Category: Parents

Kids Up Front Toronto: Making A Difference One Ticket At A Time

Coming from a background of the non-profit world, I have the utmost respect for many charities who work tirelessly for their causes.

During my tenure as a fundraiser, I encountered Kids Up Front Toronto and was impressed by their mission and impact. So I was excited to introduce them to the youth clients and to all the staff members that I worked with.

Now as a parent blogger, I am excited to introduce this amazing organization to all of you and this is way overdue.

“Remember your first concert. Now imagine giving a child that feeling for the first time.”

Kids Up Front believes that all children deserve to experience the magic of the theatre or the excitement of a hockey game. Kids Up Front makes sure that children and their families affected by poverty, abuse, illness as well as newcomers to Toronto gain exposure to the community through the distribution of tickets.

Photo courtsey of Kids Up Front Toronto

How did it all start?

“Kids Up Front began in Calgary in 1999. Our founder, John Dalziel was surrounded by empty seats in the Saddledome and believed that thousands of deserving children and youth could benefit from unused tickets. Kids Up Front Toronto’s founding Executive Director, Lindsay Oughtred, had the same idea in 2006. She was a high school English teacher, inspired to fill seats on the field trips she was taking her students on. Lindsay discovered Kids Up Front, left the classroom behind, and the rest is history! Kids Up Front operates in Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, and Atlantic Canada.”

Photo courtsey of Kids Up Front Toronto

The Impact on the Lives of Children, Families and the City of Toronto

The impact of the work that is being done by Kids Up Front Toronto is one that uplifts children, families and the whole community.

• Children benefit from developing a sense of belonging; feeling included; gaining exposure to “normal” childhood experiences.
• Parents benefit from feeling valued; having the means to give their child a special experience; re-connecting with their child in a positive way.
• Families benefit from sharing constructive leisure activities; encouraging positive social interaction between parents, children and siblings; healing and strengthening relationships.
• Communities benefit from having engaged citizens; strengthening of community values; inspiring future leaders.

“Thanks to our generous donors and over 240 agency partners, Kids Up Front Toronto distributed nearly 85,000 tickets valued at over $2.8 million in 2017. Children have community building experiences that help boost self-esteem and families form stronger ties by allowing parents and children to connect in a positive way. We believe Kids Up Front is helping to create a more inclusive city by removing financial and social barriers.

Photo courtsey of Kids Up Front Toronto

Making a Difference Through Kids Up Front

“Kids Up Front is a simple idea with an incredible impact. Thanks to our extensive network in the GTA, we are able to accept tickets (even just hours before game time or show time!) and get them into the hands of children and youth who do not otherwise have the opportunity. Kids Up Front also provides charitable tax receipts for the value of the ticket donation (with proof of purchase). It truly is a win-win for everyone!

If you don’t have tickets to donate, EchoAge birthday parties are another great way to help Kids Up Front give deserving kids a break.”

It is easy to make a difference in the lives of children and their families through Kids Up Front Toronto. You can donate your tickets, donate money or even donate your time. So many options to make a world of a difference in the community.

How Can a Child Be Referred To Benefit From Kids Up Front

“Kids Up Front partners with child and youth serving agencies to ensure our tickest are going to families who will truly benefit from these incredible gifts.”

To see a list of these amazing agency partners, click here.

Upcoming This Year

“We are working toward our goal of 100,000 tickets valued at over $3 million by 2020. The more tickets we have, the more people we are able to reach. We would love to finally get rid of our waiting list of agencies looking to partner with Kids Up Front. We are also continuing to raise our profile in Toronto. We want every single person in the city to know what to do with their unused tickets.

Nationally, we can’t wait to watch Kids Up Front Ottawa and Kids Up Front Atlantic grow in their first full year as our newest Kids Up Front regions.”

Photo courtesy of Kids Up Front Toronto

I have personally seen the impact that Kids Up Front Toronto has done in the community. The smiles, excitement and pure enjoyment that the youth and kids exhibit during an event is the most heart tugging moment for anyone to see.

So if you have tickets that you can’t use or just want to give a child an opportunity of a lifetime, then I say Kids Up Front is the place to start in making a difference!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Tanya, Program Manager at Kids Up Front Toronto for taking the time to do this exclusive interview with us at Momma Braga.

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

-Momma Braga


Kids Off to College – How to Cope with the Empty Nest Syndrome


Written By: Claire Adams

Sending your kids off to college should be one of the happiest moments in your life. However, for many mothers, this is also one of the hardest moments, as they will be separated from their children for the first time and for a prolonged period.

