Mama’s Going Back to School, Too!

Exactly one week until my kids go back to school.  Can I get an “Amen!” sisters?!

We all know that Back to School is a period more welcomed by burnt-out parents than by kids, but this year, my kids aren’t the only ones going back into a classroom.  I have signed myself up for a drawing class at a local art school.  The class is called …. I Wish I Could Draw.  So, perhaps, I’m not so much going back to school as starting all over again from Kindergarten.

I am one of those people who could happily take classes for the rest of her life.  Education is wasted on the young, and I regret so much not taking the Intro to Art History course in my undergrad years.  Lascaux to Rothko, it covered it all.  The textbook weighed five pounds.  My roommate took the class, and, honestly, at the time, it was not something that appealed.  But now, now that the same roommate has taught me how to really enjoy how to walk through a gallery, now that I have a much stronger frame of reference for all of those historical movements, now that I have a vocabulary for techniques and media, I am full of regret.

At least I have learned to love looking at art.  It is such a treat to go to a gallery and soak up all of the work on the walls.  I come away from craft fairs and art shows with a buzz from all of the creativity, and I think, “I wish I could draw.”

“I wish I could draw” is something I’ve thought and heard myself say so often that it feels slightly surreal to think I am finally doing something about it.  I do not expect to emerge as an artist ready for her own art shows, but I am so excited to begin learning.  I’m also excited to sit down with my kids at the museum and open my own sketch book with a little less self-consciousness, a little less trepidation, a little more abandon.

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from a store front in London, where we spent part of the summer

It’s in the Bag!

Here are some things that are going along with us on our travels this summer.  Things to keep us happy, safe, and sane!

You guys, I get so many compliments on these shoes.  I love them.  They are not only fun and funky, they are really comfortable and practical.  I have walked all over the city in them, and the support and comfort cannot be beaten.  They are also light, making it a no-brainer to throw them in the suitcase.  I was sent this orange pair, but now I am tempted to buy them in every colour of the rainbow.  Check them out for yourself at Uneek by Keen.

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I find it tricky to pack for kids when we are travelling: how to combine comfort, fun and respectability?!  I found an answer at The Children’s Place, where I stocked up on some new threads for summer.  Your money goes a long way at The Children’s Place, and with clothes so reasonably priced, it’s easy to find the kids something new and special for a trip.  I bought Youngest this Skylanders shirt, which he wore non-stop in the last weeks of school.  The shirts I bought have held up well through many washes, and he got so many compliments, I even picked up extras as gifts for his friends.

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Keeping kids occupied on flights and drives is one of the hardest parts of travel, and this deck of cards has been doing the trick.  Personalogy is a situation card game that encourages discussion and imaginative thinking.  It comes in two editions: one for adults and one for the whole family.  I got a sample pack of the family edition, and I used it on a subway ride with seven ten-year-old boys heading to a movie.  They loved it, and it kept them busy while we got from A-B.  If anything, they were so eager that they rushed to get through the questions, eager to get to the next question rather than answer the “why” part of the question fully.  Next time, we’ll have to reinforce the why component.

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Staying sun safe has never been so important, but what do you do if you are super-sensitive to sunscreens?  I have had the hardest time finding a sun screen for Middlest, who reacts with a rash to every single one.  I think I have finally found an answer for my kid’s unhappy reactions to sunscreen with Aveeno’s Sensitive Skin line.  We’ve tried it several times, and so far, so good!  Peace of mind, finally, under the hot sun.

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And speaking of hot, I am seriously in love with Consonant’s brand new dealkalizing deodorant.  I was given a free trial with the purchase of their skincare products.  As a lifetime user of anti-perspirant, I was really, really skeptical about switching to deodorant, but I tell you, this stuff works.  I’m amazed at its odor-busting abilities, and I really haven’t felt like I’ve given up on anything with the switch.  Seriously–magic in a stick.

