From News

It’s hard to believe it’s time!

Every year the planting season seems to sneak up on me without any warning. Every year I promise that next year will be different and I’ll get an early start with the gardening by “sowing indoors”. If you pick up any of those egg cartons made out of plastic or have any of those plastic take-out containers, you can use these to get started sowing for the upcoming summer growing season.

I’ve included a link here to the current Farmer’s Almanac for the Vancouver area. If you look through the chart on this page, you can see the appropriate sowing timeframes as well as information about where to start the plants. You can also setup an email planting reminder or print the calendar and pin it on the fridge.

Get started now and reap what you sow!  Farmer’s Almanac Planting Guide

Image by Paul Brennan Public Domain

New EI Choices for Parents

Employment Insurance

As of December 3, 2017, Employment Insurance (EI) rules have changed to allow you to start your maternity leave earlier. You also now have the choice to spread out your EI parental benefits over a longer timeframe, at a lower benefit rate.

You are now able to receive EI maternity benefits earlier, up to 12 weeks before your due date. You also have two options to choose from for your EI parental benefits:

  1. Standard EI parental benefits – up to 35 weeks, paid at 55 per cent of your average weekly insurable earnings, up to the maximum of $547 a week for 2018.
  2. Extended EI parental benefits – up to 61 weeks, paid at 33 per cent of your average weekly insurable earnings, up to the maximum of $328 a week for 2018.

More information around the changes to Employment Insurance is available on the federal Employment Insurance website.

What to do this December??

If you are looking for activities to keep you and your children occupied over the Winter holidays, you are in very good hands.  New Westminster has a plethora of both children and family activities from Queensborough to Sapperton and everything in between!

Let’s start with the two bustling Community Centres in New Westminster.  At both centres, you will find single day programs that focus on baking, crafts, and other winter adventures!  Club Royale at Centennial Community Centre is also a terrific option if you are looking for a fun day camp for children ages 6-12.

For breakfast lovers, bring the whole family to Centennial Community Centre for an IHOP breakfast on December 16th.  There promises to be tasty food, festive music, and an appearance from Santa.  The fun doesn’t stop here.  After breakfast, make the trek to River Market to browse and shop amongst the 35 vendors.

Moving to the ice, New Westminster-ites are fortunate to have one of the best arenas in the Lower Mainland right in their own backyard.  Moody Park Arena will host their annual Skate with Santa on December 23rd.  This event features on-ice games, crafts, and the opportunity to skate with St. Nick, himself!

For a full list of Parks and Recreation events and programs, check out their Active Living Guide below.


Clocks have gone back – time for a Road Safety Refresher!

Now that the clocks have been set back and hour, and the slippery, wet weather is upon us, it’s time to think about giving our kids a refresher course on pedestrian safety. ICBC has created a one-pager filled with tips you can use to remind your kids about the importance of being a responsible pedestrian!

Take a moment to review the information below with your kids today!

Road Safety for your Kids

How to Help Create a Smooth Transition to Kindergarten

Article written by Christina Kumar

In just a few short weeks, hundreds of New Westminster children will be taking a big step in  life. They will be starting Kindergarten! Kindergarten is a time of great excitement. It is an opportunity to meet new friends, gain confidence, and clevelop skills. As an elementary school teacher, I often hear from families asking how they can best prepare their child for school. Does their child need to know how to write his name? What do they need to buy? Here are a few tips to help create a smooth transition for yourself and your child.

Practise Life Skills- Children are often nervous to ask for help at the start of the school year . Have your child practise zipping his coat, buttoning his pants, and putting on his shoes before he goes to school. If an article of clothing is too tricky for a child to do independently most of the time, it might be a better home outfit for now. The same advice goes for lunch containers. Encourage your child to practise opening and closing his containers so that he is confident accessing his food. Of course, the teacher will gladly help your child, but do remember that the student to teacher ratio is much higher in Kindergarten than it is in preschool or daycare. This means children could have to be more patient when seeking assistance.

Check with the School Before Purchasing Supplies- Students will need specific supplies for Kindergarten. Before getting too excited about the Back to School Sale signs popping up in stores, check with your school about what your child requires. Some schools will provide a list for you to use. If that is the case, read the list carefully and try to purchase the items selected by the school. The teachers have chosen the items for a reason and having items other than what is on the list could prove problematic. Imagine trying to use liquid glue when a glue stick would be the easier option! Other schools prefer to collect money from families and provide all of the necessary supplies. This method helps ensure that every student has the correct supplies. If either method will be a financial burden on your family, please contact your school to help come up with a solution.

Don’t Stress the Academics- Your child does NOT need to be able to read arid write before entering Kindergarten. They will develop these skills throughout the year and the years to follow. As a parent, the best way to support your child’s academic progress is to provide positive academic experiences. Visit the library together and .have your child select books according to his interests. Encourage your child to develop fine motor skills by playing with lego, drawing, or building puzzles. Remember that Kindergarten is play-based. Their school experience will likely look different than yours did when you were a child, but that does not mean they are not learning.

