Category Archives: Parenting

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.

Guest Blog: Things to Remember When Baby-proofing Your Home

5 Things to Remember When Baby-proofing Your Home

By: Justin Havre

Babies start crawling between the ages of about 6-10 months. Once your baby is mobile, they will have access to a variety of objects that can cause harm. Baby-proofing the house is the best way to protect your child from household items and surfaces that can cause serious injury.

Stay One Step Ahead of Baby

Babies grow so quickly that it can be hard to keep up. First they roll, then they crawl, finally they start pulling themselves up on the furniture. You may not be with your baby when all of these milestones occur, so you’ll want to be sure your home is ready even before your baby becomes mobile.

Babyproof your house before your baby is able to move on their own. This ensures that your house will be ready when your baby can move independently, and it will also put you in the mindset of baby safety well in advance. By the time that your baby is able to crawl and walk, you’ll be fully ready.

Lay on the Floor for Some Perspective

Babies grab what they can and put everything in their mouths. Pennies, buttons, paper clips and other small objects are all dangerous for babies, and often these items can be found on the floor, under furniture and in corners.

To keep these things out of your child’s arm reach, try lying on the floor and looking at the world from your baby’s perspective. Lay in the places where your baby spends the most time and look at the world as your baby sees it. This is especially important when you’ve just bought a new place with the baby in mind and may not have as deep of an understanding of the nooks and crannies as you would in a home you’ve lived in for years. What do you see under the furniture? What’s in the corners? What can your baby grab from the floor?

It’s Not Just About What Your Baby Can Fit in His Mouth

Babyproofing involves protecting your baby from all dangers in the house, not just the chemicals under the sink. Knowing the full extent of the danger in your house can help you protect your baby more fully. Below are some of the other dangers that babies face in normal households:

  • Sharp corners. Babies can be seriously injured by hitting their head on the corner of the coffee table and on other sharp, low corners in the house. Covering sharp corners with padding can help prevent accidents.
  • Buttons and on/off switches. Toddlers like to turn knobs, turn on and off appliances and so on. For example, when your baby is old enough to reach the knobs on the oven, this could lead to a serious safety hazard. Covering the knobs that turn on accessible appliances is a good way to prevent this from happening.
  • Hot water. Hot water scalds babies every year. To protect your baby from a serious or potentially fatal injury, keep your water heater turned to 120 degrees or lower, and consider installing a safety device on the bathtub knobs that will prevent your child from ever turning on the water.

Don’t Forget the Fireplace

Some parents assume that their children are safe from the fireplace if they close the glass doors, but children who touch the glass can suffer serious burns. The best way to protect your baby from a fireplace is install a baby gate that prevents the baby from accessing the hearth, or to avoid using the fireplace altogether. Parents who do use the fireplace must remember to keep matches, lighters and other accessories away from their children.

Babyproof at the Relative’s House

If your baby spends a lot of time with grandparents, aunts and uncles, or other relatives and friends, these homes must also be baby-proofed. This can be a less burdensome process if your child stays mainly in only one or two rooms of the house when they visit. Work with your relatives and loved ones to develop a baby-proofing plan to make the home safe when baby comes over!

Best Movies for Families [from mostly] 2016

Guest Blog
with Movie Maniac Moe from The Calgary Public Library

It’s always easy to find great movies for the 14+ crowd, being that most flicks are aimed at this demographic. On tap for 2016 were many returning franchises for the older kids (and kids at heart), like ‘Avengers: Civil War’, ‘Star Trek Beyond’, ‘Batman versus Superman’, ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’, and ‘Ghostbusters’.

It is a little harder, though, to find something that you can watch with the whole family. Something without nudity, violence, gore, profanity, images of alcohol, drugs, smoking, or frightening and intense scenes, yet still has something to offer up that appeals across a variety of ages… especially if you have managed to talk an older child into sitting with their parents and younger sibling and promised them “you’ll like it”.

