Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Learning Early: Speaking Success is Important

We know from news sources that some children arrive in school aged 5 unable to speak properly or understand what is being said to them by the teacher and the other children. In my experience as a teaching assistant in England, United Kingdom, even the question “How are you?” is met by blank looks from some children. The inability to speak and hold a simple conversation puts children at risk of lifelong difficulties, including employment, social issues and criminality in adult life.

There are two easy steps that you as a parent or guardian can take to encourage speech and
language skills in your child; 
1) Speak to and with your child, and
2) Sing to and with your child.

Even when your child is a baby, talk to them. Commentate what you do in your normal everyday life
for your child, for example if you are preparing a meal tell your child you are in the kitchen and tell
your child you are chopping up vegetables and you are using a knife and a chopping board. By the
age of 3 your child will understand approximately 500 words and simple, everyday spoken
interactions from you will encourage your child’s speech and comprehension.

Singing to your child can support and add to the spoken interactions. Most children like nursery rhymes and other simple songs that have actions that make them more fun and interesting for children as well as helping increase their understanding of what they are singing. They were designed for young children because of their simplicity while introducing complex concepts. Among
the children I work with Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is a firm favorite and I think the lyrics are the main reason for that.

Think about the lyrics: ‘Twinkle, twinkle’ - we all know what this means but it’s really hard to explain without using other words that mean the same thing such as ‘glisten’. ‘Little star’ – we learn what a star is and we learn that ‘little’ is opposite to ‘big’. ‘How I wonder what you are.’ - Children learn that ‘wonder’ is a deeper way of thinking that causes them to ask themselves questions. ‘Up above the world so high’ – Children are encouraged to look up and see what is there. ‘Like a diamond in the sky’ – Children learn to compare, and they learn there is something called a diamond. This facile, short nursery rhyme – and others like it – can lead to so many conversations between you and your child and thus give your child so much understanding of the world.

Children unable to communicate often development behavioral problems because of their frustration. In school and out of school, they are disadvantaged. They cannot express their needs, they cannot understand what is being said to them beyond basic sentences, they cannot receive education nor can they function in the workplace. There is a recognized correlation between a lack of communication skills in childhood and experience of the criminal justice system.

As a parent speaking to your child, you model speech; words, pronunciation, intonation and conversation skills. Expect your child to speak correctly and understand most or all of what you are
saying. Some children may know words and be able to put them into sentences, but they may not
know that speaking with another person means give and take – listening, thinking and then
responding to what the other person has said. By the age of five, children’s speech should be
understandable the majority of the time. Children who arrive at school with little speech or the
inability to form words correctly are not just at an educational disadvantage but also a social
disadvantage. Schools are places where children form most of their friendships, so it is crucial that
children arrive at school with as few impediments to conversation as possible. Speech and language
skills are vital for children’s self-esteem and confidence.

More than half of mothers work, and they work longer hours than in the recent past. Fathers have
become more involved in the care of their child, but the financial pressures upon families and the
pressures of the workplace can often reduce the amount of time parents have with their child,
therefore reducing the amount of input parents can give their child. There is nothing wrong with
using the ‘electronic babysitter’ – the television set while you relax, as long as this is used in balance
with real conversations. Television programs aimed at young children often teach basic language so
can be an additional resource in your child’s development.

If you think your child is struggling with speech and
language skills, or their understanding of speech, visit your family doctor or pediatrician. They will be able to do a basic assessment of your child’s needs and then refer you to a specialist. The treatments vary depending on diagnosis – it may be that your child has a hearing impairment or other developmental difficulty and so will be assessed and given the help they need. The Canadian Audiology is an excellent resource with an easy to use website. Your local community groups will also be able to help and support you and your child with speech and language and any other issue you may encounter.

Make Canadian Audiology linked – see below

Catherine Hume - 36 is a teaching assistant with over ten years of experience in UK and Belgium. She also has a background working in social care as well as writing factual articles and fiction.

Monday, August 22, 2016

A Little Mom Time: Ladies Painting Night

Tired of heading to a restaurant with your friends on a rare ladies’ night out?? Why not have a ladies’ night in and a few hours of laughs, painting and a good time!

When one of my girlfriends said we were getting together to do some painting, I was hesitant. I am NO artist. I have friends who can draw and paint beautifully, and there was no way that I was going to sit and make an attempt at painting something and have theirs look beautiful. And really, who wants to paint anyways!

