By: Melinda Lamarche

Summer is here and it’s time to hit the road!  Whether exploring new places or rediscovering old favourites, family road trips can be loads of fun and a chance to create lifelong memories.

To keep everyone’s spirits up throughout the journey, it’s a good idea to pack some delicious snacks to keep little tummies happy during those long stretches of highway.  Not only do homemade snacks save time and money along the way, they are also your best bet in terms of offering your family a healthy and satisfying nibble.

Below are some tips and tricks to keep you and your family well-fed while on the road, here’s to a happy (and healthy) journey!


  • Choose snacks those that contain a source of carbohydrate for energy and some protein to keep you feeling fuller longer, examples include: yogurt and fruit, cheese and crackers, nuts and dried fruit.
  • Before you hit the road, invest in a small cooler and ice packs. Look for reusable containers like mason jars and don’t forget to stock the napkins, wet wipes and utensils.


  • Yogurt, berry and granola parfait
    • Layer plain yogurt, berries and granola in a mason jar, sprinkle with cinnamon and a squirt of honey before sealing the lid
  • Hummus, veggies and bread sticks
    • Spoon a few tablespoons of your favourite storebought or homemade hummus into the bottom of a mason jar, place cut up vegetables in the hummus and place the lid on top. Serve with whole grain breadsticks or crackers on the side
  • Fruity tortilla roll ups
    • Mix softened cream cheese with a little bit of cinnamon, vanilla extract and maple syrup, spread on a whole grain tortilla. Place a mix of cut up fruit and berries on top of cream cheese, roll up and cut into 1” circles
  • Homemade mini muffins and fruit
    • Make a batch of your families favourite muffins, be sure to use whole wheat flour and keep the amount of sugar low, sneak in some mashed bananas or applesauce to hike up the nutritional value, for some fun stir in some nuts or dried fruit and chocolate chips, bake in a mini muffin tin to get more and keep portions snack sized.
  • Roasted chickpeas and cut up veggies
    • Rinse and drain a can of chickpeas, place on a parchment lined backing sheet. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp of olive oil, roast in a 400degrees for 30minutes, stirring occasionally, then sprinkle with your favourite flavours, try cumin, garlic powder and thyme.

Of course, you can’t go wrong with the tried and true snacks, think cheese and crackers, fruit and nuts and granola bars.

  • When buying crackers look for those that are low in fat, containing less than 5g of fat per serving, low in salt and containing at least 2-4g of fibre per serving. Choose unsalted and dry roasted nuts.
  • Granola bars can be tricky, they are one of those foods with a health halo, meaning they are often marketed as being healthier than they actually are. If buying granola bars, look for those made with whole grains (hint … whole grains should be listed as the first ingredient), low in fat and with less than 8g of sugar.  Making your own granola bars could be a fun way to experiment with your family’s favourite flavours.

So, this summer, pack your coolers and hit the road with some delicious and nutritious snacks to keep you and your crew fuelled for non-stop fun!

Melinda Lamarche has been working as a Registered Dietitian for more than 10 years.  After completing her dietetic internship at the University Health Network in 2005 she went on to complete a Masters degree in Public Health Nutrition at the University of Toronto.  Melinda has experience working with Toronto Public Health and various Family Health Teams in the Toronto area.  Melinda recently completed a Culinary program and is using her new skills to prepare yummy and healthy dishes for her husband, daughter and new baby.


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"Bad Moms"

Tired of the Mommy Wars and the pressure to be perfect? This movie is probably for you!

Written by the duo behind the “Hangover,” “Bad Moms” stars Mila Kunis as an overworked mom of two who is struggling to juggle the many – and often unreasonable – demands of parenthood.

Kunis’ eventually reaches her breaking point at a PTA meeting when the queen of the perky moms, depicted by Christina Applegate, outlines no less than 14 dietary restrictions for the school’s upcoming bake sale.

“I’m so tired of trying to be this perfect mom, I’m done” she says to Applegate’s obvious confusion.

Two other moms played by Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn join Kunis in solidarity to ditch the rules of perfect parenting and the rest is history.

See the hilarious trailer below as the “Bad Moms” crew goes wild all over town, including – gasp – showing up at the bake sale with store-bought donut holes. The horror!

