Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Holiday season has begun!

Now that we have had the first snowfall and the holiday's are officially less than one month away, I feel like I can now begin to prepare for the celebrations. I had planned to finish all of my Christmas shopping in November, however, it does not look like that is going to happen. Although, I have done the majority (well, maybe half), I have also decided that I am going to make most of Ewan and Isla's gifts this year, which is taking a little longer. The reason being is last year we had a wonderful Christmas but we went way overboard and Ewan decided that he did not want to open any gifts at all. 

So this year, and hopefully something we maintain over the years to come, is to have essentially 5 gifts for each of the kids. I really like the idea of 'something they want, something they need, and something to read'. I also would like to add something to wear and something I think they should have. I have also moved very much in the direction of open ended and simple toys for both my home and the nursery school program and I am really liking the way these items inspire and require the children to use their own creativity and imagination. A great article can be found here about the benefits of simple, open ended toys for young children.

Here are a few of the items that I am aspiring to make for the kids this year. 

Dying more play silks for both kids - larger ones for Ewan and smaller for Isla. I first did 5 this past spring and Ewan absolutely loves them, they are definitely one of his favourite activities. He uses them for dancing, as superhero capes, making birds nest - it really depends on the day!

Another idea for Ewan is a felt crown and two swords that I have sewn for him to go along with a wooden hobby horse that I purchased. He has begun to get into knights and dragons, so I think this will be big hit. Both were very simple projects and I really like the way they turned out. I found the crown pattern here and the sword pattern here.

I have also made a Fort Building kit for Ewan as he is all about using blankets to create his own little spaces. I found this idea here and I loved the simplicity of it. With a some suction hooks, a flash light and clothes pins from the dollar store, a bed sheet and some fabric scraps I was able to make this kit and I am sure he will be so excited to start building.

I also made both kids some Christmas pyjama's. I have just recently learned to sew and these were considerably harder projects and I kind of got bored of doing them by the end. Also, I messed up Isla's pj's and all of her penguins are standing on their heads, lol, I am not going for perfection with any of these items! I do like the idea of making them Christmas pj's each year though -  a tradition a may try to keep up.

I have also invested in a set of Schleich animals for Ewan, which I expect should last forever and can be brought to A Gym Tale after he is finished with them. To add to this set, I am making a play mat using felt with trees, water, mountains etc. as a dedicated space for him to use with the animals.

And yes, I realize I have gone over the five gifts. But not nearly as much as last year and I am really happy with the potential each of these items have to hopefully inspire his imagination.

As for Isla, in addition to the play silks, which I order online from Dharma Trading, I will be making her a set of bean bags - ideally the alphabet, but she may only get her name depending on time;) I found a great pattern for them here. For Isla's age I think the bean bags will be great for stacking, throwing, dumping or just eating.

I have also ordered a soft doll and a little wooden stroller for her from various shops on Etsy - a great site to check out for both ideas and to purchase the hand made items that you do not have time to do yourself! 

 So all of these projects are the reason that I have not blogged in quite some time! Hopefully some of these items will inspire your own creativity this year! I would also love to hear about how you decide what to get for your children for the holidays as well as any other open ended activities that your children absolutely love.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Helping Hands in time for the Holidays

I have been following a blog for some time and I really enjoy the authors sense of humour, her stories as well as the many initiatives she takes to help others. One of which is her 'Helping Hands' project currently underway in which she tries to match families with needs to those that have extra to give and encourages those that have 'just enough' to watch miracles take place. If you are interested in reading more about it or simply looking for a good read please visit Momastery for more information.

Although I very much like the Helping Hands project, I like the idea of helping someone a little closer to home. I would like to share a story that took place this weekend - not a 'look what I did' story, but a 'look what happened' story.

I began thinking about what "extra's" that I have to give and came up with a few ideas. I have had a set of winter tires for a car that I no longer own sitting in the garage. I decided to look online to see if anyone had posted a 'need' for winter tires. I found plenty. So I offered them to one of these individuals and they were over the moon with excitement and picked them up the next day. I also realized that I no longer needed an exersaucer or a playpen that just did not get enough use to warrant saving for any future babies. So again I looked online for someone who had posted a need. Once again, I found plenty. One individual caught my eye -  a single mother with a 4 month old son who had left an abusive relationship with only what she could fit in her car. So she essentially needed everything baby related from a place for him to sleep, clothes, toys etc. I emailed her and offered her my exersaucer and the playpen. I then posted on Facebook asking if anyone had any extra's to give someone in need. The response I received was overwhelming. With the extra's offered I was able to give her everything on her 'wish list' for her son all within 24 hours of posting on Facebook. I had families dropping things off at A Gym Tale, neighbours of those families wanting to help, I picked things up this afternoon and brought the entire car load (I could not actually fit another single item into my car) to her by 1pm. She was thrilled. She couldn't believe that within 2 days of finding the courage to ask for what she needed, she had received everything and more. Hopefully we have shown her that there are people in her community that care for her, even complete strangers.

Maybe this will inspire you to reach out to the community during this holiday season to offer someone in need a helping hand, or if you are in need maybe give you the strength to ask for what you need, or simply to watch for miracles around you.

If you know a family in need of help this holiday season please email me ( and maybe we can make another miracle happen in our very own community.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Can it be true? A Gym Tale's 7 year Anniversary!