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Throw it all into a bag from Tom’s, and you will be doing good while looking good.  Tom’s has an extensive charitable aspect to the business, and you can give the gift of maternal health and safe births with every bag purchased.

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Hot Wheels & Summer Learning

The summer slide: it’s not just about losing ground.  Get your kids racing their Hot Wheels cars down an inclined plane, and you could help them keep their math and language skills in gear all summer.  And who doesn’t love a toy that gives extra mileage?  (I’m all out of slide and car puns now.  Promise.)

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Hot Wheels has great resources available to parents and teachers to help kids from JK-Grade One maintain their learning through summer play.  From making predictions to taking measurements, there are endless ways to incorporate math and language skills into car play.  Hot Wheels sent us some of their sets, and we took them to school for the kids in my son’s Grade 1 class to build and share in the last days of the school year.  The kids read the instructions, assembled the kits (with a bit of adult help) and then played with the fruits of their labour.  (Your kids can get in on this too!  Hot Wheels has a programme to get their toys into schools.  You can apply here.)

More and more, education in preschool and the early grades is play-based, active, and tactile.  By teaching math and measurement through play, we can engage tactile and kinetic learners who thrive on movement and touch.  By asking a few simple questions during organic car play, we can keep learning alive and active all summer long.  One of the most magical things about putting this kind of thing into practice is seeing how quickly it becomes part of the kids’ own method of play.

If your house is anything like mine, the Hot Wheels cars appear to reproduce like gremlins over night.  Put those toys to work!

  • Ask, “How many cars long is your bed?”  (Estimating, then counting and measuring)
  • Line up some cars in a simple colour pattern and ask, “What colour comes next?” (Patterning, colour recognition)
  • Line up the cars at the end of play time and ask “How many cars in the parking lot?” (Counting, patterning, estimating)
  • Take the play outside!  Use sidewalk chalk to create city streets and landmarks (school, library, hospital).  Give driving instructions to the Hot Wheels driver: “Take the first left.  Drive two blocks.  Turn right.  Where are you?”  (Orientation, instructions, reading and writing)

There are lots of ideas on the Hot Wheels FUNdamentals web site, as well as activity sheets to download.  Both incorporate learning so organically, the kids won’t even know you’re sneaking some learning in with their summer fun.

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Fun for the Whole Family: Interactive Theatre with 6th Man Collective’s Monday Nights

Monday Nights is an interactive theatre experience that is one part choose-your-own-adventure, one part private detective role play, one part choreography, one part gym class and many parts fun.  TC15021_Monday_Nights_slider_FA

The first thing that you need to know about Monday Nights is that it’s not just on Monday nights.  The play is a production by 6th Man Collective at The Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen Street West.  It runs nightly (excluding Tuesday) until Sunday, July 26th.  Click here to find tickets.

Members of the audience begin the night by going into the theatre and rifling through the players’ gym bags.  The bags contain clues about the personalities of the four players, and you choose your team for the evening based on what resonates with you among the things you find.  You then sit in the section that corresponds to the team you choose, and put on headphones that hang on the back of each chair.  The play begins with the audience observing choreographed basketball drills and skills while listening to information about their player from the three other players.  Then the four actors lead their teams in games and challenges, and the teams compete for points.  You do not have to participate at all, if you don’t want to, or you can participate by helping to keep score or by competing in a variety of basketball drills.  (Tip: if you are a good player, wait until the end to volunteer, as the skill level required for each drill gradually increases.) The actor who leads the team with the lowest number of points has to do the costume laundry that night!

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My kids (boys, 10 and 7) had a blast.  They both play basketball, so I knew that the premise would interest them, but I wasn’t prepared for how much they loved being involved.  Even my more reserved child put his hand up to be a “volunteammate” several times.  They chose different sections to sit in, which was easy to facilitate because the theatre is small enough that I could see the child I was not sitting with easily.  I sat with Youngest, who wanted to volunteer for every single possible opportunity to hold the ball.  (Your team gets an extra point for getting new volunteers for each drill, so when he got to go up a second time, it cost the team a point!  Luckily he’s really good at sinking baskets and made up for it with points scored!)  Youngest got lots of cheers and support from our section, and he basked in the applause and high fives.  I was certainly not the loudest one cheering him on.

