Sunday, December 4, 2016

Giving Back This Holiday Season: Children’s Charities Worth Supporting

It is the most wonderful time of the year for many families throughout the Lower Mainland and around the world, however there are many less fortunate who are in need of a little extra love and kindness this holiday season. Thankfully plenty of great charities exist to help ensure they’ll receive just that. 

Consider gifting one of the below local or international organizations with a donation this Christmas, or perhaps donate in-kind for someone on your own holiday wish list and help spread the festive cheer!

Baskets of Love is a wonderful charity project by the Down Syndrome Support Society which helps create gift baskets filled with items especially chosen for babies with Down Syndrome and their families – to help them transition more positively and easily into life.  Each basket contains an assortment of gifts, baby items, blankets as well as local and national information and resources to welcome families into the Down Syndrome community in a positive way.

Plan International Canada is a great source to head to if you’re looking for a variety of different charities geared toward children from all over the world. You can easily navigate their Gifts of Hope page and donate as little as $10 for a simple bed net to help protect little ones from infections and more. Many donated gifts are matched – translating to double the amount and impact ultimately made. 

Kids Up Front is another BC based charity (with roots in Alberta) that aims to provide less fortunate children with experiential nourishment of the spirit by providing them with seats to world-class performances they’d be otherwise unable to enjoy. Through its partnerships with other child-serving charitable agencies who in choose ticket recipients from within their programs, Kids Up Front is able to provide a magical experience to those less fortunate – but no less deserving. Individuals and businesses can choose to donate money or donate tickets to events such as ballet, cinema or theatrical performances as well as soccer, hockey and ball games all guaranteed to put a smile on a deserving child’s face. 

Backpack Buddies is a grassroots Vancouver-based organization that provides children in need with specially packed backpacks containing food and other items to help ensure they don’t go hungry outside of school. The organization relies on local schoolchildren to help pack each backpack before they are delivered to other less fortunate kids and families – providing a valuable life lesson and service that is community driven. Donate online or learn more here

Canadian Feed The Children is another option worth considering when in search of a suitable charity to give to this season as they’re committed to reducing the impact of poverty on children both in Canada and around the world. Part of what makes this organization (represented globally) so great is that they don’t take a quick-fix approach to their work – but rather personalize efforts based on a community-led approach, long-term sustainability and food security as well as education that benefit’s children. 

Danica keeps herself busy as a solo-mom to a busy little boy while running her own business and living coastal life to the fullest. She enjoys an active lifestyle (when not busy working on communications projects or taking her tiny tot on adventures).  See what she's up to at:

Images: courtesy of Plan Canada/Plan International, Backpack Buddies

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Elf on the Shelf: Does it Really Improve Kids’ Behaviour?

Encouraging good behavior after Elf on the Shelf heads back to the North Pole.

He sits on the shelf, keeping a watchful eye over your house as Christmas approaches, reporting each day’s household behavior to Santa at night. He’s the Elf on the Shelf, and he seems like a parent’s dream for encouraging good behavior in the chaos before the holidays. Knowing their poor choices will be reported to the big guy up north and keep them off the good list, your kids will probably step up while the elf is perched on the mantle. But what happens when the elf heads back to the North Pole after Christmas?
Don’t get me wrong – we’re not down on the Elf on the Shelf. After all, watching the elf’s antics and discovering where he ends up every morning is fun for the whole family. However, using the elf (or Santa) to manipulate kids’ behavior is unfortunately not a long-term solution to bringing out the best behavior in your kids. Elf on the Shelf may seem like a great help during the holiday season – just like the age-old threat of “Santa is watching!” – but kids are quick to revert to their old ways once the reward of presents is removed. And would you really withhold that new scooter or train set on Christmas morning because the Elf spied your daughter sweeping cookie crumbs under the rug?

Fortunately, it is possible to help improve your kids’ behaviour through the anticipation of Christmas and even beyond, even without Elf on the Shelf.
Here are some tips and tools to help your kids be their best throughout the year:

1. Cut out the Rewards
Offering kids rewards for positive behaviour – a sucker for picking up toys, for example – may motivate them for a little while, but they’ll eventually lose interest in doing the right thing, since they’re only doing it for the treat. And once your Elf is vacationing at the North Pole again, what’s going to keep Nora from stealing her little brother’s blocks? Kids need to know what is expected of them, and that it’s expected all year. They need to know it’s about doing the right thing, not getting presents or prizes.

