Tag Archives: parenting tips

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


Nanny employers – send you T4s – deadline is Friday Feb 28th!


When you are paying your nanny, even if it is for a few days in 2013, you still need to submit a T4 summary. They are easy to fill online, if you keep payroll records so I have been doing mine myself. If you need help, it should take an accountant very little time to help you with these.

All the instructions are available in text and video on the Canada Revenue Agency website section on T4s. The one key requirement that I find is not as clearly explained as it should be is:

You need to give a T4 to your nanny directly AND send a copy to Canada Revenue Agency, otherwise the penalty for filing late is $10/day missed! (Tell your friends – click to tweet here)

Unfortunately Canada Revenue still holds families employing a nanny to the same standard as big corporations with accountants on staff. I have tried to get them to understand that not only is government not helping with how expensive childcare is, but they are also making it unnecessarily complicated to hire the help we need at home. Sigh… No luck so far, but have not given up!

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



The trouble with Halloween – I will say it even if it’s not popular

Happy Halloween!

Every year, I approach the festivities with mixed emotions. On one hand, it’s fun to dress up and I love the challenge of coming up with unique, yet low-cost costumes. On the other, what exactly am I teaching my kids? That it’s OK to run around, ask for and accept candy from strangers?

And the pressure is on – statistics say the average person will spend over $75 on decor, costumes and candy. And for families with kids, those numbers add up.

They add up nation wide as well: with 160 million people participating (just under half of the population of the US and Canada), $75 per person means $2.6 billion for costumes, $2 billion on candy and another $2 billion on decorations, you know – throw away fake skeletons and cob webs and the like. This means $5.6 billion – which is several magnitudes higher than what gets donated to, lets say, homelessness each year or to protecting endangered species.

But our kids negotiated us out of cancelling Halloween by pointing out that it’s a great opportunity to: 1) get to better know the neighbors, 2) demonstrate restraint and wise choices and 3) show creativity by doing a low-cost and unique costume.

We also role-play what to expect so that they are reminded of what is the range of expected behaviors (see previous post on how we learned to do that from pediatric expert Sal Severe, author of “How to behave so so your children will too!“). And we as a family agree to follow the “7 Rules for fun with orange and black”:

  1. Costumes need to be fun AND practical – good for days that are cold and wet
  2. We all need to stay together
  3. Don’t rush – injuries running up and down stairs can ruin fun for everyone and crossing streets is done with care (Halloween is the worst day for car accidents involving kids)
  4. Please and thank you’s are important
  5. We make it real by addressing people we meet in character and celebrating their creativity
  6. Parents get to sort out candy received and get the final word on anything that is suspicious
  7. Kids get to eat three things that they received that night and store the rest.

And this, ladies and gentlemen big and small, is how to have a safe and fun Halloween night!

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

5 tips from super successful parents


It always amazed me how well mothers manage their time and just get things done. Taking care of one child alone is a hectic job, but many moms gracefully handle two or more. In fact, I noticed that the more children moms have, the better they can manage their time. Being fascinated by this parenting ability to stretch out their 24 hours and accomplish what I probably wouldn’t be able to complete in a week, I asked a few moms how they are doing it. So what’s their secret?

Almost unanimously, the first response I got was, “Well, it’s not like we have a choice!” Fair enough. But when pressed to give an answer, the secret emerges that they have a system. In fact, not one system but many different systems within systems all intertwined into one packed cosmic super system where things just work, and if they don’t – there is a system for that as well.

If you are a parent already, the system-secret is probably familiar to you. So in this blog, we want to share four time-saving, which are extremely useful when it comes to creating an effective system.

1. Focus on what is important: Life is not perfect and there are some things that are really not worth the fight and energy. For example, if the most important room in the house is your bedroom, than make it your perfect sanctuary and tackle the rest of the house some other day.

2. Be prepared: Seems like a very basic principle, but something that requires some planning. One mom told me that having emergency bags packed with coloring books, change of cloths and snacks can save a lot of precious time when an unplanned outing happens. Another mom of three buys two pairs of shoes and clothes – the current size and one higher, to avoid too frequent trips to the store with rapidly growing kids.

3. Ask and accept help: Too many parents are quick to politely decline an offer of help be it for childcare or around the house or to run an errand – but learning to ask and accept help is a key element of happy management of a household.

4. Get the kids to help: A mom of four I know gets her kids to help her. Even though the eldest twin girls are just five years old, they love helping by folding laundry, organizing toys, playing with younger siblings and even laying out their own clothing for the next day. At the very least, starting when 18 months old, getting them to tidy up toys and books is a huge time saver and sets them up with good habits for life.

5. Don’t forget about yourself: Taking a little break to enjoy some well-deserved relaxation or pampering is a must for parents! No matter how efficient, you can get overloaded and need to recharge every now and then. Just remember the airplane advisory about putting oxygen on you first, because it is the ONLY way to ensure you can help others survive. And no excuses – if you don’t have any friends or family members who could look after your kids, then hire a professional! There are people out there whom you can trust and who can add an element of fun for the kids. Some of the nannies we have on myBestHelper have more than 15 years of childcare experience and are fully qualified to look after your little ones for a few hours – the time that you need to regain serenity and harmony in your life.

If you got some more tips on how to build an awesome parenting system that saves time, please share!

Kristina Lebed, Social media and marketing coordinator myBestHelper