What to do when your kids love screens

My kids love screens. Like, REALLY love screens.

Sound familiar? I know many of you can relate to the struggle of getting your kids OFF screens – and into doing things that you feel are more productive and more creative. I hear you - me too!

If I have to listen (or overhear) one more British Youtuber describing a game he’s playing while my kids watch him, I’ll scream. How is it a "thing" that kids today love watching other people do stuff by video more than doing it themselves!?

Despite the useless Youtube videos, I still don't believe screens are inherently evil. I've learned to integrate screens into my children's everyday lives by following some simple rules:

1)     Embrace it!

Remember the saying: if you can't beat 'em, join 'em! It's time to embrace the screens. It's even time for you to play on the screens with the kids.

If you aren’t willing to see what your kids love about the time they spend on screens, you’re not going to understand what it is they’re enjoying so much - and you’re not going to be able to find alternatives. Spend some time with your kids getting a sense for what they really like to do on screens – are they JUST watching youtube videos? What games do they like to play? What kinds of content are they drawn to? The more you learn, the more you'll get ideas on how to take what they love doing on screens, off screens.

If nothing else, spending time with them doing something your kids really love doing is going to be good quality time together - the extra info you gather is just a bonus. 

2)     Gamefy life

Kids love screens (who’s kidding who, a lot of adults love their screens too!) because of the immediate feedback they get. It’s fun, it feels rewarding, and they/we want more!

Use that to your benefit - find ways to get the immediate feedback loop started for other activities.

There are so many great apps and products that help you blend gaming and life – stories that have you running outside to find goals or unlock achievements. This is why apps like Pokemon Go and Zombie Running are so popular. You can get out, walk, exercise and do things, and still have the positive feedback of a game accompanying you. 

3)     Make creativity a requirement

When my kids are begging for screens and they’ve had enough mindless playing or watching, I often will say yes as long as it’s something they are doing that is creative.

You want to write a story in Word? Go for it.
You want to create and edit a video? Sure thing!

You want to take an online course to learn to draw? Here are some art supplies set up next to the computer.

You want to create your own game by programming it in Scratch? Sounds like a good use of time to me!

Turn some bananas into a piano and play me some tunes? Strange, but OK!

Distinguishing between “you’re rotting your brain” and “you’re growing your brain” is key. There are a lot of ways that kids can be doing some incredible things on screens and I want to encourage them to figure those out and get really creative.  (Not to mention, two of my kids have difficulty writing by hand for long periods of time, so while I tried to get them to write stories in journals and got nowhere, I discovered that if I took away the handwriting barrier, they were willing to do a lot more writing. Sometimes it can seem like kids don’t like something for different reasons than we think!)

There are opportunities with technology to learn hard skills (like a programming language) and softer skills, like reasoning, analyzing, and problem solving.

4)     Have them learn while playing

My kids are bookish – and by bookish I mean screens and not sports. They love to read and play games and they have a strong family history in engineering and the sciences. They love to build things and figure things out.

There are so many ways to encourage their love of learning and problem solving with tech.

My kids have been attending workshops for years that taught them about snap circuits and Minecraft and other techy things. I’m always on the look out for more; these are kids who love to spend their weekend visits with their grandfather building and programming robots.

Level Up Kids is the latest activity I’ve found that works well for my kids, and they can't wait to spend a week at summer camp with them this summer.  At Level Up kids are learning to code and even getting to bring home their own mini pocket computer. There's both an academic and a social aspect - finding friends who enjoy the same kinds of things.

At Level Up the kids are learning to problem-solve, reason abstractly and quantitatively, model with mathematics and so much more. Plus, the camp makes sure they still get outside and play throughout the day as well.

There are a TON of summer camps scheduled here in Ottawa (both centretown and Kanata,) including Minecraft Hacking, Web Development, Robotics and Intro to Programming. There's something for every techy child!

(I did hope my older son might like to learn to program web sites so I could get him helping me with mine, but apparently Minecraft mods are a bit more appealing)
 

5)     Set limitations


Regardless of the learning value, kids still need to get outside and off screens. We have limits on screen times and the kids need to do chores or outdoor activities in order to earn more time on their screens.

Clear expectations on what those limits are has helped us. The expectation in our family is not that you automatically have access to screens, you need to earn them- so really, we’re gamifying getting games, and that’s why it often works for us!

