Category Archives: DIY

Organization Is the Key to Success for Single Parents

Guest Blog: Daniel Sherwin

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Single parents face unique challenges. You have to succeed at work and at raising children without a co-pilot. While it can be difficult, establishing a routine and having good organizing strategies can help keep you sane. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and at your wit’s end, consider the following tips to give your sanity a boost.

Work on the morning rituals first

You can’t be late for work and your kids can’t be late to school or daycare. So morning rituals are important. To stay ahead of the curve, you need to get up at least 30 minutes before the kids. This provides you with enough time to put yourself together and have a few moments to prep for the day ahead.

Make sure each child knows his or her individual drill. This may look like “get dressed, eat breakfast, brush your teeth, grab your bag, and let’s go.” Or it might look like “eat breakfast in your pajamas, shower, dress, brush teeth, and grab your bag.” The important thing is to do it the same way every day so that children know exactly what to expect.

While you are getting into the rhythm of this time-saving routine, post a chart that shows, in pictures, what each child is responsible for doing.

Keeping breakfast simple on weekdays will make it much easier to manage the mornings. Children are capable of getting their own cereal at a young age. Protein bars are even easier. If you’re feeling guilty, you can make it up to them by cooking pancakes and bacon on weekends.

Many parents think that preparing for the morning the night before is the hot ticket. Certainly there’s no harm in having your children pick out their clothes and get their backpacks and coats in order prior to bedtime. And, if you have to make lunches, making them the night before can eliminate a lot of morning stress.

Staying organized

 When you have a hundred things to do in one day, it’s easy to drop a ball or two. And you can’t afford to forget a dentist appointment. Have at least two fully itemized calendars, one on a wall of the home and one on your phone’s calendar program.

To create the wall calendar, get a big chalkboard and put a 31-space grid on it. Chalk in the days of the month for each slot. Make sure there’s enough space in each day’s slot for all family activity. Children over six should be able to post their own activities to the calendar. The chalkboard system allows you to change the schedule as you go along, and it gives you a broad overview so you can easily see a conflict or make changes.

Google’s calendar app, loaded to your smartphone, will be a godsend. Program it to beep at you 15 minutes or more before a scheduled activity. Be sure these reminders give you plenty of travel time to get where you need to go. If your children are old enough to have phones, they should do the same.

It also helps to keep your home as organized as possible, within reason, of course. If you have an organizational system in place for most rooms, and if the entire family sticks to this system, it can make for easier mornings and smoother weekends when it comes time to clean.

Balance children’s needs fairly

 It might be tempting to keep children busy, busy, busy to deter misbehavior. But you need to stay in control of your children’s evening activities, as children need more sleep than adults.

The National Sleep Foundation has a schedule for how much sleep children need at every age. Keeping in mind how early your child has to get up in the morning, make sure no scheduled activities will routinely keep any child up past his or her bedtime.

It’s also important to make sure the family schedule doesn’t play favorites. Just because your daughter shows huge promise as a violinist doesn’t mean the family never goes to your son’s soccer games.

It’s particularly important that no child’s passion gets squashed because of scheduling conflicts. Depending on the size of your family, you may need to limit each child’s after school activities to one or two.

In short, the keys to successful single parenting are organization and balance. Talk to your children about their priorities. Ask them to choose after-school activities and lessons carefully. Make sure they understand your priorities and why getting to bed on time is more important than adding raku classes to the end of the day. And have redundant systems in place for tracking everyone’s day. In the end, a little extra planning and forethought can keep the gears of your household machine running smoothly, and save your sanity to boot.


Daniel is a single dad raising two children. At, he aims to provide other single dads with information and resources to help them better equip themselves on the journey that is parenthood.

Favourite Activities for Fall

Our practicum student, Miss Becky, shares her favourite activities, crafts, songs, and rhymes for you to enjoy with your little ones during the beautiful autumn weather that seems to be sticking around (knock on wood)!

Little boy in a pumpkin patch

Pumpkin Patch and/or Corn Maze

What better way to embrace fall than to go a Pumpkin Patch?! Picking the perfect pumpkin can be a great deal of fun! It sure beats scrimmaging through a bargain bin only to find the ‘perfect’ pumpkin is at the very bottom of the bin — or not there at all! The fresh air and many acres provide for lots of space and running around, to blow off some of your little one’s steam.

