Top 10 sun and water safety tips

This post was written in partnership with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.

Keep your family safe this summer by following these tips on sun and water safety:

Girls playing outisde

1. Choose a high SPF sunscreen: Use sunscreen labelled “broad spectrum” and “water resistant” with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 on skin not covered by clothing. Apply sunscreen generously and reapply every two hours and after swimming.

2. Protect yourself: When the UV Index is three or higher, protect your skin as much as possible. Wear clothing and a wide-brimmed hat that covers as much skin as possible, as appropriate to the activity and weather. Wear sunglasses or prescription eyeglasses with UV-protective lenses. Seek shade or bring your own (ex. an umbrella).

3. Limit time in the sun: Try and limit your time out in the sun between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. (even on a cloudy day) when the sun’s UV rays are the strongest. When your shadow is shorter than you, the sun is very strong. Be sure to wear protective clothing and sunscreen, and stay in the shade when possible.

4. Never leave children alone: Even if it’s just for a moment, make sure you never leave children alone when in or around water. Close supervision by a responsible adult is the best way to ensure your children are safe.

5. Start swimming lessons: Children may be at a lower risk of drowning if they’ve had some formal swimming instructions. However, the decision to enrol a child in swimming lessons should be made by the parents based on the child’s developmental readiness and exposure to water. Swim programs should never be seen as “drown proofing” a child of any age.

6. Avoid fast moving water: Never let your child swim in canals or any fast moving water. Educate your children on rip currents, so they are prepared in the event they get caught in one.

7. Test for an allergic reaction: Before using any sunscreen on your child, check for an allergic reaction, especially if they have sensitive skin. Apply to a small patch of skin on the inner forearm for several days in a row. If the skin turns red or otherwise reacts, change products.

8. Look for “water resistant”: When buying sunscreen, look for claims on the label that the product stays on better in water (“water resistant”, “very water resistant”).

9. Keep rescue equipment nearby: When swimming, keep some type of rescue equipment (shepherd’s hook, a long pole, life preserver, etc.) and a cell phone with you. Make sure your rescue equipment is made of fibreglass or other materials that do not conduct electricity.

10. Use a life jacket: Blow-up water wings, “floaties”, toys, rafts and air mattresses should not be used as life jackets or personal flotation devices. They are not a substitute for approved life vests and can give children and parents a false sense of security. Remember to supervise your children closely even when they are wearing a life jacket.

Have a safe and happy summer!

Content from the following websites was used as resource material:

Five SCDSB schools achieve Healthy Schools status

Health and wellness in schools has been a priority of the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) for many years. From outdoor education to nutrition, health is a major component of daily school activities and learning. Students and staff are making a big impact in their school communities with their participation in Green Teams, mental health initiatives and more.

This past spring, five of our elementary schools were recognized for their efforts and given Healthy Schools certification as part of Ophea’s Healthy Schools Certification program:

  • Brechin PS, Gold
  • Alliston Union PS, Silver
  • Goodfellow PS, Silver
  • Wyevale Central PS, Silver
  • Clearview Meadows ES, Bronze

The program involves an extensive amount of planning and implementation towards a six-step process, including assessing school community needs, identifying a priority health topic, developing an action plan and monitoring progress.

These five schools were dedicated to improving health and wellness, and focused on the following initiatives:

Brechin PS

  • Student Mental Health Team created a new, safe space called the Peace Place for students to enjoy and de-stress

Alliston Union PS  

  • Positive quotes shared during morning announcements
  • Pom Pom Pals: students created pals out of pom poms to share with classmates that are feeling down
  • Family Movie Night: families invited to watch ‘Inside Out’ and participate in button-making activities

Goodfellow PS

  • Build a Better Me Day: students participated in a day dedicated to mindful activities and learning about mental health
  • Mind Up Day: students rotated around stations to practice Mind Up strategies and learned how these can benefit their mental health
  • The Big Crunch: learning about nutrition positively impacting mental health in partnership with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit

Wyevale Central PS

  • Extensive participation in the SCDSB’s Pedometer Project
  • Student leaders facilitated sports, games and more for the school community each day
  • Incorporated DPA (daily physical activity) in all school activities and events

Clearview Meadows ES 

  • Mindful Mondays: meditation in the library facilitated by Grade 8 students
  • Brain Gym, Free the Numb Bumb and GoNoodle activities for Grades 1-4
  • