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Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Ontario’s Minister of Children and Youth Services has penned an open letter to Toronto’s City Council making his case for why the city’s current street hockey ban should be lifted.  Council is expected to debate the issue later this week.

Michael Coteau says Ontario’s capital city can lead the way for other places around the province to encourage outdoor play.

“Road hockey bans are commonplace in municipalities across Ontario and I am hoping your council will show leadership by making it clear that children can and should play safely on neighbourhood streets,” he said.  “A vote to overturn the prohibition and let kids play will challenge other municipalities to abolish similar road hockey bans in their own communities.”

In his letter, Coteau, a father to two young daughters and MPP for Toronto’s Don Valley East constituency, stressed the many upsides of physical activity that go beyond on the obvious health and wellness benefits.  He said life skills such as communication, patience, perseverance and teamwork go hand-in-hand with an active lifestyle.

At paramount issue in this debate is the safety risk posed to children who are playing in the street. Council will also weigh the potential hazard for motorists as well as possible interference with city maintenance.  A city staff report recommends keeping the ban in place for those reasons.

“Transportation Services believes that the “Status Quo” option represents the best balance of competing needs. Recognizing that street hockey, basketball, and other sports activities do occur on public roadways, there are legitimate safety and liability concerns with permitting this activity,” the report states.

Coteau says he’s taken safety under consideration in his proposal and believes there are ways to encourage physical activity while also ensuring the well-being of children across the city.

“The obvious issue at hand is the safety of our children, and I agree that our kids need to be safe, but there has to be a better way than denying them of their right to play,” he said.  “That’s why I am urging all City Councillors to think carefully about this debate.”


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There is no question that the best source from which to get your vitamins and minerals is by eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy, grains, protein and omega 3 rich fish.  The fact is many families are on the go and busy and quite often the side of vegetables is not served at the drive thru and the only fruit you may get your kids to eat is a glass of orange juice.

Whether or not to take a multivitamin, or any vitamin, depends on a number of factors.  If you eat a well balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, fatty fish, dairy, eggs, grains and meat and alternatives then it is likely you don’t need an additional source of vitamins.

If you are lactose intolerant, your kids are picky eaters, there are food allergies in your family or you are eating on the run more nights than you are sitting at the kitchen table, then there may be health benefits to taking vitamins.

Key Vitamins

This list shows the key nutrients that should be a part of your families diet to maintain optimal health.  If you know you are not getting these vitamins on a regular basis, then looking for a multivitamin that includes this alphabet on its ingredient list may be a good option for your family.

Vitamin A for eyes, skin and immune system found in mango, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, and grapefruit.

Vitamin B for energy and creating red blood cells found in peas, spinach, sweet potatoes, avocado, bananas and mango.

Vitamin C for growth and tissue repair and stronger immune system from oranges, red peppers, broccoli, grapefruit and strawberries.

Vitamin D for strong bones, teeth as well as nerves, muscle and immune systems found in eggs, dairy, chicken, beef and fortified juice and cereals.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant important to boost your immune system and fight viruses and is found in spinach, blackberries, kiwi and raspberries.

Omega 3s –  Protect against heart disease, reduces symptoms of hypertension, depression, attention deficit disorder (ADHD), dementia, joint pain and boosts immune system.  Found in fatty fish such as mackerel, sardines, salmon and in some fortified eggs and juice.

Fiber – in addition to preventing constipation it helps lower blood cholesterol, controls blood sugar levels and may also help prevent and treat a variety of diseases and conditions, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity. Good amounts of fibre is found in peas, apples, pears, grains, barely, and beans.

If you have healthy fruit and vegetable eaters but they don’t like fish, then perhaps just an Omega 3 supplement is what is right for your family.   Talk to your family doctor to determine if you or your kids need to take a multi vitamin.  They will review your typical weekly meal plan to determine what nutrients may be lacking and then look to increase those foods in your diet, or consider a supplement.

Remember, it’s the nutrients we need and not artificial colouring, flavours or sweeteners. Read the label carefully for the medicinal and non-medicinal ingredients and choose one that is specially formulated to meet your needs.

Good nutrition for all ages starts with serving a wide variety of whole, fresh foods as much as possible. A good multivitamin acts like a back up plan and is a great way to enhance a balanced, healthy diet – not replace it.  Including a daily multivitamin alongside fruits and vegetables will help to ensure your family gets all of the vitamins they need to be healthy and active!

LINK – kids need a multi vitamin –


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by Lianne Castelino

It is steadily coming out of the closet.  And that's a good thing.  The words mental health or mental illness are not as taboo as they used to be.  Millions upon millions of dollars have been earmarked, recently, for all kinds of programs from all kinds of organizations (Bell comes to mind) and now the Ontario government has announced it is granting $257 million over 3-years to help youth cope with issues ranging from eating disorders to anxiety.