I cannot believe that this past week was A Gym Tale's 7 year anniversary! It feels like so long ago Alan and I began our journey - our little small business in the green roofed building on Larkin Dr and Greenbank Rd. Then again it feels like it was just yesterday that we decided to begin our Nursery School program - I have been running into some of our 'original' families who began with us 7 years ago and the children are now 12 years old! That is crazy!

A Gym Tale originated from Alan's Entrepreneurship final project in University. I did not get into my Master's program of choice and decided to take a year off to help Alan open up his business. Little did I know that we would go on to create a dream career for myself and a life style that we would not trade for anything. It really has been wonderful being able to use our creativity to fill a niche within the very community that we grew up in.

In the above picture - taken from my scrapbook, Alan and I are sitting at our giant desk on the very first day that we opened - we were only 23 and look like kids!

Anyone remember our original logo with the little caped boy and all of the t-shirts with capes that my aunts and I made?
It still shocks me at how much our vision of what A Gym Tale would be has changed and grown over the years. We began with a vision of 'gymboree' type classes which encouraged children to develop their imaginations while at the same time promoting an active lifestyle. These classes have drastically changed in format - a big thank you to all of the families who gave us a chance as well as feedback to help us develop the program that we have today. We very quickly realized that filling 40 hours a week with Gym & Music classes was not realistic - and so the idea of beginning a Nursery School program came about. This really gave me an opportunity to use my skills and challenge my imagination to create a program that fosters the natural development of young children through play based learning. Once again this program has changed and grown over the past 6 years to become one of my projects that I am most proud of. It also provides the opportunity to really get to know so many children and their families within Barrhaven. Birthday parties have also changed drastically over the years. It absolutely shocked Alan and I that within two months we were consistently hosting 8 birthday parties a weekend every weekend. I will not get into how we used to offer personalized invitations and change the colour of streamers after every party to coordinate with the theme. Have I also mentioned that we more or less lived at A Gym Tale and did not sleep for the first 2 years?!

After two years in the green roofed building, we came to the realization that what we were getting out of A Gym Tale simply was not worth working 7 days a week, night and day, and all holidays (except Christmas day). We had to make a very difficult decision - either close A Gym Tale and walk away knowing that we tried our best or to take a leap of faith and create something bigger. We have always liked the saying 'go big or go home', and so Alan fulfilled his life long dream and we bought a pirate ship and a castle! Our move to the new location (our present location) was both the most stressful time in our lives as well as the most exciting time. This was a huge undertaking and we were so very fortunate that the client base that we had gained supported us and we were able to attract so many new families to give us a chance to become a part of their children's lives.

During the past five years in the new location we have continued to grow and change in order to try and meet the needs of our community and to challenge ourselves to create higher quality programming and active entertainment for children. We now also offer Kid's Night Out, Before & After School care, Camps, New Year's eve Sleepovers (we did anyway) and group visits.

It is also incredible the number of staff that have helped to shape A Gym Tale along our journey. In our first location we had 4 staff members at a time and now we have 14. Each and every individual who has worked with us has brought with them ideas that have helped to shape what we have become.

We are so very grateful to everyone who has helped A Gym Tale become what it is today and to all the families that have invited us to become a part of their lives. We love what we do and we will continue to strive to provide the best quality programming and children's entertainment.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fall Adventures and Halloween fun!

I have been meaning to write a post about all the fantastic activities there are in the fall for kids, but doing all of these activities, working at A Gym Tale and two kids who lately refuse to sleep in the evenings have really left me with no free time - or I have been choosing to sleep during this time!

Over the past few weeks we have taken advantage of the warm weather to go apple picking at Mountain Orchards and then eating more apples then is probably good for you. We have also been taking lots of walks through nearby trails and exploring and collecting as we go. We now have an impressive collection of acorns and rocks! Quick note - if your child has begun collecting acorns, they will get maggots if kept inside, so outside is definitely the better choice!

Ewan's favourite activity so far has been choosing our pumpkins from the pumpkin patch. This was a very, very long process as he needed just the right pumpkin. This weekend we are aiming to try and carve the pumpkins and Ewan has been trying to decide on the kind of face he wants all week. To do this he has been using markers to practice on the pumpkin itself and then simply wiping it away to try another idea. This is the first time that Ewan is really excited and anticipating a holiday so I am really trying to play it up with some rituals that we can do each year. In addition to pumpkin picking, we have been making decorations (candle holders, ghosts to hang in the trees, and spiders), reading lots of Halloween books from the library, making a Halloween countdown banner, and regularly wearing his costume. I also made a display with little halloween themed picture frames of all the costumes Ewan has worn over the past three years for him to look at.

I am also planning a big Halloween breakfast on the morning of Halloween to make the day extra special and memorable. After reading the Happiness at Home book by Gretchen Rubin I have been inspired to try and plan more 'memorable' moments for the kids. The book highlights that it is the special little things out of the ordinary that people remember and lead to the most happiness, not necessarily big events. We just tried a fantastic pancake recipe that makes them look like Jack O Lanterns (recipe below) which I will make for Halloween morning along with orange juice and bat shaped toast all on Halloween themed plates. This will also all take place at 6:30am so that I can be at A Gym Tale for 7am to begin the Before School Halloween party, followed by the Nursery School costume party - I will sleep well that night!

I would love to hear all about your Halloween traditions!