There is nothing like seeing your child explore a new toy for the first time, especially ones with sensory or educational value like a play kitchen.  Unfortunately for the less handy among us, the assembly process can be downright daunting and it may feel like your child will outgrow the toy before you’re done building it.

Just for fun, we’ve highlighted the 5 stages of assembling a toy kitchen.  Can you identify?

Shock & Denial

You’ve opened the giant cardboard box and have dumped its contents onto your living room floor. You now find yourself surrounded with 70 unique parts and a 25-page instruction manual complete with illustrations and symbols that resemble hieroglyphics etched into the wall of a pyramid.  Panic and dismay wash over you like a thick fog.

Pain & Guilt

You’ve sliced open your hand using the Allen key and your lower back is experiencing intense spasms and shooting pain.  The thought of quitting has crossed your mind 12 times a minute since you started but you won’t give up because depriving your child of the chance to cook fake food using her fake kitchenware is plain unacceptable.

Anger & Bargaining

Logically you know that fighting with the kitchen won’t get you anywhere, but your frustration is at a boiling point and you can’t take it anymore.  After crumpling the instruction manual in protest, you return to the half-finished kitchen and beg it for mercy in exchange for keeping your cool.

Reflection & Loneliness

It’s been four hours and you’re only half-finished.  The world seems bleak and meaningless and you’re wondering if you’ll ever breathe fresh air again.

Acceptance and Hope

The kitchen is done but there are a handful of miscellaneous parts leftover and you’re pretty sure they aren’t spares.  Still, you take a step back and applaud your perseverance in the face of unspeakable odds. Parenting win!




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There are times when the wind is howling and the snow is whipping across your face, that it is easy to curse living in a winter climate. Being a new parent, I have often found myself wondering just how much easier it would be if I didn’t have to wrestle my daughter into a snowsuit before leaving the house or strap her into the car-seat with a handful of frozen fingers.

Then there are days like today, when the sun is shining and there’s only a slight nip in the air, that I can reflect on all that I love about living in a city that experiences four distinct seasons, including – yes – winter.

Here are just a few:

  1. Snowy Sports: Whether it’s hitting the slopes or taking in an outdoor game of shinny, there’s something so nostalgic and wonderful about frolicking outside in the winter chill – especially with kids. Can you think of anything more fun than climbing aboard a toboggan and sailing down a hill of packed snow? Nope!
  2. Hot Bevvys: When you’re done enjoying the outdoors, fix yourself a cup of warm cocoa and warm-up from the inside out. A steaming hot beverage just isn’t the same when your fingers and toes aren’t mid-thaw.
  3. Winter Fashion: During the dog-days of summer, my mind inevitably wanders to thoughts of scarves, boots and the deep hues that characterize winter fashion. Sandals, swimsuits and maxi-dresses just can’t compare.
  4. Comforts of Home: Nothing makes me appreciate a Saturday night spent indoors more than a Canadian winter. Give me a pair of warm socks and a movie and I am one happy Canuck.
  5. The Spring Thaw: Is there any more optimistic feeling than the one you have during those early days of spring? It’s magical to watch as sidewalks fill-in and a hibernating city comes back to life, ahhhh!

Winter doesn’t have to be a source of dread all year-round; it can actually be quite beautiful in its own right. I hope you take time to enjoy it because in the time it takes to spell F-R-O-Z-E-N, spring will be here!



The Perfect BLEND

Family Fun: Take it Outside

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The temperature drops and so does your families enthusiasm to spend all day outside, but it shouldn’t!  Fall and Winter provide some of the best opportunities for having fun outdoors. Invest in warm boots, all weather pants and a flashy hat and get outside together to enjoy some of these fun family adventures.

10 Ideas to Take Your Family Outside

I guarantee there are hidden gems within a 45 minute drive that are just begging to be explored.  Water falls, tucked away lakes, rolling hills and trails leading through gorgeous forests. Get out there and enjoy.  Google hiking trails around you, check out local ski hills that might be open for Fall rides on the chair lifts, have groomed cross country ski trails or follow that path into the forest near your house just to see where it leads.