This is better known as an empty nest syndrome, and if you don’t know how to cope with it, you can create a tough situation both for you and your kids. So, let’s go over some tips that will show you what to do and what not to do when your kids finally leave for college.

Face the music

First of all, you should come to terms that your children are leaving and that they probably won’t return to your household. Sure, it will be hard and you will shed some tears, but that is all a part of the healing process.

The worst thing that you can do is to neglect your emotions and bury them; like that ever worked for anyone. You need to be open about the situation and learn to embrace it. Just remember that the adaptation process takes time. So, don’t expect to wake up one morning feeling jolly that your kids aren’t home, or maybe you will; everybody is different.


Start new activities with your spouse

Having no children around your household means that you will have a ton more time for yourself. While your kids were in the spotlight for the past 18 years or so, the time has finally come to put more attention to what you and your spouse want to do.

Maybe you were planning a tropical vacation for decades, but you couldn’t get around doing it because of your parental responsibilities. Regardless, now, you can do whatever you want. Of course, going on adventures with your spouse is also an excellent way to keep your mind off your kids. After all, you don’t want to be one of those mothers that speed dials their children every hour or so.

Keep the campus visits on the low

Next, you need to resist the urge to visit your kids every weekend. Campus visits are fantastic and going over there when they are in a tough spot with exams can help your kids stay motivated. However, if you start going over there every week or even every month, you can create the opposite effect.

The first year of college is the most important year, and you need to let your “babies” find their own way. And most importantly, don’t worry about their safety. Regardless if your children are staying in a college campus of the University of Toronto or in a private student accommodation in Melbourne CBD, know that they will be safe at all times. One last thing, don’t make surprise visits. Maybe your kids are studying or they have something planned with their college friends, and you showing up out of nowhere can ruin that.


Make new friends

Since your kids are off making friends and studying (of course), you should do the same. Well, you don’t have to study, but you should start meeting new people. You can join a book club, reconnect with your friends that are also going through the same phase, and so on. Most parents feel lonely once their kids leave for college, and the best way to shake off that feeling is to be around people.

Pick up a hobby

Finally, you should pick up a hobby. Keeping yourself busy with a fun little hobby is the best therapy for your mind. If you didn’t have the time for hobbies in the past, now is the best time for them. You can start DIY projects around the house, pick up sewing, plant a small garden in your backyard, or anything else that you may enjoy.

And that is about it for today. As you can see, dealing with the empty nest syndrome is a slow but necessary process. Even though sending your kids to college is a dream-come-true, that doesn’t mean that you cannot feel sad about it. Just don’t try to ignore your feelings, and know that time heals everything.


About the Author

Claire is a personal and professional development expert who believes that a positive attitude is one of the keys to success. She enjoys life to the fullest in the healthiest way possible and loves to share her insights into parenting, education, and entrepreneurship. Feel free to reach her on Facebook and Twitter.

When I Experienced Mom Competition…. As A Child

By: Grace Cross

When I see Moms trying to up one another, I cringe, grab my kid off of the playground and run back to sanity. Mom competition reminds me of elementary school and I really don’t feel the person to bring another human being down, in order to make myself feel better. I understand why Moms do this to one another, but it is a pretty shameful act for many reasons.

We read blog posts about Mom competition all of the time. The calls for action to make it stop, the way it makes people feel, that they are not good enough or that they have to try harder. It reaps of sadness and self-esteem, it quite frankly makes me wonder if people give a damn about one another anymore. They do. I know they do. I may be a hopeless romantic for human kind. But we are making a mistake here Moms with Mom competition.

Let me tell you what I am not. I am not a psychologist and I am not a relationship expert. I am just a regular person who has seen this happen for years. This is what I see.

I want to paint a different picture for you, Mom competition in the eyes of a child. I am as bewildered at ten years old as I am today.

My Mother was not a competitive Mom. She always told us to try our best and she was encouraging. When we did not do well on a test, she would help us where we were struggling. It was not a “participation award” situation in my family. We were praised when we did well and where we struggled, we were helped so we understood. If we needed to be pushed to do well, we were, but we were nurtured in our talents and the hobbies that made us feel good. However, My Mother, moving from a different part of the country with a different culture, coming from a big city where everyone was just too busy to focus solely on other families, was quite surprised with the cattiness of other Moms.

My Mom wanted to make friends in this new town she was living in, so she joined the parent teacher association, she volunteered around town with charities and she volunteered in our school. That way, she believed, she could meet people her age and establish her tribe. My words, not hers.

She learned pretty quickly that this small town I grew up in, with all of its wonderful traits, had a few vices and the biggest of all was Mom competition.

