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Talk with kids about values and ethics by using philosophy! (With the help of these 2 books.)

I’ve always thought it would be pretty neat if I could have philosophical discussions with my kids. Why? Because my kids are constantly coming up with important  life questions that I, being a mere mortal, cannot answer. Questions like, “What is love?”; “Is it always wrong to lie?”; “What does it mean to be fair?”

It’s so important to discuss these issues in a meaningful way, and fortunately, some of the greatest minds have already done so for millenia. Unfortunately, the language of philosophy is complex for children, making the ideas difficult to understand.  Until now.

I bought “Philosphy for Kids,” which promised, “40 Fun Questions that help you wonder…about everything!” An activity-based workbook, each chapter combines a central question with a personality test (which kids love,) real-life situations, thoughts from a few philosophers, and questions for further thought. Chapters are short, and uses language that is easy to understand.  Our favourites so far: “Should you be rewarded for your efforts in school?” and “Are you the same person you were five years ago?”

The book is best shared by several participants, since it engages siblings and parents in sometimes passionate debates. “Philosophy for Kids” is a great introduction to philosophy, and a great springboard for conversations about life’s big questions.

Since I have an almost teen daughter, I also bought “Philosophy for Teens.”  (Different author.) Similar structure to “Philosophy for Kids,” but issues are geared toward a teenager’s interests, such as, “What is Love?” ; “Is Lying Always Wrong?”

My daughter is reading through some of the chapters herself, which is fine. I am reading some on my own as well, so we’ve had a few good discussions. Although this book makes a great introduction for teenagers interested in philosophy, I think it would be more suited to the interactive environment of a classroom. Teachers looking to spark lively discussions will find the questions and activities helpful. Lots of great topics which can be applied to lessons in literature and in science.

It’s really too bad that philosophy isn’t part of the school curriculum, because it fosters that sense of wonder so essential to developing a desire for learning.

One last note: No need for any previous knowledge to use these books. As expressed in “Philosophy for Kids:” “If you have ever wondered about why you felt a certain way when things happen to you, or why animals or plants do what they do, or why stars shine at night, or why a machine works, then you might be a philosopher.”









Tips To Get Kids to Practice Their Instruments.

We’ve had ups and down through nine years of music lessons. We’ve changed teachers a few times, and even changed instruments. There have been a few tantrums thrown along the way, and not only by the kids.

Nevertheless, all three are still playing and doing quite well. This year has gone particularly smoothly. Less nagging, and more enjoyment. Better quality practices, and more commitment.

I’ve written about practice before, but have since fine-tuned (haha) a few points that seem to be working for us.

Have a peek here, and adjust to whatever resonates with you and your kids. 

Happy Music Making!






5 Cures for the winter back-to-school blues.

Winter break was fabulous!

We languished in pyjamas and played board games, watched movies, and read books. We played tourists in our own city, exploring new sites and catching events downtown.

So, no one was happy about going back to school this morning.  Since it’s going to be a rough week, I thought why not do a few things to cheer everyone up?

Just because winter break is over doesn’t mean family fun has to end.  You can put a positive spin on back-to-school with a few simple activities that might take the edge off the blues.

1- Have a family back-to-school dinner. Celebrate by cooking up a favourite meal, order in, or go to a family restaurant.

2- Pack a special back-to-school lunch and include a personal handwritten message.

3- Kids don’t often get homework the first day back, so play a board game or watch TV together.

4- Don’t just ask kids how their day was, ask about all the friends they missed.

5- When they get home, let kids crank up their favourite songs. Listening to music or dancing is a great way to unwind.

Stay tuned for more books, activities, games, and movies to keep learning interesting through the year!




3 realistic resolutions to inspire more reading in the new year.

I am NOT going to resolve to declutter my house this year.  Instead, I’m going for three resolutions I know my family and I can keep.  None of the resolutions are inconvenient, expensive, nor demand changes in personalities.

Even though we are a family that reads, I feel like there’s always room to be more curious and excited when it comes to books. Sometimes we just need a bit of inspiration and new ideas. My goal is simply to try 3 new ways of inspiring more reading in the new year.

So, here goes.  My three resolutions:

1- Listen to more audio books in the car.  We’re listening to “Ballet Shoes” by Noel Streatfield, dramatized with a full cast by the BBC. Originally, I had borrowed the book, thinking my kids would enjoy this novel about three orphan girls adopted by a fossil collector. They couldn’t get into the book. I tried the audio book version instead, and they can’t stop listening to it.  Now they’re interested in looking at the book too. Sometimes a well narrated audiobook really does help to inspire interest, and to bring a book to life. Not to mention, it makes car rides much quieter.

