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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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.

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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 www.steamlabs.ca


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


As kids return to school, educators and parents are split on the use of popular technology tools in class

As the kids return to school, the topic of technology use in the classroom is one that will once again be discussed amongst parents and educators alike. In a time where kids of all ages carry what amounts to a mini-computer in their back pockets, there is no longer the option to decide whether or not this is a topic that’s worthy of discussion. The time is now, and all of us who have a vested interest in how our kids learn will need to step up to the plate to determine how, when and what tools will be used in the learning process.

Smartphone use among kids is continuing to grow, as parents grapple with the question of how old their child should be before they become attached to an electronic device. With access to the latest technology now an expectation by most kids (often as young as elementary school), the answer to this and other related questions must be addressed.

I was recently interviewed by The Canadian Press for perspective on the topics of school, educators, the classroom and technology, specifically the use of smartphones in class. You can read the full article here:

Debate grows over using smartphones and social media in classrooms


kids and tech classroom

What do you think? Are you comfortable with your child’s access to technology in the classroom, including cellphones, computers and other devices? Why or why not? Leave me your thoughts 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!

Image courtesy of www.sheknows.com


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 http://ddcreditunion.com


IN THE NEWS: Your Baby Monitor Can Be Hacked

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 […]

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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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VIDEO: The 5 Parenting Secrets You Were Never Told

June 7, 2015

Some basic tips to help parents with common parenting challenges Ever feel like parenting is this big secret that you’re not in on? It’s no surprise that most of us feel like this at one time or another. Let’s face it – being a parent is tough, to say the least. What to do and […]

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Lies, Lies, All Lies

April 30, 2015

Netflix offers a variety of shows that highlight untruths, tall tales and deceptions 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. We all know that kids lie. Parents have been […]

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Separate But Equal? Should Twins Be Separated at School?

April 18, 2015

What’s the best course of action for educating twins? There comes a time that, as the parent of twins, one has to make a crucial decision: Should I keep them together or should I separate them? This is a particularly pressing decision to be made in the case of identical twins. Think about it: they share […]

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