Posts Tagged ‘kids’

Dunbar Little League

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

Champion of Dunbar Village.

You can almost hear the aluminum bat ping, smell the burgers on the grill and feel the teams’ collective energy as David Berrington enthusiastically describes his involvement with Dunbar Little League (DLL).

David-Berrington-DLL-Dunbar-LifeDavid is president of DLL’s board and he’s a huge fan of the organization. This season DLL celebrates its sixtieth season, making it Vancouver’s second oldest Little League. Although the season is short, three months in total from April to June, in addition to tournament season (mid-June to the end of July), DLL is a true community anchor.

Volunteers are fully responsible for running DLL and there is no problem getting people out to lend a hand. David says, “This is not drop and go, this is drop and participate.”

“We have the strongest volunteer base of any league we interact with. We measure our success by our community spirit.” David Berrington

An example of community spirit is the pre-season field preparation workday; approximately 150 people turn out every year without fail. They come equipped with hoes, shovels and rakes to weed, put up fences, and spread “red gold” which is what David jokingly says they call the expensive dirt.

He mentions that season openers draw as many as 500 kids and 1,000 family members. He adds, “No other Dunbar events have a turn out like this.” Closing day also draws huge crowds. An annual parade kicks off the day, beginning at West King Edward Avenue and processes, complete with police escorts, along Dunbar Street to Memorial Park. With as many as 700 kids, coaches and parents joining in, by the time they reach the park the numbers double in size with the awaiting crowd.

Community celebrations are at the heart of DLL. Perhaps it is because, as David acknowledges, “Baseball has a rich tradition of history and ceremony” that they place value on commemorating special occasions. On Mother’s Day the concession stand is off limits – no mothers are allowed to volunteer. Instead, mothers and grandmothers are showered with adoration in the form of a cooked breakfast made by the dads.

Another notable occasion is the annual coaches game. This one night tournament is an opportunity for everyone to come out and watch the coaches play. A volunteer who happens to be a restaurateur, came up with the idea of offering a special menu of meatball sandwiches and crab rolls at the concession stand, which met with great approval. As many as 300 people have come out to cheer on the coaches; kids act as umpires and get an opportunity to make announcements. Pancake day for the Majors players is an opportunity to shine the spotlight on the senior players prior to the playoffs. They hold fun competitions and players receive a commemorative pin in appreciation of their time spent with DLL.

Players and their families are guaranteed to be neighbours due to set boundaries within the Dunbar area.

Only accepting registrations from Dunbar kids creates instant connections with one another at Memorial Park and Balaclava Park, which are the home parks to the 500 DLL players who range in age from 4 to 12.

Beginning at age 4 children can sign up for T-ball where they will get their first taste of being a Little Leaguer. At age 7 they progress to Minor B division (the only level that plays at Balaclava Park), at age 9 they advance to Minor A and finally at age 11 through 12 they reach Majors division at Memorial Park’s big diamond.

All teams are co-ed and it’s never too late to learn to play baseball. David notes that while registration has already taken place for the older divisions, T-ball registration is underway during the month of February.

“The concession turns a small profit every year. It’s not about making a profit, it’s about the community feeling.” David Berrington

The concession is open to everyone; residents will often stroll by and make a purchase. For $5 you can purchase a burger and drink. Popcorn, hot dogs, Caesar salad wraps and slushies are all very popular but the top seller by far is the candy bags priced at a mere 50 cents. Over the course of a season DLL sells over 6,000 bags. Groups of volunteers meet twice a season to bag the candy.

With 50 DLL teams in total there are plenty of opportunities for local businesses to get involved as sponsors. David mentions there is a waiting list to sponsor the Majors level. Businesses benefit from exposure to local residents but it is also a philanthropic investment in the neighbourhood that drives many to get involved.

How did David get involved? Although he did not play baseball as a child he made a point of introducing his two sons to a variety of sports. They became hooked and have worked their way up through DLL. His oldest son has now moved on to Bantam Triple A with Vancouver Community Baseball. His youngest son is completing his final year in DLL’s Majors division.

