Tag Archives: family time

Winter fun, but come on spring!

With Family Day coming up in Ontario, there are lots of things to do. Usually, we just hang out, play outside (weather permitting). This year, we might take in one of Toronto’s many attractions.

There’s the new Ripley’s Aquarium or we could go to the Zoo, or even to a our local zoo at High Park.

And now that the kids have skates, we’ll probably do some skating, too, if the weather’s nice.

We’ll likely go out for dinner and take advantage of a local, family-friendly eatery. Got any suggestions?

February’s a short month, and with three big events for us, it’s a busy month. It should fly by fast.

And then onto warmer weather! Come on Spring!

But wait, there are birthdays and St. Paddy’s Day to celebrate first!

We can’t forget the Toronto St. Patrick’s Day Parade! We love parades! And maybe, just maybe, the temperature will go up enough to really enjoy the St. Paddy’s Day parade in beautiful sunshine and crisp soon-to-be-spring air! Maybe we’ll see ya there!

St. Patrick's Day Parade Route 2014


Be a part of the history! Name Hornblower Niagara Cruises new Catamarans!

My family and I love Niagara Falls. We have, in recent years, made Niagara Falls our annual spring family trip destination. We like it so much, we then arrange for a weekend of babysitting courtesy of the grandparents and my husband and I go back without the kids. One thing we had hoped to do as the kids got older was take a ride on the Maid of Mist. Now that it has ceased to operate from the Canadian side, we have two choices: 1. Cross the border (not my preference) or 2. Check out the new service provider, Hornblower Niagara Cruises. When next we visit Niagara, I suspect we’ll go with the latter. It would be neat to also have a hand in the cruise company’s history as it starts up on the Niagara River this spring. Right now, they are inviting everyone to help them name the two newly built boats. Read on for how you can participate:

Hornblower invites participants to be a part of history.

 NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. – Hornblower Niagara Cruises is about to make history – and they want the world to be a part of it.

To kick off the arrival of Hornblower’s Catamarans, the company is now holding a contest to name the two newly built boats for operation in Niagara Falls, Ontario this coming spring. The catamarans will go on to provide Canada’s legendary boat tour to millions of visitors from around the world for the next 30 years.


“We are inviting anyone with a winning idea to be a part of history by naming our boats,” said Lee Carr of Hornblower Niagara Cruises. “We are looking for the two perfect names that best reflect Niagara Falls and Canada and inviting people from around the world to submit a name”. The winning names will receive a 5-day VIP trip to Niagara Falls with a luxury hotel stay, meals and entertainment in one of Canada’s most popular destinations.

The contest, which is currently open for entry on the company’s Facebook page — www.facebook.com/Niagaracruises, is open until December 15th. The winning names will be announced on January 1st, 2014.

The contest has already gained international attention and is being supported by the Canadian Tourism Commission and the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation. Hornblower has received name submissions from countries around the world including India, France, Japan and others.

Hornblower Niagara Cruises was recently awarded the concession to operate boat tours to Niagara Falls by the Niagara Parks Commission, an agency of the Provincial Government of Ontario. Hornblower will assume operations from the Maid of the Mist in April 2014. The Niagara boat tour is a world-famous iconic Canadian experience that has been thrilling millions of visitors from around the world for more than 150 years.

About Hornblower Niagara Cruises

Hornblower Canada Co., operating as Hornblower Niagara Cruises, will be the official boat tour operator of boat tours to the waterfalls of Niagara Falls beginning in 2014 in partnership with The Niagara Parks Commission, an Operational Enterprise Agency of the Canadian Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Providing early morning, afternoon, evening, falls illumination and fireworks boat tours to one of the world’s natural wonders, Hornblower Niagara Cruises will deliver an unforgettable experience to its guests in Niagara Falls, Canada. Hornblower Niagara Cruises is part of the Hornblower Family of Companies – a leader in marine hospitality with locations throughout North America.

Giving presence instead of presents

For my daughter’s sixth birthday, I asked family to give her a gift of their time. Most people weren’t sure what to do with this information. But my daughter’s grandparents stepped up to the plate. They provided a beautiful, personally decorated shadow box that contained an invitation to my daughter for a movie and dinner date with her grandparents. She received many other wonderful gifts that day, but this is the gift she is still talking about.


The movie and dinner date hasn’t happened yet. A date was set for a PD day in January, but my daughter talks about it all the time and can’t wait to go to the movies and to dinner with her grandparents. And after they have done that, she will still be talking about it I’m sure. And this will stay with her way more than any toy or article of clothing she has received from her grandparents.

Apparently, I had the right idea. Ever since I’ve had kids, I have asked family and friends to consider providing experiences and some of their time rather than toys, toys and more toys to my children. Kids do so much better when they have to use their imaginations rather than having everything provided for them. And here’s more on why that is…

Shiny toys, the latest gadgets and an abundance of “stuff” will make up children’s wish lists this holiday season. It is no wonder that the billion-dollar toy industry is thriving. However, studies have shown that having too many toys can have a negative effect on children.

