All Posts by Harvey Beck

The Top 6 Memoir Writing Services to Help You Write Your Memoir

People hire memoir writing services to help write their memoir for lots of different reasons. Maybe they can’t decide what’s important to include. Maybe some things are simply too difficult to write about. Maybe they’re stuck midway through. Or maybe they just can’t decide where to start.

We’ve talked before about what to look for when you hire a memoir writing service or writer. But where do you find a good one? 

Here are six great options for memoir writing services to help with your memoir.

THGM Writing Services

Based in Canada, THGM Writing Services uses a team of freelance Canadian and US-based “professional ghostwriters, ready to write your autobiography or memoir.” In addition to memoir, THGM Writing Services will also write biography, autobiography (remember the difference from memoir!), and life stories/memorial memoirs. French and Spanish translators are available. THGM Writing Services has been featured in Forbes, Maclean’s, and The Verge.

How long will it take?: Not listed

How much will it cost?: No prices listed, but offer a free quote based on some specifics you supply about the project 

Real Life Stories

Founder Sheridan Hill works with “a small stable of publishing professionals hand-picked for their expertise, efficiency, and ability to deliver.” Real Life Stories promises a memoir or biography “that is beautifully written, impeccably researched, and professionally printed.” Real Life Stories has been recommended by the AARP as one of the top personal biography companies in the United States.

How long will it take?: Preference is 12 months

How much will it cost?: No prices listed, but base costs include travel and lodging costs for author, transcription, book design, and printing.

Heritage Memoirs

Heritage Memoirs produces “one-of-a-kind life stories, memoirs, personal histories, family histories and corporate histories from recorded interviews.” They offer services from ghost writers, oral historians, family historians, editors, and life-story or memoir writer. Based in Canada, Heritage Memoirs’ writers will travel anywhere in Canada or the United States, and have a location in Mexico, too.

How long will it take?: 4-18 months, depending on the frequency of the interviews and complexity of project

How much will it cost?: Minimum of $15,000

Kevin Anderson & Associates

This is the Cadillac option of memoir services. Kevin Anderson & Associates’ ghostwriting and editing services provide you the opportunity to work with a team of New York Times #1 bestselling authors and editors. Their client list includes New York Times #1 bestselling authors, literary agents and agencies, Big Five publishing houses, celebrities, and Fortune-100 business executives. But expect to pay—their rates start at $25,000 US.

How long will it take?: Average projects will take 3-6 months

How much will it cost?: Packages range from $25,000 to $150,000. They do suggest that if you have a manuscript (or partial) complete you may only need other editorial services (like developmental editing). They encourage people to inquire, as these costs can be substantially less than their ghostwriting packages. 

Modern Memoirs, Inc.

Modern Memoirs, Inc. is a self-publishing company specializing in memoirs and family histories. They offer a full-service private publication process, handling everything from interviews, to book design, image processing, and print and e-book creation. Over 25 years in business, they have produced books for more than 170 clients in six countries and twenty-nine U.S. states. 

How long will it take?: Two levels of service: an Assisted Memoir (editorial, design, and production of a finished manuscript) takes 3-4 months. A Commissioned Memoir (written solely by them) usually takes 12 months.

How much will it cost?: Assisted Memoir is $7,000 for editing and design and $3,000 to print. Commissioned Memoirs start at $40,000 for writing, editing, and design, and $3,000 to print.

Memoir by LifeTales

Want to create a memoir in minutes a day at no cost? That’s the promise of Memoir, an app from LifeTales. We’ve made it easy and fun to capture, share, and preserve your family stories digitally in just minutes a day. Create stories using any combination of pictures, video, video-selfies, and audio voiceovers on images. And yes, you can type, too!

Memoirs by LifeTales uses the latest end-to-end encryption technology and is visible only to people who you authorize to have access to your stories. And with multiple family members on the app the possibilities to expand the stories being told are endless!

How long will it take?: You can create a multi-media memoir in only minutes a day, in your spare time

How much will it cost?:  Free!

Whether you’re curious to learn more about memoir, or you’re ready to start documenting your own memoir today, download the Memoir, by LifeTales app and begin recording something your loved ones will cherish for years.

How Do I Find Someone to Write My Life Story? (Checklist Included)

People hire writers to help write their memoir for lots of different reasons. 

Perhaps you’re struggling to decide what’s important to include. Maybe some things are simply too difficult emotionally to write about yourself. Perhaps you’ve started a memoir but can’t make headway. Maybe you simply can’t decide where to begin. 

Hiring a professional writer means that someone skilled will organize your stories into a cohesive, compelling read in as little as a few months.

