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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’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!
Want to bring a little classical music in your home? It’s a great way to introduce your kids to music and a long history of artistic excellence.
But first, I humbly suggest you rethink the terminology.
When you think of classical music, you’re really thinking of concert music. Many of the pieces in the standard repertoire was composed by European men between roughly 1650 and 1900. It’s also usually played in formal spaces like concert halls (hence the name).
While this music is often referred to as “classical music,” that phrase is about as helpful as “real imitation margarine.” Why?
When we name something a “classic,” we’re connecting it with the ideals and restraint of ancient Greek art, which immediately rules out the great bulk of concert music. A lot of concert music, often as not, is filled with sturm und drang or angst and exaltation. It’s not exactly restrained.
So, concert music it is.
Concert music constitutes some of the greatest music humans have ever cooked up. As a musical art form, concert music informs, edifies, educates, entertains, inspires, and packs a toy shop’s worth of joy. Introduced at the right time, it has the power to stay with children for the rest of their lives.
One of the great truisms of modern parenting is that children are more likely to read if they are read to and if they see their parents reading.
The same is true with music. It’s incumbent upon parents to set an example by listening to concert music at home and in the car (the latter might require some negotiation, but it is my experience that it CAN BE DONE). Don’t be afraid of playing the same piece over and over again; familiarity breeds affection.
(Having said all this, don’t play one type of music to the exclusion of all others. The distinctions we have created between “concert music” and “rock ‘n’ roll”, and “jazz” and so forth are meaningless to children. They tend to just like music – all music – which is how it should be.)
It’s a fact of existence that kids love noise and parents detest it. Yet, I recommend that you invest in some decent percussion toys and encourage your kids to “play along” with recordings and videos. Better still, do it with them.
Picking up a drumstick will make you an active, not passive, participant in the musical process. It’s also a lot more fun than you might think.
Worried about “insulting” Bach or Mozart or Beethoven with your talents? Friends, they’re long dead and beyond insult. Besides, is playing along with a recording any more insulting than the disco arrangement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony that was featured in Saturday Night Fever?
I rest my case.
There are dozens of kid-friendly story that model the role of concert music in modern life that are perfect for kids under six. My three-year-old son and five-year-old daughter love them.
Take your kids to experience music at local events. Many cities and towns hold children’s concerts or musical events geared for families.
Outdoor festival concerts are even better, since they allow kids to run around and move to the music. Try to listen to the pieces on the program beforehand. Music literacy is very similar to written literacy.
A little bit of preparation, even a tiny amount, can pay off big time in terms of intensifying the experience for your kids.
Bringing a piano into your home will increase
your children’s exposure to music.
Don’t assume your instrument has to be an 8’11¾” Steinway “D,” which has a list price of approximately $130,000. A little spinet will do.
Put the piano in a place where the kids can bang away without making the rest of the family crazy. When it’s time for lessons (I recommend you start at age 6 or 7), the piano will be an old friend and not a new torture device.
Speaking of lessons—you’re never too old to start. Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa or Whomever should think about taking lessons and practicing together with the kids for a bonding experience like no other.
Don’t know much about pianos? It’s an instrument made out of wood, medal, leather and felt.
It breathes. It is real. Its mechanism follows the will of the player’s body.
An electric keyboard is made out of plastic and circuitry. It is not real. It does not breathe. In my opinion, they have no place in your home.
Would you love to bring concert music into your home? Not sure where to start?
Here are some wonderful performances of great works to get you going:
In February 2016, Brooke Monks had the life she thought she wanted.
She was working full time as an elementary school teacher. At home, she balanced a busy home life with her husband, two children and a wide circle of family and friends.
Then, her grandfather died.
“Looking back, everything started to change with his passing,” Monks says. “My grandfather had several strokes before his death. It became serious very fast. And, my family is tight knit. His illness and then death hit us all hard. I was particularly concerned about my grandmother and my brother, who was very close to our grandfather. Knowing they needed me and being an hour away was incredibly hard.”
Monks had a tough time finding flexibility in her teaching role. “Teaching is a very structured job. It has to be for the students. But I was riddled with guilt that I wasn’t doing enough for everyone I loved. And I just couldn’t take time off.”
Her frustration was not a complete surprise. “I knew teaching a full class demanded too much from me. I’d switched from teaching Grade 4 to doing prep coverage, which is when you give other teachers time to do their classwork preparation. I taught their French classes. I thought it would give me less homework and grading to do, freeing up my evenings and weekends.” She laughs ruefully. “My plan completely backfired. I ended up with more to do.”
