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Kids Playing Sports

How Much Is Too Much When It Comes To Kids Activities?

Dinner? Check! Water bottle? Check! Healthy snack? Check! Leotard? Check! Shorts that go over top of leotard or the whole outfit is ruined? Double Check! I quickly run over my list before picking up my daughter from school and rushing her to her 4:30 gymnastics class at Kanata Gymnosphere. We usually have about 20 minutes to eat dinner in the minivan, yes, I’m a proud minivan owner, and chat a little about our day before she has to get dressed for class.

This may sound chaotic to some parents, and admittedly it was at first, but it is normal routine for us now. To be perfectly honest I’ve grown to really enjoy that 20 minutes between school and gymnastics because we get a chance to talk, laugh and turn off life’s distractions for a little while. My daughter spends 16 hours a week at this gym so that one on one time before class starts is important for both of us.

I know what you’re probably thinking, “16 hours a week for a 6 year old?!? That’s crazy!!”, and I would have definitely agreed with you a year ago when we first walked into the gym. We started in a regular once a week class, which then jumped to 9 hours a week, then 12 and now 16. Every step of the way we hesitated, wondering if it was the right decision for our daughter. The thing is, she loves it, and she is really good at it. It also helps that the staff at Kanata Gymnosphere treat her like family from the minute she walks in until she leaves her session, and the focus, determination and discipline she has shown lets us know as parents that she is able to handle the workload.

All in all, between our daughter and son, we spend just over 20 hours a week at various organized activities and while the kids don’t ever complain about it, my wife and I definitely worry about the effects it could have on them, and ourselves. We keep a close eye on things such as the kids’ schoolwork, sleep patterns and general moods to make sure that the activities aren’t negatively affecting their day to day lives. It’s not just the kids we have to worry about either, as shuttling them all over the city and coordinating schedules for two working parents can be tricky and stressful as well, so we’ve had to be mindful of how this is affecting us as partners.

Kids Gymnastics Baseball

I’d love to sit here and act all-knowing but the truth is that I have no idea if we are doing the right thing for our kids by letting them spend so much time in extra-curricular activities. They don’t seem to be showing any signs of fatigue and their teachers have no complaints so we allow them to continue doing the things that bring them joy. We make sure to grab hold of any family/snuggle time we can get, eat dinners together when possible and talk to the kids a lot about how they are feeling. We’ve managed to strike a balance in there somewhere for the time being and hopefully we’ll fine tune it as time passes.

So, what’s the answer to the question of how much is too much when it comes to your child’s activities? I think the answer is that it depends on the child. Only you can know how your child reacts to different environments and workloads. What works for my kids may not necessarily work for yours, and that’s perfectly alright. As a former sports brat myself, my advice would be to let them experiment with new activities, gauge how they interact in them and talk to them about how they feel while doing it. Letting your children guide you as opposed to making the decisions for them is always a step in the right direction.

If you want to talk more about youth sports and activities, I’d love to hear from you in the comments or over on my Facebook page at facebook.com/canadiandad! Cheers!

Peekaboo Beans CTV

Add Some Style To Your Kids’ Lives With Peekaboo Beans

I’m not so old that I can’t remember a good chunk of my school days. When I look back at the pictures, however, there is one thing that is extremely clear. When it came to style, I was running a score in the negatives… It’d be easy for me to blame my parents for allowing me to leave the house in rags all the time but the truth is that my style didn’t get any better as I got older.

Now that our kids are both in school we have been trying to find clothes that not only match their personalities but that also are a little different than everything else out there. When Peekaboo Beans asked the kids if they wanted some new outfits to try out both of them gave a resounding yes and they were really excited when the package arrived. In true kids fashion, here is what happened when I asked them to sit still and pose nicely for a photo of their new outfits… If you look closely you can see his devilish smile through the blur.

Peekaboo Beans Blurry

We did eventually manage to calm down long enough for daddy to get a proper shot in front of the Christmas tree but, in the art of full disclosure, not without some bribery of milkshakes later in the afternoon… What? I never claimed to be perfect! Here’s the “real” photo, haha.