Any additional money, in principle, and IF USED CORRECTLY, should help.

But I would suggest we are MISSING the point.

Again, addressing the end result and not the symptoms of the statistics is the issue here.  

Yes 1 in 5 kids in Ontario have been identified as dealing with mental health issues (9,000 in all).  And nearly 4,000 First Nations kids have been identified as struggling with a host of mental illnesses including substance abuse and suicide.

Let's look at the symptoms for a minute:

How many of these kids come from single-family or 'broken' homes.  (I am not suggesting a two-parent home is always ideal..there are many reasons for and against either side).

How many live in homes where both parents are working and must rely on daycare, nannies, babysitters, after-school programs during those critical before or after-school hours.

How many of these kids lived in divorced homes — shuttling back and forth from one parent to another or listening to one parent or another rip the other?

How many parents spend time on a regular basis talking to their kids and keeping the lines of communication open?

How many of these parents are educated about what to look for where mental health issues are concerned?

How many of these kids are left to take care of themselves by themselves at various points during the week to accommodate family schedules?

Have any of these so-called experts (government, childcare, etc.), ever visited a First Nations reserve to witness first hand the abject poverty and utter hopelessness that many of these families live in (for the most part).  (I happen to have seen this on several occasions as a news reporter and I can tell you it is nothing short of shameful that this continues to be allowed to happen in Canada. Let's start with the fact that more than 75% of First Nations live without access to clean running water.)  Wouldn't you be depressed as a youth?

I could go on.

The point being, it seems to me that there are all kinds of issues that seem to be afflicting kids of this generation, that our generation or older generations did not seem to have to contend with in such massive numbers.

A large part of it, I would argue, can be traced to the family situation.  

If we as a society spend more of our time, money and effort not just saying we need to 'build' stronger families but actually DOING IT, I would bet these types of issues would decrease.

How do we build stronger families?  

Make the work-week 4-days long.  Give families the 5th day to do family things.  This would also take more people off the unemployment rolls with more part-time jobs being available as a result.


Make the work day shorter so people can be with their kids during those critical after-school and dinner hours.

Make pre-natal classes mandatory across the country with quality instructors and quality materials.  Many people are having children with absolutely NO CLUE how to properly take care of him or her.  

Give parents who stay-at-home to raise their children a salary, a meaningful salary so they don't need to worry about money as they carry out their critically important work.

There are more ideas, but I will stop there.

We clearly have the money, don't we?  If we are putting another $257 million towards it.

The bottom line is this:  Children need their parents.  Children want their parents.  Parents need to be present in their kids lives, not just via skype and on the phone.  If this occurs then much of these 'mental issues' could well be resolved or never happen in the first place. 

The caveat of course, is parents need to understand their role.  This means not hovering and suffocating their kids so they become dependent, and spineless.  That's a whole other blog.

There are genuine mental disorders that need medical intervention, but those are in the minority.

If we are all just ships passing in the night, parents and kids, then what do we expect?

All this amounts to basic common sense to me.  No costly study, professional analysis or further research required.



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by Lianne Castelino

The numbers are alarming and disappointing, to say the least.  Canadian children get an F in the 2011 Active Healthy Kids report card on physical activity for the 5th year in a row.  Truly disturbing, but not entirely shocking frankly.

The report found that, “kids are sedentary 59 per cent of the time between 3 and 6 p.m., getting only 14 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.” Again, sad but not surprising.  

In our frenetic world of mostly double income households, two parents working outside the home, electronic entertainment devices of all shapes, sizes and skill levels and paranoia over free play — do we really have to wonder?

Of course it is challenging to overcome any one of the obstacles listed above.  But, it is WORTH the effort.

A few strategies that I've come across over the years that make sense, and some which are used in our household:

1.  Ban all electronic gaming devices during the school week.  (They will forget they are gone in no time.)

2.  Re-instate electronic gaming devices, on a schedule, after school on Friday and during the weekend.  Limit use to 30 minutes in one sitting and likely 60 minutes per day.

3.  Strategically place tv remotes in non visible areas.  AKA — Hide them.  (Again, after the initial shock, they will not know they are missing.)  This can apply to the time after school, before dinner and until homework is complete.  In other words, remotes appear after dinner and homework, if desired.

4.  Open the front door or the back door and let them go out and play for at least 60 minutes after school.

5.  If picking up after school, let them run around in the yard with their friends before taking them home.

6.  Go out for a walk after dinner (except in bone-chilling cold or during torrential rain).  Reacquaint yourself with the park.

7.  Walk to and from school.

8.  Go for a family bike ride after dinner.

9.  If accompanying a child to an activity, take other child/children for a walk around the block, inside the arena, or up and down stairs.

