Tag Archives: early childhood development

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 DadSolo.com, he aims to provide other single dads with information and resources to help them better equip themselves on the journey that is parenthood.

Tactile and Interactive Board Books

Last month we wrote about why board books are so important for early development.

This month, we’d like to share some of our picks for our favourite type of board books — those with movable parts, interactive elements and lots of tactile stimuli!

Before we get into the benefits of these books, we want to add the same disclaimer we do in every program in which we talk about choosing books for babies: Making books with lots of bells and whistles might seem like a gimicky way for publishers to sell titles, and sometimes it is. It might also seem counter-intuitive to other parenting advice we’ve heard; having books with ‘toys’ in them might seem to work against the logic that tells us digital screens cause over-stimulation and that we need to teach slower, sustained attention to our children.

But! These books are also brilliant tools for:

  • learning engagement (having novelty input is what sparks our imaginations and pushes us to learn more)
  • hand-eye coordination (tracking is a crucial pre-reading skill)


  • developing pincer grip and fine-motor coordination (the pre-writing skills that allow us to hold pens and pencils and move them in small, concentrated ways)

Board books, with their flaps, sensory patches, sparkles, tabs, pulls, holes, and sometimes even actual bells and whistles, provide a unique opportunity to build these skills while simultaneously strengthening the same bonding, literacy, and communication skills of regular storytime.

Our list of our favourite tactile and movable board books is always changing. Our Director has a list published through Calgary Public Library if you’re interested in borrowing rather than buying, but these books tend to have a shorter lifespan than other books (which is OKAY!) and new ones are always being developed. Some of our stand-by classics include:

  • Re-pubs by Eric Carle and Bill Martin Jr. like “The Very Hungry Caterpillar“, “Mister Seahorse” and “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” (the Slide & Find edition particularly)
  • Just about anything by Salina Yoon, but especially “Opposnakes“, her Lift-The-Flap-Adventure Series (Space Walk and Deep Sea Dive), and “Who Do I See?
  • Rufus Butler Seder’s Scanimation Series, especially “Waddle!” “Gallop!” and “ABC Animals
  • Anything that Herve Tullet has ever written (seriously) but for the littlest readers, we recommend his Tullet Game Series
  • The current publishing phenomenon that is the Usborne “That’s Not My…” Series. These ones include tactile swatches that are higher-quality than most mass-market titles, like full velcro (a lot of publishers shy away from rougher textures in favour of softer, ‘babier’ ones, but it is so important to expose our children to a whole variety of fibres!), puffy fabrics (that can be pressed deeply into the books, excellent for learning about pressure and weighting), and one-off textures that have been manufactured for each title.

We like the last series so much that we are going to submit a massive order through Usborne at the end of April. We’ll be carrying them in-store once our new location is up and running, but if you’d like to order a set now (and secure a title before it discontinues or batch re-prints) you can add your selection to our order (residents of the Greater Calgary Area only). Just shoot Alex an email with your title selections and we’ll get them on the list!



If you ever have any questions about recommendations for books for your little one, we are always happy to help!

Happy Reading!


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!


Don’t Be Scared By The Name: What Music Therapy Can Do For Your Typically-Developing Child

Guest Blog by:

Hilary MacAulay, BMT, MT-BC, MTA

MasterworX Music Therapy

We all get a little nervous around the word ‘therapy’. Misconceptions about the type of people who require therapy, and the perceived social ramifications associated with the term make us hesitant to get involved in any program with that word in the title. But according to Webster’s Dictionary, something therapeutic is simply defined as ‘producing good effects on the body and mind’. This is the way I like to define music therapy. I like to think of it as using music to produce good effects on the body and mind, with a particular emphasis on the specific needs of the person or people involved. It sounds much less scary now, does it not?

Group Of Children Playing In School Orchestra Together

Music therapists are accredited through the Canadian Association for Music Therapy, and use a variety of music and musical interventions, such as songwriting, listening, or drumming, to work on their client’s individual goals. They work in a wide variety of healthcare, educational, and community programs, as well as in the client’s own home. But you would probably be surprised at how often you will come across music therapists in early childhood settings. We run the music program at the local daycares, and classes with the preschool down the road. We host mom-and-baby classes, or teach instrument lessons. We may even be the performer at a holiday party.

