September 2011

When I first started blogging for Fisher-Price, only my littlest boy was invited to the launch photo shoot. I got the impression that maybe there was going to be a big focus on baby and toddler toys during the playpanel campaign, and wondered if maybe some of the toys would be too simplistic for a precocious preschooler with two older brothers. I also thought that after spending years of my life in various toy store aisles, perusing GeoTrax, Little People, Rescue Heroes and loving all the classics, that I had a pretty extensive knowledge of every possible Fisher-Price toy and line.

I was wrong on both counts.

I continue to be amazed and delighted by the range of toy lines that Fisher-Price offers. From the Trio building blocks to the Thomas the Tank-Engine Bike to the Kid-Tough Digital Camera, I’ve been impressed over and over again. And it’s been fun watching the big boys get in on the action, too. They’re precocious little things, too, and I feared maybe they were leaving their love of toys behind. While they’re less likely to engage in the kind of “let’s make all the Little People Farm Animals have a picnic” type of play, they do still love to set up the cars on the Trio Super Stunt Builder raceway and let ’em go, or take turns with the remote, loading up the trucks on the Big Action Construction Site.

Where I really see the bigger kids getting engaged, though, is when there is imaginary play involved. Give two boys a set of Kid-Tough Walkie Talkies and set ’em loose in the yard. They’re cops, then they’re astronauts, then they’re on a wildlife safari.

Remember I mentioned Dr Kathleen Alfano a while ago? She’s the Director for the Fisher-Price Child Research Department, the toy industry’s most respected centre for research on childhood development and play. Dr Alfano reminds us that play, especially pretend play, is an important learning experience for children. “Pretend play is more than fun—it helps develop thinking and problem-solving skills and strengthens social and communication skills, as well. It lets your child “try on” endless new roles and new ways of looking at the world, which helps build empathy and imagination.”

I really liked these tips she offered to encourage imaginative play. Some are pretty obvious, but some of them made me go “hmmm, that a great idea!”

  • Provide a collection of dress-up props for role-play.
  • Look at the clouds and take turns imagining what they resemble.
  • Plant seeds for imaginative thinking by reading lots of books together.
  • Provide toys that encourage creativity and imagination.
  • Make up stories with your child, building on each other’s additions.
  • Arrange play dates with others to foster social and imaginative play.
  • Listen to music with your child and act out how it sounds (sleepy, happy).
  • Take turns “being” things that begin with each letter of the alphabet.
  • Sometimes be your child’s play partner, sometimes just observe.
  • Use your own imagination and awaken your own inner child.

And you don’t have to fill the toy box to encourage imaginative play. Offer up old brief cases, hospital scrubs, miniature tool belts, kitchen toys, pretend cell phones—they all help children learn about the world around them by making it concrete for them.

Care to share your ideas for imaginative play with the class? What non-toys have you given your kids to encourage imaginative play? Any other tips or pointers to share?

(Disclosure: I’m part of the Fisher-Price Play Panel and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. However, as always, the opinions on this blog are entirely my own.)


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IHF Challenge: Best of Summer 2011

by DaniGirl on September 26, 2011 · 6 comments

in Mothership Photography

When I saw that this week’s theme on the I Heart Faces photography challenge was “your best picture of Summer 2011” I knew exactly which picture I would submit. I must admit, I took a lot (no, really? A LOT!) of pictures that I truly adore this summer, but this one is my very favourite.

264:365 Traveling Man

I think I love it partly because it turned out so well, and partly because it is *exactly* what I set out to do. No more happy accidents – this one was intentional, from tone to set-up to colour choices to lighting. Definitely my favourite photo from what was truly an incredibly photogenic summer! (I’ve got some adorable pictures to share with you later this week from a session this weekend with twin 21-month-old boys and their four-year-old brother, and on Saturday I’m shooting a wedding — I can hardly wait!!)

To see some really amazing contributions, as well as some great tips and tutorials – or to play along yourself! – check them out:


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Project 365: Falling into autumn

by DaniGirl on September 24, 2011 · 3 comments

in Photo of the Day

This week’s photographs are a tribute to the beauty of the late-summer / early-autumn season we’re in. September is just such a gorgeous month. (And also? A little crazy!)