Talk to Your Child About the Format of the Day- Children thrive off routines and schedules. Starting Kindergarten will likely mean a change in the structure of your child’s day. Talk to your child about what his day will look like. What will he eat for breakfast? Who will take him to school? What will he eat for snack and lunch? Who will be pick him up? When children feel confident with what is going to happen, they experience less anxiety and are better able to interact and learn. If you anticipate your child might feel anxious about being away from home, a family picture in his backpack can often be a soothing comfort.

Be Open with Your Child’s Teacher- The Kindergarten year typically begins with parent­ teacher meetings. You are the expert about your child, and these meetings are an important time for you to share what you know with your child’s teacher. Try to be as open and honest as possible. The teacher is not there to judge your child or family. By relaying important information to the teacher, she will better be able to help your child. For example, if your child still has some bathroom accidents, it is best to Jet the teacher know so that she can remember to check in with your child and encourage him to use the school washroom throughout the day.

Starting Kindergarten can seem a little scary for children and their families. There will be new people, new places, and new experiences. There will often be a period of adjustment at the start of the year, but before you know it your child will gain confidence and you will be the proud family of a school-aged child.

Loose Parts and Free Play

By Alice Cavanagh

Loose parts play allows children to freely play with pieces of things rather than finished toys. Loose parts are things that can be played with that have no directions for play and can be used independently or combined. Give one child dowels, cardboard pieces, elastic, and glue, and they will build a car to play with, another child will build a magic forest. Children will come up with new and unexpected uses for each of the items and will sometimes incorporate larger items or other toys with their loose parts.

Loose parts can be found in your recycling bin, craft stores, sheds, and old appliances. Items such as popsicle sticks, bottle caps, toilet paper rolls, old Tupperware containers, string or ribbon from wrappings, and broken utensils can all be fun. Loose parts are a great way to let your kids practice the “Reuse” part of the 3 R’s and require very little investment on your part, not much more than a roll of tape and some glue. The value of loose parts over a toy such as Lego is that there is no pressure to create a finished, good looking, complete object. Kids can create whatever they imagine. Some creations will be weird or look like a pile of junk, but the imagination they use in the creation will serve them well in school and life.

Loose parts play is a fantastic and important component to learning. These loose materials inspire open-ended learning. Many children will take loose parts and use them with their toy sets, enriching their play further. Children use trial and error learning in the attempt to make the parts fit together for their creation, eventually this leads to the foundation of the scientific method where you attempt the same thing a second time to reproduce a result. Children also learn to make mistakes and how to problem solve when left to their own devices with a pile of loose parts.

Children prefer to play in a world that they create. An always popular story is the one of the Christmas where a child got an amazing toy but she preferred to play with the box the toy came in. This is a common parent frustration but, demonstrates clearly the inherent need children have to play with loose parts. Loose parts allow children to layer complexity on their play. Adding blankets to a couch makes a fort, adding a cardboard circle (a ships wheel) and tube (a telescope) turns it into a pirate ship, adding a box means they can leave their ship and find treasure.

Loose parts allow children to explore without fear, they can break objects, not complete projects, or cut things with scissors into little tiny pieces without any repercussions. This lack of fear will encourage children to push boundaries that they cannot in their regular school projects or with toys that have a defined play style. Being able to explore materials and make mistakes is an opportunity that isn’t always available.

As a parent, your job with loose parts play is to supply age appropriate items and tools, and to allow your child to make a mess when playing with them, remember, there is no wrong way to play. Don’t be afraid to show your child how to do something they simply don’t know how to do, such as how to cut a hole in the middle of a box. Once you have shown them allow them to then try it on their own. This will foster independence, experimentation and learning. It can be hard, especially if your child gets frustrated but frustration is a part of the learning process.

Many of us were given this kind of play opportunity when we were children although it wouldn’t have been recognised as anything unusual. My parents kept a scrap wood pile and a scrap fabric pile that we could take things from whenever we wanted. We created all sort of things out those scraps and items stolen from the recycling bin. Some kids on my street used to use scraps of plywood to make bike jumps and skateboard ramps. All of this play was independently directed but we learned carpentry, sewing and risk assessment skills.

If you are wondering how to get your kids started with loose parts a great way is to supply marbles and items from your recycling bin. Next thing you know you will have marble runs, musical instruments, strange games involving sorting marbles, and all sorts of other fun.

Five Quick and Healthy Snack Ideas Your Kid Can Make Themselves

by Kathleen Oliphant

Do your kids have perfect timing of when they ask you for a snack? By that I mean that at the exact moment you have just finished cleaning the bathroom, putting in three loads of laundry, unloading the dishwasher, and you are just about to sit down for a ten minute break before you need to start making dinner when you hear “I’m hungry, can I have a snack?” It was at one of these moments, when my daughter was about five, that I decided that it would be a good idea for all concerned if I encouraged her to learn how to make her own snack. Not only does it mean I don’t have to get up the exact moment I sit down, but it also encourages independence and starts building real life skills at an early age.

