Category Archives: School Kids

Minecraft –More Than Just A Game!

By Anisa Tayab


A typical day in my household always includes a story about a Creeper, an Ender-Dragon or Herobine.  And like most moms, I have no idea what my kids are talking about.  Chances are if you have a child who plays video games, they are playing Minecraft!

Minecraft has sold over 20 million copies for PC’s and millions more on iPads and Android Tablets. Microsoft purchased Minecraft from Mojang for $2.5 billion dollars last year and the creator of Minecraft Markus Persson out-bid Jay Z and Beyonce on a $70 million mansion in Beverly Hills.  Minecraft is everywhere.  If you have not heard of it, you really are living under a rock!

I’m not sure how the craze began in my house but I remember downloading the game for my son and then him begging us to buy the full edition.  Still not understanding the game I turned to Facebook and asked my friends for their advice.  A few friends told me to steer clear of the dark side, while others told me why it was so great.

Creative Mode

The game has two modes; Creative and Survival.  In both modes, players (a character named Steve in the game) use their creativity to build.  Players usually begin by creating a home and then expand their world by creating other buildings in a community.  In this game of virtual blocks, players use their creativity to build a world the way they want.  They first must chop down trees for wood, mine for coal, iron and other elements that are used throughout the game to make different types of blocks. You will also see animals roaming around freely, you can make them your pets, let them live or use them to make food.

My son has built amusement parks with roller coasters, bowling alleys with multiple lanes, a school and anything he wants.  Creative mode allows players to determine how to place blocks strategically resulting in a finished project.  Sounds like a lot of future engineers to me!

Survival Mode

In Survival mode, the purpose of the game is to survive.  It has all the features of creative but is more challenging and frightening.  Players use their creations to hide and escape from all the enemies in Minecraft.  They also mine to look for items that will protect them like swords and armour.  Survival mode is where you will find Creepers, zombies, spiders and skeletons.

A creeper is that ackward looking, pixilated, green figure you see roaming around on your child’s screen. If you get too close to it, it will blow up and harm you.  Skeletons also blow up while spiders and zombies hit the player.  The player must destroy these creatures to live.  If the player is destroyed, he/she quickly respawns (comes back to life).

What To Be Wary Of

If you are going to let your kids enter the world of Minecraft there are a few things you need to be weary of.  The most important one is that it is addicting.  My kids will play for hours if I don’t monitor their time.  It’s a fast moving game where a day lasts only 20 minutes.  Your child will always want more time to finish building something or looking for something.

If you let your kids play together in one world, they will fight.  It doesn’t matter how well they get along in real life, in Minecraft there will be problems.  They will bicker about what direction to go in, who found the diamond sword first and who has more experience blocks.  The constant bickering has made me go crazy that I have shut the game off a few times.  I have since learned to take a deep breath and let them figure out their own problems like they do on the playground.

Some parents don’t want their children exposed to the violence in the game.  Parents should be able to judge if their child can handle the game or not.

Why I let my kids play

My boys are 8 and 5. I let them play Minecraft because it’s teaching them certain aspects of the real world.  It’s teaching them you need materials to build and is encouraging them to go find those materials.  It is expanding their creativity while they attempt at and then later succeed at building a more difficult creation.  It’s teaching them how to plan, organize, execute, succeed and sometimes fail all in one game.

I don’t think my kids would have any interest in building if it wasn’t for Minecraft.  They have many Lego sets that are sitting in their closet but they prefer Minecraft because there are no instructions.   They write their own instructions.

I read an article that suggested Minecraft is preparing today’s kids for jobs that don’t even exist yet.  With technology changing so quickly, there is no way for us know what skills will be sought after and maybe the millions of people playing Minecraft are on to something the rest of us don’t understand (yet).

About the author:

Anisa Tayab blogs at That Crazy Mom.

Back To School Back In The Day

By Muneezah Jawad

Back to school back in the day

It’s September! Parents everywhere are secretly rubbing their hands in glee at the thought of shipping their overactive kids back to school and reclaiming their mornings and late nights. Once the school year starts they barely have time to breathe.

I remember my school days were very different from what kids experience today. I grew up in Dubai. The cultural nuances as well as the arrival of a different era has made this next generation of kids look upon schooling with a very different attitude.

Back to school

In the 80’s there were two main staples that every household would buy. First we would buy our books and then was the book wrapping ceremony. I still remember sitting down with  my father and rolls of brown paper. Every text book and note book we got would be wrapped with crispy clean paper and tape. It was most therapeutic for some inexplicable reason. My job was to place a label ever so carefully in the right place. In my best writing I would write my full name.

