Category Archives: Childhood

What a Saskatchewany Place

 We spent a couple of hours at the new children’s museum in Saskatoon last Saturday with our grandsons. It is called The Wonder Hub. What I thought was so cool about the place is how ‘Saskatchewany’ they have made it. Potash is one of Saskatchewan’s key natural resources. In this photo, I am wearing my hard hat in the potash mine in the basement of the museum where kids can drive mining carts, examine mineral samples under microscopes, shovel potash up a conveyer belt and ride the elevator down the mine shaft. Upstairs there is a play area with bridges designed to look like the ones in Saskatoon, a northern lights display near the ceiling kids can manipulate and change with levers and an area where kids use all five senses to explore Saskatchewan’s national parks.

Log cabin my three-year-old grandson built

There is a North Woods area where visitors can build log cabins, go fishing in a real boat complete with life jackets, hang out in a tent or read books under trees.  

I have been to a number of children’s museums with my grandkids but this one in Saskatoon really stands out because it is so ‘Saskatchewany’.  The next time you are in Saskatoon check it out.  It’s for kids of all ages!

Other posts…….. 

A Pool of Possibilities in Our Own Backyard

A Unique Discovery on the Banks of the Saskatchewan

Beauty in Ordinary Things

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What’s a Fingerling?

Last week I was introduced to Fingerlings.  The child who taught me all about Fingerlings has a dragon, but the popular toy also comes as a monkey, sloth, panda, cat, dolphin, and unicorn.  Fingerlings are really kind of cool because they react in some forty ways. Rock them and their eyes close. Turn them upside down and they laugh. Pet them and they coo and blink their eyes. Clap your hands and they sing. They will grab onto your finger too which may be how they got their name. 

fingerlingCreated by a Canadian family-run business in Montreal just in time for Christmas 2017 the battery-operated creatures have received the Good Housekeeping seal of approval as a safe and creative toy for kids over the age of five. It certainly seemed the source of plenty of imaginative interaction and play for the child I observed with it. 

How the Fingerling was developed is interesting. 28-year-old Sydney Wiseman, a brand manager for WowWee, a company run by her uncles, came up with the idea after seeing a popular photo on Facebook of a furry little monkey called a pygmy marmoset hanging on someone’s finger.

An artist spent weeks creating the original drawings for the toy and then engineers spent months designing the workings of the Fingerling which is really a rather sophisticated kind of mini-robot with a motion sensor, software to block out background noise and a microphone.

To keep the price point low, the toys were manufactured in China. WowWee used an interesting method to release Fingerlings to the public in August of 2017.  They hired people with popular YouTube channels or large Instagram followings to feature Fingerlings on one of their videos or posts. These went viral and by Christmas, WowWee was hiring planes to get their product to stores on time for holiday shoppers.  They have since opened a third factory in China to make the toy. 

Our son with his Cabbage Patch doll in the 80s.

The Fingerling reminds me of the pet rocks of the 70s, the Cabbage Patch dolls of the 80s, the Beanie Babies of the 90s, and the Zhu Zhu pets of the 2000s.  We are approaching the beginning of a new decade.  I wonder what the cute, loveable toy of the 2020s will be. 

Other posts………….

What in the World is a Fidget? 

Dorothy’s Room

Inuit Games


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5 Things I Believe About Children

I will attend a professional development session this afternoon related to my job as a university education faculty advisor. To prepare I’ve been asked to write a list of beliefs I have about children.  Deciding what to include in my list was quite a bit harder than I thought, but after plenty of consideration here is what I came up with.

Children at a school I visited in Vietnam

  1. I believe all children are unique and their individuality must be acknowledged and respected.

    Dave and me with our older son

  2. I believe all children are entitled to love, a safe and secure home, a quality education and the physical necessities of life.

    My husband Dave with the basketball team he coached at a school on the Hopi Nation in Arizona

  3. I believe all children have potential and deserve an opportunity to develop that potential

    My husband Dave with kids he taught in Jamaica

  4. I believe adults have much to learn from children.

    With my first class of students in 1974

  5. I believe children are our future and investing heavily in their health, education and well being is of benefit to all of society. 

I’d love to know one thing you believe about children. 

Other posts………..

Meeting the Street Children of Dehli

What’s an Amauti

I’m Glad My Taxes Are Paying For This


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My Polio Vaccines- Dad’s Treasures Part 6



One of the interesting treasures I found while helping my father downsize for a move was this copy of my polio vaccinations.  Currently, children are vaccinated for polio at ages two months, four months, 6-18 months and at ages 4-6.  So why did I receive only three vaccinations and all within a few months of each other when I was four years old?  