Peekaboo Beans Christmas

The kids loved the outfits, which can be found in the Peekaboo Beans Shop, and they arrived just in time for the kids to wear them in their 2nd ever TV appearance on CTV Morning Ottawa Live! It’s hard not to notice that they have been slowly stealing all my jobs from me and now they look better than I do too! Oh well, it’s tough to be mad at these cute, little faces. If you’re looking to add some style to your kids’ closets, you should definitely head over to the Peekaboo Beans website to see all the have to offer!

Peekaboo Beans CTV 2

OCR Academy

Why Do Kids Have To Climb Everything??

I’ve written previously about how I have to work extra hard to bury my inner helicopter parent and as my kids are getting older I am finding that fight gets harder every single day. One of my biggest triggers is with the kids’ constant need to climb everything they see, so in an effort to fight back against my brain I decided to take them to a controlled climbing environment by visiting the OCR Academy here in Ottawa.

I foolishly thought that by letting them climb things that were meant to be climbed, my mind would be at ease. I was wrong. I spent the first 20 minutes following closely behind the kids, not wanting them to do anything without me being right there as a safety blanket. As I watched them fly through the obstacles I started to realize that they could handle themselves just fine, and even the times they fell it wasn’t so bad. A funny thing happened when I started letting them do their own thing, I got to actually relax a little bit and really enjoyed watching them push their boundaries. Who knew? I even managed to get comfortable enough to shoot some video and have shared our experience below.

How about you? Do you still have helicopter blades hidden underneath your hat or are you perfectly okay letting your kids explore on their own? Let me know in the comments here or on our video!

Kids Spartan Race

With Kids, The Adventure Never Ends! #FeedYourAdventure

This post was sponsored by CLIF Bar & Company after they noticed how active our lives were and that our kids were big fans of their CLIF Kid ZBar.

It would be a grave understatement to say that we are a family on-the-go. There were many times this summer where I had no idea what day it was but knew that we had to get from activity A to activity B and on some occasions from there to activity C, and all this before lunch. Did we bring this on ourselves? Definitely, but we want to encourage our kids to be active and think it’s especially important to start doing so at a young age.

I’m going to assume that we aren’t the only busy parents out there who have trouble finding time for breakfast, lunch & dinner while shuttling their kids around from sport to sport. As I’ve written about a number of times on the blog, our kids have developed some pretty strong picky eating habits and we have struggled to find foods for them to eat on the go, often falling back on fast food, which I think we can all agree is not the best way to get the most out of your young athletes… As you can see from the picture below, our kids seem to have caught the athlete bug. Not picture here are ice hockey, ballet and karate.

clif bar canadian dad

One of the bright spots throughout all of this has been our discovery of the CLIF Kid Organic ZBar. I was already a big fan of CLIF bars (chocolate chip, if you wanted to get me some), but had no idea that they had a bar for busy kids. Luckily for us I am a stubborn dad and still force my kids to try new foods even though I assume they won’t enjoy them. Imagine my surprise when both my kids loved the CLIF Kid ZBar and begged me to buy more! The best part is that on top of the fact that they are made with organic oats from Canada, the ZBar also provides the following:

* Source of fibre
* 8-10 grams whole grains
* No trans-fat, partially-hydrogenated oils or synthetic preservatives
* No high fructose corn syrup
* No artificial flavours
* CLIF Kid offers lower levels of fat and sugar than many kids’ snacks available today

We certainly don’t use these bars as meal replacements but they are an excellent source of energy for between and before events. Plus, I feel better knowing that my kids are putting something good into their bodies instead of more junk or in a lot of previous cases, nothing at all. You can check out all the products that the CLIF Bar Company has available by visiting their website at ClifBar.ca.

CLIF Kid ZBar

Hellmann's Craft 1

Do Your Kids Know Where Their Food Comes From? Plus, A Fun Family Craft!

Disclosure: This blog post was created with Hellmann’s® and JONES Voice

We had the hardest time getting our kids to eat well when they were little. I’m not sure exactly where we went wrong but it seems unfair to put the blame on the kids since they were so little and impressionable. Even up until just recently it feels like all they would want to eat was pizza and cooked spaghetti with butter. Not ideal, to say the least.

