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Summer Screen Time

Do you feel like your child has become a zombie, constantly in front of some device? There’s still time left to get your kids outside this summer and to stop the arguing about screen time.

Why bother? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, In general, while watching television, your child is probably not doing any of the following:

  • Asking questions
  • Solving problems
  • Being creative
  • Exercising initiative
  • Practicing eye-hand coordination
  • Scanning (useful in reading)
  • Practicing motor skills
  • Thinking critically, logically, and analytically
  • Practicing communication skills
  • Playing interactive games with other children or adults (helpful for developing patience, self-control cooperation, sportsmanship)”

So what do we do about it? Decide on the absolute limits and then involve your kids in working out the details within those limits. Here are some points to consider:

·         Amount of screen time per day (phones, computers, devices, TV, movies)

·         How that time should be used – all at once? 30 minutes at a time?

·         How will they keep track of their screen time (timer, check list?)

·         What are the consequences if they don’t track their time or go over time?

·          Do they need to play outside prior to being on the screen?

·         Are there chores to complete prior to screen time?

Your kids may complain about this process. Expect them to be disappointed. Accept emotions, do not accept disrespect. If they need to cool off before they can be involved in the discussion, allow them as much screen-free time as they need to come back to the table and start the conversation again. When they are ready to take responsibility for their screen use, then the planning can begin.

Be willing to evaluate how the plan is working after a week. Be open to making some changes – maybe their game takes about 45 minutes to play so 30-minute increments don’t really work. Ultimately, decide on limits that you are willing to enforce and enjoy fewer arguments for the rest of the summer.



From Julie Freedman Smith & Gail Bell, Parenting Power



Summer and Siblings – Stop The Fights Before They Happen

Too much togetherness is rarely a good thing, so set your kids up for success with realistic expectations for the summer.

Follow these steps to build a plan that works for your family:

Provide some structure.
Going from scheduled school-time to no schedule can be a real challenge for many children. Without a schedule, they feel no sense of control and will therefore fight for control over anything. As soon as there is some predictability for the day, the need to control everything seems to decrease. It can be as simple as reviewing when meals will happen, along with quiet time, errands that need to be run, etc.

Expect that your kids will need a break from each other.
Rather than waiting for a fight to break up their together-time, help them to plan when they will spend time apart. At the very least, teach them how to ask for it,

“I need some time on my own,” rather than, “I hate you! Get out of my face!”

Help them to figure out sharing.
If there is one toy/technology device/basketball hoop – how do they use it together? Kids (4 and up) are great at coming up with solutions to these kind of problems so ask them to help figure it out. 

Some solutions:
  • Odd days Jack chooses the game, Even days Mary chooses the game
  • Taking turns
  • Scheduling individual time on the device/toy

Set clear boundaries about what can and cannot be done along with when and for how long. Provide limits and consequences ahead of time so that things feel fair.
  • Technology time
  • Time when they need to be outside
  • Time when you can play with them vs. Independent play time
  • Run with scissors
  • Use permanent markers (you get the picture)

From Julie Freedman Smith & Gail Bell, Parenting Power

Bedtime Routines For a Better Night’s Sleep

Our partners at Parenting Power have created some great tips on creating a bedtime routine that works for your family in their article “Easier Bedtimes #RealTime”.

Julie Freedman Smith from Parenting Power says “All routines are important because they help parents and kids feel confident about what’s coming next. It can happen consistently and faster, with less negotiation.

Kids love routines because they feel powerful when they know what is going to happen next.
Once we have a routine, we can ask our kids, “What do we do next?” That means parents can sound less bossy and kids can feel like they are capable.”

It’s no secret, kids love and crave routines and in the area of sleep, routines are really important.

Have you ever noticed that when you don’t follow the usual bedtime routine, your child has trouble falling to sleep? A pre-bed routine is considered good sleep hygiene and aids in relaxation and signaling our brain to start creating sleep hormones, so it’s essential for a great sleep.

The benefits of a good sleep don’t stop there. Getting enough sleep can improve your family’s well being and overall health.
Even a 6-week old baby has the ability to identify pre-nap and bedtime routines when done regularly, so start using routines sooner than later.

And if it results in a better sleep for baby (and parents), why not get started sooner than later!

How Routines Relax

Having a bedtime routine helps children know what to expect, which leads to them feeling safe, relaxed and cared for.

This relaxation effect helps trigger their body’s natural sleep hormones, which makes going to sleep a lot easier.

Consistency Is Key

Julie and Gail from Parenting Power also encourage consistency. “Whatever the routine, consistency is the key. This is where, as parents, we have to be sure to allow plenty of time for clean-up and the routine itself, in order to get the children into bed a decent hour. No child wants to be yanked away from an activity, told to hurry up and then thrown into bed and told to “go to sleep”.”