10. Pack a fruit snack in their bag for after school on the bus or on the way home.  Or have a plate of sliced up fruit or veggies and dip waiting for them when they walk in ravenous after school.

11.  Walk away from the frozen food section of the grocery store and the processed food aisles.  You can do it.

Certainly not brain surgery, but tried and true methods that work with children of all ages.  It may take some getting used to but persistence pays off for both parent and child.

It has moved way past being an option.  It is a SERIOUS HEALTH issue that's costing us lives and money.  

And any way — do you know a kid or a parent who would accept an F on any report card?

Related video:

Kelly Murumets, President and CEO of Participaction, shares more simple tips on how parents and kids can improve their physical activity and fitness levels. 





Despite the reminders that media and health organizations alike constantly release, obesity is still considered an epidemic throughout a variety of countries the world over.

From Germany to the U.S., the obesity epidemic has not lessened and Canada is no exception. Unfortunately, this epidemic doesn’t just affect adults. Only 12% of Canada’s children between the ages of five and 19 are active enough to meet Canada’s physical activity guidelines, which say that 90 minutes each day of exercise or play is essential for children to stay healthy.

Kelly Murumets, President and CEO of ParticipACTION, the Canadian organization that promotes physical activity and sport participation throughout Canada, explains that healthy habits need to begin early in life.

“Lifestyle habits set in the early years predict obesity and health outcomes later in childhood and even into adulthood,” says Murumets. “We do not currently have physical activity guidelines for children five and under in Canada, yet the consensus is that all kids aged one to five should be getting two hours of physical activity per day, spread out over many sessions and as part of play, games, active transportation and recreation.“

So what’s stopping Canada’s children from playing and staying active? Murumets says today’s biggest culprit in preventing kids from getting enough physical activity is “screen time” – that is, too much time in front of computers and televisions. However, Murumets stresses that no one person in a children’s life is to blame for what ParticipACTION brands as the ‘physical inactivity crisis’.

“As a society, we have engineered many natural opportunities to [take physical activity] out of our lives,” says Murumets. “We drive cars instead of walking or cycling, we use snow throwers instead of shovels and we work in front of computers instead of in more physical roles. We all know we should be getting active, but our busy lives seem to get in the way.”

Despite the apparent difficulty parents face in incorporating physical activity into their family’s lives due to the daily routine of work and school, ParticipACTION has been conducting research since it was founded in 1971 to develop helpful tips that everyone can easily adapt to get active.

While Murumets concedes that “solving the inactivity crisis will require commitment at every level of society…[it] doesn’t mean you can’t do something today to help overcome it. “

Murumets therefore encourages parents to go for a walk after dinner with their kids, kick a ball around the yard, or take a trip to a local park so children can run around with friends and play games. While not only ensuring that their children “get moving,” a parent’s support in getting their kids active results in a number of positive effects.

“Active play is fun, but it’s certainly not frivolous,” says Murumets. “It’s critical for the healthy development of children, as it gets them moving, and helps build social skills, imaginations and self-esteem.“

For more information on getting your kids active, visit ParticipACTION website at and go to Getting Active.

With the 2010 Active Healthy Kids Report Card being released we decided to enlist some expert help from CEO Michelle Brownrigg, of Active Healthy Kids Canada to get your questions answered!

Michelle Brownrigg, MSc

Michelle Brownrigg is the Chief Executive Officer for Active Healthy Kids Canada, and has had an array of professional experience in the area of health and social development, with a particular focus on healthy development for children, youth and families. Her research work has been in the area of community health and exercise science focused on children, youth and families in the context of sport and physical activity participation. She has been involved in research and evaluation initiatives associated with health promotion campaigns in relation to healthy eating and physical activity among children, physical activity and body image in girls, youth organizing for community change, and she has been involved with the Report Card since its inception in 2005. She has served on numerous committees and advisory boards in relation to health promotion, chronic disease prevention, healthy schools, healthy body image, sport and recreation. Michelle is a current member of York University’s Faculty of Health, and has served as an independent consultant to a number of organizations.

Check out our Q and A with Michelle Brownrigg:

WhereParentsTalk: Do you feel that the message is starting to get through?

Brownrigg: There is definitely huge public interest in the results of the Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card, which is important, but the fact that we are not seeing much improvement in the physical activity levels of our youngest citizens is troubling. Only 12% of children and youth are active enough to meet physical activity guidelines of 90 minutes per day. The purpose of the Report Card is to continue to direct attention to the issue of inactivity, and we have to move beyond awareness to actually making changes at the individual, family and community levels and build more activity into daily living. We also need structural support through government policies and investments that will facilitate this at the individual, family and community levels, making the choice to be active something that is seen as a natural part of our daily lives.

WhereParentsTalk: What progress has been made in the last year?