But after those thoughts went out of my head, a night out is a night out! Even if the painting did not go well, there was still wine and appy’s and some kid free time with my oldest friends!

Well let me tell you how WRONG I was about my WORRIES!


The theme our host chose was mermaids. We watched a bit of a you tube video about painting for a couple minutes and then we were off! We tried not to peek at each other’s creations, and decided that our goal was not to copy the artist’s rendition exactly, but use it as the basis to create our own mermaids!

We painted, laughed and snacked for an hour and a half, before setting a “five minutes left” timer.

We then showed off our work, each complimenting each other’s distinct style. While you can probably pick out the artists in the group, everyone seemed to love something about each other’s work! It was a super positive time, where even those who hate receiving compliments (ie ME) were proud of their work!

We finished off our wine and appys and headed out for dinner to continue our kid free evening!

What you need for your own “Paint Night”
Assorted paintbrushes
Paint colors, make sure to get white and black
Artists canvases
Paper plates to mix paint colors
An inspirational photo or theme

All of the supplies can be purchased at local craft stores and even dollar stores. You do not need to go out and spend a fortune on supplies! And once you have the supplies, you will have lots of evenings of painting ahead!

Lindsay is a wife, a mom to two little boys, a soccer player, a lifetime traveler and a lover of
learning. She resides in Langley and is currently searching out new ways to enjoy every minute
she can with her family, while balancing the pressures of living in our fast-paced society. Check
out Lindsay’s blog at

Thursday, August 18, 2016

DIY: A Simple, Inexpensive Felt Board for Toddlers

In anticipation of my daughter’s first year of preschool this fall, I began looking for an activity I could do with her that would wind down the chaos of summer, and ease her into a classroom state of mind.

I was hoping for something that would keep her engaged for longer than five minutes, that would help her learn, and of course something that was fun for the both of us. As I dug through my craft supplies, it hit me – a felt board!

 Here’s what you’ll need:
• A large piece of cardboard (I used an empty diaper box).
• Glue gun
• Colourful pieces of felt
• Scissors
• Hook and loop fastener strips (aka VELCRO® strips)
• Felt pens, sparkles, pipe cleaners, googley eyes, or anything else you can think of that would add pizazz to your board.

How to make it:

Step 1:
Fold your cardboard into a pyramid shape. For this, I just cut the flaps off of an empty diaper box and folded it over. Glue at the seam to ensure stability.

Step 2:
Using a glue gun, cover the cardboard with felt to make a nice, flat backdrop. I used black because it was a neutral colour that would highlight the bright colours we picked out, and because it was also the same colour as the hook and loop fastener strips, so they would be less noticeable.

Step 3: 
Cut the hook and loop fastener strips into small pieces and glue them all over the board.

Step 4:
Cut shapes, numbers and funny faces out of an assortment of brightly coloured pieces of felt. My daughter loved giving me the ideas for these.

Step 5: 
That’s it! Have fun making whimsical scenes on your new felt board.

Tip: Keep things fresh throughout the year with new themes that celebrate and teach your little one about upcoming seasons and special holidays. There’s no limit to what you can create!

Angela Robertson: When she's not spinning records for her two-year-old daughter and one-year-old son, she's busy writing about them on my blog Rock ’n’ Rattle. For the past several years she worked as communications writer, but recently decided to stay home with her kids and work as a freelance writer. That is, if she can ever get the songs from Disney’s Frozen out of her head. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

McDonald's Encourages Kids to be Healthy!

McDonald’s Canada is looking to get kids active with the release of its latest Happy Meal toy.

On August 15th, 2016 the quick-service restaurant introduced the “Step-It,” a new activity tracker wristband created by McDonald’s that will be packaged with the chain’s Happy Meals for the next four weeks.

The toy is now available at all McDonald’s restaurants in both Canada and the U.S. The brand typically partners with movie studios and other IP holders to create toys that tie-in with popular movies and TV shows, but the Step-It is an original product created by the company.

McDonald’s Canada senior marketing manager Michelle McIlmoyle explained the new toy was the result of a pitch from one of the QSR’s agencies, Creata. The Step-It was inspired by popular fitness trackers aimed at adults such as the FitBit. Using this as a starting point, the agency helped McDonald’s create two simplified activity trackers designed to appeal to children.

The brand’s lineup of six activity trackers includes three light-up bands that blink quickly or slowly based on the child’s pace and also counts the number of steps the user takes.

