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Tips on Creating Inspirational Spaces for Kids

treehouse

It always seems that a good part of every weekend is spent working on some home improvement project. Either we’re replacing the leaky kitchen sink, fixing the upstairs toilet that keeps running, or the usual sort of stuff like cleaning the gutters and raking the yard. Sometimes we guys get lucky and can work on something we actually want to work on, like a mancave or setting up a home office the exact way we want. Another project that is worth the time and effort, that is also fun, is making something for the kids.

1. The Tween Cave

As much as we try and deny it, our kids are growing up. The happy little twerp that was glued to your leg is now a moody teen who wants to be left alone in his room. Why not make him a dream room he will love? Ideally, the best place is a basement or an attic. It gives the budding adult a greater sense of privacy, while allowing you to still keep an eye on him.

The key here is to let them have a major say in how the room looks. If they want everything painted black and dark purple, like their favorite band (or whatever sort of music they like) then let them paint the room that color. It will show them that you value their thoughts and ideas. Did I mention that they also have to help? Working on their own room like that will give them a greater appreciation for what they built.

Remember, it’s during these years that a teen will be tempted to do things like drinking or drugs. If they have a cool place where they feel in control, that along with your guidance, make all the difference in what choices they make.

2. A Tree House or Fort

The treehouse has been a staple for boys and girls of all ages for a long time. This is one of those things that has gotten better over the years, because there are more options than ever. If a yard doesn’t have big enough trees to build a treehouse, you can build a fort. Pirate ships and rockets are also an option.

There are tons of YouTube videos that can give dads a step by step guide to build whatever they want. If you aren’t gifted in the carpentry arts, there are kits you can buy. These are relatively easy to assemble, but still give the dad an excuse to bust out the tools and let the kids watch while he builds something. Failing that, there are even professional treehouse and fort builders who will do all the work, but where’s the fun in that?

3. The Classic Playroom

The best thing about a regular playroom is that it can be used all year long, regardless of the weather. There is also a lot of flexibility in what can be done. No matter what the kids are into, building the perfect playroom is a cinch. It can be a rough and tumble superhero lair, or the ballroom in a castle.

Decorating the playroom is easier than most people expect. The main thing is to keep it fun and fitting with the chosen theme. Having custom chairs with the most creative upholstery fabric is a great way to bring a playroom together, and spark a child’s imagination. To them, you aren’t building a playroom. You’re building them a magical place all their own.

Conclusion
The list of things a dad can do is nearly endless. The project can be indoor or outdoor, and depending on the age of your kids, the scope and tone can go from princess in pink to rock stars in black leather. If there is enough of an age difference, you might have to do more than one project. Like that’s a bad thing. Use these few ideas to get you started. Take them, run with them, and make them your own.

Growing things together with your kids outdoors

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If you’re anything like me, I’m on some level always feeling that I’m not spending quality time with my kids like I want to. But at the same time, I’m also somewhat incapacitated. Between work, the stuff on the calendar, and meeting the kids’ basic needs, I often collapse at the end of the day in one exhausted heap.

One thing we’ve started doing as a family is working outdoors together. From planting a garden to landscaping to planting new trees on our property, I’ve found it rewarding.

The nature of gardening and landscaping is that it is an ongoing process, not a one-time thing. You’re planting new life. It needs water, sunlight, and care. So at the outset, you’re committed. You’re going to get out there with the kids on a regular basis.

If you’re like me and can only handle so much (or not any) playing dollhouse or Star Wars light-saber fights or painful “Fine” responses as you try to engage your teen, this is a game-changer. I’m going to lay out 3 important lessons that getting outside as a family instills in your kids.

IMG_0012PATIENCE

Unless you were born with a green thumb, working with plants is going to take patience. You’ll need to learn how to plant and care for plant life.

Getting a garden started takes persistence and patience. It’s not done in an hour. You have to prepare the soil, plant the produce and herbs you are going to grow, and prune and water what you’ve planted.

It can be tedious at times. In a world in which research papers are as easy as a google search and in which 200+ tv shows and movies are at my kids’ fingertips on Netflix at any given moment, working outdoors is a valuable character-builder.

Not everything worth having, can be acquired quickly. Often those things of greatest value take time and patience. It’s not always as easy as Tweeting an acquaintance for a job recommendation. Sometimes it is, but I want my children to be prepared for the times when it’s not. For those times when waiting is required in order to see results.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY

Your children know what is most important to you, by how you spend your time. Spending quality time with them will show them that they are important to you.

