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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.

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!


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!


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!

Guest Blog: What your child REALLY needs to know for Preschool

As you start to look at preschool readiness blogs or talk to other parents, you are going to hear that your child needs to be able to count or have rudimentary math skills or even be able to write in order to be successful in preschool.

As a preschool teacher who gets asked all the time about this issue, I’d like to clear a few things up. Here is a list of things that your preschooler REALLY needs to know or be able to do prior to attending preschool.


1. Be toilet trained

This means just that. Plain and Simple. Your child needs to be able to know when to go to the bathroom and be able to perform the function by themselves. If your toddler has to wear a pull-up “just in case” they are not toilet trained and therefore not ready to attend. This being said, all teachers know that during times of growth spurts or the beginning of the year when children are excited about new friends and experiences that more reminders will be required and sometp accidents are bound to happen.

You may be asking why this is so important: Preschool is meant to get your child prepared for school and gain some independence. They will not be reminded once they enter school, nor will a teacher help your little one each time they need to go. As well, many schools adhere to ratios (a set number of children to one teacher) and if a teacher is out of the room, or in a place where they cannot see the class for long periods of time it is actually unsafe for the other children. This is one skill your child must have mastered before school.

2. Be able to follow one-step directions

It is very helpful if your child can retain and complete one-step directions — we work on adding more as the school year progresses. If you can tell your child go get your bag, or come sit “here” and have them complete the task they are ready! If you can ask them to get their bag, sit on the stairs and wait for you, even better! One, two and three-step tasks are appropriate for this age range.

3. Be able to let you leave

As teachers, we know that your child (and likely YOU) may have some separation anxiety in the first days of school, which is reasonable and understandable. If this is your child’s first time away from you, and you haven’t practiced or prepped beforehand and know that your child is anxious, please understand we may ask you to leave with your child on the first day. This is not because we do not want your child to attend; we would love your child to stay. If your little one is having a full-on meltdown we may ask you to try again, or ask to contact you later to arrange a way to transition your child in. This is again due to the fact that we have x amount of other little ones that are probably a bit anxious about their first day as well, and we need to get to all of them. There are many schools that have staggered entry for just this reason. Your child may not start on the first day of classes or may start later than the beginning of class time so that the teacher can give each child their attention and set everyone up for success as they move into the classroom setting.

UncertaintyA good way to practice this with your child is to walk them through what will happen on the first day (which you can get from your teacher). You can then see about arranging a playdate where you can leave your child after going through the same routine as at the school. If you register before the school year ends, prior to your child starting in September, you can also ask to come and join part of a class with your child as a transition to prevent anxiety. Try getting a schedule from your teacher and set aside a morning to have a mock school-day; practice circle time, gym, snack, etc. Tell your child that you will return for them after class (without giving them a time, which is meaningless at this age). With this your teacher can also reinforce what you have been saying: if your child gets upset they can repeat the schedule (children thrive on routine) and THEN say that mom/dad/guardian will be back to get them.

4. Have some practice sharing

Now while this skill does help us teachers (it cuts down on the time we spend negotiating conflicts and give us more time for learning activities), it is primarily a skill that will help your child’s success. If right from the start your child is unwilling to share, takes toys from others, pushes and so forth, other children learn right away to leave them alone. Not only will your child have to work harder to make friends, they might have fewer chances to practice their social skills or learn cooperative play. Your teacher will of course work with children on this situation, but we cannot force interactions between any students.

balance-game-block_thlGames or puzzles are a great way to introduce the idea of sharing. You each have to take turns, you put a puzzle piece down, and then your child does. Matching games where they have to wait their turn works as well.

Alternately if your child is not interested in puzzles or games, any activity can turn into a sharing one! Like building a tower — your child can add one block then you can add yours. Take turns when it comes to knocking the tower down too (as we all know this is everyone’s favourite part) taking turns will help your child practice sharing and learning to control their reactions and anticipation will boost their emotional maturity!

5. Be excited for school!

We love nothing more than when your child comes in excited about making new friends, experiencing new things and learning! The more excited you are about going to school and the more positive your talk about it, the more your child will feel the same way! This is a wonderful new experience in both of your lives – Enjoy it!


