STEM Activities for Young Girls

I did my undergraduate degree in environmental science and geography. I don't remember our class being dominated by men, but the job market is a different story. When it comes to positions in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), women are underrepresented. 

In my final year I was asked to participate in a special science program for high school girls; they came to visit the university for a day, and took part in a variety of activities. I took them on a tour of the local woodland, and we chatted about invasive species. Later, they heard from successful female scientists and mathematicians. It was a lot of fun, and I saw how enthusiastic the girls were about what they were seeing and doing.

Fast forward many years, and I now have two girls of my own. I see how easy it is to fall into the "princess trap." Not that there's anything wrong with wanting to play with dolls and dress up "bootiful" (as my 3 year old puts it), but there are other things we can do with our girls to foster their interest in STEM.

I'm lucky that my husband is a maker, and has my 7 year-old in his shop all the time hammering and drilling. But for parents like me (give me a good book instead of a hammer!) we sometimes need a few ideas to get motivated.

So, I was really excited while volunteering with my daughter's Brownies pack recently because we spent the whole evening doing STEM activities in celebration of The International Day of the Girl. Below are several easy activities you can do at home with your girls. Better yet, gather some of their friends and make it a fun afternoon!

Psychedelic Milk


- shallow bowls
- milk
- liquid dish soap
- food colouring
- Q-tips


Pour a small amount of milk into the bowls. Take several different jars of food colouring, and squeeze a couple of drops into the centre of the milk (make sure to keep the drops close together) Dip one end of the Q-tip into the liquid soap, and gently touch the centre of the bowl. Watch the colours swirl and move. To read more about the science behind this, check out this great website.

*note: the first time we tried this, the girls started mixing the drops of food colouring into the milk. This meant they didn't get to see the cool swirls of colour, so make sure to instruct them NOT to mix!

Marble Run

So easy and fun! Materials needed:

- empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls
- empty kleenex boxes
- duck tape
- marbles

If you have enough girls, divide them into two groups and make it a contest. Depending on their ages, you may need to help them think about how they will design the marble run so that the marble actually rolls. But I was surprised to see how ingenious our 7 and 8 year-olds were, and our marble ran!!

Dropping acid

Haha, nope, this one is not about drugs. It's all about acids and "bases" - which are opposites. Mix 'em together and you can get a colourful surprise! Materials needed:

- homemade red cabbage juice (blend 4 red cabbage leaves in your blender with some water; strain. If you don't have a blender, boil the leaves for about 30 minutes and strain.)
- clear glasses
- water
- several bases (try lemon juice, Coke, cleaning products, tap water, pickle brine, baking soda)

Make your red cabbage juice, and make sure it cools to room temperature. This liquid becomes your pH indicator. Now mix in your "bases" (test substances) in equal parts to the cabbage water, and record what happens. Warm colours (red or yellow) indicate that the substance is acidic. Cool colours (green, blue, purple) indicate a basic substance. If the cabbage juice doesn't change colours at all, then the test substance is neutral. Read more about the science behind this experiment.

Odd Todd and Even Steven

I love this math activity, that teaches kids all about odd and even numbers. This website includes free printables

We have been introducing the concept of odd and even to our kids with this handy trick for settling disputes. Now when the kids are having a disagreement I say "odd or even!" and that settles it. There are still tears, but at least the blame is no longer on me.

Ottawa Halloween Activities

There is more to Halloween than just trick or treating and Ottawa has a lot of Halloween activities for ghosts and goblins of all ages! Whether you are looking for a family-friendly Halloween Party, Halloween themed date night fun, or an indoor place to bring the kids’ trick or treating the day of, here are some Halloween activities taking place in Ottawa this month:

The Haunted Walk – Halloween Season
When: Nightly until November 5th
Where: Various locations in Ottawa

Great for older children and adults, The Haunted Walks are best known for their tours and stories of ghosts and haunted places and Halloween is the perfect time to experience one of these walks! For more information: 

A Barnyard Hallowe’en:
When: October 29th to 30th from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Canada Agriculture and Food Museum
Admission: Included with Museum admission

Tour the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum as a family in your favourite Halloween costume and then participate in making some ghoulish treats, a creepy craft and enjoy some Halloween themed storytelling and games. There will be a costume parade and scavenger hunt for the kids and for an additional fee they can decorate their own pumpkin to bring home. For complete details visit:

Saunders Farm – Haunting Season
When: Saturdays and Sundays between now and October 30th
Where: Saunders Farm, Munster, ON
Admission: General Day Admission is $18.58 + HST (kids 2 and under are free); General night admission: $31.86 +HST

Scarier at night and as a not-as-scary experience during the day, Saunders Farm offers families the ultimate in Halloween thrills and chills! New this year is The Carnival, which includes a antique Ferris wheel and carousel.

The Day Haunting Season is fine for kids as the more scarier attractions are closed and the jumping pillows and main play area is open. There is also a pumpkin patch hay ride available for young visitors.

The Fright Fest (Night) at Saunders Farm is good for children ages 12 and up or is ideal for a scary date night! For more information visit:

Incident at the Bunker: A Zombie Adventure
When: October 29, 30 and November 5th
Where: Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum, Carp
Admission: General admission: $21.75 + HST

If you have children aged 12 years and older, this 60 to 75 minute Halloween-themed tour is sure to be memorable! After 20 years a terrifying secret has been revealed and guests will be led on an interactive adventure to see what it’s all about. This unique underground experience is in conjunction with Haunted Walks. For more information:

Great Pumpkin Ball
When: October 29th 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Where: St. Brigid's Haunted Castle

A great adult-only Halloween party in support of the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing - National Capital Region, St. Jude Children's Hospital and the Ottawa Food Bank. For more information:

Trick or Treat with the Mayor
When: October 29th
Where: Ottawa City Hall
Admission: A nonperishable food donation for the Ottawa Food Bank’s Baby Basics Program

This will be the Mayor’s 10th annual Halloween party and is a lot of fun for children. There are always costumed characters walking around greeting guests, as well as free pumpkin decorating, games and other fun activities. For more information:

Halloween at Rideau Hall
When: October 31st from 5 to 8 p.m.
Where: Rideau Hall Visitor Centre
Admission: Free

On Halloween, Rideau Hall’s visitor centre will be transformed into a haunted dollhouse where toys gather to seek revenge – and of course there will be goodies there too. A fun way to celebrate Halloween! For more information:

Nature Nocturne: Scales and Tails
When: October 28th from 8 p.m. to midnight
Where: Canadian Museum of Nature
Admission: $25

The Halloween edition of the Canadian Museum of Nature’s Nature Nocturne always makes for a fun date night. This kid-free event is full of music, dancing, and activities. This is a great opportunity to visit the museum in your favourite Halloween costume and without the kids. For more information:

Watson’s Mill Children’s Halloween Party
When: October 29th, 7 to 9:30 p.m.
Where: Watson’s Mill, Manotick
Admission: Free

A children’s Halloween Party with fun Halloween games and crafts. A great way to see this historic mill and celebrate Halloween! For more information:

Trick or Treat in a mall! 

Carlingwood Mall
When: Saturday October 29th (Free trick or treating for the kids from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at participating stores.). Also: Meet and get a picture with Peppa Pig ($10 per family).* You must purchase your ticket in advance - tickets available from Sunrise Records for sittings from 11-11:50 a.m., 12-12:50 p.m., 1-1:50 p.m. and 2-2:50 p.m.

Hazeldean Mall
When: October 31st from 10 a.m. to 12 noon (free trick or treating throughout the mall)

Place D’Orleans
When: October 31st from 10 a.m. to 12 noon (free trick or treating at participating retailers, as well as artistic face painting)



Fall in love with Peekaboo Beans

Have you heard of Peekaboo Beans clothing for kids? I was first introduced to Peekaboo Beans when my daughter was around three years old. She received the Winter Dream Green Over Yonder pants and Let's Be Friends zip up sweater from the Fall 2012 collection as a gift and I was instantly impressed with the weight of the material and many washes later, I remained impressed – the colour held up and the material didn’t pill, thin or tear.

I continue to love the fun age-appropriate styles Peekaboo Beans offer kids. It was because of my love of Peekaboo Beans that I was excited when they offered to send me a few articles from their Fall 2016 collection for the purpose of a review.