Together, you and your writer will turn your life story into a memoir that will be in your voice and have your message. Though someone else’s hands may have typed the words, those words (and that book) will be yours in every other way.

Before you read ahead, check out Memoirs App from LifeTales. The best app for writing your memoir online.

How Do I Find a Ghostwriter?

“Ghostwriter” is a term for any writer hired to help you write your story in your own voice. 

A simple Google search will turn up any number of reputable writing companies that specialize in memoir and biography (remember—there is a difference!) 

Make sure you do your research: some companies are a single individual; others are larger companies with best-sellers under their belts. Either way, know the difference and be sure to ask for samples and references. Make sure you’re happy with the writer before signing a contract. 

The Writing Contract

writing a memoir contract with a ghostwriter

Any reputable ghostwriter or writing firm will have a standard contract that lays out the expectations and obligations of each party to one another. Make sure you read and understand the contract and that you’re in agreement, as it is a legally binding agreement. This is a serious investment of time and money you are making, so it couldn’t hurt to have a lawyer look it over if you are unclear about any of the clauses or terminology. If anything is unclear or makes you uncomfortable ask for clarification or negotiate to reword the contract.

How Much Will It Cost to Hire a Writer for My Life Story?

The short answer is: it depends.

You can find writers who are inexpensive (but probably not as experienced) and writers who have years of experience and even New York Times-bestselling books (but who will cost a lot more to hire). And, as is often the case, you get what you pay for.

For a typical memoir, expect to spend at least thousands of dollars ($7500 to $10,000 on the low end) to tens of thousands of dollars (professional ghostwriters with a serious track record can easily command anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000+ per project).

Payment Schedule for Writing Work

payment schedule for writer

You should work out payment in installments, and these should be spelled out in your contact with the writer. You could pay in thirds (one third on signing, one third on a complete first draft, one third on revised final draft). Or you can pay in quarters or any other breakdown that’s mutually agreeable.

Any request for payment in full upfront should be a red flag, and you should not pay. Walk away from anyone making such demands as it is unprofessional and you might get scammed.

How Long Will It Take to Write My Memoir?

From start to finish, expect the process to take between six and twelve months. This includes time for all interviews, research, drafting, and revision. Other factors, unexpected delays, or requests for changes midway through may extend this range.

If you want a manuscript complete in a short timeframe, it may be possible depending on the writer but expect to pay a premium for an accelerated schedule.

What Will Ghostwriting Involve?

1) Interviews and research to get to know you and your story

This could be handled remotely via Skype or telephone, or it may involve travel by the writer to visit you and your family to conduct interviews. You should expect hours or even days of interviews, depending on the scope and scale of the project. 

2) Planning and outlining your book

With reviews in hand, the writer will begin to work up a plan and outline for your book. They will likely run this outline by you for your approval and input before they start work

3) Ghostwriting the content 

Just like it sounds. This is where the bulk of the writing will occur, based on the interviews and outline.

4) Revisions based on your feedback and guidance

You will have an opportunity to read and review the draft, either in stages or once completed. At that point, you should make a detailed list of changes or corrections you’d like the ghostwriter to make. If you don’t want any, that’s great! But if you do, your writer should revise the work until you are satisfied with the product.

5) Editing to eliminate spelling and grammar errors

Editing (also called copyediting) is usually the last stage. Once the writing and revisions are complete, the writer will go through the work to ensure it is as error-free as possible.

Who Owns the Rights to the Work?

As a work-for-hire project, the contract you sign with the writer should spell out that you—the person who commissioned the work—will have all rights to the work, including copyright. The contract should also say that you’re free to pursue use of the material in whatever way you want with no further compensation due to the writer. 

We hope this post helps you hire the right person to write your life story or memoir. If you want to start writing your memoir yourself, try the Memoirs App from LifeTale for free.

21 Questions to Ask Your Kids About School

It’s hard to believe that another school year has come and gone! As kids get ready to enjoy their summer vacation now is the perfect time to capture some of your children’s memories of the year-that-was by doing a little end-of-school interview. This is a great way to use the LifeTales app to help you record their thoughts, told in the way that only little kids can.

Remember: kids are notorious for giving one-word answers that don’t tell you much of anything. Make sure you’re asking open-ended questions to get them talking and keep your conversation going. Here are a few to get you started.

