Family Adventures With Netflix

by Samantha on August 28, 2014

Some adventurous titles to watch with the family

Summertime means many things to many people. To kids – mine, in particular – it’s a time to both chill out and relax as well as to engage in some adventurous activity.

Now – keep in mind that my boys are small and my middle daughter is not yet a teen, so the word “adventure” is relative.

Our yearly summer plans include much down time for the kids as well as pre-planned activities such as summer camps, daycare and, of course, our family vacation.

For the past few years, we’ve visited the Eastern Townships in Quebec, staying at a friend’s cottage, far away from the urban, downtown life that we live for most of the year.

Instead of listening to horns honking and streetcars dinging as they make their way past my street, we instead choose to wake up to relative silence, but for the calls of a lone loon or two and perhaps some gentle rolling of waves on the nearest lake.

Here’s an early morning view of sunrise during our cottage visit. Yes – it’s as tranquil as it appears.

cottage sunrise

During the days, we hung out and did a mixture of “doing nothing” as well as some more adventurous activities. These included boating, fishing, hiking and general fun and games. The point was to spend time together and pique the kids’ interest in all things outdoorsy. Being in nature definitely brought out the adventurous side of the kids as we hiked, fished and went out on the boat:

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In the evenings, we relaxed and admittedly took to the tube to queue up a movie or two on Netflix. My kids love the variety of programs that they can choose from, and I love that we can sit down together as a family and watch a program that we can all enjoy. Some adventurous titles that were on the agenda included:

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Some other titles now available on Netflix include:

For the big kids:

  1. The Adventures of Tintin
  2. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
  3. Tad: The Lost Explorer
  4. The Adventures of Mickey Matson and the Copperhead Treasure
  5. National Treasure
  6.  Labou and the Quest for the Lost Treasure

For the little ones:

  1. Dora The Explorer
  2. Wild Animal Baby Explorers
  3. Tree Fu Tom
  4. Rubbadubbers: Tubb’s Pirate Treasure
  5. A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventures
  6. The Hive

How did your family experience adventure this summer? What are your favourite adventure movies and shows to watch with the kids? Tell me about it in the comments section below!

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Top 5 Tips to Help You Send Your Child Off to School For the First Time

first day of school

For parents whose kids are entering Kindergarten for the first time, the stakes are high. Not necessarily for the child but oftentimes more so for the parents. Having been home with their son or daughter for a number of years makes the prospect of sending them off to school particularly anxiety-inducing. Though their kids may have gone to selected preschool classes, play groups or similar social situations, Kindergarten signifies “the big leagues.”

For first-time parents, there is often anxiety, fear and stress felt by the prospect being away from their child and relinquishing responsibility to someone other than themselves. The unknown – in this case a classroom, other kids and a new teacher – can feel particularly daunting.

I’ve written about the first day of school before from the perspective of the child but realize that oftentimes, it’s the parents who need some support and encouragement. Below are some simple tips for those who are facing the prospect of sending their child or children off to school for the first time.

Sending Your Child to School For the First Time - Top 5 Tips For Parents

1) Your Kids Will Be Fine - Kids are a lot more resilient than we think. Surprisingly, they often step up to the challenge and thrive when they’re beyond the protective gaze of their parents. Have faith in both your child and the teachers who understand the anxiety felt by both parents and children. They’ve been there before, and know how to support your child in feeling comfortable, safe and ultimately excited about being in school. By the end of the day, they’ll have stories to tell, artwork to show you and introductions to their new friends (to you!) to make.

2) Tears Are Normal – Yes, they may flow at the prospect of leaving you. Take that as a given. Also realize that the tears will stop as soon as your child enters the classroom and sees the whole new world that is opened up to them at school. Art, reading, writing and toys await and you will be but a distant memory (in a good way of course) while your child ventures into the (relatively) grown-up world of Kindergarten.

3) A Blankie or Teddy Goes a Long Way – Yes, you’ve been your child’s security blanket for so long but when they start school, they’ll need something to keep them going during the day. Don’t underestimate the importance of your child having their favourite special item, whether it’s a blanket, sleep toy or doll. Having such an item with them during their first venture into the school environment will make their day so much easier.