Bedtime Routine Ideas

Here’s a list of possible steps to include in your bedtime routine:

Bath time

A relaxing bath (or sponge bath) is a nice way to wind down in the evening.  Beaners 1 Easy Step tear-less shampoo and body wash is gentle enough to use daily and safe for babies too. If cradle cap is an issue, you’ll want to try Beaners Renu 1 cradle cap shampoo. Watch Mommy Connection’s facebook live about Beaner’s Renu 1 cradle cap shampoo here.


Who doesn’t love a relaxing massage before bed? Original Sprout’s Scrumptious Baby Cream (available at Beaners) is a natural baby lotion that smells so good and has none of those nasty chemicals in it. You can watch Mommy Connection’s review of Original Sprout’s Scrumptious Baby Cream here.


Next it’s time to put on comfy pajamas. If you have a baby, speak to them throughout the routine and explain what you are doing.

Story Time!

One of our favourite things is cuddling up with a good bedtime book. The physical closeness and auditory stimulation are good for mind and body.

Feeding Time

If you have a baby that isn’t weaned, it’s time for the usual pre-bedtime feeding.

Take Care Of Those Teeth

Let’s not forgot to take care of those teeth. Did you know that children with consistent bedtime routines tend to have better dental health?

Hair Brushing

If your child has long or curly hair, you may want to take this time to do some detangling with Beaners 2 Knotty leave –in conditioner. Gently brush out the tangles with a wide-tooth comb or detangling brush, like the Macaron by Milk + Sass or a Wet Brush®.


A quick lullaby will help signal that it’s just about time to sleep! One of your child’s favourite parts of the bedtime routine will be hearing you sing them a lullaby.

More Cuddles!

It doesn’t hurt to rock your swaddled baby for a while or lay down in your child’s bed for a quick cuddle as one last “good night”.

Background Noise

Your baby might enjoy some white noise, which mimics the sound of being in the womb. A simple electric fan can be used. Older children might enjoy listening to music as they fall asleep.

Don’t Forget Yourself

If all goes well, next it’s time to take care of you! Remember to have a bedtime routine for yourself to help you have a deeper, more restful sleep.

Sometimes self-care just means a little pampering.  It can be as simple as treating yourself with a luxurious beauty product, like Original Sprout’s Tahitian Hair Oil for a deep condition or their Protein Mist, which strengthens your hair. 

Whether your bedtime routine includes reading a book or having a bath or even just making sure you brush your teeth and wash your face, try to create a bedtime ritual that helps get you ready for a good night’s rest.

For more bedtime routine tips, check out Parenting Power’s “Easier Bedtimes #RealTimehere.

Mentoring Our Children

Building Responsibility

One of the toughest things about parenting is watching our kids go through hardships. We cringe through teething pain when they are babies, then come the scraped knees and feelings of being left out when “everyone got invited to the party but me”.

What we really want to do is to take the pain away. For a while, a parent’s kiss is a magical quantity, but magic doesn’t last forever.
When the kiss stops working, and the Band-Aids don’t carry as much allure as they once did, our next instinct is to take on our child’s problems.

We try to solve them by giving orders or asking a multitude of questions:

“Don’t be rude to your friends!”
 “Why did you hit Grant? How would you feel if he had hit you?”
“Why didn’t Susan invite you to her party? Were you mean to her?”

In his book, Too Safe for Their Own Good, resilience expert, Michael Ungar refers to children being “bubble-wrapped - kids who are being denied opportunities to experience risk and responsibility” and the resulting amounts of “depression, anxiety and an incapacity to take on responsibility” that arise.

He also notes an increase of “very dangerous, risk-taking behaviours that [these kids] come up with on their own to cope with what they were telling me were very restrictive or overprotective environments at home.”

Problem solving for our children can seem like a kind and caring way to parent but it sends a conflicting message. We think we are showing our love for our children, yet our actions say, “Let me solve your problems for you because you aren’t capable of solving them yourself.”
When we have infants in our home, this is reality – they need us to bathe, feed, change and care for them. But, as these infants develop into preschoolers and beyond, we have an opportunity to mentor them – to teach them how to solve their own problems.

When they are young, their problems are often small ones. What better place to begin learning how to look after one’s self?
A mentor can be defined as: a person charged with the instruction and guidance of another. When we seek out a business mentor, we aren’t looking for someone to do our work for us, we are seeking guidance with what we strive to do for ourselves.

Bringing this model into the parenting situation can be helpful and rewarding.

Mentoring strategies for parents:

Provide boundaries for your children and then give them the freedom to act within those limits. When our children make choices for themselves, they begin to see themselves as decision-makers.