Here are some tips for visiting a Pumpkin Patch:

  • Dress in layers
  • Arrive early and plan to spend a couple of hours there
  • If allowed, bring along a picnic lunch to really enjoy the fall atmosphere

Follow this link that allows you to find a Pumpkin Patch near you:

Scavenger Hunt

This activity is free and gets both you and your child/ren outside for some fresh, fall air! Here is our example of a quick and easy scavenger hunt checklist.

fall scav hunt


  • Laminating a checklist and using dry erase markers allows you to take this scavenger hunt to more than one place.
  • Finding multiples of the same item encourages counting and numerical skills. For example, 3 red leaves or 5 lawn decorations! Reinforce the valuation of the numbers!
  • Turning ‘Twig’ into ‘Twig that looks like the letter Y’ helps to develop alphabetical skills.

Leaf Prints

This is a cheap and easy craft to keep children entertained! Below is a link from Nurture Store with easy-to-follow ideas as well as picture resultss — lots of opportunity to get creative with using colors that aren’t associated with fall (pinks, purples, blues), and/or adding glitter, gems, buttons etc. to create texture!


Reading books associated with seasons and holidays is a great way to get children excited about upcoming or current events. Below is a link with some great recommendations, as well as what age they are directed to.


Some of our favourite fall songs include:

Five Little Pumpkins/Witches/Scarecrows

Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.

The first one said, “Oh my it’s getting late.”

The second one said, “There are leaves in the air.”

The third one said, “But we don’t care!”

The fourth one said, “Let’s run and run and run.”

The fifth one said, “We are ready for some fun!”

Then OOOhh OOOhh went the wind

And out went the lights

And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight.

Autumn Leaves are Falling (to the tune of London Bridge)

Autumn leaves are falling down, falling down, falling down

Autumn leaves are falling down, all around the town.

The wind will blow them round and round, round and round, round and round

The wind will blow them round and round all around the town.

They’re drifting gently to the ground, to the ground, to the ground

They’re drifting gently to the ground, all around the town.

Take a rake a rake them up, rake them up, rake them up,

Take a rake and rake them up all around the town.

Have You Ever Seen an Apple? (To the tune of The More We Get Together)

Have you ever seen an apple, an apple, an apple

Have you ever seen an apple, that grows on a tree?

A red one, a yellow one, a red one, a yellow one

Have you ever seen an apple, that grows on a tree?

Autumn Winds

Autumn winds are blowing free,

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh!

Leaves fall down from ev’ry tree,

Ooh, ooh, ooh!

Red and yellow, gold and brown,

Softly leaves come tumbling down,

Autumn winds are blowing free,

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh!

Autumn winds are whistling ’round,

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh!

Leaves go spinning to the ground,

Ooh, ooh, ooh!

Big or little, all will fall,

As they heed the windy call,

Autumn winds are whistling ’round,

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh!

A Squirrel Song

I’ll be gathering all the acorns till they’re gone.

I’ll be gathering all the acorns till they’re gone.

I’ll be gathering all the acorns, gathering all the acorns,

Gathering all the acorns till they’re gone.

And I’ll put them all inside my little home.

I will put them all inside my little home.

I will put them all inside, put them all inside,

Put them all inside my little home.

And I’ll eat the nuts until the winter’s gone.

I will eat the nuts until the winter’s gone.

I will eat the nuts until, eat the nuts until,

Eat the nuts until the winter’s gone.

Then I’ll do it all again come next fall.

I will do it all again come next fall.

I will do it all again, do it all again,

Do it all again come next fall.

Adding objects, finger puppets, movement, and/or instruments are enthusiastic ways to interactive ways for children to participate in these songs and rhymes

Leaf Play

autumn fallen maple leaves isolated on white background

This activity makes for a interactive afternoon for both you and your little ones, and is sure to tire you both out! All you need for Leaf Play are leaves and an imagination — if you don’t have a yard full of leaves, adventure to the nearest public park or field, take a rake, and start piling! Jump in the leaves, throw them as far up as you can so that it’s ‘raining leaves’, bury one another, make tunnels, organize smallest to biggest piles, etc. This can go on for hours, so pack a picnic and make an afternoon of it!