2- Borrow more non-fiction.  I sometimes forget reading doesn’t have to be fiction. I need to listen more carefully to whatever topics are sparking my kids’ interests at the moment, and encourage them toward those topics in the library. Even if it means books about race cars and pop stars.


3- Watch more films based on good books. We’ve watched some amazing movies that have inspired us to read those equally amazing books. I posted this very short list  a while ago, but I need to keep adding more movies. We recently watched “Matilda,” which made my daughter want to read the book all over again. Another favourite was “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Bonding over movies is a great way to inspire reading, and I’ll be keeping you posted with my new list of “must-see books.”

Here’s wishing you and your families a year of health, happiness, and books!

If you’re looking for more ways to inspire reading, you may want to check out “8 unusual strategies to get your child to love reading.”



Do NOT go to the mall. 5 cool websites with original stuff for kids.

Many people don’t realize that I have two superpowers: Laziness, and Money spendingness.  I know, this doesn’t make me Superwoman. It just means that I like to stay home in my PJs. It also means I spend too much money.  Thanks to advancements in technology,  my two powers in combination have become highly useful.

While holiday shoppers battle at the mall, I score awesome gifts while lounging at home in my PJs (at 2 PM.)  I’m finding stuff you can’t even get at the mall. Take that, you organized list-toting December shoppers. KAPOW!!!!!!!!

Click here to uncover cool websites.  Happy Shopping!




SpellTower word games are spellbinding. Resistance is futile.

First there was Boggle, which led the family on a frenzied search for words. Then, there was Tetris, possibly one of the most addictive puzzle games ever. Now there’s SpellTower: A word game that fuses elements of Boggle with Tetris. It’s a lethal combination, but if controlled, delivers a powerful force for kids’ brains.

What is SpellTower?

An app that strengthens vocabulary, spelling skills, and visual-spatial skills. Letters are jumbled in a large crossword grid, and the goal is to find hidden words. Longer words yield more points.

So, what makes SpellTower different from other word games?

Every time you find a word, those letters vanish and new letters are added.  In Tower Mode, you simply try to clear the screen by finding as many words as you can. In Puzzle Mode, a whole new row of letters is added as you make words. Watch out: If a column of letters reaches the top of the screen your game is over. Extreme Puzzle Mode is similar, but cranks up the minimum word length. Rush Mode requires nerves of steel, as new rows are introduced whether you have founds words or not.

Like Tetris, you have to envision the results of your letters falling to make new rows.  You don’t want to back yourself into a corner!

Multiplayer Debate modes are available, but I haven’t tried them yet.

What are the benefits of SpellTower for kids?

1- Spelling: Any combination of letters may be attempted, but only correct spellings are accepted. It’s good practice for kids, who are quickly motivated to find and remember correctly spelled words.

2- Vocabulary: Longer words equal more points, so kids begin to think beyond common 3 and 4 letter words. Over time, they look for prefixes and suffixes that yield longer words (-ing, -tion, -re…) Great for language development.

3- Visual-spatial skills: Visual skills are key in finding patterns and combinations of letters.  In the higher puzzle modes, envisioning the new rows that result from eliminated letters is key to busting out of a corner.

Who can play?

Ages 6-99, but stick with simpler modes for younger kids.

Where can you get it, and how much does it cost?

Available on itunes for $1.99. For iphone and ipad.

Caution: Kids should use this app with some limitations, as it is highly addictive. Just hope they don’t catch you playing for hours!





8 movies you and the kids will love together.

You would love to snuggle up with the kids on the couch and watch a movie, but you can’t bear to sit through another inane cartoon.  Your kids aren’t ready for Woody Allen yet, so how can you please everyone on family movie night?

I’ve put together 8 films that EVERYONE in the family will love.  You don’t have to sit through high-pitched chipmunk voices during movie nights with your kids.

Try out these tried and tested films, and get ready to share some special movie moments. Pass the popcorn!



How celebrities are getting kids to think reading is cool.

According to a study recently conducted in the UK, one of every five children would be embarrassed to be seen with a book.  For many kids reading isn’t cool, and it’s no wonder. Kids look at successful pop stars and professional athletes in the media, and they don’t exactly see a bookish image.  Reading a book is pretty much the last thing kids could imagine their celebrity role-models doing.

So, it’s great when celebrities show kids that reading is an important part of their lives. Taylor Swift recently told millions of students via webcast that reading made her the songwriter she is today.  She talked about her favourite books growing up, and how reading is still a huge part of her life.  I’ll bet that many young readers in hiding felt very empowered watching Taylor Swift that day.

