Before you know it, Canadians will be outside in droves, stock-piling as much Vitamin D as they can get. My family is no exception. Just like that first meal on an outdoor patio is the sweetest, so too is the pilgrimage to Canadian Tire for everything we’ll need to enjoy every last second of summer.
Weird and totally useless fact about me: I love the smell of Canadian Tire. Maybe it’s similar to why I love the smell of freshly cut grass, or clover in a field—it just reminds me of summer. I digress.
Here’s one thing I do know for sure about summer in Canada (because it happens every year). One day you’re bundled in a parka and the next, you're in full freak-out mode because: HOLY-CRAP-SUMMER-ARRIVED-OVERNIGHT! Let’s not do that this year.
Starting April 15th, Canadian Tire will start delivering its WOW Guide to millions of doorsteps across Canada. This guide is filled with thousands of products, countless ideas, and pages of inspiration that will help you make the most of the season. Where things get really exciting though, is the digital component of the guide. This part includes an expanded product assortment, how-to, and DIY tutorials from experts. Plus recipes for everything from backyard dining to camping in style. Simply download the free Canadian Tire app to your phone (find it in the App Store or on Google Play), then hover your phone over the products and digital extras will appear on every page in the catalogue. The Digital WOW Guide is so simple, even your kids can join in on the fun by navigating easily through the pages. Actually, let's be honest, your kids will probably do better at it than you!
So with spring and summer top-of-mind, I think it's safe to say we can now pack away the snow pants, take the winter tires off, and start planning for summer 2016. I’ve got five fun summer activities for you and your family to try this year!
I love that fishing doesn’t have to break the bank, it’s something every member of your family can do. It’s a great way to spend time with your together, not to mention, it gets everyone outside! Fishing should be a rite of passage for every Canadian kid.
Now, the fun part. Don’t be intimidated if you’ve never gone fishing before. Everything you need to start and continue fishing is in the Canadian Tire WOW Guide. You can even purchase the things you need through the app and pick up in store.
Not sure if fishing is for you? Every year in Ontario, families can fish without a license for one week in July. This is how they hook you. Pun, totally intended. Don’t stress too much about that license fee though. Kids under 17 do not require a license at any time, and adult fees are extremely reasonable and can be acquired at your local Canadian Tire.
A few years ago, my family started whitewater rafting each summer. While I totally recommend it, it can be a little extreme for some. Getting out on the water in a kayak is an almost zen-like experience for me, not to mention, fantastic exercise.
Here's what I love about kayaking:
Extremely light and super easy to transport to the water of your choice, kayaks are a smart choice for active families. With just over 2 million lakes across Canada, not to mention, oceans on three sides, you should have no problem finding somewhere to embrace your new sport.
I didn’t really understand the allure of stand up paddleboarding at first, but it’s one of those sports you have to try to truly embrace. Perfect for calm lakes and rivers, paddleboards are a good way to get exercise because it's a great core workout and also great for your arms and legs. My daughters and I have even been trying yoga on our paddleboards, which often results in more comedy than meditation...it's the effort that counts! The flat surface of a paddleboard is also very conducive to just floating around with a good book. Summer is all about enjoying those lazy moments, too. I won’t judge.
Paddleboard or kayak? That really depends what you prefer but our family has one of each and we’ve managed to make everyone happy with that balance.
Before you run away screeching, just hear me out on camping. I fancy myself a bit of "glamper" and if you’re thinking back to the days of sleeping on hard surfaces with zero luxuries, I’m here to tell you that camping has come a long way, baby. Tents now have divided rooms and can sleep up to 12 people! Hammocks and air mattresses mean you can sleep in blissful comfort. Coleman even has a Hot Water on Demand unit you can bring along for the perfect cup of tea or for a warm washcloth! Camping can be as basic or luxurious as you’d like.