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This play has been a highlight of our summer entertainment so far, and I can recommend it highly for a night out with kids.  For an added dimension of fun, go with a group and sit in separate sections and compete against each other.  It was a novel experience, and I had a smile on my face the whole night.  I had fun observing my kids’ enjoyment, and cheering my kids on when they went up to play, but I also really enjoyed taking in all the aspects of character development, props, script and choreography.

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I love that the city has such a great range of arts experiences to take in during the Pan Am Games.  Monday Nights fits right in with the offerings at Panamania, and it harnesses all of that cheering, sports fan energy.

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Get Out and Bounce!

OK.  I’m calling it.  Yes, it snowed in Toronto last night, but winter is over.  Officially.  The calendar and I both say so.  It’s now just a matter of mind over sub-arctic winds.

As hard as it may still be to imagine a summer’s day, the sunny weather IS coming, and with it, the chance to gather outdoors for your parties, fairs and assorted extravaganzas.

Adventure Mania has a great range of bouncy castles for your events, with products to suit toddlers to teens.

A brand new offering for 2015, they’ve just brought in a movie screen bouncer, so that you can transition from daytime bouncing to night-time movie theatre.  The rental comes complete with a PS3 console, a loud speaker, and a projector, with a movie screen that is 9 feet long, and 5 feet high.

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There is a huge selection of bouncers with movie and game tie-ins, and you can combine them with various things, like slides and basketball hoops.  For your little Frozen fans, one of their most popular rentals is the line of Frozen bouncers.

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There is also a bouncer that operates rain or shine, so if you want your bases covered for your event, this is a great, safe bet.

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Haley Chiappino is the Event Specialist at Adventure Media, and she is a delight to work with.  Such a friendly ally in what can often be the stressful process of event planning.  You can reach her at (905)864-3290 or info@adventuremania.ca.  Best of all, if you mention this blog post, you will get a 10% discount for your rental.  They rent everything from bouncy castles and slides to sno-cone makers and carnival games.  All you need for a fun day in the sun.  Based in Milton, they serve the entire GTA, and you can check out their full range of offerings here.

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*Adventure Mania offered 4mothers1blog a rental for review consideration.  The opinions expressed are our own.

 

Fun with Non-Newtonian Liquids: Liquids That Act Like Solids

Here’s a slippery slimy activity to do with the kids for the month of April Fool’s: make a liquid that acts like a solid.

Non-Newtonian liquids are liquids that act like solids when pressure is applied to them, and you can make one with just two ingredients from your kitchen: water and corn starch.

Materials

small pitcher of water

measuring cups

molasses

corn starch

food colouring (optional, add it to the water if you want a coloured mixture)

two plastic trays or baking trays with a lip

Method

Begin by looking at how different liquids move.  Pour 1/4 cup of water from one container to another.  Pour 1/4 cup of molasses from one container to another.  Both are liquid, but water moves faster because it has a lower viscosity.  Ask kids to name the things in the house that act like water (vinegar, juice, milk) and the things that act like molasses (shampoo, ketchup, syrup).

Make your non-Newtonian substance by mixing 1 cup of corn starch with about 1/2 cup of water.  Gradually add the water to the corn starch until you have a mixture that pours like honey.  Pour this mixture from one container to another and observe how quickly it moves.  Is it more like water or molasses?

Ask kids to predict what will happen if they squeeze the mixture?  Will it run through your fingers?

Now scoop some of the mixture in your hands and squeeze it.  The harder you squeeze, the more solid the mixture becomes.  Force makes the liquid act like a solid.  Now stop squeezing.  What does the mixture do?

