We are halfway through the summer (hard to believe right?!) and our family has been taking full advantage of this warm weather from swimming, to movies, to the Pan Am Games – Ontario has so much to offer for family fun and Kinder treats have been with us each time.
But sometimes, we just need to unwind and have some downtime to help us focus as a family. There are so many fun (and free) things you can do in your own community. Here are my top places and activities to do in the summer for free:
Splash Pads: these provide hours of endless fun for children and help to cool them down on hot days.
Family Movie Nights: we like to set up blankets and pillows in front of the television (our ‘campout’) and put on an oldie but goodie movie to enjoy at night. Throw some popcorn and Kinder eggs and it is a win win!
Hiking: while the weather has been far too hot to actively be hiking the trails, find a hiking trail in your community and get out there. Supply your children with a mission to complete (finding a certain amount of birds,etc..) and have fun. You can combine exercise and education in this one.
Picnics at the park: I am a huge fan of picnics. You don’t even have to go far just pack up a small bag of food and get outdoors. You can even eat in the front yard and the kids will have so much fun with the change-up of routine.
The library: there are so many activities provided at the library over the summer from movie days, to bingo and animal days. Take advantage of these free activities as your children will learn, have fun and meet new friends.
Fishing: while I am not a huge fan of removing the fish or attaching a worm (seriously gross), my kids can spend hours at the lake fishing!
Where ever you go this summer, make sure to pack lots of water (a must) and a special little Kinder egg treat for your kids!
What are your favourite summer time activities to do with your kids?
Disclosure: I am a KinderMom and receive perks associated with this affiliation. All opinions expressed are my own.
Summer is meant to be spent outside and since we have such a short summer it is even more important to get outside while we can. Especially for our kids! Playing outside and using their imaginations is important for their growth.
Putting together an outdoor play box will help encourage your children to get outside, get active and have fun!
Here are some tips to get outside and get started on creative play:
Create costumes and masks to encourage creative play. We were given these fantastic Dragons masks from Netflix to celebrate the release of the new Dragons,Race to the Edge series (which by the way is a Netflix original series!). We had so much chasing each other around the park pretending to be dragons and of course both kids had to be Toothless! But in all honesty how can you not love Toothless, he is a sweetheart!
Chalk! Sidewalk chalk never goes out of style! You can spend hours creating pictures and designs up and down the street. You can create hopscotch patterns, draw animals, create epic battles and write words (the best was when my kids made me a Welcome Home sign for after surgery!).
Picnic time! When the weather permits, pack up your lunch and head outside. There is nothing more adventurous and fun then eating outside with your children. Pack a nice big blanket, all your lunch time favourites and find a shady spot outside to get comfortable. Even if you are only sitting in your front yard, it still beats sitting inside and following your regular routine.
Visit a splash pad. Refresh yourself after an active day outdoors at your local splash pad. Some of our best afternoons have been spent at a splash pad, myself included – forget the bathing suit! Sometimes running through in your yoga pants and shirt is just way too much fun and a fantastic way to cool down.
Make sure you check out Netflix this month to catch up with Toothless in Dragons, Race to the Edge, you will not be disappointed.
How do you like to get outside and encourage creative play with your kids? Do you pretend to be characters from your favourite shows?
Disclosure: I am a Netflix StreamTeam member and receive perks associated with this affiliation. All opinions expressed are my own.
Saving for your child’s post secondary education can be daunting – not only for yourself but for your child as well. They are at an age where they may not yet understand personal finances and the financial obligation that goes along with attending post-secondary institutions. Personally, I did not understand the OSAP loans I signed off on at that time, and I wish I had paid more attention – or at the very least had a second check – to make sure I wasn’t making a mistake.
Saving is an essential part of life, and the earlier our children learn how to do it, the better it will be for them in the long run. Helping your child understand the importance of saving for their own education will not only give them pride in their accomplishment, but foster sound financial skills later in life. It will also encourage them to take control of their education, as they have more at stake when contributing their own finances.
An RESP is a helpful tool used by parents (or grandparents) to help finance higher education for their child. Opening an account is pretty straightforward, and involves contacting an RESP company (such as Heritage Education Funds) to set up an account. Once the account is open, growing the account is all up to you and your child!
Encouraging your child to contribute their own earned money towards their education is important, but may seem like a daunting task at the time, as your child has other priorities. Here are some helpful tips I have learned along the way to encourage your child to save towards their education in an RESP:
1. Take the first step in encouraging financial independence by setting up a bank account for your child. Both of my children have their own bank accounts, bank books and debit cards (the cards are mainly used for deposits and not purchases at this time) and this was a major stepping stone for them. I want them to understand finances, how money works and how quickly it can depart! Children need to appreciate the value of a dollar, as this will better help them appreciate the cost of their education.
2.Encourage your child to be part of the monthly family budget. An important part of attending a higher education institute is dealing with the extras: utilities, rent and groceries. This is one of the areas I lacked knowledge of when I went off to university. Since a portion of my RESP’s went to financing my room and utilities, I needed to understand how they worked and how to budget for these costs, but I had no clue. So of course I overspent in these areas and my budget never balanced.
3. Start up an allowance system for your child. Having a bi-weekly allowance for your child is important, regardless of their age. This allows your child to allocate their money for wants, needs and savings. Our boys put their savings into their RESPs at the end of the month. It’s important to let them view their statements, so they can see their education fund increase month to month. If there’s an online option, allow your child to view it monthly, so they learn to appreciate growth over time.
