Pedalling away

I first heard about Pedalheads last year and thought it sounded like a great idea for parents (like me) who are a bit nervous about taking the training wheels off. After hearing more great reviews from friends, I signed the kid up for a week of half days. She was very excited to get out on her bike with the other kids. 

When I dropped her off, with training wheels, on her first day I was immediately impressed with the two instructors. They were greeted her and made her feel welcome, as well as explaining a few things to me. 

When I picked her up that first day she told me that on the second day she was going to take her training wheels off. 

We knew that her bike was a bit small for her, and I sought advice from the instructors on whether she needed a new one and what size it would be. They were very helpful and we dropped her off on Tuesday with a bigger bike, no training wheels, ready to go. And go she did. 

With their encouragement she was able to ride by herself by the end of the second day, and then she spent the next three days working on stopping and starting. 

They also spend time playing games and learning about road safety. One day they built a bike rack and another day they built a bike wash, which they then got to ride through. There was much giggling. 

Before the end of the first week I had already signed her up for a second and soon she'll be road ready. 

I really can't express how impressed I am with the way the camp is run. My husband and I watched from a parking spot one day before and saw how excited the instructors get for every success a child has. They seemed almost as thrilled and my daughter was and there were many high fives thrown. 

We were at the Kanata camp, but there are camps across Ottawa and some still have space for this summer! 

Bill 10 (formerly known as Bill C143) and Why it Matters To You

By Salina Sunderland Your first question is probably “What is Bill 10?” perhaps followed by “Ugh…politics…not interested!” But before you skip by this post in favour of something more exciting and glamorous, let me fill you in on why you should be very concerned with this bill as a parent of young children.

daycare bill 10

Bill 10, the Childcare Modernization Act, is a bill that has been introduced by the Minister of Education, Liz Sandals, in the name of making your child’s daycare safer and better whether you have your child in a daycare centre, in an agency affiliated home daycare, or a private home daycare. Here are some highlights as pertain to private home daycare (there are changes for daycare centres and agency home daycares as well that I won’t go into here):

1) Currently, a private home daycare provider may have 5 daycare children at any one time in addition to her own children of any ages. Bill 10 would force the provider to count her own children under the age of 6 in her total of 5 kids, even though her children are most likely in school full-time at the age of 4. 2) Currently there are no age ratio restrictions for private caregivers and it is left to a daycare providers own discretion as to which ages to accept into her/his daycare depending on the caregivers own abilities, strengths, and programming. Bill 10 would make it so that private home daycares would be allowed no more than 2 kids under the age of 2.

Now, you might be saying “This is great! My kids will be safer!” However, considering that 80% of children in Ontario are cared for in unlicensed home daycares, this bill has the potential to severely disrupt childcare availability and rates. As a private home daycare provider, I receive many enquiries for care every month. 99% of those enquiries are for babies around the 12 month mark when their moms or dads return to work. Considering children now start school full-time at 3.5-4 years of age, we are left with children aged 1-3 to care for. Many of us actually prefer having a group of little ones close in age as they grow and learn together and it is much easier to cater to their needs when they are all in a similar stage.

If this bill is put into law, many home daycare providers will be forced to close as they will not be able to survive on the 2-3 kids they will be allowed to care (having to count their own children as well as find kids to fit the ratios). Those that stay in business will almost certainly raise their rates significantly, especially for the under 2 spaces. All of this adds up to less spaces available and higher costs for parents.

Now, if all of this was really in the cause of keeping children safer, I would say “It’s worth it! Let’s all suck it up and do this for the kids!” However, the problem is that the daycares that are currently running illegally (with too many kids) are not following the current laws; they are not going to suddenly decide to follow the new law. These are the daycares in which children are in danger and this law will do nothing to stop them. If the Ministry of Education would do their job and follow up on complaints, inspect daycares with complaints against them, and shut down the unsafe ones, we would all be better off.

Bill 10 is now in second reading in the Ontario Legislature. Once it passes through second reading it will go to Committee, where we hope that some amendments will be made. After it is discussed in Committee, it will be passed into law. The Liberal party has said that they would like to have it passed before Christmas.