Here’s why I love camping: I can’t get THIS in my backyard:
A wi-fi free environment, in a wide open space with a spectacular view. Now that’s a little piece of heaven.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could just grab our fishing rods, kayaks, paddleboards and head off into the great Canadian wilderness for the summer? Here’s the rub: those darn jobs we have just don’t work with the kids’ summer holidays. No worries, there’s still lots fun to be had right in your own backyard. You don't have to blow the budget finding it either. Here are 10 fun ways to bring Summer WOW to your backyard this summer:
If you need even more inspiration, be sure to download the Canadian Tire app, grab your WOW Guide and a coffee, and start searching. This is by far, the most fun I’ve had planning my summer in a long time.
When it comes to food, I’m pretty sure that as a society, we’ve gone off the rails. I first started to notice our unhealthy connection with food when my kids started school. It seemed to me that every occasion revolved around junk food. A kid’s birthday meant cupcakes for everyone. When parents bring cupcakes or treats for birthdays, this meant 20 to 30 days in the school year included unhealthy food. Add in Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Christmas, Easter, pajama day, movie day, and bake sales. It seemed to me that schools may have been the biggest enabler in the obesity epidemic.
Thankfully, many others were noticing this alarming trend and in 2008, the Healthy Food for Healthy Schools policy was introduced to restrict these days to ten per year. By then though, I was noticing the trend to gravitate to the unhealthiest choices were everywhere. Where did we go wrong as a society? Let me count the ways: deep fried Snickers bars, doughnut burgers, deep fried butter, bacon wrapped corn dogs, and wait for it—a 20,000 calorie burger. It’s like we’re clamouring to see who can come up with the unhealthiest food choice of all.
Childhood obesity has been rising steadily in Canada for decades. According to the Childhood Obesity Foundation, between 1979 and 2004, obesity among children aged 2 to 17 increased from 15% to 26%. If this current trend continues, it is estimated that by 2040, 70% of adults aged 40 years and over will either be overweight or obese. That means an increase in heart disease, cancer, strokes and type 2 diabetes — not to mention the inability to enjoy life to the fullest. The problem is real and it’s time to start swinging that pendulum the other way and what better place to start than in schools.
Coupled with the Ontario government’s Healthy Food for Healthy Schools mandate, the Metro Green Apple School Program (GASP) aims to help children adopt healthy eating habits early in life. Now in its seventh year, GASP encourages Ontario students to adopt healthy eating habits by participating in projects that will have positive impacts on their home, school, and community. GASP has supported the establishment and completion of hundreds of gardens, cooking workshops, cookbooks, and food programs all across Ontario.
Shhhh, did you hear that? That’s the sound of a movement gaining momentum and this Ontario mom is standing and applauding wildly. We need to take the time to show our kids the connection between healthy food and a healthy body and how their brains work better when they are fueled with good food rather than quick sugar hits. It’s time to turn the tide so this generation outlives their parents and sadly, I only wish I was being melodramatic saying that.
In 2016, GASP is focusing on getting young people to eat more fruits and vegetables, which are the foundations of a healthy diet. The goal is simple: teach our kids that fruits and vegetables are enjoyable and tasty to eat, so their reflex reaction will be to grab the apple and not the bag of chips. I'm happy to know that in my hometown, Ottawa, the GASP program is wildly effective in two area schools this year.
At Churchill Alternative, coordinators of the program set out to show kids the connection between good eating and feeling good. They wanted kids to recognize how they felt after eating fruit. After chatting with a representative, I learned that each week they have 200 apples delivered to the school and within 24 hours they're all gone! Students are asking for apples and fruit is becoming a "go to" snack rather than less healthy choices. Megan Egerton, who helps run the program at Churchill Alternative, thinks the success is measured by how excited the kids are each week and how quickly the apples disappear. She says that kids are not only reaching for these healthy snacks but asking for it!
Students enrolled in the Norman Johnston Alternative food program are helping to plan and prepare a weekly salad bar during morning break for all students. Healthy bean salads, quinoa salads, whole wheat couscous salads, whole wheat pasta salads, and fruit salads are routinely offered. According to Lorraine Zuccato, who helps co-ordinate the program, students are open to trying new and healthy foods and look forward to days when there is food available to them during break.
