For those of us without a cottage to escape to every weekend, or kids old enough to head off to Summer Camp, those long summer months can be a bit of a daunting time. The heat, the long days with kids to entertain and keep busy... you know the story. Well, we know it’s easy to start running out of ideas so we’re here to help! Summer is a great time to get outdoors and enjoy some quality time with your little ones, and we’ve got some great activities to try so that your whole family stays active, busy and happy together!
Okay, so this may involve a little drive if you are city folk, but it will be worth it! Get your beepers up at the crack of dawn and piled into the car, and take a trip out to the nearest lake! Though it’s not the most active of pastimes, fishing is calming, relaxing and rewarding, and allows you some quiet, quality time with your kids. Sitting together in a safe and serene setting and encouraging reflection and sharing will no doubt have a therapeutic effect for all of you. Plus, a little healthy competition is always good amongst siblings… who will catch the biggest fish?
Camp Out in the Back Yard
This one doesn’t involve any road trips! All you need is a tent or two, some sleeping bags, marshmallows and some kindling for the fire. This is a great intro to camping for young ones who aren’t quite ready to spend a full night in the real woods, and makes for really fun family bonding. Teach your kids to pitch a tent, build a fire, and any of the other skills they’ll need on a real camping trip. Then, show them some of the age old camping experiences, like s’mores and stories around the fire! An added bonus? This is a pretty inexpensive way to create an amazing memory for your family.
Plant a Garden
What better way to teach your kids about nurturing and caring for something than to have them plant a garden and see the plants through from seed to blossom? This is a fun way to bond with your kids, get them outdoors and moving around in the sunshine, and also to get them involved in a little housework without making it feel like a chore! Let them pick a few of their favourite things, whether its flowers and plants or a vegetable garden, and involve them in every step of the process from planting and caring for them to enjoying the (literal) fruits of their labour!
Have a Water Gun War
Want to really tire them out? Divide the family up into teams and have a water gun war! This is particularly great as the kids start to get a little older and have a ton of energy to burn! (If you’re opposed to water guns, you can always fill some balloons with water!) This activity will build team spirit, encourage family bonding and have them running around outdoors and getting a fantastic amount of cardio without even realizing it! Plus, once again, a little friendly competition never hurt anyone. Who’s got the best aim? Our bet’s on mom.
Go Paddle Boating
If you don’t have a cottage with a vast lake and a boat at your immediate disposal, paddle-boating is a great alternative. This activity gets you and the kids active out on the water, and can be done at the lake or even in your local park pond. Paddle boats are usually easy to find and available for rent, so why not try one out for the weekend? They’re also suitable for all ages and experience levels, so you can take the little ones too. Just don’t forget your lifejackets and whistles!
Now that you’re equipped with some fun ideas, we hope you have a blast trying some of these activities out with your kids this summer!
5 Fun Holiday Activities to Try with Your Kids! December 08 2015
Though this time of year is supposed to be filled with festive fun for the whole family, most of us parents secretly start to dread those couple of weeks when the kids are off school and kicking around the house, the relatives are in from out of town, and private time seems like a distant memory. Well, why not make the most of it and plan some activities that will keep everyone, including yourself, active and busy? Here are a few fun activities that will help you stay healthy, provide some bonding time, and hopefully relieve some of that tinsel tension this holiday season!
Go Snow Shoeing.
While walking through knee deep snow in your not so waterproof winter wear might not seem appealing, snow shoes offer a fun way to experience the winter wonderland that awaits, while keeping your feet dry! If you have somewhere up north to visit, removed from the main roads and hustle-bustle of the city, this activity is particularly fun. The best part is, it’s a safe and easy way for family members of all ages and abilities to stay active, so you can take your toddler and grandma too!
You may not have done this since you were your kids’ age, but you’re never too old! Bundle up, grab a few toboggans (or rent some if you don’t own any) and find your biggest local hill to slide down! You will no doubt take a couple of spills but seeing your kids giggle as you tumble will be well worth it. They’ll love that you’re getting involved and you’ll be surprised at how quickly your inner child emerges. If you have really young ones, you can take them down with you on the same sled. This is a way to include them in an activity that they might otherwise be too young for. It’s also a great way to get your kids outdoors and breathing some fresh air rather than playing Nintendo in the basement for their entire winter break.
Have a Snowman Contest.
Divide the family in half, and have each side build their best snowman. The losing team clears the dishes after dinner! This can also work with snow forts and snow angels- take your pick!
Bake Some Christmas Cookies Together.