But, instead of reading why I love Peekaboo Beans, I thought I would ask my daughter and my niece to share what they think about their new clothes from Peekaboo Beans:

My daughter, 8 years old

What do you like about your new clothes?

“I love the colour blue, so this shirt is perfect for me, and I love that Peekaboo Beans has thumbholes in most of their shirts and sweaters. Oh, I also love that they have pants that look like jeans, but they’re not jeans because these feel nice on and I don’t have to wear a belt.”

Peekaboo Beans Hip Hip Hooray Tee in Sterling and Jump 'n Jeggings 

Peekaboo Beans Hip Hip Hooray Tee in Sterling and Jump 'n Jeggings 

Anything you don’t like?

"Nope. Well, there’s no horses on them" (my daughter loves horses).



My niece, 3 years old

My niece loves to dance and play on the floor with her younger sister. She also loves to run around parks, swing and slide, and sing her ABCs as loud as she can, and if there is a sandbox in the area, she with surely be in it.  She also loves to jump in puddles after a big rain.

My niece loved the pockets and the stretchy, comfy material. She also loved the logo!

Peekaboo Beans Whole Hearted Dress with Long Embrace Leggings in charcoal.

Peekaboo Beans Whole Hearted Dress with Long Embrace Leggings in charcoal.

Her mom liked how the pants will grow with her and the unique design of the dress, but wishes the pants had a little more give for kids with larger legs.

Both girls had a lot of fun modelling their new clothes. My daughter knows she can expect Peekaboo Beans every season because I love them (and she does too).  I will be sad when she eventually outgrows them. Most Peekaboo Beans styles range from size 1 to Size 10 (there are also Baby Beans) and are available for both boys and girls.

Peekaboo Beans is celebrating their 10th anniversary this year! Ten years of quality fabric that stands up to kids who love to play! I love the fact that this is a Canadian company that truly believes in the products they create.  All clothing is free from carcinogenic dyes, heavy metals and chemicals that can be absorbed by skin. To shop the latest collection from Peekaboo beans visit their website and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Note: I received the Peekaboo beans featured in this post at no cost for the purpose of this review, but opinions are all my own (and the kids).


Pick Your Own Apples at Log Cabin Orchards

Nothing says fall like picking apples, and doing so is a long-standing tradition in my family. For as far back as I can remember, my mom, myself and now my daughter, take a weekday off from “real life” and go apple picking. We have picked apples from many Ottawa apple orchards and this year we found what we consider our new favourite spot – Log Cabin Orchard in Osgoode, Ontario.

Log Cabin Orcards

Although this orchard is not as large as other Ottawa apple orchards, and there is no fancy corn maze, this 33-acre orchard has a lot of character. In addition to the orchard itself, there is a beautiful log cabin to be admired as well as a small petting zoo – with a few friendly pigs (this year there was also piglets), roosters, a donkey and a goat (there were also baby goats this year).  My daughter loved going right into the goats’ pen and feeding them, playing with them and then being followed around by them. It was the highlight of her day!

Log Cabin Orchards goat

Once we were able to convince my daughter to actually pick apples instead of playing with her new animal friends, we easily picked a bushel of delicious McIntosh apples. They are the reddest and sweetest macs I have had in a long time. Apparently this year’s sudden onslaught of cool nights helped sweeten the crop.

McIntosh apples

Depending on the time of year, Log Cabin Orchard grows and offers McIntosh apples, Nova Mac apples, Lobo apples, Paula Red apples and Cortland apples – and around Thanksgiving weekend they also have the mildly-tart Liberty apples (which are great for making apple sauce)!

apple picking in ottawa

The staff of Log Cabin Orchard is extremely friendly. They even told my mom and I not to carry the big bushel of apples back to our car once we were done and to instead walk back to the cabin. The staff member picked up the bushel in his truck and brought it to our car.  The Maloney family owns Log Cabin Orchard and from the moment you pull up, you can see the pride in ownership. They warmly greet you and ask if you have visited before and if you have any questions.

Log Cabin Orchard also has a pumpkin patch, which makes it an ideal spot to get two main ingredients for very popular Thanksgiving pies ;) Just like the apples, you can either pick your own pumpkins or choose from the selection of pumpkins picked by their very own “professional pumpkin pickers.”