How’s this for an autumnal shot? I carried those acorn around in my purse for half a week, and then found the oak leaf 20 km away when I was finally ready to take the picture. And yes, I continue to be a little bit obsessed with adding texture to my pictures. I think this one got it right.

270:365 Autumn acorns

I simply love this stretch of picket fence. I’ve photographed it before! I think maybe the texture is a little too heavyhanded in this one, though. Hmm.

272:365 Blackeyed susans peeking through the fence

Oh look, more textures! I called this one “I heart vintage cameras.” I had the idea for a long time, but couldn’t quite force it to work in the way I’d imagined. Close, but not quite.

269:365 I heart vintage cameras

Nature provided her own texture for this foggy shot. Wednesday was actually my day off, the only day of the week I wouldn’t be driving through this neighbourhood at dawn on my way to work, but when I saw that delicious fog I snuck out (still in my pajama pants, no less!) to capture a few shots before I had to get the boys and Beloved off to school and work.

271:365 Foggy morning at the farm

This wasn’t even a photo of the day, but y’all seem to love the cat pictures, and I thought it provided an appropriate post script to my last post. So did you know that when you neuter a cat, he eliminates the residual testosterone in his system by spending one to two hours every damn day running around the house before dawn like a rabid monkey? At least, that’s what Willie’s been doing. It’s his ultimate revenge, I think. Clever little bugger, knows exactly what my weakness is!

The least happy nap ever

Yesterday was the first official day of autumn, and a particularly photogenic day in the Byward Market. Love all the orange tones — so seasonal!

272:365 First day of fall in the Byward Market

I hemmed and hawed for a while on whether to use the storyboard or this sunflower as the picture of the day yesterday, so here’s the sunflower, too. Lovely, isn’t it? And yes, more texture!!!

Sunflower beauty

These last two go back to our weekend of pre-autumn family fun last weekend. On Sunday, we took the boys and Granny to the Richmond Fair. I love it, it’s the perfect size for us. I had some fun lensbaby shots I took, which you can see on my Flickrstream if you like, but my fave of the day was this random cuteness of two adorable strangers, clearly on their first date. 🙂

268:365 Date night at the Fair

And finally, speaking of adorable… on Saturday we took your recommendation and went to the Mountain Orchard for some apple picking. It was crazy busy, but we only found out when we got there that their bountiful crop this year had been decimated just a few weeks ago by a killer hail storm. We had to search hard for apples that hadn’t been pummeled, split or bruised by hail — it was really kind of heartbreaking to see all the ruined apples — but we still managed to easily fill a 10 lbs bag and have a fun day out.

267:365 Apple picking 2011

And yes, those cinnamon doughnuts *were* worth the drive! Gold stars to the bloggy peeps who recommended Mountain Orchard!!


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So we’re emasculating poor Willie the Cat today. Or, as Simon so eloquently put it, “he’s getting his neuters taken out.”

This whole neutering thing has provided an unexpected wealth of teachable moments. We’ve recently had conversations with the boys about the responsibilities of pet ownership, about the differences between males and females of various species, and even some rudimentary sex education.

I think the big takeaway, though, is this one: don’t mess with mom or she’ll have your balls cut off. That’s a good message for three boys to internalize, don’t you think?

Willie for the blog 2

(Photo caption: “You’re gonna WHAT my WHAT now??!)

Sorry, Willie. But thanks for the cautionary tail — erm, tale.


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You’ve heard of the Great Canadian Theatre Company, right? They’ve been putting on great theatre in Ottawa for more than 35 years.

The current performance, running now through October 2, is a musical called Amelia: The Girl Who Wants to Fly. From the description on the GCTC site:

Be transported to the Golden Age of Flight – a world of planes, dreams and celebrity. Amelia is the fascinating story of the meteoric rise and mysterious disappearance of Amelia Earhart. The legendary Earhart was a pioneer of the skies, a courageous woman who defied all conventions of her time. This new hit musical from the writer that brought us Billy Bishop Goes to War, traces Amelia’s transformation from “girl next door” to iconic first woman of flight. Amelia is inspiring, entertaining and chock full of wonderful music.