So the next time your kids are stuck in front of a screen watching a couple of siblings challenging each other to do strange things or a British guy talking about his pugs, think about some of the ways you can use their love of screens in a way that makes them feeling like they're winning. You know they're learning all kinds of skills that are going to help them be truly successful in life - working in a tech field, or just having learned to problem solve, find patterns and improve their math skills. I figure those are all really handy skills for the kids of someone who builds online businesses to have - WIN. WIN. WIN!

How do you use your kids love of screens to your advantage? Leave a comment and let us know!
 

Win a week at camp!

Want to win a week at a Level Up Kids Ottawa camp for your child? We're giving one away! Enter below using Rafflecopter. Please note - to be entered, a blog post comment is mandatory. Liking us on Facebook and Twitter gives you bonus points!

Contest closes May 31st at 12pm EST. Winners must be able to attend the camp in the Ottawa region.

 

This post is part of the YummyMummyClub.ca and #LevelUpKids sponsored program. I received compensation as a thank you for my participation. This post reflects my personal opinion about the information provided by the sponsors.

 

 

Kids are going N.U.T.S for Ottawa's newest activity

I don't know how many times I've sat down with my kid to read her a book, or work on homework together, only to become frustrated by her constant fidgeting. To me, her movements (I call her "wiggly jiggly") always meant that she wasn't paying attention. It was over time that I came to realize that moving was helping my daughter to learn more effectively.

And it works for adults too! Do you get stuck on a problem at work, go for a nice walk, and then solve the issue by the time you're back at your desk? Clearly exercise and learning go together.

I've learned to deal with my daughter's upside down poses while I read Harry Potter, and our school has several exercise ball chairs for the bouncy kids to use during class. But a new facility in Ottawa is offering an innovating learning experience for kids of all ages.

N.U.T.S (Neuron Upgrade Training Station) is an obstacle race with a twist: you have to answer fun trivia questions along the course! Kids go through physical obstacles (monkey bars, cargo nets and crawl pipes) and knowledge obstacles, which are touch screen consoles with age-specific and curriculum-based questions.

Research has shown that children who are physically active before taking a test or going to class received higher marks than those who didn't do any physical activity before learning. Moving helps our brains to learn better and faster, and mood is also improved. Clearly, my fidgety daughter is onto something!

Jamie Beaudin, a teacher in Cornwall, had a chance to check out the N.U.T.S "upgrade" experience (this is what they call the obstacle course) with his class of students. "I like the concept of moving and learning, I find it important, especially students with ADHD or behaviour problems," says Jamie.

The staff at N.U.T.S supported the students through the obstacle course, answering questions and providing guidance. Jamie says that all students were given results at the end of the course, and provided with positive feedback. 

"One of my students isn't really fond of sports, but when we were at the Nuts Facility, he gave it 110%," says Jamie. "The different obstacles makes every students work in different ways."

The facility is not only for teachers and students (although this would make an amazing field trip!) but open to families and groups. Find out more about your visit by checking out the website, and you'll be given guidance on what to wear and bring to the facility. 

I can't wait to check it out with my daughter, and see first-hand the benefits of movement and learning.

Disclaimer: N.U.T.S is a Kids in the Capital blog sponsor. All opinions are our own.

Reining in Kid Chaos: Organization Tips for the Busy Family

I have no problem admitting that I am a neat freak.  While having three boys has, shall we say, lowered my tidiness standards, I still love nothing more than a functional organizational system or a good purge.  Working from home means that If the house is in chaos I spend my entire day  cringing as I walk through, around, or over the mess, not to mention the challenges that come along with trying to keep our main floor, where my photography studio is located, tidy and clean for clients.  At the end of the day all I’m trying to do is save my sanity by coming up with solutions to manage our clothes, toys, and “life” so that I can spend more time with my family rather than cleaning up after them.

After 11 years of motherhood I’ve tried many different ways to reign in the kid chaos and I’m happy to share six of my favourites with you!

Storage bags

We have tried plastic bins, plastic drawers, small containers, big containers, and after all of those attempts I finally broke down and invested in several large canvas bags to store our thousands of pieces of Lego.  Our attempts to keep the Lego separated into categories or types was futile: with three kids and friends rummaging through our collection it ended up being more work trying to get the Lego back into it’s separate bins.  What I like about the canvas drawstring bags is that they spread out flat on the floor, which means there’s room for everyone to access the pile of Lego and they can rummage to their heart's content without tripping over bins.  I invested in Swoop bags and have been impressed with their durability.  Similar designs are also available on Etsy and via local businesses.  

