Coddling our kids, the effect of technology on parenting and the "good old days" are discussed in this radio segment

Parenting. It’s a tall order but someone’s got to do it. Figuring out just how to do it, successfully, however is the question that most parents find themselves wondering about more often than not.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Rita DeMontis, who has made her mark as an award-winning Lifestyle and Food journalist for over 36 years.

On the eve of the back-to-school craziness that engulfs most households with kids, we spoke about a number of topics, including “Helicopter Parenting,” the effects of coddling children, freedom and a the importance of maintaining a “tech-free zone” every so often. It was great to have this discussion as these topics are becoming increasingly more pressing and real for so many of us who are trying to raise our kids the best we can.


We had a great discussion and got on famously while “dishing” on the challenges of raising children in a digital age. As with so many other posts on this blog, the topic of how to balance technology and kids’ screen time, as well as “the good old days” were key themes throughout the interview.


Have a listen and tell me what you think about some of the topics that we touched upon during the interview. I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

To listen to the full interview, start at 14:10 to 25:50 

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Full Steam Ahead: STEAMLabs Maker Classes For Kids

by Samantha on September 8, 2015

How My Daughter Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Programming




“I could program that!”

And with this statement, I knew that my daughter was on her way.

Having completed a summer camp program where she was challenged to learn code and build her own functioning item resulting from her programming, she succeeded  – and then some –  but not without the help of the amazing teachers at STEAMLabs.

Founded by a dad who was inspired by Gever Tulley’s Ted Talk, Andy Forrest, along with Marianne Mader started a “Tinkering Club” summer camp in their garage in 2010. Andy had a background as a web developer and a passion for “tinkering,” and was inspired to start a club that supported kids who had the same interest.

With the starting point of helping the kids learn and discover what interested them, the club launched with a group of “mini-makers” who were supported with their passion to create by Andy and Marianne.

In the spring of 2012, they opened a permanent makerspace location and formed a non-profit organization. Since then, it’s been “full steam ahead” as they provide children with the ability to see their ideas come to life, often in 3D.

When my daughter Miranda was offered the opportunity to check out one of STEAMLab’s summer maker camps, she jumped at the chance.

The program, which focuses on teaching kids Arduino programming language, also teaches eager learners the basis of HTML and CSS code. In addition, the young “Makers” were able to experience 3D printing first-hand, in the creation of their project.

Other areas that the course covers includes:

  • Learning the basics of digital design and fabrication to 3D print robot parts
  • Learning to send messages from Minecraft to the robot created in class
  • The creation of a remote-controlled creature that is activated by programming learned in class
  • Individual and group projects that facilitate learning, creating and collaboration

While my daughter was excited to start the class, she had some trepidation and nervousness about her ability to learn what she thought would be a difficult set of skills. After all, she hadn’t ever done any programming and knew very little about robotic technology, 3D printing and related topics. It was a relief, then, to see her excitement and abilities grow as she mastered new skills, learned and was supported in the positive environment that STEAMLabs provided.

My daughter testing her LED display before completion.


As part of the Web-Controlled Arduino Robotics Summer Camp, my daughter gained not only the skills to allow her to program at a level that surprised even herself, but also provided her with the confidence to continue her interest in programming, robotics and 3D creation.

Maker culture has seen a rise in eager participants who, with the help of the latest technology (can we say 3D printing, anyone?), are able to see their imagined items come to life. With a lot of forethought, preparation, planning and coding, the young and inspired can realize their most creative inspirations come to life.


My daughter’s project was a remote-controlled, LED display (her idea) that provided various LED lighting options for the user, via a remote control.

*NOTE* – My daughter calls it a “flashlight” but the name does not do justice to the advanced abilities that the item provides. These include colour waves, programmed flashing and colour patterns and more.



As part of the creation project, the elements involved:

  • Writing the software/programming on a website
  • Wiring and sautering the various pieces of the item (with assistance)
  • Installation of the hardware, connecting the lights, etc.
  • Assisted with 3D printing of frame

The final product was a success!

Check out these videos that show just a couple of the many light displays that were programmed.