Since we had uniforms there were few new clothes, but we did get shiny new shoes that we kept polished and made them last.

A rectangle pencil case with cartooned vinyl plastic lids and many compartments was filled very carefully with sharpened pencils and fountain pens. An oxford compass box, a metal lunch box, and a drinking thermos was place carefully into a back pack that was from the year before since we took great pains to keep it presentable. Then off we were for the first day of school. Our clothes neatly pressed, our hair tied back. We were terribly excited and filled with pride at our new treasures and revered them.

Today the routine in most households is to shop till you drop. Tops, bottoms, shoes, sweaters, stationary, files, folders you name it we have to have it. Stores like Wal-Mart and Staples are filled with confused parents holding an endless list in one hand and an excited child who is jumping like a jack rabbit ready to dart off in opposite direction. Trolleys are over flowing and so are the tears as children battle with parents for the newest fad item.

The first day of school is the same for everyone though, that excitement, seeing who’s in your class, the new teacher, where to sit etc. What is different is the respect and realization that one must take care of those new things. I myself have had to go out and buy new shoes and stationary within one month of school and see countless parents doing the same. Children don’t even receive their own textbooks. They share used books that are kept in class. I sometimes shudder at the condition of the books the odd time they are brought home.

Which brings me to a pet peeve? Where is the HOMEWORK? I mean I agree that we got too much of it, but here I see none. Until high school kids rarely bring home anything daily and whatever they do is at best 15 minutes long. I don’t know about you but I am a firm believer in homework. It disciplines you and involves the parent. The jump from primary school to high school is often as a result much harder as children simply have not been trained to handle a larger work load. However the pros and cons of homework is another article for another day.


My first computer was the Commodore 64 and it came with those giant floppy disks. The internet was that strange noisy dialup thing and face book was the actually title of a fiction novel. At present the trend is to do as much as possible online. From the use of smart boards to submitting assignments, it’s all on the net. In fact children are encouraged to bring their devices into class. The use of calculators in my case started in high school. We used to layout our work showing all methods and calculations. Each piece of work had to have our name, the date and an underlined title. We would be marked on these things. My daughter was taught to use the calculator for the simplest of things and I am continuously telling her to use her head to work things out. Handwriting, grammar, organization and neatness all have suffered simply because kids are being taught to rely of their devices. Cursive writing is a dying art, as is going to the library to do research. Information is available immediately thanks to the internet but this instant gratification leads to a lack of patience and the loss of  satisfaction of actually solving something for themselves.

After school

Life after school has also changed. I used to come home, do my homework, watch a few cartoons and then hang out playing whatever with my neighborhood friends outside. Here the majority are shipped from one afterschool activity to another, and then it’s off to get hooked onto the TV or the latest play station game. Even when friends meet, it’s usually over the latest TV show. Gone are the days of a good board game or hide and seek. The word ‘Bored’ is a frequently used one in their vocabulary and parents are being forced to play referee between the children and their devices.

While the new generation of children is no doubt smarter and brighter and faster, I do think they are missing out on the most important part of education which is being a child. Life is far too commercial and not personal enough. The ‘wonder years’ should be exactly that. A time to literally stop and smell the roses. To slow down and relish every moment that is their childhood. It’s a time for families to bond over dinner not squabble over the latest smart phone a teenager suddenly needs.

About the author:

Muneezah Jawad is the social media manager at

How does your childhood compare with that of your offspring? Let us know how you feel. What you like and what you dislike about the system your child is in and why.

Back To School – A Survivor’s Guide

By Muneezah Jawad

Back To School - A Survivor’s Guide

With school starting in less than a week, we really hope most of us are done with their back to school shopping already. For those who still have to tackle this task, we put together a quick guide to make it a (relatively) stress-free process.

Shop for supplies

From Kindergarten to Grade 8, every class requires different supplies and the best way to know what you need is to look at the school website which usually publishes a supply list by grade. Sometimes more specific things are needed intermittently during the school year and the teacher usually sends out a note letting you know what that is.

The list does get longer as the grades get higher. Kindergarten requires very little, just some tissue boxes, glue and perhaps crayons. Grade 8’s usually require calculators, folders, dictionaries and more.

It’s always a good idea to have an English and French dictionary at home as well as some encyclopedias and if you are like me and like the kids to do a little bit extra at home, you can get a grade specific activity/curriculum book. They have great deals at Costco.

Bag some bags

It’s a good idea to recycle whatever can be used from last year especially backpacks and lunch bags unless the condition is really run down. I usually get new backpacks every 2 years so that the children’s desire to have the latest design is fulfilled and it does not break the bank.

