Category Archive: Mini Trend

Mini Trend: The “Scrooge” Movement

It might sound Scrooge-like, but more and more parents are taking a stand for a gift-free holiday.

This article was originally published in The Grid.

Between Thanksgiving, Halloween, Hanukkah, Christmas, and—please, no—any kids’ birthdays that might crop up in between, tiny downtown family homes are overrun with toys. So it’s not surprising that more parents are taking a stand for a gift-free holiday.

Case in point: the Buy Nothing Christmas movement, which was created in 2001 by a group of friends as a firm “no” to patterns of overconsumption come holiday time.

If forgoing all presents feels too harsh, you can always sign a “pre–NUPP,” or “pre-No Unnecessary Present Pact.” Devised by the U.K.’s foremost “money saving expert,” Martin Lewis, the agreement isn’t anti-gift per se, but rather, strongly against presents that languish, unwanted, in closets. By taking compulsory gift-giving out of the equation, it discourages obligatory buying and avoids surprise spending beyond your already maxed-out means.

Or why not take the Buy Handmade pledge? Created by the so-called “Handmade Consortium” and spearheaded by Etsy.com and Craftster.org since 2007, this push for homemade gifts has quickly spread via the craft-blog community. So if your inner Scrooge is talking to you, listen to him, and know that you’re not alone in your deeply cranky feelings towards more plastic playthings.

Disclaimer!: BunchFamily.ca and The Grid assume no responsibility for tantrum-throwing kids as a result of the opinions expressed.

Mini Trend: Family Meditation

Having kids means life is in constant flux, but the idea of meditating as a family is rapidly gaining ground.

This article was originally published in The Grid.

Does family life stress you out? Does your work life stress out your family? Having kids means life is in constant flux, but we can control how we respond to chaotic periods in our lives. It’s no surprise, then, that the idea of meditating as a family is rapidly gaining ground.

Inspired by 30 years of brain research, neuroscientist Richard Davidson, author of the new book The Emotional Life of Your Brain, is an advocate of meditation for children.

It can be particularly helpful for kids with behavioural or learning difficulties, and it can be a lifesaver during challenging times. Cheryl Dawson, a lending manager at a San Diego bank, already meditated daily, but a turbulent divorce convinced her to make it a pre-bedtime family ritual when her youngest was three years old. “Before, it was total mayhem,” she says. “But every kid loves structure.” Dawson devised simple mantras with her two girls—“I am sweet, I am smart” is one— and says it was a game-changer: “Now the house is just calm in the evenings.”

Mini Trend: Costume Swapping

Remember the outrageously expensive Halloween costume that no longer fits your kid? Now you can exchange last year’s eerie ensemble for this year’s scary disguise of choice.

This article was originally published in The Grid.

 

What’s the one thing that’s scarier than ghosts and ghouls? The spectre of the outrageously expensive Halloween costume that gets worn once and then hangs in the closet all year, until—the horror—it no longer fits your kid.

Enter National Costume Swap Day, the most brilliant of Halloween dress-up shopping solutions. Pocket the wallet and check out the closest swap location to you at costumeswapdaycanada.com. Cart your old costumes out on Oct. 13, and exchange last year’s eerie ensemble for this year’s scary disguise of choice.

Better yet, why not host your very own tradesies party? Register your neighbourhood or community swap online and follow National Costume Swap Day’s instructions for creating your very own swap-till-you-drop affair. It’s the eco-friendly, budget-friendly way to outfit the wees in new spooky duds, not to mention clean some skeletons out of your closet.

Mini Trend: Park Loyalty

Which of Toronto’s neighbourhood parks is the finest? We recommend trying them all.

This article was originally published in The Grid.

At a dinner party recently, a few of the guests broke into a heated debate over who had the best playground in their ’hood, comparing amenities like splash pads, communal toys, bordering convenience-store stock, and overall neighbourly “feel.”

Despite Deputy Mayor  Doug Holyday’s pronouncement that the city is no place to raise kids, downtown parks are getting tons of use this summer. While our backyards may be postage-stamp sized (or nonexistent), Toronto’s urban green spaces keep getting better and better. Pizza ovens at Dufferin Grove make ordering in a thing of the past, Monarch Park’s new-and-improved pool slide is just begging for a try, and now you can rent a croquet set at the Trinity Tuck Shop (198 Walnut Ave.) and join the legions of leisure lovers at Trinity Bellwoods.

Why not take advantage of your friends’ park fidelity and organize a family day-long crawl of everyone’s favourite? Plan an activity at each destination, and end the day with a celebratory picnic—because it’s a shame to stick to just one park when there are so many great ones to choose from.

Mini Trend: Kid Comics

Rather than telling smart-aleck kids to sit down and shut up, parents are opting to tell them to stand-up and deliver.

BY: Bunch Family
This article was originally published in The Grid.

Parents have long dreamed of their child growing up to be the next Karen Kain or Wayne Gretzky. But now, Toronto moms and dads are turning their brood into budding Tina Feys and Jason Segels—and the city’s bevy of comedy institutions are keeping pace.

It’s a definite shift: No longer are class clowns and cards being scolded for their quips and comebacks. Rather than telling smart-aleck kids to sit down and shut up, parents are opting to tell them to stand-up and deliver. Venerable laugh hall The Second City (99 Blue Jays Way) offers youth classes for children as young as four, and Bad Dog Theatre Company’s Improv Foundation Classes (held at Fraser Studios at Danforth and Broadview) are for tykes ages five and up to learn storytelling, the art of crafting characters, and the basics of improv.

