Monthly Archives: April 2014

Deborah Fannie Miller: Children’s Author, Actor and Poet – by Allison Parder

Feelings can be difficult things to manage at the best of times, and for children they’re even more difficult and often confusing. Poet, actor, singer and children’s author, Deborah Fannie Miller has published two children’s books to help parents and children work together to take on feelings in a playful way.

Deborah’s book, Grappling with the Grumbles, was written after she encountered some head butting with her then eight-year-old daughter during their busy morning routine. Anger brewed between the two of them and it inspired Deborah to start the book. She leaned on her poetry and theatre back ground to come up with a playful way to tackle those feelings head on.

“I decided to do something that I hoped would be positive, which was to write about that morning in a way that illustrated what the anger looked like in vivid child language with wonderful colourful illustrations,” she said.

Both Grappling with the Grumbles and her second children’s book, Juggling the Jitters are written with both parent and child in mind. “I thought that if I approached the subject of anger in a humorous way that we could actually stop this disconnect with anger and then reconnect with each other. When we understand how anger affects our bodies, speech and minds then we’re able to create disconnect from those emotions,” she said.

Deborah held a seminar recently at the Calgary Baby & Tot show where she spoke to parents about how to handle situations with their children around anger and anxiety. She also regularly speaks at schools to children on the topics and always includes readings from both her books.

“I talked to parents at the seminar about the best ways we can talk to our children and how our emotions effect us through our bodies, voices and our thoughts,” she said, “the more we understand how anger and anxiety effect us…then we can really connect with our children when they’re going through overwhelming emotions as well.”

A third book is now in the works after plenty of feedback from parents and teachers. This one will be focusing on frustration at school. “I get so much feedback from teachers and students and parents after my presentations. It’s been an absolutely blissful experience for me speaking at these schools,” she said.

All of Deborah’s books are 100% Calgarian, including the publisher (Frontenac House) and illustrator (Danielle Bazinet.) You can catch her at the upcoming Calgary Children’s Festival where she will be reading from both of her books.

Top 5 Classic Children’s Books to Read Before Age 10 – by Rahima Anwar Khan

Classic books are stories that bring back our fond memories of childhood. The stories that were adventures in and out of themselves and taught a lesson that we only realize now as adults. They are the untamed tales that had inspired us as kids to further our reading and discover the world of literature. Here are the top five classic books that will take your kids on an adventure of learning and finding the same endearing love for books, as you did when you were a kid.

1. The Paper Bag Princess – by Robert N. Munsch

A brave young Princess saves a Prince by outsmarting a fire breathing dragon in this children’s book. The Paper Bag Princess turns the classic “damsel in distress” on its head by its strong female character.

2. Winnie-the-Pooh – by A.A. Milne

Winnie-the- Pooh undoubtedly everyone’s favorite book, Pooh and his friends embark on adventures together, at the same time learning real life lessons.

3. Madeline – by Ludwig Bemelmans

This greatly illustrated and rhythmic children’s book is on a brave little orphan girl Madeline, who is not afraid of anything, trip to the hospital. This unique poetic book teaches children the diversity in the world, and that not everyone has parents.

4. The Story of Ferdinand – by Munro Leaf

A gentle bull, named Ferdinand would rather sit and smell the flowers than snort and butt heads with other bulls. Ferdinand shows sometimes it’s the small things in life that make us happy.

5. The Wind in the Willows – by Kenneth Grahame

The Wind in the Willows is a sweet and amusing adventure of four unexpected friends a mole, rat, badger, and a toad. Themes of friendship and loyalty run throughout the story.

Creating Your Perfect Indoor Play Space – by Alex Broger

When acting as a caregiver, instructor, or parent of a child, it is your responsibility to guide them on the way to their developmental milestones. Playtime is an excellent way to achieve this. Play isn’t just a way to pass the time; it holds many benefits towards the growth of the mind and body.

