Category Archives: “How-to” series

7 resources to help kids Learn to Code this summer

apple 2014 retail_learn_youth_camp

The case for why kids need to understand tech as an important 21st century skill has been made (see awesome video on this here), but it’s not yet a core concept taught as part of the basic school curriculum.

So here are few options for parents interested in helping their kids develop tech skills this summer:

1. FREE – Virtual Google “Maker” camps – “Building, Tinkering and Exploring” 6 weeks starting July 7th 11 a.m. PST 

Google is offering six weeks of fun things to make and do for kids – all they need is a Google+ account and access to a PC, smartphone or tablet (if they are younger than 13, they will need to use the account of a parent).  The Maker Camps will have a weekly structure. In the morning, kids will complete a creative DIY project (for example a toy rocket) and in the afternoon they will also use Google Hangouts to talk to expert artists, makers and inventors as well as do virtual field trips to locations including Legoland in Denmark and Jim Henson’s Creature Workshop. See more here.

2. FREE – Sign up for a class at an Apple store – Various locations – local schedule 

At the Apple Store, you will find a variety of programs tailored just for kids, no purchase required. Youth Workshops, Field Trips, and Apple Camp are great ways to get kids thinking, learning, and creating — all while having fun. See more here.

3. $45: Learn to Code for Girls in Vancouver – Be like Ada – Sat, July 19th

Ada Lovelace, the beautiful black and white movie star and also a prolific tech inventor is the inspiration behind this one day bootcamp is for high-school girls only. They can learn to code and meet other girls just like them and hear from superhero women who have cool jobs because they code. To register, go

4. Code Kids Canada

See this CBC documentary for how and why kids are learning to code in the Maritimes. Inspirational videos galore you can show your kids to get them motivated. Motivation is then often enough to get them interested in using the many online and apps available to learn tech (see esp choice 1 above and 8 below).

5. Coder Dojo – Weekend Learn to Code for kids

CoderDojo is a global movement about providing free and open learning to youth, with an emphasis on computer programming. There are Coder Dojos in Toronto and Calgary, and one is being set up here in Vancouver.

6. Digital Media Academy – Summer Camps – $900+

This amazing opportunity to get top notch exposure to all aspects related to technology creation and use does not come cheap – but is now an option available across Canada. Week long summer camp classes for kids aged 8 to 12 and 13 and older covering a multitude of topics (film creating, game design, iPhone programming, robotics, app development etc) can cost around $900 each – sign up here for the few spots left. They have been doign in since 2002 and apparently, it is a life changing experience.

7. Apps and Games – Learn as You Play (ok for kids 8+)

 My Robot Friend allows kids to program the path of a funny robot and follow it’s adventures – hilarious and educational. Download here.

 The concept is simple — direct a robotic arm to move crates to a designated spot — but Cargo-Bot creates young programmers as it encourages the kind of innovative thinking necessary to learn programming skills. Download it here.

Hopscotch, is a simpler version of MIT’s scratch, and is AWESOME. It allows kids to quickly create games and animations by simple drag and drop of different commands. Kids can modify everything from size to speed to color – and see the results fast which is something that gets them hooked. Download it here.

Alexandra T. Greenhill, MD, mom, geek, CEO co-founder myBestHelper


Do You Have a Picky Eater in the House? Read On!


Getting to yum by Karen LeBillon

image from

  • Do you have a five or six-year-old who refuses to eat certain foods?
  • Is the dinner table becoming a battle of wills instead of a family gathering?
  • Is the worry about your picky eater causing stress for your family?

No worries – now there is help!

Karen LeBillon is the author of award winning best seller “French Kids Eat Everything“. Her 2nd book “Getting to Yum: Curing and preventing picky eating”, endorsed by a Harvard Medical School pediatrician, helps with taste training for kids and is being adapted to the TV screen. A new TV series produced by LaDiDa Media aims to help you and the picky eater in your family.

Karen wants to meet your family, and share her simple steps for turning even the most picky eater, into a fan of healthy and diverse foods. If you live in the lower mainland of British Columbia and would like your family to be a part of this new TV series, read on:

  • Looking for families with one picky eater of around 6 years old, who are available to film in their home for one day on the weekend of June 7th and 8th, and for one day of the weekend of June 14th and 15th.
  • Hoping to film a follow up to check back with your family in July or August.
  • Send a little information about your family, plus a photo or two to the following address: They are looking forward to helping you!