If you’re getting tired of the outdoor activities, get your kids involved in some baking. Find a healthy recipe for Christmas cookies of your choice, and give everyone a task. This is a great way to spend time together and also helps your kids learn to work as a team, and fine tune their baking skills of course! Here’s an awesome healthy cookie recipe from Eating Well to get you started!
Orange Spice Molasses Cookies
Makes: 40 cookies
Active Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray or line with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.
To prepare the rolling sugar: Pulse 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon orange zest in a food processor until well combined. Place in a shallow dish and set aside.
To prepare cookie dough: Grind oats in a blender until they look like a fine powder, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping the sides as needed.
Beat butter and 1/3 cup granulated sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed for 5 minutes. Add brown sugar and 2 tablespoons orange zest and beat another 2 minutes. Add molasses, applesauce, egg yolk, vanilla, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, pepper and salt; beat on medium-high until incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl and beaters as needed.
Turn the mixer to medium and slowly add the ground oats. Scrape down the bowl; with the mixer on medium, slowly add whole-wheat flour. (The dough will be moderately sticky.)
Using a slightly rounded tablespoon of dough, roll into balls, then roll in the rolling sugar to coat. (If necessary, wet your fingers to help roll without sticking.) The zest will make the mixture slightly wet and it will clump; lightly brush off the excess so that just a thin coat is on the cookie. Place cookies about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake the cookies in batches until the edges are set and the tops are cracked, but the centers are still soft and puffy, about 10 minutes.
Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 8 minutes. Serve warm or cool on a wire rack.
Per cookie: 85 calories; 2 g fat (1 g sat, 0 g mono); 9 mg cholesterol; 16 g carbohydrates; 1 g protein; 1 g fiber; 48 mg sodium; 77 mg potassium.
We hope this helps bring back some Christmas spirit, and that you and your family have some fun this holiday season!
The Do's and Don'ts of Prenatal Exercise! September 16 2015
Hey active lady, is your pregnancy making you feel nervous about exercising? Well fear no more! While it’s important to change your exercise regimen slightly, avoiding high impact activities like gymnastics or dance, there are several types of classes and exercises that are not only safe during pregnancy, but beneficial to your changing body. For the longest time, doctors were advising pregnant women to take it as easy as possible during pregnancy. They were seen as these fragile creatures who could miscarry at the slightest strain. Well this is oh so false. Being inactive during pregnancy has actually been linked to excessive weight gain and a reduction in strength and flexibility which, let me tell you, is not helpful during labour. A little weight gain is to be expected, so all you fitness buffs- let it happen. Embrace your changing body, nourish it, and exercise regularly so you feel better about yourself physically and emotionally. Below are a few safe and reliable forms of exercise to try out during your pregnancy.
One main factor to remember when looking for new types of exercise during your pregnancy is that your center of gravity will shift. It’s important to partake in activities that don’t require a lot of impact, (such as jumping) or balance (such as gymnastics, trampoline, fast paced forms of dance, etc.). There are lower impact dance classes, like Barre, for instance, that can be a safe alternative. Barre is great because you’ve got something to hold on to, which reduces your risk of falling. Just try and sit out the big turns and jumps if you can, as your balance won’t be what it used to for a while.
YOGA & PILATES
Yoga is certainly the most popular and probably one of the most holistically beneficial forms of exercise to practice during pregnancy. With its focus on stretching the body, strengthening the core, and relaxing the mind, yoga is amazing for preparing the body and mind for childbirth. It’s a great way to stay calm and deal with any anxieties or stresses you may be feeling about your pregnancy or anything else. It also trains you to control your breathing as you learn to synchronize it with your movements, which is a huge asset in labour. A stress-free pregnancy is a healthy pregnancy!
Similarly to yoga, Pilates focuses on elongating the muscles and strengthening the core. As long as you don’t strain yourself by pushing your body beyond your limits, it is also a safe form of exercise during pregnancy. As in any exercise, it is important to take certain precautions when practicing yoga or pilates. For instance, as you progress to the second and third trimester, avoid inversions and positions that involve lying on your back. This can put extra pressure on your blood vessels and cause your blood pressure to drop. Most importantly- don’t do hot yoga! Extreme overheating and dehydration can have negative effects not only on you but the fetus as well, and can contribute to premature labour.
Swimming is a perfect form of exercise for pregnant women, and probably the safest as it’s literally zero impact! There’s no risk of injury, and the buoyancy of the water also makes you feel lighter and thus the exercises less straining, even though you are working several muscles and burning a ton of calories. Aside from just swimming laps for cardio, there are a ton of aqua aerobics classes you can take to build strength and endurance in the water.
