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New recommendations for Screen Time for Children + Follow the 4 "M's" Rule of Thumb

Article Source: Globe & Mail 
To sum up: Screen time of any kind is still not recommended for children under the age of two, a reaffirmation of a long-standing rule of thumb for babies and toddlers. For children between the ages of two and five, the society recommends routine screen time be limited to less than one hour a day and that parents and caregivers watch TV programs or play online games with their preschoolers and kindergartners, rather than leave them to swipe and zone out on their own. The society also urges parents to power down their devices during family time and turn off the background TV.
The Canadian pediatricians’ group opted not to follow the lead of its U.S. counterpart, the American Academy of Pediatrics, which just last fall, softened its old hard-and-fast prohibition on screen time for children under the age of two.
The U.S. guidelines make specific exceptions for Skype and FaceTime (which many doctors and parents don’t categorize as screen time anyway) and for 18- to 24-month-olds, so long as adults watch or play the digital content with them.
Otherwise, the pediatricians’ groups on both sides of the border agree: There is no good evidence that infants and toddlers benefit from solo screen time. Some studies have found that preschoolers can learn from screens, but only if the digital content is high-quality, educational and dolloped out judiciously by moms and dads with the self-control of hunger strikers at a buffet.
“The youngest children cannot learn from screens. They’re not developmentally ready to transfer what they see on a screen to real life,” said Michelle Ponti, the London, Ont. pediatrician who chaired the digital health task force that researched and wrote the new Canadian guidelines.
“We do know what does benefit early learning and that is face-to-face, live interactions with an engaged parent or other caregiver,” Dr. Ponti said.
Among the exhaustive list of citations attached to the Canadian Paediatric Society’s position statement is a recent systematic review of 76 studies that looked at how television exposure affects children’s cognition and behaviour. Published in the journal Developmental Review, the paper found that, overall, high-quality educational shows (Sesame Street is a popular example) can help improve preschoolers’ basic academic skills.
But the review found that, for infants, watching TV was associated with “inattentive/hyperactive behaviours, lower executive functions, and language delay, at least in the short-term.”
Still, associations can be tricky. They are not causes. Are TV watching and hyperactivity sometimes linked because TV makes kids hyper, or because parents of hyperactive children are more inclined to switch on the TV to give themselves a break? Several of the studies found that content mattered a great deal. Slowly paced educational programming seemed not to have the same negative effects as fast-paced cartoons.
Many of the studies in the review involved children who watched two or more hours of TV a day. Is screen time safe in shorter bursts? And what about the new generation of interactive, educational apps that have yet to be the subject of much rigorous research? Are they more like TVs or more like interactive toys?
Dimitri Christakis, the director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Hospital, said the rise of touch-screen technology was “fundamentally a game changer,” for researchers who study child development.
Children sit passively while they watch TV, but they can engage with an interactive app – the kind that rewards their counting or letter knowledge with a star or whistle, for example – in a totally different way.
Dr. Christakis, who co-authored the recent AAP policy statement, said the research on these products is in its infancy and the vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of apps that market themselves as educational are not backed by any real science.
“We don’t recommend that children use these apps before the age of two,” he said. “I just think we have to be thoughtful … we say that limited use starting at [18] months of age, ideally with a parent and with interactive apps that are slow-paced, is okay. That’s a far cry from endorsing their usage.”
That is part of the reason the CPS opted – after much discussion – not to insert into their recommendations a specific exemption for FaceTime or Skype with family, she said.
Dr. Christakis was more willing to cut me that slack. “I often to say to parents, if you’re using the device to give yourself a break … I think that’s fine. I really do,” he said. “But know that that’s why you’re doing it. I think if you’re using it because you think it’s educational or beneficial for your child, that’s where you need to think again.”
How to manage screen time
The Canadian Paediatric Society’s new position statement recommends families follow the four “M”s when it comes to screen time and young children.
Minimize screen time
Screen time for children under 2 is not recommended. For two- to five-year-old children, limit routine screen time to less than one hour a day. Maintain daily screen-free time, especially at meals and at least an hour before bedtime.
Mitigate the risks associated with screen time
Be present and engaged when screens are used and, whenever possible, co-view with children. Be aware of digital content, prioritizing educational, age-appropriate, interactive content.
Be mindful about the use of screen time
Conduct a self-assessment of screen habits and develop a family media plan for when, where and how screens may (and may not) be used and be reassured there is no evidence to support introducing technology at a young age.
Model healthy screen time
Adults should turn off their devices at home during family time, turn off screens when not in use and avoid background TV.