Here are five ideas for healthy snacks that kids (depending on their age) can make themselves.

Frozen Fruit – My daughter started eating frozen fruit as a toddler for teething, but it has lasted  the years as her favourite snack. It was the first snack she made herself. I keep a couple bags of various kinds (strawberries, peaches, mango and raspberries are her favourite) in the freezer. She can easily get a bowl, pour a bit in and snack away.

Yogurt – This is another easy and healthy snack that most preschool aged kids can get themselves. Grab a bowl and a spoon, spoon some yogurt into the bowl – done! Yes, you may find dollops of yogurt on your floor or counter, but after a while they get the hang of it.

Hummus and baby carrots – My daughter prefers my hummus over store bought (because I put a bit of honey in mine), but either way she can get some into a bowl and grab some baby carrots out of a bag and in seconds she has a good healthy snack.

Cheese, crackers and fruit – This one is for kids that are old enough that you feel comfortable teaching them how to use a cheese knife. It also requires more ingredients to be prepared and perhaps fruit to be cut up. But still, after you supervise and coach them through it the first couple times, they can manage this one themselves.

Toast with nut butter (or non nut butter) – This was the most recent addition to my daughter’s snack repertoire and one that she now also makes herself in the morning. You have to feel comfortable that your child can handle using the toaster safely. Once you have crossed that hurdle, it is easy to have some whole grain bread on hand and some nut butter in the cupboard that they can spread with a butter knife.

She is now also cooking some simple meals, like eggs and toast, using the stove (supervised, for now). What started out as a way for me to get that much needed ten minute break has turned into a gradual growth of independence in my daughter which builds both confidence and useful life skills.


Ten Tips for Talking to Children about Death

Part Two of our series. 

By Heather Hansen, RSW MSW BSW BA

Step one: Honour your own grief.

You are allowed to feel and it’s important that you do. In fact, your ability to engage with your own grief can enable you to be aware and responsive to your child’s needs.

Step two: Orientate yourself towards what your child needs.

While it is productive for children to see honest emotion, it can be terrifying for a child to see their parent collapse with grief. Be mindful of what you need, give yourself time and space for that, and then orientate yourself towards what your child needs: a gathered, albeit emotional, you.

Step three: Gather the facts.

All people, and especially kids, need context to help them understand and accept their loss. You may not choose to share these details, but having the information about when, where, and how the person died will ensure you’re ready if (and when) they ask.

Step four: Think timing.

While there may never a “good” time to talk about death, sooner is better than later. When a death is expected, advanced notification can support a child prepare more gradually. If the death has already occurred, inform them as soon as you are practically and emotionally able to do so. This will prevent them drawing their own conclusions based on what they perceive, observe, or overhear.

 Step five: Be clear and concise.

Age appropriate, simple, and direct communication is of critical importance when notifying children of a death. Avoid euphemisms like “gone to sleep” or gentle words like “passed”. These are inaccurate and can be confusing. Though children may not understand the meaning of the words, using language that reflects the truth, such as “dead” and “died”, can assist them create a vocabulary that they can use in future conversations. It can also help them differentiate between other goodbye words such as “gone bye-bye” and “all gone”.

Step six: Go slow.

The pace of the conversation should be slowed so to not overload and overwhelm them. Give space for them to hear, make sense of your words, and to ask questions. You may have to break up the conversation in to small pieces.

 Step seven: Be ready for the questions…

They might ask if you are joking. They might need you to confirm what you just said. They might ask you to repeat yourself. They might need you to tell them every day, for a while. They are curious, and they might want to know how the person died. They might ask questions that seem unrelated. They might ask questions that are surprising. They might ask questions that are difficult to answer, hurt your heart, or that seem almost rude. They might ask you questions that are really an attempt to have other questions answered (Am I safe? Are you going to die? Is this my fault?). You might think that they have understood and then, at the most random or inopportune time, they might have more questions.

To be ready for their questions does not mean you need to have all the answers. You may need to communicate that you are not sure, or that you need some time before you can answer that. This is perfectly understandable and fair. Readiness is not about knowing everything, it’s about anticipating that children will likely be full of questions, even if they don’t verbalize them.

Step eight: Give permission.

Children need to be provided with permission to feel or express themselves, as they often behave as they believe is expected of them. Some children might need permission to ask all the questions they have. Without permission they might mask their grief or silence their wonder. Children also need to hear that their reactions are normal and acceptable, whatever they might be.

 Step nine: Offer opportunities and choice.

Death can make people feel out of control. Being empowered by choice, therefore, is a productive counter to this. To talk about death some more, or not? To read a story about death, or not? To look at pictures of the deceased person, or not? To attend the funeral, or not? Let them teach you what they need.

Step ten: Caring for children, caring for yourself.

It is important to be tender with yourself, you who have been so brave and generous with your child. Self-care is not just an act of self-love but a way to renew yourself so you can continue to give attention to your child’s complex needs. Be kind to yourself, this is hard work.