So, if you’re looking for a friendly family-run orchard that isn’t that far from the city, I encourage you to check out Log Cabin Orchards – it’s a great way to spend a fall day! Between the animals, the apples and the pumpkin patch, Log Cabin Orchards is a one-stop country farm for all things fall. 

Give Life Twice: donating your baby's cord blood

Chances are, if you have given birth, are pregnant or are planning a pregnancy, you've heard of cord blood. I remember being pregnant with my first, and knowing friends who were debating private cord blood banking. But I had no idea there was another option - donating your baby's cord blood to a public bank. 

But what IS cord blood, and why is it so important?

So let's start with the very basics - the placenta and umbilical cord. As you may know, your baby is kept alive for ten months by a magical organ called the placenta. The placenta has several functions, and one of those is to supply the baby with nutrients and oxygen. Nutrient-rich blood from the mother goes through the placenta then into the umbilical cord attached. At the time of birth, almost 40% of your baby's blood volume continues to pump from the placenta and through the cord to your baby. If you were to touch the cord immediately after birth, you would still feel it pulsing. Cool, eh?

But some blood still remains in the cord, and that blood contains something called stem cells. Stem cells have been used to treat more than 80 disorders and diseases - you have most likely heard the success story out of our own Ottawa Hospital involving multiple sclerosis patients. Stem cells can be taken from adults too, but cord blood stem cells are easier to collect.

What's the difference between private banking and public banking?

So a "bank" is just a place where the cord blood gets stored. There are a number of private companies out there that bank your baby's blood for the family's personal use - perhaps for a family that has a particular genetic disorder or family history of disease. That blood is stored ONLY for that family's use, and you have to pay yearly to keep it stored. It's pricey!

Our public cord blood bank is managed by Canadian Blood Services, and the stem cells that are collected can be used by anyone who requires treatment with stem cells - provided that the blood is a proper match for that individual. In the past, Canada relied mainly on international donors at a hefty price tag. Growing our own national bank will mean that Canadians have better access to potential donors. 

Donating to a public bank costs you nothing, and it's possible that your baby's cord blood could potentially save a life someday. Check out this touching story:

You've convinced me; where do I sign up?

We are super lucky here in Ottawa to have a cord blood collection site at the The Ottawa Hospital's General and Civic campuses. Sadly, if you are giving birth at Montfort, Queensway-Carleton or any other hospital in the region, you are unable to donate (at this time). 

The most important thing to know is that you HAVE to arrive at the hospital with a signed consent form. Due to ethical issues, no one can get your permission if you're already contracting (because, well, labour pains make it hard for you to give informed consent.) So, if you are interested please talk to your healthcare provider and they will be able to hook you up with a form. Also, note that you have to be healthy, over 18 and not delivering multiples. For more info, head over to their website for an information kit.

What if I want to do delayed cord clamping?

Many hospitals continue to clamp and cut baby's cord immediately after birth, which means those babies are not getting about 40% of their blood volume - some babies have experienced anemia due to this issue. So many parents these days are requesting that care providers delay the cord clamping, at least until the cord has stopped pulsating.

The Ottawa Hospital has a 1 minute delayed cord clamping policy. It is possible that the cord would still be pulsing at this point, but it's also possible that all of the blood has moved through. Research has shown that the longer you delay, the less volume of blood there is to extract for the cord blood collection. But don't let that deter you, as there could still be enough stem cells in the collected blood. Talk to your care provider about the best time to clamp and cut.

Anything else I should know?

Even if your baby's cord blood gets collected, it's possible it can't be used. First of all, there has to be enough stem cells in the blood to make it worth storing. It's possible they won't be able to get a large enough volume. If your baby's cord blood has a good number of stem cells, you will hear from a nurse within 7 days following the birth. You will need to answer a more detailed health/lifestyle questionnaire at that point - sort of similar to what you might get if you were donating your own blood.

Also, given Canada's diverse population, we are in dire need of non-Caucasian cord blood. Patients are more likely to find a good match among donors from their own ethnic group, and right now, Caucasian cord blood makes up the majority of blood we have stored. The goal is to close that gap!

Did you donate your baby's cord blood? Why or why not?

*this post is NOT sponsored by Canadian Blood Services