A great outdoor experience for the whole family, Geocaching is catching on! The sport of using GSP coordinates from your smartphone to find hidden treasures and log books is happening all over the world and right in your own backyard.  A simple download of the Geocaching app and you only need to hit one button that says Find Nearby Geocaches and you are off. It will lead you by compass and distance markers right to the area where you need to start looking in bushes, under logs and hanging from tree branches for the hidden cache. When you find it there will be a log book to sign and maybe a treasure to take, as long as your replace it with a new treasure for someone else.  Check out for more information.

Corn Maze
So many local farms are getting in on the Corn Maze craze! Some are elaborate with 20 km of intricate design that families can explore and answer skill testing questions as they go.  Others are easy fun mazes that kids can run in and out of for hours.  Google corn mazes in your area and support local farmers by checking them out.

Bike Path/Toboggan Rides
If the snow hasn’t fallen yet, get those bikes and helmets out and strap on the training wheels. Most cities now boast bike paths that are even riding terrain for the newest cyclists in your family. Bike riding on new paths lead to new adventures and if you plan your journey right, you may even end up at an ice cream or hot chocolate shop!  If the paths are full of snow grab a long toboggan and pull the kids along. When you tire, as the kids to give you a ride!

Horseback Riding
If you have older kids, why not look for a local horse stable that offers Trail Rides.  Many have staff on hand that will walk along side riders as young as 3 and have horses that are gentle with beginner riders. Many are also open all winter long regardless of snow.

How good is your aim? Think outside the fruit farm and look for Conservation areas or Harvest Festivals nearby that offer archery or log cutting.

Visit a Pioneer Village
Wonder what they do at a Pioneer Village? Go check it out. You might just learn how to make sausages or see demonstrations on candle dipping, historic cooking, apple schnitzing, or grain threshing! Who doesn’t want to learn about apple schnitzing?

Go Fly A Kite
The wind that sets those fall leaves free from the trees is excellent for flying a kite at a nearby park or soccer field. And running with that kite will have the kids flushed and giggling all afternoon.

Leaf Jumping/Snowball Wars
No Family Fun is complete without a giant pile of leaves to jump in and mess up or a good old fashion snow throwing game! Get in on the action. Collect leaves and snow from all the neighbours lawns, shape them into a giant pile and then spend the afternoon rolling around in the leaves or playing in the snow with your kids. I promise they will never forget the fun they had watching you.

So much fun to be had outdoors, don’t be afraid to explore new ideas and events in your own community.  You may be surprised at how many new Family Traditions you can create outside!

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As we look high and low for consistent signs of spring, our three offspring are well-entrenched in summer sports activities, namely, baseball, softball, soccer and ball hockey.  They love it, we love them loving it.  It’s all good.  Mercifully, our boys are on the same soccer and baseball teams and are able to transport themselves when required, so the schedule is very manageable.

What is increasingly unmanageable though is the behavior that after all these years of participating in, watching my kids play and hearing about my friends’ kids experiences is — parental behavior.  Questionable, largely unethical, disrespectful words, thoughts and actions carried out by (thankfully) a minority of individuals, who are increasingly growing in number, ever so slowly.

You may have met some of them.  They stack teams, yell comments, usually don’t lift a finger to volunteer as a coach, assistant coach, vociferously question calls, coaching decisions, bend the rules left, right and centre, slyly encourage cheating, winning at all cost, or they run everything and control teams, games, outcomes, standings and the like from their lofty perch. Tons o’ fun.

Our family has watched this behavior at various venues and against a litany of backdrops/arenas/fields for years.  We usually don’t say anything and watch these people derail themselves.  But still, to this day it still amazes me.

When adults display an overt need to WIN vicariously through their children no matter the circumstances, something must be said.  They are fashioning children who will likely do the same.  Great — a whole new generation of cheaters awaits.

Note to them:  get over yourselves, it is only a game, remember your age, and finally, if you can’t do any of these, STAY HOME.

The problem with saying nothing, as I have said to my kids on occasion, is that inaction, inevitably supports this cheating behavior.  By the same token, saying something, anything pits a RATIONAL mind against an IRRATIONAL one. Who do you think will ‘win’ that debate?

In our family, we joke about it.  Not ideal, but you’ve gotta laugh to keep your sanity.