DLL logo sqDavid admits that as a human resources consultant his strength is managing and leading people. He has thoroughly enjoyed volunteering for DLL. With one final year as president he admits, “I’ll miss it terribly. The involvement I have is special.” He will remain for an additional year as past president, but will always be involved in some capacity. “I don’t own the league. I have been a caretaker for a few years. You always hope to leave an organization in a better place when you move on,” he says.

Regarding the sixtieth anniversary season DLL plans to host an alumni game and hold a party in June which all former coaches and players are invited to attend. Information and details will be forthcoming on DLL’s website at

Chloe and Skylar Sinow

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

Dunbar’s Dynamic Duo

Skylar and ChloeIf you haven’t heard of Chloe and Skylar Sinow you are likely to very soon. These Dunbar residents’ friendly faces appear on their Kids Can Cook Gourmet organic pasta sauces that are taking B.C. grocery stores by storm.

To date this sister and brother team have three varieties of pasta sauce placed in 150 B.C. and Alberta shops. Chloe is 12 and Skylar is 13 years old, and they have been going full speed ahead as a marketing and chef team for two years.

The adventure for these go-getters began in November 2014 when they sold homemade pasta sauces, dried pasta, caramel popcorn and cookies at Dunbar Community Centre’s Christmas craft fair as part of a fundraising initiative for Cook for the Cure. The pasta sauces were a surefire winner and reorders came in quickly.

Chloe admits she was a picky eater when she was younger and their homemade pasta sauce was always something she would eat. When the sauces received glowing feedback from customers they knew they had created a product both parents and children were seeking.

“We are big fans of promoting sustainable farming and cooking with fresh local ingredients.” Skylar Sinow

Skylar has always loved to cook. He recalls getting into the kitchen at an early age to watch and assist. Chloe confesses her interest in marketing is partially thanks to her business savvy parents, Andrea and Harald Sinow, who ran their own company.

In 2013 the Sinow family went on the trip of a lifetime. Andrea and Harald sold their company and the foursome packed their bags, accompanied by their Labradoodle named Moka, and set off on a yearlong trip to Europe. Visiting UNESCO sites was a large part of their agenda. Their father mentions, “We lived a nomadic life and followed the weather south.”

The family purchased a motorhome and bicycles and over the 12 months visited 17 countries. Chloe and Skylar were home-schooled during their time away. Skylar fulfilled his writing requirements by drafting a cookbook.

When they returned home to Canada the ball really got rolling. 2015 was a monumental year with two auditions for the national television shows Chopped Canada and Dragons’ Den.

Last February Skylar auditioned for the Food Network’s teen edition of Chopped Canada and was accepted. The show broadcast last December and he was honoured to have placed runner up.

Skylar and Chloe Kids Can Cook pasta sauce Dunbar LifeSkylar and Chloe were encouraged to audition for Dragons’ Den by one of their many mentors, chef Vikram Vij (who was a past ‘dragon’). They earned a spot on the show, which broadcast last November, and made their impressive pitch. They left with two dragons backing them for a deal of $25,000 for ten per cent equity.

When asked how they handled the pressure they mention the incredible support of their friends and family who listened and critiqued their presentation many times before the big day.

They are very grateful to the community of Dunbar that they refer to as their extended family.

Pasta sauce production is a family affair; even their parents get involved. The sauce is made in a government-regulated facility in Burnaby and is overseen by two regulated staff. The family orders the produce, which they clean, chop, process, label and box. Skylar has his Food Safe certification and smiles when he reports, “It is fun to be able to tell my parents what to do.”

Running a business takes dedication and commitment and the pair have an abundance of both qualities. Skylar pops home from Lord Byng Secondary School at lunchtime to make business calls while Chloe manages their social media presence. With her keen eye for design she also helped create their website.