  1. What was the biggest difference between school this year and school last year? 
  2. Tell me about the best part of your day at school this year.
  3. What was the worst thing about your day at school this year?
  4. What was the hardest thing you had to do in a school day?
  5. Tell me about your favourite book you read this year in class.
  6. What are some rules that are different at school than at home? Do you think those rules are fair?
  7. What will you remember most about your teacher?
  8. What’s one thing you learned this year that’s really stuck with you?
  9. What do you wish you could do more of at school?
  10. What do you wish you could do less of at school?
  11. Tell me about the four kids who sat closest to you in class.
  12. Which kids in your class did you enjoy talking with the most?
  13. Who was the class clown, or the funniest kid in your class?
  14. Who sat near you at lunch?
  15. What was the funniest thing someone said/did at lunch?
  16. What did most kids do at recess?
  17. What was the best/most popular game at recess?
  18. What did you play/talk about at recess?
  19. Tell me about the things you’ll miss most about school over the summer.
  20. What won’t you miss about school while you’re off for the summer?
  21. What’s one thing you’re looking forward to doing this summer?

44 Questions Your Kids Can Ask Dad This Father’s Day

With Father’s Day right around the corner, now is the perfect time to sit down with the dad in your life and talk about him. 

Not every dad is very forthcoming with stories about himself or his life. Why not take this opportunity to get him talking and record his answers with the LifeTales app? You can write them, record them, or even make a video of dad talking all about himself. Better still: have your kids do the interviewing!

Here are a few questions to get you (and dad!) started.

  1. What’s your earliest memory? 
  2. What comes to mind when you think about growing up in your hometown?
  3. What are your memories about the houses you lived in as a kid? Did you have a favourite?
  4. What did you have or play with as a child that kids don’t have today?
  5. What was your favourite book or movie when you were my age?
  6. What did you think you wanted to be when you grew up?
  7. What do you think was the dumbest thing you did as a child?
  8. What was the most difficult thing you went through as a child?
  9. What are your strongest memories of your mom (grandma)?
  10. What are your strongest memories of your dad (grandpa)?
  11. What is the best thing your parents ever cooked? 
  12. What’s something your mom or dad used to tell you growing up that later turned out to be true?
  13. What is the most embarrassing thing your mother or father ever did to you?
  14. Did you have pets growing up? Tell me about them.
  15. What are your favourite memories of family gatherings?
  16. What was a favourite family tradition when you were growing up?
  17. How are you most like your parents? How are you different?
  18. Who was your best friend in elementary school? In high school?
  19. Did you ever win an award? What was it for?
  20. What were your favourite things to do as a kid?
  21. Who was your childhood hero?
  22. What’s the first album or CD you ever bought?
  23. What did you love to do in high school?
  24. Were you ever on any teams or play any sports?
  25. What do you remember most about being a teenager?
  26. What world events have had the most impact on you?
  27. How did you meet [spouse] and know (s)he was the one?
  28. Where did you go on your first date?
  29. How did you choose your career? What do you like most about it?
  30. What made you successful at work?
  31. What advice do you have for your children about what to focus on in our careers?
  32. What do you remember about when each of us was born?
  33. What’s the best gift you’ve ever received? What’s the best gift you’ve ever given?
  34. What lessons have you learned about other people in life?
  35. Tell me about the three best decisions you’ve ever made.
  36. What is your biggest accomplishment?
  37. What are you most proud of in life?
  38. What are the three happiest moments in your life so far?
  39. Is there something you’ve always wanted to do or experience that you haven’t had a chance to yet? 
  40. What do you think the world needs more of right now?
  41. What are you most thankful for?
  42. What is the best advice your dad ever gave you?
  43. What has been your favourite age so far, and why?
  44. Is there anything that you wish you had asked your parents but haven’t/didn’t?

The Essential Hospital Bag Checklist for Mom, Baby, and Partner

They go by many names: hospital bag, maternity bag, overnight bag, diaper bag. Whatever you call it, having a pre-packed bag of essential supplies ready to go whenever the Big Day arrives is key. You’ll be ready at a moment’s notice, and by packing in advance, you won’t risk forgetting anything.

Even if you’re not planning a hospital birth, it’s a good idea to have a hospital bag packed as you may need to go in unexpectedly. You should think about having your maternity bag packed by the time you are about 32 weeks pregnant (i.e., 8 months), as baby could arrive anytime after that. It’s a good idea to pack your bags together and double-check that each of you has everything you need. 

Here’s the ultimate hospital bag checklist, mom-tested and approved, as well as mini-checklists of things for a hospital bag for baby and a bag for your partner to pack, too. Check with your hospital or birthing centre to see what items they provide, and you may be able to leave out some items below. If space is a concern in your maternity ward, you can pack a small labour bag as well as a separate hospital stay bag which you can leave in the car or which can be brought to you later.