Pour enough water onto one of your trays to make a thin layer of water from edge to edge.  Ask kids to predict what will happen if you bang your hand onto the tray.  Splash!

Now do the same thing with the mixture on the second tray.  Will the mixture behave like the water?

Hit it and find out!  (There is a video here of the experiment if you want to see it before you try it in your own home!)

Experiment with different ways to exert force on the mixture: touch it softly, quickly, stir it slowly, hit it with the spoon.  You can even hit it with a hammer.

Clean up

This can get a bit messy, especially if you are using food colouring, so be prepared to wipe up spills and splashes.  Also, DO NOT POUR YOUR MIXTURE DOWN THE DRAIN.   It will clog your pipes.  When you are done, scrape your mixture into the garbage for disposal.

 

 

Ideas for March Break Activities Around Toronto

From Nathalie

I took Middlest to see National Theatre Live’s production of Treasure Island recently, and I really like the idea of taking kids to see plays at the movie theatre.  While we sat in a Cineplex theatre in Toronto, we watched a live production of the play being staged in London, complete with a 20-minute intermission.  Of course, seeing the play in the theatre lacked some of the fun and sense of occasion that goes with a night at the theatre, but that informality is exactly what appealed to me with young kids.  We ate our popcorn and drank our drinks and it was all very relaxed.  I’d like my kids to see as much Shakespeare as possible before they encounter it at school, and for the price of a movie ticket, you really can’t go wrong.  King Lear is showing tomorrow, Shakespeare’s Globe on Screen will be showing Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and I am dying to see Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet later this year.

And if it’s fine art that tickles your fancy, head over to the AGO, which has fabulous programming for kids to complement their latest exhibition of the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

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From March 14-22,  join the AGO for one of nine creative days of exploring the amazing art of Basquiat. The whole family can enjoy beat boxing, dancing and drumming performances; interactive storytelling; art making; films and family-friendly tours of the Basquiat exhibition.  As with every new exhibit, the AGO also runs Family Sundays, from February 8-March 29.  Each week families are invited to explore a new aspect of Basquiat’s work through art-making and hands-on activities (1 – 4 p.m. in the Weston Family Learning Centre).  For a complete line-up of activities, visit www.ago.net/family-events.

If you are in Vaughan, you can hit three great destinations in one fun-filled day.  Start at LEGOLAND, where Carol, Beth-Anne and I took our boys a while back and loved it, then head over to Sky Zone Vaughan to bounce their sillies out.  It’s wall-to-wall-to-wall trampolines, and, yes, they can bounce off the walls.   You can pay to bounce for 30 minutes or in increments up to two hours.  There are special toddler times for the littlest ones, but generally, jumpers should be already walking and be able to follow the instructions of the staff.

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And when you are done jumping, go chill with the cold-blooded creatures at Reptilia.  As Canada’s largest indoor reptile zoo, Reptilia boasts a collection of over 250 reptiles, amphibians and arachnids (!).  Reptilia is also taking the show on the road, and they will at Hillcrest Mall for March Break from March 19-21.    At Reptilia Live! there will be interactive meet-and-greet, and guests can get to see, hold and touch a variety of cold-blooded creatures and learn interesting and educational facts.

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Show times are as follows:

[Thursday / Friday, March 19 and 20]

11:00 – 11:20 | Live animal show

11:20 – 12:00 | Meet and Greet

1:00 – 1:20 | Live animal show

1:20 – 2:00 | Meet and Greet

3:00 – 3:20 | Live animal show

3:20 – 4:00 | Meet and Gree

[Saturday, March 21]

12:30 – 12:50 | Live animal show

12:50 – 1:30 | Meet and Greet

2:00 – 2:20 | Live animal show

2:20 – 3:00 | Meet and Greet

If you go on the Thursday, look for Carol and Nathalie!  We’ll be there with some of our brood.

Toronto for Kids also has a great round-up of camps, shows and activities.  Check it out.