4. Once your child reaches the working stage, encourage them to contribute money to their RESP. This will probably be the hardest thing to do, but it is so important for them to save rather than splurge all that hard-earned money on clothes, movies or food. This is where all previous education on budgets, utilities and being involved in the family budget will pay off. Your child will have a greater appreciation for their pay cheque and will spend it wisely.
5. Have your child create their own post-secondary education budget. Sit down with them and help them figure out tuition, supplementary fees, textbook fees, rent and utilities (if they are moving away for school). Use this as a tool to figure out how much money should be contributed monthly into their RESP. This is an area I wish I had concentrated on more before I made my educational choices. I was never involved in the family budget prior to living on my own, so I had unrealistic expectations of the costs, which forced me to rely on loans.
Teaching our children how to save for their post-secondary education is an essential lesson that will help them later on in life as they leave our homes to start their own home.
To help you on this journey, you can now enter to WIN a $50 gift card from Tim Hortons sponsored by Heritage Education Funds. Contest is open to Canadian residents only and ends on May 17th, 2015.
March Break is here!! WOOHOO!! Time to spend some time with our kids doing what they love best – crafts, experiments and baking! March also signals the start of Science Fair season. The subject of science can broken down into three categories: natural sciences (biology, fundamental forces), formal sciences (math, logic) and social sciences (human behaviour and societies).
Netflix helps us get our creative juices flowing this month with plenty of educational and science based films that inspire, educate and entertain. The hardest part will be choosing what to watch first!
Why not start with one of everyone’s favourite topics – volcanoes. Deadliest Volcanoes explores the wonder of these sleeping giants that millions of people live in the shadow of. This show follows scientists around the world exploring volcanoes, the likelihood of eruption, when it may and how deadly an eruption could be.
Some other great titles for your older child and yourself: Nova: Hunting the Elements, Cosmos and Let Your Mind Wonder.
Maybe you have a young crowd and the wonders of Miss Frizzle’s bus may suit them better. The Magic School Bus (my favourite show as a child!) returns!
Some other great children titles: Sid the Science Kid, Fetch! with Ruff and Animal Mechanicals.
Follow up these great shows with your own science experiment at home by making a volcano erupt! You can find the whole experiment instructions on Meet the Dubiens or you can follow my mini version using three ingredients.
You will need:
plastic water bottle
six drops of dish washing detergent
two tbsp of baking soda
one cup on vinegar
Place you plastic water bottle in a baking pan to capture the eruption (and save yourself a major cleanup!). Fill your water bottle about 3/4 with warm water and add the dish washing detergent and baking soda.
Slowly add the vinegar to set off your eruption!
What activities have you been up to this March Break?
Disclosure: I am member of the Netflix StreamTeam and receive perks with this affiliation. All opinions expressed are my own.
I feel like cringing whenever I hear that word! I am not going to lie budgeting is hard. We live in a society where we want and need things in that moment. Having to tell ourselves to slow down, set aside money, pay off debt and live in the moment can be hard.
While I am by no means a financial expert, I have learned many valuable tools over the last few years. In the last seven years, I have paid off my University debt ($15,000), planned and held our wedding (using no credit) and put a down payment on our home. This was met with sacrifice and hard work but it has been well worth it.
My first step was to write it all down. I love my spreadsheets! So pop open Excel or if you don’t like that Google Drive offers a great spreadsheet. Make a table showing the bill item (rent/mortgage, hydro, water, gas, etc..) and the monthly amount due. Make sure you include all debt you owe, an amount for food (for a family of four we set aside 500/month), an amount for transportation (whether it be gas or bus fare), bank fees, child care and an amount for savings.
Here is an example:
For my savings category, it is important that you have something in mind for this as it may affect how much you put into this category each month. Are you saving for a trip? A down payment? Wedding? Rainy day? Pay off debt? Take that total amount and divided it by the amount of time you need to pay it off in. Ex) You need to pay a down payment of $15,000 in three years: 15,000/36=417.
Add up your outgoing payments at the bottom.
Next you want to look at all incoming income you have. Look at your income, your partners (if applicable) and any monthly tax credits (baby bonus, childcare bonus, etc..) I like to add this below my outgoing amounts.
Here is an example:
It is important to leave yourself some breathing room with your outgoing and incoming funds. Emergencies happen and you want to make sure you feel comfortable having enough funds in your bank account. This is what I like to refer to as our “play” cash.
What to do if the money isn’t adding up?
This happens to a lot of us! Here are some tips I suggest:
Decide what you can do without. Do you need that home phone? Expensive cell phone plan? Probably not. Make the necessary cuts where you have to. Eat in more, bring coffee to work, don’t go out for work lunches. Sacrifice isn’t always easy but it is well worth it.
Price match and use coupons. This has cut our grocery bill substantially and only requires minimal prep work.
Earn more money. While this may seem hard at first but even earning an extra $100 a month makes a difference.
Consolidate. If you have large amounts of debt and high interest rates see if you can consolidate your debt into a lower interest rate. Paying off your debt will help you greatly each month. Make sure you cut those high interest rate cards after!
Be honest. Keep open communication between yourself and your partner. Speak to each other about your spending habits. Talk about major purchases.
How have you designed your budget? Do you have tips for keeping to your budget and increasing savings?
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