A lot of the problem has stemmed from our fast paced lifestyle. With my work hours and the kids’ multiple weekly activities, there hasn’t been a ton of time for meal preparation and we’ve found ourselves eating out a lot more than we’d like. With that has also come a complacency when it comes to the food we buy. We sometimes make the assumption that the food we purchase contains ingredients that we feel good about feeding to our children, without actually checking the ingredients out for ourselves.

After finally swallowing our pride and admitting that we were not, in fact, perfect parents, my wife and I sat down and had a long discussion about ways we could turn our eating habits around. We decided to start by purchasing small vegetable plants that the kids would be responsible for. They have to water them each day and take care of them as they are their own. So far it has been going really well as the kids love being responsible for their own plants. The hope is that once the vegetables start to grow, the kids will eat them with the pride of knowing that they grew them themselves. Time will tell but we are hopeful!

The other great thing about the vegetable plants is that it is getting the kids outside to interact with nature instead of being locked onto a computer or staring at the TV all the time. It’s tough raising kids in the digital age because it’s all new to us and there always seems to be something distracting us from slowing down and enjoying nature, and each other.

After watching the Hellmann’s #RealFoodMovement Facebook live stream, I was happy to learn that I could at least rely on what goes into the mayonnaise we have been serving the kids. Check out this great video from the #RealFoodMovement campaign that features three families visiting a canola farm in Saskatchewan. They not only got to watch what goes into making a perfect jar of mayonnaise, but they also go to eat a super delicious meal.

As part of the program, Hellmann’s challenged me to try a simple craft with the kids. What I loved about the activity is that it taught them about patience and the joys of slowing down and enjoying family time. We created our very own microwavable heating pad out of material and rice. Not being a crafting wizard myself, I was happy that the whole family got involved and I think we did a pretty fantastic job! When I say we, I of course mean that my wife and children really knocked it out of the park with very little help from their butterfingered father…

Hellmann's Craft 3

The best part about our home made pad is that it can be used as a heating pad and also put in the freezer as an ice pack! Anyone who either has children or has aching bones knows how often the heating/freezing pads come in handy and now we don’t have to waste more money on the electric versions! It was easier than I expected it to be to create them and you can make your own microwavable bags in just 3 easy steps:

Step 1 – No pattern necessary, simply cut two pieces of fabric in a square/rectangle of your desired size.
Step 2 – Sew three of the 4 sides together to make a pouch.
Step 3 – Fill pouch with the seed/grain of your choice: canola seed, rice, wheat, barley, oatmeal, beans, flax.
Step 4 – Sew up the open side and enjoy!

Hellmann's Craft 4

Piece of cake!! Best of luck with your activity and don’t forget to check out Hellmann’s on Facebook and @HellmannsCanada on Twitter! You can also check out more about Hellmann’s and “Where does your food come from” by visiting Hellmann’s on Facebook.

Her Last Dance

The Last Dance

Emotions are a funny thing, aren’t they? I have always been pretty stone-faced when it comes to showing any sort of emotion, which has been to my detriment at times. Ever since having kids, however, I have been finding that my emotions are on a constant roller coaster that I have no way of stopping. To demonstrate this fact, I give you my 6 year old daughter’s recent dance recital.

Going into the recital we had already decided that this would be her last year of dance as other hobbies had become more important to our daughter and, of course, there’s the overwhelming cost of youth activities to consider. As strange as it sounds, at 6 years old, my daughter was one of the oldest and most experienced dancers in her class so we had a great opportunity to talk to her about leadership and making sure that she helped the younger girls along. I can still remember how nervous she was the first time she took to the big stage in front of a packed theatre and how great the older kids were with her.

Sitting in the crowd on the big day I felt completely fine. I was definitely excited and nervous for my daughter but otherwise my emotions were status quo. That lasted about as long as it took for my daughter to get in position for the start of her dance. The music began and I sat in stunned silence as I watched her glide across the stage with that focused look we’ve become accustomed to. My eyes twitched with the familiar sting of trying to hold back tears, as a slideshow of her short dance career flashed through my head. We made the right decision in cutting dance from her activities list but knowing that this could be her last big dance made it both more special and harder to watch.