To fully reap the benefits of playtime, it is a good idea to have a designated play space for your child. Play spaces create an environment of comfort, and help promote more focused play. It is easy for daycares, after-school care or playgroups with large rooms, to dedicate the space for play alone, but what can you do at home? Here are a few easy ideas to help make a safe, effective and fun play space:

1. If you have the space and can convert a portion of a room or a whole room into a playroom, that’s great. But simply placing toys in a room isn’t all there is to it. Think about adding some durable surfaces that are easy to wipe down – make sure you won’t get upset if something is spilled on them! Kid-size tables are great for toddlers, can be found fairly inexpensively, and are excellent for crafts. Consider allowing your child to help you paint an old table to make it more fun.

2. Add some pops of colour to the room to make it interesting and fun for a child. You can use rugs, pillows or chairs that are easily interchangeable as the child gets older, or you want to re-decorate. Remember that a child’s eye is a lot lower than yours. Try to place some visuals in their line of sight; posters, alphabet or number stickers, or family photos will capture young children’s attention.

3. Kids love to see their artwork on display. When you run out of fridge space, create an art display dedicated to their art. Add some corkboards to a wall that you can put drawings and paintings on, or run a line with clothespins to hang art where they can see it. Chalkboard paint is an excellent way to foster a child’s creativity. Pick some up at the hardware store and paint a section of the wall (at their level) with it. If you don’t want to paint directly on the wall, paint a piece of plywood (or other board) and mount it to the wall. That way, the kids get to enjoy it, but you don’t have to stress about how permanent it is.

4. Storage and organization is possibly the most important part of a play space. Providing somewhere for children to store their favourite toys not only keeps the area clean and functional, but also decreases the chance of losing toy parts. Try using different bins to store different types of toys and using photos of the contents to label them. Children can help put toys away by easily seeing what belongs inside them.

5. Provide different activities for your child to do in their play space. Add toys, books, art supplies, puzzles, dress up, and any of their other interests. What they love one day may change the next, but by supplying a variety of options to choose from you ensure their attention is kept longer and all areas of play are explored and tried.

6. Assisted play is an opportunity for you to get involved with your child. Encourage them to try new toys and areas of play. If your child is always playing with cars, try putting out blocks and dinosaurs and prompting them to play with just those items for 30 minutes. This helps develop their imagination, and it’s fun to see where their ideas take them.

7. You may be staying at a relative’s house and they don’t have room for your child’s things, or your own space may be limited. That doesn’t mean you can’t still create a positive indoor play area. Use painter’s tape to make a large square (or several different shapes) and tell the child they have to stay within the shape while playing with their toys. This eliminates mess all over and creates a more focused playtime. When all else fails, just use your imagination. Any area, and many objects, can be used to contribute to playtime. Create a car track around the living room floor with painter’s tape (see here) or use boxes to make a fort and play area. The ideas are endless.

It is important for children to feel like they have a space where they can be creative and explore their imagination. Designated play spaces give them the freedom to do whatever their heart desires, without causing you fear that your priceless antique vase will get knocked over!

Top Eight Eco-Friendly Craft Ideas to Get Your Kids Ready for Spring! – by Allison Parder

Spring is slowly getting ready to make a grand entrance, but in the meantime we are left experiencing small glimpses of sunshine and warm weather. In this in-between time, why not get your kids excited about spring’s arrival with some fun eco-friendly crafts?

These spring-themed crafts by bloggers from around the web are sure to get your little ones excited for the change in season. They’re a great way to fill some indoor activities during those snowy, wet days. Explaining how re-using and recycling helps take care of our planet will act as an educational bonus for your child.

1. This rotisserie container ecosystem is a great way to incorporate science and craft time. It’s also a creative way to reuse those wasteful BBQ chicken containers.

2. If you’re trying to think of what to do with the stacks of old magazines you have sitting in your basement, try turning them into magazine butterflies to celebrate spring.

3. Get your kids excited about the signs of spring by making milk carton bird feeders. You can put them up by a window when you’re done and watch the birds come in.

4. For rainy days spent inside try these rainy day paper plate umbrellas.

5. Kids love to paint, try making these toilet paper roll flower prints out of used toilet paper rolls.

6. With the use of diapers, there is so much waste that can leave us feeling guilty, why not resuse what you can by making diaper box painting canvas. Turning your empty boxes into painting canvases for your kids is a great way to reuse.