Otherwise – the book is now available in all major bookstores and features practical advice, an easy to follow approach and LOTS of recipes the whole family can enjoy. You can download here the FREE fruit and veggies poster to help teach kids about different foods. You can also print it in black and white and give it to your kids to color.

Alexandra T. Greenhill, MD, Mom of three and CEO cofounder myBestHelper


Kid’s Garden – an awesome how to guide

Loved this post from Kid’s Garden on a new practical book on outdoor activities – especially the step-by-step instructions for all of us without a green thumb!

Alexandra T. Greenhill, mom of three, CEO founder of myBestHelper

Olympic athletes, dedicated parents and helping kids enjoy sports


After three weeks of watching the world celebrate the achievements of the Olympic athletes, all I can think is: “Wow to all these dedicated parents who spend the time, effort and money required to set their kids on the path to this success.” Of course, being a successful athlete takes much more than just that, but the support of parents is a key starting point.

I say this because I watch parents around me take their kids to soccer, ski, piano and dance lessons  weekly, then increasing over the years to a daily commitment, all while unfazed by showing up to swimming practice at 5am or staying for hockey games at 11pm. Many parents also take up the sport’s cause, doing fundraisers, volunteering as coaches and organizers and bringing potlucks (and cheer) to team celebrations.

It can seem an easy path. When a child tries a sport and loves it, all the parents have to do is support their child’s passion. It’s been interesting to me to think about all the times where it hasn’t been so smooth – for all the accomplished athletes who didn’t immediately love the sport, but were helped by their parents to get through the initial hardships of learning.

So what is helpful encouragement vs harassing over-parenting when it comes to sports?  Here are 3 tips valuable tips that have helped my family.

1. I learned the answer from a parent on how she managed her child and this has hugely helped our family over the years:

Parenting tip: “When a kid wants to register for a sport, make it clear they have to complete the season and then decide if they want to stop”. (Click to tweet this tip)

2. This tip that has helped us comes from basketball’s great Michael Jordan:

Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game. (Click to tweet this tip)

3. Last but not least, it has been helpful to bring nannies into our family that were strong at the sports that we weren’t great at. They helped the kids practice and go to practices. Most importantly, they helped them learn to love the sport. Supplementing our own skills has been a great way to give our kids more options.

If you have other tips leave a comment. In the meantime, I want to salute all of these dedicated families that help produce adults who love sports, who learn dedication and hard work and, sometimes, even end up as Olympians proudly representing their countries and inspiring countless of kids to do sports and be active.

Alexandra T. Greenhill, MD, Mother of three, CEO myBestHelper

How much do nannies make? Going pay rates and 10 important things to consider


We often get asked about how much to pay a nanny. Full time live out nanny rates in urban areas in Canada and the US are surprisingly similar. In the greater Vancouver area go from minimum wage to up to $25/hr, with a usual of $12-15/hr for one to three kids depending on the duties, nanny’s experience and on the neighbourhood’s going rate. There are usually legal provisions for live-in caregivers where a set amount for lodging and food is deducted from the salary, making it much more affordable if you have the extra room. Most of our jobs in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto are listed with rates of $12-15/hr for childcare and $12-20/hr for house cleaning.

Of course, many factors are to be considered when agreeing on the pay rate:

  1. What is the neighborhood’s going rate? There are more similarities between neighborhoods than within a city!
  2. Location and how hard is it to get there (if accessible by public transit, there are usually more candidates to choose from)
  3. Number and age of the children
  4. The level of experience of the helper
  5. Expected duties – such as childcare or more (clean and cook).
  6. Other activities – tutoring, music etc.
  7. Is driving required and if yes, will the nanny have to use her own car?
  8. How quickly does the family need the help and the timing in the year (some peak times in the year are tougher to fill)
  9. The expected duration of the commitment
  10. Is care to be provided within usual or unusual hours, and is there an expectation of additional on-call.