From Beth-Anne

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The Young People’s Theatre is one of my favourite not-so hidden gems in the city. The productions are always top-notch and tailored for a younger audience. Over March Break the classic tale of Pinocchio takes the main stage and to enhance the experience theatre-goers can sign up for the Puppet Lab and learn from experts how to create their very own, unique puppet. Space is limited. For ticket and show information visit Young People’s Theatre.

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For older children, The Heart of Robin Hood is a great bet! I have been a patron of Mirvish Productions for many years and The Heart of Robin Hood easily makes my top 5 list. The real story of Robin Hood may surprise you – Maid Marion is no shrinking violet, Robin’s not as generous as you may have believed and Friar Tuck . . . poor Friar Tuck. The original music is guaranteed to have your feet moving but it’s the transformation of the theatre into Sherwood Forest that is truly remarkable. If you’re looking into introduce theatre to your tweens or teens, this is the show to attend but hurry, the run ends on March 29. For tickets and show information visit Mirvish Productions.

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For the dancers, The National Ballet of Canada’s Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland, looks simply magical. I have not yet seen it but judging how much the boys enjoyed The Nutcracker, it appears it would be a hit. The costumes and the staging are receiving rave reviews and the sneak peeks shown on the website justify why. On stage March 14-29. For tickets and show information visit The National Ballet of Canada.

From Carol

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It will still be wintry, but hopefully just a notch or two higher on the temperature scale, which means perfect timing for skating.  I love outdoor skating whenever we can get it, and Toronto boasts both Nathan Philips Square and the Natrel rink down at at Harbourfront are wonderful urban settings for gliding on city ice.

Or head over to the Brickworks for a smaller, more intimate outdoor skating experience on their public rink, and then head over to one of their drop-in programs for kids over March Break.  Paper mache boat building, both for individual boats and a collective boat, caught my eye.  Suggested donation $5.

Boats make me think of not winter, and I’m feeling ready to move on to our next season with Canada Blooms, our largest flower and garden festival. The many events and workshops fall over March Break, and offer opportunities for children to get their hands dirty getting ready to garden.  Kids will also be able to take home vegetables and flowers to start their own gardens at home.

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For a unique cultural experience, the Aga Khan Museum offers stunning exhibits and collections that explore Muslim civilizations – head over on the Wednesday of March Break to enjoy and explore for free between 4 to 8pm.

Do you have any favourite suggestions for the March break?  Please share them!

Fitbit Fever

fitbitI love, love, love my Fitbit.

What does my Fitbit do?  Well, I wear it on my wrist and it counts my steps (minimum 15,000 a day).  But that’s not all it does.  It gets me out and active every day.  It takes me on super-long walks several times a week (10-15k).  During those walks, I listen to podcasts of everything from NPR’s Serial (addictive!!) to The Guardian’s books podcast to A History of the World in 100 Objects from the BBC to Quirks and Quarks form the CBC.  So, my fitbit keeps me up to date and learning about books, history, science and culture.  It takes me on new routes to keep things fresh, so I’m discovering new areas of the city.  My walks have spurred a love of making photographs, and I aim to get one good shot from each good walk.  (I post them to our Instagram account or you can see the current one from the sidebar of the blog’s website.)  My Fitbit makes me stretch, because after walking 10k, you just have to stretch.  It has helped me lose 15 lbs since the end of the summer.  Not a rapid rate of weight loss, but steady and, oh so importantly, enjoyable.  There is no overcoming resistance to go out for long walks, not even in winter weather.  It has taught me that I need extrinsic motivation to succeed, and being accountable for my daily 15,000 steps has been a fun and inspiring goal.  I just love, love, love my Fitbit.