Lunchboxes are trickier and if they are the soft ones they can smell a bit funky after a while and so I replace them every year.  Get something that suits your child’s style of eating. Small children need something with many compartments so that they can have tiny portions of their favourite things. A bento style box or little Tupperware containers work great. I don’t spend too much on these things as they do frequently get lost. Make sure all containers are BPA free.

Lunch Ideas

As there are usually 2 nutrition breaks you need to make sure you separate the food. I usually pack a main meal such as a sandwich or nuggets, some fruit, a granola bar, cheese and crackers and sometimes a treat altogether and the kids pick what to eat when. Please remember that most schools have a peanut free policy. I also have a thermos style box into which I sometimes pack a hot meal. A water bottle that is easy to open and closes firmly is very important otherwise often you will find a flood in your lunchbox.

What’ll they wear?

Unless your children go to a school where uniforms are required you are going to need plenty of clothes. The first step is to go through closets and see what can be reused or passed on to siblings and then make your wardrobe checklist.  September is not a terribly hot month and by October it’s getting chilly in the mornings so it’s a good idea to buy some track pants and fleece for the in-between weather. Layering clothing is the best option as kids can add or remove layers as they need.

If you find a great sale stock up on shoes as kids need a pair of indoor shoes and outdoor shoes. I know that my kids go through several pairs through-out the school year. Velcro shoes are great for the little ones.

I don’t do much back to school shopping. I pretty much avail the sales throughout out the whole year especially at Christmas time.  They are always losing something on the other. Make sure you have plenty of winter gear especially gloves, hats, socks, thermals as kids frequently lose them and then they are sold out of the stores by February but it stays cold sometimes well into April. Going to the States to shop used to be a great idea but with the current downward trend of the Canadian dollar against the US it’s not worth it anymore.

Ease into routine

Slowly returning to a regular routine will also make life easier. We have been sleeping past midnight and waking up late, eating at odd times and generally just chilling. Try pulling back bedtime by an hour every few days until school starts. The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that toddlers 1-3 years need 12-14 hours of sleep, children 3-5 years of age should average about 11-13 hours, School-aged children need 10-11 hours and teenagers need at least 9 hours.

Time their time

Studies also show that students lose 2-3 months’ worth of learning over the summer. That means that even though your child went to school from September to June it would be like they went to school September to March.  So it’s time to curb their device usage. Start limiting their screen time. There are many great apps such as ‘Screen Time’ which can actually lock a child out after a certain set period of time of usage. I use this with my daughter and it works really well. It’s set for an hour a day then it locks her out for everything except phone calls.

Make sure they study 20 minutes daily. More if they are older. This will get them ready to concentrate on their work and in ‘school mode’. A good idea would be to have them write about their summer holidays. It will get them thinking and spelling. Go over their multiplication tables by holding skittle contests. A skittle for whoever gets the answer right.  This would be a great time to go over those activity books that we discussed above. You could do the ones from last year. I never let my kids write in the books but they worked on paper as I have 2 kids close in age and wanted them to be able to reuse the book. You can also find worksheets online. It doesn’t have to be much and the holiday is not over but a little will go a long way. This is actually something they should do all year round.

Put meal times and the socialising on a time table too.  Start talking to them about expectations about the coming year. If it’s an EQAO year, or new high school it’s good to talk those things out. I am constantly telling my daughter to brace herself from an onslaught of work and other temptations as she enters high school. Talk to them about school and morning routines. Laying clothes out the night before, how they will be getting to and from school and who with. If you car pool or use the bus make sure you have the scheduling all planned out well ahead of time. If you have been helping little ones in the toilet over the summer now would be the time to have them start going independently again.

Don’t stress yourself. The first day of school is always a fun and exciting one. If you didn’t get everything done or didn’t have a change to buy something it’s alright. There is nothing that the kids can’t do without initially. Slowly you can fill in the gaps of what you need to do.

About the author:

Muneezah Jawad is the social media manager at and a veteran back to school survivor for the past many years.

Tell us how you have gotten your family ready for September. Do you have any tips for us? Do let us know how your first day went. Most importantly don’t forget to breathe a sigh or relief and lay back with a cup of coffee and enjoy your first day of school morning.