McIlmoyle said the Step-It falls in line with the company’s general philosophy for its Happy Meal toys, which is to make toys that encourage either physical or imagination-based play. She added the release was timed to coincide with both the Olympics and summer break, when children have free time and physical activity is top of mind.

“Physical activity is important to everyone of all ages. We very much support children’s well-being,” she said. “Whether it’s our sponsorship of [the minor hockey program] atoMc in local markets or within our Happy Meals, our objective is always to provide a balance…we thought it was important to leverage a concept that brings that to life in an easy way.”

In recent years McDonald’s has made several moves to position the Happy Meal as a healthier option than it might have been seen as in the past. The QSR now uses all white meat in its Chicken McNuggets and offers apple slices and low-fat yogurt as side options.

McDonald’s Canada is promoting the Step-It toy with a campaign crafted by Cossette that includes TV and several online videos.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Summer Fun: Long LIVE the ROADTRIP

A station wagon, the family dog, four kids and 2000 miles of endless highway. The 70’s and 80’s were our best road trips days. We had crayons, books, an imagination and a pillow. I am certain the pillow was there solely in hopes we would sleep for 1,995 of those said miles.

Truth be told, these truly are some of my fondest memories. Masking tape right down the middle of the back seat (my sister better not cross onto my side), a few arguments along the way, but countless laughs, adventures and memories.

Fast forward 30 something years, and here we are again, with a few more modern conveniences. We have done Vancouver to Disney several times, and now some shorter trips with our 5 year old. Here are our road trip strategies for keeping your toddlers to teens, happy in the back seat. And not to mention, keeping your sanity in tact until the next rest stop. PS, I did consult my little travel sidekick, and I was on par with all of my “must haves” for the car. Whew!  Kid approved!

Coloring books and Crayons
No matter the age, all kids seem to love to doodle. I make up games, who can draw this or that. A Ziploc bag with some crayons, stickers and paper, and you are set. We also pick up the play pack from Dollarama for $1.25 – a fun little pack for the kids to pick through.

Snack Tray
Literally a Mom hack. My friend Lindsay introduced me to this. We use an 11x14 size Tupperware container, which is perfect for containing snacks, crayons, crumbs and everything in between. They act as a perfect tray for the kid’s laps, and keep all food and drink in tact. The best idea ever!

Headphones, Chargers, and Electronic Devices
Yes, no matter the age, we seem to be stuck in the digital world. And with that, most cars come with usb outlets in the vehicles, which are perfect for charging iPods, phones, and other electronic devices. Do not forget the headphones!

Neck Pillow and Blanket
While this may seem very obvious, I always seem to forte one or the other. I pack it the night before, and leave it in the car seat. Never to be forgotten again!  Keep them comfy. Even the teens love their pillows.

Personalized Snack Bag
I use the large Ziploc bags. I write their name on the bags, pack it with snacks, ONE treat, a few healthy options, and a bottle of water. We avoid pop and juice in the car for obvious reasons. And if a spill occurs, far less of a mess to deal with. The kid’s love going through their bags and picking out whatever they want to eat. And it’s right there in their snack tray, ready to go. The Ziploc bag also becomes their garbage bag.  

Print out some scavenger hunts that can be done in the car. Make them up, put an I-spy spin on them. I get creative when it comes to keeping them busy. I jump on Google and come up with a host of ideas. This one I came across had some great ideas, and fun for all ages.

Get out at those rest stops, run around, stretch your legs.  Too long in the car often results in cranky parents and cranky kids! Take the extra 20 minutes to stop and burn off some energy. Keep a soccer ball handy, or a Frisbee to take 10 minutes to get those little legs moving. They easily settle back in the car after a burst of energy.

Enjoy your trip. And remember, it is often the journey, not always the destination. Make the most of it, and create those long lasting memories along your way.

Christi Manson is a full time professional, blogger and married Mom to a spunky 5 year-old daughter. Christi lives in the suburbs of Vancouver, Canada with her family, and spends time day dreaming and planning the next getaway adventure! Christi is a Family Travel Expert blogging about her adventures on 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Miracle Treat Day: August 11th

On August 11, DQ fans in Metro Vancouver are encouraged to visit their local Dairy Queen Restaurant to mark the 14th annual Miracle Treat Day. On that day, proceeds from every Blizzard® Treat sold will be donated to BC Children’s Hospital, one of 12 children’s hospitals across Canada supported by Children’s Miracle Network (CMN). The funds raised in British Columbia will support the urgent health needs of sick and injured children treated at BC Children’s Hospital.

