Category Archives: Parenting

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.

zootopia_xlgZootopia

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.

 

 

 

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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!

 

How to Play: Developing the skills of sharing

Chances are that if you’re reading this, you partake in social media. If that’s the case, then you have probably seen many an article written by both professionals and parents on the topic of sharing. Some say it is absolutely paramount to our children’s success and to our human culture that we learn to share, while others tout that sharing is completely unreasonable and undermines our children’s independence and right to say ‘no’.

So after all this back and forth, what’s the ultimate verdict? Well, you can probably guess that there really isn’t one. There are many studies and theories and best-practice articles out there on the topic; but like many parenting philosophies, this one has lots of room for interpretation and application of your own family and cultural values.

And that is exactly the crux of issue:  what you teach your child regarding sharing is based on YOUR OWN family and cultural values. Personally, I find it helpful to read a variety of opinions on the subject (however crazy I think some of them may be). But when it comes right down to it, I’m going to decide what I teach my son about sharing.

Whatever YOU’VE decided you want to teach your child, one thing that we can all do is begin teaching these values to our children early. Don’t wait until they are in the midst of the terrible twos and you’re faced with several screaming toddlers. Start early. After all, kids aren’t born knowing all of our social conventions and expectations; it is our responsibility to teach them.

Play give-and-take with your baby. “Now it’s mommy’s turn to hold the toy. Now it’s baby’s turn!”

Model good manners while playing. “May I please see the truck? Thank-you for handing it to me. Okay, I’m all done. Here you go…you’re welcome!”

Impart appropriate social skills. “No, you may not just grab the book out of my hands. You need to ask if you can have it first and wait for mommy to say yes.”

Be transparent. If you expect your child to share something, tell them right from the get-go. “Here is a bowl of crackers. I’d like you to share them with your cousins too, please.”

Provide the vocabulary. “This is Daddy’s. We won’t touch it until he tells us that’s okay, and if he says it’s not okay, we respect that”.

At first, you may feel a little silly having a one-way conversation. Just remember though that by starting early, you’re making it just that little bit easier on your future self. And you will thank yourself for it, even if you’re child doesn’t [yet]!


 

Want to read to read more into the research and professional side of things:

Infancy Journal: “To Share or Not to Share: When do toddlers respond to another’s needs?”

Child Development Journal: “Mine or Yours: Development of sharing in toddlers in relation to Ownership Understanding”

Pyschology Today: “Children can adopt Sharing Mindsets”, “To Share or Not to Share? Depends…”

My bedroom, myself

Mommy Blogger Kat from motherfunctions.wordpress.com, shares her tips for making sacred spaces for ourselves and our children — especially important during these often crazy holiday months!


 

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There is something to be said for the sanctity of a bedroom.  As adults, when the day is long and hectic, we seek our beds as sanctuary from the onslaught of the day.  It is our space to put our feet up without people walking into the scene with loud voices, deadlines, and demands.

So here are a few pieces of advice to help kids love their bedrooms:

  1. Make the Bed

First thing in the morning, have your kid make their bed.  Don’t make the bed for them.  Don’t supervise the task.  Don’t even help (unless asked),  Of course, their best efforts to do it won’t be hotel-quality, but it is a task that involves patience, focus and a bit of strength to lug all the blankets and pillows into a rough proximity of where they should be.

At the end of the day, when it is time to settle down to bed, that is the time to reward the job.  “Did you make this bed?  It looks great!  You did a great job!” Suddenly the bed becomes a point of pride and comfort.  Make a big deal out of how comfortable they made their bed and how much their stuffed animals love the work they did.

This holds true for ourselves as well.  When we put time into making our beds, or cleaning our rooms, we appreciate the work we put in earlier to make our experience in this moment even better.

  1. Toy Free

When we go to our bedrooms as adults, we are acknowledging that we need to go somewhere quiet and stimulation-free where we can process our day and put our hectic world aside to focus on ourselves.  We may not necessarily fall asleep, but we have a place that is wholly ours, separate from any other communal space in the home.

The same holds true for children.  A toy-free room establishes a quiet area that is just for your child to focus on sleep and relaxation.  When their bedroom is loaded with toys, there is no boundary between this room and any other room in the house.  When the bedroom is filled with quiet books and their most loved possessions, they get the satisfaction of knowing their room is a place of solace and introspection, free of distraction.

A toy-free room also adds to the next point:

  1. Friend Free

By removing toys from the bedroom we eliminate the desire for our children to bring friends up to their bedrooms.

This is a tough rule.  Why wouldn’t we want our kids to have their friends playing in their rooms when we have just established that their room should be a place they love?

Our bedrooms often house our most loved items.  That ceramic unicorn you got on your 5th birthday may not fit in well with your adult décor, but it has a place in your heart, and in your bedroom where no one will break it or judge you for loving it so much.

Kids deserve the same space.  By keeping friends out of the bedroom, we set up a space where a child can house the special items that they don’t have to share.  So often our kids are bombarded with the need to share that we forget that not all items should be shared.  That very special teddy bear and baby blanket do not need to be handled by a friend that doesn’t understand the special nature of the precious item.  That is your child’s possession and we know how their heart would break if anything happened to it; friends in the bedroom adds a risk that that item won’t make it to maturity alongside your child.