Jack O Lantern Pancake recipe (found in the Artful Year - ebook -

1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2tbsp sugar (I used 1 tbsp honey instead)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tbsp nutmeg
1 1/2 cup whole milk
3/4 cups pumpkin
1 egg
2tbsp melted butter
banana and chocolate chips to make face

mix everything together - the batter is stiff enough that I was able to shape it into a pumpkin (somewhat) and then Ewan decorated the faces on them before I flipped them. These were really delicious pancakes and the banana eyes looked really great!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Giving Thanks

With the approaching Thanksgiving weekend, I have been talking with the kids all week about Fall traditions and the things that we are thankful for in our lives. Some of the answers ranged from marshmallows, to mommies and daddies, and obviously horses! I personally am very grateful for my health and my family, both immediate and extended. I know I am very lucky to have such a large extended family who is so very helpful and involved in our lives. I am also thankful that my business allows for the possibility to have my children with me and not have to deal with shortage of quality child care available. I am again so very thankful for my family members who offer to take my children every so often to give me a work day without children - and oh, do I appreciate those days! I am also thankful my career and my husbands career can be considered relatively stable in the current time of economic uncertainty being felt by so many in a government city. Furthermore, I am thankful for our friends, who are oh so patient and understanding of our crazy work schedule and still take the time to try and connect. We have really tried this past year making friendships and family relationships more of a priority as opposed to getting lost in our work and it has been wonderful creating a more balanced lifestyle. 

On the topic of balance, A Gym Tale will be closed this Thanksgiving Sunday and Monday. I know not typical of indoor playgrounds, but I feel it is important for us to take some time to really reconnect with family and friends. As a small business owner, a wife and a mother to two young children, it is becoming more essential to find time to really focus in on only my family and not split my attention between them and work. I am so looking forward to doing this over Sunday and Monday this weekend.

Another hard decision that Alan and I have recently made is to not hold the New Year's Eve Sleepover this year. Alan and I have run this event each year for the past 6 years. Yes, it is true, I have slept on the yellow crash mat the past 6 years on New Year's Eve, even very pregnant and with a baby, while Alan worked all night at the desk. Although we very much enjoyed spending the evening with your children, for this year we have decided to spend it with our family. This is not to say, that we will never run the event again, just not for this year. I cannot tell you how excited I am to not have to whisper 'Happy New Year' to Alan because twenty children are sleeping in the forest!

I hope everyone enjoys the long weekend and is able to find a moment to relax and feel thankful for whatever it is, big or small, that is making your life amazing right now.

My new favourite picture below, once again taken by the ever so talented Elizabeth Fulton Photography.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Book Recommendation & Lecture this week

Just a quick update about a lecture taking place this Friday evening by the author of Simplicity Parenting -  Kim John Payne. If you have not had the chance to read this book, I highly recommend it. It is definitely once of the most helpful 'parenting' books that I have read and I have really put many of the practices into place in both my home and the Nursery School program at A Gym Tale. The author emphasizes finding balance and rhythm in children's lives as well as de-cluttering the amount and types of toys that children have available to them at any one time. This book was an easy read and I found the suggestions were very applicable to real life and offered reminders of ways to simplify to make even the most hectic schedule more child friendly.

I will be going to the lecture this Friday - I have never actually attended something like this before, so I am very intrigued to see what it will be like. I do look forward to gaining a few new tools and ideas for both my home and A Gym Tale. Click here for more details on the lecture.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fall is underway!

Fall begins this week and it marks my full return to A Gym Tale! I have tried to transition myself back to work slowly over the past 2 weeks - first with Welcome sessions and Small Group sessions for Nursery School students and now this week with a full nursery school class and Gym & Music classes. It has been wonderful to be back - but also absolutely exhausting! I am starting to adapt to the very early mornings again as well as all of the food preparation needed - lunches are a lot of work to pack each night! The kids are also beginning to adjust - it is a lot of stimulation 3 days a week, but they are also very much enjoying themselves. I have never seen Ewan so excited as he was on his first day back to school!

Nursery School has really been going well and I am really liking the changes to the routine and classroom that we have implemented. We have a wonderful group of kids enrolled this year and they are very excited to be joining the program (most of them anyway - I still have a few to convince!). Here are a few pictures of our new set up - 

Gym & Music classes also begin this week! Although I was terribly nervous this morning, they went very well and I was able to get right back into the groove of running the classes. It was really nice seeing familiar faces as well as meeting so many new families. I do still have space in each of the age groups, so if you are looking for something to keep the kids active as the weather is becoming colder send me an email and check out the schedule here.

And one more reminder that our contest is coming to a close on September 20th for the Ipad and 5 Drop In Play pass card, so the more friends that 'Like' A Gym Tale on Facebook and post that you referred them, the more entries you will have in the draw. Good luck!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Back to School - Easing Separation Anxiety

September is here and along with it a new school year! I would like to welcome all of the new students joining A Gym Tale this year in the Before & After School program as well as the Nursery School program! Likewise it is also so great to see so many familiar faces returning to the program again this year! We have lots of exciting plans for each of the programs and the teachers are eager to get back to the regular routines and students that we get to know over the course of the year.

I have had many questions on how to help a child adjust who is going to school for the first time. To begin with, separation anxiety is completely normal for a preschooler - he or she is simply aware that this is a new situation and is unsure of what is to come. There are several things as parents we can do to ease a child's anxiety.