“Dairy Queen Restaurants across the province have been proud supporters of Miracle Treat Day and BC Children’s Hospital for 14 years now,” said Marsha Dillon, AVP Western Operations Dairy Queen & Orange Julius Canada Inc. “We’re always amazed by the support shown by our customers and encourage everyone to come by for a Blizzard® Treat on August 11.”

Parents of cancer patient Matteo Raineri Cavalca count their blessings every day. A few weeks before his 12th birthday, Matteo was diagnosed with a rare kidney cancer known as Wilms tumour. After 10 months of hemodialysis and chemo treatments, Matteo was in remission. “I cannot imagine celebrating our victory without honouring Matteo and the caregivers at BC Children’s Hospital who helped make his healing possible,” said Matteo’s mother, Tatiana Raineri. “Nothing can prepare you for having a sick child, but with events like Miracle Treat Day supporting the urgent needs of the hospital that saved Matteo’s life, we know there is a huge network of support for families like ours.” (photo attached)

“BC Children’s Hospital receives more than 230,000 patient visits each year, and those children and families benefit from the tremendous support of Miracle Treat Day and Dairy Queen fans,” said Teri Nicholas, president and CEO of BC Children’s Hospital Foundation. “On August 11, we encourage everyone to visit their nearest Dairy Queen for a Blizzard® Treat to help make the 14th annual Miracle Treat Day a success.”

Since the partnership between Dairy Queen and Children’s Miracle Network began in 1984, Dairy Queen has become a top contributor with $115 million raised to date in support of sick and injured children across North America. For more information about Miracle Treat Day, visit

For more information about Dairy Queen®, visit, and follow them on Facebook at, Twitter at and Instagram at

Thursday, July 21, 2016

UBT Review: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast from Theatre Under the Stars

Disney's Beauty and the Beast is an enchanting musical for the entire family, and the first Disney film ever to make the leap to stage. The 'tale as old as time' follows Belle, a young woman in a provincial town, and the Beast, a young prince transformed by a wicked spell. If the Beast can learn to be loved, the curse will end and he will be restored. But time is running out...

Our Mommy Ambassador Melissa was thrilled to have the opportunity to take her daughters to see the show.

I’m not embarrassed at all to admit that I still have every single Beauty and the Beast soundtrack song memorized. In fact, as I watched the TUTS performance of this Disney classic at the Malkin Bowl on its opening night, my five-year old daughter stared at me suspiciously as I belted every tune along with the cast. In her eyes, perhaps I was now just a bit cooler than before – or perhaps she was a bit embarrassed? Either way, the show was thoroughly enjoyable. But honestly, the stage could have been empty, save the outstanding performances of Lumiere (played by Victor Hunter) and Gaston (played by Dane Szohner). Seriously. That’s how incredible the performances of both these gentlemen were – they stole the show!

After digging a bit on the internet to learn about these two, I’m now convinced that I needed to see Hunter as Lord Farquaad in Shrek the Musical. Maybe another time, as I’ve missed it now.

But otherwise, the night was truly splendid. Since my family and I reside in the Fraser Valley, we rarely get a chance to venture out to Vancouver. I had truly forgotten how beautiful Stanley Park is – lush greenery, and those well-kept gardens are amazing!

The Malkin Bowl was set up in such a lovely, intimate setting for the show, and the set design and costumes were impressive. The show kept true to it’s Disney roots, with the additions of a few new songs, and overall, all of the performances were amazing.

Even a few rain drops on our heads failed to deter the audience from laughing, singing and having a ball watching the story unfold. Both Jaime Piercy as Belle and Peter Monaghan as Beast are delightful, bringing an authentic yet unique energy to this beloved classic. And major honorable mentions to Cogsworth, played by Steven Greenfield (I marvelled at how well he kept his arms and legs bent like the hands of a clock)and LeFou (played by Nicholas Bradbury).

I think a TUTS yearly visit will be in the cards for my family. What a treat – a wonderful night for the whole family! Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and West Side Story, running July 6 - August 20, 2016 on alternating evenings at Stanley Park’s Malkin Bowl. For more information or to purchase tickets checkout

Enter to win a pair of tickets to see TUTS Beauty and the Beast. Enter at in the contest section. Good Luck! Contest closes Friday, August 12th, 2016