Jennifer Nahu (BEd) is a Preschool Teacher, Mother of two little girls, ECMAP Government Coordinator and all around super-woman! She has been working with children for the better part of 20 years in various different capacitites, and has found her joy in working with preschoolers, helping them prep for school, and watching them blossom. This also allows her to be home part-time with her own two little girls who are a constant source of wonderment and joy! Recently she has been lucky enough to be included in the Government of Alberta’s ECMAP (Early Childhood) Program and the First 2000 Days Network, which is working on providing all families and children in Calgary with the necessary tools and skills for their First 2000 Days of life.

Parentese vs. Baby Talk

Adults have an innate and built-in way of speaking to babies. Most people use it automatically, but some people train themselves out of it and others train themselves into entirely different behaviours, either because they don’t want to condescend to their babies, or because they think it is necessary to; they want to simplify language and make it cuter, because they think that’s what babies need.

Turns out, babies DON’T need that. Infants have an amazing ability to learn languages, and everything they need to do it is hardwired right into them! Adults just need to trust their own instincts when it comes to talking to them.




So what IS “Parentese”?

Parentese is that slower, higher-pitched, overly-exaggerated way of speaking to babies that you see most adults using. We open our eyes wider, put on big smiles, and over-enunciate the words we’re saying. It is often sing-songy and stretches out vowel sounds, so that an ‘apple’ becomes an ‘aaaaaapple’ and objects aren’t just ‘big’, they’re ‘biiiiiiig’.

Baby Talk is something else completely. When people “baby talk”, they change regular words into words that are basically nonsense. Instead of telling you that you have a cute little baby, they might instead say: “What a toot wittle beebee!”. They aren’t changing real words to emphasize meaning or pronunciation… they’re using invented words with no meaning whatsoever!


When should I use Parentese, and when should I use Baby Talk?

You should NEVER use baby talk. Don’t use it around kids, don’t use it around infants, and DON’T use it around adults.

Baby Talk will actually delay speech and language development and teach children the wrong way to speak. For example, if your child grows up thinking that you “wuv” her, and that she is “stwong and smawt”, she will not recognize the words ‘love’, ‘strong’ and ‘smart’ when she hears other people say them — she will have no comprehension of what those words mean, and will continue to say them the wrong way so that other children, in turn, will misunderstand what she is trying to say. She might not even learn how to properly form some sounds… if she hears a lot of words with w’s in them where l’s should be, she might always pronounce words that way.

The good news is, you can feel confident in your use of Parentese. People use it all over the world and in every language we speak! Even very young babies turn their heads and are more attentive when people talk to them this way. They suck faster when they’re breastfeeding and are better able to mimic these sounds than those of regular-patterned language. They LOVE being spoken to this way.


Why talk to babies anyways?

Sometimes people feel foolish talking to infants who “can’t understand them”. Babies can’t answer questions, or ask any in turn. They can’t tell you with words how they’re feeling, or follow instructions to complete tasks. They can rarely do anything more than babble and giggle and cry…

But that babbling, giggling, and crying IS their way of communicating. When you talk to a baby and leave space for them to make their own noises, it teaches them how conversations work: first one person talks, then it’s the other person’s turn. When you respond to a baby’s gurgles by saying things like, “is that so?” it teaches them that their voices are heard and recognized. And when you speak confidently to a baby using the full, rich vocabulary of your native language, they learn to do the same! If you want your baby to learn how to talk, you have to model how! You have to talk to them.

All. The. Time.


Does Parentese dumb down language?

Using Parentese makes it easier for children to learn language. That is true whether you’re talking about a “biiiiiig dog” or a “gigaaaaaantic canine”. Whichever words you use around your child are the ones they will learn, so use as many as you possibly can!

And don’t worry about continuing speaking this way for too long. As soon as your child stops reacting to Parentese the same way they used to, you’ll naturally phase out using it and start using regularly-patterned speech.

Global News Calgary — Calgary’s Child Morning: Parentese vs Baby Talk