Sound terrific, right? And our fine friends at the GCTC have offered up a pair of free tickets for you, my bloggy peeps!

BUT WAIT! There’s more!

I love this idea. Love it! During specific performances, the GCTC offers the Playtime Program, a fun and enriching opportunity for children ages 6 to 12 to exercise their creativity while theatre-going parents get to enjoy a great GCTC matinee.

Kids participating in the Playtime Program, with Kids Create, will be part of a fun and exciting craft time. This experience will include learning to create with new and recycled materials. At the end, all children will have finished creating several, unique crafts to take home with them. Crafts and supervision are provided by Kids Create, a local business run by an Ottawa resident and mom with years of experience in teaching and art.

During other performances, the Playtime Program with the OYP Theatre School will give kids the opportunity to play theatre games and work on a short performance piece in the theme of the play you are attending and then perform it for you.

An afternoon of theatre for the grown-ups with free childcare? What’s not to love? The Playtime Program doesn’t run for every performance, though. Check the GCTC website for details. The Playtime Program performance for the Amelia is for the 4 pm matinee performance on Saturday September 24 only.

And, as I mentioned, the fine folks at the GCTC have a pair of tickets to share with you. You don’t have to use these tickets for the Playtime Program matinee on September 24; the tickets are good for any performance during Amelia‘s run until October 2. However, if you want to also check out the Playtime Program, you must use the tickets for the September 24 matinee. Got it?

So here’s the details:

  1. This is a giveaway for two adult tickets to a performance of Amelia: The Girl Who Wants to Fly
  2. The tickets are good for any performance of Amelia through October 2, 2011.
  3. The only performance during which the Playtime Program for children ages 6 to 12 is available is the 4 pm matinee performance on Saturday, September 24.
  4. To enter, leave a comment on this post mentioning a great live theatre performance you’ve enjoyed, from Shakespeare to little Johnny’s third-grade play.
  5. The contest runs from now through 9 pm on Wednesday, September 21.
  6. One winner will be chosen using the random number generator at random.org. Winner will be announced on this post on Thursday, September 22.
  7. Winner will pick up the tickets directly from the GCTC box office.

Thanks to the GCTC, both for the excellent giveaway, and for making it easier for parents to get out of the house with the brilliant Playtime Program!

Good luck!

Edited to add: Sorry for the late update. Congratulations to Cath in Ottawa, the lucky winner! 🙂


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Project 365: Joy and sorrow and beauty

by DaniGirl on September 17, 2011 · 6 comments

in Photo of the Day

Joy and sorrow and beauty – that pretty much covers the emotional spectrum, doesn’t it? That’s what this long, exhausting week was like. As if early September weren’t crazy-making enough on its own. That’s the thing about this daily photo project — since I’ve fallen out of the habit of daily blogging, I can look back and see how the flavour of each day adds its own filter to the photo of the day.

On Saturday, we got the call that Beloved’s mother was very sick and not likely to make it much longer. She had been in the hospital for a week or so, so the news wasn’t a huge surprise, but it was still a terrible time for the family. Beloved made the trip across the province and arrived in time to say goodbye. And then, while he was still away, I got word that the older sister of a pair of very dear old friends had also lost her long battle with cancer, leaving three young daughters behind. It was a sorrowful week, and even though these losses were really only tangential to me, affecting those I loved far more than they affected me, I still felt buffeted by death and grief. It didn’t help that this was all the same weekend as the poignant flashbacks to 9/11. In the worst of it, I posted this picture, because I really did just want to curl up and hide until it was all over and we could go back to being happy again.

262:365 Wake me when it's over

This one, too, was more or less on the same theme.

260:365 No exit

The funny thing about kids, though, is that they won’t hang around and wait while you wallow in your sorrow. Especially with really young kids, even when they understand the concept of the grief, they can’t live in it for long. Follow the children and you’ll find your way to life, to warmth, to beauty, like sunshine on a late-summer day.