They admit dedicating time to their business is their primary focus outside of school although they also take time to pursue their favourite hobbies. Chloe’s fashion company is her other passion. She just completed her first fashion line as part of the Vancouver School Board mentorship program. The skilled seamstress sewed the apron that she wore on Dragons’ Den and sells them through the Kids Can Cook Gourmet website. She attends Lord Kitchener Elementary and likes hanging out with her friends. Chloe says, “The reward of working hard is playing hard.”

Skylar and Chloe Sinow Kids Can Cook Dunbar LifeSkylar enjoys cycling, gardening and everything food related, from making his own bread and cheese to developing recipes. He has also assisted chef mentors with catering events and even catered his teacher’s wedding reception with his friend Quinton.

Offering kids healthy food choices and educating them about where their food comes from is of utmost importance. They have big dreams ahead for their company and plan to introduce new products such as soup and possibly gardening packages for kids. Skylar says, “Grandparents would go crazy for that.” Chloe concludes with wisdom beyond her years, “We want to be the leaders of our futures.”

Elite Montessori Academy

Monday, June 15th, 2015

Phoenix_Niazi_Elite_Montessori_Dunbar_LifeTeach Me to Do Things By Myself

Are you the parent of a preschool aged child (2.5 to 6 years old) in search of a unique learning environment for your little one? If so, Elite Montessori Academy may just fit the bill.

Owner and teacher Phoenix Niazi opened Elite Montessori Academy (located on the corner of Dunbar Street and West 39th Avenue) in 2013. She holds a number of impressive credentials including a Bachelor of Science degree, a diploma from Association Montessori Internationale and certification as an Early Childhood Educator.

Originally from Taiwan, Niazi operated a very successful childcare and after school program in Taipei for five years. After earning her Montessori and ECE certification her husband and son encouraged her to open her own business. They wanted her to fulfill her dream and operate a childcare facility that would provide a nurturing environment and multi-sensorial curriculum to help young children develop their potential to the fullest.

She believes, “Children are like tiny plants, they will grow to their maximum potential.” With this philosophy in mind, her son selected the company logo, a house sprouting a leaf.

If you are not familiar with the Montessori program, Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman in Italy to become a physician, founded it in 1907. She observed children’s innate drive towards learning and was amazed by their sustained concentration while undertaking activities. Guided by her discovery that children teach themselves, Dr. Montessori designed an environment where children could freely choose from a number of developmentally appropriate activities.

A fair amount of emphasis is placed on individual work. Niazi explains, “We are trying to preserve concentration.” Parents will likely breathe a collective sigh of relief as a recent Microsoft study concluded human’s concentration (due to society’s growing obsession with electronic gadgets) is now lower than a goldfish. Cultivating and encouraging concentration has never been more important.

Children are encouraged to choose an activity and repeat it as many times as they like. She points out, “Children learn through trial and error.” Applying this approach, children are not corrected for doing something “incorrectly” as it makes them feel they have erred. Allowing them to persevere provides them with the drive to keep trying.

Parents will rejoice to see the results of this encouraging teaching method. With a program designed to foster independence after attending Elite Montessori your child will be empowered to tackle tasks such as pouring their own water, preparing a snack, slicing a strawberry with a plastic knife, cutting with scissors and buttoning a shirt.

One of the things that makes Elite Montessori unique is its extremely high adult to child ratio. In the morning five teachers are present, and in the afternoon four teachers are in attendance. The instructors help children move on to other activities and up the ladder once they have mastered something.

Not all of the children’s time is spent working alone. They meet in circles and have playtime where sharing and working together cooperatively is emphasized. Manners and kindness are also stressed.

Are you interested in having a trilingual child? At Elite Montessori your child has the opportunity to learn English, French and Mandarin during the course of a day. Niazi recounts a humorous story about a child who went home and said “Thank you” in Mandarin. Not understanding, and hoping it wasn’t a bad word, the mother discovered her child was now learning manners in another language!

Academic success is high at this busy little centre. From an early age children learn subtraction, addition, how to count and read. Impressively, a four-year-old student already knows how to multiply and can name all the planets.