When your child asks you a question, find out his opinion before giving an answer. This encourages independent thinking and lets you know more about what he was asking and where he’s headed. It also implies that you are interested in his opinion and that you believe he can generate worthwhile solutions.

Meet your children where they are. Acknowledge that new tasks can be difficult and encourage their effort with small steps:
“Wow, pouring your own milk from that big jug can be hard on the arms. Why don’t I put that into a smaller pitcher and then you can give it another try?”

Create opportunities for self-discovery. When starting a new craft project or heading out on a neighborhood walk, invite your child to explore the materials, or choose the path.

When your child asks a question that you aren’t sure how to answer, help her find an expert to answer the question. Our growing children ask interesting, deep questions that can have far-reaching implications. Teaching them to seek out answers from qualified experts can have many positive results. It teaches that:

Not knowing all of the answers is acceptable in your family (no one needs to be perfect; mistakes are ok)
There are many resources to help us find an answer to our questions

As a parent, you support your child in finding answers to questions that she may not feel comfortable asking you.
When the life-impacting questions come around a little later on and your child is embarrassed to ask you, she will be thankful to have learned how and where to find truthful answers to these questions and will have the confidence to do so.

As a parent, you may never know that she sought help, but you will know that she is capable. 

Being a mentor-parent means taking the time to teach your children and asking questions that will help them to find answers to their own problems.

From Julie Freedman Smith & Gail Bell, Parenting Power

Teaching About Differences

Diversity is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when creating a life-long curriculum for new baby. Reading, writing, crossing the road; these are the categories that seem obvious. It’s often not until our young child comments loudly about the colour of someone’s skin or that they seem different that we realize the need for such a process. It is a rare parent that hasn’t suddenly wished for the “Cone of Silence” to surround the observant child. And then what?!

That decision, as with all parenting decisions will vary from family to family. At Parenting Power when choosing what and how to teach, we like to start with a firm knowledge of the beliefs important to us. We ask, “What are the basic family values – those that we want our kids to live and as a result learn?” Of course, our children will choose and adopt the values which are important to them as they grow. But it is critical to remember that about 75% of what our young children learn from us, they do by watching our actions. What we model is what they do.
When it comes to teaching about differences, the following values come to mind:

1.    Respect

Respect for ourselves is intimately tied with respect for others. If we don’t expect respect (care and kindness) from our children and partners, we are not teaching our children how to respect others. In the same way, if we don’t show respect for other people, our children won’t know to expect it for themselves.

Respect for others includes acknowledging and valuing differences. Sometimes, in an effort to minimize the outbursts from our children, we play down differences. Every being on the planet is unique and by highlighting our diversity, we help our children to recognize and value their own differences along with those of the people around them.

In all likelihood, there will always be someone taller, shorter, smarter, less intelligent, faster, stronger, etc than each of us. These differences are always occurring to us and learning to accept them is part of discovering our own place in the world.

2.    Education

Where we live can have a huge impact on the amount of diversity that our children experience daily. Some communities are filled with people of different colour, shape and religion. Others seem less so. Prior to actually having children, we may have had ideals of exposing them to great diversity but in following the journey of our lives , we may have ended up far from those ideals.

Just because our own communities aren’t diverse doesn’t mean that we can’t teach our children about differences. Larger centers have multiple associations welcoming others to learn more. Technology can also increase our exposure to different cultural events and life situations. 

As a family, decide how often you would like to create awareness of other cultures, and differences around you. Involve your children in decisions about how this will happen: trying new foods, going to cultural celebrations, watching movies, studying the globe, etc.

3.    Tact

In writing this article, we checked with some of our children, “What does the word tact mean?” One six- year old said, “Kindness.”
The ten- year old replied, “Not saying bad things about people in front of them. You know, things that would hurt their feelings.”
So, tact is also about thinking before speaking. This is a valuable skill that all of us need to learn and is indeed more likely to come once our kids are developmentally aware of differing points of view. If our egocentric preschooler can’t conceive of another person having different feelings, how can they be expected to know how to think of what might hurt those feelings?

And that brings us to another important point. We have to have realistic expectations of our child’s ability to think before speaking. Knowing what is realistic can help us to keep our cool when strange things do leave a child’s mouth.  If a 3 year old suddenly blurts out – Mommy, that man only has one leg – rather than worrying about offending the man (who is probably aware that he is without the leg), we can take the opportunity to teach the youngster:

Yes – I can see that too. We are all different and this man seems to be handling his situation pretty well. 
When it comes to teaching about differences, it is the combination of these three things that can be helpful. If in our daily lives, we use respectful language to discuss differences, it is likely that individual differences might not seem so strange. Lastly, as our children develop an awareness of other people’s points of view, we can introduce a need for thinking before we speak and of choosing words that help others rather than words that hurt. In this way, our children will learn the tact to see differences with their eyes and to ask questions about those differences at a time that won’t be hurtful. Hopefully, they will also learn to appreciate the differences that make up our world – those in others and in themselves.