Usually when we speak of music therapy and early childhood, we are talking about kids with special needs. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of using music therapy with children with autism to work on communication and social skills 1, those with physical disabilities to work on strength or range of motion 2, and in special education settings 3. But the benefit of goal-oriented music reaches beyond just special needs.

Many of the skills that need to be acquired in early childhood, such as literacy, physical coordination, social, and mathematical skills, can be worked on using music. Songs lyrics that use wordplay can help to work on early literacy skills, while songs that use counting and numbers can help to improve early mathematical skills. Playing and sharing instruments is a great way to practice social skills and self-expression, as well as encourage curiosity and experimentation. But it gets better, because none of this work actually feels like work. Music groups or individual sessions look and feel just like playing, and children often do not even realize that they are learning to wait their turn and count higher than ever while they are singing, dancing, and jamming.

Group Of Elementary Age Schoolchildren In Music Class With Instruments
Music therapy can also be beneficial when times get tough for your child. Events such as the loss of a loved one, divorce, or a parents losing their job can be hard on young children, who may not have developed the words they need to express what they are feeling. A music therapist can help the child to express those difficult emotions through playing instruments, movement, or a number of other expressive forms to help alleviate the stress that the child is experiencing. The music therapist can also help the child to develop some personal coping skills, to be used when those feelings appear again in the future.

These sessions do not just benefit your children either! Singing, dancing, and creating music with your child can strengthen your bond. Studies have shown that singing with another person actually releases oxytocin (you may have heard it referred to as the ‘cuddle hormone’ or the ‘love hormone’) in your brain, making you feel more connected with your little one 4. It may also help you feel less stressed and more energized, ready to tackle whatever else is headed your way for that day. And who knows! You might even find that you become a better singer, drummer, or car-dancer in the process!

There are numerous early childhood music programs out there, and they are all fantastic in their own way. What makes music therapy different is that the entire program is designed to best suit your child, family, or group. You can decide what your child or group needs, and the music therapist will work with you to ensure you are getting what you want. It can supplement other music programs or lessons your child participates in, help to practice physical skills such as balance and hand-eye coordination, provide the opportunity to practice social skills in a fun, engaging environment, or address any other goals or interests you may have.


MasterworX Music Therapy
If you would like more information on music therapy, check out the links below, or contact Hilary at MasterworX Music Therapy by email at masterworxmt@gmail.com or by phone at 403-999-1497.

Canadian Association for Music Therapy: http://www.musictherapy.ca/en/

Music Therapy Association for Alberta: http://www.mtaa.ca

American Music Therapy Association: http://www.musictherapy.org


1 Alvin, J. (1978). Musical and Autistic Behaviour. In Music therapy for the autistic child (2nd ed., p. 12). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

2 Davis, W., & Gfeller, K. (1999). Music Therapy for Children and Adults with Physical Disabilities. In An introduction to music therapy: Theory and practice (2nd ed., pp. 154-155). Boston, Mass:

3 Davis, W., & Gfeller, K. (1999). Music Therapy for Children and Adults with Physical Disabilities. In An introduction to music therapy: Theory and practice (2nd ed., pp. 413-416). Boston, Mass:

4 Grape, C., Sandgren, M., Hansson, L., Ericson, M., & Theorell, T. (2003). Does singing promote well-being?: An empirical study of professional and amateur singers during a singing lesson. Integrative Physiological & Behavioral Science, 65-74. Retrieved December 30, 2015.

Upcoming Conferences and Workshops 2015

It is such an exciting time to be a parent and/or working in the field of Early Childhood Care and Education! There is no shortage of new research, innovative practices, and exciting new philosophies to help guide our child-raising. Here are just a few of the learning opportunities coming up in 2015!

For Child Caregivers and Educators:

Conference Poster 2015 with boxes


For Parents:




Language and LiteracyMicrosoft Word - Parent Conference Flyer.docx