Dancing may help kids develop socio-emotional skills like empathy #activeforlife

Dancing may help kids develop socio-emotional skills like empathy
To some, these are just numbers, and to others, these numbers mean dance. From hip hop to ballroom, all forms of dance play an important role in developing physical literacy. But, can dance teach more than agility, balance, and coordination? According to an article in The Atlantic, some schools are using dance as a vehicle for teaching students social-emotional skills such as empathy.
In the article written by Audrey Cleo Yap, “studies have shown the cognitive benefits students experience through being exposed to dance and other art forms,” however complex human qualities, like empathy, are hard to quantify. Anecdotal evidence from teachers and principals suggest that dance improves acceptance, cooperation, and collaboration among students, but more research is needed to understand the correlation between dance and emotional intelligence.
In the meantime, parents can take what they know about the benefits of dance and put it into action. Whether that means two-stepping into your kids’ school and starting a conversation, or simply starting within your family and working it into the weekly schedule, dance deserves a place in the life of every child.
If moving to music can help kids develop their character, why wouldn’t we start each daywith a 5-6-7-8?
This article is courtesy of Active for Life - GTAParent.com founder Leigh Mitchell is proud to be an Active for Life Role Model. 
Jaime Neefs
About the author: 
Jaime Neefs, a kinesiology graduate and child life specialist, can almost always be found on a soccer field. Turf or grass, she's out there using her 20+ years playing experience to coach and referee youngsters just starting out. Besides soccer, Jaime enjoys running, road tripping, and adding bacon to every recipe. Follow Jaime on Twitter, @_JaimeNeefs.

Three reasons to celebrate the holidays with the Toronto Children’s Chorus and Roy Thomson Hall



It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Sleigh bells ring, coloured lights twinkle along the streets and eggnog hits the shelves. But nothing can inspire child-like wonder as much as live choral music and a traditional holiday story.
You and your family are invited to Roy Thomson Hall on Saturday, December 17 to hear the world-renowned Toronto Children’s Chorus perform their annual holiday concert, this year titled A Child’s Christmas. Stratford Festival actor Geraint Wyn Davies, harpist Judy Loman, the Chorus’ 100-voice Alumni Choir and friends from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra will join in this awe-inspiring performance.
Here are the top three reasons why you should mark your calendars for the Toronto Children’s Chorus’s performance on December 17 at Roy Thomson Hall.

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1. Sing along to your favourites
The Toronto Children’s Chorus and Alumni Choir will perform holiday classics that you and your family know and love. Songs include “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “The Huron Carol”, among other well-known tunes. Your children (and you) will have a blast singing along during this interactive concert.  Lyrics provided!

2. Warm up with a story
Stratford Festival actor Geraint Wyn Davies will narrate A Child’s Christmas in Wales, written by poet Dylan Thomas in 1952. This nostalgic tale will resonate with all who have been charmed by the holidays as a young child.
3. Save with a holiday deal
Everyone loves some family savings at this time of year. Purchase four or more tickets and receive a 10 percent discount to one of the most popular family holiday performances in Toronto!  (Discounted tickets limited.)
Buy your tickets today to A Child’s Christmas from the Roy Thomson Hall box office by phone 416.872.4255 or online at http://roythomson.com/eventdetail/TorontoChildrensChorus

10% discount available for purchase of four tickets!

Hear a preview:

Mindfulness for families: 7 tips to get you started

Writing this article couldn’t come at a more symbolic time. October is all about gratitude. But as the CEO of our family, I can tell you, it’s not easy keeping it together at this time of year. We are “knee deep” in school commitments, activity schedules, and homework. The holidays are looming and the financial stress of balancing the books can seem unbearable.
How do we not pass on this anxiety to our children?