Fortunately, for whatever reason, my kids have always landed on teams with fair and sane coaches.  We tell them to accept whatever team they are on and whomever their teammates are, even though most other teams feature stacked lineups built for minor sports supremacy.  We tend to repeat to them the refrain — ‘you get what you get and you don’t get upset’.  None of these factors ever seems to bother them.  Even the few times they have the option to choose friends/teammates to play with, they elect to choose one with the belief that selecting more than one is not fair to everyone else.  I don’t know where this all comes from, but we support it wholeheartedly.

Apart from the infantile behavior of these ‘over-zealously competitive parents’, the people I feel bad for most are their children.  They will likely grow up to expect their mom or dad to gallop in on a white horse and rescue them when they don’t win in life.  Too bad it doesn’t work that way.  Can you spell depression, anxiety, failure complex?

I also feel bad for those coaches who choose to play by the rules, who don’t realize or figure out too late that this type of behavior is out there.  They innocently put together teams, lineups, dedicate their time and effort to volunteering as coaches, etc., only to see their teams lose repeatedly or have their genuine efforts undermined by this ‘unfair’ element.

As I brace to watch these various dramas unfold, (some have started from day one), I wonder, who are the real children here?  Even the smallest of children understand the basic principles of right from wrong don’t they?

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Children may spend an entire year waiting until they can return to their favourite summer camp. Their parents, however, may spend the year saving up to make that return possible.

While a two-week stay at overnight camp averages $1,000 or more, a week of day camp averages a little over $200. Typically, the longer the stay, the lower the weekly cost, but coming up with the money can be a challenge.

Luckily, there are more resources these days to help parents pay for summer camp and make summer camp a reality for all kids, no matter their financial situation.

“We’re trying to make it easier for parents to find a way for their children to experience what we think is an unforgettable experience,” says Liz Greenway, who has been camp manager at YWCA Toronto for 32 years. “You’re investing in an experience that’s going to last forever.”

Camp Costs You Can Expect

Consider varying base fees and extras. In general, traditional overnight camps can cost $300 to $1,000 per week, and day camps will run about $35 to $500 for the same period. This covers access to the camp’s facilities, meals, accommodation, medical services and supervision from a trained staff member.

Depending on the camp, extras like transportation and laundry may also be included in the base fee. Optional programs, such as mountain biking or portaging, will raise a family’s camp fees anywhere from $30 to more than $200. Many camps also have tuck shops, where campers can purchase snacks and camp merchandise. Other costs may come in the form of supplies, equipment and clothes. If fees are an issue, families should look at what each camp offers and decide on a list of needs and wants.

What Families Can Do

Start your search online. A good source of financial advice is this website, which features articles, advice, comprehensive camp listings and a search engine to help families find and contact camps from across the country. Also browse the websites of the Canadian Camping Association and your provincial camp association. Check out for summer camp deals.

Visit a camp expo. Our Kids hosts an annual Camp Expo in Toronto. The expo features March break, year-round and summer camps from across Ontario and Quebec. Camps at the expo have many years’ experience advising parents how to afford summer camp.

Fundraise with your kids. Ask family, relatives and friends to contribute to your child’s camp fees instead of giving birthday or Christmas gifts. Do chores, yard sales or something creative and fun to raise funds. Check out whether a school or company would offer matching funds.

Volunteer at camp. Some parents take time to work as counsellors, cooks or nurses, for example, to help offset or fund their child’s camp experience.

How Camps, Organizations and Charities Can Help Families Pay for Camp

Contact camps directly to find out fees and whether they offer subsidies or camperships. A campership is financial aid given to needy campers. Some organizations request a small family contribution to prevent cancellations and to enable families to contribute to their child’s experience.

Work with camps on payment options. Many camps offer opportunities to make different financial arrangements. You can pay deposits first and pay the balance later, or take advantage of making multiple payments. Some even allow you to pay installments over a long period of time.

Start your search early to save on fees. Often, the sooner parents register their children for camp, the more they save, says Kristen Gage, director of Glenbrook Day Camp in Stouffville, Ont., which offers early-bird rates and camperships. Families should start looking for financial aid options in the fall, says Catherine Ross, communications officer and executive member of the Canadian Camping Association. Some charities will have already selected their eligible applicants by February, she points out. Many camps have only an allotted amount of financial aid but can still accept applications year-round as spaces do become available upon cancellations. Some camps award funding on a first-come, first-served basis.