Toy storage in a bag

Repurposed shoe storage

Shelves that are 12 inches deep are a haven for dust and beanie boos.  My son absolutely adores his stuffed animal collection but I struggled to find a way to store all his little friends.  He was forever misplacing his stuffed toys or pulling out shelves worth of them to find one particular animal.  I ended up hanging a fabric shoe organizer on the front and back of his bedroom door to house all his stuffed animals.  I love that it keeps his toys off the floor and that he can see all of them at a glance.   

Shoe storage repurposed for toys

Art supplies

Our kitchen table is inevitably littered with scraps of paper, markers, and crayons.  For several years I had a separate bag or plastic container for each type of art supply (markers, crayons, pencil crayons, pencils) but was tired of putting them away at dinner time when I needed to clean off the table.  I recently bought a caddy that matches the colours of our kitchen and purged their collection of dried out markers down so that all the drawing supplies fit into the one container.  Now that the supplies are readily accessible I find that they are using them more often but it’s also easier for them to put them away since there is only one place to storage their drawing tools.  

art supplies storage

Treasures

One of our sons is a self-identified crow.  He loves to collect treasures, which means a washing machine full of surprises and a bedroom floor that will fell the toughest of souls who dare try to cross it in the dark.  After several attempts to reign in his collection of bottle caps, acorns, marbles, paper clips, earrings, corks (the list goes on and on), I bought a storage drawer with drawers.  Now he can see his treasures in the clear plastic drawers and we can direct him where to stash his latest find.  It means we’re not always on the hunt for missing items and I haven’t stepped on a bottle cap in months!

Toy storage for small toys

Works of art

I have no problem admitting that I don’t want dozens of pieces of paper taped to my kitchen fridge and office walls.  Three creative kids means piles and piles of artwork is produced at home and school and I’ve managed to contain it to their bedrooms, which felt like a parenting coup d’etat.  We purchased magnetic kitchen storage (the kind that holds knives and utensils) for all three boys rooms.  All their artwork is displayed proudly in their rooms and with several rows of magnets, they have plenty of room to show off their creations.  

How to store your child's artwork

Photo clues

After hearing my preschool son complain “but I don’t know where it goes” in reference to toys he was asked to tidy up, I started printing photos for the fronts of all our toy bins.  Not only can they see which bin they want from our shelves but when it’s time for them to clean up they know where toys belong.

Unique toy storage ideas

Sara McConnell is the mom to three boys and an award winning professional photographer specializing in maternity, newborn and family photography. When she's not behind her camera, drinking too much tea, in the pool or at the beach you can find her on Facebook, Instagram and on her website.

Laundry 101: When the sniffing test fails

“Honey….what’s that smell?” I say to my husband. There’s a sweet and pleasant odour wafting up from the dishwasher, which is humming away happily.

“I used those new power packs you bought,” he says.

“Oh ya?” I say. “The power packs that were meant to CLEAN OUR CLOTHES!?” 

He gives me a blank look, and then goes to check the Arm & Hammer package. Sure enough, this is laundry detergent that hubby has just put in our dishwasher. For the record, there was no massive soap explosion, and a quick re-run with dishwasher soap did the trick.

In my spring quest for a better smelling home and laundry pile, I never imagined for a second that my husband would take things to such an extreme level (I have to admit though, the house smells great!)

Built in 1961, our house is on the older side, with original storm windows (we’re replacing these, slowly) and a lack of insulation. Things get damp pretty quickly, and we have a hard time keeping root vegetables, bread or baked goods on the counter without mold growing after just several days. The dampness also means that our towels smell a bit like eau-de-musky, despite regular laundering.

dog-laundry

Along with leaky house problems, we have a 5 year-old pug who is not the sweetest smelling of animals. Yes, I’ve read all the research that shows how much healthier my kids are living with a dog, but this drooling, butt-sniffing hound makes “fresh” seem like a long shot.

For some ideas on how to banish these pesky odours, I turned to cleaner and organizer Patty Searl. Patty owns and operates Clean POV Ottawa, whose goal is to help families clean and organize their homes using an eco responsible approach.