Working together with your spouse and kids will deepen the bond you all have. It will draw you closer. And this close bond will create trust.

When my girls are in the face of intense peer pressure, this foundation of trust will assure them I will always be there for them. That no matter what, I have been there and will be there for them.

Having a supportive and dependable family structure is vital for kids. These traits are indicators for success down the road. This falls on your shoulders.

HARD WORK

My kids are skilled at finding the path of least resistance. Left to themselves, they would play video games all day, never bathe or change their clothes, and never clean up after themselves. An onlooker may wonder if the chores we subject our kids to our actually physically painful to them, judging from the sighs and grunts that leave their mouths.

All that to say, diligence and hard work do not come naturally. In part, it is up to us as parents to help foster these quality traits in them. They may hate us for it at the time, but in the long-run, they will thank us.

The most effective way to teach your kids to have a good work ethic, is not just to force them to work hard, but to get in there and work with them. Set an example. Get your hands dirty. Show them how it’s done.

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CONCLUSION

Whether you are planting a garden in the spring or taking a Saturday morning to plant a tree to shade your front porch, these are projects that will guarantee family time and teaching opportunities in days to come.

Make the most of your time. Take advantage of those opportunities. You will blink, and these years will be passed. Slow down and determine what you want to instill in your kids now.

How about you? What benefits have you found from working outdoors with your family?

The Perfect Family: A Nanny’s view…

As a nanny, you learn to work in less than perfect conditions. Bratty kids, angry parents, broken homes are all par for the course. But what happens when you finally find that perfect family you’ve been looking for, or, in most cases, they find you? What does a perfect family look like?

A perfect family doesn’t mean just well-behaved kids or parents who give you a raise on a regular basis. It is more than that. Perfect families can come with both parents or single parents. They can come with one child or four children. What sets the perfect family apart is one thing: respect. The children have respect for you and for their parents. The parents have respect for you, their children, and each other.

Strangely enough, you’d think love would be the necessary element for a perfect family, but really it isn’t. Of course, working for a loving family is great, but just love isn’t enough. Without respect, the system falls apart. How many single parents have you seen that love their kids so much, but their children hate them? How many times have you seen a parent give into a child’s tantrum because they love them too much to see them suffer? Love isn’t enough.

Respect is an overused and under-utilized word. Many people talk about respect, usually for authorities like police officers and government officials. But everyday respect is important. By respecting those around you, you create a world where everyone can get along. Sure, you still have disagreements, but they can be worked through calmly instead of being turned into all out wars. There is nothing worse than working for a warring family. Inevitably you are stuck right in the middle of it. Worse yet, the children often are forced to pick a side, or choose to rebel and go off in their own direction.

Parents blame the nanny for a lot of things. Rebellion in their children is one of them. But rebellion in children is often a product of fear, and fear a product of feeling out of control, of not being safe. A parent’s job is to make their child feel secure in a dangerous and unpredictable world. A nanny can only do so much. It is up to the parents to create a safe environment for their children and respect is a huge part of that.

In short, a perfect family is not measured by how many children they have, how much money they have, or how much love they have. A perfect family is one in which everyone, inside and outside of the family, is respected. That is the type of family any nanny would be proud to work for.

Author Bio

Sara is an active nanny as well as an active freelance writer. She also helps in providing information on nanny jobs through her writing. Learn more about her Learn more about her here.

How to financially support your child’s cost of living while attending University

Saving for your kids education

With tuition fees alone for a three-year undergraduate course expected to reach £24,000 or more in the UK ($30,000 – $75,000 or more in Canada and the US) the cost of a university education for many may prove suffocating without some kind of financial aid provided by us as parents.

Tuition fees are only the tip of the iceberg for many undergraduate students. There’s also the not so small matter of accommodation and living costs to pay for. Student loans and grants are obtainable for students who qualify, but those who don’t are almost certainly going to require some form of financial supplement from the ‘Bank of Mom and Dad’!

Most parents are keen to help pay some of these costs but unless you have stored up plenty of savings over a number of years it can prove difficult to pay off large chunks of a tuition fee loan. It will leave students with crushing debts that may take many years to pay off.

A key component to avoiding debt is budgeting. Students and parents should make a detailed budget at the beginning of each school year. Figure out what money you have and when it’s available, rather than in February when you realize you’re out of money and then you have to scramble to go out and get a job and work 20 hours a week just to make ends meet. Financial worries can pile up and become extreme sources of stress at the very time you’re staring down at exams and midterm papers become due. Working between six and 10 hours a week really doesn’t have a negative impact on students scholastically, but when you are putting in too many hours, your studies and your success at school will suffer. Working just 6 – 10 hours per week tends to force you to become more organized and that will help a student across the board.