4) Independence is a Good Thing – This is a first step for your child towards independence. And while it may be a difficult one for both of you, it’s an important and positive milestone in their life. Being able to separate from their parents is key to gaining a strong sense of ability as well as self-confidence. And as much as it may be difficult to push them out of the proverbial nest, it’s ultimately in their best interest. Today, Kindergarten, tomorrow – the world!

5) Get Educated – Fear of the unknown often adds to our stress and anxiety and sending our kids off into “The Great Unknown” – in this case, school – is no different. Assuage your fears about the first day of school through your own education of what will occur. Just as your child will be learning in the classroom, you too can learn everything you need to know about your child’s curriculum before they begin the formal learning process. Where possible, contact the school, meet and/or speak with your child’s new teacher(s) and familiarize yourself with the class schedule. You’l feel better and more confident about your child’s new adventure once you have all of your questions answered.

Are you feeling stressed about sending your child to school for the first time? Or, do you have any additional tips that can make the transition smoother? Tell me about them in the comments section below.

 Image courtesy of www.chfi.com

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At what age is it okay for kids to have an email and social media accounts?

girl on laptop

Does your child have an email address? How about a Facebook account? How do you feel about your child being online at all?

Those were some of the questions posed in an interview that I did with CBC Metro Morning.

CBC Radio Metro Morning

As a parent raising kids in a digital age, as well as someone who is both a lover and avid user of social media, digital technology and online communications, the questions gave me pause.

For many, the thought of allowing their children online presents a conundrum, a Pandora’s Box of sorts. While there are many benefits to having access to the online world (can we say “Google?”), there are some real risks as well. This is particularly the case for those who are younger and more impressionable.

Parents worry about a lot of things when they consider their children’s potential online activities not the least of which include:

  • Cyberbullying
  • Exposure to inappropriate images, videos, information (pornography, violence, etc.)
  • Online stalking
  • Phishing and related scams

Yet, there’s no denying that digital communications is the standard these days. Try to get around finding information without some type of online element; I suspect it would be quite the task.

I allow my ten-year-old daughter to have an email account for a number of reasons, the least of which is that  she can communicate with her close family members (grandparents, aunts, uncles) and teachers – yes, teachers. It is quite the standard these days that teachers email information to both parents and students about school assignments, homework and activities. Implicit in these actions is the expectation that the child will have an email account and that the parents are in approval, and my daughter is no exception. For the most part, her peers have email accounts as well, with the full support of their parents.

That being said, there are some best practices that parents should follow when allowing their children online, whether it’s just for email purposes, or more. I talk about these, including social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), in the interview.

Here’s the full interview, below (first link is to Metro Morning’s website, second is to the segment via CBC Player).

What are your thoughts? At what age is it okay for kids to be online? Is email for a child under 13 okay? Why or why not? How about Facebook? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Image courtesy of www.http://techpp.com

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When Your Child Wants to Become Vegetarian

by Samantha on August 8, 2014

How to support your child's new meat-free culinary choice

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You’re a family of meat-eaters. Carnivores through and through. Steak, pork chops, ribs falling off the bone – that’s your idea of a real meal. This is how it is, this is the way it’s been forever in your family.

Enter your child. They could be young, say elementary school age, or in their tweens or teens. Regardless of their age, they’ve decided that they no longer want to eat meat.

What’s a parent to do?

This scenario is a common one that is playing itself out in kitchens and dining rooms around the world. With an increasingly aware group of children who are curious about how and where their food comes from, coupled with many delicious meat-free options that are now considered standard fare in supermarkets, restaurants and even school cafeterias, it’s no wonder that kids are considering their choices before they “chow down” on their next meal.

Vegetarian or not, the choice to become one poses a dilemma for families where most of the members are meat eaters and have always been so. For you as a parent, the practical considerations of this pronouncement by your child include the following:

  • Philosophical Disagreement – You just don’t agree with vegetarianism, period. People should eat meat – that’s how we evolved, and that’s your position.
  • More Work For You – Having a child that disagrees with you is causing a major problem at the breakfast, lunch and dinner table as you may have to make extra meals to accommodate your child. As well, there’s the education involved as you may also have to “bone up” (pun intended) on vegetarian nutrition and find out what types of healthy, balanced meals you can make for the new non-meat-eater in the family.
  • Expense – “How much is this going to cost me?” you may be thinking. After all, aren’t vegetarian foods more expensive? From a practical perspective, money is money and parents on a budget may balk at the idea of having to spend more on groceries due to this new development
  • Fear – What does this new foray into meat-free eating say about your child? Is this just the beginning of an overall change of values for your beloved son or daughter, values that you worked so hard to in still in them?