For more intensive training this summer, TIFF is hosting a comedy-production camp in August for youngsters ages 10 to 14 called “Live from Toronto…it’s Friday Night: Summer Special!” At the end of the nine-day program, participants will put on a live comedy show for family and friends in one of the Bell Lightbox’s cinemas.

It’s never been a better time to be a kid cut-up. Let the hilarity ensue.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Rob Griffith

Photo: AP Photo/Rob Griffith

Mini Trend: Rise of the Mama’s Boys

Teach your boys that real men cry, do housework, and share how they’re feeling, and they’ll never be too old to seek comfort from their moms.

BY: Bunch Family
This article was originally published in The Grid.

When golfer Bubba Watson burst into tears and hugged his mom after winning his first Masters tournament, he inspired a slew of editorials about when and whether it was okay for men to cry. What year is this? Stereotypically, mama’s boys have a bad rap, likened to maladjusted Norman Bates types or weaklings. We have a problem with this. And so does Kate Stone Lombardi, whose new book, The Mama’s Boy Myth, documents how boys with close relationships to their mothers have a higher emotional intelligence and better mental health than those who don’t.

So set aside an hour or so for mother-son QT. Some suggestions: Take your boy to a side-by-side art class at the AGO, have a good chat over hot chocolate at a family friendly café like Playful Grounds (605 College St., at Clinton), Balluchon (221 Sorauren Ave., south of Dundas), or Te Aro (983 Queen St. E., at Pape), or go on a hike in the Don Valley. Teach them that real men cry, do housework, and share how they’re feeling, and they’ll never be too old to seek comfort from their moms. Oh, and the new generation of mama’s boys has nothing to do with that new TLC show, Mama’s Boys of the Bronx. Those are just man-children who don’t want to do their own cooking and laundry.

Photo credit: Lance McCord

Cute Kid

Mini Trend: Forget March Break

Who says March Break is the only time to get away? The current generation of parents have no problem with pulling their kids out of school for cheaper, less-crowded travel at non-peak times.

BY: Bunch Family
This article was originally published in The Grid.

Does anyone go away for March Break anymore?

It’s just around the corner, but this year, fewer families are planning to jump on a Cuba-bound plane or load up the iPad for the drive to Florida—at least not during the school break. Families are travelling, but they’re doing it outside school holidays.

The current generation of moms and dads—let’s call them the Bueller Generation—are totally nonchalant about pulling their kids out of school for cheaper, less-crowded travel at non-peak times. These parents are making the trips learning experiences (or, at least, that’s how they sell it to the teacher). In mid-December, one Toronto dad took his children to Panama, where his son shot a couple of videos about rainforest ants and howler monkeys and made a presentation to his class.

Savvy parents pick resorts that give them some relief from child-minding and where they’ll likely find themselves in the company of fellow urbanite adults. These resorts, like Azul Fives in Mexico or The Breakers in Palm Beach, have youth clubs and satisfy a parent’s need for modern design and decent grub.

So tell the principal to expect your kid’s report on Chichen Itza and book your not–March Break trip.
Photo credit: emrank

Family Vacation

 

Mini Trend: Treasuring Chess

You don’t need to join a club to play chess with your kids. Just dust off your own set and teach them the rules.

BY: Bunch Family
This article was originally published in The Grid.

While some may think of it as an activity for old men in coffee shops or Bobby Fischer–level geniuses, chess is enjoying some love from the elementary-school crowd.

Bunch Family got hip to this when its creative director’s son asked for a chess set because Theo, the coolest kid in school, was teaching kids to play. But it seems that kids all over the GTA have picked up the game. The Annex Chess Club, at the corner of Bloor and Bathurst, offers kids’ classes on Monday and Wednesday nights. Chess for Children operates out of the Swansea Town Hall Community Centre and puts on Saturday tournaments as well as lessons for beginner- and intermediate-level players.

In Brampton, Little Chess Mates Club offers lessons and sets up tournaments for kids as young as four. And thanks to a Victoria Park Collegiate Institute student, kids, teens and seniors are all playing chess together at 13 Toronto Public Library branches across the city as part of the Chess in the Library initiative. But you don’t need to join a club to play with your kids. Just dust off your own set and teach them the rules—it won’t be long before they out-manoeuvre you. Oh, nerds, revenge must feel so sweet.

Photo credit: Indiana Public Media

Kids Chess

 

 

Mini Trend: Teeny, Weeny, Backyard Rinks

BY: Bunch Family
This article was originally published in The Grid.

Here’s something that suburban hockey moms and dads have known for years: While community centres offer exceptional rinks, both indoor and out, nothing beats having your own private ice patch on which to learn how to skate (or refine that triple toe loop). It’s the winter equivalent of having a pool, and neighbourhood families will flock to your home on weekends and evenings, turning it into a hub of activity. Sure, our downtown backyards may be a fraction of the size of our suburban pals’, but when a kid is just learning to skate, they don’t need more than a couple of metres of gliding space. Plus, smaller yards make the dash inside for hot chocolate and hot toddies that much quicker. With just a plastic tarp, a couple of wooden planks and a whole lot of flooding from the garden hose, kids and parents can avoid the schlep to Nathan Phillips Square or Harbourfront’s Natrel rink and get unlimited ice time. And with the availability of backyard rink kits (Jiffy Rink and EZ Rink are both carried by Canadian Tire), the backyard rink has come to small city yards.

Photo credit: jpower65

Family Hockey