Credit cards are one of the easiest methods of accumulating unnecessary debt, and we caution students to consider the ease of accessing credit wisely, especially new students who are unfamiliar with the credit system.

If you are looking for creative ways to support your kids without the fear of accumulating unwanted or unneccessary debt, one of the best ways to supplement your child’s financial position at university is to give them a helping hand with their weekly spend on groceries, incidentals, utilities and occasional socializing. Giving them cash can lead to poor financial management, accumulation of unpaid bills and the inevitable ask for more. Giving credit cards can expose you and your kid to wanted financial liability. There is something in between.

One of the best ways to help your child become more financially responsible and manage their money more effectively while attending university is to provide them with a pre-paid credit card. The premise of a pre-paid card is that you simply load the funds you want to spend and once it’s gone, it’s gone! As one of the fastest growing consumer trends in the UK, prepaid cards are a fantastic money management tool with many other added features and benefits. Prepaid cards such as the Pockit MasterCard® a do not have an overdraft or credit facility attached, effectively reducing the risk of accruing unwanted debt. As a parent this could allow you to come to an arrangement with your son or daughter to provide them with a predefined amount of funds each week or month, giving them the responsibility to manage their money without the threat of going into debt or unlimited liability.

Better still, cards such as the Pockit MasterCard® are accepted anywhere you can use a MasterCard – that’s over 30 million locations worldwide – giving your child the convenience of a debit or credit card without the risk of being buried in reckless debt. With power and freedom comes great responsibility, but it also comes with a host of additional exclusive offers on utilities, car insurance, impromptu days out and more. Offers vary by provider and geographic location.

University is meant to be some of the best times in your kid’s life. Save as much as you can now to prepare for their future and when the time comes, consider a prepaid mastercard to cover some of the smaller stuff. Allow them to focus on school instead of worrying about bills with the piece of mind and financial security offered by a well thought out education savings plan.

Surviving college or university without incurring debt may seem impossible to most of us, but it can be done. Murray Baker graduated from the University of Western Ontario without a cent of debt. He wrote the book on it. Murray is the author of The Debt-Free Graduate: How to Survive College or University Without Going Broke, a comprehensive and amusing guide to minimizing post secondary debt.

Murray says that the best strategies for surviving postsecondary education without an avalanche of debt are preparation and knowing your resources. He has brought many of his useful tips and strategies to the Web via The Debt-Free Guide and an array of Financial Planning Tools which he developed in partnership with Human Resources and Development Canada. All designed to assist students and parents with planning their post secondary education.

 

 

8 Super Cool Summer Camp Ideas for Creative kids:

design camp for Kids at the DX in Toronto

Design Camp at the Design Exchange (Dx) in Toronto

Every year as parents we scramble to find interesting stuff to engage our kids with over the summer holidays. For the lucky ones, its the trek to the cottage, for others it is a week or two away from the heat of the city up North attending a luxe summer camp at Camp Ooochi Goochi in Cottage country. For the rest of us, who may be lucky to get a week or two away from the office, we have to find some good stuff for our kids to do so they can have some fun and unique experiences to help them learn, grow as individuals and maybe even make some new friends.

Here in Toronto, everywhere in Ontario, right across Canada, all over the United States, and in practically every major urban centre all over the developed world, there are a ton of great options out there. Everything from sailing, swimming, music camps, art camps, drama camps, dance camps, science camps, math camps (seriously—isn’t summer holidays supposed to be fun?) and even the YMCA offers summer day camps for that perfect mix of everything a kid could ever want to do in a week or two. It is important to get your kids engaged in a summer camp if you can swing it. It is an excellent opportunity to get off the couch, away from the computers and video games, out of the house, out of your hair and into something new. A wonderful time to learn a new skill, meet new friends, gain some independance and try something completely different than the every day routine throughout the school year.

I hope to showcase over the next few weeks a random sampling of some of the excellent options available to parents with kids of all ages. If you have not made plans yet, you might be running out of time, so you may want to get right on it before it is too late. Many camps sell out fast and you don’t want to be the Dumb Ass Dad that has to break it to your kids that they won’t be going to camp this year because you left it to the last possible minute and everything is sold out.