2. Lead by Example
Santa may not be watching, but your kids are – and they’re less likely to follow the rules if they see you doing the same. If the house rule is no snacking before bed, don’t sneak a candy bar in the pantry after dinner. Just as you might ask your oldest child to make good choices to set a good example for their younger siblings, you need to remember to do the same for your children.

3. Start When-Then Rroutines
Routines help kids know what to expect, and they also help them prioritize family responsibilities and rules over playtime, TV time or otherwise. Using the “when – then” format helps your children know exactly what’s expected of them. For example, when you clear your dishes from the table, then we can do a puzzle together. Routines help ease the chaos of the most difficult times of the day, like mornings, bedtime and homework time. Kids will know that when they brush teeth, put on pajamas and pick out clothes for tomorrow, then they can have a bedtime story. Routines will also help you and your kids navigate the craziness of holidays, vacations or other changes from the norm – so it’s important to stick to routines during these special times.

4. Focus on Consequences and Consistency.
Instead of using rewards to motivate good behaviour, help your kids recognie possible negative outcomes to their choices. Let them know ahead of time what will happen if they choose to break the rules – and most importantly – follow through. Tell Aiden that if he throws snowballs at Sophia, he will have to come inside. If you see Aiden pelting snowballs at his sister from behind a snowdrift, don’t yell out a reminder. Instead, make him come inside. The next day, he’ll know what’s expected of him when he plays in the snow.

5. Invest in One-on-One Time
The holiday season is one of the most hectic times of the year, and one of the most important to make sure you’re spending one-on-one time with your kids everyday. But it’s important every other day of the year as well. When kids get your positive attention on a regular basis, they won’t act up to get your attention in a negative way. Take time to be with your kids, doing something they choose to do, for at least 10 minutes twice a day. This small investment in time will reap huge rewards in your child’s behavior and in your relationship with your child.
Help your kids keep up their good behaviour all year long with the same commitment the wait for Santa brings. Lay the groundwork ahead of time and let the Elf be a fun addition to your Christmas traditions.

Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men. 

For more information

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Seasonal Thank You Gift Ideas For Your Child’s Caregiver Team

With Christmas less than a month away (yup, it’s true), it is now time to put serious effort into making your list and checking it twice – and ensuring you’ve got all those important people in your and your child’s life covered. 

We know it’s easy to find meaningful gifts for immediate family members, but what about the handful of other caregivers who help provide a healthy, enriching and safe environment for your little one throughout the year. 

Don’t forget to gift a little something to the babysitter, nanny, childcare provider and perhaps even your Pediatrician who’s reassuringly helped your little one overcome health hurdles. We’ve got some great last minute gift suggestions to help ensure everyone on your extended list receives a token of seasonal gratitude – without breaking your holiday budget.

TWG Tea (via The Urban Tea Merchant) has just released its special Red Christmas Teabag Gift Box that is perfect for your child’s favorite caregiver or tea-loving nanny.  Its beautifully designed (re-edited) matte red gift box includes 15 bags of theine-free red tea blend of citrus fruits and spices for only $29.  Feeling extra giving? Top it off with a package of their Tea Infused Shortbread Cookies (for an additional $20)

If your child has a favourite babysitter (lets face it, they are a go-to saviour at times) they’re probably into looking polished and pretty when not getting down and dirty at the playground with your little monkey! Treat them to a convenient AG Hair Shampoo and Conditioner Set ($24.99) or gift them with a cool little personalized Zodiac Pouch that comes in an array of cheerful, edgy colours at only $20.

For your child’s caregiver nothing says thank you like the gift of Zen and relaxation (considering they deal with your kids tears and meltdowns on an almost daily basis).  Indigo has a great selection of seasonally scented candles that are classy-looking bargain at less than $15.  Choose from Balsam and Cedar, Woodfire or Winter White.

Your child’s daycare provider needs to keep a high level of alertness during the day.   Though coffee is the obvious choice, why not give them the gift of green: matcha green that is.  They’ll appreciate Whisk Matcha’s Organic Everyday Grade Matcha ($25) or Premium Organic Matcha Shortbread Cookies ($17).  Both offer a healthier  ‘perk’ without the caffeine crash common with coffee.

What about a little something sweet for your friendly neighbour who’s been there in a pinch when you’ve run out of milk just before bedtime? Something thoughtful – and deliciously scented like Bath and Bodyworks well priced Lather & Lotion Gift Sets are a seasonal steal ($20).  Mix and match to create your own yummy bundle. 