If we’re being technical, the routine itself was a hilarious disaster, as can be expected from a group of 4-6 year olds. That said, I couldn’t have been more proud of my daughter as she led her young group onto the stage and gave it everything she had one last time. We underestimate the bravery it takes to get up there in front of a packed houseMaybe someday she will dance again but until that day comes I will always smile when I remember her last dance.

Tampa Bay Rays Kids

I Wonder If They Know

I see a lot of great clips in the media that show professional athletes or celebrities interacting with children and putting a huge smile on the children’s faces in the process. I often wonder if the athlete or celebrity truly understands the lasting effect it can have on a child when they take the time to make them feel good about themselves.

This past weekend while I was away at the Dad 2.0 Summit in Washington, DC, my family visited with my in-laws in Florida. While they were there my father-in-law took my son down to watch the Tampa Bay Rays pitchers and catchers as they took to the field for the first time this year. Any time you get to see professional athletes up close it is a treat but my son’s experience went beyond simply watching them from afar.

Before I get into the story, here’s a little background. I played pretty high level fastball growing up and loved everything about baseball. There was nothing I wanted more than for my son to love the sport I grew up with but I also wanted him to make his own decisions about what he liked and disliked, so I tried not to force baseball on him. Early on it seemed like he wouldn’t be interested and I had since made my peace with that. This year he asked to sign up for winter baseball skills lessons but after seven or eight classes still hadn’t decided if baseball was for him. Fast forward to this past weekend, however, and he came home from Florida begging for me to sign him up.

What changed, you ask?

As luck would have it, the Tampa Bay Rays are really good with their fans and especially the kids. They probably thought nothing of tossing a ball to a young fan but to my son it was one of the coolest things that has ever happened to him. For Chris Archer and Blake Snell to come and sign the ball and his newly purchased Rays hat made the experience even better for my future slugger. If this is all that had happened my son would have walked out of there an excited young baseball fan, but there was one more interaction that pushed him over the top and has since convinced him to want to be a baseball player.

One player took a little extra time chatting with my son and it was his excited recollection of the conversation that convinced me to write this story. So to pitcher Mark Sappington, thank you for making my son feel extra special. Thank you for signing his ball and thank you for not only asking him to show off his arm for you but also for praising him after his throw and telling him you think he has what it takes. What was most likely a common fan interaction for you meant the world to him and gave him more confidence than I could ever give him with the same compliment. He finalized his decision to play baseball this year because of you. How cool is it to have that kind of influence over a young person?

Thank you to the Tampa Bay Rays for treating my son so well and for giving him the confidence to believe in himself. I also promise not to steal the signed ball or hat that he has yet to leave out of his sight…!

Rays Baseball Gear

Outdoor Hockey Rink

Sticks In The Middle

Hockey players come in all shapes, sizes and skill levels. Some are naturally talented while others have to scratch and claw for every inch. We sort them by age and skill level, throw them on teams and shuttle them off to their 6am practices while we sip coffee or lace up with them and breathe the unmistakable arena air. In most cases, the children will stay in their comfort zones and play at the same skill level for the majority of their hockey lives and become friends with other similarly skilled players. While we may want to believe that there isn’t separation among friends based on your athletic abilities, for those of us who grew up in sports, we know that it definitely exists.

There exists, however, an alternate hockey universe; a glitch in the matrix, if you will, and it takes place in the dead of winter at the outdoor rink. As far back as I can remember the outdoor rink was a neutral playground for anyone who has ever laced up their skates and picked up a stick. As the outdoor rink there are no levels, no jersey numbers and definitely no egos. It’s always been a place where people from all walks of life meet up to simply have some fun.

Just the other day my 7 year old son, his friend and I went to the rink and within minutes of arriving had been thrust into an ongoing game. In that game there were two dads, three 7/8 year olds, a handful of teenage boys, two teenage girls and a couple guys who I’d guess we’re in their mid-20’s. Some of the players were obviously in competitive programs, others were less so and the young guys are still trying to find their place. None of us knew each other when we arrived at the rink but we threw our sticks in the middle, blindly selected teams and formed immediate bonds with the players in the game.