While summer camp conjures up traditional images of campfires, tents, arts and crafts, canoe trips and the like, today we are going to focus on some of the more unique urban adventures that many kids would really enjoy, if only their parents knew they were out there. With so many options here in this great city, it is difficult to choose just one, so I am going to focus on one super cool summer camp that my 6 year old daughter attended in Toronto last year. She and her girlfriends absolutely loved it. So much so that we are doing it again this year and want to share it with you. We think your kids would love it and so if you live and work in Toronto, and are looking for a great summer camp idea for your kids, be sure to check this one out.

Design Camp is a real gem that is conveniently located right downtown. Hosted by the Design Exchange, the facility is situated at the base of the TD Financial towers on the ground floor of the old Toronto Stock Exchange. If you work in the downtown core, and even if you don’t, they make it really easy for you to pick up and drop off the kids right out front without even having to get out of the car which is a big plus in the morning when you are battling traffic to get to work on time.

design camp for Kids at the DX in Toronto

Projects at Design Camp are very hands-on and creative

Design Camp at the DX in Toronto is an amazing summer camp experience available to kids between the ages of 6 and 14. If you are lucky enough to live in Toronto and commute  to work every day downtown, this might be just right for you. There are at least 8 or 10 different camps held here every summer and each camp is offered at one or two separate time slots—you should be able to find at least one designed to fit your kid’s interest and your summer holiday schedule.

All projects are very hands-on and creative, using top quality materials. Each camp session generally goes on one field trip to a local design studio or other related site and will also be visited here at the DX by a guest speaker (dependent on scheduling).  These are both great opportunities for campers to meet real working designers and ask them questions. This list is by no means complete. There are more offered than I have listed here including Jewellery Design, Creatures and Comics and a bunch of other unique and original summer camp ideas all based around kids and design. If you are interested in seeing the complete list, as well as time and dates each of these are available, check out the DX Summer Camp website for further details.

Rock Star – ages 7 to 9 SOLD OUT!
Young designers will learn how to create band t-shirts, album covers and rock star accessories for their ultra-hip, fictitious music group, as well as film rock star interviews for DX TV.  We will also have a chance to meet a cool local designer and talk about design careers in the music industry. It sounds like a lot of fun, and I am really sorry that I missed this one for my kids this year. They would have loved it. It is now sold out.I am telling you this now so you can bookmark to remind yourself to get in early and pay for next year so you don’t miss it.

Fashion Basics – ages 10 to 12
The basics of illustration, patterns, and stitching will be covered in this camp, through hands-on projects that will include an a-line skirt, fashion tote, and a host of accessories.  An opportunity to meet a local designer and visit a working studio will also be included in this exciting week.

Retro Cool – ages 10 to 12
This blast-from-the-past design camp will look at some iconic pieces from yesterday as inspiration for super cool designs today!  Projects include terrariums, groovy lamps, old-school radios and much more!

Fashion TV – ages 10 to 12
This exciting week will focus on fashion for TV and film, including costumes and red-carpet glamour.  Participants will design and construct a garment inspired by their favorite TV personality and create a short segment for DX Fashion TV.

Superstructures – ages 8 to 10
From buildings to bridges and boats, participants will learn what it takes to design these amazing structures while building and testing their own models.  Campers will meet a Superstructure designer and visit some local marvels for inspiration.

Dine Design – ages 7 to 9
In today’s world of celebrity chefs, restaurant design is big business.  Young designers will create their own mock-bistro, from the graphics on the menu to the décor and layout of the space.  A visit to a local restaurant and a chat with the designer will round out the week.

Costume Design – ages 12 to 14
Working with the Drama + Design camp, participants will be the official wardrobe designers and work directly with the Canadian Stage crew and the cast to develop costume designs and then see them through construction and onto the stage.  We will meet with a visiting costume designer to hear about careers in this exciting field.

Drama + Design – ages 7 to 14
In partnership with The Canadian Stage Company, participants in this one-week camp will develop a performance, from staging to costumes, props, sets and makeup.  All enrolled campers will be treated to a performance on the Wednesday evening of the camp, for themselves and their parents to attend the Canadian Stage TD Dream in High Park, including a backstage tour.  Participants will perform their masterpiece for family and friends on Friday July 8th.

Design Camp at the DX in toronto

Learn something new, meet new friends and have a great time!

Where is the Design Exchange located?
The DX is located in the historic former Toronto Stock Exchange building at 234 Bay Street.  The building is situated on the west side of Bay Street, between King and Wellington.