Modelling mindfulness

The key is to create healthy, mindful habits that our children might also embrace. And it starts with us. Parents. Not dissimilar from the airplane depressurization context when you must first put on your own oxygen mask before securing your child’s.
I recommend that you practice mindfulness yourself first with these three daily exercises:
1. Meditation: Even five minutes a day can help calm your nervous system. I find the “after” effects of meditation similar to exercise; afterward, I feel calmer and centered. The word “meditation” can sometimes feel overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. Take some of the guesswork out of it by downloading an app like Headspace or OMG I Can Meditate and try a guided meditation or a “meditation challenge”.
2. Be active: If physical activity isn’t already part of your life, make a commitment to exercise at least 30 minutes, five times a week. In combination with meditation, exercise has been shown to be effective in combatting symptoms of depression. And with 150 minutes of physical activity a week, you’ll also likely find yourself sleeping better. I’ve even noticed that when I’m physically active it helps to ward off sickness.
3. Be present: When you start to feel your mind racing with tasks, take a moment to be aware of your present surroundings. Use all your senses. Take a deep breath, smell, listen, and look at what surrounds you. Try to focus on the bigger picture and don’t fixate on one thing. Ask yourself, will this really matter three months from now?

Passing it on to your kids

Once you’re feeling more at peace it’s time to start talking about mindfulness with your children:
4. Find out what they already know. Some schools in Canada are starting to incorporate mindfulness into the curriculum and your kids might already be familiar with the concept. Ask questions and get them feeling good about what they already know. They might have mindfulness exercises from school that you can try out as a family.

7 Reason's Soccer is Essential to Kids #activeforlife

Soccer season is around the corner, what I love about soccer is that it can be played in a backyard, a field or in an organized league with a very small investment - second hand soccer shoes are easy to find. Playing soccer is a favourite amongst my boys after school running around in our backyard to laugh, let out some aggression and have fun.  Find soccer skill programs through City of Toronto for Adults and Children here. 

7 Reason's Soccer is Essential to Kids #activeforlife

Just about any sport or physical activity will help to develop physical literacy and good movement skills. However, if you had to pick one sport that developed the most skills and capacities, it would have to be soccer.
Even at the basic levels of development, physical literacy includes a long list of fundamental movement skills. The most essential of these — out of hundreds — are generally accepted to be running, jumping, throwing, catching, kicking, hopping, skipping, galloping, and dodging. These skills are based in turn on a foundation of physical capacities called the ABCs of movement: agility, balance, coordination, and speed.
Throw into the mix some spatial orientation skills and cognitive decision making, and you have most of what makes up physical literacy.
So how does soccer rate on these points? Extraordinarily well, as it turns out.

1. ABCs

Agility, balance, coordination, and speed are closely connected to the development of the central nervous system (CNS) in early childhood. The bodies of preschool children are silently waiting for precisely the kind of stimulation that will get the CNS preparing and adapting for the ABCs. As it happens, quick changes of direction and diversity of movement are intrinsic to soccer, so the simple act of playing the game provides the perfect stimuli to help children to develop these capacities. You can almost hear each child’s CNS saying: “Gee, thanks for registering me in soccer!”

2. Running

Soccer involves a little bit of running. Actually, it involves a lot of running. And best of all, for children who haven’t reached puberty, it provides exactly the kind of running they need: short distance sprinting followed by short time intervals of recovery. Note: If your child’s U9 coach is sending the team on long laps of the field, you might ask him why. The science shows that jogging around a soccer field at half speed is doing nothing to develop the quickness and interval recovery required to play soccer. Furthermore, it isn’t helping your pre-pubertal child to be a better distance runner anymore than if she was playing the game for 10 minutes and having a lot more fun.

3. Jumping, hopping, skipping, galloping, and dodging

When your child plays soccer, there are a lot of other players on the field who want to frustrate their efforts to run and play the ball. Consequently, the game demands that kids do a lot of jumping and dodging to evade opponents. It also demands that they hop, skip, and even gallop at times as they change speed and adjust their stride to avoid players and change direction.