Elite_Montessori_Academy_Dunbar_LifeElite Montessori is in the midst of an application process to change its status from an occasional care centre to a full-fledged preschool. Currently registrants are only able to attend a maximum of 40 hours a month. Once preschool status is obtained the number of allowable hours per month will increase dramatically. In addition, the business is expanding with the addition of a daycare facility one block away at West 38th and Dunbar Street. Renovations are underway and the daycare will open this fall.

The early days of opening Elite Montessori were a challenge until people took a leap of faith and signed on. Word of mouth referrals have been excellent and the centre is now full in the morning and has a waiting list. And kudos to Dunbar parents, who Niazi describes as “being very educated and respectful.”

You may ask, “How do I decide if this program is right for my child?” Elite Montessori offers a free two-hour trial session.

What does Niazi find most rewarding about her work? She says, “I see children grow every day. I love to see their smiles.” She is also delighted when parents ask their child “How was your day?” and they respond with a grin from ear to ear, “It was awesome!”

Elite Montessori Academy
5520 Dunbar Street
Vancouver BC V6N 1W6
Telephone 604-655-2045

Harmonious Music Studio

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

Music Education Made Fun

Harmonious Music Studio, Dunbar LifeMelisa Chui believes in making music a healthy habit for children. She says, “Music and piano should be fun. Music is meant to be enjoyed and shared and not be a chore.”

Originally from Hong Kong, she moved to Vancouver at the beginning of high school. After graduating from Prince of Wales Secondary School Chui attended U.B.C. where she earned a degree in Statistics.

Subsequently, she attained an Early Childhood Education degree and spent some time spent working at preschools. She ventured into business when she discovered the Music for Young Children (MYC) program and realized that she could merge her two interests, music and teaching.

Frances and Gunars Baldois founded MYC in 1980 with the goal to create a quality music education program for young children. From its Dartmouth, Nova Scotia roots, the MYC program expanded across Canada to the United States, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia and now boasts 24,000 students and 900 teachers licensed to teach MYC’s curriculum.

Designed for parents who wish to introduce piano to their young children, MYC provides a comprehensive music program that integrates keyboard, singing, ear training, sight reading, creative movement, rhythm, music theory and music composition. Accompanied by their parents, children between the ages of 3 through 11 acquire solid music education in a fun group-based environment that enhances parent/child involvement.

The MYC program combines early childhood education principles with music theory within a rigorous curriculum that is recognized by the Chief Examiner Emeritus of the Royal Conservatory of Music as a superior introduction to music.

In addition to being fun, MYC classes offer young people a wonderful chance to build their confidence at an early age. Parents will be delighted to learn that children who take piano lessons are able to learn complex math problems earlier than those who have had no musical training.

In September 2011 after receiving MYC training and licensing Chui opened her Dunbar Street studio. As the owner and sole instructor of Harmonious Music Studio, she offers two types of learning experiences for budding piano players, the MYC program which is taught in a group setting, as well as private piano lessons.

Harmonious Music Studio, Dunbar LifeWhen you enter Harmonious Music Studio you will notice the grand piano, which Chui instructs from, and five keyboards for her students use. Empty space in the centre of the room is set aside for the movement component of the lesson, as well as a space to sit and hear stories about composers such as Beethoven. A number of chairs line the wall where parents watch their children, that is, when they aren’t actively involved. All group lessons involve parent participation to learn and experience alongside your child. The one-hour lessons can accommodate between 3 to 6 students.

Half hour private lessons are also available for children ages 6 and up. Parents attend these lessons until their children are old enough to stay on their own. It’s never too late to learn the piano. If you are an adult who is interested in tickling the ivories, Chui will happily instruct you. In fact, she has had a few of her student’s parents sign up.

Two recitals are held each year to give students a chance to perform. One is held at Harmonious Music Studio and the other takes place at St. Helen’s Anglican Church. All ages participate on an individual basis and as a group. Chui is always impressed by her students’ self-assurance, which they gain from performing in a group at the studio.