261:365 Three on the dock

And you can count on a mischievous cat for some distracting shenanigans. I was just walking past the kitchen when I noticed he had filched the stuffed Elmo out of Lucas’s room, and just had to drop to his level and click the shutter while he provided the entertainment. (I love the look on Katie’s face in the last frame: “You’re so gonna get in trouble for this one!”)

263:365 The case of the missing Elmo

And there’s no real story here, except I caught sight of myself in the mirror and liked the light and the colours. Call me Narcissus. And really, this is where my camera spends the vast majority of its time, when it’s not plastered to my face. Is this what they call ‘shooting from the hip’?

265:365 Shooting from the hip

I’ve been working with textures a lot lately, exploring the effects they can have on an image. This week I have two, one that I adore and one that I don’t. This is the latter – the more I look at it, the more I wish I’d dialled down the opacity a bit, especially in the darker parts of the image. It’s sort of in the direction where I wanted to go, but to be honest, I simply ran out of time and the dog needed to be walked and homework needed to be checked and lunches just weren’t making themselves. Oh well, they can’t all be winners.

266:365 A quiet place

This one, however, I truly love. This was my happy place this week. This one also has some texture work, but it’s much more subtle. I was dropping the kids off at daycare and school on Monday morning when I noticed this amazing vintage suitcase sitting out beside the neighbour’s trash. (Remember “crazy garbage picking wife”? Oh yes, so totally true.) I was so excited and delighted by my discovery that I actually looked over my shoulder as I loaded it into the car, thinking there might be dozens of people on my sleepy street lining up to grab my treasure away from me. These beauties sell for $50 to $100 on eBay and Etsy – gorgeous!

It was late in the day before I could stop to properly examine it. I haven’t been able to pry open the locks just yet, and it has rivets instead of screws holding them in place, so I may have to bust the locks if I ever want to open it. The concept for this picture arrived almost full formed in my head the moment I saw the suitcase on the side of the road. The only thing that caused me trouble was the map — I couldn’t find one in the house or the car. Who doesn’t have a map — any map! — stashed away somewhere? Then I remembered the various boxes of paper clutter masquerading as souvenirs I have stacked in my closet. This map of the Paris metro was in a collection that from our honeymoon that I haven’t looked at in nearly a decade. See, being a packrat DOES pay off!

264:365 Traveling Man

I love this picture partly because it makes me laugh, but also because it was very intentional on my part, from the props to the set-up to the colours and tones. I’m usually a sort of a grab-and-go photographer, finding and catching images on the fly. I’m pretty chuffed that I’ve now come to a point where I can come up with a concept and execute it and have it come pretty darn close (in this case, maybe even better!) than the original vision. It’s now one of my favourite pictures ever.

It was a long week, for sure, full of sadness, but also of beauty and love.


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Friday Family Fun: Three reasons to visit rural Ottawa this weekend!

16 September 2011 Ottawa Family Fun

As you know, I’ve embraced the semi-rural life on Ottawa’s outskirts. It seems this time of year is rich with festivals, fairs and farmer’s markets. Here’s three suggestions for fun family activities outside of the city’s urban core this weekend! 1. Manotick’s Picnic in the Park and Soap Box Derby Come out to Centennial Park […]

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Five reasons why guitar lessons are better than hockey

12 September 2011 Ah, me boys

August was marked by much anxiety about sports. I googled, I asked friends online and IRL, I blogged, I tweeted, I wrung my hands in anxiety. To hockey or not to hockey, that was the compelling question. Do you like how I just turned hockey into a verb? If ‘friend’ can be a verb, so […]

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Project 365: From portraiture to snapshots

11 September 2011 Photo of the Day

Isn’t it funny how some days (weeks, months) you seem to be in a creative drought and can’t wring a drop of creativity out of your soul, and other days you can’t stop the deluge of ideas and inspiration? Lucky for me, this has been one of those weeks where I’m practically swimming in a […]

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In which she accidentally registers her boys for dance camp

10 September 2011 Ah, me boys

I‘m thinking maybe I need a new category for the blog: “Notes for future therapy sessions.” That way, the boys’ future therapists will have an instant body of research from which to draw. You can’t really blame me, though. I mean, I had a COUPON! Like so many of the misadventures in my life, it […]

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