Parents know how often a child will watch something they like — we’re talking dozens, maybe even hundreds of times. I know I am guilty of it myself… some of my fave films I have seen upwards of 40 times! Just like grown-up movies, not all children’s movies are created equal, and poorly made children’s movies can be mind-numbing for adults. But we like what we like and children do even more so.

So have a look at these ten suggestions. They will stand up to multiple viewings — visually stunning, creative, funny, and highly watchable… for the WHOLE family.


The entire city of Zootopia is populated by animals living, thriving, and holding down regular day jobs. From tiny shrews to the largest elephant, everybody has a place in this society. For any human who has ever gone to a registry office, you will find the scene with the sloth particularly funny. Rated PG for some very mild rude humour.





For the legions of Roald Dahl fans, the Big Friendly Giant is brought to screen in a manner befitting this beloved story. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the novel by the well loved author, you are in for a real treat. Rated PG for action/peril, some scary moments and brief rude humor, but this should be good for 6 years old and up. Directed by master movie maker, Steven Spielberg.



fqNhnLkg-7U.movieposter_maxresFinding Dory

The sequel to the very popular Finding Nemo, this Pixar release features the return of the friendly-but-forgetful Blue Tang, Dory. This time the search is for her long-lost parents. Along the way everybody learns something new about the real meaning of family. Rated PG for some mild thematic elements. The young kids will love this one.




The Jungle Bookjungle_book

Everyone is likely familiar with little Mowgli, the boy-child raised in the jungle by a pack of wolves. This Rudyard Kipling story has been adapted to film many many times in the past seventy plus years. This version features only one live person, and the little boy is wonderful. The CGI (computer generated images) are so seamless, many times you are certain you are looking at real animals. Lots of A-list stars are doing the voices and parents can have extra fun trying to guess who’s who. Rated PG for some sequences of scary action and peril, but it should be suitable for six and up (with parental guidance). You will love the elephants!

Untitled-1If you can track down the live-action adaptation from 1994 (a little hard to find these days), that was the standard for my young girls

As I mentioned above, the story is of such enduringappeal that it is always being remade. So even though one was just released in 2016, a new version has just wound up production and is due for release in 2018. It stars everybody’s favorite Sherlock Holmes, Benedict Cumberbatch, and will no doubt be a hit.



news-021516b-lgA Beautiful Planet

This film explores the Earth as seen from the International Space Station. Astronauts film what they see as they orbit the planet, and the images are stunning. In the night scenes you can actually see major cities around the world, plus different storms taking place on Earth. From Disney, this is only 45 minutes long, and can be viewed by 5 and up.




Kung Fu Panda 3Kung-Fu-Panda-3-Movie-Poster

In the third installment, Po continues his ‘legendary adventures of awesomeness’, and must fight super villain Kai. To fight him he must try to train his well-intentioned but clumsy fellow pandas. Rated PG for martial arts action and some mild rude humour.




Kukubo_and_the_two_strings_ver13_xxlgbo and the Two Strings

Kubo, a young boy in a fantastical alternative Japan, is kind, clever, and an amazing storyteller. As with other flicks from this movie house, this gorgeously animated offering from Laika Studios tends to be a little darker than the light-hearted, brightly-coloured movies from other creators, but with some parental guidance, this one is genuinely wonderful for 8+, or younger at personal discretion.



moana_ver5 Moana

Not content with infecting a large portion of the adult population with his catchy earworms in hit musical ‘Hamilton’, Lin-Manuel Miranda turns his skills to the younger generation in the delightful ‘Moana’. There’s at least three songs in this one that neither you nor your little ones will get out of your heads. You’re welcome.




song-of-the-sea-posterSong of the Sea

If the songs of the sea form Moana weren’t enough for your heart, and you missed this hit from a couple of years ago (2014), you’ll definitely want to check it out now. There are a lot of titles on this list from heavy-hitters Disney and Dreamworks, so we always like featuring some of the other studios. We can’t wait for the next from Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon!