“We’ve had many clients deal with problems from smells,” says Patty. She points to culprits such as diaper pails, pet beds or litter, damp cloths or towels, and humidity. Together, Patty and I came up with five handy tips for any homeowner looking for a fresher scent.

Tackle the bacteria

Use a cleaning solution that combats mold and mildew, as this is often the source of those pesky smells. Baking soda and vinegar are your best friends for this job! Check all of your windows sills where mold likes to grow. Make sure to seal any areas where moisture might be getting into your home (replacing old windows is a must, but if you’re like me, this might take some time!) 

arm-and-hammer-laundry

Try Arm & Hammer Plus OxiClean 3-in-1 Power Paks

Once we got over the dishwasher disaster, I tried Arm & Hammer’s new power paks on my laundry pile. This is the only detergent boosted with the stain-fighting power of OxiClean and the freshness of Arm & Hammer baking soda.

These little paks DEFINITELY made a difference. The towels smell fresher for a lot longer, and at just $0.19 per load, I can put more money and effort into tackling the other sources of smelliness in our home. With two youngsters in school, the added OxiClean got their dirty clothes a lot whiter and brighter than normal.

And bonus, it passed my “smell sensitivity” test – I tend to get headaches from fragrances, but this detergent works for me! 

Suck up that humidity

Patty recommends using a dehumidifier in your basement to take the moisture out of the air. All of that extra moisture is guaranteed to promote the growth of mold and mildew. 

Use essential oils

There are a number of companies out there selling pure essential oils, which are great for those of us with allergies or sensitivities. Patty suggests trying an essential oil diffuser to permeate the whole home with a lovely aroma.

Try a carpet and upholstery deodorizing spray

Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda and 2-3 drops of your favourite essential oil. Grab a spray bottle, and add the baking soda mixture to the bottle along with distilled water. Shake well, and go to town on those places where the smelly dogs sleep!

With just a little bit of thought and hardly any effort, my home smells much better. I can now entertain the thought of friends dropping by unannounced, and I know my house guests will appreciate the fluffy and fresh towels. 

The next step? Some new laundry room storage bins, so that my poor husband doesn’t confuse the dishwasher soap with the detergent!!

Want to learn more? Visit your local Loblaws store to try the NEW Arm & Hammer™ Plus OxiClean™ 3-in- 1 Unit Dose Paks and change your perspective on laundry forever! Like Arm & Hammer Canada on Facebook for product news and updates.

Disclaimer: this is a sponsored post from Arm & Hammer Canada, and we were compensated for our time. All opinions are our own.
 

Spend your summer at the Soloway JCC

The weather is heating up, and summer is COMING!! I know my kids are excited to spend some time poolside, and what better place to do that The Soloway JCC. 

Located just west of downtown, Soloway JCC is an amazing recreation facility that welcomes all people (young and old) from the National Capital Region.

The Pool

Enjoy hot summer days splashing in the outdoor pool with your family, lounging in the sun, relaxing in the shade or picnicking by the water. The outdoor pool is fully equipped with change rooms, a fun slide for the kids (and kids at heart) and a lap lane for more serious swimmers.

All Soloway JCC members have access to the indoor pool seven days a week from June to whenever it gets too cold to swim outside. And for those parents who have been searching high and low for a saltwater pool, you'll find one at the JCC! Saltwater is easier on the skin (and eyes,) especially for your little ones.

There are a variety of membership options and categories to suit everyone - this includes a summer membership which allows you to enjoy unlimited family fun at the  outdoor pool as well as everything inside the Soloway JCC.

Membership

University Students home for the summer are welcome at the Soloway JCC and if their parents are already members, they can be added to their family’s membership for free. If not, a Student Membership is available for $100 with a valid student ID.

SJCC Members get discounted prices on all JCC of Ottawa Summer Camps which include Day Camp, Travelling Sports Camp and 19 unique specialty camps. The SJCC has a camp for every child whatever their interest.

Soloway JCC members enjoy a modern fitness centre with friendly and professional fitness trainers and all the latest equipment, over 30 Group Fitness Classes per week which continue throughout the summer, access to our full size gymnasium with basketball hoops, squash and racquetball courts, indoor pool, after school programs, parent and baby classes plus priority registration and pricing on programs and classes.

The Soloway JCC is located at 21 Nadolny Sachs Private in Ottawa’s west end, one block south of Carling off Broadview. Everyone is welcome!

Disclaimer: The Soloway JCC is a Kids in the Capital blog sponsor