What to Pack in a Hospital Bag for Mom

For Labour

  • Battery-powered hand fan
  • Big cup with bendable straw
  • Birth plan
  • Coconut water (colder the better!)
  • Electric heating pad or hot water bottle
  • Electrolyte sports drinks
  • Exercise/yoga ball (check with your hospital—some have them available. Make sure any you bring are latex-free)
  • Glasses or contact lenses (if you need them)
  • Hairband or elastics
  • Honey sticks/straws (for a quick burst of energy)
  • Hot water bottle
  • ID and medical records
  • Instant soups, miso soup
  • Pillows (colourful patterns recommended so they don’t get confused with hospital bedding)
  • Socks, slippers
  • Tennis balls (for massaging back pains)

For Hospital Stay

  • Baby name book (in case you’re still not sure on a name!)
  • Books, magazines
  • Breast pads
  • Change for vending machines
  • Comfortable daytime clothing (many women prefer loose-fitting day clothes rather than PJs all day)
  • Cough drops or lozenges (recovery rooms can be very dry and hard on the throat)
  • Disposable ‘grannie’ panties
  • Eye mask and earplugs (in case you have a shared room)
  • Face cloth
  • Fibre-rich snacks or fibre supplements
  • Front-opening shirt (for breastfeeding)
  • Glasses and contact lenses (if you need them)
  • Headphones or earbuds
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Instant soups, miso soup
  • Large zip-top bags
  • Loose-fitting going-home outfit
  • Mesh underwear (help wounds breathe)
  • MP3 player or tablet loaded with music, podcasts & favourite TV shows to watch while you wait
  • Nightgown or oversized t-shirt
  • Nipple cream
  • Nursing bras (2-3, nothing with underwire)
  • Pen & paper (there’s a lot to remember!)
  • Razor
  • Robe, dressing gown, wrap sweater
  • Sanitary pads or disposable adult underwear
  • Snacks and drinks
  • Towel
  • Toiletries
    • Deodorant
    • Hairbrush
    • Makeup
    • Medications
    • Soap, shampoo, and facial tissue
    • Toothbrush and toothpaste
    • Unscented lotions

What to Pack in a Hospital Bag for Baby

  • Baby nail clippers & file (those little claws are sharp!)
  • Beanie or baby toque
  • Burp cloths
  • Car seat
  • Cold weather clothes (for Fall and Winter babies)
  • Diapers (just a few—the hospital will provide these)
  • Going-home outfit (a stretchy onesie is best—there will lots of time for fancy outfits later!)
  • Receiving blankets
  • Socks or booties
  • Two or three sleepers for baby to wear in the hospital

What Your Partner Should Pack in a Hospital Bag

  • Books, magazines
  • Camera
  • Change for vending machines
  • Change of clothes
  • Chargers for electronic devices (labelled with name and phone number)
  • Comfortable shoes (you’ll be on your feet more than you realize!)
  • Comfortable sleepwear
  • Glasses and contact lenses (if you need them)
  • Headphones or earbuds
  • Important phone numbers of family and friends
  • Instant soups, miso soup
  • Medications
  • MP3 player or tablet loaded with music, podcasts & favourite TV shows to watch while you wait
  • Small pillow & small blanket (colourful patterns recommended so they don’t get confused with hospital bedding)
  • Snacks and drinks
  • Swimwear (for water births)
  • Toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrush, etc.)
  • Watch (for timing contractions)

What to Expect from a Daycare Wait List

The simple fact is that no matter where you go there simply aren’t enough daycare spots. And that’s been the case for decades. Even in Quebec, known for its publicly funded $7-a-day daycare, there aren’t always enough spots in publicly funded care. 

That’s why you hear crazy, panicked advice like: “You should have put your name on a waiting list when you two were still dating.”

So what’s a parent in need of childcare to do? Well, the good news is that you have options! So take a deep breath: everything’s going to be okay.

Signing Up at a Childcare Centre

It’s true that if you want to put your child in a licensed, professional child care centre you’re going to be on a waitlist. There simply aren’t enough spots for everyone who wants to enroll their children. Some centres have waitlists that are hundreds of names long, with frantic parents calling nearly every day, begging to enroll their kids. 

So, if you plan to use a daycare centre be prepared to play the long game, especially if you live in a big city where waitlists are long (sometimes hundreds of names long!)

Sign up at your preferred centre as soon as you can—even as soon as you know you’re expecting. waitlist times of 18 months to two years are not uncommon so give yourself as much lead time as possible. 

Depending on when you hope to send your child to care be prepared to pay different rates based on their age. Centres tend to charge more for infants (up to 18 months), and toddlers (18–36 months), with prices dropping somewhat for children over three years old.