At home, Monks’ two-year old daughter had also developed a severe case of eczema, which caused her tremendous pain. “Dealing with my daughter’s illness, my family’s grief and my job was overwhelming. It got to the point where I couldn’t recall any French vocabulary. Stress was impairing my cognitive function. I went on medical leave.”
While the break was what she needed, leaving teaching was a challenge for Monks. “I’d been a teacher for 12 years. I was so invested. I pushed myself to go back. But I was seeing a psychologist who just kept telling me I wasn’t ready. Then a friend of mine introduced me to lifestyle coaching.”
Stylish and outrageously positive with a mega-watt smile, Monks is exactly the person you’d like to have as a coach. Instead of driving to school each morning, she now works from home which gives her the flexibility to honor family commitments.
“Leaping into entrepreneurship was the right decision for me,” says Monks. “I feel like 40 is the perfect time to make a life change. My kids are still relatively young and my parents are healthy. Having flexibility in my life means I can shift gears when they need me.”
And, LifeTales has also changed the way she’s experiencing her children’s lives. “I’m around when they need me,” she says. “That’s the biggest difference. I’ve started using the LifeTales app to make sure I’m capturing all the special, cool little things they do and say. My daughter calls it her mini Instagram. My son calls it his YouTube. I love that they’ve got a private place to express themselves without scrutiny.”
Monks credits LifeTales as part of her effort to be more mindful in everything she does. “I’ve got this great prompt to stop and capture the ordinary and the extraordinary moments. They’re safely stored in the cloud. Knowing I’ve got our family memories so nicely organized makes me super happy.”
Experiencing Toronto is a highlight for families, couples, and single travlers.
It’s a funny time of year in Toronto. Spring hasn’t fully arrived (oh hey, April snow, nice to see you again, please leave) and summer doesn’t yet feel like it’s around the corner.
Rest assured that it is coming. Your next block of vacation time will be here before you know it. So if you’re wondering where to take the kids for your next vacation or living here doing the staycation thing, LifeTales has you covered.
Vacations almost always feel too short, but the memories they create can last forever—provided you jot the details down while they’re fresh
LifeTales Collections are the perfect perfect way to:
Anyway, back to Toronto spots you won’t want to miss.
Okay, we admit it. We’re completely biased. Toronto’s undeniably one of the coolest cities in the world (even the New York Times says so). Whether you’re visiting in winter or summer, Toronto has a huge range of activities to offer to families with kids of all ages.
We asked our team to kick in ideas for some fantastic Toronto family destinations, some mainstream and some a little off kilter. Here’s what they said.
So let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way:
You can’t visit Toronto without experiencing a neighborhood.
In spite of its hectic car traffic, Toronto has an ardent and growing cycling community. If you’re coming in from out of town, there are many places to rent bikes and gear.
Areas we recommend include:
The skiing north of Toronto won’t impress visitors more accustomed to the Rocky Mountains or other notable mountain ranges. But, the hills in Barrie and Collingwood are as good as it gets for Southern Ontario. They’re perfect places to learn for kids and teens increasing their skills. Check out Blue Mountain, Mount St. Louis Moonstone and Horseshoe Valley. The resorts also offer warm-weather activities like hiking and golf.
Don’t enjoy hurtling down a steep pitch on two fibreglass planks? No problem. Ontario’s ski destinations also provide cold-weather alternatives. Snow Valley has a tubing course. Blue Mountain has a figure skating ring at the top of the mountain through a wooded trail. And, you can opt for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, weather permitting.
Albion Hills is also within day-trip distance of Toronto. The conversation area is known for its cross-country trails.
Season depending, you can also try the skating trail under the Gardiner Expressway, check out the holiday lights at Ontario Place or visit the Christmas Market in the Distillery District (December only).
More of an indoor person? We get it.
Visit Toronto in late January and early February during Winterlicious. You can eat your way through the best restaurants the city has to offer as part of this annual gastronomic celebration.
Missing summer days in the water? Try your Tarzan skills with the rope swing at the Pam McConnell Aquatic Centre (also known as the Regent Park pool).
Want more suggestions for experiencing Toronto? BlogTO has a great list to get you started.
Have more suggestions? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to feature your vacation destination or hear about other topics we should explore.