Brownrigg: Unfortunately, we have not seen much improvement in our key indicators since last year’s Report Card. While there are some great programs out there, and much good work is being done in communities across the country, the delivery of these is inconsistent and we don’t yet have a nationwide culture of physical activity as part of daily life.

As well, we are missing a commitment to child and youth physical activity at the federal level. For the first time this year, the Report Card assigned an F for Federal Government Investment, due to a new paper that cites a dramatic decline in federal spending over the past generation. In real dollars per capita, federal spending on physical activity is half the amount that it was in 1986. We saw great strides in sport performance at the recent Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Canada, that came as the result of focused support through the Own the Podium program—if we want to increase physical activity levels among children and youth, we also need to Own the Playground.

WhereParentsTalk: Where are there gaps – age groups, parts of the country?

Brownrigg: This year, we are pointing to a need for more attention to the early years. There may be a misconception that preschoolers are busy and “active,” but this is not always the case—less than half of Canadian kids under five are getting regular physical activity as part of their daily routines. And in Canada, we do not have physical activity guidelines for children five and under. Kids of this age are also spending too much time sitting in front of television, videogame and computer screens.

Research also shows that obesity is on the rise in this age group, and that lifestyle patterns set before five actually predict health and obesity outcomes later in childhood, and even through adulthood. Children who become obese before the age of six are likely to be obese later in childhood, and it’s estimated that overweight 2-5-year-olds are four times more likely to be overweight as adults. Healthy habits including regular, daily physical activity, must start early in life.

To read more about what’s working, and what roadblocks lie ahead in each province and territory, please visit the Cross-Canada Tour section of the Report Card here:…

WhereParentsTalk: What advice do you have for parents regarding kids’ physical activity?

Brownrigg: The number one tip for parents to get our youngsters moving more is to let them play! Active play is fun, but it’s certainly not frivolous—it’s critical for the healthy development of children, as it gets them moving, and helps build social skills, imaginations and self-esteem. Active play is defined as free, unstructured activity, such as running with friends at the playground, playing with balls, and collecting sticks in the woods. Research suggests that children require blocks of free time in their daily lives to plan, pretend and enact play as individuals and a group. So as parents, and as a society, we need to make sure our kids have access to safe, supervised yet unstructured play spaces in child care centres, schools and community settings where children and their peers can engage in physical activity of their own design.

WhereParentsTalk: What are the targets?

Brownrigg: Canada’s physical activity guides recommend that children and youth get 90 minutes of physical activity per day. We do not have targets for children five and under in Canada, and international guidelines vary, but the consensus is that children 1-5 years should participate in at least two hours of physical activity every day, accumulated over many sessions and as a part of play, games, active transportation and recreation. This may sound like a lot, but it doesn’t have to be done all at once! Families, schools and communities can break it into manageable chunks. Naturally, kids want to move. One study found that, given the choice, kids would play in the playground, play sports, or walk their dog after school—and all these choices came before screen time. We need to offer safe, supervised unstructured play opportunities for kids in our parks and playgrounds. Adults in the community can share responsibilities in taking neighborhood kids to the park, and we should be asking for municipal recreation budgets to include playground supervisors.

WhereParentsTalk: Boys versus girls differences? 

Brownrigg: While the numbers are not great for children and youth as a whole in Canada, the statistics are particularly disturbing when it comes to girls. Currently, 20% of boys aged 5-10 years and 15% of boys aged 11-14 years are meeting the guidelines, but only 5% of adolescent girls are getting enough activity.

WhereParentsTalk: Could you single out a successful program in Canadian community that works?

Brownrigg: There are great examples of programs and practices that are effectively promoting and supporting physical activity opportunities for children and youth across the country. There is no “one size fits all” approach to promoting physical activity, and what works in a rural area, an urban area, amongst different ethnic populations and cultural realities does—and should—differ from community to community. In this year’s Report Card, we called upon provincial and territorial partner organizations to help us identify key challenges and promising solutions facing each of their jurisdictions.

WhereParentsTalk: What impact do you think Michelle Obama’s Lets Move! Campaign will have on Canada? 

Brownrigg: The goal of the United States’ Let’s Move! campaign is to solve the epidemic of childhood obesity within a generation. There may be a misconception that the United States has more of an obesity and inactivity problem than Canada does, but the findings of the 2010 Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card remind us otherwise—when it comes to supporting and encouraging healthy, active lifestyles for our young people, we are failing our kids. Hopefully, the attention that Michelle Obama is bringing to the issue will help put child and youth inactivity higher on the national agenda in Canada. As a society, we need to invest attention and funds to support families—through public, private and philanthropic sectors—to get Canadian kids more physically active.

Related links: 

For more information on the report visit:

Check out the ParticipACTION Tips Sheet created for parents in response to this year’s report card: