growing up

How to keep the kids busy during the autumn months

Five Fun Family Festivities For Fall

School is well underway and fall is in full swing. No more lazy days of summer; nowadays, the kids are antsy on the weekends after a long week of reading, writing and arithmetic. As a result, when the weekend comes, they’re looking for fun activities that will keep them stimulated and entertained. On the flip side, parents need outlets for their kids that will keep them busy and stop them from saying these dreaded two words: “I’m bored!”

In the spirit of the falling autumn leaves, here are the top five family activities that will keep the younger set occupied and engaged during the autumn months.

1) Get Outside! – There’s nothing better than the cool autumn air to make you feel alive. Now’s the time to get outdoors with the kids and enjoy everything the season has to offer. Raking and playing in the leaves, going on a hike or nature walks with the family to enjoy the fall colours, bike riding through the park and more – these are just some of the things that parents can do during the changing season. Though it may be cool outside, the kids still need to burn off energy. Engage them by encouraging outdoor activity that is both entertaining and engaging. Examples include apple picking, horseback-riding and more.


2) Limit Screen Time – With the fall colours in full view, it seems a shame to have kids staring at screens, whether it’s TV or digital games. During this time of the year, put parameters on how much TV/video game/gadget that your child has, and replace the technology-based activities with more seasonally-friendly items. Getting outside, making plans with friends and family or even participating in old- fashioned board games are ways of engaging your child without pixels of any kind.

no cell phone sign

kids in leaves

3) There’s No Place Like Home – Why does it always seem to be the case that the times that we visit our hometown attractions is usually when we have out of town family or friends in tow? During the fall season, due to the cooler temperatures, it’s a great time to investigate your local museums, galleries, and kid-friendly indoor playgrounds and locales. Check your local listings such as your community paper (print or online) and make a date. Become a tourist in your hometown. It’s fun!

Here’s a picture of a famous landmark in my hometown of Toronto – the CN Tower!


4) Fall-Inspired Cooking – The fall food bounty is in full swing, so why not take advantage of the seasonable fruits and vegetables that are now available? Think apple and pumpkin pies, squash soup, and similar goodies that speak to your kids’ interests – and their tummies. So much good eats to be had – get cracking and get cooking! What kid wouldn’t love to prepare then tuck into this sweet-potato mac and cheese dish? (For the full recipe, visit Yummily’s Fall Recipe page)

Sweet-Potato-and-Spinach-Mac-and-Cheese-from-Naturally-Ella (1)

5) Crafty Kids – With fall colours well underway, it’s also a great time to engage the kids in arts and crafts that have a seasonal flair. As a huge fan of dollar stores, my kids and I love to take a stroll through the aisles to see what items can be found that will add to our artistic pursuits. In addition, engage your kids by letting them help you make their own Halloween costumes with inexpensive dollar or thrift store items, as well as existing items that you already have at home.



What other family activities do you do with your kids during the fall season? Tell me about them in the comments section below!

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Animals, Planets and Kids – Oh, My!

by Samantha on September 12, 2015

Netflix provides a variety of family programming that allows kids to learn while being entertained

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. 

The summer holidays are over and the kids are back in class. Some are happy about this jolt back into reality, others – not so much. For many kids, the thought of a return to the rigour and structure of the school day is more than they can bear. After all, reading, writing and arithmetic are not usually the first things that kids would name as their activities of choice.

The kids are likely learning all about the three “R’s” – reading, writing and arithmetic – during the days, and working on homework assignments at night. That fourth “R” – “relaxation” is a state that is keenly awaited by school-aged children who can When the weekends finally roll around, it’s fairly safe to say that the kids are ready for some rest, relaxation and entertainment.

From a parent’s perspective, there are worries that the weekends will be spent watching shows that have no educational value, with the real fear that the programs chosen for viewing by the kids will turn their minds into proverbial “mush.”

Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be the case.

Kids can get their entertainment fix via Netflix, and you can rest easy knowing that there is programming that provides just the right amount of entertainment and education for curious minds.

This is a great opportunity for not only the kids to learn about the world around them, but a chance for parents to learn as well.

For the young and curious mind who is looking to learn about the earth and its inhabitants, there’s BBC’s Planet Earth, which explores the beauty of both our home planet and its inhabitants.

Planet Earth


If the physical landscape is not exactly what you’re child is looking for, how about a program that goes way back – as far back as during the times when dinosaurs roamed the earth. BBC’s Walking With Dinosaurs” is a great program that makes the various prehistoric exciting and interesting.

Walking With Dinosaurs


For your younger learners, Netflix provides a variety of entertaining programming that will not only keep your little ones engaged, but will teach them a few things as well.

Curious George, the monkey who is known for getting into mischief, stars in a great show for elementary school kids that provides a basis for discussions about behaviour and consequences.

Curious George


Zoboomafoo is a great preschool series that is aimed towards younger kids who are just starting to learn about the animal world around them. The program teaches children how to respect and care for various animals. Zoboomafoo is the name of  the star of the show, a lemur, who hangs around Animal Junction with co-hosts Matt and Chris.




Fetch! With Ruff Ruffman is a PBS program with a reality-game show format. Hosted by Ruff, the game show provides challenges to real-life contestants and provides both entertaining and educational fare for young viewers.

Fetch! With Ruff Ruffman


Based on the Russian folk tale, “Mash and the Bear,” this program follows the adventures of a young girl named Masha and her friend who happens to be a bear. Masha is a happy and mischievous little girl who manages to get into trouble, while The Bear acts as a fatherly figure and friend who tries his best to keep Masha out of trouble.

Masha and the Bear

Masha-and-the-Bear_EN_US_1280x720 (1)

And for me? Well, I really believe that you’re never too old to learn so I, too, will be watching some of Netflix’s latest releases. In keeping with the “animal theme,” here’s what’s on my list for the next while. A bit more serious than the previous suggestions but important nonetheless:


We hear a lot about sustainability, the planet and our food sources, but how much do we really know? From the official website for the movie:

“Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution, is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry, and is a primary driver of rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean “dead zones,” and virtually every other environmental ill. Yet it goes on, almost entirely unchallenged.”

This synopsis alone raises curiosity, if anything, about the food we eat and the effects of factory farming on our environment.



If you’re a fan of Seaworld or similar aquariums, this film will make you think twice about visiting ever again. Blackfish recounts the story of Tilikum, the giant Orca whale that entertains the crowds daily. Though the visitors to the venue seem to enjoy the whale’s activities, it’s clear that this creature is not happy in its environment. The film is disturbing, eye-opening and thought-provoking. It’s definitely worth a watch. I’ve seen it before and though it’s unpleasant, it’s equally compelling.


What are some of your favourite Netflix pics for both yourself and your kids? Tell me about them in the comments section below.

Want more of my parenting advice and tips? Click on the image below to get your copy of my eBook today!


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!


Want more parenting advice and tips? Click on the image below to get your copy of my eBook today!

Photo courtesy of Getty Images


IN THE NEWS: Your Baby Monitor Can Be Hacked

by Samantha on August 1, 2015

Who's listening to your baby? Parents urged to take precautions with monitor technology



Who’s listening to your baby?

Are you safe? Is your baby safe?

The intersection of technology and parenting continues to expand as we increasingly rely on digital tools to make our roles as parents easier. We use tech more than ever to live our daily lives, from watching our babies to entertaining them; from reading to our kids to monitoring them (texting and cell phones). It all seems great, right? Granted, the convenience provided by technology can’t be denied, but there is a dark side to its usage as well.

As hacking becomes more commonplace in our daily lives, the instances of our digital tools being compromised will also increase. We’ve seen a rise of incidents where personal information has been hacked via email, cell phones and cloud accounts, but did anyone really anticipate that baby monitors would be a target too?

It’s scary to think that our most precious assets could be open to being spied on, secretly viewed, spoken to by strangers, or worse.

I recently provided my thoughts on this disturbing trend in an interview on Global News. You can watch the full segment below. There are also some simple tips that parents can follow to make sure that their babies remain safe and secure.

What you do to avoid hacking via baby monitors or similar devices:

1) Educate Yourself – Make sure that you fully understand the technology that you’re using, especially in their children’s rooms.

2) Err on the Side of CautionWhen in doubt, don’t. If you have any concerns or misgivings about the technology behind any particular device, don’t use it until you are sure about it’s security, or chose another option altogether.

