Tag Archives: family tech

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 code.org 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 to:www.belikeada.com

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


3 secrets to choosing the BEST nanny or babysitter

IMG_2468Here is a common question I get: You are looking through helper profiles and they look promising, but how do you choose the right one for you? When you transition from looking at profiles, then phone interview and then in person interview and finally, a trial session, consider the following three key insights about the few critical things that make the relationship work:

1.  The first and foremost is a sense of their genuine love of kids and a general positive attitude. Kids thrive with love and laughter and your house will too! If you go for someone you get along with and would be ok to spend time with, your kids are more likely to enjoy their time with that person too, and that becomes even more important when they get older and want a say in who comes to babysit.

2. Experience with kids is one of the next most important things especially the younger your child is, and ideally, some education in early childhood development. I have hired a number of people who had neither, but showed good common sense and capacity to rapidly learn on the job. I then used my own experience to get them up-to-speed on how to take care of my children, and that has worked well too, as in other cases I had to have people un-learn bad habits they had acquired previously.  Safety training is of course also key, but that is something you can have the right person get after they are hired.

3. General good manners and initiative, and I can’t overstate the importance of that one. Being on time for a call or interview, promptly sending required information about references and training, washing their hands as they enter the house to take care of kids, saying please and thank you. I often test candidates during interviews by doing something – having coffee, meeting in a playground – just to see what happens when real life creates opportunities for them to act. Do they spontaneously pick up what was dropped? Reach over and lend a hand?  People who don’t need to be told what evidently needs to be done are the best hires.

Bonus tip: I always hire someone who has both interests in common with me as well as some skills and passions that are completely different. The first makes it easier to get along, the second enriches our family lives forever and introduces our kids to great ideas about what else they could do when they grow up. Students are particularly great on that front, because nothing is as effective an advertisement for a given field of work as someone who is super excited about what they are currently studying.

Would love to make this the “5 secrets to choosing the best nanny or babysitter”, so please send along tips and ideas!

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

Happy Family Day: 5 awesome ways to strengthen your family


In our busy day and age, it’s easy to consider Family Day yet another opportunity to have a day off. Yet, if we stop for a minute to create a new ritual, it can become a powerful moment of strengthening bonds and improving family habits. So here are 5 awesome habits you can add to your repertoire!

Awesome ways #1 to 3: Better parenting tools:

We learn parenting on the fly, really. From childhood memories of “I will definitely do that” and “I will never do this to my kids” to observing others to lessons learned from movies and TV shows, we amass an unconscious puzzle ideas and habits that guides our interactions at home, and gets routinely challenged by our growing treasures.

But there is a vast amount of expertise available to us. A couple of great books are a #mustread for any family: Steven Covey’s “The 7 habits of Highly Effective Families” and Dr. Phil’s “Family First”.

Steven Covey successfully applies to the family unit the 7 habits that made him famous. Full of great examples, interesting stories and practical suggestions, this is a marvel of a guide-book for families. Dr. Phil’s book also covers 7 strategies to help build phenomenal families, but from a different perspective. His is the more psychology informed approach, and he demystifies a number of key concepts around successful parenting.

The third awesome way is for Vancouver parents to consider attending the Parenting conferences set up by the Vancouver International Children’s Festival. Inspired by TED talks, these are called PEP talks – four thought-provoking talks by the top thinkers on the issues every parent faces today. They will be held at the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre on March 7th, April 10th, May 15th, and June 12th, at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $130 for the entire series, or $35 per speaker (and all for a good cause as net proceeds go to support the Vancouver International Children’s Festival).  And tip: get your tickets for the Festival itself soon as shows fill up fast!

Awesome ways #4 and 5: Technology helping families

And now for the technology angle! Two new #mustuse services put technology to work helping families stay in touch: Picplum and Perch.

San Francisco based Picplum is a service that prints photos you upload or email to their site and then ships them to anyone you want anywhere – all for the same price as it would be for you to do it yourself! If you are like most busy parents, you are far too busy to organize photos, let alone to find the time to print and share them. That’s where Picplum comes in – it remembers who you send what. So this means happiness for relatives around the world who have been asking for photos because they are not as online as you are, but more importantly, even the super tech savvy are touched by a package in the mail full of photos of loved ones, especially children.

Perch on the other hand is an equally cool innovation in the video space – Vancouver based and created by parents for parents, this is a 21st century marvel, an intuitive, hands-free method of video communication for the family. Families can use Perch to stay connected using wall mounted iOS devices in the home – perfect use for an iPhone. The facial detection technology automatically knows when you have something to say and records it – easy peasy! Family members who are not at home receive those messages as video alerts, and can reply from wherever they are. If you choose to enable motion detection, you’ll also receive a notification when something interesting happens in your home, which you can then share with your family.

What ways have you found to make your families stronger? Please share! And Happy Family Day to all.

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