Find out about other discounts. Some camps offer deals, or even send a child for free, for registering siblings or referring other campers. Many camps give children of alumni discounts, subsidies or funding prioritization.

Ask churches, charities and other organizations. Another valuable resource is a charitable organization whose mandate is to help send kids to camp. The Lions, Optimists, Kiwanis and Rotary clubs support initiatives that improve children’s lives. Since there isn’t one centralized network for all of the resources, it’s also a matter of contacting schools, social workers and community agencies, says Jennifer Wilson, interim executive director of Amici Camping Charity, which has been funding children from low-income families to attend summer camp since 1966.

What the Government Offers

Child-care deduction: Parents can claim camp expenses as a child-care expense, or they can use their receipt to get federal (and sometimes provincial) fitness and arts credits, says Cleo Hamel, senior tax analyst at H&R Block in Calgary. A child-care expense can be claimed if the child is 10 years or younger and if the camp isn’t a specialized one like a sports camp, Hamel explains. A child-care deduction provides a 15 per cent federal tax refund on the expense.

Federal fitness and arts tax credits: These credits allow parents to claim 15 per cent on up to $500 of their expenses a year for children who are under 16, or an additional $500 for those under 18 who have a disability if the program costs at least $100. If the program includes both sports and arts, the camp can help families figure out which credit they should apply for.

Provincial government tax credits: Many provincial governments, including Saskatchewan, Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia, offer tax breaks similar to the federal fitness and arts credits, Hamel says. Go to your provincial government’s website to find out eligibility requirements. The Ontario Children’s Activity Tax Credit, for instance, allows families to claim 10 per cent on up to $500 of expenses for fitness and non-fitness activities a year for each child under 16, and double the amount for spending at least $100 for a child with a disability who is under 18.

Other funding from your municipal and provincial governments: Research what type of assistance your city offers. For instance, the Welcome Policy is a fee subsidy program offering free city-operated recreation programs for the Greater Toronto Area’s low-income participants. The Ontario government offers funding to parents of children with disabilities through its Special Services at Home and Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities programs.

Additional Organizations That Help Pay Camp Fees:

Footer: Give your kids a Summer Camp experience this year. Find top camp for kids and teens


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This is a guest article by Pina Arcamone, Director of the Missing Children’s Network (Quebec)

As children and their families are getting ready to go trick-or-treating, the Missing Children’s Network would like to share some important safety tips that will help ensure Halloween harmony for the entire family! The trick to making trick-or-treating a real treat for you and your children is to plan ahead. Make sure your little ones don’t hit the streets before reviewing the following safety tips:
Before Leaving the House:
• Plan a route with your children in your immediate neighborhood. Visit only those homes that are well-lit and decorated. Avoid deserted homes and always wait on the porch.
• Provide your children with a snack before they head out to have fun. That way they will be less tempted to sample their goodies before they get home and you have had a chance to check them out.
• Pin a slip of paper with your child’s name, address and phone number inside a pocket in case they get separated from the group and make sure they have emergency money in case they need to call you.
Along the Route:
• No trick-or-treater, even the older ones, should be hitting the streets alone. Traveling with a group of friends is more fun and it’s safer.
• Identify “Block Parent” houses along the route. If there aren’t any, choose a “safe house” of a trusted family in your neighborhood where your children can seek refuge if they need help.
• Ensure that your children know to never accept a ride or go with anyone unless they have your permission first.
• Impress upon your children the importance of not getting so excited that they forget traffic safety and dash out in front of cars. They should always stay on the sidewalks and cross only at intersections, obeying the lights and looking both ways before crossing.
• All good things must come to an end! Give your children a definite time to be home and make sure older children are wearing a watch.
Upon Returning:
• Thoroughly inspect all treats and watch for any evidence of tampering. Immediately discard any treat that is not wrapped.
• Keep in mind that children will need a little time to wind down and talk about the fun they had. Oh yes, and to sample their treats … maybe one or two or!

For more information:

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