Dr. Jonas Salk administering a vaccine

That’s because the polio vaccine was only discovered by Jonas Salk in 1953, the year I was born.  The vaccine needed to be tested and it was only in April of 1955 that the government approved the administration of the vaccination to all six to nine-year-olds. I wasn’t old enough to get it then.

Polio epidemics had caused many deaths over the centuries. Just between 1949 and 1954 nearly 11,000 people in Canada were left paralyzed by polio. In 1953, the year I was born there were nearly 9,000 cases and some 500 deaths in Canada.

People with polio in iron lungs

The incidence of polio in Winnipeg was higher in 1953 than had been previously seen anywhere else in the world.  Close to a hundred people in the city were in iron lungs because their breathing muscles were paralyzed. The 1953 epidemic was the most serious the country had experienced since a national epidemic in 1918. 

By 1956 it was clear that children who had received the polio vaccine during the previous year were much less likely to get polio or experience paralysis than those who hadn’t been vaccinated.  Although not every province decided to go ahead with vaccinating more children, thankfully the province of Manitoba did as the official notice above indicates.

Photo from the Manitoba archives showing St. Matthews Church where I had my vaccinations

That’s why in 1957 at age four I received the potentially life-saving vaccine. My mother had to take me to the St. Matthew’s Church in Winnipeg for the shots.

This photo was taken at Easter in 1957 the year my sister and I had our first polio vaccinations

I imagine my sister who was sixteen months younger than I was also had the vaccinations. 

I just read recently that thanks largely to the efforts of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation polio is now on the verge of being eradicated throughout the world. 

Other posts…….

Vaccinations Aren’t Just For Babies

Another Shameful Chapter in Canadian History

My Mother’s Friends


Filed under Childhood, Family, Health, Winnipeg

Time For Canada’s Senate To Die?

Who would want to block the passage of legislation that protects the health and well being of Canada’s children?

In 2016 former Conservative senator and Olympic skiing medalist Nancy Greene Raine was determined to do something to address the high rate of childhood obesity in Canada. So she sponsored legislation (Bill S-228) that would ban the advertising of products high in sugar, salt, and fat from children’s media programming. It would also prevent grocery stores from displaying items like sugar-coated cereals at kids’ eye level.

The bill was passed by the duly elected House of Commons but now faces a quiet death in the Senate because a group of appointed Conservative senators is being influenced by a powerful coalition of advertisers, food processors, and retailers. Even though Canada’s pediatricians, the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, the World Health Organization and the Canadian Cancer Society support the legislation, if it is not approved by the Senate before it adjourns on June 28th the legislation will die.

As much as 90% of food marketed to kids through television, movies, the Internet, video games, and giveaways in restaurants are high in sugar, fat, and salt. Quebec banned all commercial marketing to children thirty years ago. Their childhood obesity rate for 6-11-year-olds is the lowest in Canada.   Is that just a coincidence?

The legislation has already been amended to try to address some of the concerns of farmers, retailers, and the media. For example, while the initial legislation banned advertising for most of the daytime hours when children are awake, now it is only banned on programs where children make up more than 15% of the audience. The legislation has also been amended to allow food and beverage companies to continue to sponsor children’s sports’ teams and events targeted at children. 

Conservative appointed Senator Pamela Wallin says she is concerned about the impact the legislation will have on Canada’s grain and dairy producers and the baking industry but Nancy Greene Raine is quoted in a Toronto Globe and Mail article saying her bill won’t harm the sale or export of any Canadian products. They can still be sold, but can’t be marketed to children.  

Ms. Raine finds it particularly ironic that she herself is a former Conservative-appointed senator and senators from her own party are blocking the legislation because they are worried that its passage might make Liberals look too good just before an election. In a CBC interview, Ms. Raine said she was hurt that her hard work to cross party lines and obtain Liberal support for her bill is now being thwarted by members of her own party. 

As far as I’m concerned I’d like to see all commercial advertising aimed at children banned and I think it may be time to abolish Canada’s Senate.  Bill S-228 is only one of several important pieces of legislation that have been passed by the House of Commons but the current Senate is blocking.

Canada’s Senate Chamber is currently being renovated. Perhaps we should consider renovating it so it can be used for something else once the Senate is abolished.

Bills to protect victims of sexual assault and to protect the rights of Canada’s indigenous people will also likely die because of the ‘sober second thought’ of our appointed Senate. Perhaps its time to see that outdated institution die so it can no longer cause the death of legislation that protects Canada’s most vulnerable citizens. 