  1. No Timeouts

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean no timeouts at all.  Quiet time can be a very effective strategy, but the bedroom should not be a place where your child is sent when they are acting up. Or, not angrily at least, with the feeling that they are being punished.

A timeout in the bedroom establishes a negative association with that room.  The bedroom isn’t really supposed to be a place where you go to when you’re scared, crying and worked up.  The bedroom is a place that you would choose to be when you want some close distance from a situation.

For some kids, bedtime is a difficult time because they feel isolated and alone, and a timeout in a bedroom just drives the point home that your bedroom is for removing you from everyone else.

A different approach is to provide a close-proximity timeout spot where your child can do their time near you.  After a number of timeouts throughout the day and no change in their attitude, it can help to calmly remove the child from the noise and chaos to their bedroom with you.  A calm talk on the bed about their behavior, a cuddle, bonding time and a story reinforces that the bedroom is a soothing place and that it is okay to walk away when the stress and excitement of the day can’t be handled.

The upside to a toy-free room means that your child won’t be distracted during their quiet time and also any siblings that have to be lumped into the process won’t cause an issue when they’re playing with toys while you’re trying to give the other child a quiet time.

  1. Sibling Separation

Sometimes it is hard as a parent with more than one child because there are issues when your older child is trying to play and a younger one comes along trying to snatch the toy they’re playing with.  That tends to be the point where we find older kids get frustrated because they understand polite rules of play while their sibling isn’t at that stage yet.  The older kid can’t reason with the little one, and they know better than to lash out against them.  Often that frustration turns into the oldest kid not knowing how to let that stress out and feeling like they have no place to go.

That is when a bedroom that is a positive space comes in handy.  It becomes far easier to suggest to the oldest kid that they might want to take those toys they were playing with and go play with them in their bedroom, by themselves, when they view their bedroom as a nice place to be, rather than a punishment when they obviously haven’t done anything wrong.

Now, this clearly seems like it flies in the face of point #2 where toys have been banned from bedrooms.  However, the occasional need to retire to a bedroom with a toy or two is a wildly different experience than having a bedroom filled with toys at all times.

Again, we establish that the oldest child has a place solely for them to relax in while also fostering independence and rewarding good behavior.  We are also recognizing their need to be viewed as a separate entity from their little sibling.

The youngest sibling also learns that their sibling has the ability to walk away and can help to establish proper rules of play, a model they can then follow themselves.

Another added bonus is that a separate space for the oldest child can help ease any animosity they might feel towards a younger sibling because they are able to walk away at any time instead of having to put up with whatever the young one decides to put them through.


Don’t forget to follow some of these tips yourself — reclaiming some close distance and retiring to your own sacred space is a great way to recharge your battery and maintain a healthy level of self-care! Don’t be afraid to reinforce the idea of me-time with your children — everyone needs it, and it is important to make it!

NOOOO! (a.k.a. tantrums and how to deal)

We always discuss in our classes that tantrums often occur when we are transitioning from one activity to another and the child resists or isn’t prepared for the change. To (try to) prevent this, we recommend using songs to ease the transition from one activity to the next. Well! I recently got the chance to try it out for myself. About two weeks ago, my normally good-natured son turned into a tantrum-throwing monster, seemingly overnight. SO. MUCH. FUN.

My initial response to these tantrums was probably like most. This was my 3-step plan:

  1. Clench fists
  2. Scream
  3. Pour wine (once said tantrum-throwing monster was safely in crib, of course)

But then I remembered our class teachings and thought that this would be a perfect opportunity to practice what I preach. (I make this sound so fluid, but in actuality I spent about a week responding to the tantrums with above 3-step plan).

The first step of my new 3-step plan was to figure out the times that were most often causing his tantrums:

  • Getting dressed/undressed
  • Getting out of the bath
  • Leaving the park (the popular out-in-public tantrum…though at least at the park you are likely surrounded by other moms, as opposed to the grocery store which is filled with judgemental college kids)
  • Bedtime

So far so good. The second step of my new plan was to assign a specific song to each activity. This would signal to my son that we were now transitioning to a new activity while also providing an enjoyable distraction during this transition time. Therefore:

  • Getting dressed/undressed – we now sing:
    Baby put your pants on, pants on, pants on
    Baby put your pants on, 1-2-3.
    Baby put your shirt on, shirt on, shirt on

    Baby put your shirt on, 1-2-3.
    …etc.
  • Getting out of the bath – we now sing:
    Fishies in the water, fishies in the sea,
    We all stand up on the count of three!
    1-2-3.
  • Leaving the park – we now sing:
    The ponies are walking, they’re walking along
    Walking along, walking along.
    The ponies are walking, they’re walking along
    Woah! Woah! Woah!
  • Bedtime – a lullaby of course! However here’s where the plan breaks down and exemplifies why we say that transition songs will often work (but not always): lately when I try to sing a lullaby to my son he responds by screaming NOOOO in my face, over and over and over. So there you have it…even the teacher’s son can be a little jerk sometimes, despite my best efforts.

Which brings us to step 3 of my new 3-step plan: pour wine.

So the moral of the story is to try out the transition songs. Maybe they will work! Maybe they won’t! But hopefully they will work at least part of the time and that makes your life partly better. Right? And when it doesn’t? Go directly to step 3!!