Penmanship – Getting Writing Right

By Aaisha Zafar Islam

penmanship- getting writing right

One of my earliest childhood memories is struggling to get the lower case ‘f’ just right as I attempted cursive in school. Another memory seared on my brain is Ma’s wrath when presented with a sheet of writing that was messy and horror of horrors, rife with spelling mistakes. I did get to reap the benefits of these lessons learned early in life. First is my OCD when it comes to spellings – I risk an aneurysm every time I see mangled spellings, and it is a handicap that becomes a skill in my work as an editor. Secondly, and more pertinent here is that focussing on how neat, rounded and evenly spaced out my alphabets were has also accorded me a balance in my personality, or so I like to think. How you write, the slant of words, the spacing and the size of letters themselves reveals many things about one’s psyche.

Later, as I sat on the admissions and interview committee of the University I taught at, we read through each candidate’s handwritten letter assessing not just the words expressing their intent of pursuing a program, but also how they wrote everything down, their penmanship.

And still later, as I taught some of these students, I insisted on frequent speed writing sessions in class on random topics. Again, this enabled me to know my students better, the extent of their vocabulary and how they expressed their ideas on paper, things I’d need to work on with them, and most importantly, what their handwriting revealed about them as persons, beginner’s foray into graphology if you will. Many label it as pseudo-science; however I have had remarkable success at reading a person’s person by looking at their handwritten note.

After all these experiences, it was only natural that I insist that my own progeny master the basics of good penmanship, best me at calligraphy, wow his teachers with the perfection of his letters and win a Nobel Prize for something or the other while he was at it. All before he turns 10!

March of times

My son turned seven early this year, he is a child of the digital age when typing reigns supreme and writing is fading away. If I were to be honest, I’d say his writing is borderline atrocious. It’s not that he cannot write neat, it’s that he will not. Writing something down, as I insist, means that he spends more time bent over his notebooks, which again are in a sorry state because he’s not too fond of them, instead of having his messy mop of hair bent over a book he wants to read.

Adding to my desperation to teach son how to master cursive, or at least a decent print, are these articles that all insist that writing by hand does wonders for your brain.

Learning cursive provides crucial benefit to children at an age when they need it most: a sense of involvement and ownership, hand-eye coordination, patience, and self-control. 

What cursive does for your brain:

In learning to write by hand, even if it is just printing, the brain must:

Locate each stroke relative to other strokes.

Learn and remember appropriate size, slant of global form, and feature detail characteristic of each letter.

Develop categorization skills.

Cursive writing, compared to printing, should be even more beneficial because the movement tasks are more demanding, the letters are less stereotypical, and the visual recognition requirements create a broader repertoire of letter representation. Cursive is also faster and more likely to engage students by providing a better sense of personal style and ownership.

~ Psychology Today

Relic of the past?

I also understand that there are many detractors of this handwriting, arguing it is a dying tradition and well past its date, that the time spent over learning cursive can be used instead on other subjects like learning another language, or sciences that will be of more help academically. And while I can’t disagree with this, I also know that societal traditions are cyclic, what is a lost art now will be a treasured skill tomorrow. A decade or two later, when writing by hand sees a revival, I want my children to be able to teach their own offspring.

More than anything, if there is the slightest bit chance that it will make them better people, I want to go that route. I am a mom and I want nothing but the best of very best for my brats, so I am going to buy as many interlined notebooks as I can, and nag them into writing a neat print and a passably decent cursive. The Nobel Prize can wait till they’ve mastered the loop of a lower case ‘r’.

About the author:

Aaisha Zafar Islam is the executive editor of and harbours delusions of grandeur if she goes long periods of time without a cup of tea. She also has a very neat handwriting, both cursive and print.

Quick and Healthy Snacks for Kids

By Elaf Selim


Once upon a time, there was a lovely mommy who had a little 7 year old girl. Every school morning, mommy would open her fridge and stare for 5 minutes not knowing what to put in her daughters lunch box. She wished she had ideas for quick and easy snacks that are also healthy and nutritious. Most of the packaged snacks for kids provide little to no nutrition value and include preservatives, artificial colors and flavors. Here are some ideas for all the lovely mommies who struggle with the same problem.

When it comes to packing a snack, which gets eaten and not returned back home, you need to be a bit crafty.

Variety is Key

Don’t pack large quantities of the same item but different items in smaller quantities. Children get bored. Also change the combination of items every day.

Include More Drinks

Some mommies forget this but children get very thirsty at school. In addition to adding a water bottle, you can add something to drink such as a yogurt drink, flavored milk, or juice. Try to choose juice made from natural sources with no added sugar.

Include Finger Veggies

Children need vitamins and fiber but lots of them don’t like veggies. Get crafty and choose vegetables which can be easy to eat, fun and colorful. Try some or a combination of mini carrots, cherry tomatoes in different colors, cucumber slices and celery sticks. If your child likes dips, you can add some ranch sauce or ketchup in a small container. You can even make your own yogurt dips.

