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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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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Images courtesy of,,,


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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VIDEO: How to Save Money on Baby Items With Kijiji

by Samantha on September 11, 2015

Advice on how to bring home baby while staying within your budget

DISCLAIMER: This post is written in partnership with Kijiji in support of raising awareness about how the Second-Hand Economy can support new parents who are looking for the best value for their family dollar. As with all content on this blog, opinions are completely my own.
Saving Money With Kijiji

Bringing baby home can be a wonderful yet stressful time for new parents. Between late-night feedings, interrupted sleep and planning for the future, new moms and dads also worry about more practical concerns, specifically money.

Babies are expensive, and baby-related items can cost a bundle – and more. For most of us who live within a certain budget, it’s no wonder that bringing baby home is often a time where parents really start to look at ways that they can maximize their family dollars while getting the best value.

I recently wrote about the Second Hand Economy and how Kijiji, specifically, can help new parents save money on all of their baby-related items. You can read the full post here:

How Kijiji Can Help You Budget For Baby

In addition, I appeared on CH Morning Live to provide some visual examples of the types of items that parents can find on Kijiji. Check it out, here:

Do you have any additional tips about how to save money on baby items? Tell me about them in the comments section below!


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


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


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August 28, 2015

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What Makes a Family?

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. […]

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Fear of the Unknown – Helicopter Parenting and Latchkey Kids

August 21, 2015

By coddling our kids, we’re doing them more harm than good Are there still latchkey kids these days or have they gone undercover in the age of helicopter parenting and our increased paranoia about kids’ safety? I used to be a latchkey kid. As a matter of fact, I remember walking to and from school […]

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