What to Expect on a Daycare Waitlist

Waitlists rules are usually the same wherever you go: 

  • It’s first come, first served
  • Infant care (ie: under 18 months) usually has the fewest available spots and the longest waitlists
  • Siblings of children already enrolled at a centre get first dibs on open spots

It’s also a good idea to get waitlisted at more than one centre. Spots may open up sooner at different locations, and you may change your mind about your top choice after enrolling so its good to give yourself options.

Give Yourself an Edge

Particularly if you expect to enroll more than one child in care over the long term it pays to enroll them at the same centre. Remember: siblings have priority over other applicants so that families can be kept together. 

Even having an older sibling in after-school care or summer camp at your preferred centre may be enough to get your little one a spot. 

And look around your personal network of connections and affiliations for other places your kids might have priority admission. Some employers, universities, and religious organizations like churches, synagogues, and mosques may offer child-care or preschool and give priority to people affiliated with them.

Thinking Beyond a Daycare Centre

Okay, so what if like most of us you didn’t plan out your childcare strategy two years in advance? Don’t worry—you still have some great options. 

There are great childcare companies that offer professional, fully licensed care out of private homes. These companies include training for staff, nutritious meal plans, and engaging interactive curricula for children that is comparable to what they would receive in a traditional childcare centre. Couple that with a low child-to-caregiver ratio and children may actually receive more hands-on, flexible, individualized care in a home-based daycare than they would receive in a centre.

In Ontario, for example, you can consider an organization like Wee Watch, that provides home-based care to children from infants to 12 years of age.

When a Nanny Makes Sense

I know what you’re thinking: “A nanny? We can’t afford that!” But, when you consider what you pay monthly if you have more than one child in full-time care you’d be surprised how quickly a nanny becomes affordable (or is at least on par with the cost of other childcare).

Long available to only the very wealthy, in this era of expensive childcare and families with two working parents, a nanny has actually become a budget-wise option for the middle class, too. 

There are a variety of nanny contracts available, including live-in, live-out, part-time, and even shared nannies, with several families chipping in to pay for nanny services.

And depending on the contract with your nanny, in addition to childcare, their duties can also include light household chores and meal prep for the family. This can be a real lifesaver to keep the house tidy and organized, and keep your family fed during the hectic work and school week.

Even if it’s not something you’d previously considered, a nanny may surprise you as the right solution for your situation.

What Are Night Terrors and How Can I Help My Child Through Them?

Night terrors—fits of screaming, flailing, and intense fear and dread—are terrifying for children and parents alike.

While we’re used to soothing our children after the occasional nightmare, during a night terror a child’s fear is usually irrational and inconsolable, no matter what you try.

Almost 40 percent of children (as well as a small percentage of adults) will experience occasional sleep disturbances that qualify as ‘night terrors.’ The good news for kids is that—while frightening—sleep terrors aren’t usually dangerous and most children outgrow them in time. And the good news for parents is that there are a number of things you can do to help your kids until the terrors pass.

What Are Night Terrors?

Night terrors are episodes of “screaming, intense fear and flailing while still asleep.” Episodes may last a few seconds or a few minutes and rarely last longer. 

Unlike standard nightmares, in which the dreamer will wake up and may or may not recall details of the scary dream, a night terror involves someone who experiences a terrifying episode but remains asleep. Upon waking, the night terror sufferer generally doesn’t recall details. 

Night terrors usually happen in the first third to first half of the night. The good news is that they generally don’t happen during nap time so kids can get some additional rest if they have the opportunity to nap during the day.

Who Gets Night Terrors?

Night terrors generally happen between the ages of 4 and 12 and may be slightly more common among boys. A family history of night terrors or sleepwalking can also make a child more prone to experience them. 

Night terrors may also be more common in children who are:

  • overtired, ill, or stressed
  • taking a new medicine
  • sleeping in a new environment or away from home
  • not getting enough sleep
  • having too much caffeine

What Are the Symptoms of Night Terrors?

During a night terror, a child might:

  • Scream or shout in fright
  • Sit up in bed, terrified
  • Stare wide-eyed but stay asleep
  • Sweat, breathe heavily, and have a racing pulse
  • Kick and thrash
  • Be inconsolably upset
  • Possibly get out of bed and run around the house, or become aggressive if blocked or restrained

After a few minutes, the child will simply calm down and go back to sleep. They are unlikely to remember any of this the next day.

How to Help Your Child Cope With Night Terrors

While upsetting for parents and children alike, remember night terrors are generally harmless. The best way to deal with them is to wait patiently until they pass and make sure your child doesn’t hurt themselves if they’re thrashing or sleepwalking.

Don’t try to wake your child during a night terror. It rarely works, and children woken like this are likely to be confused and disoriented, and may take longer to go back to sleep. 

