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Family Meals


By Linda Tobias


Family meals are important. Whether it’s just you and your child, or your family has several generations living together, sitting down together to eat can result in healthier eating habits, improved self-esteem, and better social skills. Studies suggest that family meals are a big factor in raising healthy, happy kids. (source)


But what is a family meal? If your first thought is that family meals must be lengthy and involve multiple courses of hearty and healthy food made from scratch, then you’re likely to give up on the whole idea. (I know I would!) But, fear not, family meals can be very simple to pull off!


  • 20 minutes is all you need! We live in a busy world where few of us have an hour to sit down for dinner each night, and that’s okay. Sit down, eat and then get on with what you need to do.
  • Meals don’t need to be a burden. Make sandwiches, reheat leftovers, grab take-out on the way home – as long as you’re all together when you’re eating, it counts as a family meal.
  • Busy day? Eat out. A meal eaten together at a fast food joint is still a family meal.


Here are some tips that will have you putting together family meals like a pro:


  • Talk to each other! This is the time to connect as a family. Share highlights from your day, make plans for the weekend, tell stories from when you were a kid, ask questions. Involve everyone in the conversation.
  • Make the meal fun. Let kids eat at their own pace. Let everyone pick which of the served foods to eat and how much.
  • Ban all electronics from the area you’re eating in. No tablets, video games or smart phones (that means you too!). Turn the TV off.
  • Plan your meals for the week. Involve everyone in the family so that each person gets at least one of their favourite meals.
  • Involve kids in putting the meal together. Take them grocery shopping. Get them to help in the kitchen, with setting the table, and by cleaning up after the meal.


Read more about Family Meals:

Ellyn Satter Institute

Better Together BC

Community Kitchens in Sapperton Sept-Nov

Come and spend a couple of hours learning some healthy fall recipes. Lets find out what’s in season and make use of the wide variety of fruits and vegetables which are available right now. Its time to settle in with warm and comforting recipes that we all love at this time of the year.

This workshop is available to parents, seniors and anyone who are interested in healthy eating!

Tuesday mornings at Knox Presbyterian Church.

Details: Food Skills for Families (Edmonds Sept 2015)2


Community Parent Education Program Oct 13 to Nov 17

Join us for a series of parent education workshops hosted by the Simon Fraser Society for Community Living and SHARE: Family Services. COPE is a community based parenting program. COPE is designed to help parents and caregivers practise and develop skills to strengthen their relationships with their children, increase cooperation, and solve problems. Parents will have the opportunity to connect with other members of the community, and have their questions answered by qualified professionals.

Tuesday October 13, 2015 at 6:30 PM PDT -to-
Tuesday November 17, 2015 at 8:30 PM PST


New Westminster Children’s Centre 811 Royal Avenue New Westminster, BC V3M 1K1

To Register: Julia Ho, New Westminster Children’s Center, Program Support, (604) 521-8078,

Child Development Support in New West

Concerned about your child’s development? New West has many resources.

If a child is born healthy, the future seems limitless. But for some of us, the dream of sports trophies, academic achievements and a large group of friends fades as we slowly come to see that something just isn’t right.

Where can you turn if your child is not hitting important milestones, showing odd behaviour or giving you other reasons to worry about his or her development? If you’re in New West then you’re in luck. There are many places with information, support and help.
Photo by Patrick Hajzler, used via a Creative Commons license.

If you’re not sure whether there’s a reason for concern

Sometimes, especially if you’re a first-time parent, it can be hard to know how your child is doing in relation to his or her peers. If, for example, your daughter isn’t walking at 14 months, is that normal?

The free drop-in programs for the under-5 crowd at New Westminster Family Place or Strong Start can help. The staff is well versed in child development and you’ll get an opportunity to meet other families with kids who are the same age to give you an idea of how your child is doing in comparison.

Your family doctor can be a great source of information about child development and can give a referral to a pediatrician or other services if needed.

The public health nurses at the Public Health Unit are also a great resource. They often have more time to discuss your concerns than a family doctor, so if you’re there for immunizations, it’s a great opportunity to discuss any concerns you have.

Important note: nobody is ever going to know more about your child than you. If your gut tells you that there’s something to be concerned about, it’s important that you follow up, even if health professionals are telling you that everything is fine.

If there’s a reason for concern

If you know that there are concerns that need to be addressed, the New Westminster Children’s Centre is your one-stop destination for getting the help you need. Located at 811 Royal Ave, they take referrals not just from medical professionals (like your doctor or public health nurse), but from parents as well.

Call them at 604.521.8078 local 318 and ask for either Infant Development (0-3 years) or Supported Child Development (3+ years). They will help you determine if your child meets the criteria to be eligible for services.