4. Throwing and catching

Hold on. When are you allowed to use your hands in soccer? Well, for starters, every time the ball passes out of play on the sidelines. Play restarts with a throw in, and every player needs to learn how to do it. And goalkeepers, a position just about every child plays at some point during their early years in the game, are constantly catching the ball with their hands and passing it to teammates with a baseball-style throw.

5. Tracking the movement of an object in flight

One of the less discussed aspects of physical literacy — but integral to throwing and catching as well as striking something with a bat or racquet — is the ability to track the movement of an object (e.g., ball) as it travels through the air. Your child’s ability to use her eyes to track movement and estimate speed and distance does not “just happen”. As with movement skills, it needs to be developed through real experience and practice. Soccer provides plenty of experience as the game constantly challenges players to gauge the speed, distance, and trajectory of the ball.

6. Decision making

The ability to “read the environment” and respond with appropriate decisions is another element of physical literacy that is often overlooked. In the days of our distant ancestors, it might have meant deciding to climb a tree quickly after spotting a lion. In the context of a sport such as soccer, it is deciding to pass the ball to a teammate running to open space, or shooting at goal when the goalkeeper is out of position. The game constantly creates fresh cognitive challenges where players must gather information from their physical environment, analyze that information, and then execute an appropriate physical response.

7. Kicking

Not much needs to be said here. There is a lot of kicking in soccer. And the range of kicking techniques can eventually become remarkably complex as players develop in the sport. (For instance, according to Active for Life contributor Istvan Balyi, players in Hungary used to be expected to be able to play the ball with eight different surfaces of the foot. How many of us can even identify eight distinct surfaces on one foot?)
Soccer is practically a physical literacy wonder drug. If we could package it in tablet form, we could sell it as a prescription medicine for developing all-around movement skills in children.
Jim Grove
About the author: View all posts by 
Jim Grove is a senior contributing editor at Active For Life and a consulting editor to national sport organizations on physical literacy and Long-Term Athlete Development. He holds a degree in education along with NCCP certification as a youth soccer coach. Married with three children, he has 17 years experience coaching children and youth ages 5 to 18. Follow Jim on Twitter, @grovecoach.

Active for Life is a non-profit organization committed to helping parents raise happy, healthy, physically literate kids. For more information like this one, please visit Activeforlife.com

launch KidActive

5 tips for active, adventurous travels with kids #activeforlife

5 tips for active, adventurous travels with kids
Traveling is one of my biggest passions. For me, it’s a great way to connect with nature and the world outside my yard. Before having kids, and while I was still living in Venezuela, my life revolved around travel. Now my life revolves around my wife, our 7-year-old daughter, and our 4-year-old son, but having a family hasn’t diminished my wanderlust, if anything it’s enhanced it.
For three months, starting on March 2, 2015, the four of us embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime journey through Central America. We traveled through Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras (Roatan Island), Belize, and Guatemala.
Our family ventured into the unknown and hiked through mountains and rainforests. We visited volcanoes, explored inhabited islands in the Pacific, swam with turtles and whale sharks, paddled over pristine coral reefs, and interacted and connected with local communities such as the Mayans, Comarca Ngäbe-Buglé, and the Criollo people of Central America.
I often get asked how we pulled that off. How did we keep the kids entertained and active for 90 days? In truth, it wasn’t that hard, but we did learn a lot along the way. Here are our five tips for adventurous outdoor traveling with kids:

1. Stay in each location for a minimum of one week

We travelled at a slower pace to avoid overwhelming our kids with too much. This gave us the opportunity to take it easy and really enjoy ourselves in each location. We found this helped us balance play time, travel time, quiet time, and even TV time.

2. Split “adventure days” with “easy days”

rodney-family_300_01Very active days were great but also tiring. Sometimes is was better to just hang around our rental. The kids would play independently, swim in the pool, or do crafts. On occasion, we would sometimes split our days, combining a very busy morning with a quiet afternoon.

3. Travel using local transportation

Renting a car can be very convenient but using local transportation is an adventure on its own and kids love it! We did a lot of walking, sometimes up to three kilometres, just to get to our destination. Also taking the anticipated “chicken bus” and “tuk-tuks” (aka: moto-taxi) were often the highlight of the day. Traveling with the locals also allowed us to interact more deeply with the culture.

