Home > 2016 > March

A New Way To Give

There are a growing number of ways to support your favourite causes, from donating at point of sale to fundraising through events. With some organizations, you can even donate your used vehicle! The Nanny Angel Network has just added another way for you to support them, thanks to their partners at Shoppers Drug Mart. Now, by using your Shoppers Drug Mart Optimum Card, you can help NAN get the supplies and resources they need for programming simply by donating your points!

A large-format Shoppers Drug Mart store: the Company's 1000th store opened in 2007 in Toronto. (CNW Group/Shoppers Drug Mart Corporation)

I talked to NAN’s Stewardship Officer, Rebecca Babcock, about this new program, and why NAN has chosen to partner with Shoppers Drug Mart for this new and different way of giving. In our conversation, Rebecca was quick to emphasize how important donations are to the continued operation of the Nanny Angel Network, stating that “donations are the lifeblood of NAN. They are important to running our programs and necessary to bring our Nanny Angels to families across the GTA.” Without the help of donations, it would be impossible for NAN to provide their free, specialized in-home relief childcare to mothers’ with cancer in Toronto and throughout the GTA.

Rebecca delved into what benefits there are for donors in giving their Optimum Points as compared to other methods, stating “the Optimum Points program is an awesome opportunity for the person who can’t give financially right now to contribute to a cause they are passionate about.” She emphasized, however, that this program isn’t just for people who can’t afford to give through traditional methods. “For the donor looking to go above and beyond in their contributions, this is a great way to have an impact,” she said, adding that “sharing your rewards allows us to purchase necessary items and gift cards.”

This new program doesn’t just have benefits for NAN’s supporters. “Shoppers Drug Mart is a proud partner of the Nanny Angel Network, and we are thrilled to have this program as part of our partnership,” Rebecca said. She went on to explain why charities are now choosing to utilize new and non-traditional giving methods. Rebecca commented that “giving people more ways to give allows us to engage more people and expand our impact.” When asked what NAN hopes to achieve by implementing this program, Rebecca focused on the ways it allows NAN to engage new people. “As technology grows and our interactions change, we want to provide as many opportunities as possible for supporters to have an impact.”

The Shoppers Drug Mart Optimum Points program in particular is an easy avenue to engage supporters, as rewards programs are something that most people are already familiar with. “Being able to gift those rewards to causes we care about is a great way to turn your every day actions into ongoing philanthropy,” Rebecca explained, adding that they hope this program will help with the cost of supplies for their Nanny Angels. Nanny Angels go out to client’s homes with their famous Green Bag stocked full of toys and supplies for the children, and they can always use more, which is where the Optimum Points will come in. “This program will help us with the cost of supplies, especially through gift cards, toys, and other supplies,” Rebecca concluded.

Interested in donating your Shoppers Drug Mart Optimum Points? It’s easy! Simply log into your Optimum Account on www.shoppersdrugmart.ca and click the Donate/Transfer Points tab. From there, simply scroll down the list of charitable partners until you find NAN. Enter the amount and just like that, your points will be transferred to their card to help with purchases to support their programming!

Text: Jensine Jones           Photo: CNW Group/Shoppers Drug Mart Corporation

A Few of My Favourite Things

A cancer diagnosis has many effects that impact both patients and their families. Stress, side-effects of medical treatments, and running to and from various appointments often leaves parents struggling to match their children’s energy levels. Part of the service Nanny Angels provide when they visit families is therefore allowing children to interact with an adult who has the energy to keep up with them. With this in mind NAN asked Connie Jones, a child development facilitator who works primarily with preschoolers, for her favourite activities to do with kids that are fun and educational. These toys and activities are perfect for either a parent who doesn’t have the energy to run around after their kids or for a Nanny Angel wanting to engage children in educational and fun play.

Below, Connie offers her advice on how to pick games for preschoolers and shares some of her favourites.

book pile

When choosing games for preschoolers, it is important to choose games that are age appropriate. All parties, adult and child alike, lose interest quickly when the game is too difficult or complicated for the players. Look for games which have simple, straightforward rules and game play. If the set up takes a long time, or there are too many things to remember, far too much energy goes into figuring out how to play the game. Adaptability to different ages and levels of play is also very important, especially when going to a home with multiple children of different ages. A great game can be modified easily to accommodate different skill levels and interests. Finally, factor in what interests the child. This is a big consideration if you have a reluctant or very new game player. Children are much more likely to be engaged and enthusiastic if it is related to something that interests them.