School Success Rx


Guest Blog by Calgary’s Child — original link here

With Preschool and Kindergarten Registration starting now, Calgary’s Child share their prescription for school success:

Read, read, read to your child

“Being read to is the single most consistent and reliable predictor of academic success later in life,” says Kurumada Chuang. She recommends reading to your preschooler for 20 minutes every night at bedtime. While you’re at it, stop every so often and ask your child a question about the story before turning the page, such as: “Gosh, why do you think she was sad?” Or, “What do you think is going to happen next?” Making reading more interactive makes it more fun and helps build your child’s comprehension skills.

Help your child learn to follow directions

To help your preschooler get the hang of following directions, practice at home by giving simple commands, such as: “Please help me pick up your toys and put them in the
toy box.” Then, encourage your child to follow through by offering an incentive to do whatever it is you’re asking. Tell your child they can play outside, for example, once they’ve finished putting away their toys. An incentive helps your child understand that following directions makes other fun activities possible. If they don’t follow your directions and, for example, don’t put their toys away, calmly explain that they won’t be able to play with those toys for the rest of the day or go, for example, to the park. Keep it positive by focusing on how clean the playroom will look when you’re done. Then praise your child when they’re successful. “You followed my directions so well. Thank you for helping me put your toys in the toy box like I asked you to! That was so helpful.”

Help your child master sharing and turn-taking

From age 3 to 5, children tend to hoard coveted toys and objects. They’re not really ready to grasp the concept of sharing yet. But you can help your youngster practice by having them ‘take turns’ with toys and catching your child when they share on their own. To help them develop the empathy that true sharing requires, state what they did and how it makes others feel, such as: “Thank you for sharing. It makes your sister feel good when you share the ball.” Your child should be able to ‘own’ special or new toys, though, so keep them out of sight on playdates or in their room, away from siblings. By Kindergarten, children are capable of sharing well and taking turns. If your child isn’t there yet, help them get the hang of it by inviting a friend over for a cooperative task such as baking cookies. If things aren’t going well, calmly ask your child to sit out. Pretty soon, they’ll get the idea and want to join in on the fun again. You can also read your child books about sharing and discuss them. In the classic tale, Stone Soup, retold by Heather Forest, two hungry travelers make soup from ingredients everyone in the town contributes. What makes the soup extra delicious is the sharing it took to make it.

Help your child make friends

If you get the sense your toddler or preschooler needs a little help in the social department, try hosting playdates with others your child likes or with whom they have common interests. Playdates offer an opportunity to break away from the group and foster individual friendships. You might begin by asking your preschooler: “How about a playdate with Grace? I notice that she likes to draw too.” If you’re not sure whom to invite over first, ask your child’s preschool teacher if there’s anyone in the classroom who might be a good match for your child. Then feel free to go from there and make the rounds so your child gets the chance to know several children better. To help your child play host(ess), let them pick the snack and ask them beforehand what games and activities s/he and their friend might like to do. On the playdate, feel free to play along and stay close by to make sure everyone stays safe. But give your child and their friend the chance to play on their own too. To help things go smoothly, keep playdates to two hours; children start to get tired after that. And keep it simple by inviting just one child over at a time.

Practice sharing

From age 3 to 5, kids aren’t yet capable of grasping the concept of sharing, but you can help your preschooler get the hang of it by having them ‘take turns’ with toys and catching them when they share on their own. “Stating what she did and how it makes others feel, such as: ‘Thank you for sharing. It makes your sister feel good when you share your toast,’ helps her develop the empathy that true sharing requires,” says Marcy Guddemi, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Gesell Institute of Human Development. You can also read your child books about sharing and discuss them together. Hone your child’s listening skills. At the dinner table and during car rides, help your preschooler hone their listening skills by asking them to wait to speak until their brother (or vice versa) has finished his sentence. When it’s her turn, remind her, “Now it’s your turn to talk. Thank you for being patient and for being such a good listener while your brother was talking.” Explain that being a good listener shows respect for the speaker, whether it’s her brother or her teacher and the other students at school who are trying to hear what the teacher has to say. Mention that it’s a two-way street: When she’s a good listener, she’s showing the same kind of respect that she gets when others listen to her. If she continues to interrupt, keep reminding her that she’ll get the chance to talk. Becoming a good listener, like many things, can take lots of practice.