4. Plan your day with a purpose

rodney-family_300_02We visited places with a specific purpose of doing something active and/or interesting.
For us, a purpose meant an experience. So, rather than just planning on going to a place like a old ruin, a beach, or a mountain, we planned activities to do in those places, such as traveling back in time to old civilizations, boogie boarding, paddling a kayak, or finding the mighty quetzal in the cloud forest.
Having a direction to the day helped to keep us all focused, and motivated the kids (and the adults) to get out and try something new. It’s easy for inertia to set in, especially because traveling with kids can be exhausting. Having a purpose to our day made sure we took advantage of all of the amazing places we were and opportunities that were available to us.

5. Learn something new

rodney-family_300_03Everywhere we went we found something new to try or learn. My kids learned about tropical natural history, ancient Mayan culture, the art of weaving, and making chocolate, among other things. Every day was a learning experience and our children were eager students.
Developing physical literacy skills while we were traveling was also very important to me. As a personal trainer, I know how important balance and stamina are in overall fitness. An added extra with all of these adventures was that the kids improved their balance and stamina — without even realizing it! Their exposure to walking and running on cobblestone streets in Antigua, climbing Mayan ruins, and playing in the ocean waves have helped my children to be more confident and physically stronger, making it easier for them to travel in this way.

Bonus tip: stay in places with a pool

One of the biggest secrets of our success had to do with trying to book rentals with swimming pools whenever we could. On easy days, or a quiet afternoon, a pool was the perfect activity, keeping kids moving and cool. We could relax reading a book and enjoyed splashing about with the kids too. Our daughter even learned how to swim during our trip!
Of course, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses — some days were downright rough — but overall the entire experience was extraordinary. I loved watching my kids learning new skills, enjoying nature, getting immersed in new cultures, interacting with locals, and being active outdoors. Seeing them exhausted at bed time was priceless. The level of satisfaction I felt with this trip was one that I never experienced in my pre-kids travel days.
Don’t let having children stop you from getting out and seeing the world. Sure, traveling with them may be more challenging and you might not be able to do all of the things you would do if you were on your own, but I guarantee that it will be better than you could have ever imagined.

Active for Life is a non-profit organization committed to helping parents raise happy, healthy, physically literate kids. For more information like this one, please visit Activeforlife.com

All images courtesy Rodney Fuentes
Rodney Fuentes
About the author: View all posts by 
Rodney is a wellness mentor, personal trainer, and avid naturalist with a background in ecotourism and outdoor adventure travel. He has dedicated his life to traveling, exploring, and connecting with the outdoors. He founded Explore Origins with the goal of raising awareness towards well-being and nature connection through wellness retreats and coaching. Rodney lives in Peterborough with his wife and 2 children. Follow Rodney on Twitter,@exploreorigins.

March Break Fun on the Subway Line #Thriveinmylife

5 Fun Things to Do When You Get off at
Bathurst Subway Station 

The best thing about an adventure is that you don't know exactly where you are going to go. That is exactly what we did this March Break. We popped on the subway and hopped off at Bathurst Station (Bloor/Danforth Line). I let my boys pick where we would go along the way. The best part was we got some exercise and had a lot of fun and lots of giggles. Here is where we went. 

1. Head to Honest Eds to clown around and take fun pictures (Remember it is closing December 2016)

2. Have lunch and play board games at Snakes and Lattes 

3. Check out the record shop just east of Snakes and Lattes

4. Head to the Comic Book Shop just beyond the record shop

5. Final destination Royal Ontario Museum

RED SANDCASTLE THEATRE’s Jacques and the Bean Stock Market #redsandcastletheatre in #leslieville

What we thought: On the first winter storm of the season, my family and I braved the elements to see Red Castle Theatre's Jacques and the Bean Stock Market. The show was amazing because of the interactive elements, music and comedy. Our children were thrilled to be in the dance routine which was super funny and cleaver. My favourite characters were Ronald Bump (awesome take on Donald Trump) and the sassy cat! All actors involved were very witty and the plot was cleaver. Affordable show to take the family to, in the fun neighbourhood of Leslieville (just west of the beaches). 