Fruits are Dessert

Instead of adding candy, baked pastries or jam sandwiches to lunches;  fruits can provide the needed sweetness. Children love strawberries, apple slices, different berries, pineapples and bananas. Make sure you wash them and put them in a plastic container so they are not mushed in the lunchbox.

 Protein is Most Important

Include easy-to-eat options such as Grilled chicken cubes, Tuna mini sandwiches, Cheese sticks, all beef burgers cut in wedges, chicken wings. You can cook them in batches and store them in the fridge or freezer so you have a variety at hand.

Choose Healthy Treats

You can still add some fun treats but choose the healthy alternatives. For example, choose vegetable crackers instead of regular ones, pop-corn instead of chips and rise crispy bars instead of candy bars (if they are even allowed in your school).

Make it Fun

When you choose veggies and fruits, add a colorful combination so it’s more fun. You can also use some fun containers with colorful cartoon images.

Add Love Notes

For that special warm touch, add a sticky note in the lunch box with some love encouraging note to your child. It will make a difference, believe me. Write from your heart and keep it short and simple. Ex: “Mommy loves you”, “You are a good girl J” or even “Eat healthy and have fun!”. You can also try a fun riddle or joke to make them smile.

What are some tips you have for packing quick and healthy lunches?

About the Author

Elaf Selim is a Software Engineer, a Jewelry designer, a blogger and a Mom. She is the owner of, a handmade artisan jewelry shop. She loves photography, writing, historical architectures and nature in all forms.

Ed’s Note: Welcome Back to School


Salam Aleykum Sisters!

After a summer break the team at are raring to get back to sharing their tips, tricks and experiences with you all. For the month of August we are very excited to be exploring ‘Back to School Theme! We have quite a number articles coming your way this month and we’re sure you’ll find them helpful as you prepare your little ones (and yourselves) for school.

Keeping Organized

We know that summer is not yet over, but we do want to help make that transition from summer chaos to school routine as easy and painless as possible. One great article we will have is about tips for keeping your children organized. This will be very important for making your life easier!

The long lost of art of Penmanship and its importance in our times will be talked about as well!

Keeping Educated

Choosing the right school for your child is the first step in a great education. It is important that you have the right knowledge to choose. Will you enroll your child in public school? Private school? Islamic school? Home school? Whichever you choose you should know the pros and cons of each and we are happy to help you with that.

We are excited to offer tips for how to help your child study at home. There is often a disconnect in the studying and learning that takes place in school and what continues at home. For your child to reach their full potential we need to lessen that gap.

Learning isn’t just for children. If you are a mom going back to school, we have some great advice and tips to help you on your journey as well.

Keeping Healthy

A healthy diet is vital for your child’s growth and development. We know packing a lunch every day can be tricky so we have compiled some ideas to help keep your creative juices flowing.

Being healthy means more than just food. It is emotional and mental health as well, we’ll tackle the issue of bullying at school as well.

Keeping Busy

We know that you’ll never be bored but on the off chance you have extra time, we do have some great ideas for how to keep busy while children are back in school.


The Team would like to wish all students a blessed, educational and wonderful school year!

How to Keep Your Kids Busy During the Summer

By Rahila Ovais


As the end of the school years is fast approaching us, I bet most moms are fretting already about how to keep their kids busy during summer vacations; especially if you don’t have any plans to go out of town during this time.  Since this year’s summer vacation will start in the midst of Ramadan, it presents us with an excellent opportunity to get the kids to brush up on their Islamic studies. Besides reciting Quran everyday as part of their Ramadan activities they can also

  • Memorize a new surah a week
  • Learn a new duaa a week
  • Learn the 99 names of Allah
  • Read a new story of a Prophet a day
  • Read a chapter a day of Prophet Muhammad’s life story
  • Check out Sukainaz CraZy Creations for some fun Islamic arts and crafts


At the end of Ramadan there will of course be Eid parties and get-togethers with family and friends, leaving us with lots of time to enjoy the rest of the summer;

  • Visit a local farm for berry picking and other adventures like corn maze, farmer’s market etc.
  • When the heat is on, there is nothing better than to visit a water park/splash pad or hit the beach or go swimming at your local pool.
  • Have a picnic or two; you don’t even have to go too far.  Little kids would be happy to have a small picnic in their own backyard.
  • Take the kids to a zoo.
  • Be a tourist in your own town and visit a historical site or visit a public garden or take advantage of museum discounts.
  • There is lots happening in the city during summer; attend a free event or go to the most popular summer festivals or check out a neighborhood festival.
  • Watch a movie under the stars

Check out more summer activities ideas here:

About the Author

Rahila Ovais is a mother to four ranging from 20 to 5 years old. She’s called Jeddah, KSA, where she was born and Karachi, Pakistan, where she was brought up, her homes before moving to Toronto twenty years ago. She is also a very opinionated person who has a hard time keeping her thoughts to herself. You can follow her on Facebook: HijabiMommy.