Taylor isn’t the only celebrity to speak up about her love of reading. Storyline Online  has actors reading favourite stories to your kids. Scholastic launched RED (Read Every Day,) which features “Celebrity Bookprints”: Lists of kids’ books that made it to each celebrity’s top five. (Taylor Swift’s webcast was featured as part of RED.)

If your kids think reading is for nerds, or if you’re looking for some inspiring titles, I recommend you check out the what some celebrities are saying . Click on the links provided to watch with your kids.



Opera for kids? Si si! Thanks to Cowtown Opera.

Last week, my kids sat through an entire opera production of Hansel and Gretel. They loved it – for real. It helped that they sat on a mat with other kids right at the front, and munched on popcorn while they watched. On our way out, the kids were handed some delicious cookies and cake pops.

Introducing kids to music and theatre early on can be very stimulating. (Of course, you don’t want to drag them to a three hour production in a fancy opera hall!) I’ve noticed that more artistic companies are including family-friendly programming.  Very smart, because those entertained kids are potential future patrons.

Here in Calgary, we are fortunate to have Cowtown Opera.  This feisty troupe is all about making opera accessible to every day people, even kids. Using humour, great acting, and some munchies,  the singers create a laid-back feel to the production. The home-spun atmosphere of the cozy venue and accompanying piano certainly don’t detract from the quality performances. Great voices, great music, and a great family outing. Thanks Cowtown Opera!

In case you can’t find family-friendly performances in your area, there are other ways of introducing your kids to opera and Classical music.

Check out the MET productions at Cineplex Odeon.  Occasionally, they have a production for families.

Here are some fun books and CDs to share with the kids.

Enjoy, and have some fun with culture!












5 books my 6 year old son loves

Before I had kids, I wasn’t a big believer in “boy books,” and “girl books.”

Still not a believer, but I have to admit my son’s tastes are very different from my daughters’ at his age.  Yet, not all his books have to be about monster trucks.

My son enjoys silly humour, adventure, puzzles, and fables. It has been so much fun for us to discover new releases and classics in these genres.

I hope your son (or daughter) will enjoy these books!


1- I Stink! by Kate McMullen  A day in the life of a busy, smelly garbage truck in the big city.  Descriptive language is wonderful, and the illustrations bring the text to life.  If you can find the audiobook version on CD at your library, grab it! My son and his friends love listening to the CD in the car.

2- Pierre by Maurice Sendak  “I don’t care,” says Pierre to absolutely everything – until the day he gets eaten by a lion.  A quirky, rhyming book, with a great message.

3- The Classic Tales of Brer Rabbit by Joel Chandler Harris Naughty Brer Rabbit is clever and adventurous, and has many adventures. My son delights at Brer Rabbit’s tricky ways, and loves the illustrations in this collection from American folklore.

4- Aesop’s Fables retold and illustrated by Don Daily Stories about animals behaving badly have passed the test of time.  We like the language and illustrations in this version.

5- Chester by Melanie Watt  From the author of Scaredy Squirrel, comes the silly story of an interrupting cat. Side-splitting humour.




How to talk to your kids about bullying? Start with these 6 fiction books.

Talking to our kids about bullying isn’t always easy.  Sometimes kids don’t want to share information, and sometimes parents don’t like to talk about their own painful experiences.

It may seem counterintuitive, but delving into fictional books about bullying is a great springboard for meaningful conversations. Great books demand that we delve into the psychological makeup of the bullied and the bully.  We can discuss scenarios from plots and problem-solve with our kids, and it’s all safe when it’s in the confines of a book.

Click here to see my six selections for preschool to high school.

Hopefully you will find them helpful for encouraging conversations that will last a lifetime.



Quality university classes from your own home for free. For real.

What if you could learn from outstanding professors in a class with students from all over the world, without ever leaving your home?  Even while wearing  pyjamas!?

If you’ve been itching to further your education, but can’t work campus into your busy schedule, then you’ll be excited about Coursera. 

Read on about this new wave in education that is taking the world of adult learners by storm.





Perfect fall activity: Rock hounding

Fall is my favourite season.  Warm colours are all around us, and there’s nothing like a walk in the crisp autumn air. Here in Alberta autumn tends to be brief,  so all the more reason to savour the season by getting outside with our kids.  Plus, there’s no better teacher than nature herself.

A few days ago, we went on an unplanned “rock hounding” trip. Walking through paths collecting leaves, my kids began picking up rocks of various shades and shapes.  We live near a reservoir, so we went down to the water where the kids spent about an hour collecting all kinds of rocks.  They look quite pretty in water, don’t you think?