Carving/Painting Pumpkins

Since visiting the Pumpkin Patch, your family has now picked the perfect pumpkin(s)! So, what better way to celebrate your victory than to carve or decorate them? From our experience, especially with younger children, it typically ends with the adults doing most of the work for carving; the kids usually want to play with the ooey gooey insides (and we have no problem with that)! A great way to get children involved in creating their own pumpkin design is to have them paint and/or decorate their own. Go to the dollar store, pick up some cheap acrylic paint of their choice, and some accessories: buttons, gems, sparkles, stickers, beads etc., and let them get creative. Whatever the result, they’ll be incredibly proud!

Decorate pumpkin for halloween night on wooden background




Stumblr — Great new find!

Ed Emberley is already a staple of every Rhyme & Reason program, but the other day while on our regular book hunt for our end-of-programs gifts, we stumbled across THIS amazing new addition to the Monster collection, and now that place is truly cemented:

nighty night

It’s got all the tactile, manipulable goodness of the original, but it’s even cuter (who knew that was possible?!)

Our other picks for Monster Storytime?

monster 2 monster 4 0-545-21829-2

Add some Fingerplays to the mix by singing “Five Little Monsters Jumping on the Bed!”

You can easily make these out of coloured foam and googlie eyes (monsters are impossible to “mess up”) for some guaranteed fun!

DIY: Featured Literacy Activity

Here’s an easy, fun, and educational activity for an indoor play day — make a giant game of “Memory”!


What you need:

  1. Painter’s Tape
  2. Single Sheets of Paper (the bigger the better!)
  3. Crayons and Markers

What you do:

  1. Tape out a matrix on your floor (using easy-to-remove, no-residue painter’s tape) with grids large enough to hold each piece of paper (tip: try laying the papers down first, then taping the correct size around them!)
  2. Print out (or make your own!) double-sets of images. Try two snails, two basketballs, two letter “F’s”… etc, and scatter them face-down in your matrix.
  3. Play Memory! Have your child flip over individual pieces of paper and try to find the matching images. To start, leave the pictures face-up after they’ve been flipped, so your child can use a trial-and-error process to find the correct picture. Help them out, and if another match comes along while you’re looking for a different one, make sure to point it out, and take both pictures off the grid to show success! After your child has mastered this portion of the game, make sure to flip images back over if they are not the right match. Did you flip a “Gorilla” first, but the next picture you picked was of a rhino? Flip both images back over, and try again!

What it does:

Playing Memory is great for developing a lot of different skills — first, of course, is your child’s “short-term” memory; remembering where an image is that they’ve already looked at, and being able to match it to another similar image. It also helps with goal-oriented tasks — being able to hold a single goal in mind and work towards it. At the same time, as your child gets better at the game, they will be able to hold several objects in their mind at a time and remember the locations of more and more images simultaneously, increasing their “working memory”. This game also develops our childrens’ “spatial awareness”, as well as “phonemic and letter awareness”. When we see or hear different letters and words with visual pictures attached to them, it helps cement these concepts in our brains. On top of all that, because we’re playing on such a large scale and in such a big space, it’s also increasing our gross motor skills, like bending and jumping and moving around from one side of the grid to another.

Extended Activities:

  • 16-24 month-olds will require simple and identical pictures to start with, so make sure the images don’t have more than one focal point in them, and that it’s match is exactly the same image
  • Use images of objects and things that your child is already fond of, to keep them engaged. Are they crazy about bugs? Love the characters from a certain book or movie? Use those! Then try mixing in some images of things you and your child don’t see every day. An exotic animal? Interesting Fruit?
  • Try including one or two letters from your child’s name into the pairs as well (two A’s for “Adam” or two J’s for “Jillian”, for example).
  • Children ages 2-3 can start playing with “concept” matches — Pair a lower case letter with it’s upper case version to make a set, or a baby animal with it’s parent. Or try matching an animal with the food it might eat: Monkey and Banana = 1 set.
  • Print out black and white sets of images so your child can colour them in. Learning how to hold writing tools is an important pre-literacy skill!
  • You can also start playing with “emotion” images — find close-up photographs of people’s faces who are laughing, crying, yelling, smiling, etc. Being able to correctly identify the way people are feeling will increase your child’s emotional maturity and ability to empathize.
  • 4 and 5 year-olds love a good challenge. Try using more complicated concepts like colours — “I need two papers that make the colour Orange” (Red and Yellow = 1 set), or increasing the size of the matrix so there are even more pairs available.
  • Give your child enough blank pieces of paper to create their own pairs — allow them to colour or draw their own matching sets! And if they want to hide them for YOU, enjoy their creativity and the exercise it will give your own brain!