Tips For Cruising With Kids

By Sadaf Afshan

Cruising with kids

Of all the vacations that I have taken with my kids one of the most memorable ones has been the cruise trip that we took a couple of years ago. It was a great way to enjoy multiple destinations without checking in and out of hotels and wrestling with luggage along the way. Since we were cruising with our extended family, there were fifteen of us ranging in age from 3 years to 65 years, including 5 kids.

There was something for everyone – fine dining, casual buffets, pools with water slides, kids’ activities and exotic shore excursions. In fact all of us loved it so much that we are planning another cruise trip this summer.

Like last time we know that in order to enjoy our trip to the fullest we need to do some meticulous planning to make sure that the trip goes on smoothly especially since we will have 6 kids in the group this time too.

Here are some tips that I would like to share with those who are planning to go undertake a cruise trip with their kids.

Research, Research, Research

Research your cruise options thoroughly before booking your vacation. Weigh the pros and cons of each cruise line including childcare options, family activities, meal options, stateroom size and layout, and, of course, price. When choosing an itinerary, consider the number of at sea days, the ports of call, and shore excursions.

Cruising with kids

Dining options

One of the most fun aspects of cruising are the culinary delights. Most of the meals are included in your fare so you can indulge to your heart’s content. The only challenge might be finding the right halal options. Unfortunately, hardly any cruise lines offer halal meat so one might have to stick to vegetarian and seafood options. As always, do inquire about alcohol and other ingredients in the dishes.

Some cruise lines offer Indian vegetarian and other special meals if you mention it while booking. However, one needs to know that these are usually frozen meals which are simply reheated and served.

It might be better to opt for the buffet rather than the formal dining room. That way you have a wider choice of halal options. Also, it’s more convenient with little kids since they can run around if they wish. However, do not miss the experience of elegant formal dining once in a while.

Cruising with kids

Packing for the trip

If you have travelled with kids before you know the drill – sunglasses, sunscreen, swimsuits, essential medicines, diapers, wipes etc.  Some of these items like diapers and wipes might be available for sale on board but are usually quite overpriced. Don’t forget medication for sea sickness or motion sickness if you are prone to them.

If you are travelling to hotter climates do keep in mind that even though it might be hot and humid on shore it might be cool on board the cruise, especially during evening. So do remember to pack some light hoodies too.

Do remember to carry a well-packed carry on since it might be hours before your luggage reaches the stateroom. Also, carry a lightweight backpack for shore excursions.

Cruising with kids

Safety first

Once on board, have a conversation with your kids (if they’re old enough) about the importance of following rules on board. Explain that cruise ships are safe but they need to pay attention during the safety drill so the family will be prepared on the very off chance that something goes wrong.

Remind kids that they must not wander out on their own and stay away from railings.

Shore Excursion with kids

Be flexible

Usually I’m a stickler with routines but I would advise to just relax and let yourself go with the flow during a cruise trip. It’s worth it to let the children hang out on the deck with you even though it might be past their bedtimes, unless there is a shore excursion early next morning. In fact, it was one of our favorite pastimes to enjoy the cool breeze on the empty deck late evening when most cruisers were down in the casino or nightclub.

Shore adventures can be quite expensive. You might consider not booking them beforehand and deciding according to your mood when you land there.

Cruising with kids

Kids’ clubs

Most cruise lines offer a wide variety of kids’ activities like art and craft sessions, story sessions on board, usually free or cost or very low cost. Do remember to check them out and take full advantage.

Happy Sailing!

About the Author:

Sadaf Afshan is an editor at She also writes a food blog My Culinary Adventures and owns an Islamic Clothing business Chosen Path Abayas. She can reached at sadafafs (at)gmail(dot)com

Have you been on a cruise? What are your top trips for going on a cruise trip with kids?

10 Tips For Your First Visit To Walt Disney World

By Sadaf Afshan

Tips for visiting Walt Disney World

A trip to Walt Disney World is a dream vacation for most children. However, it can also be overwhelming for parents to plan it. With four theme parks, two water parks, two entertainment areas, dozens of resorts and hotels, hundreds of restaurants, Magic bands, Fast Passes, Memory Maker and all,  it takes much meticulous planning to make the most of your time and money at Walt Disney World.