Preparation for the start of school is important. If you are able to visit the school so your child has a picture in their mind of where they are going is a great first step. I am so excited that the majority of the children in the Nursery School program have been participating in A Gym Tale's Play & Music programs. Many of the children are familiar with myself and the environment. Now if you have not been to A Gym Tale before, that is ok too! This year we are hosting a Welcome Session where the child and the parent visit in a small group for 1 hour to explore the learning centres and for the parents to meet with me to go over the program and answer any questions. This will be a no-stress day! I want the children to become excited about what the Nursery School program has to offer, about the teachers and the other friends that they will get to know - without the worry of leaving mom or dad. At home mention some of the activities that they may be doing and answer any questions your child may have, but be sure not to make too big of a deal about going to school - sometimes that can add to a child's insecurity.

Consistency at drop off is also very helpful. If you are unsure with how your child will be at drop off time, please contact us so we can make a plan about how we will address your child's anxiety. Usually a quick drop off and exit by the parent helps the child enter the classroom. A teacher will be present to scoop up the child in order to offer comfort and get them involved in an exciting activity as soon as they are ready. Now each child is different, so let's make a plan that you are comfortable with to avoid any confusion on the first drop off day. In addition, be sure to build a regular routine with how you say goodbye - always say goodbye with words, with hugs or with a gesture. It may be tempting to sneak out of the centre, but it may only lead to mistrust once your child realizes that you have left. Help your child to realize that you will always come back.

Bringing a transitional object, such as a stuffed toy or blanket, is also acceptable and can sometimes lessen the child's fear of being left alone. It can sometimes be even more powerful to leave something of yours with the child, a bracelet for example. This gives the child a tangible reminder of the parent and that they are returning.

Also, be aware of your own anxieties about leaving your child. This can be a stressful time for the parent as well if leaving the child for the first time. Even the anxiety about how your child will react at drop off time can lead to stress. Remember children are very good at reading emotions and can sometimes become increasingly anxious if they feel your anxiety about the 'big' day. Going to Nursery School is an important step along the path in helping your child develop socially, emotionally and physically - and it so much fun along the way!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How to Encourage Budding Artists

Through the courses that I have taken and the books that I have read these past few months, many of them have reminded me of how simple it can be to inspire your child's artistic abilities as well as the many benefits of keeping art simple and open with no preconceived end. When an example of what you want the child to create is shown, which is typical of early childhood programs and often expected from parents in order to bring home a 'finished' product, the child's creativity is often lost while they try to replicate the teacher or parents work. Offering a single colour of paint with a variety of materials to use in order to paint can lead the child to expand their creative abilities and imagination at the same time. Their art then becomes a life experience for them and a means of self expression. Quite often a child will spend more time in an open ended art area as they can explore until they have reached completion on their own terms.

This year, children in the Nursery School program will be exposed to the writing centre each day where they can choose to colour or write at will as well as an art room before and / or after snack time. The children will have free choice as to whether they would like to have snack or begin art and then can freely move between rooms as they are finished either their snack or their art project. My hope is that this will encourage those children who really are not very interested in art to dip their toes into various art mediums and find which techniques do inspire them. Likewise, those children who can spend all day being creative will have greater opportunity to do so. A variety of art mediums will be presented to the children throughout the school year for them to explore each day.

A key aspect in encouraging creativity lies in how a parent talks to their children about their art. When these masterpieces are shown to the families at the end of the program the most powerful question you can ask is "Can you tell me about your art?" This leaves the child open to explaining exactly what it is they see - some days it can be as simple as a line or other days it might be an entire scene from their imagination. Please try to avoid guessing what your child has made, this can only end with the child feeling self conscious or negative about their abilities.

Another important aspect of encouraging creativity is displaying your child's art supplies and their art work. For art supplies, the more you can leave at the child's level, the easier it is for them to choose art as an activity when they are looking for something to do. Likewise having a cupboard or shelf with art materials organized can make starting a project quick and easy. There really are many creative ways to display your child's art in your home. From picture frames on a wall in your home for an ever changing gallery, to hanging wires with clothes pins to hang art or taking pictures of the art and creating a digital album, the ideas are endless. For some ideas on organizing your art area and displaying art check out this link.

I am so very excited about seeing some of the creative ideas that come from the students this year! I would also love to hear how you encourage art as well as display art in your home. I am still looking for the perfect wall to display all of Ewan's creations!

Just a reminder, there are still a handful of afternoon Nursery School Spaces available and classes begin next week. For more details click here.

Also, there are three weeks left in A Gym Tale's IPad and Drop In Pass Giveaway - keep those likes coming!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Toilet Training - Round two!

So I am undergoing some toilet training with Isla - I say I, because it is as much training for me as it is for her - probably more for me actually. I am following more or less the same strategies for Isla as I did with Ewan - you can read about my experience with Ewan here . (The post about toilet training Ewan is actually the most popular post I have written - I think it must be because they look so darn cute sitting in the Bumbo seat!)

Isla is now 7 months old and as of the last two weeks she is regularly peeing on the toilet when I bring her! My hope is that as she get older I will need fewer and fewer diapers as we work together in learning her 'schedule'.