3) Choose a Secure Password – Don’t make the password for your device too easy. Remember to use a login that is not easily-guessed, that is changed frequently, and that includes a non-sensical string of letters (both upper and lower case) and numbers. For more information on how to choose a secure password, visit this page: How to Create a Secure Password.

4) Limit the Use of Devices – The less amount of devices used to monitor our kids, the less likely hackers will be able to successfully gain access where they don’t belong.

Global News Segment – Baby Monitor Hacked!


What other tips do you have for parents who are concerned about being hacked? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.


Want more parenting advice and tips? Click on the image below to get your copy of my eBook today!

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Are Parents to Blame For Picky Eaters?

by Samantha on June 20, 2015

Whose fault is it when kids refuse to eat what's put in front of them?

girl picky eater

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 food that said child has deemed “gross.” I’ve done it myself and have used every trick in the book to get my kids to eat what I think to be a balanced and sufficient meal.

But what about those kids who consistently decline most food items put in front of them, demanding, instead another meal selection, snack or pronouncing a downright refusal to eat at all? What about them? Where did they get their chutzpah?

At the risk of being scolded, may I suggest that it may very well be from their parents?

Yes, their parents.

It’s safe to say that many kids are picky eaters because their parents have coddled them. Through fear that they will eat nothing and – gasp – go to bed hungry, they have been provided with their own personal chef and concierge, taking orders and serving meals on demand.

In many households, it is the child (or children) who have been allowed to dictate what is being served. In these homes, the parent(s) gives in to the child’s demands and makes special or separate meals for them. How many of us have given in and said, “okay, if you don’t want to eat this, I’ll make you something else?”

Guilty as charged. And it’s not a stretch to assume that you are too.

As parents (and mothers in particular – there, I said it), we worry about our children’s every need. Whether it’s the fact that they have a runny nose, a fever or the fear that they haven’t had enough to eat (in our opinion), so many of us feel the need to rectify the situation at any cost. It’s this parental instinct that takes over and shifts the balance of power from the parent to the child.

In the case of picky eating, the tendency for the parent to give in to the child’s refusal to eat sets up an expectation that all demands and requests will be accommodated.

In these scenarios, the child feels that they are in control and they don’t have to try anything. Also, it sets them up for unrealistic expectations as adults that they will be given in to whatever they ask for.

Allowing kids to set the stage for meals is just one example of the growing trend towards a child-centred philosophy of parenting. The rise of “helicopter parenting”and an age where over-protection is the norm, not the exception, just feeds (pun intended) kids desire to have all of their demands fulfilled.

Unfortunately, giving in to these demands just sets up kids for unrealistic expectations in the future. As difficult as it may be, it’s in our kids’ best interests to not always give in to their demands, particularly regarding food choices. In the absence of a specific allergy or inability to digest certain foods, what’s on the table for dinner should be just that – dinner, with no option for choice. At the risk of sounding like an old fogey, when I was a kid, there was no choice – each meal was what we were eating and that was it. No consulting with us kids about whether or not they wanted to eat it, what they wanted instead, or why they didn’t like it. Not eating meant that they’d likely have a grumbling tummy and a voracious appetite the following morning.

It’s a hard thing to do, denying your child their preference for food, as there’s always the fear that they’ll starve. They won’t. Especially if there’s a fridge full of food and a healthy balanced meal in front of them that they have chosen not to eat. As difficult as it may be, as parents, we are obliged to teach our kids that there are not always choices in life. As they grow up and later when they become adults, they will need to know that sometimes, the luxury of choice is absent. More importantly, it’s crucial that children learn early to be flexible, accommodating and that sometimes they will have to just go with the flow and deal with the situation at hand instead of assuming that there will be an option. There won’t always be one.

Is your child a picky eater? How do you respond when your child won’t eat their meal? Do you give in or say “no?” Tell me about it in the comments section below.


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April 30, 2015

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Under Pressure: Celebrity Culture and Kids’ Need to Conform

April 25, 2015

The “Kylie Jenner Challenge” highlights the worst insecurities in tweens and teens Have you heard of the #KylieJennerChallenge? It’s a hashtag that’s become the call to action for young women who want to emulate the full-lipped look of the reality TV star. One of the famous sisters on “Keeping up With the Kardashians” and the […]

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