Here are 10 simple tips to help you create magical memories for your family at Walt Disney World:

The Fast Pass+ system

Wait times on popular rides can easily exceed an hour even during off peak seasons; during peak seasons  they can be as long as 2-3 hours. If you don’t want to deal with a wailing preschooler who could not visit Anna and Elsa or a sulky preteen who could not ride on Soarin, make sure to schedule your Fast Passes as soon as you book your trip.

Some popular rides and attractions for which you must definitely consider a Fast Pass are:

Magic Kingdom: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Meet and Greet with Anna and Elsa, Splash Mountain, Space Mountain

Epcot: Soarin, Test Track, Mission:Space, Turtle Talk with Crush

Animal Kingdom: Kali River Rapids, Kilimanjaro Safari, Everest Expedition

Hollywood Studios: Toy Story Midway Mania, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock n’ Roller Coaster

Tips for visiting Walt Disney World

Prepare for the heat

The heat and humidity of Florida is something which can be challenging for us Canadians. Even in spring and fall temperatures can soar above 90 degrees F. Since most attractions are outdoors make sure to slather sunscreen and carry hats and sunglasses. You can also buy a Water Misting fan to beat the heat,or at least try to!

For those of us who wear the hijab remember to wear the lightest ones that you have and practice some loose styles before going. Skip the synthetic, dark colored and flowy abayas and jilbabs.  Instead opt for sporty, cotton jilbabs or better still cotton tunics with loose trousers which make it easier to go on rides.

Tips for visiting Walt Disney World

Save money! 

If you stay in Ontario, consider crossing the border and flying from Buffalo-Niagara International airport to Orlando, instead of taking an international flight. You will save tons of money this way.

While you might to buy a few souvenirs from the Walt Disney World parks, consider doing the bulk of your souvenir and gift shopping from the nearest superstore where you can find the same items at a much cheaper price.

If you don’t want to end up losing your voice saying “No!” to the kids for everything from  balloons ($20 each!), trinkets to the dozens of  sugary temptations, consider giving each child a certain amount each day and let them decide how they want to spend it.

Before heading towards the park stock up on some snacks and drinks so that you don’t end up paying a much steeper price for them inside the parks.

Tips for visiting Walt Disney World

Bring your own stroller

This might sound like a no-brainer for those having infants and toddlers but at Walt Disney World strollers are required even for 6 year olds if you don’t want to end up carrying them on your shoulders after a few hours.

Strollers are available for rent at Walt Disney World but at a charge of approximately $15 per day for a single stroller and a whopping $31 per day for a double stroller you are better off bringing your own. Also, the strollers available for rent at Walt Disney World are made of hard plastic and do not recline.

Make sure to bring a stroller with a storage basket in which you can carry your stash of snacks and drinks.

Tips for visiting Walt Disney World

Reach the Park early

No matter which park you decide to visit on any particular day reach the gate before it opens. This is particularly important for Animal Kingdom as you can see maximum number of animals in the morning. For other parks crowds are least in the morning and the sun is more merciful.

If you have little ones you can consider going back to your hotel during the afternoon to take a nap and come back in the evening to stay until late night to watch the fireworks, Disney’s Electrical Parade and other shows at different parks. If you are staying at a Disney resort you can also take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours after the parks close down for the general public.

Tips for visiting Walt Disney World

Download My Disney Experience App

The official My Disney Experience mobile app is available for iPhone and Android. It can really save you a ton of time in the parks by using the various features such as the ability to make/update Fastpass+ reservations, seeing wait times or just having the map handy to get around.

Disney offers free wi-fi throughout it’s parks and resorts which can be used to access the app.

Tips for visiting Walt Disney

Rider Switch Program

If you have little ones who cannot go on certain rides due to height restrictions or other reasons take advantage of Disney’s Rider Switch program. This means that Baba can go on a ride with the older child while Mama waits with the little one. Once they are done Mama can go on the ride without having to wait in line again. The older child has the option of going again with Mama if he/she wishes.

Tips for visiting Walt Disney World

Have a Lost Child plan

There is nothing more stressful than to have your child go out of sight while on vacation. Make sure that your kids know how to recognize ‘cast members’ (Disney staff) to ask for assistance if they get lost. If your kids are not old enough to remember cell phone numbers, place a note with your phone number, name, resort name in their pockets.