Now how did this experiment work with Ewan, you might wonder? Well, he has been peeing on the toilet regularly since he was one year and he has been out of diapers for the past year, more or less around when he turned two. But it is only really this summer that he will actually go to the toilet on his own initiative, ie. me not having to tell him to go and try. I am not sure if it has taken this long for him to begin telling me that he has to go because we developed the habit where I always told him when he should go or if it is because he is a boy and simply too busy to take the time out of playing to go himself.

So, I am trying it again with Isla to see if it is any different with her.

I would love to hear about others experiences with Elimination Communication and any tips you could offer.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Our Biggest Giveaway Ever!

In celebration of all of the new improvements to A Gym Tale, especially the addition of wireless internet during all Drop In Play times, Alan and I have put together a Give Away package that will let you enjoy A Gym Tale to the fullest!

We are asking our 'friends' that already like A Gym Tale on Facebook to help us spread the word about  A Gym Tale and all that we have to offer families. Every new 'like' on A Gym Tale's Facebook during the next month (until September 20th, 2012) we will enter that individual into the draw. Please have your friend post on A Gym Tale's wall who referred them (only one referral name) and every time your name is mentioned you will also be entered into the draw.

Now for the giveaway - one individual will win a 5 pass Drop In Play card as well as an IPad 2 so that you can take full advantage of our free wireless internet!

So again, the more referrals that post your name on A Gym Tale's wall, the more times your name will be entered into the draw. An example post on your Facebook page could be - 'Like A Gym Tale for your chance to win an Ipad 2 and a 5 Pass Drop In Play card - but be sure to mention my name on A Gym Tale's wall so that I will be entered as well!'

Good luck!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Big Things are Happening at A Gym Tale!

Now if you thought the front entrance was impressive this past Spring, just wait until you see what we have been up to this summer!

I have already been blogging about the new Nursery School Program - check out the program and availability here. Registration has also just begun for the Gym & Music classes for infants 3 months up to children 3.5 years of age and lots of new props, songs and activities will be integrated throughout the session. Check out our classes and schedule here. I really am so excited for Isla to experience the play classes just as Ewan had the chance to enjoy!

As for your experience as a guest when at A Gym Tale we are striving to make it more relaxing for parents, stimulating for babies and toddlers and just as much fun for the kids on the move!

To begin with, new flooring is being put down around the indoor playground. The soft foam tiles have been looking a little rough, so I think this will be a huge improvement. Seating in the eating area is also being updated - no more folding chairs and tables (yes, I will admit we definitely skimped in this area in order to meet our original budget!). A Gym Tale now will have real tables and chairs for adults! Furthermore, A Gym Tale will also have free internet access during the week! Although I am told there are still a few security kinks that need to be worked out (anyone with any advice on this please email me!). Just imagine - sitting at a sturdy, non-folding table, surfing the net on your Ipad (or whatever you use) while your little ones run themselves to exhaustion on the playground! That would be amazing.

As for babies and toddlers - space is limited at A Gym Tale, so I often recommend the New Magic, Enchantments or Wee Wonders classes to entertain your little one with songs, gymnastics, parachute games and bubbles as opposed to the Drop In Play. I do still highly recommend the Gym and Music classes for the younger age group, however, now when your class is finished or before it begins bring your little one over to our updated toddler area! This area will have baby bouncer seats and Bumbo seats for our littlest guests as well as a new ball pit. Yes, a ball pit that will not fall apart if your little one moves while they are in it! I will also have a variety of stationary activities available within the eating area to amuse the youngest guests while you perhaps enjoy a coffee.

Last, but certainly not least, A Gym Tale will very soon be offering online booking for birthday parties. That is right - you no longer need to call A Gym Tale and leave messages while programs are in session. You will be able to book parties at your convenience and receive follow up calls from us to ensure that all of your questions have been answered and to leave you feeling confident that your child will have the very best party ever!

I would like to invite everyone to see and enjoy all of these updates this Fall season. A Gym Tale will be hosting a Guest Appreciation Day on Sunday, September 9th from 10am-6pm! All Drop In Play guests will be half price:) Come and visit us, and maybe get an autograph from some of our friends - Spiderman, Wolverine, Sleeping Beauty and Jasmine!

We look forward to hosting the most fun Fall activities and Birthday parties in a bright and stimulating environment for the children and offering a place for parents to play with their children and sit back and relax!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Instilling a love of reading

Instilling a love of reading will take our children very far in life. From enhancing their language skills early on to contributing to later academic success. The very best way to encourage reading is to read to our children. And to enjoy reading to our children. Children can very much pick up on subtle signs when we are reading, so an enthusiastic voice and making comments throughout the story really help drive home that you too love to read. Even older children will benefit from simply listening to a parent read a story to them and just enjoy the story itself. 
An easy way to help young children grasp the concept of letters, words and sentences is to simply follow the the words with your finger as you read them. You will soon notice your child doing the very same thing as they are 'reading' which gives the children more of a sense that they are actually reading. Also, children love to hear the same story over and over - so keep on reading that bedtime book that now makes you nauseous at the thought of reading it one more time. The ability to read a book from memory is one of the first steps in learning to read. Furthermore, hearing a book on cd or an Ipad is also a valid form of reading and can sometimes spark an interest in kids.