Prepping for Preschool: Five Tips for Success

The wait-lists are long, sometimes years at a time. The philosophies are broad; Montessori, Reggio Emelia, Waldorf, TLC, Community, Classic Play?! Advice abounds, and with constant conflicts.

No… it’s not the road to your child’s Post-Secondary Education — it’s just the first step on their educational journey, into the wonderful world of preschool.

The early years of life are a critical period of opportunity and skills-building. The things we learn in the first five years of childhood lay the foundation for our successes for the rest of our lives. This is why preschool registration is as intense as it is — finding the right fit for your family is hugely important. Regardless of what route you end up taking, here are some tips to help make sure the transition is as smooth as possible:

  1. Read about it

There are a lot of great books with themes revolving around the start of preschool — many of them involve characters that your child already knows and loves (keeping familiar things close is very comforting during times of big change). Snuggle up together and share a story: you’ll be increasing your child’s feel-good sensations around learning, and practicing one of the most valuable preschool activities, storytime.

  1. Plan a Visit

Most preschools are going to have open houses and parent education nights, but if you miss these, call ahead to see if you can arrange a quick tour through your child’s new school space. Familiarizing ourselves with new settings gives us a chance to manage our expectations. Start frequenting the school’s playground or another in the neighbourhood, so that the adjustment in September doesn’t also have to require an orientation to place!

  1. Practice makes Permanent

Start implementing a more tangible routine at home and practice skills that your child will need to do on their own (like self-care tasks around washing hands, taking off and hanging up jackets, putting on and filling backpacks, etc).

Incorporate imaginative play into your day! Make believe that you’re at preschool with your child and take turns being the teacher and the student!

If you’re worried about aspects of school like sustaining attention or pro-socialization, sign up for a session of early education classes; we cover all sorts of topics around early development, and your child can practice sitting quietly in a circle time, group sharing and conversations, and exploring personal needs, identities, and behaviours. We promise they’re also just a lot of fun!

  1. Validate Feelings

Try not to diminish or deny the feelings your child has around starting school. Avoid saying things like “don’t be nervous” or “there’s nothing to worry about!”. Instead reassure your child, saying “I understand that you’re feeling nervous about school — it’s such a different and exciting experience!” and then brainstorm ideas on ways your child can comfort and calm themselves.

Putting a label to our emotions, allowing ourselves to feel them, and building strategies before the meltdown allows us to move towards action instead of being overwhelmed by feelings. Having a strong emotional vocabulary and sense of resilience is an important pre-school skill to work on, and one even adults need help with sometimes… which reminds us:

  1. Brace Yourself

You are excited for your child’s new adventure, looking forward to regaining some of your alone time, sad to say goodbye to those awesome early years, and worried about your child’s future success. You’re probably feeling a million other conflicting emotions on top of these! Starting preschool can be as difficult for you as it is for your child. Help manage some of those feelings by following your own advice — don’t deny or diminish them; acknowledge them and build in some strategies!
Plan a first-day coffee date with other parents who have school starters this year.
Organize a special event with other family members who are home with you during the school day (they’ll be missing your little one too).
Go ‘back-to-school’ yourself and pick up a new hobby or activity that you’ve always wanted to develop!

This is a time of big change for everyone, but it’s a positive and exciting one. With a little bit of planning and some solid strategies, it’s going to be a good first year of school!