Without as many material items, children are forced to interact with others and use their imagination to invent games. A study in Germany found that social interaction in childhood leads to a range of skills including problem solving. Childhood experts agree that academic success and positive social interactions in adulthood are attributed to childhood friendships.

“Giving children too many toys can hinder their ability to develop social skills and understanding,” said Dr. Walter Heidary, founder of Childventures Early Learning Academy. “Lessons learned from social interactions are essential for childhood development.”

Studies have shown that children, who spend quality family time before the age of 12, are greater achievers later in life and develop fewer behavioural problems. Family time has proven to be more effective in the development of a child’s performance and social abilities than school time and studying.

“Spending time with children helps develop your relationship with them,” said Heidary. “The time you spend together will resonate much stronger in the child’s mind than a toy that he or she will eventually outgrow. Not only do experiential gifts help develop stronger bonds between adults and children but they also create memories that last forever.”

Experiential gifts that don’t involve “stuff”

Experiential gifts do not need to be costly. The most important aspect is giving your time. Childventures recommends these experiential gifts this holiday season:
• Tickets to a movie, play or musical
• A trip to local attractions like the zoo, aquarium, museum or science centre.
• An edible creation or art project you can make with the child
• A gift certificate or contribution to music lessons or a class like cooking, pottery or acting.


About Dr. Walter Heidary
Dr. Walter Heidary, dentist by practice and father of three, founded Childventures Early Learning Centre in 2002, which offers the best of Montessori, High Scope and Core Knowledge. Dr. Heidary and his wife sought out a daycare centre that would provide the best early learning education for their first-born. After visiting several daycare centres, Dr. Heidary realized there was not a centre that offered qualified educators, quality programs, and a curriculum designed to influence neurological development. Aware of the positive influence early childhood education has on a child’s development and the impressive long term returns resulting from the short-term investment, Dr. Heidary decided to build his own daycare centre which comprised of his list of requirements. Childventures’ highly trained staff of professionals partner with families to develop children to their fullest potential by encouraging the importance of moral values, promoting humanity and overall interest in the world. Creating a solid foundation for future learning, Childventures provides children with a stimulating environment that meets their emotional, social, intellectual and physical needs, overall, progressing development for lifetime.

Apple TV: bringing families together

So you might know that I’m not a big TV watcher. You might also know that I’m not keen on my kids spending too much time in front of the TV. You’ve probably read somewhere on this blog that I canceled my family’s cable last May and signed up for Netflix as a compromise. You’re probably then also aware that we canceled Netflix before the trial period was over because we never used it.

You may then be wondering why I’m now writing about how TV can bring families together.

Here’s something you won’t hear me admit very often: I like watching TV. (I really do.)

(I try hard to make this not true, but the reality of a busy life sometimes demands mental downtime. And watching a good sitcom is like medicine for my brain.)

I also feel that, now that smartphones and tablets and computers are the new digital bad guys, liking TV is no longer such a terrible thing. There’s something worse out there.

Despite cancelling Netflix, we did not reactivate our cable. We were doing fine without it. Then we got an Apple TV from Staples.

Apple TV

We signed up for Netflix again to get a more complete experience from our Apple TV since we don’t have iPhones or an iPad and can’t do all the fancy syncing with those devices.

But there are plenty of other things to do on Apple TV, like:

  • Rent from the largest selection of HD movies, buy commercial-free HD TV shows, browse and play YouTube and Vimeo videos, access online Flickr photos, watch HD podcasts, and listen to Internet radio
  • Watch live and archived MLB and NHL games in HD ← Hubby’s pastime
  • iTunes Match subscription allows you to listen to all your favourite songs in your iCloud library from your HDTV
  • Enjoy all the photos, music and videos on your computer on the best TV and speakers in the house ← Agreed!
  • Stream everything you watch over 802.11n Wi-Fi
  • Simple setup with a single HDMI cable for both audio and video
  • Sleek design that’s small, quiet and energy efficient ← Apple can’t be beat in my opinion for design. This is one nifty little device.

We are now regular subscribers to Netflix because Apple TV makes it work so nicely. Our previous streaming device was clunky (if one can describe it that way) compared to the Apple device. Apples makes Netflix loads faster, runs smoothly and doesn’t freeze anymore.

So, now, as the holidays get closer and the rush of holiday preparation dies down and turns into family time, we can make hot cocoa, pop some popcorn, switch on Apple TV and snuggle up under a blanket together to watch family movies at the end of a long, busy day. And this is what I love about TV (and particularly Apple TV). It gives us that opportunity to sit down and be close. No one argues over whose turn it is to roll the dice. No one gets mad because they lost the game again. We all agree on which movies to watch. We all love the time to just sit together and flake out. And my husband and I enjoy the time we get, snuggled up together as we watch our shows after the kids go to bed (without commercials thanks to Apple TV!). It’s fantastic! Apple TV has given us that time together this holiday season.