My Mom was a fierce believer in individual privacy. If you got a good grade, she would not brag amongst groups that her child got that coveted A. In retrospect, if my siblings or I did not do so well, she would not let them know either. Her answer was always the same, “they did good” and she left it at that. She also did not ask how your child was doing.

My family comes from a culture where what you did for a living did not matter. My parents had great jobs, but they did not want to judge an individual on their occupation. We want to get to know the person. So, my Mom was interested in if her newfound friend’s children had a great soccer game or if they entered that writing competition because they were good writers, or if they checked out that new park or playground nearby. Conversations can go above the competitive nature and just get to know the person as an individual rather than their accomplishments or lack thereof. We are not defined on what others define us, but what we define the world to be, according to us.

These Moms would get frustrated when my Mom would protect our grades. One mom decided to go further and after school while playing on the playground and my mom was helping my infant sibling, a Mother decided to get the scoop on the latest math test. “What did you get?” She asked.

”A B”. I answered slowly. You have to respect your elders, right?

“A B?” She replies, “I thought you were good at math.” I was nine.

A B is good for me in mathematics. I try hard with math and I had to always study. It did not come natural to me as English did. A B was good. It also seemed to satisfy this Mother.

I did not tell my Mom.

The Mother of a friend continued to ask about my grades. I studied hard and told her. Dissatisfied that I was scoring higher than her child, she began comparing me to her older child, who had completed the grade a few years before.

“Eleanora scored I think 5 % higher than you. I will have to go and check her binder.” Yes, this Mother of my friend, a mother of three kept a binder of her children’s grades so she could refer to them when others were asking. She was quite proud of this and probably would be proud to tell you she kept the binder for reference for other parents to this day.

This grade asking went on until I was about fourteen. I did eventually tell my Mom who really let this other Mother have it.

It may take a community to raise a child but a child’s grades for comparison is just crossing a line.

I know now that this woman has a low self-esteem and needed to compare myself to her children to feel worthy. But if she opened her eyes, she would realize her children had big hearts, a lot of talent and she had so much to be proud of. When I got a grade higher than her child, she was visibly distressed and angry. That’s not right!

I would ask parents to look within themselves. I would humbly ask them that if they, themselves, feel inferior, to address that concern and take care of themselves. Everyone has their own standard of genius. Some parents are proud if their child learns to communicate. Others are proud their child got into a great University, other parents out there are happy their child is alive. There is nothing wrong with just being happy that your child, lives, breathes, is kind and has good thoughts.

I have gone through school and I have a degree that people are interested in, I see my child asked by adults if she will “go to school and get the same degree as Mommy.” She is under five.

“I just want her to grow up to be kind.” I answer. This is not your journey, competitive Mom, it is not even mine. It is my child’s. Let’s just be happy that she is alive to take a journey. Be humble and be kind. Open your mind, learn from others and be kind fully curious, if that even constitutes a phrase.

And if you still continue to care about a child’s grades and get mad when they succeed, I humbly advise you to kiss my ass.

Bringing Simplicity Back Into Playtime

Smart Simple Toys – PlaSmart Inc

When did toys become so complicated and where did the imagination of play go? I have asked myself this on numerous occasions (more so on birthdays and Christmas) when I see my daughter open all her gifts of toys. With each unwrapping, the toys look more sophisticated and more high-tech. Then I reminisce on the days where I played with the most simple to use toys and they were my very favorite.

Those toys allowed me to imagine, inspire and learn on my own. It was such a simple time. This is why when I was introduced to PlaSmart Inc last year, I was intrigued to what they were offering.

PlaSmart Inc is a global toy distributor specializing in smart, simple, toys and games. PlaSmart began its journey to worldwide success with the introduction of The Original PlasmaCar in 2003 and today its products can be found in more than sixty countries on five continents.

PlaSmart’s innovative and quality products have won numerous and prestigious toy awards. The company focuses on toys that develop motor and dexterity skills, balance, creative and imaginative play, hand-eye coordination, problem-solving skills and, of course, entertainment.

So what did we try at Momma Braga? We actually won the PlaSmart’s Smart Mat in a Twitter chat last year and we were super excited. Not only because we never win anything but that we were looking for a mat for our daughter’s playtime.

When the Smart Mat arrived and we unwrapped it, our first thought was wow! We have seen many playmats and in all honesty they don’t give you the quality that you need for a young child’s rough play at times. However, the quality of the Smart Mat was really great. You can tell that it is durable and it was a great size mat too!

We opened it up and placed it on the ground and my daughter was so excited to have a place to sit and play on. We couldn’t help but fall in love with the design of the mat which is called Happyville. Not only can you play using the design as your background but you can use the Smart Mat for so many purposes. There is never a limit to a child’s imagination which makes it so fun!

