Thursday, December 16, 2010

Snow Day!

So, it's snowing outside and you don't really feel like taking your toddlers out - what will you do with them for an entire day at home?!?!

Here's a list of a few things I do with the kids, mine are aged 2-4 so all activities are based on those age groups:

1. Sticker Pictures! I always keep a huge bag of stickers around for moments when I need to get something done (like make lunch or dinner). This is something that is quick to set up (20 seconds) and even a 2 year old can do on their own. It doesn't make a mess either so no real clean up - bonus!  Just give each kid a stack of stickers, some crayons or makers and some paper and see what they come up with.

2.  Crafts, crafts and more crafts. Really, they'll do anything so what I usually do is go to this site: pick out a craft that is season or holiday related, and then get them started on it. There's a ton of selections on crafts to make and you can pick the ones that are age appropriate for your kids.

3.  Get them to help out around the house. If I feel like we're getting stuck for something to do I pull open a cupboard that needs to be cleaned out and get the kids to help me. I give them small tasks like tell them which pile to put each item on but place the piles a little ways away so they have to get up and run to the pile. I get organized and they get a bit of fun out of it. Truthfully they usually get bored after about 7-8 minutes but by that time I have my piles sorted and just need to put them back in order.

4. Make a fort. Seriously, it will take you 1 minute to get a blanket and strategically place it between couches or chairs and they will play in that thing forever.

5. Shaw on Demand. Yep, once again if there's something I need to get done and they're getting bored for having been inside all day I start up Shaw on Demand and put on one of their favourite shows. I sometimes tape a show and then reserve it for days like this so that it's new and exciting for them and allows me 25 minutes to get something done!

6. Get them to help you shovel! We bought 2 little shovels and we take them outside and get them to 'help' us. Though really somethings they cause a little more work for us they love the feeling that they're helping out with an adult chore and it gets them outside for a bit.

What are some things you do with your kids on snow days?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Traveling with Toddlers

So, we survived our trip to the Dominican with two toddlers. I can't really say that we're in any way rested but the kids had a good time so in a family trip I guess that's what it's really about.

Before we left I asked many people for advice on traveling with toddlers and got all sorts of responses. I thought I'd compile a list of things that worked for us, and maybe a few things that didn't!

1. Talk about the trip with your little ones a head of time. I talked to them about how we were going on an adventure on a plane and we were going to the beach. I just happened to tape an episode of Caillou where he goes on a plane so that helped for them to watch it a few times before we left.

2. Packing luggage- because we were going somewhere where diapers weren't readily available I packed diapers in DS's carry-on, and enough in his luggage to survive 2 extra days. It took up a lot of space but the good news was the space was used up on the way back with souvenirs! 
   - Packing carry-on, we went to a cheap store and bought each kid their own carry-on luggage with themes they would like (DS got Thomas the Train and DD got Tinkerbell). Inside the carry-on I put the things I knew they would want most such as their favourite blankies, a few stuffed animals, a pillow (small travel sized ones they had been using prior to the trip), and then an extra set of clothes each.
   - Toys/Entertainment - There were all sorts of suggestions I got but the one that was the most valuable was to take a portable DVD players. We didn't own one so bought one and it was a LIFESAVER. We had 4 flights and there were times we were in the airport for hours. It was easy to pull it out and let the kids watch a favourite show or movie if they were getting restless. Even on the plane where there's tv, the tv didn't work for almost an entire flight so we were thankful to have the DVD player to entertain them for a while.  We also bought them each a Nintendo DS. We called them early Christmas presents and again, they were lifesavers. The kids loved playing with them so we would take them to the restaurant with us at night. The kid's meals always came right away where we had to wait for ours, so the kids would be done eating and would play with their games while we were able to eat our meals in relative peace ;)
  I also packed several sets of stickers, for each new flight I would pull out new stickers so they had something new. I also did this with a few cheap books and it worked well. Some other things that worked well were crayons/colouring books, and those magic pen games you can buy as they're not messy and kids seem to be fascinated with them.

3.  Try to keep them on their old schedule - loosely.  We recognized that with the time change and all the excitement it was going to be difficult to keep them on schedule but we found that as long as we loosely tried to keep their normal schedule of when they slept and ate they were able to adapt to the new beds and situation fairly easily.  We did try to avoid our son's nap time but after a few days realized he still needed it and on the days he got it he was much happier in the afternoons.

Some things that didn't work:

1. Having any expectation that it would be relaxing for me! For hubby it was something completely outside his normal day so he found it to be relaxing at times. But for me it was doing exactly what I do at home but just relocated to somewhere warmer with a beach! I got 1 afternoon to hit the spa for a massage and pedicure and that was it. The rest of the trip was doing what I do at home but with less structure so next time I know that unless I actually book time away from the kids it won't be a very relaxing trip.

2. Three course meals. We tried this a few nights but the kids always got their meal on the 1st course so would be done while we were eating appetizers. The DS Nintendo games would keep them busy until about 1/2 way through our meals but would never last until dessert. I learned that you need to keep it to two courses or if you're desperate for dessert - get it to go!

3. No matter how many times I tried to explain to DH about the dangers of little kids and water I just don't think he got it. He would put them in the kiddy pool and sit on a lounge chair and do a crossword puzzle; , on the other hand, would sit in the pool with them. The water only came up to DS's waist but even then there was 2 times he lost his footing and fell backwards. Both times I noticed it instantly because I was watching him diligently. I was able to reach him within seconds, even so his head went under water for a second and he got scared - understandable for a 2 year old.  My point being that when it comes to toddlers and water you can't take your eyes off them for a second, and you can't be lounging on a pool chair while the kids are in the pool. So, talk to your significant other and make sure you both have the same understanding about what 'watching the kids' means.

All in all I'm hoping that next time we go the kids will be that much older that it will make things a little easier. Or maybe we can just convince the grandparents to come along to help share the load ;)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Want to Help and Don't Know How?

Have you ever wished you were more involved in your community and doing something to make a difference? But then you sit back and think you're not sure where to start, where to find opportunities, or you just don't have the time to search for what you're looking for. If so then  I hope I can help :)

When living in Calgary I started up a volunteer group. Once a month I would research and arrange a volunteer outing and anyone that could attend would do so. Generally I tried to find opportunities that fell on a weeknight or weekend as that's when most people could attend, but occasionally I'd find something on a weekday for the people that found that to be better for their schedule.

The outings we did were things like the following: packed goodfood boxes for the United Way (a program that allows lower-income people to purchase produce at a reduced cost), we hosted a birthday party night for seniors in a seniors residence complex, we wrapped Christmas presents at the Mustard Seed, served meals in school to children from lower-income families, and we put together information kits for the Canadian Cancer Society and the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

As of January I'm hoping to put together a group like this in Edmonton and wanted to know if anyone is interested in joining. Nothing much is required of you to join, I just need your e-mail address if you're interested. Each month I'll simply e-mail you the volunteer opportunity I've arranged and you let me know if you can make it. Volunteer outings will vary but feel free to put forth any suggestions or ideas on where you would like to volunteer and I'd do my best to accommodate it.

Please let me know if you are interested, either leave a comment on here or DM me on twitter (my handle is joeyjojrshabado) and I'll add you to the list for when I have our first opportunity set up.