These are just two of the brilliant ways grant money from the Metro Green Apple School Program are being used across Ontario. In the seven years since its inception, nearly 4,000 schools have benefited from the GASP program. That means a real impact is being made with thousands of kids across Ontario! If you'd like to get your kid's school involved with this amazing initiative for the 2016/17 school year, be sure to share the www.greenapple.metro.ca website with their educators. The time to get kids loving real food is now!
When it comes to homework, I’m a hands-off mama. I already did my time, so I have zero interest in sitting down and doing more with my kids. That’s not to say that I don’t value homework — I do. It’s just that my time is better spent showing my kids how to be self-learners and how to develop homework habits, and not by actually doing their homework.
I will admit, it hasn’t been an easy path. A lot of the ideas I had surrounding homework just didn’t work for my always-on-the-go family, so we had to rethink our approach. Here are five simple things we’ve implemented that have made homework time a lot easier on all of us.
I used to subscribe to the "homework first, everything else later" mentality. That meant when my kids got home from school, they couldn’t do anything else until their homework was done. Between extra-curricular activities and just the craziness of day-to-day life, it wasn’t sustainable. Now we work with a day-planner to schedule when homework will happen. Some days it’s before practice, other days it’s after. Set up a schedule that will work for your family's activities to find what will work best for you.
I don’t know how and I don’t know when, but somewhere along the way, math got a makeover and became "the new math.” I’m not sure what was wrong with the old math but the first time I tried to show my eldest daughter how to solve an addition problem and she shouted “THAT’S NOT HOW IT’S DONE, MOMMY!” I was out. From that point on, we deferred to the experts: their teachers, tutors, or a an education centre like Kumon. I actually wish I had heard of Kumon years ago because I love their philosophy.
The Kumon approach was started in 1954 by Toru Kumon, a math teacher and father, who was looking for a way to instill the love of learning into his son. He developed short, incremental assignments to helped his son master a concept before moving on. His technique was so successful that by Grade 6, his son was solving calculus problems. Fast forward to today and Kumon's unique approach has helped millions of students achieve educational success by empasizing the importance of establishing strong daily routines. Creating strong daily routines can help boost your kid's confidence. Once enrolled in their programs, progress is extremely gradual and designed to move at your kid’s pace. If your kid needs help with math, reading, or any other subject, don't be afraid to get help from those who can offer it.
When we're sitting at an airport, in a waiting room, or stuck in traffic, I get my kids using that time to complete schoolwork or practice skills. Sometimes they do it without me asking, mostly not, but at some point they will make the connection that time spent waiting is a good time to get other things done. Try it with your kids, you'll be surprised to see how much can get done in all that waiting time.
Homework isn't the only way to create routine for your kids. Establishing consistency with chores and extra-curricular activities is a great way to boost kids' confidence and foster a sense of responsibility. For years, my kids have had the same morning routine expected of them — make your breakfast, pack your lunch, and beds must be made before you leave the house. If they miss a day, I don't sweat it too much because life can get busy. As soon as it starts to become too loosey goosey though, there is a consequence. For example, room is not done in the morning? No tech in the evening. When it comes to extra-curricular activities, it's up to them to ensure they have their bag and water, and they have to be ready to get out the door on time. If they're late, it's not my fault and it's up to them to explain to their coaches why they didn't get there on time. Needless to say, we've rarely been late because the responsibility is on them.
My 11-year-old wants to be a veterinarian, so on a recent visit to our vet, she came along and asked him to tell her what she needed to do. I was expecting him to tell her to get good grades and go to university. He actually looked her straight in the eyes and said, "You came to me just in time. You have no idea how competitive things will be for you." To my surprise and delight, he actually mapped out what she needs to do starting right now. He then he told her to come talk to him anytime. It was incredibly motivating for her and the message to focus on high grades and to keep on top of her homework now meant more coming from a role model than from me. I can't say that she'll be a vet for sure, but any opportunity you have to light a spark in your child, take it! Listen to what your kids want to do in the future and try your best to connect them with someone who inspires.
As a parent, it has taken me a long time to realize that I can't be an expert on everything. When it comes to school and homework, I'm all too happy to find the people who are, so I can focus on being my kids' cheerleader. That's a job I'm an expert at.