There is so much to teach our children. The great thing – they can teach us even more!

From Julie Freedman Smith & Gail Bell, Parenting Power

Spring Break Survival

Realistic tips for a week of family togetherness

Some parents love Spring Break: no need to drive kids to activities, kids are home to help with the chores, and it’s a great excuse to “not work” and have fun. Some parents, however, DREAD this time. It means finding time off work, having the kids bugging them all week, finding stuff for the kids to do and dealing with the complaints that they’re the only kids in their classes who are not headed to Mexico or Disneyland.

What if you have decided to go on vacation with your children? We encourage you to be realistic about the experience – travelling with kids can be fun, exhausting, adventurous, hair-raising, frustrating, and memorable...and that’s just in the first day of the trip.

Here are some tips to help you whether you are staying here or getting away.
  • Plan for Sleep
When we take away sleep from kids and adults, they get cranky. This may seem obvious but it is amazing how often it surprises parents. If your kids want to stay up late (or they will because of your schedule), set expectations for naps or sleeping-in. If your son rises predictably at 6:30 am no matter when he goes to sleep, be clear about what bedtime will be from the start, and STICK TO IT!
  • Plan for Real Life
If you are staying home this Spring break, groceries, laundry, dishwashing, etc., all still need to get done. Set yourself up for success by planning when these will happen, and letting kids know the schedule and how they are expected to help (pitching in OR independent play while you take care of it).

If you are going away, real life means that part of your family will not want to go to the Museum of Ear Wax, while others will want to spend the day there. Perhaps you do not want to spend 24/7 at the hotel pool and would like to get out and see some sights. Talk about schedules, working together (or splitting up – one parent gets a free day while the other stays with the kids) and attitudes ahead of time (consequences included).
  • Plan for Meals and Behaviour
Staying home: Will there be play dates, visits to a wave pool or the library? Discuss behaviour expectations and consequences. In addition, there is a good chance that your children cannot/will not want to spend every waking moment together. Schedule quiet times, times for independent play and teach scripts for when your kids need a break: I need some time in my room please, I’ll play with you again in 30 minutes (vs. I hate you, get out of my face!).

Going away: Discuss expectations for behaviour at the restaurants, pools, hotel lobby etc. (Don’t forget those consequences as well). While we are on the topic of restaurants, it is very easy, when your kids eat off of children’s menus, to have children eating cheese and starch at every meal: pancakes for breakfast, grilled cheese at lunch, pizza for dinner. If that works for you, great! If not, outline the expectations for the number of fruits/vegetables to be eaten each day, how many sugary treats they can have and whether dessert is a “for sure” thing at each meal. Please schedule down time for your kids. They will need will need it.
  • Technology – can they live without it? Can you?
Getting away from technology can be one of the hardest things to plan nowadays. “Why would I want to?” you ask. That’s up to you. If your goal is to spend family time together OR you want your kids to have some physical exercise so that they don’t drive you batty, set limits up front. If they choose to observe the limits, they can continue to use technology, if not, they’re choosing to go without for the day. Kids learn what they live so if you expect them not to text while talking to you, model that when you are talking to them.

This list could go on forever and we’re happy to help you if you have any questions. One last suggestion would be in the department of consequences.

Consequences need to fit your child and the misbehaviour. Use our language to help you find just the right consequence.
  • I see running and hear shrieking. Your behaviour shows me you are choosing to leave the pool for today and skip it tomorrow. You can try again the next day. I know you are capable.
  • You are choosing to hit your brother – this means that you are choosing to have me help you to control your hands. When you are ready to try again, let me know and I’ll let go
  • You are getting filled up on sweet treats, so you are choosing to skip those tomorrow and fill your body with healthy foods. When you show us you can do that, we’ll go back to a treat once the healthy food has been eaten.

Lastly, if you are travelling this holiday, please be realistic and clear with your kids about airports, car trips, hotels etc. Travelling is not always fun.

Security people may not have a sense of humour. Talk about the rules; what cannot be said out loud in an airport. It might be a good idea to create a “Try to use the bathroom whenever we actually find one” rule. It can also help to pack a change of clothes for every family member in a re sealable freezer bags so that when someone spills a drink, or throws up on you, you will have something to wear (and an extra change of clothes if the airlines lose your luggage). IF your kids packed their own carry-on bags, please check through them for water guns or other “weaponry” that airport security will not appreciate.

Here’s hoping you have a wonderful week, here or away. Be realistic and remember... if you make a mistake when your kids misbehave, you will always get another chance to do it right, possibly in the next twenty minutes.

From Julie Freedman Smith & Gail Bell, Parenting Power