Naturally, they were curious to identify the differences between the rocks they had collected.  I found this neat website that helped us classify the rocks into metamorphic, sedimentary, and igneous. Kids also had fun playing the “Who Am I Rock Game.”

Finally, we found this beautiful book at the library from Eyewitness Books.

So colourful, informative, and even has a clip-art CD.  My kids were instantly taken, and I have to admit, I’m interested too!


Learning doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.  Get outside, enjoy the beauty of the season, and let mother nature inspire curiosity.



4 awesome math resources to use when homework is a nightmare.


Don’t let math homework bring you down! I’m back, and I have some great math resources for you to share with your kids.

Whether you’re a math wiz or math-challenged, you CAN help your kids when they’re frustrated in math.  Check out these 4 resources I posted on Yummy Mummy Club. 

Stay tuned for more great educational resources and ideas coming soon! In the meantime, I hope these resources add up for you and your kids.









When Mom goes back to school: 5 things I learned about life.

Kids weren’t the only ones in my house who went back to school this September.  I didn’t get a new backpack or a new pair of jeans (yet), but I did get the first-day jitters.

Going back to school at – well, let’s just say a “Mom” age – gives you some unexpected perspectives on life.

1- I’m really old.  Not old outside campus, but on campus I’m a dinosaur. I’m old enough to be these students’ parent, and sometimes I think these kids are looking at me that way.

2- Kids have a lot of time to study. I don’t.  Students are always complaining about deadlines.  They don’t have kids, a spouse, and a lot of them don’t have real jobs.  Enough said.

3- My brain is getting dumber.  See #1.

4- Sitting in a one-hour lecture seems like forever. How do my kids do this? I’m a doodling machine.

5- I’m so happy to be at my stage in life: Married, with kids, my work, my studies, and my car!  (See #1-4)



8 Unusual Strategies to Get Your Child To Love Reading

Lots of kids go through phases where they refuse to read. It’s not that they can’t read, they just don’t want to.  If you’re a parent who loves books, this can be especially difficult to take.  What to do? You can’t order your kids to love reading, or else! Besides, that would defeat the whole point of getting kids to love reading for its own sake.

Don’t give up!  Try my 8 unusual “outside the book” strategies for a change.  They worked for me and my kids, and I hope they will work for you and your kids as well.

Happy reading!



Savour the final days of summer with these 10 easy-breezy activities.

We’re down to the final week of summer, and I’m kind of sad.  Carefree days will soon be replaced with early wake-ups and busy routines.  Let’s not even think about the cold.

So, I made a list of 10 easy summer activities I really want to squeeze in before it’s too late.

Some things we’ve done already and really want to repeat, and others we never got around to doing. Click here to read the list, and enjoy the rest of summer vacation - while it lasts!



Loveable Grover reads “The Monster at the End of the Book.” – on ipad.

“WHAT DID THAT SAY?  Oh, I am so scared of monsters! Please, please, don’t turn the page!”  Poor Grover.

Kids have loved turning the pages of the classic book since its release in 1971.  So, how does a classic whose theme is turning pages in a book translate onto ipad?

Don’t be scared to click here and find out.  PLEASE turn the page!! :)









Love word games? You and the kids will flip out over “Letter Flip.”

from BrightKidsWorld

I have an addiction to word games, so I get more than slightly excited when I find one for the family.  “Letter Flip” levels out the playing field between me and the kids, so my words are more difficult than theirs. Nobody gets bored, and everyone has a chance of winning. “Letter Flip” builds spelling and literacy skills for the kids and is SO MUCH FUN!  We can’t stop playing.

“Letter Flip” is similar to the classic game “Guess Who,” but with words.  Like “Guess Who” it’s a 2-player game, but instead of faces there are letters that flip. Each player has a hidden card containing 3-4-5-6 letter words.   Using powers of reason and a little luck, players have to guess which words are hidden in the card.

5 highlights of “Letter Flip”

1) Blue cards for harder words, yellow for easier.  Kids and adults can play together.

2) Play anytime, anywhere.  No board or pieces required.

3) Skills: Logic, literacy, spelling, visualization.

4) Quick: A full game takes around 30 minutes.

5) Ages: 9 and up. (I played the 3 and 4 letter words with my 6 year old, so the game is easily adaptable.)

Here’s an Out of the Box video promotion of their game:

NOTE TO CANADIANS ON SHIPPING:  I can’t find a Canadian company that stocks LetterFlip, as it is fairly new.  Bright Kids World will ship to Canada. Check details for shipping rates.  The game is priced at $13.41.




Everything kids love and hate about life at school : Top 8 books

Life at school has its ups and downs, and is rarely predictable.  A nice teacher turns mean.  A friend becomes an enemy. The “dumb” kid at the back of the class is actually really smart.