We have had the Smart Mat for almost six months already and it has been amazing for us. It is durable, very easy to clean and easy to store. It is also suitable for kids of all ages! We truly love it and it still looks as great as when we first got it.

So what does PlaSmart’s Smart Mat rate on the Momma Braga meter?

We give it 5+++ Smarts out of 5 for the durability, size, quality and the easy clean up. It truly is one of the best mats I have seen and I have seen many. Smart Mat is very colorful and very appealing to the eye. This is one mat that I don’t think I could ever part with and if you are looking for a great mat to invest for your little one, then don’t look any further than PlaSmart Inc. 

PlaSmart Inc is bringing simplicity and the fun of imagination back into playtime and I commend them for it! Make sure to follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest to see the latest to inspire young minds.

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

– Momma Braga

4 Tips on How To Turn Tears Into Cheers In Swimming

One of my fears when my daughter was enrolled in swimming was the tears that may come with her learning. Luckily, we did not have any tears from her but from me instead.

Besides my inability to let go when I should, I have seen many children cry before their swim class and even during it. So I went to the experts at Aqua-Tots Swim School to see if they can offer tips to help parents in this type of situation.

I want to first state that crying when learning how to swim is very common and normal. So don’t feel like there is something wrong. When you have a great school like Aqua-Tots Swim School to help you along the way, in the end you both will feel much better.

There are some common reasons as to why children cry. Here are the four most common ones:

  1. It’s New – Swimming lessons are a new experience. There are new sights, sounds, textures, smells, faces, and interactions in the pool environment.
  2. Age – With time, your child will gain control over their emotions and learn to enjoy the water.
  3. Fear or Anger – Some children are genuinely fearful of the water and it takes time to help them overcome their fear. Other children can become angry and use tears to control the situation.
  4. Separation Anxiety – Your child may experience separation anxiety and feel anxious when away from familiar people and places.

Hearing your child cry is always hard (I know it is for me) and there are ways to help them when it comes to swimming lessons. Here are four tips to help.

  1. Be Positive and Keep Your Eyes on The Goal – As a parent, you can encourage your child with compliments and praise on what they do well in each lesson.
  2. Keep Cool – Being calm helps your child settle down faster.
  3. Practice At Home – Make it fun! Use the tub, shower, and pool to practice swimming skills (i.e. holding breath, water submersions, etc.)
  4. Be Consistent – Skipping or discounting swim lessons inhibits swimming progressions and will extend the time it takes to learn how to swim safely.

The layout at Aqua-Tots is great to help the child gain trust of the instructor as the parents can view the lesson through the viewing gallery which allows them to interact with their child. This way your child is aware that you are near and rooting for them. This space allows the instructor and the child build trust and a bond will form.

This is one of the many reasons why Aqua-Tots is amazing as they are there for you every step of the way. Their instructors care about your child and they are trained to:

  1. Identify the reason your child is crying so they can best alleviate the tears.
  2. Build trusting relationships with your child.
  3. Offer consistent routines and terminology in every lesson.
  4. Help your child build trust in the water.

Water is an adaptive environment and it takes time to adjust. The more frequently your child comes to lessons, the faster the crying will subside. The general rule of thumb is:

  • 3+ lessons per week – crying subsides after 3-4 lessons
  • 2 lessons per week – crying subsides after 5-6 lessons
  • 1 lesson per week – crying subsides after 7-8 lessons

With these tips and with the guidance of the swimming school, you will be at tears to cheers in no time. Just remember that at Aqua-Tots Swim School they never leave your side to ensure that everyone is happy.

If you are interested in swim lessons, give Aqua-Tots Swim School a call at 905-848-2782. Also make sure to follow them on Facebook to see what’s new.

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

–          Momma Braga


This article is brought to you in partnership with Aqua-Tots Swim School, Mississauga.

Handmade Growth Chart Is A Cherished Treasure To Last A Lifetime

Happy New Year to all my amazing readers and fans from all over the world! I wish everyone a prosperous and great New Year filled with lots of love and happiness.

I am excited to start off 2018 with a #MelandNikkiReview on a product that we love and think that your family would love too!

Back in October, I wrote about a kidpreneur who is making a difference through his business, The Nice Bench Co.

As a quick refresher, The Nice Bench Co. is a kids’ furniture + accessories brand dedicated to supporting non-profit organizations who help lead the fight against pediatric cancer which is a cause very close to their heart and home.

I completely fell in love with this business for what they are doing to help others but also fell in love with the fact that the founder is Owen and he is nine years of age making a difference. Did I mention that he makes the products?! I was impressed to say the least!