How it works: The device is controlled wirelessly, through both a wireless and Arduino chip that controls the LED grid. The program that was written also controls the colours and the brightness of the LED displays to enable them to do a number of things, including making a colour wave across the grid, sequential flashing, changing flashing colours and patterns, etc. The housing of the device frame was completely 3D printed in class – a very cool feature for the eager young students. We all know that having a child complete a project successfully gives them not only a sense of satisfaction, but the confidence to move forward with their next creative idea. This was definitely the case with my daughter’s experience with creating a fully-functioning device from scratch – programming and all.

Girls and Boys

One of the unexpected positive aspects of my daughter’s success in this course was the fact that while the class included more boys than girls, she represented the XX chromosome and then some, not letting the preconceptions of girls’ supposed inabilities to master this stuff get to her.

While the stereotypes about females not excelling in science, math, programming and related topics still persist, they’re diminishing, in large part due to classes such as the ones offered by STEAMLabs. Providing a forum where both girls and boys are supported to achieve their goals, regardless of gender is something that we as parents should support whenever we can. We’ve come a long way in terms of stereotypes and perceptions about the sexes, and while we’ve still got a long way to go, courses such as the one taken by my daughter are making a difference in providing the forum for kids of both genders to excel.

STEAMLabs is continuing to build its curriculum, with a number of new courses underway. Following are just a few that are now available for kids who are eager to see their creative ideas come to life:

If it’s not already clear, I’m a huge fan of STEAMLabs and their support and encouragement of young minds. Check them out at


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ROUNDUP: Top Back-to-School Tips For Parents

by Samantha on August 31, 2015

A selection of the best strategies for anxious parents about how to manage back-to-school season

back to school image

Anxious about your child’s return to school?

You’re not alone.

This time of the year, parents everywhere are stressed!

Is it any wonder? There are so many things to consider:

  • What new clothes does my child need?
  • What about shoes?
  • How many school supplies are enough? Or too little?
  • What class will my child be in, and will they be with any of their friends?
  • How will my child adjust?
  • Will my child eat his/her lunch when I’m not there?
  • Who is my child’s teacher, and will they like them? Will I like them?
  • What’s on this year’s curriculum?

It’s not surprising that moms and dads everywhere are feeling a tad anxious. After all – whether your child is going to school for the first time, or about to start high school, there are challenges to be dealt with, regardless of grade.

As a parent of four, I’ve been through the back-to-school stresses and am back in the trenches for more. With my twin boys in elementary school and my daughter in the midst of her tween life as she heads into middle school, I’m very familiar with that anxiety-stricken feeling that overcomes parents as they ready themselves for another school term.

Having learned by trial and error, there are a few simple strategies that I’ve found to work when it comes to handling the craziness of back-to-school preparation.

To make it easy, consider this post a “one-stop-shop” of advice and tips on this stress-inducing topic. Follow the links below as you navigate this exciting yet stressful time of the year and take a deep breath…this too shall pass.

How to Prepare Your Child For the First Day of School – Top 7 Tips For Parents

Back to School Shopping on a Budget

Separate But Equal: Should Twins Be Separated at School?

How to Deal With the Morning Rush – Top 10 Tips For Parents

Top 5 Tips For Getting Your Kids To Eat Breakfast

How to Get Your Child to Do Their Homework

How to Get Your Child to Love Reading

Kids, Lice and School – CBC Radio Interview

Back to School Stress – CBC Radio Interview

Parenting in the Digital Age – CBC Radio Interview

Concern About Technology as Kids Head Back to School – CBC Interview 

Your Kid Wants Designer Clothes – What’s a Parent to Do?

I Hate My Child’s New Friend

Picky Eater? Don’t Sweat It – Tips For School Lunches

Helicopter Parenting and Latchkey Kids


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Image courtesy of


IN THE NEWS: Picky Eater? Don’t Sweat It!

by Samantha on August 28, 2015

Follow these simple tips when packing your child's lunchbox

School lunches can be a headache for parents who have the good fortune [*sarcasm*] of having a picky eater on their hands. Worrying about whether your child has eaten during school hours, or envisioning them hungry and miserable is the fear of many parents.