Chui began piano lessons at age 6 and worked her way up to Grade 10 level. She is grateful that her parents encouraged her and today her hobbies revolve around music, from playing the piano, to dabbling with the violin and guitar. She appreciates all types of music (classical, pop, jazz) and likes to attend concerts.

Harmonious Music Studio, Dunbar LifeShe feels the Dunbar area is the perfect community to have established her business. Chui indicates that most of her clients come from the neighbourhood, which she finds very family oriented.

When she takes a break from teaching, Chui enjoys travelling with her husband. Some of their top cosmopolitan destinations include London, Paris, New York, and her personal favourite city, Tokyo, as she adores Japanese food and culture.

Chui feels fortunate to have found her calling. She says, “I am glad to share my love of music with young children in a fun and nurturing environment.”

Harmonious Music Studio
3271 Dunbar St
Vancouver BC V6S 2B8
Telephone 604-767-0136

A Fine Balance

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Lively children playing video gamesWe have welcomed in a new year, and with it, many of us acquired electronic gifts meant to make things more convenient, and keep us connected, however, at what cost? I could be considered a Luddite, although I have embraced smatterings of technology. The internet, e-mail and cell phone are definitely a part of my world; however, I am resisting upgrades to my communications arsenal. For me, keeping up with the latest electronic gadgets is a futile battle and it is not a pleasant result for the landfill. As a writer, I celebrate that people are choosing to communicate with e-mail and texting. On the flip side, the use of fragmented language is concerning, and leaves me wondering about the future of written composition and grammar.

I plead guilty to over use of e-mail as well as time spent at the computer writing and researching. I am attempting to pick up the phone more often in place of firing off an e-mail. Verbal conversations allow ideas to weave together which can take you in unexpected directions. Those “it’s a small world” moments seem to pop out more frequently in conversation than in correspondence. Moreover, nothing compares to hearing a friend’s voice or laughter.

There was a time when parents complained that their children watched too much television. Add to the mix video games and computer use and it is no wonder that childhood obesity is at an all time high. A Canadian Community Health Survey indicated that children who watch more than 2 hours of screen time (TV, computer, video games) per day have double the incidence of overweight and obesity when compared to children who watch less than 1 hour per day. The solutions include eating a more balanced diet, keeping children physically active and limiting screen time.

I am not denying the importance of electronics; they are great tools when used in moderation. At our house, electronics do not play a large role in our children’s lives. During the holidays, I was delighted to hear my youngest daughter sketch out a plan for her day. She intended to read, play with her electronic toy, read, take photos with her digital camera, and then read some more. Nothing could please me more. Our daughters’ library cards are well used and both girls go into withdrawal if they do not have a couple of trips to the library each week.

My hope is that parents find a balance to ensure that their children have well-rounded lives where there is plenty of room for imaginative play, reading, exercise, joining a sports team, learning a musical instrument, taking an art or dance class, and having time left over for digit manipulation on their favourite electronic gadget!

4Cats Arts Studio

Monday, June 10th, 2013

The Best, Most Fun Art Studio Ever.

The urge to release the artist within is unleashed the moment you set foot inside 4Cats Dunbar Arts Studio. The walls are filled with colourful and joyful artwork, and with tempting art supplies all around, you feel inspired to sign up for a workshop, pronto.

Doing what you love for a living is something many of us dream about. Mel and Scott Baker, the duo behind 4Cats Dunbar, are the artists/curators/owners who have found a perfect environment to work together and fulfill their dreams of being involved in the creative process on a daily basis.

The affable couple are so at ease with one another that they complete each other’s sentences. They began dating in 2001 and married in 2009. They report that many of their dates involved creating artwork, which is how they still like to spend their time outside of the business.