Tips for visiting Walt Disney World

Have realistic expectations

WDW is HUGE. It’s virtually impossible to explore all the attractions in a one or even two week trip, especially with little ones in tow. Set priorities as to which rides or attractions appeal most to your family and plan accordingly.

Tips for visiting Walt Disney World

Have a magical time

There’s a reason why Walt Disney World is called ‘the happiest place on earth’. It’s the stuff that magical memories are made of. Make the most of your trip and you will remember it fondly forever.

 About the Author:

Sadaf Afshan is an editor at She was an attendee at the 2015 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration and has also been a part of the #DisneySide campaign. She writes a food blog My Culinary Adventures and owns an Islamic Clothing business Chosen Path Abayas. She can be reached at sadafafs(at)gmail(dot)com

Have you visited Walt Disney World or are planning to? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.




Vacationing in the Caribbean- the Halal Way

By Anisa Tayab

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I always wanted to go away somewhere down south, sit on a warm beach and enjoy a mocktail!  I was always afraid to take a trip because I didn’t know what to expect and if it would be appropriate for my kids to be around people drinking and in swim wear all day.  I just didn’t know how my kids would react to so many “new” experiences around them.

When my boys were 5 and 3, we decided to take the plunge and took a trip to Mexico.  After weeks and weeks of researching we chose a resort that we thought would accommodate our needs the best.  We wanted to have a relaxing time while not comprising our beliefs or having to explain the actions of others to our kids.

Location, Location, Location

Cancun is known to be a party city in Mexico.  The hotel zone is full of hotels, clubs and lots of party goers.  It is a popular destination for spring breakers.  We knew we wanted to stay far away from that environment.  We chose a five star resort in hopes the other guests at the resort would be mature guests and not the party crowd.  This made a huge difference in my opinion.  Once we got there, most of the other guests were mature adults, young families or extended families vacationing together.  We also chose a resort that was away from the hotel zone.  We were not able to walk to another resort on the beach so it was completely private.


I have yet to find a resort that offers Halal options (wouldn’t that be great?!) but most resorts do have a variety of seafood and vegetarian options.  If you mention your dietary concern to your wait staff immediately they may even be able to “cook” something special just for you.  Mention your dietary concerns at check in so there is a note on your file in case you order room service.  From my experiences I found that most staff is more than willing to help you out to make sure your stay is enjoyable.

Since most resorts are all inclusive, you’ll find a lot of people drinking around you.  Your kids will see multi-coloured drinks and want to order them.  Keep in mind, almost everything you see can be made “virgin” which means non-alcoholic.  Some of our favorites are Mud Slides (Banana and Chocolate Milk), Virgin Pina Colada (pineapple and coconut) and Miami Vice (strawberry and pina colada).  Keep in mind the juices are fresh so we would order pineapple juice and mango juice all day.

To avoid any confusion with our order, we always take our own tumblers with us.  Tervis and Contigo make great ones.  The staff will rinse it out between drinks and they will learn that your cup means no alcohol!

Staying Cool

Can’t wear a bathing suit? No problem?  We all know about the burkini but you don’t have to invest in one.  I always wear a bathing Anisa iPhone-04262013 1046suit and cover it up with a rash guard on top and active wear (tights or lounge pants) on the bottom.  This gives me the chance to change my outfit every day.  There are so many rash guards to choose from and they protect you from the UV rays.

I also found by lounging around the kid’s pool you see more modest swim wear since it is all families.  Most moms have the same concerns as each other.  What surprised me was that my kids didn’t even mention anything about the exposure around them because they were too busy playing and having fun.  I think adults tend to pay more attention to those around us than kids do.

The sun in the Caribbean is very hot! I didn’t think I would burn (I’ve never burnt in my life) but not only did I burn but my entire family did.  It’s so important to wear a strong sunscreen and keep re-applying.  There is nothing worse than burning on vacation. Always wear sunscreen and a hat!

Nightly Entertainment

Most resorts offer entertainment at night.  We asked for the show schedule at check in so we could pre-plan our nights.  Most resorts have family friendly shows: Michael Jackson, Circus themed and Fire Acrobats are some of our favorites.

Relax and Enjoy

An upcoming vacation is a great time to teach your kids about different countries, the currency used there and the culture of the country.  We always try to learn the native tongue of the country we are visiting together as a family before our trip.

Don’t forget why you wanted to take a vacation.  Sometimes it’s hard to just relax but it’s important to take a break from our daily routines and enjoy our families and make memories.

 About the Author:

Anisa Tayab is a working mom to 2 boys.  She enjoys taking trips to expose her sons to various cultures and sites.