No wonder when we ask kids what they did at school, the answer is often “nothing.”  It can be pretty intense, and hard to talk about.

The 8 books in this list capture life at school with humour and reassurance.  Whether your child is just starting school or is a seasoned pro, kids will relate to the characters of these books.

You can find the list by clicking here.

Happy Reading!



How you can sabotage the parent-teacher relationship – or NOT!

All relationships require work, but the parent-teacher relationship can be particularly challenging.  What if you think your child’s teacher stinks? (Not literally, but that can happen too.)  What if you don’t agree with the way math is being taught?

Well,  you can’t just throw a tantrum and tell the teacher what you really think of her.  You are going to have to work really hard at sucking things up and treating the teacher like a professional.  You are going to have to put a lot of effort into the parent-teacher relationship, because it is key to your child’s success.

Wondering how to build a positive relationship even when you don’t want to?

Click on YummyMummyClub to read my post about the 5 basic rules to follow.




Relive your childhood: Disney’s Read-Along Adventures are back!

Remember the days before DVDs and VHS players?  The only way to watch your favourite movie again was to go to the cinema. Or, you could follow along in a book as you listened to a reenactment from “Read Along Adventures.”

Disneyland Records produced many well-loved classics, from The Love Bug to Star Wars to Peter Pan to ET.   Hours were spent transfixed in front of a scratchy old record player or clunky cassette player, as my siblings and I followed along with the books.

I had kind of forgotten about the Read Along Adventures, until I came across this website and all the memories rushed back.  Maybe nostalgia is clouding my judgment, but to me the quality of narration and accompanying music was excellent. I can’t wait to try this on my kids!

Select from the list of audio books to download on your MAC or PC.  Looks like this collection is someone’s labour of love, and is a work in progress.  I don’t know who are you, but thank you!  :)

 Have you ever come across something from your childhood you couldn’t wait to share with your kids? 



Music videos get kids excited about history

Kids love music, but they find history boring.  So, what do you get when you mash up Lady Gaga with Marie Antoinette, or Gwen Stefani with the Black Plague?  Music video spoofs that make learning history fun.

Quirky, catchy, and educational, the videos are the brainchild of two talented history teachers.  They are successful: Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” (The French Revolution) has almost 950,000 hits on Youtube.

Your kids will be singing La-la-liberte, E-e-egalite, Fra-fra-ternite in no time!

Click here to read more on my YummyMummyClub post.



Your kids can bake this: Two minute chocolate mug cake

Up until I discovered this recipe, baking with three kids was a test of their patience. Taking turns measuring and mixing into one bowl can get boring, lengthy and messy.  So, I was excited for my kids to try out this recipe for Microwaved Chocolate Cake in  Mug.  They each made their own batter right in their mugs, and were each responsible for accurate measurements.  Math in the kitchen?  Absolutely.

Two minutes in the microwave and voila: Chocolate cake!

Not exactly gourmet chocolate cake, but it actually tasted really good.  My kids thought it was the best cake they had ever tasted.


Here’s the recipe from Completely Delicious, who found it at Lucky Peach Magazine, Issue 3.  Pass it on!


3 Tbsp. vegetable oil

3 Tbsp. whole milk

1 egg

1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

4 Tbsp. sugar

2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

pinch salt

3 Tbsp. semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a medium sized microwave-safe mug, add the vegetable oil, whole milk, egg, and vanilla extract.  Use a fork or small whisk to mix until combined.  Add the flour, sugar, cocoa, and salt and mix until combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Bake in the microwave on high for two minutes.  Serve immediately.



Awesome free app: Memory Matches 2

Test your memory by flipping cards to reveal a matching pair.  Sound familiar?  

Yes, it’s the traditional, well-loved memory game for the ipod/ipad.

Playing “Memory Matches 2″ on the ipad means cards never get lost, and players can customize their boards and matches.  Choose from 4X4 to 10X10 boards to suit players of all ages and levels. Race against the clock in single player mode, challenge friends in the multi player mode, or play in tournaments against people on the web.

Select from a variety of themes for your cards, including shapes, animals, and Halloween. Cute!  Here’s a screenshot of a 4X4 board:

A leader board tracks your best times, which means kids are motivated to try harder each game.

Memory Matches 2  is challenging and fun.  No question, it works on a very important component of learning: Memory.

Finally, a guilt-free app: It’s NOT draining my kids’ brains, and they like it!  How often does that come along? Oh, did I mention it’s free, except for a few extra features? :)

I would love to hear what you think.  

Do you have a favourite app that actually works your kids’ brains?




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