Give thanks to your little ones doctor or healthcare provider with something offering up a note of gratitude for the hard and often stressful work they do.  You’ll find plenty of kitschy ideas on Amazon (we sure did), but a cute and frameable print from local artist Raincity Prints might make a nice addition to their workspace without going overboard.  

Danica keeps herself busy as a solo-mom to a busy little boy while running her own business and living coastal life to the fullest. She enjoys an active lifestyle (when not busy working on communications projects or taking her tiny tot on adventures).  See what she's up to at:

Images: courtesy of Indigo, Whisk Matcha, Raincity Prints, TWG/Urban Tea Merchants 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Boogie Wipes to the Rescue!

We can all agree on one thing: getting sick stinks! Especially when your little ones do, that’s why Boogie Wipes are here to help! With cold and flu season quickly approaching there’s no better time to be prepared.

Cleaning little noses with a dry tissue can be a pain for both parents and kids. Boogie Wipes are a soothing alternative made with natural saline to dissolve boogies caused by the common cold or allergies. Say goodbye to red and itchy noses!

Boogie Wipes come in three scents: Great Grape, Fresh Scent and Simply Unscented for extra-sensitive noses. Recommended by parents and pediatricians, Boogie Wipes moisturize with aloe, chamomile and vitamin E and are extra soft and gentle on kids’ sensitive noses.

These are snot your average wipes. When the going gets tough, Boogie Wipes will help you weather the storm and get back to adventuring. Boogie Wipes are the perfect product to add to any cold and flu round up.

Boogie Wipes gently clean and soothe runny, stuffy and otherwise tender noses with natural saline, aloe and vitamin E. Invented by moms,recommended by pediatricians and infused with fun in refreshing scents kids love, Boogie Wipes are a proven solution for unhappy noses.

Recommended by pediatricians and infused with fun in refreshing scents kids love, Boogie Wipes are a
proven solution for unhappy noses.

Available in: Fresh Scent, Great Grape, Unscented
Suggested Retail Price: $3.99 - $4.99
Available at: Walmart, Loblaws, Real Canadian Superstore, Shoppers Drug Mart, Toys R' Us and London Drugs

Contest: Enter to win at 1 of 3 Boogie Wipes Gift Package valued at $25.00.  Good Luck! Contest closes Friday, November 25th, 2016.

Monday, October 31, 2016

10 Tips for a Safe Halloween

1. Glow-in-the-dark jewelry and glow sticks are used by parents to keep their children visible while trick-or-treating in the dark. Children may break open these glow sticks getting the liquid on their hands and in their mouths. The liquid can be mildly irritating to the skin or eyes but is not likely to cause harm if a small amount is ingested.

2. Children should not eat treats until they return home and all items have been inspected by an adult.

3.Limit the amount of candy ingested at one time. Too much candy can cause stomach discomfort, and sugars and other sweeteners can act as laxatives when consumed in large amounts.

4. If a child brings home a brand of candy that is not familiar, throw it away. Some imported candies have high levels of lead that can be harmful.

5. Candy that is unwrapped should be discarded immediately.

6. Fruit treats should be washed and cut open before being eaten.
7. Homemade treats should be discarded unless the individuals who
prepared them are well known and trusted.

8. Little pieces of candy are potential choking hazards for small children.

9. Torn, loose, or punctured wrapping may be a sign of tampering.
Tampering should be reported to local police.

10. Some Halloween makeup contains lead as do many regular cosmetics. Check for safe makeup to use on children.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

UBT Top 5 Halloween Books for Toddlers

With Halloween right around the corner we thought we'd help our readers prepare for this fun family holiday. For kids that are big and kids that are small, find the right spooky (or not-so-spooky) boooooooks for them all!

How do you Know its Halloween – By Dian Curtis Regan and Ilustrated by Fumi Kosaka. Markus, my two-year-old loves “lift-the-flap” books so I knew this one would be a hit with him. But it is also a hit with Mattias, my four year old because of its cute riddles. “I'm fat and round. Outside, I’m orange. Inside I glow. What am I?” 

Five Little Pumpkins – Illustrated by Ben Mantle. I love this one because it’s a quick read (we all know that toddlers want “just one more”) and because my kids love it when I sing “the Monkey’s on the Bed” as they jump on my bed! They thought it was cute that the song could be made about pumpkins too!