In addition, I encourage both families and helpers to consider the overall revenue and benefit package:

  • Total amount of compensation (food included? transit? medical care? gym? activities?)
  • Flexibility and hours
  • Time to get there vs. length of time at work
  • How much of a fit between personalities and needs there is

So for example, lets say helper Linda has the choice between:

– Family A, offering $15/hr and requiring 8:30am to 3:30pm four days a week. It takes Linda 45 min to get there from her home and they are located far from parks or public transit making it more difficult to find things to do with the toddler she will be in charge of. She would be working for 28 hrs/week, travelling to/from job for 6hrs/week. She would gross $1680/month, but when you include the travelling, she is effectively paid $12.35/hr. That family however is willing to make at least a year commitment.

– Family B is offering $12/hr, but need someone 8:30am to 5:30pm, which means 1hr of overtime a day at 1.5 pay rate, so $18/hr. They are offering a transit pass $91/month and will cover her medical plan fees of $81/month. She would be in charge of two kids, and the house is located near lots of activities she can easily take the kids to. And the big bonus is that is takes her 15 min a day to get there by bus. In this scenario, she would be working for 45 hrs/week, but travelling to/from job for only 2.5hrs/week. She would gross $3220/month, and while she does work longer hours, when you include the travelling time, transit pass and medical fees, she is effectively paid $15.9/hr. This family however will need her for only 6 months until the summer months when mom is on holidays because she is a teacher.

Linda’s choice isn’t simply based on which family will pay more. What Linda chooses will depend on so many personal factors: Does she need the extra money or the free time? Does she need a longer commitment? Does she prefer one child or is she comfortable with more than one? Is she someone who is happy to play with the child on her own or does she prefer to head outside all day to do activities? Which family did she like better? People are willing to accept a lower pay if they really enjoy the job.

It’s a personal choice for sure. And to add to the mix, there are often considerations such as Family A can hire her immediately, while Family B needs her to start in a month. Interestingly, many helpers don’t see that even in this case, the second scenario stands to leave them with an additional $5K averaged over 6 months.

Families face similar dilemmas – and parents need to consider the pros and cons about what matters to them the most and what works within their overall budget. Sometimes, to keep an awesome nanny, families go out and find another child through a nanny share, to help bump up her pay rate to what the nanny had expected. Sometimes, families reduce or increase the number of hours needed.

The important thing is to arrive at a total compensation where neither helper nor family feel like they went beyond what is fair. I hope this helped. Let me know if there are any questions!

Alexandra T. Greenhill, MD, Mother of three, CEO myBestHelper

Kids Need to Talk… 3 Sure Fire Ways to Make it Happen!


“How was your visit with your friend?”


“How was your day at school?”


“What did you think of this movie?”

“It was ok.”

How often have we heard these monosyllabic answers from kids? It starts in daycare, where the lack of vocabulary seems to excuse it, but it continues in the school years, and often gets worse in the teen years.

It always amazes me to see that in spite of being told it’s ok to directly share their thoughts and feelings, people still need opportunity and encouragement to speak up. Especially, kids…

As grown ups we need to make the habit of sharing happen, as it’s critical to helping the young person in our lives overcome the inevitable challenges life brings and to build healthy coping strategies. The 2nd biggest killer for teens after car accidents is suicides – and that group is overrepresented by kids who suffer without speaking about it. The Canadian Mental Health Association has tons of evidence that helping kids early on to form the habit of talking to others saves lives.

So how to make it happen?

1. Create opportunities to talk (quiet activities that do not require eye contact)

Kids seem to formulate their own thoughts about issues that they worry about only when there is a quiet moment or some activity that often doesn’t require eye contact. Think about it – how often do they share their concerns and fears while walking somewhere or driving in the car? So make sure every week includes some activity – art, crafts, cooking, eating, gardening, even reorganizing the house – something where you are side by side, doing something and just chatting.

Another great opportunity is an event – real or in a movie – that can be discussed and explained. Kids often make sense of that external happening by drawing on things in their own real or inner lives and they become very engaged when given the chance to discuss it. What adults often miss is that they can be “done” with a topic without exploring all of it. These conversation also happen better when not sitting face to face.

2. When talking happens – listen, listen, listen

How long does it take a physician to interrupt a patient after asking an open ended question such as: “So, what brought you here?”. Yes, it is on average only 23 seconds, even though the intent is to let the person describe, instead of jumping in to guide them. What people don’t realize is that adults do that to kids too!

