  Here’s how it works:

Parent asks child questions that are appropriate for their own level, so children of any age can play together.  Of course, it’s just as fun to play with only one player. For every correct response, they get to take a step forward.  For every incorrect answer they can just stay where they are.  We tend to give “2nd” or even “3rd chances” on incorrect answers to encourage the kiddies to work through the process of coming up with the correct answer.  Controversial I know, to create competition between siblings but you’ve got to do what works for your family!

So, for a child who is 4 years old for example, you might ask them to name the city, province, country or continent they live in.  For an older child, you might ask them to recite their address, phone number or other important safety information you think they should know.  Of course, we always pull out the math questions and spelling, geography and those related to the animal world.  The winner at our house gets a “special treat” which is usually a big hug from mum.  That one seems to be wearing thin, but always elicits some giggles and a chase around the kitchen to catch my hug!  Honestly, my children can hardly contain themselves when we play “Smartie Pants”.   I hope you find it as much fun as we do!

Feel free to add your own creative “rules” to the game and be sure to drop us a line and let us know how you’re making learning fun at your house!

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Jan

31

This week many of our friends and family will be celebrating the Chinese New Year and welcoming the year of the rabbit.  For those of us not of Chinese heritage, it’s a great opportunity for the whole family to experience the rich cultural diversity of our communities.  In many major cities across North America you can find parades, performances and feasts for young and old alike.  If you are neighbours of Coco & Tini, you can check out the annual parade in Vancouver’s historic Chinatown.  The colourful parade, which includes lion dancers, martial arts and the VPD motorcycle drill team will wind it’s way through 1.2km of Chinatown.  Check out your community listings for full coverage of the fun-filled activities!

Here’s a simple and festive craft to do at home with your little ones:

Chinese Paper Lanterns

You will need:

  • Coloured paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue, tape or stapler

Instructions

  • Fold a rectangular piece of coloured paper long side to long side so that you get a skinnier rectangle.
  • Make a series of cuts along the fold line making sure not to cut all the way to the edge
  • Unfold the paper
  • Glue, tape or staple the short edges of the paper together
  • Cut a strip of paper about 2 cm wide and about 15cm long to  make a handle
  • Glue, tape or staple the strip of paper across one end of the lantern to make a handle.
  • Voila!  You can make several lanterns and string them up around your house or to tape between doorways!

Happy New Year!

The Responsibility Chart

Jan

25

This week our family got out the picture hanging kit, found an empty section of wall in the kids room and hung up responsibility charts for each of our two children.  We had tried the home-made responsibility charts and weekly allowance routine before with a short-lived interest.  A friend of mine was selling these very official wooden charts made by Melissa & Doug with pre-marked responsibilities and magnetic smily faces.  A few of my friends use these with their children and all have had satisfactory levels of success, so I figured what the heck! Probably the greatest success reported has been the long-term habits for helping out that have lasted even after the responsibility is no longer on the list.

So, on Sunday morning, each of the children got to select the 7 responsibilities they would like to work on for the week and I told them that they have to achieve 30 smily faces in the week to earn $5.  My youngest child (5) has taken on the challenge with great enthusiasm, selecting responsibilities that would be challenging to him, such as “taking care of pet”, while my older son (7) has selected things like “brush teeth” and “get dressed” which he has to do anyway.  The enthusiasm his younger brother has for tackling challenging responsibilities has prompted him (without my suggestion) to change out some of the easier items on the list and replace them with responsibilities that require more effort, such as “clean my room”.  Progress.

Have you had any success with children’s allowance schemes that you would like to share?  Leave us a comment and let us know what’s worked for you!

A Win For Canadian Children

Jan

18

The announcement comes today as the Canadian federal government has finally agreed to ban six phthalates, chemicals that are commonly used in the manufacture of children’s vinyl toys.  This new regulation will be implemented in June of this year.

Phthalates are found in items such as bath toys, soothers, teethers, squeeze toys, inflatable toys, rattles and bibs.  Phthalates are the additive that make toys soft and flexible. The chemicals become dangerous when the chemicals are leached out of the toy, generally through saliva when young children put these items in their mouth.

If you haven’t had the chance to read the book “Slow Death By Rubber Duck” by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie, we recommend it.  If you have read it, you’ve learned all about the dangers of exposure to phthalates through hormone disruption damaging the reproductive systems of small children.  This ban here in Canada comes almost 10 years after Europe and the United States banned the use of these chemicals in children’s products.  Now Canadians will have the same protection.  Thank you Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq!

Although this is a great win for Canadian children, it’s wise to be aware that phthalates are used in a variety of other commonly used products that may not be regulated by the ban.  They are also found in many consumer products to hold scent and colour such as perfumes, nail polish, vinyl floors, detergents, food packaging, soap, paint, shampoo and good old plastic bags.  You can avoid these by checking out the ingredient panels of your commonly used products and saying “no” to the following list of ingredients:

  • DEHP (di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate)
  • DINP (diisonlnyl phthalate)
  • DBP (dibutyl phthalate)
  • BBP (benzyl butyl phthalate)
  • DNOP (di-n-octyl phthalate)
  • DIDP (diisodecyl phthalate)
  • DMP (dimethyl phthalate)
  • DEP (diethyl phthalate)