I have pulled out some example games from my toy cupboard. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it does represent games that I play with children over and over again, 10 months of the year.

Zingo (ages 4-8) is a child’s bingo type game utilizing picture tiles. This game offers opportunity for image and vocabulary recognition, matching, memory, concentration, and turn-taking. It is a game that moves fast enough that even the youngest player can usually stay engaged while waiting for their own turn.


Zimbbos (ages 3+) is a wooden elephant and circus animal stacking game. This game promotes balancing skills, dexterity, and hand-eye coordination. The elephants can be stacked in numerical order which offers opportunity for counting and number recognition. For younger players, colour recognition can be utilized. Children can be creative and imaginative in their solutions to making the elephant tower. Positional concepts can be discussed as to who is on the bottom, who is on the top, who is beside and so on. Be prepared, however, for the inevitable crashing tower.

Pigzup (ages 4 and up) is another stacking game that children really enjoy. Cards are used to match numbers and then the race is on to stack the pigs. There are 8 adorable pigs with little felt ears and curly tails. They are not as easy to stack as one might think. There is an option to play with a die that adds more challenge to the game. This game is great for fine motor development, dexterity, and number and colour recognition.

pig game

Spot it Jr.! (ages 4 and up) is a card game in a tin. There are a numerous variations of Spot It!, some much more difficult than others. I have been using the animals edition. Each player flips over a card and tries to spot the animal common to both cards. It is more difficult than you think! This is a fast paced game that helps to develop attention, visual perception, speech-language, and fine motor skills (flipping cards can be challenging!) It is also a very portable game, easily slipped into a bag or purse.

spot it jr

Lego, Duplo, or other age-appropriate building pieces (ages 3-4). Building blocks with a couple of little people or animals can provide hours of imaginative entertainment. Pushing the plastic pieces together and apart helps develop hand and finger strength. A couple of figures provides opportunity for imaginative dialogue and play situations.


Art supplies could be a very long list; however, an easy and portable solution is paper with a variety of different mark making implements. Offer crayons, chalk, pencil crayons, pastels, etc. If desired, include glue and a selection of objects for collage. I have found that when I sit and work on my own art, children are drawn to the activity. Once the piece is completed, you might ask the child to tell you about their picture.

Memory games can be found in many shapes and sizes. I have discovered a couple of good quality ones at local thrift shops. I have found that children are really good at them, much better than me! In most memory games one can use as many or as few pairs as one likes to make the game fun and successful for the child.


Puzzles choices are best made considering what is appropriate for a child’s age and skill level. Try to find puzzles that are flat and in good condition. It is frustrating and time consuming to cope with cupped and deformed puzzle pieces. Puzzles offer the opportunity to develop problem solving skills, memory, fine motor skills, pattern recognition, and patience.


Dolls and puppets offer opportunities for imaginative play and dialogue. When working with children in the health care setting, I found that they were often able to tell my puppet much more than they were willing to tell me. I also found that explaining procedures and expectations to the doll or puppet while the child looked on gave the child time to observe and digest information, giving them the opportunity to process the information and watch the procedure prior to them being part of the scenario.

Books, books, books. There are so many wonderful children’s books, it is impossible to choose favourites. I was looking for a book one day for a baby shower, having been asked to bring my “favourite” children’s book as a gift. The clerk asked what my favourite book was and I informed her that I hadn’t found it yet. She directed me to Sparky!, the story of a little girl who mail orders a sloth for a pet. Sparky isn’t very good at fetch, hide and seek, or the other games the girl tries to play with him, but he is irresistible. I brought Sparky! to the shower and have since given it to a couple more little humans.

seed book 2
Reading books to a child offers a special time to cuddle and share a story. This can be done in so many ways. The words can be read, the pictures can be looked at and commented on, children can ‘read’ to the adult. Questions can be asked. What do you think will happen next? Do you remember what happened first? You can also check in about a child’s understanding of the vocabulary.

feelings book 2
Books can be chosen for their topics focusing on feelings, friends, kindness, and so on. It is wonderful if the book is appealing to both the adult as well as the child. That being said, I do find that I am always being surprised by books, and sometimes the ones that are not so appealing at first become new favourites. When children are not particularly interested in books, one can add interest or a ‘hook’ that might grab attention. For example, if reading a story about magic pebbles, one might offer the child a special, polished magic pebble of their own. I like to have little popsicle puppets or actual little scenes that add a play element to the book. After handling and playing with the manipulative, the child is often motivated to tell the story on their own.