If your child has night terrors you can help prevent them by: 

  • having a set bedtime that you stick to: don’t let them stay up too late 
  • creating a simple, relaxing bedtime routine: sing some songs, or read a bedtime story
  • preventing your child from getting overtired: if they need to nap they should, or they can go to bed early
  • reducing stress: talk them through anything that’s bothering them, or try some pre-bed kiddie yoga or guided relaxation to help calm them before bed

One addition trick that can help if your child has a night terror around the same time every night is to try waking them up about 15–30 minutes before the night terror usually begins and see if that helps disrupt the occurrences of the terrors. This sleep stages chart may help you track the best time to wake your child.

When to See a Doctor

Occasional sleep terrors aren’t a cause for concern, but you can mention them at a child’s regular doctor’s appointment. 

However, you should consult your doctor if sleep terrors:

  • Become more frequent
  • Routinely disrupt the sleep of the person with sleep terrors or other family members
  • Lead to safety concerns or injury
  • Result in daytime symptoms of excessive sleepiness or problems functioning
  • Continue beyond the teen years or start in adulthood

5 Easy Ways to Get Outside and Active With Your Kids This Spring

With springtime well underway (well, in most places anyway) its time to get out of the house; time to stop being so cooped up and staring at screens all the time.

For children, especially, outdoor play is vitally important. According to Claire McCarthy, MD of the Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health blog, outdoor play helps children with socialization, healthy risk-taking, and even helps them develop creativity and better executive functioning, like the ability to “plan, prioritize, troubleshoot, negotiate, and multitask.”

So how can you get outside and active with your kids this Spring? Here are five easy ways:

Go on a Spring Scavenger Hunt

Spring is a great time for building a fun and engaging outdoor scavenger hunt for kids. The possibilities of what they could search for are endless: a tree budding, a bird building a nest, tulips and daffodils starting to bloom after a long winter sleep.  

Give each child a picture checklist list of spring items they’re likely to find along your route and then just head out on a walk. Give out ink stamps or stickers for each item a child finds. The scavenger hunt will help kids not just enjoy the outdoors but really pay attention to the world around them.

Travel On Your Park Passport

Let’s face it: grown-ups love getting stamps in our passports. So why wouldn’t our kids love it, too? 

The kids can make their own passport booklets from construction paper and you can fill them with pictures of local parks—both new ones and old favourites—as the ‘destination’ for their trips. Each week you can visit one or two parks, and as proof of their travels the kids get an ink stamp or a sticker in their passport as they cross a park off their list. It’s a great way to see the neighbourhood and visit parks you might not usually get to.

Not enough parks nearby? No problem! You can add in libraries, schoolyards, nature trails, or even just a stand of trees the kids can explore. Anything that gets them excited to be outside will work.

Make a Nature ABC Book

Just because we’re outside doesn’t mean we can’t still be learning, right? Combine the physical with the educational by building a Nature ABC Book!

Go for a nature walk, and with your phone or a camera let your kids identify and photograph items they find—one for each letter of the alphabet. See some ants? That’s A taken care of! See the bark on that tree? There’s your letter B! 

The LifeTales app would be a great way to record these finds, in either still photos or videos. You can even include notes or voice recordings from you and your kids talking about what they found.

Go for a Bicycle or Scooter Ride

Getting the bicycle—with or without training wheels—out of the garage is a classic rite of a new Spring. Learning to ride is an important milestone for many children, a sign of their growing independence. The popularity of scooters has also grown in recent years, with two-wheeled versions available for older children, and more stable three-wheeled scooters for young children who are still working on balance and coordination. 

They’ll be having so much fun they won’t even realize its good for them! (Just be sure to keep a few bandages around the house to deal with the inevitable skinned knees). 

Make sure tires are pumped up, chains well oiled, and that properly fitted bike helmets are worn. A bell and reflectors are also good safety ideas.

The Canada Safety Council offers good tips on making sure your kids understand the rules of the road and how they can stay safe on a bike or scooter.

Get Your Kids Gardening

What could be more appealing to little kids than getting to play in the dirt? That’s why gardening is a perfect outdoor activity for children! It can help them learn about natural lifecycles, develop a taste for those dreaded vegetables, and even aid in their cognitive and motor skills development. Spring is the right time to start planting for a tasty harvest come summertime.

For results that will keep kids interested (and that will see them eating a little salad they grew as soon as possible) focus on fast-growing seeds. Think lettuce, radishes, and green onions (planted from tiny bulbs called sets). Kids can do their own planting, water and weed their own beds or containers, and harvest fruits and veggies they grew.

And don’t forget edible flowers! Nasturtiums, pansies, lemon marigold, and hollyhock are all colourful additions to a garden that are not only easy to grow, but whose petals make tasty additions to salads, edible decorations for cakes, and fun garnishes for a tall glass of lemonade.