You’d think with all the different ages and skill levels that the game would be controlled by only a few skaters but something funny happens once you step onto the outdoor ice. Maybe it’s the lack of pressure to succeed or simply kindness taking over but a silent agreement is made between all players that everyone gets the chance to shine. This is my favourite part. There is a renewed faith in humanity in watching a 13 year old kid with all the talent in the world stop himself from scoring a goal in order to feed passes to a 6 year old kid who is still learning to shoot without falling down. Although the 13 year old isn’t my child I still feel a sense of pride as a parent, knowing how much awareness and maturity it took to share the glory with someone else.

Being involved in organized hockey can be tough, as a player and a parent, but the minute you step onto that outdoor ice you remember why you love this game so much. So don’t be afraid to jump into the game and throw your stick in the middle when asked. The game never really ends, it’s just waiting for the next player to get there.

#TreatsForToys Baseball

Rice Krispies #TreatsForToys Giveaway!

We all love Rice Krispies squares, right? That’s what I thought! I have been fortunate enough to work with Kellogg’s on their Rice Krispies #TreatsForToys initiative for a couple years now and have loved every minute of it. The concept is simple, you and your kids make a toy out of Rice Krispies treats, share it on the Treats For Toys website or on social media with the #TreatsForToys hashtag and Kellogg’s will give $20 to the Salvation Army so they can buy a real toy for a child in need.

My favourite part of the campaign so far has been the ability to involve my kids in every aspect of it. Making Rice Krispies treats doesn’t require any baking so the kids have been in the kitchen with me every step of the way and my son even helped choose and design our latest creation of the baseball and bat shown above. Once I explained to the kids that each one of our creations were going to help buy toys for less fortunate children, my kids didn’t want to stop making them. As my daughter so eloquently put it, “Let’s make one million toys!”. These are important lessons that the kids will carry with them as they grow and I love that we are having fun as a family while learning them.

If you’re looking for a fun way to give back this holiday season, I highly recommend involving your kids and sharing your own Rice Krispies creations with the world. If you need a little inspiration for your creations, you can always visit the Rice Krispies website and head to the Treats For Toys tab for some examples. It’s as easy as Make, Share, Give and you even get some sweet treats out of the deal!

Giveaway

To get you started with your creations, I am giving away a Treats For Toys Prize Pack which includes everything you’ll need to get going. This giveaway is open to residents of Canada, excluding Quebec.

Rice Krispies Prize Pack

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I was compensated for my participation in this program.

2015 Canadian Dad Holiday Gift Guide

Canadian Dad’s 2015 Holiday Gift Guide ~ Kids Edition!

Welcome to the 2015 edition of the Canadian Dad Holiday Gift Guide! This guide is all things that my kids have put on their Christmas lists and I’m excited to share them with you! Please take a look at what’s hot in their eyes this year and feel free to leave your child’s wish list in the comments section. Happy Holidays!!

Furreal Friends Daisy Plays With Me Kitty Hasbro

 

 

Furreal Friends Daisy Plays-With-Me Kitty

My daughter is obsessed with Hasbro’s Furreal Friends at the moment. She walks her Furreal dog more than most people walk real dogs and I’m guessing the Daisy Plays With Me Kitty will be no different.

You can grab your very own Furreal Friend by visiting Toys R Us!

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Hasbro Playmation Marvel Avengers Starter Pack Gamma Gear

Playmation Marvel Avengers Starter Pack

It would be a lie to say that I am not as excited as my son is about Disney’s Playmation. This is the closest we will ever get to becoming actual superheroes and that’s more than good for us! Power Activators bring missions to life with over 20 different enemies so you can fight along side your favourite Avengers!