For preschoolers there are a few practices that you can put into place to really encourage a love of books. The first is to have books around the house. Creating cozy reading nooks will invite children into these spaces. Ewan has a reading nook in his room as well as in his playroom. In the playroom (above picture) we have a few shelves that are our central library and hold the majority of books sorted by holiday themes, baby and board books and books for Ewan. Sorting books by author or theme is also a great way to be able to quickly find the book your child may be looking for. Displaying some of your books by facing them forwards can also bring more attention to the books. In Ewan's playroom, the tall book shelf is used only to display books facing forward. In Ewan's bedroom, I choose only six books to have displayed at one time. This really encourages Ewan to read many of the books that might go unnoticed when they are all lined up with only the spines visible. Again, making the space simple and inviting plays a large role in getting the children to the area. So displaying only a few books, so that it is not overwhelming to look at and adding in some soft blankets or pillows can make a big difference. 

At A Gym Tale, books are read in circle time to the whole group, in the reading nook during free play and used in various play centres. We have incorporated big pillows as well as a canopy over the book shelf to create a soft, quiet space for the children to go and read. A teacher is always ready and willing to read a book. It never ceases to amaze me to see a child ask a teacher to read a book, only to have 16 of 24 children sitting around her within minutes. Books are also included in various learning centres depending on the themes. Children love field guides about various science themes. Ewan's current favourite read is a guide of native plants in canada. Including books on rocks, bugs, birds - or whatever your child may be interested in is a great way to incorporate books into learning. In addition, felt board stories or finger puppets let children play out the stories again and again. The more interactive reading can be, the more children will be drawn to the activity.

I also have baskets around the house with themed books in each one. I have a basket in my bedroom for when Ewan wakes up early (trying to buy myself a few more minutes of sleep!) as well as a basket in Isla's room to give Ewan a quiet activity when I am trying to get Isla asleep. Having these baskets around the house is a sure way of always having a book readily available. His jungle themed basket has various stories with jungle animals - ranging from board books or disney books that he has memorized and can 'read' to himself to new books that he will look at the pictures or make up a story. I also try and include a few themed toys to encourage him to interact with the stories - such as a barrel of monkeys and some Lion King figurines. 

And don't forget the babies! Isla also has baskets of books in her room as well as the living room. Many of these books are soft picture books or board books. However, with her teething and chewing she is quickly melting the board books. But she is also learning to turn pages, look at the pictures and enjoy listening to the stories as they are told.

Reading to your child every day really is one of the most worthwhile activities that you can do with your family. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Inspiring Writing in Young Children

I believe that when you entice children to write at a young age it helps to lay the foundation for an understanding of the importance of language development and reading later on. When I say 'write', in reference to preschoolers, I am not meaning letters, tracing or worksheets. Simply using various mediums (crayons, paint, markers etc.) to allow children to express themselves and to connect with others is a form of writing.

The best way to encourage writing is to offer meaningful writing experiences. When writing your grocery list, offer your child the tools to write their own list. When going through the mail, suggest your child 'write' a letter to a family member or friend and actually mail the letter. Even having your children dictate to you what their picture is all about is a great way for children to see you put their thoughts into words.

Providing opportunities for children to 'write' anytime they wish is also helpful to encourage young writers. Now leaving writing tools out in the open and accessible at all times may sound scary to many of you - I have to admit, I have not done this in the past with the Nursery School program. I always pictured children adding their own details to my wall murals and decorating my padded floor! However, when I have thought more about this idea and having seen how my son, Ewan, interacts with his writing materials I think the benefits far outweigh the risks. In addition, providing the right tools can also make all the difference. I have created a writing caddy for both Ewan and the Nursery School writing centre that includes crayons, pencil crayons and markers (all washable of course, let's not get too crazy!), as well as a variety of paper (coloured, lists, letter paper), envelopes and stamps (even just penny stamps to add to the imaginative factor). With all of these items at his finger tips he never strays far from the caddy and always has plenty of inspirations as opposed to getting bored and moving to the walls. The caddy is also just a basket that is portable and can be moved from one room to another and even outside if that is where his inspiration strikes.

I also include an alphabet chart in the caddy just so that Ewan is exposed to the letters of the alphabet. In past years, the students in the Nursery School program have created alphabet books over the course of the year to demonstrate their progress in writing skills. However, I will not be continuing this practice this year as I feel there are more effective hands-on activities to allow children to explore the concept of letters. This year, students will be exploring letters by identifying them around the class, and making the motions in various mediums such as sand, paint, sensory bags and creating the letters using natural materials found all around them. Again, all children develop at their own pace and by no means need to be 'writing' letters at the preschool level. But, I do feel it is important to create a print-rich environment where children are exposed to letters and words. 

I would encourage everyone to create a space dedicated to writing in their home, even a basket with plain paper and a few crayons, and observe any changes that may arise in your child.

Several spaces are still available in the afternoon program, so please pass the word to family and friends. For more information on the Nursery School Program, please visit This is going to be an exciting year filled with new experiences!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Nursery School - New Year and New Program!

I am very excited about the upcoming Nursery School year. Over the past 6 months on my leave from A Gym Tale, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on the past 6 years of Nursery School as well as becoming a parent and my parenting practices with a preschooler. I have also taken a course on creating children's play spaces and creative learning practices. As a result I feel it is perfect timing to begin implementing some changes to the program. These will not be big changes to the overall program, but some little adjustments that I think will have a big impact. I have met with the Nursery School teachers this morning and I am really happy that they are just as excited and ready for some changes as well.