How to Write About Your Childhood

We hear so much in the news today about people doing DNA tests to trace their ancestry. But people often forget that access to their heritage is as close as grandma and grandpa! Telling stories about ourselves and our family is how we connect to our past and those who came before.

As people grow (and particularly once they have children of their own) its only natural that they begin to wonder more about where they and their family came from. So even if right now you think no one would be interested in your life story, you may find that in a few years (or perhaps a few decades) your children and grandchildren will thank you for the time you took to record your experiences and give them insight into your life.

Here are some suggestions for how to get started:

Work In A Medium That Suits You

These days you aren’t restricted to just pen and paper, or even to a computer when you’re chronicling your life story. The LifeTales app has great options for recording and sharing photos, audio, and video so you can recount your story as easily as if you were talking to a friend or loved one.

Don’t Worry About Starting at the Beginning

Childhood is a natural place to start your reminiscences, but don’t get hung up on chronology. Focus on writing or recording any good story, or any memories that stand out. Then tell another. And another. You can order and organized them later.

Don’t Leave Out the Details

While they might seem mundane to you, it’s the little details—the little differences from life today–about where and how you grew up that will be of interest. Did you grow up overseas? On a farm? How was your city different decades ago when you were growing up? These details will stand out to your children and grandchildren precisely because they’re so different from their experiences today. That’s interesting!

It’s Okay to Repeat Yourself

You may think your family has heard a story a million times already, but that doesn’t mean its not worth including. They may have heard the story from someone else’s perspective. You might have a unique perspective or specific details on the events. Maybe you tell the story better than anyone else! Don’t risk leaving something out that future generations may find interesting or entertaining just because your family now has heard the tale before.

Honesty Is the Best Policy

Your family wants to know about your actual life, so resist any temptation to embellish (for better or worse!) You family wants to learn more about you, and maybe even look for lessons they can apply to their own lives, so hearing about what actually happened (and not a tall tale) is what will help them most.

No Need For a Tell-All

But while honesty is best, remember: you’re also not writing a tell-all. Everyone has things in their past that are difficult to talk about or relive. Maybe there is a difficult childhood, family trauma, or personal tragedy. There may be things that are simply too painful, or which you prefer to keep private. That’s okay. You’re the author of your own story, so what you include (or don’t) is entirely your choice. Your story can still be rich and interesting without these moments.

Some Questions to Prompt You

  • What’s your earliest memory?
  • Tell me about the house you grew up in.
  • Did you ever move house / town / country when you were a child?
  • What was life like with your parents? With your siblings?
  • Tell me about your other relatives and family members.
  • What are some funny moments you remember from your childhood?
  • What are some family sayings you remember?
  • What are some stories that you remember hearing from family members?
  • Who was your childhood best friend? Tell me about them.
  • What were your days at school like? 
  • Tell me about your favourite teachers.
  • What subjects did you love in school? Which ones did you not like?
  • What were some extracurricular activities you did in school? (i.e.: sports, music, drama, etc.)
  • Tell me about your favourites songs growing up (can also be books, movies, and TV shows.)
  • Tell me about some rites of passage (i.e.: social events, cultural events, religious events/rituals, etc.)
  • Tell me about what it was like to live through major historical events? (e.g.: Where were you when astronauts landed on the moon?)
  • What role did religion / spirituality play in your life growing up?
  • What were family gatherings like? 
  • Tell me about holiday traditions when you were growing up.
  • Did you have any beloved pets when you were a child?
  • Tell me about your favourite hobbies and games when you were growing up.
  • Tell me about some successes you remember.
  • Tell me about some failure you remember.
  • Who influenced you when you were a child?

22 Dos and Don’ts for Planning Your Family Vacations

It could be a dream family holiday, a summer road trip, or a weekend getaway with the kids. But have you thought of everything? What are you forgetting? Here are 22 dos and don’ts to help you have a happier, more relaxing family vacation.

DOs

DO be flexible

There’s no such thing as a perfect vacation, so let that idea go now. You’ll be happier in the long-run. And don’t beat yourself up if something doesn’t go to plan. There’s sure to be some other event or attraction right around the corner that you didn’t know about, and that can be just as exciting.

DO create an “adventure kit” for each child

Fill this with activities and snacks for the travel portions of your trip. You can even theme this to your destination. Make it a rule that the kids can’t open their kits until you’re underway—it will add to the excitement and anticipation for the trip to begin!

DO bring a night light

A strange hotel room can be scary for kids—and hard to navigate in the dark for adults, too! Help prevent bad dreams and stubbed toes: pack a night light.