If I had to pick one item to share with children above all others, I think it would have to be books!

Connie Jones is a former nurse who currently works as a child development facilitator on an early intervention team. She works with families who have three to four-year-olds with developmental delays, working both in children’s homes and in a preschool setting. You can find her online on her crafting blog.

Text: Connie Jones and Jensine Jones           Photos: Connie Jones
Books pictured: If You Plant A Seed by Kadir Nelson, Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow, The Colour Monster: A Pop-Up Book of Feelings by Anna Llenas.

Grief and Loss

On a chilly Sunday in late February I found myself wandering around the basement of the Toronto General Hospital in search of the ELLICSR centre. Inside, I found a lovely and warm space in which I would spend the next eight hours.

I was at the centre to attend Grief and Loss training as part of the Nanny Angel Network’s volunteer training program. Though I am not a nanny, I was there to see what nannies going through the required training learn. The seminar is hosted by NAN every other month, and is taught by Andrea Warnick. Andrea is a nurse psychotherapist, educator, and thanatologist with twenty years of experience in supporting grieving children and families.

As Andrea introduced herself, she explained that she first began to explore issues surrounding death and dying when working as a nurse. Working on the frontline of healthcare and regularly interacting with bereaved families, Andrea realized that medical personnel were not receiving sufficient training in how to talk to kids about cancer, death, and grief. Though there was a wealth of research surrounding kids and death, from how to talk to kids about death to how to recognize and help with children’s grief, this research was not being put into practice.


It is no surprise, when one considers our general cultural-wide discomfort with the subject of death, that we would be bad at speaking about it with children. Parents understandably want to protect their children from news of a serious illness, and especially from the death of a loved one. They worry about the impact a death, whether of a parent or of a loved one, will have upon their child. With this in mind, they will often avoid speaking to their children about the approaching death, attempting to spare the child from trauma.

Study after study has shown, however, that the opposite is true. The best way to protect children from being negatively impacted by the death of a loved one is to prepare them for it. Instead of not speaking about it with children, discussing it openly and in age appropriate terms helps children psychologically cope with the death of a loved one both during their childhood and as adults. Grief is something that never really leaves us, though we may cope with it differently at different ages.

While Andrea discussed the complexities and difficulties of discussing death with children of all ages, in the end she summed it up in a few central principles. Be honest with your child. Use simple, but correct language –  euphemisms can be confusing, especially if a child is still at an age where they take everything very literally. Foster an environment where they can ask questions. They might not be asking questions only because they are picking up on the fact that the adults don’t want to discuss it. Finally, be prepared to not have all the answers. You aren’t going to mess your child up forever because you didn’t know the answer to one of their questions. Do some research, or wonder at life’s mysteries with them.

Children’s concerns around cancer and death often fall into four central questions – did I cause it? Can I catch it? Can I cure it? And who is going to take care of me? Explaining cancer to a child involves answering these four questions, using real terms, and explaining what is going on in as much detail as the child can comprehend… if the child wants! Ultimately, the level of explanation depends on the kid, and how much they want to know.



After the death of a loved one, children will grieve and mourn just as adults do, though their grieving will look different from an adult’s grief. Play is often part of a child’s grieving, as well as moving between intense sadness and normal happiness. It is important to discuss, encourage, and model the expression of all emotions, in a range of healthy ways. If a child is expressing their grief through inappropriate behaviours, feel free to correct those behaviours, but it is important to distinguish between the emotions and the behaviours ­– the emotions are not the problem. Offer children the chance to talk, but don’t force them to if they don’t want to, and help them develop rituals to stay connected to their deceased loved one.

Ultimately, every person is different, and every child is going to react to illness and death differently. The important thing to remember is that even young children are fully capable of understanding cancer and death – if the adults in their lives explain it to them and are prepared to take the time to engage with them fully on their level. I left the course with a far greater understanding of the importance of creating safe spaces for children and fostering honest conversations with them. The knowledge Nanny Angels gain from this seminar allows them to do just this. If the children they are visiting want to talk to their Nanny Angel about the things they are afraid to discuss with their parents, our volunteers are prepared.

For more information and resources on how to help children cope with grief and loss, check out Andrea Warnick’s website and follow the conversation at #nanGL on twitter, where we regularly post links to resources and community programs designed to help bereaved children.

Text: Jensine Jones          Photos: Becka Soyka