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My Fitbit was a gift from my husband from way back last spring (Mother’s Day).  I was so excited to get it because I’d been grilling a friend about hers and how it has helped her get strong and fit.  Ted heard how animated I was and surprised me with one.  Then, sadly, I let it sit in its box because I could not find the energy to figure out how to hook it up to the computer.  Oh, what wasted months!  When I finally set it up in September (my new year), it took all of 30 seconds.  Seriously.  So if you are a technophobe, fear no more.  It really could not be simpler.

The Fitbit bracelet counts steps, but the dashboard to which it connects on on your phone and/or computer can also help you track what you eat and how much you sleep.  (My fitbit thinks I sleep a lot more than I do because I read in bed for a few hours most nights.  My Fitbit probably thinks I’m a very big cat, actually.)  I have found tracking what I eat to be really helpful, mostly because it makes me realize that snacks and after-dinner nibbles really do add up.  Again, it drives home how much I rely on extrinsic motivation to succeed.  Seeing a list out there and up on my computer screen of what I put into my body helps me pay closer attention to that body.  Some people are good at just listening to their bodies; I’m not one of them.

If you are media social, your Fitbit can talk to Facebook and to friends.  My Fitbit and I keep to ourselves, pretty much, and that’s how I like it.

I think that’s the magic of this thing: it’s customizable and personal.  When we sat down in September to plan our themes for the upcoming months, we each decided to try a new fitness class or activity.  I hemmed and hawed about trying lots of new-to-me things, but I really could not get excited about any of them.  Walking fits for me; it’s what I love, and I am so grateful to have such a simple and effective tool to remind me to do what I love each and every day.

Buy a Fitbit from Indigo here.

 

Talking Physical Literacy for Kids with Jay Tredway, Athletic Director at Ridley College

As we all know, there is more to a child’s education than what they are taught in the classroom – it is also about preparing them to live a healthy, successful life. Key to that is ensuring physical fitness is a core piece of their school day.

Jay Tredway

Jay Tredway

Jay Tredway, the Athletic Director at Ridley College, takes “physical literacy” seriously. The St. Catharines, Ont.,-based independent school has developed a Sport for Life program to promote physical activity among its students.

Ridley’s physical literacy effort includes an assessment of students from Grades 3 to 11 to establish a baseline for their physical literacy, measuring fitness and movement skills, a Zero Hour Fitness program creating opportunities for students to be physically active before school, and Teaching Games for Understanding, which puts a focus on skill development for students participating in team sports.

Jay will be speaking at The Canadian Sport for Life National Summit in Gatineau, Que., at the end of January, and I had a chance to ask him some questions about educating children about physical literacy.

Jay has kindly offered to answer any questions that you might have.  Just ask away in the comments section, and he will respond.

What is “physical literacy”?

Physical and Health Education Canada defines physically literate people as “Individuals who … move with competence and confidence in a wide variety of physical activities in multiple environments that benefit the healthy development of the whole person.” The key is the development of fundamental movement skills like running, jumping, throwing, catching and striking that give kids the confidence to play and keep experimenting and trying new things.

What was your inspiration for starting the programme? 

When I became the Director of Athletics at Ridley in 2008, I took over a program that was very active. The opportunity that we saw was the ability to serve better what we termed at the time the “recreational” population of the school: the students who did not really feel like sport was their thing or were not talented enough to make any of the competitive teams. The first thing we tried to do was broaden the program and expand the offerings by adding things like sailing and golf and ultimate frisbee. Formally termed “League Sports,” the first year of this new Sport For Life initiative saw participation rates increase and many more students became significantly more active daily. In the following year, I was first introduced to a national movement serendipitously called Canadian Sport For Life. With the support of Sport Canada and other non-governmental agencies, this movement to improve the quality of sport across the country had developed an annual National Summit in Ottawa, Ontario.  I was there in 2010 to learn about Canada’s Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) plan and witness CS4L make their first pitch for Physical Literacy. All of a sudden, I had a language to explain many of the things we held dear at Ridley but had been unable to articulate or build on. I also came to see just how dangerous our sedentary lifestyles had become, how they create a burgeoning crisis for the Canadian health care system. Now, we see it as our great privilege and opportunity to provide an example to the nation of how physical literacy and daily physical activity can be built into the elementary and secondary school system to serve the mental, physical and social development of our school-aged population.  From our point of view, the more healthy, capable and knowledgeable students we all graduate, the healthier, more capable and more productive Canada will be. We want to contribute to finding a sustainable way of meeting that goal in our 21st-century society.