Now I am one that practices what I preach and had to order a product myself to see it first hand.

We have always wanted a growth chart to document our daughter’s height each year but have never seen anything that we felt would be kept. Until we saw them featured on Owen’s business site.

It was simple to order online and we got to choose the background colour and the scale and numbering colour. Before we knew it, our growth chart arrived. It was neatly wrapped and well protected.

Once we unwrapped the growth chart, we were automatically impressed with the craftsmanship and the fact that a kidpreneur had created it.

The growth chart in Nikki’s room before we hung it up.

We were excited to hang it up on our wall (please note that the growth chart does not come with screws or any type of hanging material. You will need to do this on your own). We thought about the best place to put up the growth chart and we decided that the inside of Nikki’s closet was the best place. This way it can be a place that Nikki can always go to see her progression and it would never get in the way of her “style” as she grows with her room design. 😉 I had my handy dad who came over to hang the growth chart using two nails to the wall. It was very simple to do.

We decided that Christmas Day would be our annual measurement day to see how much she has grown each and every year. Of course, you can measure your child at any time as there is no specified guideline on when to do it. I know most families like to measure on the milestone birthday but we just couldn’t wait another nine months to check.

Christmas Day arrived and we excitedly told Nikki it was time to check how tall she was. Nikki was just as excited as we were to see how tall she was. She stood tall in front of the growth chart and we measured. Nikki then looked behind to see what the result was and said, “Oh! I’m tall momma!”

Now we wait until Christmas Day again to see how much a year has grown. We just love being able to document her growth on such a beautiful art piece in our home.

We give the growth chart from The Nice Bench Co. 5+++ Gold Stars out of 5. The ease of ordering, the beautiful options available, the craftsmanship and the care are all reasons why we love it. It even got Grandpa Braga’s stamp of approval which is really difficult as he has high standards for anything made out of wood (carpenter by trade). So this is how you know it is great! 😉

If you are looking for a great way to document your child’s growth with a keepsake to last forever, then we highly recommend the growth chart at The Nice Bench Co.  Make sure to check out the other great products that they have available too as everything is of great quality.

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

– Momma Braga

* Please note that this is not a paid or sponsored post.

The “Why” Experiment

“Why? Why? But Why”

The wonderful “why” phase is a popular one in the toddler years, especially at the age of three. In our home we have entered this world of constant whys and even though it can be daunting at times…I love them!

Have I gone crazy? Not yet! 😉

Photo Credit: Aqua-Tots Swim School – Mississauga

The love for the “whys” is simple. It shows me that she is curious about the world around her. She is asking the question to learn and with her eagerness, I am seeing the world through her eyes which is so much more fun. There is nothing wrong with the “whys” and even though we may think its a way to torture us parents, it really isn’t. 🙂 However, I can’t deny that sometimes the “whys” can get under ones’ skin especially when you have given a very detailed answer where there is no other logical reason for a why. So I decided to do an experiment and I had the perfect toddler to try it with, my daughter Nikki.

For one full week I decided to answer every single why, even if the answer didn’t make any sense. For those who really know me, know that I usually have an answer to everything anyways so this should be my area of expertise. So off I went answering every why every time it was spoken. I noticed that after the fifth why Nikki just stopped and went on her merry way. Did I break the Nikki code?!

The next week I did the exact same thing and this time we were able to cut back on how many “whys” were asked but we were having longer (toddler) conversations. I noticed that I was taking more time to communicate with my daughter and explaining things to her in more detail that helped her feel satisfied. But what tugged at my heart strings was the extra sparkle in her eyes with how intrigued she was by all she was learning. That alone was worth all the “whys” millions of times a day.

Today, there are a few less “whys” but a lot more conversations and laughter as toddler talk is hilarious! So this “why” experiment became a bonding exercise for our family and one that we have loved doing.

So here are some tips on tackling the “whys”:

  1. Be Patient. This is a phase as most things are but if they continue to ask why then they are just eager to learn; embrace their curiosity.
  2. Answer. Try to really think about the why they are asking and give the best answer you can. Remember that at the age of three, you can say absolutely anything as they don’t know if it really is right.
  3. Be Prepared. You may have more whys to respond to after a strange answer that you may have given; therefore, be prepared to back it up. 😉
  4. Love It. Enjoy each why and embrace the conversation. Know that this experience can be fun and hilarious. Your child’s mind is exploring the wonders of the world around them and absorbing it all.

Above all, it really is an exciting phase and if you keep responding, the whys won’t be as frequent. They just want to feed their wonder and when you see it being fulfilled – it’s the best feeling in the world!

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

-Momma Braga

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