You can find out more at this Facebook Page: Ontario Families and Home Childcare Providers Against Bill 143 Or: Coalition of Independent Childcare Providers of Ontario

If you are concerned, please write to Education Minister Liz Sandals ( as well as your local MPs (follow this link to find them.) Act now before it’s too late; let the government know how this bill will affect you!

Visiting a Fire Station

One of the highlights for our girls this summer was visiting a fire station.  We visited Ottawa Fire Station 23 (Carling & Kirkwood) because my husband knows the Platoon Chief. But you can visit any station in the city and they will give you a tour as part of Ottawa's Fire Safety Program.  If you are interested in going for a tour call the fire education department of the city to set up a time (click here to find a fire station near you. Fire Station 4

Our tour started in the Platoon Office where the staffing of all 29 fire stations is controlled. Next we were led through the station to the garage to meet our guide (a nice rookie who was great with kids) to see the fire trucks.  Station 23 has two main pumper trucks and one ladder truck.  Our guide explained how trucks are dispatched when a call come in and that some stations don't have enough staff to operate all the equipment at any particular time.

Fire Station 2

The girls got to sit in the truck and see and touch the equipment that firefighters use when they are fighting a fire.  The parents also got to pick up and carry bags of equipment to feel how heavy they are.  The firefighters need to carry these bags of equipment up countless flights of stairs.

Fire Station 1

The kids were a little nervous about all of the big equipment so our very nice rookie took us to the kitchen to see where they prepared and ate all their meals.  Firefighters are on duty for 24 hour shifts (yes, they sleep and eat at the station) and they have to be ready to go to a call anytime.  This is why you often see firetrucks at the grocery store.  One time they got a call when they were grocery shopping and had a full cart of groceries!

Fire Station 3

Station 23 is one of the older stations in Ottawa and even has a fire pole.  Newer stations are only one floor and no longer have fire poles.

Fire Station 6

The end of the tour led us back to the garage where the girls got a chance to help wash the fire truck.  They were happily scrubbing away when a call came in over the speakers.  We moved to the back of the garage and got to see all the fire fighters get suited up, get into the trucks and drive out onto Carling Ave with sirens blaring.

 fire station 5

Workshop Safety for Kids

workshop safetyWho says little ones can't help out in the shop? My husband is a woodworking hobbyist. Our house is scattered with his various projects, all beautifully made and handcrafted. This means that he spends a lot of time down in his shop - a place you would normally want to ban kiddos for fear of someone stepping on a nail or smacking their head against a sharp corner.

But our little 4 year-old loves spending time with Daddy in his shop, and he's found ways to get her involved, safely. If any of his saws are on, she wears ear protectors and goggles. He's also taught her how to safely wield a hammer, and she's practiced nailing into wood. Mainly, she likes wheeling around the shop on an old tricycle :)

Do you involve your children in "grown-up" hobbies?


Setting Social Media Limits for Older Kids

Teaching your kids to navigate in today’s digital world is getting tougher and tougher. Kids, at least my kids, are becoming more and more tech savvy. While it was easy when my kids were little to completely monitor their online usage – how often they were online and where they went, as my girls grow into teenagers, I must admit it’s getting harder and harder. We have rules in our house about using social media. I know the passwords to every account they have. The computers are in a main area of the house and we talk about online safety all the time. It’s still hard to know where they go. My eldest doesn't need her computer to go online, she now has her phone. And it isn't really a matter of policing their accounts all the time – social platforms like SnapChat immediately delete their messages. In fact, I could delete my daughter’s email account and it wouldn't phase her at all. There are so many ways to connect with her friends.

The main things I try to stress is that what goes online, stays online. Forever. And Ever. And even longer than that. But even this is tricky because while my daughter always needs her friends’ permission to post a picture of them online, sometimes pictures of her with her friends are posted without her consent. That becomes a problem sometimes.

I definitely don’t believe in banning social media use. If I do, she’ll likely go online elsewhere and besides, I think that if she becomes knowledgeable of all the consequences, both positive and negative, it will help her as she grows to learn to use the Internet responsibly.

I try to keep the lines of communications open. I ask lots of questions and try to answer all of hers. I try to keep an open mind and be very calm and non-judgmental because I always want her to be able to come to me with questions or concern. I try but it is hard sometimes.

What are your house rules about using social media? Is it changing as your kids get older?