7. When we do get those glimpses of warm weather, try encouraging your kids to go outside for craft time. These bubble prints are a great way to inspire fun and creativity while feeling confident about your child’s safety.

8. These bottle lid stamps are cute, versatile and lots of fun! What a great way to recycle and fill your afternoon with craft time.

Five Must-Have Photographs Before Age 10 – by Rahima Anwar Khan

Children grow up so fast these days! Documenting their growth is something that both you and your child will enjoy looking back at in years to come. Getting the kids to stay still for a picture is a challenge, but it’s a challenge worth taking on. These pictures will serve as a time capsule in the future. Precious memories are created in the first few years of a child’s life, which they will look back on fondly for years to come.

Consider taking these pictures for your photo album before age 10:

A Picture a Week

This is a neat project that you could take on as a family. It will create a story-like effect to your pictures, as every one will tell a bit more of the story of your children growing up. Some parents like to take these photos and put them together in a time-lapse video. It’s a fun and rewarding project to take on, you and your child will enjoy the time spent together deciding which picture to take that week.

Pictures with Parents

Taking pictures of your kids is great, but taking pictures with your kids is better. We are often so busy making sure our kids are posed just right, spending a fortune on photographers, when what they will really appreciate is a picture of the whole family together. Your children and their children will appreciate these group photos in years to come, when they want to know who’s who in their extended family and what their lives were like.

Birthday Parties

Birthday parties are a fun and exciting time for the kids, and it’s a no-brainer to take photos of the cake and the birthday child. Don’t forget to take a picture of their friends, though – even better, make a note of who each guest is on the back of the photograph. Looking back on your childhood photos, you often forget the names of these people who were so special to you while you were growing up.

Hobbies & Sports

Capture their curiosity as they try new activities, whether or not they carry on with them. Take a picture of your little one’s first day at ballet, and then once a month after – try to capture moments of growth and improvement. When they look back at these photos, they’ll enjoy seeing their roots and where they started. It might give them motivation to keep going.

First Time

Take pictures of their first time at the Calgary Zoo, Telus Spark, or Calaway Park. Anywhere new you take them, snap a picture. Don’t forget to take pictures of wherever it is you’re visiting, too – it can be neat to look back at old photos of theme parks and attractions to see what kinds of things were there at the time.

Tina O’Connor & Feng Shui for Moms – by Allison Parder

Tina O’Connor wants to bring “good life flow energy” to women’s lives. Her books Be That Girl and Be That Mom are both instructional guides that teach woman to do just that.

Feng Shui is a major element in both of her books, and Feng Shui was her focus at her recent seminar at the Calgary Baby & Tot show. She will also be coming to the Calgary Women’s Show to speak again. She offers Feng Shui consultation, and was pleased with the interest in the topic.

“Feng Shui is all about energy flow and making sure it can flow easily into your life,” Tina said. “When there’s a lot of clutter in our environment, it does not allow that good energy to come in.”

De-cluttering all aspects of the home is number one in her Feng Shui teachings. She teaches people how to improve their lives through allowing positive energy to reach them.

“Things like de-cluttering the kitchen are really important, especially for moms,” says Tina. “Keeping the kitchen in the ready position at all times can relieve so much unneeded stress.” Tina recommends a tidy house and being ready for the morning before going to bed, to ensure a fresh start. “The more clutter-free and easy it is for you to walk around your home, the (more the) energy is going to do the same.”

According to Feng Shui, not having a lot of toys or books in children’s rooms is also recommended in order to decrease stimulation. “When it comes to Feng Shui and energy, a lot of it is at a subconscious level. If you’ve got all these books and all these toys and kids are trying to sleep, it’s that subconscious stimulation,” Tina explained.

A big topic for moms to be aware of is positioning of beds, according to Tina. She says that if you notice your kids aren’t sleeping very well, it could be because of where their bed is set up in their bedroom. “Not having your kids’ beds up against the wall is really important for the flow of energy,” Tina says. “It’s important to be able to walk around both sides of the bed.”

