Category Archives: Outdoors

An Afternoon of Adventure

My boys have been in many summer camps this year that they have been craving some time to do whatever they want. We decided that this afternoon would be our afternoon of adventure.

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Sugaring Off!

There is no better way to relax than being outdoors under a bright blue sky. This is how I spent my morning today. In a truly Canadian manner, I was in Ontario hiking through snow covered trails with about 25 children under the age of 7 (no coffee, alcohol or beach in sight). I was on a field trip with my son’s school, Building Blocks Nursery school, at the Kortright Centre, http://www.kortright.org/ Ontario’s premier environmental and renewable energy education and demonstration centre, learning about how maple syrup is made.

I had never been to the centre and found myself learning a lot as well as having fun. We started with a pretty basic movie about how maple trees might feel during the changing of the seasons. We then went for a great guided walk through the trees to see how the process of collecting sap to making syrup works. Sandra, our guide was wonderful at gearing her presentation and questions and answers to the children in the group. She asked them lots of questions – What is the symbol of Canada? Where do Canadians use a maple leaf? (on our flag, on our penny, our national hockey team, and the Toronto Maple Leafs to name a few), when a tree is too old for tapping is it still useful? She led us around the trail stopping at specific locations to teach the children how to tap a maple tree, the types of spouts they have used, how sap is caught from the tree and turned into maple sugar and maple syrup. We could see the pails hanging from the trees to catch the sap – or so we thought. As we walked closer to the sugar shack we could see blue and green pipes running through the forest. The sap now runs through these tubes downhill into the valley directly into the sugar shack.

A few little facts that I picked up:
A maple tree needs to be 40 years old before it can be tapped with 1 hole for collecting sap.
A maple tree can have a maximum of 4 spouts tapped into it (meaning it is at least 160 years old).
Maple syrup is mostly water with a little bit of sugar.
No one really knows how maple syrup was first discovered.

The Kortright Centre is hosting their Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival from March 5th to April 10th. There are lots of activities for parents and children to learn more about our truly Canadian gift from nature – maple syrup.

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Youth Leadership Camps Canada – Is this for real?

Today Emily, age 13 and Matthew age 9, told me about their amazing week at Youth Leadership Camps Canada.  In addition to the ziplining, morning wake up swims, canoeing and arts, I heard about their house games and social skills that they developed. After hearing about their experiences, I checked out the camp online http://www.ylcc.com/youth-leadership-camps-canada/.

Their motto is ‘Move You To Fly’. They want: To provide each and every camper with tools to succeed. To achieve better results in school, to have more self confidence, to manage their time and set achievable real goals.

I think it looks and sounds amazing – and another camp that I wish I could go to! Now I am planning for a few years down the road when both my boys are ready (and me) to try an overnight camp. So many things to do – so little time!

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Filed under Outdoors, Under The Influence

Picture This!

As we prepared for the long weekend with lots of family (ie. Adults, no other children) at the cottage, two Canon PowerShot cameras appeared – one each for our boys – giving them permission to explore technology while creating and capturing weekend memories. 

Self portrait by a 5 year old

The dynamic duo quickly took to creating crazy videos – imaginations running wild. They were journalists, storytellers, cartoon characters coming to life.  Then they were natural, wildlife and self portrait photographers – taking pictures of every duck, frog, wildflower, statue, tree in the garden as well as flames dancing in the fire.

Our eldest captured family members as they gazed upon an activity, relaxed on the boat or sleeping on the deck. Our youngest was an abstract artist – snapping portions of subjects – giving the viewer the opportunity to interpret what they could see – portions of deck chairs, t-shirts, waves.

Our eldest is now creating a photojournal and our youngest has created a brag book of everything he has seen. Either way they are expressing themselves and excited about what they are doing. I hope this has started a passion for photography for both of them – if nothing else some great memories have been captured!

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Filed under Impromptu Activities, Outdoors

A Downpour of Learning at the Peel Children’s Water Festival

On this brillant felt-like-a mid-summer day, I had the pleasure of being a parent volunteer with my son’s grade 2 class field trip to the Peel Children’s Water Festival. I had no idea what to expect – what would the activities be and how much fun would the children have?

at Heart Lake Conservation Area

Celebrating its 15th year, the festival is outstanding for children between the ages of 6 and 10! There are many edu-taining activities for the children to have hands on learning about water conservation, ecology and safety. Each station had well versed staff explaining the activity and then the children were able to test their knowledge, experiment, and create problems and find solutions.