Mel Baker began working at 4Cats in 2009 as an employee. She jumped at the prospect of purchasing the franchise when the opportunity presented itself in February 2010. Initially she was drawn to 4Cats because she is passionate about working with children, and with an undergraduate degree in child psychology she thought 4Cats would be a perfect place to work.  It didn’t take long for her to realize that she had merged her two interests, children and art, under one umbrella.

Scott Baker always dreamt of a creative job. He is a self-trained artist who has been putting pencil to paper for 30 years. He finds his work at 4Cats extremely satisfying thanks to the happy and vibrant environment. He is grateful for the opportunity to help others and at the same time to have the outlet to progress as an artist. His favourite artist is Picasso.  Mel Baker adores the entire Group of Seven; she narrows down Lawren Harris as her top pick.

The concept of 4Cats Arts Studio began in 2005 when founder and CEO Joey Simon first offered 4Cats classes out of the basement of a beautiful character home in Victoria. She chose the company name 4Cats to pay homage to 4Cats Cafe in Barcelona, Spain, which is where Picasso went with artist, poet and philosopher friends to discuss art and life and to make and show great art.

A mere eight years since its inception, 4Cats Arts Studio now has head offices in Vancouver and Toronto. With 58 franchises across Canada (Alberta, B.C. Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec), 4Cats Arts Studio has now gone global with locations opening in Australia, Mexico and the United States.

Who are 4Cat Dunbar’s clients? While children certainly are their key demographic, they also offer adult and family workshops.  The Bakers report that the five to eight year old classes tend to be the most popular, however, artists as young as two years old are enrolled in parent participation classes.

When Mel Baker is asked what she finds most satisfying about her work she immediately responds, “It’s the giggles.” Giggles come frequently in this creative environment where children have the liberty to experiment with a variety of art supplies, and explore different mediums. The laughter also results from the freedom to make a mess (which is not something that all children can do at home!), with the understanding that they will also help clean up afterwards, and that appears to go over well.

Inspiration for art classes is often drawn from the works of famous artists with a medium that corresponds, for instance, a Picasso class may utilize acrylic on canvas to produce cubist paintings and ceramics, while a Frida Kahlo class may use paper-mache and paint acrylic on canvas to create self-portraits.

In addition to creating art, some age-appropriate art history is offered to complement the class. Curators tell captivating and inspiring stories in a fun and humorous manner about the life and work of the artist. For example, did you know that Georgia O’Keefe loved nature so much as a child that she used to eat dirt? Scott Baker’s favorite class is the drawing class while Mel Baker enjoys the artist focus class. She says, “It’s always different as the projects change with each artist and I get to tell stories. It’s also really fun watching the kids’ paintings coming together each week, and to see the way each child interprets a painting differently.”

Beyond art classes, 4Cats Dunbar also offers birthday parties, as well as Pro-D day workshops and summer camps (which are open for registration now).

In any business what it really comes down to is customer satisfaction, and the following story is an endearing snapshot of their devoted fan base. A little boy and his family moved away from Dunbar to the Main Street area yet he adamantly refused to go elsewhere for art classes, and insisted on commuting to Dunbar 4Cats for two years.  Now that’s customer loyalty!

4Cats Arts Studio
4293 Dunbar Street
Vancouver BC V6S 2G1
Tel 604-569-2426

Stories, Games and Salmonberries at the Dunbar Branch Library

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Join the Dunbar Branch Library (4515 Dunbar Street) in May, for events, activities and contests for the whole family celebrating our great neighbourhood, local culture and our environment.

Dunbar kids –  try your skill at  the toughest “search and find” game in town!  Dunbar is once again hosting “find the Salmonberry” contest, May 1-31.

Listen to some great stories! For young children and babies, our Storytimes throughout the month of May will highlight nature and the great

Love your neighbourhood?  Wear your pride in Dunbar!
Back by popular demand, Dunbar is hosting a button-making workshop for kids, ages 8-14,  at 2pm on Saturday, May 26.

Everyone is welcome to drop in and take home some new reads on Dunbar and beyond.  For more information on all May events at Dunbar
Branch, please call: 604-665-3968.