Recently, my ten-year-old daughter expressed an interest in cutting down the amount of meat that she would be eating. Inspired both by her deeper consideration about animals and school friends who are also vegetarian, the topic has been one that we’ve been discussing frequently.

Full disclosure: While I am not a full-fledged vegetarian by any means, I eat mostly vegetarian dishes, do not eat red meat or pork at all, and eat chicken and fish two to three times a week. Generally speaking, I lean more towards the non-meat meals as a preference. That being said, the rest of my family eats meat of all kinds fairly regularly. This type of scenario – where different family members eat different meals is not at all atypical. For many reasons, food choices amongst family members often begin to vary as children get older and form their own thoughts and ideas about what they do or don’t want to eat. The question for the parents then becomes: “How are we going to deal with this?

 Tips for Parents of Newly Vegetarian Children:

1) Be Supportive – Your child is questioning their choices and is starting to make decisions for themselves. This is a good thing! You’ve likely taught them to be an independent thinker and to weigh many sides of an issue or topic. In choosing a vegetarian diet, they are doing this, so help them along their journey as they sort out their new dietary lifestyle.

2) Know Your Stuff – Learn as much you can about vegetarianism, not only the nuts and bolts such as what to cook, but the philosophy behind it as well. Many cultures and countries in the world have large vegetarian populations and long histories behind this culinary choice. In addition to learning about the philosophy, do some research to make sure that your child’s daily nutritional needs are met. Things to consider include vitamin intake, protein and iron requirements, which foods are rich in specific vitamins, etc. Also consider the type of vegetarianism that your child wants to follow. There are also different types of vegetarian diets and not all are the same. Some of these include Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw Vegan, Ovo-Vegetarian, and others. For a more detailed list with explanations of each, click here.

3) Learn Some Recipes -  This new nutritional venture is a great opportunity for you and your child to cook together as well as to learn some new recipes. Seize the moment and invest in a vegetarian recipe book (or two) and learn to cook some meat-free meals. Sit down with your son or daughter and go through some potential dishes that appeal to you both. Cooking with your child and showing support in this way will make the transition to this new cuisine more enjoyable for both of you.

4) Plan Ahead – Meal planning is key in this new world order. The last thing you want to have to deal with is scrambling to make a separate dish for your child and finding out that you don’t have the right ingredients. Sit down with your son or daughter and, as in point number 3, learn some recipes and then head to the local grocery store to make sure you have the ingredients. Make a weekly menu and grocery shopping plan so that you’re prepared for each meal. The key is to have vegetarian staples on hand so that meals and snacks for your child are easily prepared. These can include vegetable soup stock (for making soups, vegetarian stews, etc.), tofu, beans, nuts, rice, and of course plenty of fruit and vegetables.

5) Be Flexible – Sure – you may love to tuck into your steak and potatoes regularly but perhaps your child’s new food choice is an opportunity for a family shift in family meals. With little effort and an open mind, you can support your child’s choice without too much change to your own diet. Consider making vegetarian meals for the whole family once or twice a week, or making a complete veggie-based dish as part of your family’s regular menu. Starting with Meat-Free Mondays or a similar food plan will help you along the way.

At one time, vegetarianism was seen to be an odd and in many cases, unpopular choice for families. Thankfully, things have changed and these days, there are a number of sites and options available for those who want to venture into a more vegetarian-based diet.

Here are some great sites with kid-friendly vegetarian recipes:

BBC Good Food: Vegetarian Kids’ Recipes

Cooking Light: Vegetable Recipes For Kids

Martha Stewart: Kid-Friendly Vegetarian Recipes

With an open mind, a little planning and some flexibility, you can easily support your child’s new food choice without making too many changes for the rest of the family. Bon appétit!

Has your child recently expressed an interest in becoming vegetarian? If so, how have you handled this decision? Do you agree or disagree with children making this choice? Leave me your thoughts and comments in the section below.