If your family is added to the caseload, a consultant will meet you at your home to discuss your concerns in detail. They have all of tools and knowledge to conduct an in-depth assessment, can suggest activities to help your child catch up and can refer you to therapies that may be appropriate, including speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy.

New West residents with a First Nations background can also contact the Spirit of the Children Society. It provides the services that the NWCC does, but with special support and resources for First Nations families.

Bio: Linda is a New West mom with two boys. Her older son has Autism and her younger son is undiagnosed with developmental delays. You can read more about her personal experience with looking for help here. You can connect with Linda on Twitter.

Why play the Piano first? Why not the Flute? A parents guide to Private Music Lessons

Why consider some instruments at an earlier age over others? How does one assess if it is the right instrument?


Piano is the generally the most popular and successful instrument to start with from a young age. Most children can successfully begin at age 4 (this was me many years ago!) or 5. Occasionally, some children can begin as young as age 3.5 (lessons for ages 3-5 year olds generally incorporate a number of off the piano activities to reinforce piano skills in new and interesting ways. Instruments, colouring and movement may be incorporated depending on the teacher and needs of student). Skills to have mastered; Left/Right hands, recognize letters A-G (no need to be reading yet though), strong fingers with a high level of finger independence (how would you evaluate their fine motor skills? can they do up a button or zipper yet?). Piano is a great foundation for all instrument study, music reading is transferable to any instrument, the finger strength, rhythm and theory skills that piano study builds alone are irreplaceable.


Ukulele is a wonderful instrument for young children. Generally speaking, this instrument is best started at age 5 and can sometimes be started as early as age 4. Skills they should have mastered; Left/Right hands, be able to recognize letters A-G. Strong fingers, with good finger independence (though not as important as it is in Piano). Ukulele is also a wonderful instrument for children who would eventually like to move to Guitar. Do you have a child who loves to sing but not yet ready for voice lessons? Children can learn (mostly from example) to sing and accompany themselves at a young age. Take for example my daughter *gushing mother* who is 3.5, she is not ready for voice lessons, but I am considering placing her in Ukulele lessons this Fall so she can have more fun singing along with herself 🙂


Guitar is a great instrument to begin at age 6 or 7, (to note for petite children – only with the right sized guitar – please speak to an instructor about the best size for your sized child). At this age it is best to start on an acoustic guitar with nylon strings, then transitioning into steel strings or electric guitar if desired. Children must have strong fingers (much stronger than Ukulele to fret the notes) and be comfortable with developing calluses.

Flute or Clarinet

Flute is a wonderful great first wind instrument, best started at age 8. Children need time to develop lung capacity and grow their little bodies (holding instruments away from your body for extended periods of time is tiring!) so no earlier is recommended. A wonderful precursor to the flute or clarinet however is the Recorder, which is great to begin at age 6.


The Violin can be very successful at age 5 if the child shows an interest. Unlike the piano, the violin is not as initially gratifying to listen to 😉 However, this beautiful instrument is great for developing a keen sense of pitch and heightened listening as one must be diligent on each sound made being in tune. Fine motor skills must be well developed here for a small fingerboard, good wrist flexibility for careful bowing and acknowledgment that sometimes arms will get tired from holding the instrument. Thankfully violins come in a large assortment of sizes, all the way down to 1/16th of the original size, be sure your child is fitted properly and always playing the correct size. The violin is also a great precursor to the cello, which is best started at age 8 or 9.


Voice lessons are best started at age 8. Much like the Flute and Clarinet, time is needed to develop lung capacity and grow! However, lessons can sometimes be started as early as 6 years old with the right teacher who takes care to guide the voice gently with repertoire and technique that is age, voice maturity and range appropriate. Voice training has many benefits, but less known to point out are – aiding in speech impediments, lisps, dealing with a new retainer or braces and finding a full voice for speech. To note – voice lessons are a wonderful compliment to piano or guitar learning where one can eventually learn to accompany themselves while singing and can provide a sound theoretical base for the voice.


Private drum lessons at age 8 are great if there is strong interest shown. Aptitude for rhythm can be indicated very early on in life (perhaps a gift of a toy drum they love to sing and play with?) and generally speaking you may be able to tell if your child is naturally rhythmic much earlier than 8 years old. Things to look for – strong coordination, beating beats on the kitchen table, love of dance, can clap (or tap, or beat on the table, etc) a steady beat, can clap back accurately what you clap, can clap along in time with music. However, the beauty of music training is – these things we look for to see if there is a natural tonal or rhythmic ability with any instrument – can all be developed with desire & study! Hooray!

-Vashti Fairbairn is a local New West music and piano teacher, owner of Music Box New Westminster’s Music Academy at the New Westminster River Market & a new Second location to serve you at 630 Carnarvon. You can learn more about raising your children musically at