“Also, the power position when you’re sleeping is very important. You should never have your feet pointed towards the door. Doorways act as these crazy energy flow areas, and when you’re facing it, that energy is flowing in. It’s that stimulating energy, and you don’t want that in your bedroom.”

Tina is currently working on another Be That book to add to her series, Be That Kinky Girl that will be out soon and continues to publish other local authors through her publishing company, Be That Books.

10 Easy Indoor Activities for the Bored Child – by Alex Broger

Spring is a joyous occasion for most parents. It often comes just as extreme “cabin fever” is setting in, and the opportunity to send the kids outdoors to play is welcomed with open arms. Unfortunately, spring in Calgary doesn’t always mean the weather is good enough to go outside. So, when you’re still stuck inside after months of winter, try some of these fun indoor activities that will keep the kids entertained.

Make a Spider Web With Tape

This is a great activity to incorporate movement and imagination. Set up a giant spider web-inspired design out of masking tape (painter’s tape or duct tape work, too) across a door-frame, opening, or other space in your house where nothing can get broken. Have the kids throw balls of newspaper at the web. They will love to see how they get stuck, just like flies in a real web. Try making it a game with points awarded to whoever gets the most stuck. Or, try using different small, light objects and have them guess which will stick and which won’t. Check it out here!

Make a “Laser” Web With String

I have done this activity with several children, and it always brings hours of entertainment. Use any type of yarn (how much you will need depends on how big the course is) and create a mission impossible-type course by wrapping the yarn around objects and furniture in the room, or tying ends to door handles. Create a maze of yarn, and make believe with your child that they are laser beams; watch as they have to manoeuvre themselves over and under to get to the other side. Provide a prize or treat at the end to make it more exciting. The best part is, no two laser courses are the same – try creating ones in different rooms or the backyard. Check it out here!

Make an Indoor Obstacle Course

Similar to the laser course, this activity uses items you have around the house to get kids up and moving around. Pick a space in your house where nothing can get damaged, and use laundry baskets, towels, tape, plastic cups, coloured paper or other household items to create an up and over, around and under, in and out, obstacle course inside your house.

Book Art

One of my favourite books has always been Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin and John Archambaul. I used to read this story all the time when I worked as a preschool teacher, and it inspired one of the best rainy-day activities I have ever done. I had every child colour a pre-cut letter from the alphabet. They also practised writing the letter and coming up with words that started with their assigned letter. When all the letters were coloured, we read the book together and each child got to place their letter on a giant paper tree on the wall. The kids loved this because it made the storybook come alive in their classroom. Use your child’s favourite story to inspire a fun craft or activity. Illustrate your own story. Have your child tell you a story, or help them come up with one, and write it down on several pieces of paper for them; then let them draw a picture to go with each page of writing. When they are done, bind the pages together with a staple or some yarn and they have created their very own picture book.

DIY I-Spy Bottle

Use any see-through bottle you have, fill it with rice and several small objects like: dice, coloured beads, stickers, barrettes. Remember to hot glue the top shut so it doesn’t come open. Give your children a list of things to find in the bottle. They will have to shake it and move it to spot each item. Check it out here!

Indoor Water Table

If you can brave the possible mess, find a large tub and fill it with water. Have your child sit with the water tub on the table to play. Add soap for bubbles, or cars and make a car wash, use different kitchen items like funnels or measuring cups for added fun. Instead of water use sand, rice, or beans to add a different sensory element to the play.

Simon Says, Draw!

A twist on an old favourite game. Have your child sit with paper and crayons, but they can only draw what you tell them too. Use easy commands like “Simon says draw a blue circle,” for younger children and more complicated ones for older children.

Indoor Picnic

Spread out a tablecloth or sheet on the kitchen or living room floor, and enjoy a picnic with your child. Kids will enjoy the change in routine and it will become special thing to do with them.

Baking With Kids

Find a favourite recipe on-line, or let your child pick out a recipe from a children’s cookbook. Use this time to make something you’ve never tried before.