DO carry zip-top bags and changes of clothes

For every kid. Even for teenagers. Spills and accidents and pukes happen. Don’t get caught short.

DO pack more than one phone charger

Because if you’re all taking pictures all day you’re all going to need a charge at the same time. Make sure if you are overseas that you also bring travel plug converters with you.

DO plan a variety of fun activities

Depending on your destination some activities may require advanced planning. And keep in mind the need to have a bunch of different activities planned that require different lengths of time and that suit different kinds of weather. Can’t go on that historic walking tour because its pouring cats-and-dogs outside? Maybe a trip to a museum or art gallery is in order instead!

DO plan on a slower pace

Especially if you are used to traveling without children, plan for a slower-than-expected pace for your days. You won’t get out of the hotel when you plan to. You won’t get to see and do as many things as you plan to. That’s par for the course with kiddos, so just roll with it. You’ll still have a good time. See point #1 above!

DO make local culture and history enjoyable for the kids

Bear in mind the distance you plan to cover in a day, and how little legs and feet might cope with a lot of walking or hiking. Dragging irritable children around because you’re trying to do too much will suck the fun out of the most exotic locale. Plan shorter excursions each day, and include ones that don’t require as much walking. For example, site-seeing bus tours can be really engaging for the whole family and they let you sit down while you see the city.

DO try the local delicacies

Talk to some locals and get recommendations for where they eat. You’ll get an authentic experience and you’ll likely pay less than at restaurants catering mostly to tourists. Encourage your kids to savour new flavours when you’re on vacation—but have some more familiar back-ups handy for picky eaters.

DO make time for yourself

If you’re traveling with another adult (or more) tag out once and a while. Split up and take the kids on your own for a bit to give your partner a break. They can return the favour later when you do some solo exploring of your own. Some holiday entertainment destinations offer a child-minding or babysitting service, so you might even have an opportunity for a real kid-free date night!

DO bring back some local toys or books

Local toys and books make wonderful souvenirs and will be one-of-a-kind keepsakes that you can’t just grab at some airport store.

DON’Ts

DON’T pack everything you own

They will have stores where you’re going where you can pick up anything you forgot and can’t live without. I promise.

DON’T offend the locals

Whether you’re overseas or just in the next town over remember that you’re a guest where someone else lives. Don’t be that tourist. For more exotic locales know the important local customs you’ll be expected to follow. Try and learn a bit of the language if you can, and install a real-time translation app on your phone to help avoid misunderstandings.

DON’T expect the excitement levels to last all day

Everyone needs a little downtime, especially kids. Nap time is real. Take advantage of some downtime yourself while the kids sleep or chill out with a crafts project. Parents can get burnt out on travel, too!

DON’T force the kids to do everything with you

Many family-friendly resorts and hotels have kids’ clubs with age-appropriate activities to keep children entertained and occupied. Plan a day with some low-key activities and just let the kids be kids.

DON’T forget the sunscreen

Sunscreen. Wet wipes. Favourite toys. Passports. There are lots of little things to remember. Try writing out a list well in advance of your trip, or use one of the many online versions to help you remember all the odds-and-ends. Important: make sure you check with a local travel clinic whether your destination requires any travel vaccinations!

DON’T forget to keep a trip scrapbook

Encourage your kids to capture their memories of the day in a scrapbook. You can do this right before bed, with each child have a page or two of their own. They can write, draw, or paste in memories of the day (this is a great place to keep ticket stubs and all those event and attraction wristbands! See how many you can collect on the trip!) They can cut-and-paste in maps, postcards, stamps—you name it.

DON’T overdo it on social media

Live in the moment, not on your social media. Yes, you’ll be taking some incredible and adorable pics, and of course you want to share them. But limit your time on social to one or two times a day while you’re away. Or better yet: just post once before you go to bed and upload a mini-album of your day.

DON’T try to do too much

Pack too much into your agenda and you’ll spend your days rushing around and anxious about what you’re missing out on. Dial it back. Enjoy where you are and what you’re doing as you do it. Leave some room in your schedule to embrace the unexpected. And leave the #FOMO at home.

DON’T check in with work

Leave work at work. Enjoy your time away. Those emails will still be there waiting when you get home.

DON’T forget to drink enough water

Stay hydrated. You’ll feel better and will have more energy to explore if you’re drinking enough water. Depending on where you are in the world make sure you’re filling up from a trusted source of clean water.

DON’T forget frequent toilet breaks

And if you’re drinking enough water then don’t forget the need for restroom breaks whenever possible. Especially with young kids always insist they do a just-in-case pee before you head back out on the road, even if they went recently. Don’t trust that there’s a toilet at your next destination and get caught without one!