Just listen to grown ups talking to a toddler or a kid on the phone… They ask a question, pause for three seconds, and rephrase the question thinking that the child doesn’t understand and by then, the child starts to speak… Hard to get into a rhythm!

So the rule of thumb is to say something and then not speak for a long, uncomfortable, seemingly unending, definitely unusual, even anxiety provoking time, and then add even more time, counting to 42 in your head if you must. This is where point number one makes it easier – when doing something these pauses in speaking seem more natural to us.

Conversely, I must reassure you – kids will not even notice these seemingly unending silent moments. They are processing their own thoughts and feelings and need this time. They will just think it’s easy to speak to you.

Similarly, once they say something, don’t interrupt, don’t clarify, let them continue. Acknowledge non verbally (nod etc.), and look like you are interested in hearing more. I guarantee you will be amazed at what comes next.

3. Kids need role models – show them how sharing is done

Last, but not least, kids learn from what they see, not what you say, so you need to step up and do it first. When you come home from work share a story about something that happened at work and mention how it made you feel. Refer to something that you saw in the news and explain your opinion. Reminisce about something that you remember from your own school days or your childhood – ask how that has changed.

There are lots of great books on these topics, but these 3 strategies are the starting points.  And remember, on January 28, Bell will donate 5¢  to mental health initiatives for every:

  • Text message sent*
  • Mobile and long distance call made*
  • Tweet using #BellLetsTalk
  • Facebook share of the Bell Let’s Talk image.

Easy to do and last year – led by Olympian athletes Clara Hughes – this program led to 96,266,266 calls, texts, tweets and Facebook shares by Canadians. This meant that 2013 Bell Let’s Talk Day led to an additional $4,813,313.30 for mental health programs rounding up the total Bell committed to Canadian mental health to over 62 million $. (*note: I don’t have personal advantage to promoting Bell’s program – just like it!).

Alexandra T. Greenhill, MOM MD, co-founder and CEO myBestHelper

Of kids and vegetables – #BESTreads

karen le billon

Inspired by  CanadaReads, we are launching our #BESTreads series – yes, parents reading a book a month together to help us navigate the mysterious lands of Parenting. This initiative is fashioned on the “One Book One City” programs popular across North America.

The first book we picked for our first ever #BESTreads is “French Kids Eat Everything: How our family moved to France, cured picky eating, banned snacking, and discovered 10 simple rules for raising happy, healthy eaters“. It’s an award winning book by Karen Le Billon, and not only because it has one of the longest titles ever! Now translated into 10 languages, winner multiple awards and on the top 10 of bestseller lists in Canada and abroad, “French Kids Eat Everything and So Can Yours”  has changed many a family’s life for the better.

The book is an entertaining read itself: one follows the peripeties – french for “sequence of events that are worth telling in a story” – of a family exploring eating habits in a different culture and creating a blend that is better than the dominant habits from the original and the new way.

Karen has an engaging style and manages to avoid generalizations about the way the French or Americans or Canadians (or anyone else, for that matter) eat and live – she shows that she really understands that we’re just too diverse and that becoming an advocate of ‘French parenting’ serves no one. Rather, the book shares ideas and observations with the goal of sparking insights and discussion about key issues – like school lunches, snacking, and the role food plays in our families’ lives.

The book is also very practical – there are great recipes, and many simple and effective tips on how to get kids (and families) to enjoy food and meals together. The ten rules are easy to implement, and change for the better both what and how kids eat. In the coming month, we will do a series of mini-reviews of some of the best suggestions from the book and host discussions on the issues Karen Le Billon identifies that are interesting to discuss. As an ultimate treat, at the end of this #BESTreads month, the author herself will join us on a Google Hangout to answer your questions!

Want to be a part of this exciting community venture, meet authors, discover new books? Join us – we welcome all newcomers and experienced parents alike. This is a great opportunity to meet others and gather wisdom and ideas that are vital to survival or fun for when that is called for.

Kidsbooks Vancouver has their annual sale starting tomorrow – go get the book and let’s start the discussion!

Alexandra T. Greenhill, MOM MD, CEO myBestHelper, and – my kids do eat everything – so can yours!