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Do a science with Penguin Watch

Do a science with Penguin Watch

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I love citizen science projects. I spend way too much time on Snapshot Serengeti, flipping through photos of giraffe under carriages and endless antelopes. Now you can count penguins in Antarctica! This is a great activity for school-age kids that are keen on animals – and it’s hard not to get a thrill knowing you’re helping scientists with their research.

 

 

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Happy 10 years of Music Monday

Happy 10 years of Music Monday

Today is the anniversary of the Music Monday campaign, celebrating the importance of music in our lives, especially in our schools. Last year, my son and I had the incredible experience of witnessing Commander Chris Hadfield perform the song above on a live link from the International Space Station at Science World, as well as hearing some incredible local school musicians perform.

Having the chance to learn music in school made so many other things possible for me. I went on to learn six different instruments, perform in concert bands, orchestras, pit orchestras for musicals, and jazz bands. I ended up working at one of the biggest arts centres in the world, due in no small part to those programmes. Possibly even more critical, it made high school livable.

So take a moment today to think about music in your life, and do what you can to keep music education happening in our schools. To get you started, visit the Access to Music Foundation for British Columbian youth.

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Five tips for geocaching with kids

Five tips for geocaching with kids

geocaching with kids

Like many preschoolers, my son seems to have an unusual attachment to the Newtonian laws of motion. Getting him outside can be hard, but then getting him dressed is hard. Once he’s rolling out the door, however, he can’t stop jumping up and down.

This spring we’ve taken to geocaching, or as my son calls it, treasure hunting.

After downloading an app on your phone, you can view the treasures (or caches) around your neighbourhood. Suddenly there’s all these little things hidden everywhere and you had no idea. It’s one of my favourite things about geocaching, revealing that other layer.

Generally, a cache is a small tupperware box with little toys and things in it, as well as a small pad for writing your name and the date on it. Some caches are tiny and only have the logbook, or a tightly rolled piece of paper to record your name.

Here are some things we’ve found that makes going on a geocache treasure hunt a bit easier:

1. Bring something to trade. Caching etiquette is to take something and leave something of equal or greater value behind – so best to have a stash of dollar store cars, marbles, and whatnot with you. Also bring a pen or a pencil for writing your entry in a nanocache, as they don’t usually have anything in there but the log sheet.

2. Research before you go. Caches can take awhile to find, as they’re ingeniously hidden. Before we head out as a family, we (meaning the parents, often the night before) research the caches we’re going to look for, which includes reading all the hints, and checking all the photos. This isn’t strictly the way you’re supposed to do it – but when you’ve got small people jumping up and down next to you, 20 minutes of nuanced searching is not really going to happen. Sometimes, too, you’re required to climb to a less-than-safe spot, or duck under fences, not particularly things I want to encourage in a 4-and-a-half year old. Obviously, you will know best what your kids are up for, and tailor this one to their ages.

3. Have a talk about failure. A conversation about the possibility of not finding any treasure is well worth having before you leave. Nothing like a meltdown in the middle of a busy area because there’s nothing there. That brings us to the next tip…

4. Pick an area with a few caches close together. If your first attempt doesn’t yield any treasure, having a back-up (or two) close by makes success more likely. And your smaller treasure hunting mates more keen on the outing the next time.

5. Just buy the app. There’s a website you can search, but the official $10 app is the best bet. Easy to use, clear and map-enabled, the app helps you keep track of caches you’ve already found. It may seem steep, but think about paying for a movie for the family, or a visit to a museum.

Do you look for geocaches with kids? What are your tips?

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Why we love board games

Why we love board games

elliot game

You must have figured out by now that I’m a nerd.

I mean, look at my Instagram feed (craft beer, board games), my reading habits, my Pebble watch, and the fact that I buy my son David Tennant-era Doctor Who trousers whenever possible.

It was with some excitement that I realized our son was old enough to play board games with us. Through the generosity of some equally nerdy friends, we’ve borrowed and bought several games lately that have become part of our daily routine.

Some kids love to cut paper, colour, or make crafts. My son will sit and play four rounds of games every morning. This amazed me initially, as he is so physical; previously, unless an activity involved running or wrestling, he was not interested. I also love that playing games works on math, word recognition, motor skills, and social interactions – I mostly wanted to do something with him that didn’t involve me getting any more bruises!

As we head in to this last, seemingly unending stretch of winter, I’m going to be posting a series of reviews of the board games we’ve been playing. My husband and I have gotten back in to playing games in the evening as well. It’s definitely helped clear some brain fog and reassured me that three years of sleep deprivation did not actually turn my mind into oatmeal.

I’m talking about German-style board games mainly, which are along the lines of Settlers of Catan, Civilization, Axis and Allies, Carcassone, Smallworld, and others. You’re building out worlds, developing civilizations, trading resources, playing out wars – that kind of thing. Not Sorry! or Trivial Pursuit or something like that. Often one adult game will run for an hour, or more, depending how long you take to think through your turn. There are small person versions of many of these games, and I’m going to be talking through the ones we’ve been trying, and which ones we’ve loved.

But first, some great resources for finding out about good board games.

Board Game Geek, is, as you can imagine, a deeply overgrown thicket of information. However, one of my favourite elements of this site is their user-generated GeekLists of Netflix genre-type specificity. I found She’s Asleep! Games for Time Poor Adults with Infant(s) an excellent list of quick games for adults. Digging through the forum archives, we also found good advice on new games to try with our 4 year old.

Tabletop is a YouTube show about games produced by Wil Wheaton. I was resistant to sitting through half an hour of watching people play a game, but it’s actually quite good. If you’re not sure how a game works, watching the related episode of Tabletop will give you the best overview possible.

Research is key, because these are not 99¢ apps we’re talking about here, but shelf-space cluttering $40-$80 purchases. We often play at least two or three different games a day, however, both with our son and without. Non-screen time for all of us is a good thing.

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Gus on the Go giveaway

Gus on the Go giveaway

gusonthego splash screen

You lucky people! After seeing how much we loved their language app, the generous developers behind Gus on the Go have offered 5 apps to give away to my readers. You can pick which language you’d like too. This giveaway is open to residents of Canada, US and UK, and you can pick iOS or Android.

Go forth and enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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