Spinning can be a great way to get some exercise while pregnant, as it requires no impact and allows you to have complete control over the level of intensity to which you push yourself. As in any form of exercise, it is important to avoid overheating and dehydration, and to listen to your body and be aware of signs of over exertion like dizziness or a rapid heartbeat.
Basically, don’t shy away from exercising during your pregnancy. As long as you are in tune with your body and take the necessary precautions, exercise is a necessary factor in ensuring a healthy pregnancy and a smooth childbirth. It also has positive effects on your mental well-being, reducing stress and anxiety. Keeping your health and fitness at a normal level during your pregnancy will increase your strength during labour, and will also make it an easier transition to your pre-baby self after giving birth!
Back to Life, Back to Reality. How to Beat the Stress of September! September 09 2015
September always creeps up so quickly, doesn’t it? Back to school, back to work… back to reality. Just as we finally adjust to the gentle hum-drum of summer, fast-paced September comes around and hits you like a freight train… at least if you’re not prepared. Suddenly, you are required to keep track of an entire family’s increasingly busy schedules, while trying to kick it into high gear yourself whether it’s at work or at home.
Organization is the key to keeping calm, cool and collected during all the back to school / work madness. It may sound obvious, but if you decide to cut it close and start your prep just before school starts, you’ll find yourself in a frenzy. First, you’re going to figure out how many items the kids are missing (back to school supplies, knapsacks, clothes). Secondly, you’re going to realize you had signed them up for a ton of extra-curriculars, most of which overlap, which means you’ll either need to find help or arrange a carpool in the next two days, otherwise one of your kids will have to forfeit their activities. These are just a few examples of how poor organization can become a huge headache if you wait until the last minute to figure things out. Don’t learn the hard way! Here are a few easy ways to make sure you and your family stay on track this fall!
Anticipation and Planning
Part of good organization is being proactive rather than reactive. Think about what potential issues or curveballs could arise, and have a plan in place to deal with these should they occur. (Ex. look into your carpool situation long before the first week of school, set up emergency contacts, etc.) The same goes for work, don’t wait until the night before you head back from vacation to figure out what you’re behind on. Stay up to speed and constantly organize and prioritize when and how things will get done, even if you push them off until later.
Personally, I find that my external environment strongly influences my internal environment. As such, in order to feel organized and efficient, it is helpful to organize your belongings and make sure the house is in order. Try organizing your desk or stationery drawers, your room, your home office, whatever feels chaotic to you. Immediately you will feel more focused and in control of your life. Creating a monthly agenda or keeping a calendar in a main room of the house is a great way to keep everyone up to date with activities and ongoing events. Even if it's inevitably going to be a stressful day, at least you'll know it's coming!
Asking for help
Don’t try to do everything yourself. If you’re the planner, create a foolproof agenda for your family, but then make sure everyone contributes to making sure it is followed. If you are working and your kids want to attend an extra-curricular, establish a relationship with someone that you can call in case you’re not able to drive that day, such as another child’s parents. Just make sure that the next time they’re in a pinch you do your best to return the favor.
Keeping up with your routine
Something we’ve touched on a few times; keeping a fairly regular, steady routine is helpful in staying organized. The minute you let go of your routine, it’s easier to skip or forget about your daily tasks, and this is how things begin to slip.
If you missed the boat this year and found yourself facing the headache of last minute organization, stop freaking out. It's never too late to put a plan in place to get you back on track. Don’t let the stresses of September take you down! Staying organized will give you the confidence to face the chaos head on.
Routine and Consistency- the Secret behind Health & Wealth August 24 2015
We have all felt the positive effects of a good week of routine- that feeling of accomplishment. Yet, we seem to fall off of it so easily. Somehow when a task or goal is put down on paper or into your calendar it becomes much more of a priority, whether you’re super task oriented or not. No one likes to feel that they’re neglecting their responsibilities, so if they’re written down in front of us we’re more likely to get them done. After a while, this routine starts to feel like second nature to us. Basically, by creating a daily routine for ourselves, we naturally become more motivated and task driven, and we’re more likely not to be swayed by tempting distractions if we’re dedicated to a routine. Creating a daily schedule for yourself can help improve your productivity in every area of your life.