To begin with, we will be focusing on the very basics - our goals for the children. Some of these include fostering independence as well as instilling a sense of capability and confidence, increasing attention and involvement with activities and promoting social interactions and friendships. Many of these goals are the ones that I hold most important for my own children.

At home, I place a lot of importance on making my home completely 'child friendly' and encouraging Ewan to be able to do things on his own - for example we have stools at every sink, a learning tower in the kitchen for Ewan to help prepare his lunch and help with cooking, his own drawer for plates, utensils and snacks and clothes placed at his level so he can dress himself. These practices had a huge change on Ewan's level of confidence and he takes such pride in being able to complete these daily tasks all by himself. What better time to introduce these self help behaviours than now, when he naturally wants to do everything on his own!

As a means of increasing Ewan's attention span and encouraging him to bring his play to a deeper level, I have begun creating 'invitations' while he is napping or before I go to bed for him to wake up to. These invitations can be as simple as a hose beside a giant bucket with bath toys, an art easel ready with paint, or trucks outside his sandbox. But sometimes I will put more preparation in and leave out squirt bottles with coloured water or a variety of spices and baking powders with lots of spoons and bowls for mixing. I have also begun leaving out themed baskets that might include some jungle animals, along with the Lion King book (Ewan's new favourite), and a barrel of monkeys. When invitations for play are set up Ewan tends to spend more time playing independently and often goes back to the invitations over several days.

I am overjoyed with how social Ewan has become. It was exactly a year and a half ago that I did not think Ewan would ever leave my side. And now Ewan does not even look back and can make friends within minutes. Ewan has learned how to approach children at play as well as initiate play interactions. He doesn't beam any brighter than when he has met a new friend! I am so very excited for him to get to know so many more children this year in the Nursery School program!

With these goals in mind, myself and the teachers are set to get down to the children's level, see things from their perspective and act as co-learners and collaborators with the children in order to create a fun, play focused approach to natural learning.

 Over the next few weeks I will be doing a series of posts on further changes to the program and learning centres. These will include learning through play with an emphasis on writing centres, reading nooks, creative art, science and math as well as dramatic play, music and gym time.

If you are still looking for something for your child (between 2 - 5 years of age) to take part in this Fall,  I do still have several spaces free in the afternoon program. Please do not hesitate to send me an email with questions or call A Gym Tale directly.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer Fun!

I have not updated in some time as we have just been enjoying our days outside too much to stay in to use the computer! So far, the kids and I have filled our days with friends, visits to the splash pads & park, the farm, and lots of relaxing time lounging at home. It has been a wonderful summer so far!

Isla is also 6 months old this week. I cannot believe how fast time is passing. She is now sitting up, she can reach and grab things, everything goes in the mouth and is very excited about the prospect of eating - she repeatedly grabs food right off my plate! Isla and Ewan are also interacting so much more now. It is amazing to see her personality beginning to shine through. Here are a few shots of them being silly -

Lots of exciting things have also been happening at A Gym Tale. To begin with, the Canada Day celebrations in Barrhaven were so much fun - we had a fantastic day! I could not believe the show that Alan and some of our family and staff put on at the children's stage. It was a complete surprise to me! The put on an amazing musical show incorporating some Disney songs and songs of their own! We will be doing an encore presentation at A Gym Tale for a customer appreciation day in the near future.

The kids and I have also spent several mornings at the camp program - Ewan has had a ball with the teachers and kids and special visitors. It has been great getting to meet so many new faces and seeing everyone - staff and kids really enjoying themselves! Some of the special guests so far have included Rays Reptiles and Radical Science. We will also be having a Super hero, princess, Captain Jack Sparrow and many more fun visitors. The camps also include favourite activities such as the indoor playground, gymnastics skill building, arts and crafts and some outdoor events.

The summer is also the best time to review the past year - the ups and downs, the successes and areas we need to address and alter. I am excited to be taking a course on creating children's spaces to maximize imagination and learning through play. I am sure there will be several ideas I will be able to incorporate into our Nursery School and School age programs.

I hope all of you are also enjoying your summer!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Our first CSA pickup from Riverglen Farm!

Yesterday was our first pickup of our veggie box from Riverglen Farm ( Over the past few years we have become much more conscientious about what we are eating and where are food is coming from. We are still growing some of our own summer veggies in our back garden - tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, beans, peas, carrots, peppers, lettuce, spinach, onions and cabbage - our little 12x4 garden patch can actually grow quite a bit! But we decided this year to supplement our garden with a bi-weekly box of organically grown veggies from a local farm - this service is called Community Supported Agriculture. It helps farms sustain their business and it offers your family the freshest and healthiest food options. It is a young couple that run the farm and are trying to make a go of their business. Everyone is so very friendly and really puts an effort into getting to know the people supporting their farm. They are so great with Ewan and he absolutely loves getting to see their animals and people actually working the farm.

Yesterday, our basket of goodies had lettuce, salad greens, peas, onions, garlic scapes, turnips, radishes,  herbs, and swiss chard. The farm also sells eggs year round as well as chicken three times a year - so we also added some farm fresh eggs and three huge chickens to our order. The radishes, turnips and garlic scapes are the three veggies that we are not familiar with so I spent last night coming up with some new recipes to try.