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How have you put the Sport for Life programme into place at your school?

From its founding in 1889, Ridley has always believed in daily physical activity. So, on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, every student in the school is engaged in a minimum of one hour of sport at either the recreational or competitive level. We have three sport seasons and over the course of the year more than 80% of the school plays on a competitive team. At any given time, however, 40% of the school is in the Sport For Life programme. Our current incarnation provides students with a core sport or game that they play three times a week that is then supplemented with other games or fitness classes on the other two days. The students rotate through these offerings each week. At the beginning of each term, the students that do not make a competitive team get to choose the rotation that they would like to be a part of and we sort them into groups of 10-12. This winter the sport offerings include, curling, badminton, futsal, dance, yoga, spin, suspension training, core fitness and Zumba.

What has the response been from students and parents?

The response has been overwhelmingly positive. At the beginning of each term we have students who are forced a little out of their comfort zone in activities that they do not have any experience with. By and large, once they have had a chance to try these new activities and become accustomed to them, they really enjoy them. The parents really like the diversity of the offerings and appreciate that we are trying to expose the students to different sports that they could very well play for life.

How about the response from other teachers? 

The Faculty have been extremely supportive of this initiative. At Ridley, all of the teachers coach athletic teams, and the Sport For Life program is where a number of them get to build relationships and even participate with the students in the various activities.

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Do kids perform and behave better in the classroom after the Zero Hour?

We are going to find out. A tremendous amount of research has been done by Dr. John Ratey and his colleague on the significance of physical activity and its positive influence on learning and memory. This is why daily physical activity is so crucial in the Ridley experience, but we don’t normally do sport before school starts. We will be starting our first research project with this Zero Hour or “First Thing” fitness in January 2015. The science says that physical activity prior to learning enhances the productivity of the brain providing the students with better attention and ability to focus and stay on task. We will see if this holds true for the boys and girls at Ridley. If it does (as I suspect it will) it will encourage us to continue to consider alternative ways to maximize the physical activity effect throughout the school day.

How can parents supplement or complement what you do with their kids at home?

One of the best tools that has been developed for physical literacy in the last two years is the Passport For Life by Physical and Health Education Canada. These are assessment tools the Physical Education teachers and coaches can use to create a profile of a student’s physical literacy. The assessments are not used for marks but provide a picture of students’ physical abilities and deficiencies.  The results are totally individual. The feedback that these tools provide allows teachers to modify their instruction to address deficiencies or provide varied levels of difficulty for students as they are developing their fundamental skills. These assessments are online and students and parents have access to their child’s data. PHE Canada has also developed a great range of tools for parents to help them plan activities or make suggestions on what sports to get their children involved in to support their specific child’s physical literacy needs.

We have just completed our baseline testing with the Passport tool this October with all students from grade 3 to grade 11. The data were very interesting and really gave us some clear areas to focus on as a teaching/coaching team. The students also enjoy the feedback and no doubt it is a motivator to see if they can move up to the next level when we assess them again in the spring.

How do you create life-long physical literacy? 

The million dollar question! It comes back to confidence and competence. If we develop basic competencies in children and they build the confidence to participate in sport no matter what it is or what environment it is in, we go a long way to building individuals who are not afraid to try new things or think they are going to look silly in front of others. That resilience and those skills built early in life create the fertile ground for life-long physical literacy.

Is the motivation intrinsic or extrinsic?  Are you providing the kids with reward incentives to be active, or are you teaching them how to pay attention to the benefits of being active?