Other posts……

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Embracing Anxiety and Handling It

I was talking to a high school teacher not long ago who told me that research shows teenagers are suffering from increased anxiety for a whole variety of reasons.  Teachers try to be understanding of their stress but at the same time, they want to help kids appreciate that sometimes anxiety can be good for them.

1) Anxiety can help you feel motivated and inspired when you face challenges. Athletes who are a little anxious perform better. Anxiety can help you put extra effort into tasks and move you towards a goal. 

2) Anxiety can be a warning sign that you need to make changes in your life.  Do you need to get more sleep, get more exercise, handle your finances more responsibly or eat in a healthier way?

3) Anxiety can help you become more empathetic towards friends and family members who are also facing challenges. 

The young teen in the movie Eighth Grade talks to her dad about her worries

Knowing that stress and anxiety can sometimes be a positive thing means teachers are looking for ways to help kids deal with it. A variety of education and psychology articles offer good ideas. 

  1. Find someone to talk to about your feelings.
  2. Journal or write about your anxiety to help you explore what may be triggering it.

    Volunteering to clean trash off a beach with my high school students 

  3. Volunteer.  Reach out to help others instead of focusing on your anxiety. 
  4. Develop an attitude of gratitude and find concrete ways to express it. 
  5. Learn to emphasize the process or the experience more than the product or the final goal.

    Wilderness hiking with my students 

  6. Make meditation and exercise a regular part of your day. 
  7. Go outside and connect with nature. 

Anxiety isn’t just a challenge for teens these days. An article in Live Science says that in the past we thought anxiety declined with age. Mental health experts are finding that struggles with anxiety in seniors may have been underestimated. Interestingly the same things that can help teens deal with anxiety can help their grandparents’ generation deal with it too. Seniors who volunteer, meditate, get exercise, connect with nature, express gratitude, journal and build relationships with others will also ease their anxiety. 

My Mom doing tai chi in Hong Kong

No matter what our age, a little anxiety can be good for us and there are ways we can handle it so our lives become more rewarding, meaningful and peaceful. 

Other posts………

Go Outside, Go Often

Coloring Books- Not Just For Kids



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Vision and Voice

Arthur Slade, David Robertson, and Miriam Körner are some of the most successful children’s writers in Canada right now.  Between them, they have published a raft of books and have won all kinds of awards.  I listened to them last night as they shared their vision and voice in a discussion at a Saskatoon conference for children’s writers. Their exchange of ideas was led by Alice Kuipers a children’s writer who helped to organize the conference. 

Arthur and David listen as Miriam talks about her writing motivation

It was interesting to note what motivates each writer. Miriam is passionate about Canada’s north and loves sled dogs and sled dog racing.  In her books, she is trying to share that passion with others.  

Arthur told us his latest book Crimson was written especially for his daughter who he and his wife adopted from China in 2010. He wanted to create an authentic story for her.

David talked about trying to be an example for young indigenous writers. He wants them to feel that they too have powerful stories they can share. 

As you can see the discussion wasn’t all serious. Alice and her panelists were having a good time.

When Alice asked each writer to talk about how they present themselves to the world Miriam laughed and said she would rather not have to think about presenting herself to the public.  She wishes her books would speak for themselves and she could just spend all her time in her cabin in the bush in La Ronge Saskatchewan with her husband and sixteen sled dogs.  

Arthur talked about the persona he needs to maintain on social media and how it is hard to balance the work that involves, with his need to find space and time for writing.

David shared his thoughts about wanting to present himself as an indigenous writer. He hasn’t always embraced that role but realizes there are many things Canadians need to know about his culture.

Why does each author choose to write for young people rather than adults?

Miriam writes books for young teens because she thinks that is such a crucial time in their lives when everything begins to change for them and the world they had taken for granted suddenly looks so different. Many young people believe they can change the world and Miriam wants to capture those youthful voices in her writing.

Arthur told us he fell into writing for kids accidentally.  He was writing adult novels and someone evaluating one of his manuscripts told him it would be a great teen or young adult novel.

David says he writes for kids because he wants to have some input into shaping the children who will be our leaders of tomorrow.  He thinks about what he wants young people to carry with them so they can create a different reality for our country and the world. What will his books teach them?

The Vision and Voice panel was a great way to kick off the conference and really got attendees thinking about their own motivations, public persona and why they have chosen to write for young people.  

Other posts……….

Reading Pictures

A Top Ten List From a Top Notch Speaker

Writers All Around

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Filed under Books, Canada, Childhood, Writing