I am excited to be sourcing almost all of our summer - fall foods locally and knowing exactly where our food is coming from and how it is being grown. I think it is a great experience for Ewan seeing exactly how food is produced as opposed to it magically appearing in the grocery store. As well as beginning to understand that different seasons and weather bring around different types of foods. In fact our grocery store trip this morning was so very short and sweet with only one bag of dried goods and we were in and out in only a few minutes.

My only dilemma is how to explain to Ewan that we are eating his beloved chickens. As I was putting the chickens into the cooler, Ewan said "you don't have those chickens over there, right?" I said those chickens over there gave us the eggs that we have and these are eating chickens in the cooler. I didn't have the heart to tell him that we were going to eat the chickens that he had just spent 30 minutes running around and playing with.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Getting Creative!

So over the past few weeks I have been feeling a lot more creative - probably because Alan has been travelling for work a lot and I have had more time on my hands. I have been working hard again at my scrapbooking and Ewan's book is now up to date as well as a scrapbook that I made of 'Just the 3 of us' - between Ewan's 1st birthday and up until Isla was born. I have also been making some good progress on Isla's baby book. After Isla's baby book I am definitely going to be making yearly books online with a digital album - they are not nearly as time consuming and easier since all of my pics are organized online.

Besides scrap booking, Ewan and I also made stepping stones and a 'children's garden' for him to take care of and play in any way that he would like. In the garden we included lots of different 'feely' plants, colours, smells, logs and rocks, and a little place for him to plant seeds. Ewan absolutely loves being in this garden and can water it from the rain barrel all day long. The stepping stones were a really nice personal touch - we used the plastic tray for under pots, cement and then made footprints in them. Word of advice - make sure you have someone quite strong with you if you are buying a bag of cement. I definitely did realize how heavy cement is and had to wonder around the store and parking lot for some one to lift the bag for me - I couldn't move it at all!

Another artsy thing we attempted was dying play silks ourselves. If you have never used scarves or play silks I highly recommend them. They are a great sensory activity for babies and toddlers and then turn into a great imaginative tool for older kids. the are simply scarves of all different sizes that can be dyed lots of fun colours. Isla loves sucking on the scarves and playing peek a boo and Ewan dances with them, uses them as grass when playing with his farm, water with sea animals or as part of a costume. I will be placing another order of these soon - they are quite reasonable when ordered in bulk, so let me know if you are interested in placing an order with me. Again, a really great open ended 'toy', a perfect addition to any playroom.

My next project is going to be making a mobile. I have all of my supplies and I am hoping to begin this week. My thought is that it might make Isla like her crib more. I know I am just grasping for straws here. But it is also really beautiful.

I have also been thinking of some great craft ideas for the kids at the summer camp program. There are sure to be a few new ideas in addition to some A Gym Tale classic art projects this summer.

What have you been crafting?

Friday, June 15, 2012


This week Ewan, Isla and I ventured to Miller's farm in Manotick to do some Strawberry picking. This is the first time that I have taken Ewan strawberry picking and he absolutely loved it! We chose the largest basket (which didn't look that big at the time) and Ewan picked away for a good hour. He loved digging through the bushes and walking down each of the rows. I had picked some, but my back was in a lot of pain having Isla in the sling while picking - I sure wish my baby would sit in a stroller! So Ewan actually picked almost all of our berries. He also enjoyed walking around the farm and looking at all of the tractors and helping to water some flowers.

Since then we have baked some strawberry muffins, made strawberry smoothies, strawberries in yogurt and on ice cream and just eaten a whole lot of strawberries! Any other strawberry ideas? Send them my way:)

We will definitely try making it out a few more times before the strawberries are out of season. It was really a great activity for the whole family and created a positive experience about growing our food and eating healthy.

I can't wait for raspberries next month!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Family Vacation:)

I am so happy that we were able to take a family vacation just after Ewan's birthday. Although Alan and I have both been off work more this year with the arrival of Isla, it was a much needed getaway! We decided to make this vacation all about Ewan since he has had to adjust to so much with the his baby sister. And so without a doubt, meeting Mickey Mouse would most certainly make his dreams come true! We left for Florida just after Mother's Day and spent a fantastic week just steps from the Magic Kingdom where we could see Mickey each and every day.

Although the trip was a lot of fun and it was incredible seeing Ewan's face when he met Mickey and all of the other characters, it was also a very exhausting trip. In fact, it took all of last week for all of us to recover! Three years old was a magical time for Ewan to meet his beloved Mickey, but it was also very overwhelming for him. And the tantrums he had were bigger than anything I've seen! We learned very quickly to shorten our trips to the theme parks and to spend either the morning or the afternoon relaxing by the pool and splash pad.

By far the best part of the trip was that we had planned a character meal each day - so one of our meals would be hosted by a group of characters which meant we could sit and eat while the character went from table to table to meet the kids and take pictures with them. So much better than waiting in line to meet them! Besides meeting the characters, Ewan also loved seeing the Mickey Mouse clubhouse show live at Hollywood Studio's as well as the Lion King theatre show at Animal Kingdom.

And how did we manage with an infant - just fine! Isla was quite comfortable in her sling or stroller and woke and napped as she pleased. It was an ideal time to go before she starts wanting to be put down and move around on her own. And Disney caters to all ages, so she was welcome on any of the rides that Ewan was able to enjoy.

It was really a great trip and we made so many wonderful memories. Here are a few of my favourites:)