As we send out kids to school with the hopes that they’ll eat what we’ve packed in their lunches, we often spend much of our day stressing about whether they’ve actually eaten any of the various items that we’ve packed in their lunch boxes. The sheer stress and anxiety felt when we unpack these same lunch boxes at the end of the day to reveal that our precious child has eaten very little – and sometimes nothing – for a full school day is almost too much for one to bear. As a mom who admits to having just a few “issues” with food and kids [read: I’m afraid that they will starve when they’re not within the range of my gaze], finding a solution has been of pressing importance.


Picky eater boy

Surprisingly, I’ve found that trying to get a substantial, nutritious meal into your child while they’re at school isn’t completely impossible. As a matter of fact, the good news is that there are ways of getting your picky little eater to actually eat. By employing a few creative (and sometimes sneaky) strategies, you’ll be guaranteed to experience an empty lunchbox and to breathe a sigh of relief that your child has actually eaten their lunch.

I was recently asked by The Toronto Sun to provide some simple tips and strategies that parents can use to help their picky eaters to eat what is packed in their school lunches every day.

You can read the article and tips here:

Back to School Ideas For Picky Eaters

Check out my tips and advice and let me know what other strategies you have used in the past to get your kids to eat their lunches.

And on a lighter note, in the spirit of the subject at hand, here you go:

Eat It – Weird Al Yankovic



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What Makes a Family?

by Samantha on August 26, 2015

The "1,000 Family Project" sheds light on the changing face of the modern family

What makes a family?

What does the concept of “family” mean in today’s world?

Once upon a time, the the only societally-accepted norm for the family structure consisted of a mother, a father a few kids and a white picket fence. To wit:

Leave it to Beaver Cast

As the years wore on, we thankfully shook our heads and realized – either via real-life circumstance (divorce) or by divine intervention – that life does not often replicate television (or books, or the movies).

“Family” is a relative term, meaning different things to different people. The white picket fence may indeed be part of the mix, but more often than not, the modern permutations look nothing like the conventional model.

And that’s a good thing.

I was honoured to be asked to share the details of my family on an amazing site, The New Family, that, with it’s 1,000 Families Project, hopes to profile the uniqueness that lies within all of our familial permutations.


A “one-size-fits-all” model of family does not exist, and let’s all be thankful that it doesn’t. For previous to our current times, many of us who did not exist within the very narrowly-defined cookie-cutter version of what it meant to be a family experienced disapproval, to say the least.

The good news is that the world has changed, as has the definition of what makes up a family.

They come in all different colours, shapes, sizes and age. Learn about my family and so many more on this site. You can read the full article here.

Sister Sledge – We Are Family

What does “family” mean to you? What makes your family unique? Tell me about it in the comments section below!


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Photo courtesy of Getty Images


VIDEO: How to Save Money Grocery Shopping

July 27, 2015

Here are 10 tips that will help you save money at the supermarket We all know that raising a family on a budget is a challenge, to say the least! With the price of food skyrocketing daily, it’s more important than ever to find ways to stretch our family dollar as much as possible. While […]

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Toronto Star Article – Surviving a Family Road Trip

July 4, 2015

Traveling with kids can be stress free by following these simple tips Us parents are a brave bunch, aren’t we? With the prospect of meltdowns occurring while we hurtle along the highway at rapid speeds, we hope that this year, it will be different. No drama, no stress, no screaming or crying kids in the […]

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How to Save on Your Grocery Bill – Top 10 Tips For Parents

June 22, 2015

Simple money-saving strategies for families “That will be $257.43, please.“ Ouch! That hurt! Grocery shopping for a family of growing kids can be ridiculously expensive, as I’ve painfully found out. With a weekly shop a necessary requirement, a visit to the supermarket can bring on feelings of not only anxiety but downright fear as well. Pockets […]

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Are Parents to Blame For Picky Eaters?

June 20, 2015

Whose fault is it when kids refuse to eat what’s put in front of them? We’ve all dealt with the picky eating habits of our kids at one time or another. Whether it’s a disdain for broccoli or a dislike of asparagus, most parents have had to negotiate with their children about certain types of […]

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Pregnancy and Public Transit

June 14, 2015

What has happened to kindness and common courtesy? She was about 8 or 9 months pregnant, belly hanging low, baby about to drop any day. The previous months had clearly taken a toll on her, as her face showed the exhaustion and fatigue required to make a human being. She was physically spent, yet there she […]

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