Pantomime Definition: A theatrical entertainment, that involves music, topical jokes, and slapstick comedy and is based on a fairy tale or nursery story, usually produced around Christmas.

Jacques and the Bean Stock Market

It’s panto time again (oh yes it is!) and the Red Sandcastle Theatre’s Panto Players are presenting their 5th annual, magical, traditional family pantomime for the festive season.

Jacques and the Bean Stock Market is full of fun and sparkle, with more than a sprinkling of pantomime magic.

Jacques and his mom the Widow Twankey live in a quaint little Leslieville cottage, with their ever-reliable cow, Buttons. It’s a nice life until the milk goes off.

Selling their cow for magic beans to the Cheshire Cat, (A cat who has found employment with the rude and greedy corporate giant, Ronald Bump), turns Jacques world upside down and makes everything rather unpleasant as shiny new condos seem to grow around them over night.

But can Jacques profit from this Bean Stock Market?

If Twankey “looks out behind her” can she keep her home?

Now a Leslieville tradition this year’s Jacques and the Bean Stock Market is a fun-filled family pantomime brought to you by the creative team of Jane Shields and Rosemary Doyle who brought you The Shoemaker and the Pantomimes, Alice in Blunderland, Sleepy Beauty, and Dick Whit for Mayor. Jackie English will be bringing her directing talents, and of course returning with her crowd favourite “Cheshire Cat” as always, the Cat is BACK!

Filled with catchy songs, silly jokes, dastardly villains, delightful dancing and a huge dose of slapstick, the Red Sandcastle Theatre once again serves up a sparkling festive treat!

Starring:Taran Beaty, Robert Keller, Michael Posthumus, Matthew Donovan, Victor Pokinko,

Kristen Foote, Rosemary Doyle and Jackie English as the Cat!

SHOW DATES: DEC 18, 19, 20, 26,27,28,29,30,31, Jan 2,

Tickets: $25 Adult, $15 Child, $55 Family Fun pack-4 tickets

922 Queen Street East, Toronto Ontario
BOX OFFICE 416 845-9411

Please contact Rosemary Doyle, via redsandcastletheatre@gmail.com

Discover the Children's Discovery Zone Before It's Gone | @kidsdiscoveryTO


Children's Discovery Centre has been designed to encourage parents or caregivers to play together with their young children. Admission tickets are required for every visitor, similar to the ROM, Science Centre or other major cultural attractions in Toronto.

Located at 45 Strachan Avenue in downtown Toronto, next to Liberty Village; just north of CNE. We are a grassroots pilot project hoping to find a permanent home, so please visit us today to show your support! LEARN MORE HERE 

General admission(ages 7+) | $13 + hst
Children(ages 1-6) | $13 + hst
Infants (under 12 months) | No charge
5-DAY PACK  (Includes 5 Play All Day Passes):
General admission(ages 7+) | $55+ hst
Children(ages 1-6) | $55+ hst
Infants (under 12 months) | No charge
*Online ticket buyers avoid line-ups.  

Weekend Programming and Activities

10.30 am - Storytime
11.30 am - Song Circle
1.30 pm - Movement Time
2.30 pm - Storytime
3.00 pm - Music Circle and maybe a parade!

* all programming & activities are led by Children's Discovery Centre staff who are professionally trained early childhood educators or primarily school teachers.

Location: Children's Discovery Centre is located at 45 Strachan Avenue, Toronto,Ontario M6k1W7
(north-east corner at East Liberty Street, next to Liberty Village; just north of CNE/Fort York, between Lake Shore Blvd. and King St. West)

Children's Discovery Centre is Toronto's only children's museum designed by a team of early childhood development professionals, specifically for kids aged 0 to 6 years, to play, create, explore and use their imagination.
Come for an unforgettable educational experience where your kids can build, ride around, go camping, paint, dress up, sing, make music, cook, help animals, read and just wonder ; imagine in our 10 Discovery Zones, all under one roof in our 20,000 sq.ft. building!
Regular Hours:  Open Saturdays and Sundays from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. Closed weekdays. 

Special Holiday Hours:  Open Daily from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm from Dec 19 to 23, and Dec 27 to 30.  Open 9:30 am to 12:30 pm on Dec. 31st.