For more information on the Playmation Marvel Avengers Starter Pack, visit Hasbro’s Website!
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LEGO Creator Toy & Grocery Shop LEGO Creator Toy & Grocery Shop

LEGO just feels like a childhood rite of passage, doesn’t it? Both of my kids spend hours creating the most amazing things and take special pride in the creations they come up with in their own heads. That said, it’s always nice to start with a fresh set and my daughter has asked us for this LEGO Creator Toy & Grocery Shop so her LEGO Friends have somewhere to buy food…
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LEGO Ninjago Ronin R.E.X.

LEGO Ninjago Ronin R.E.X.

Back to LEGO for a minute, my son and his friends love LEGO Ninjago so much that they’ve even started to play it outside with the actual LEGO. They each pretend to be a character and run around the yard completing missions. My son’s favourite character, Kai, is a part of this very cool LEGO Ninjago Ronin R.E.X. set he has asked for this Christmas.
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Maplelea Sparkling Ice Taryn

Maplelea Sparkling Ice Taryn

My daughter’s Maplelea doll, Taryn, may just be her favourite thing on the planet right now. She brings it everywhere she goes and treats it as if it is her own child, which is really fun to watch. This year she has asked us for some new outfits and seeing as how she is just learning to skate, we got her the Sparkling Ice outfit, which comes with the dress, tights, scrunchie, skates, skating bag and more. She is seriously going to flip out when she opens it!

Visit Maplelea’s Website for more information
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My Amazing Penpal

My Amazing Penpal

This one is one of the more unique things you will find this year and my kids have loved it so far! Your kids get a new package every month and it leads them on adventures through various countries where they’ll learn about its traditions, foods, animals and much more! My kids also love the online games available with their memberships. 

Visit the My Amazing Penpal Website for details!
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Mattel Monster High 17 Inch Tall Freak Du Chic Gooliope Jellington Doll

Monster High 17 Inch Tall Freak Du Chic Gooliope Jellington

Where was Monster High when I was a kid? This is my daughter’s newest love and I can’t say I’m upset about it. Just look at Goolliope Jellington for instance. She is a circus orphan that oozes, literally, chic! The best part is that my daughter lets me be more creative with Monster High than she does with her less undead doll collections…

Check out the entire collection over on Mattel’s Website!
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Kidizoom Action Cam

Kidizoom Action Cam

Probably the gift I am most excited to give my kids this year is the Kidizoom Action Cam from Vtech. My kids love making videos and while my old digital camera has been great for them, this action cam is going to open so many possibilities for them and I can’t wait to see what they come up with. Just picture seeing what your kid sees while playing hockey or even just playing outside with their friends. It’s going to be a blast!

For more info on the Kidizoom Action Cam visit the Vtech Canada Website
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New PLAYMOBIL NHL Hockey Theme

New PLAYMOBIL NHL Hockey Theme

We are officially a hockey crazy house so anytime I can get my hands on NHL licensed toys that will actually get played with, I jump at the chance. Playmobil’s new hockey themed arena lets my son imagine that he is in the NHL and winning the Stanley Cup as the Montreal Canadiens! What? It’s going to happen eventually! Anyway, this promises to provide hours and hours of hockey fun!

Check out the Playmobil Website for products, colouring sheets and online games!
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Sphero Darkside Ollie

Sphero Darkside Ollie

If you haven’t seen a Sphero toy in action yet you should go check it out right now. These tiny machines are controlled by you on your smartphone or tablet and have a ton of tricks that you can make them do. I like to call toys like these “friend-makers” because all the kids will gather around when your child plays with Ollie. 

For more info and demo videos, check out the Sphero Website
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Skylanders SuperChargers Starter Pack

Skylanders SuperChargers Starter Pack

We’ve been huge Skylanders fans in this house since before Skylanders was cool! Adding vehicles into the mix has brought the game to a new level for my son and he hasn’t stopped playing it since getting it for his birthday. Now if only someone could explain to me how Kaos keeps getting away…

Check out the Skylanders SuperChargers Website for more info!

That’s it for this year’s edition of the holiday gift guide! Please feel free to share in the comments what your kids are asking for this year. It never hurts to have a few more ideas under your cap!

Disclosure: I received a few of the items in this gift guide but all items included are things my children have actually asked for this year.