Incorporating fitness into your daily routine is key, even if you’re not a huge workout buff. Maintaining a decent level of physical activity on a daily basis is essential not only for our long term health, but for our mental well-being and stimulation as well. Sitting behind a desk and being inactive all day can start to take its toll. Those who make time in their day for physical exercise tend to be more energetic, positive and productive. Make sure to jot this one down in your schedule. It doesn’t matter when or what you do, just make sure to be active at least once a day!
Routine forces you to manage your time as it takes planning. To create a routine, we are forced to sit down, consider our tasks the following day/week, and how we can fit these in with our other personal daily functions (such as the gym, meals, social and family events, etc.) After a while, you will have expert time management skills, and will benefit from this in other areas such as your work life or planning out your kids millions of sports practices and school events!
Eating & Sleeping
This area is so underrated. People totally underestimate the value of a good night’s sleep and a regular meal schedule. Sleep (or lack thereof) is directly linked to our mental function and our general productivity. Without a routine, we tend to let our bedtime creep later and later until we find ourselves trying to function on 4 or 5 hours sleep for an entire day at the office. Not only will you feel like crap, your work will suffer. Just get those 7 to 8 hours! Set a bed time and stick to it. That simple.
In terms of eating, so many people wait until they are starving before eating a meal. This is a huge mistake. You should constantly be grazing on small snacks to keep your blood sugar levels stable and your mind alert. There’s a reason they call it brain food! Setting a meal time for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as snack times can be helpful in staying regular. If you want to go the extra mile, plan out what you’ll eat for each meal, too! (This will also help you stick to healthier options and resist temptation.)
Routine for Kids
This is probably the most important area to stress. Creating a consistency for children, particularly around meal and bed times, is essential for their mental development and overall well-being. The younger years are the biggest learning years, they are essentially little sponges soaking up all the information they come across! It is crucial that we set them up for success by providing structure, regular meals and sleep schedules so that they can focus on learning and growing into the strong young adults we want them to be. Following a routine from a young age will also help them develop a good work ethic and a healthier, more balanced lifestyle as they grow up.
Take the time to create a daily schedule for yourself. Write it down each night or at the beginning of the week to start out. Before you know it, you’ll be living and breathing your routine without a second thought, and living a much fuller, healthier and more productive life!
Hiring your Kids- Yay or Nay? August 06 2015
It's the age old question- should we hire our kids, or let them go it alone? Many parents are divided on this subject. On the one hand, in this economy, giving your kids a chance to gain valuable work experience from a young age can give them a real advantage. So many young adults fresh out of university without the connections or network needed to land a solid job are struggling to get even the most basic entry level positions. Sadly, this is now the nature of the work force. Often if you know someone, you'll get the job, even over another candidate with superior credentials. It may seem wrong, but it's a fact. With this in mind, my take on the subject would be yes, hire your kids. However, there is a fine line between helping them gain experience and get their foot in the door, and making things too easy for them. It's important to make the experience as authentic as possible, and beyond getting them the job, leaving them to their own devices. There are a few steps that should be taken should you decide to bring on your child as an employee, where possible.
Start Practising at a Young Age
It's crucial to help a child develop a healthy work ethic from a young age. By creating a chore system in which they do work for a monetary reward, (allowance) you can begin to establish a business relationship, and also get a lot more done around the house!
Start Them at the Bottom
There's no quicker way to give your kid an ego and unrealistic perspective than to hand them an intermediate or senior role that they haven't earned. (Not to mention a quick way to earn them the resentment and disrespect of their hard working coworkers.) Start your child at the most entry level position and let them work their way up through performance.
Have Them Work Under Someone Else
Allowing your children to work under someone else offers a more authentic experience. They will be more likely to try harder and thus be more productive. Your kids may respect you, but they know you are and will always be their parent. This doesn't set a good foundation for a employer/employee relationship. Once they are in the door, it is best to have as little involvement in their role as possible. It may end up that through good performance they work their way up to that level, but at that point they have earned the position. Obviously in smaller companies this may be difficult, but where possible it is best to keep your distance from the beginning.
Leave Work at the Office
Discussing business at every family dinner can get exhausting, create tension that can potentially damage relationships over time, and allow for negotiation to occur regarding your child's role or salary. It is important to stay in line with the "authentic experience" here and not allow these conversations outside of the workplace. They wouldn't be able to nag their boss about their job over dinner at most other jobs, so why should they be able to here?
Long story short, it can be beneficial for your kids to get their foot in the door in an otherwise tough workforce. If you're in a position to hire them yourself, go for it. The foot in the door, however, is the only assistance they should get. Let them take it from there! There is nothing more valuable than a good work ethic and healthy perspective on life, based on earning your achievements.