It needs to be both for maximum success. You want the intrinsic motivation to be based on the right information: an understanding of healthy calorie intake and burn, knowing what movement skills you can improve on the most and the right amount of sleep to make your body work efficiently.  All of these things contribute to your intrinsic push to improve your physical literacy. The extrinsic motivation is also very useful during those periods where even self-starters get a little haggard. Being surrounded by a community of people who are motivated to stay healthy and vibrant allows them to pick you up when you need a boost and you will be able to return the favour. This positive re-enforcement circle lifts everyone in the group to sustainable levels of wellness.

How can you help send kids out into the world who will continue to pay attention to their health and fitness after they have left the structures of home and school?

We work to do this by building a framework that they can fall back on. It has been our experience that students that have spent their formative years at Ridley use the tools they build in our relatively structured environment to help them find their path once they are truly on their own. Physical activity and a healthy, active lifestyle are a part of what we try to impart and teach everyday of their lives here. It is a facet of education, just like learning math and science. If we have done our jobs, just as their passion in language or technology pushes them to develop skill sets that will help them build a professional career, they will continue to want to learn and improve their knowledge and skills around personal wellness.

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Potted Potter: A Great Dose of Fun

posterOur posts for January are about health, and if laughter is the best medicine, you can get yourself a great dose of fun by going along to see Potted Potter.  You will have to hurry, though; the show is in its last week for its run in Toronto.

Beth-Anne, Carol and I took our boys to see the show in December, and I have to tell you that it was one of the highlights of my lead-up to Christmas.  “Attend” is my word of the year for 2015, but of course, I had had the word in mind for a while before writing about it for the blog.  Writing this blog has brought us many wonderful things, including friendships for which I am eternally grateful, but another thing I’m grateful for is Opportunity.  We are invited to interesting events and occasions, and I will be honest and tell you that I weigh each and every invitation very carefully.  It takes a lot to get me out of my routine and my happy place (pajamas, bed, book).  When the opportunity came to see Potted Potter smack dab in the middle of the chaos that characterizes the weeks in mid-December, I thought long and hard about accepting; I think we all did.  Like you, we all had a lot on our plates, but I wanted to get an early start on my word of the year, and I chose to attend.

I’m so glad I did.  It was such a gift to witness not only my nine year old’s belly laughs, but Carol’s and Beth-Anne’s too!  We all had a hoot, and you really do not have to be a Harry Potter expert to enjoy the show.

The premise of the show is that two actors act out all seven books in the Harry Potter series in 70 minutes.  It’s a fast-paced physical comedy that brings into play humour both broad and subtle.  There’s a straight man and a funny man, there is a wild and wacky frenzy as the two attempt to act out as many of the major roles as possible.  Unexpected costumes, props and choreography add much to the fun.  There are jokes pitched high and low, and the actors appeared to improvise references to everything from Frozen to Toronto’s Gay Pride Parade and disastrous Mayor Ford.  The jokes come at you a mile a minute, and while the kids are still laughing at the ones pitched to them, the adults are laughing at the subsequent allusions pitched to them.  There is even audience participation, as members of the audience are invited to participate in a Quidditch game, while two kids get invited up onto the stage.

Before the show, you can order a butter beer from the bar (the recipe is secret, but they will alert you to possible allergens).  The lobby and the sidewalk outside the Panasonic Theatre are quite small, and it felt very crowded very quickly, so you’d be well advised to arrive and take your seats early.   It’s just steps from the subway, so getting there and home was a breeze for those of us on the TTC.  Parking was not easy to find, so, again, arrive early to give yourself wiggle room.

I had one very special night with Middlest, and we went out for dinner after the show, just the two of us, and it felt like just the right way to kick off the winter holiday.  It would also be a great way to kick off the new year.  Here’s to attending!

Potted Potter is at the Panasonic Theater, 651 Yonge Street.  It runs until January 11, 2015.

You can get tickets here.