Sixteen Runaway Pumpkins – By Dianne Ochiltree and Illustrated by Anna-Sophie Lanquetin. My four-year-old, Mattias, loves this one because he is really into counting and math. While some little ones may get tripped up with the multiplication, it was mostly simple addition and a cute rhyming story! Being that I have two boys, when disaster strikes (such as pumpkins falling out of a cart) they seem to find it hilarous!

When the Leaf Blew In – By Steve Metzger and Illustrated by Kellie Lewis. Again I knew this would be a hit with my two year old because its all about a farm. Markus loves anything to do with animals and is always excited to make all of the animal sounds as we turned the pages. It was even better that he got to make sneezes as well: The cow sneezes “Ah choo!” 

Halloween Mice – By Bethany Roberts and Illustrated by Doug Cushman. We have a cat a home, so the boys are always happy to read about cats! The illustrations of the mice dressed up for Halloween in this book were super cute and this book really helps us get into the Halloween spirit at home!

Lindsay is a wife, a mom to two little boys, a soccer player, a lifetime traveler and a lover of learning. Lindsay 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

Monday, October 24, 2016

10 Halloween Etiquette Tricks and Tips

It’s time for scary costumes, carving pumpkins, candy and trick or treating. As Halloween approaches, there are somethings parents and children need to remember.
Select Appropriate Costumes: Costumes that represent a culture, race, ethnic or religious group or someone with a serious illness, poverty or other hardship, are inappropriate.  Sexually explicit costumes and those mocking LGBT or gender identity encourage negativity. During this election year, our public political figures are certainly on the table; expect to see Clinton and Trump.

Age Appropriateness: While many adults enjoy Halloween dress up, remember this is mostly a children’s holiday. What your teenager might wear, is not a good fit for a first grade Halloween party.  Gage the costume based on your child’s age, and the age of his or her peers. Even if you think your young child might be able to handle dressing up as Freddy Krueger, it might be too much for his or her friends.

Candy Alternatives
: Traditional chocolate or sugar-laced candy are always a hit. With more health conscious parents, consider sealed mini bottled water, pre-packaged popcorn, coloring books, pre-packaged healthy snacks, small inexpensive toys, or pens/pencils.

Don’t Ring Doorbell or Knock
: By simply turning off the outside lights, you will alert trick or treaters to skip your house and go on to the next. As an option, consider leaving a bowl of candy by the front door. Putting the car in the garage may also remove the question of whether someone is home.

Knock One Time and One Time Only: If no one answers, move on to the next house. There’s no need to be excessive and knock 10 times. The homeowner might be on an important call or trying to help a baby to sleep. On a related note: know when it’s appropriate to knock. Trick or treating generally starts just before sunset and ends by 9pm.
No Homemade Treats: While it’s a nice thought to want to bake homemade Halloween treats, don’t do it.  Parents have heightened safety concerns for good reason, and will discard these items.  Buy pre-packaged candy from trusted brands like Hershey, M&M, Skittles, Dove, Reece’s.

Teach Your Kids Manner
s: Halloween is a great opportunity to teach your kids manners, such as greeting and thanking each homeowner who gives them candy. Explain to older kids and teenagers that bullying and pushing smaller kids out of the way won’t be tolerated. When they encounter a bowl of candy at the door, make sure they are considerate and only take one or two pieces.  Be sure they respect private property, including homeowner decorations, and don’t leave unwanted candy or wrappers in lawns.

Never Arrive Empty Handed: Anyone invited to a Halloween party, does not arrive empty handed.  Bring a small hostess gift such as tea towels, diffuser, candle, coasters, fresh fruit, wine, packaged sweets, or children’s game.

Office & School Policies: Office culture varies, so be sure to research your workplace policy. Ask a trusted colleague about the ‘unwritten rules.’ Some offices encourage tasteful costumes, while others frown upon the practice.  Education policies vary, so don’t assume children may wear their costumes to school.  In many school districts across the nation, costumes are prohibited for safety reasons. Double check and don’t assume.

Stay Safe: Younger children should always be accompanied by parents or a designated chaperone. Older children and teens should trick or treat as part of a group.  Never enter someone’s home you don’t know, no matter how nice they seem. Carry a flashlight and mobile phone.  Follow your intuition and if you have a bad feeling about something, avoid it.

Sharon Schweitzer, an international etiquette expert, author, and founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. For more information