Would you like some of that together-time this holiday season?

Thanks to Staples Canada you have a chance at it. The fantastic people at Staples have kindly offered an Apple TV to one of my readers.

All you have to do to enter to win is leave a comment telling me what your favourite family movie is around the holidays.

And tweet this to receive an additional ballot.

A winner will be drawn on Monday, December 16, 2013.


Disclaimer: I received an Apple TV on review from Staples. The opinions stated above are entirely my own. I was not compensated in any other way.

The contest is open to Canadian readers only. Good luck!

‘Tis the season for family learning!

I’m a book worm. I have always loved reading. I wish I had more time for reading in my life. But I have two young kids, so the reading I do involves them. I would read all the time if I could. I’m terrible at getting my kids to put their books away at the dinner table because I’d be just as happy to sit there and eat and read along with them. But someone has to teach them that it’s rude to read at the table. So I sacrifice.

With the Christmas holidays upon us, we’ll have more time to snuggle up and read. I can’t wait!

This article from ABC Life Literacy Canada pretty much outlines how I’d like to spend our holidays:

The winter holidays are here—kids off school plus adults off work adds up to family time for learning new things and practicing literacy skills together. ABC Life Literacy Canada offers these holly jolly holiday family literacy tips to make your season “bright!”

  • Family book snuggle: Gather the family together with a favourite holiday book. Get the fire going if you’ve got a fireplace. Then snuggle in and take turns reading aloud to one another. A little hot chocolate is always welcome!
  • Come a-carolling! Invite family and friends for an evening of singing carols—or singing other songs. Singing encourages learning patterns of words, rhymes and rhythms.
  • Bake-off: Get the whole family involved in baking—cookies are a perfect choice because everyone can participate. Following a recipe is a great way to practice reading and comprehension skills. Measuring ingredients and following baking times are practical (and delicious!) applications of math skills.
  • Out on the town: Take in a holiday musical or visit a museum. Family outings offer fun learning opportunities—and make sure to read the theatre program and the exhibit descriptions.
  • Make a list and check it twice: Grocery shopping is easily adaptable for family literacy activities. Your child can write the holiday food shopping list, read signs and labels as you make your way through the aisles, and count items as they go into the shopping cart.
  • Choose your own ABC: For each letter of the alphabet, take turns thinking of holiday things that begin with that letter. Things beginning with C could include candles, cookies and cousins. No need to keep score – just move on to the next letter when no one can think of anything else.
  • Looking for a gift idea? Encourage reading by giving books, magazine subscriptions and bookstore gift cards—gifts they’ll keep opening throughout the year!

When you include fun learning activities in your family’s holiday time, everyone stays sharp and ready for the New Year. For more family literacy tips and activities, visit www.FamilyLiteracyDay.ca.

Fun at LEGOLAND Discovery Centre

Fun, fun and more fun. That about sums up our day spent at LEGOLAND Discovery Centre just north of Toronto.

I wasn’t sure my daughter would be impressed because she hasn’t been exposed to much in the way of LEGO in her life. But I had forgotten her penchant for building (she has a wooden block set handed down to her from a cousin that she drags out regularly, even if I put it away where she can’t find it).

So she was indeed impressed!

Girl at Legoland, Toronto

She spent so much time at this ramp, running LEGO wheels and LEGO cars down it for me to catch or to see if the cars she built would crash and fall apart or if they would stay together. After what seemed like hours, she ran down the steps and exclaimed, “Mommy, Mommy! Can you buy me boy LEGO? It’s so cool! It has wheels!” So now we are putting “boy” LEGO on her wish list for birthdays and Christmas. Continue reading

Nurturing the Soul of Your Family

Not very long ago, I was feeling frazzled with what had become my family’s daily routine.

Mornings went something like this: Get up, watch TV, eat breakfast, get dressed, get out the door. There was a fair bit of yelling (mostly me), some whining (mostly the kids), a whole lot of chaos and then, somehow, we’d all end up dropped off at the right spot. No one was particularly happy about the routine. I felt bad every day when I dropped my kids off, and that set the tone for the rest of my day at the office. It often carried over to pick-up and dinner time (and usually bedtime, too).

I was exhausted. My kids were exhausted. My husband was exhausted. But we couldn’t get off this hamster wheel. So when I was Cover of Nurturing the Soul of Your Familycontacted to do a review of the book Nurturing the Soul of Your Family by Renée Peterson Trudeau, I desperately grasped at the rope that was being extended to save my drowning family. Continue reading