 

Image courtesy of www.http://hoitho.vn/

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Canadian-Inspired Netflix Picks For the Family

DISCLAIMER: As part of the Netflix #StreamTeam, I will be providing monthly thoughts and suggestions about movies currently showing on Netflix. As with all content on this blog, opinions are completely my own. 

In case you don’t know, I’m Canadian. Yup – Canada: land of the moose, home of the loon and the birthplace of the Double Double is where I reside. Granted, Canada is a big ol’ place and I’m not exactly seeing moose or loons on my way to work in downtown Toronto. But I digress.

On July 1st every year, we celebrate Canada Day and in the spirit of this celebration, this month’s Netflix suggestions are – you got it – Canadian!

Whether “Made in Canada” or with a distinctly Canuck flavour, they’re good. You’ll love them and your kids will too. And speaking of kids, here’s my daughter patriotically celebrating Canada Day:

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For my boys, they’ve got their favourites, including Super Why! and The Busy World of Richard Scarry. Super Why! seems to appeal to their desire to be both a super hero and someone who can spell. Richard Scarry is a bedtime story favourite so having the characters come to life is a complete bonus for the kids. Both shows keep them fairly engaged which allows me to do another load or two of laundry, because that’s what I love to do [insert sarcasm here].

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For the bigger kids like my daughter, she’s a huge fan of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days was a big winner.

Wimpy Kid

Another great pic for early tweens and young teens is the Goosebumps series. Check it out – it’s a favourite among many of the kids who are looking for a bit of a scary thrill.

Goosebumps

Now.

Can we just talk a bit about Caillou for a minute?

What’s with the constant whining? Somehow kids don’t seem to hear it – must be something like a dog whistle, where only those with sensitivities to higher frequencies – like parents – are attuned to its constant irritation. The parents on the program don’t seem to notice it. Neither does the Grandma, but then again, her voice isn’t exactly soothing either. Kids love this show. What’s up with this? Discuss.

Caillou cover

A quick overview of Canadian-made shows on Netflix for the kids include:

For the big kids:

  1. Are You Afraid of the Dark?
  2. Johnny Test
  3. Black Hole High
  4. Alpha and Omega
  5. Goosebumps
  6. Erky Perky
  7. Eliot Kid
  8. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

For the little ones:

  1. Caillou
  2. Franny’s Feet
  3. The Busy World of Richard Scarry
  4. Super Why!
  5. Animal Mechanicals
  6. Monster Math Squad
  7. Team Umizoomi
  8. Thomas and the Magic Railroad

What are your favourite Canuck shows for kids on Netflix? Tell me about it in the comments section below.

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Top 5 Tips to Keep Your Child’s Mind Active Over the Summer

July 9, 2014

School’s out and the kids are taking it easy. For many, the morning rush, homework and studying may now seem like distant memories. With the spectre of fun in the sun, summer camp or days filled with inordinate amounts of play on the horizon, schoolwork is one of the last things on the minds of […]

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The Sting of Disinheritance

July 1, 2014

Do We Owe Our Kids Our Money After We’re Gone? You think that kids of celebrities have it easy? Think again. Sting’s surprising announcement that he’s not leaving any of his vast fortune to his children was a shock to many. How could this multimillionaire leave his kids to have to *gasp* work for a […]

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How the Internet Ruined Kids’ Fun

June 20, 2014

Instant Online Access to Toys Kills Kids’ Sense of Anticipation Once upon a time, kids experienced a few days a year that brought incredible moments of joy. Birthdays. Christmas. Grandma coming to visit. The knowledge that these days were on the horizon only added to the excitement that children would feel. Oftentimes, the waiting was […]

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Kick Back With These Netflix Picks This Summer

June 15, 2014

Parents can take a well-needed break with these titles DISCLAIMER: As part of the Netflix #StreamTeam, I will be providing monthly thoughts and suggestions about movies currently showing on Netflix. As with all content on this blog, opinions are completely my own.  Summertime and the living is easy. For some of us. For others, it’s […]

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Let Them Eat Cake…From A Box

June 13, 2014

Cake mix part of many parents’ secret cooking arsenal “Mom, remember?! I need cupcakes for my bake sale tomorrow!!” A cold sweat broke out all over my body and visions of cake-making late into the night entered my head. I was tired. I was beat. I didn’t want to do it. But, like so many […]

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