When does Camp start?
Summer camps run for one week commencing July 4, 2011 and running right through until August 26, 2011. Please check the calendar for specific dates for each program.

What are the hours for Design Camp?
Camp activities run from 9.00 am to 4.00 pm each day. They offer complimentary before-care beginning at 8.30 am and After-care from 4.00 pm to 5.30 pm each day.  After-care is an additional $10.00 per day.

Who are the Design Camp instructors?
The Design Exchange hires post-secondary students studying design, who have at least 2 years experience teaching and working with children, who are CPR and First Aid certified and who have passed a criminal record check.  In addition, they also recruit student volunteers that have a passion for design, have experience working with children and have First Aid training to support the day to day delivery of the programs throughout the summer.

Questions??
Please refer to the Design Exchange DX FAQ website for more information or contact the camp director, Katie Weber at 416.216.2138 or katie[at]dx.org. She’s lovely and amazing and she is only too happy to help.

Do you have any amazing Summer Camp experiences or recommendations you would like to share with us?

Post a comment or get in touch!

Environmental Stewardship for Kids

Green Living Show

There’s no such thing as too young to be green.

Our children are going to inherit this planet. It is our job as parents to start early and teach them all about why it is important to care, to help them to understand how everything is connected, to learn all we can together about how we can live sustainably and all do our part to help spread the word. You would be surprised how much they already know, but this is a lifelong learning exercise that is good for the whole family—why should it not be fun too?

The Green Living show once again comes to Toronto on April 15 to 17, 2011. There’s lots to see and do and its Green learning fun for everyone, including the kids. Stop by the EcoKids Zone, an adventure area that engages and educates young minds and families in all things fun and green!

This year, the EcoKids Zone is dedicated to raising awareness of conserving Canadian forests, in celebration of The International Year of Forests. Earth Day Canada will be providing entertaining, immersive workshops all weekend long.

Fun, planet friendly learning activities you will not want to miss:

  • Crafts! A supervised craft table outfitted with all necessary tools.
  • Seed balls! A hands on activity station where kids will be able to create their own seed balls from clay-soil, seeds and water.
  • Recycled inventions! An inventor section where kids will be invited to use their imagination and create something made only with recycling items.
  • Eco games! A computer area where kids can play games and access the EcoKids website.
  • Live animals! A centre stage which hosts live animal presentations and other interactive learning based initiatives.

Bring in your old, broken electronics for recycling and your admission is free!

The Green Living Show is unlike any other consumer show in terms of the environmentally-motivated attendees, the quality of attractions and special features, the international profile of main stage speakers and the number of exhibiting companies. Don’t miss Canada’s largest consumer eco-show, dedicated to easy and workable solutions for leading a sustainable lifestyle.

Need any more reasons to come?

  • Renowned Canadian Singer Songwriter Sara Harmer will perform live (Free!)
  • Rona will be giving away a $10,000 eco-reno for your back yard at the show.
  • Friday is the Youth Day Forum: Fun, educational and exciting guest speakers geared to inspire young minds.
  • Friday: Fink and the Screaming Avocados Speak about Local Food
  • Saturday plays host to the Green Jobs Forum
  • Sunday: Wayne Roberts, Canada’s leading food policy analyst speaks on all the benefits of local, sustainable food

Farm Fresh Fare

Irresistible, delectable aromas emanate from the popular food-sampling venue Farm Fresh Fare, presented by Toyota Canada Inc. Now in its third year, the selection of gourmet-prepared, fresh, local food never fails to nourish, delight and educate show attendees. This year you will get to choose from among 20 different dishes! Each recipe showcases one or more farm fresh, Ontario-grown ingredients — provided by a local farmer and prepared by a talented restaurant chef and its all for a worhty cause! Proceeds from ticket sales go to Evergreen’s and Slow Food Toronto’s Learning Garden programs.

Why Local and Sustainable Food Delivers More Than Anything Anyone Can Imagine

On Sunday, Join Wayne Roberts as he explores one of the best good news stories of the day — all the benefits of local, sustainable food, including how it is good for the environment, good for the economy, good for your health, and good for the community. He’ll also provide helpful tips about to find local food.

Thinking of switching gears into a more sustainable career path?

The green job market is exploding with exciting new career prospects for business owners and employees alike! Learn something new about rapidly expanding and evolving environment job opportunities in Canada at the Green Jobs Forum this Saturday at the Green Living show.

Hope to see you there!
RC