The group of 4 children I was with were excited by each activity – whether it was discovering how germy their hands are, determing how much water you save when you take shorter showers, or talking with the Earth Rangers about our Shrinking Wetlands.

Freddy Fusion Science Magic Show was captivating for children, parents and teachers. Freddy did a great job at describing the science but making it look like magic. His optical illusions with growing and shrinking heads created shrieks from the audience.  His sidekick, Bill the Duck, was a big hit.  My son hasn’t stopped talking about the toilet paper trick.

If you are looking for a good quality family outing this weekend, I give the Peel Children’s Water Festival – 5 stars.  http://www.peelregion.ca/pw/chwaterfest/ Some of the activities from the school trip will continue and others such as the Wild Wetland Splash Pad, Extreme Bike Demo and Canadian Raptor Conservancy will be added. Be sure not to miss Freddy Fusion Science Magic Show! You and your children will love it.

Pack a picnic and lots of water and make a day out of it! Admission is free!

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Summer Activities: When Children Stretch Their Independence

Growing up in Montreal, summer days were filled being a pool rat at the local outdoor community pool – swim team and meets, diving team, synchro, swim lessons and as we got older – waterpolo and lifeguarding courses. Once I was 8, I was able to go to the pool by myself without an adult. Boy did I feel grown up!

While there aren’t outdoor community pools in my Ontario neighbourhood, I have found a camp that I think gives my child a similar sense of independence, Kids Inc. Camp. (www.kidsinc.ca)

Outstanding Summer Camp

Never having been to a day camp away from a familiar setting, my eldest son was nervous but a little excited as he started his first day at Kids Inc. last summer. He came home on day one exhausted but exhilarated as he described all of the activities he had tried. He was most impressed with the outdoor pool and how he had passed the required swim test. Before he fell asleep at the dinner table, he detailed what he could expect the next day – a game of flag in the forest and the tuck shop!

This summer he is going back for another week. He is quite excited about trying Rock Climbing for the first time, the main event with all kinds of crazy events and of course, swimming in the outdoor pool. He can’t wait for Friday when the week’s theme of Survivor comes to life and the campers are divided into tribes. What will they have to do as challenges? Eat gummy worms in chocolate pudding?! Oh what messy, ooey-gooey fun!

I have been so impressed with the owners, Mary-Kay and Jason, who do an outstanding job of putting parents at ease, giving the children an incredible experience and managing their staff.  As an example of how fantastic they are:  We registered my youngest son for Kids Inc last year as well. However, he had just turned 4  and had only ever had half days of school. On his first day at Kids Inc, he cried and cried and ended up napping for hours. Mary-Kay called me a few times during the day to give me updates on him. When I picked him up at the end of the day, she tried hard to convince him to come back the next day. While there was no hope, she left me with the impression that she absolutely cares about each camper.

Since last summer, my eldest son seems more self-confident. He will happily initiate conversation with other children. He will actively engage in new activities that he thinks look like fun. I believe that his experience at Kids Inc. Camp has helped him become more independent. As his parent, I can help to facilitate his growth through activities such as these and enjoy watching him grow.

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Filed under Organized Fun, Outdoors, Valuable Partners

Slow Down To Speed Up

Days are crazy busy with more meetings, more emails, more errands, more after school activities, and more homework. With everything going faster and faster, eventually there could be a pile up at the Hallsworth house as we collapse needing more rest and relaxation.

This year, we decided some impromptu fun is just what we need on the weekends to break out of the cycle. On one of the first bright sunny spring days we tried out our new bikes, including the ride-along attachment for my youngest, on the TransCanada Trail. Just us – no blackberries, no cell phones, no DS, no MP3 players, no friends – just us and our bikes.  

With a stop at the general store as the treasure at the end of the trail, the boys set off as if they were in a race. My 8 year old zoomed ahead, quickly learned that not all dogs were on leashes and how to politely ask people to make room to pass. Meanwhile my youngest, pedaling (or not) on his ridealong with me, often pleaded – “Go faster, mommy. No stopping.” At one pit stop, where I rested my saddle seat, he loudly exclaimed, “Get back on the bike. I have lots of energy.”

We all took something away from this adventure. Apart from rediscovering some infrequently used muscles, I found a new fun family outing that doesn’t cost a lot of money, is great exercise, clears my head of worries and facilitates the creation of family memories. Plus  if all goes well, the boys are worn out at the end leading to a good night’s sleep. The boys discovered the joy of simple activities that don’t need batteries – counting the number of dogs we meet, racing sticks down the stream at the picnic stop, and setting goals for how far can we go next time.

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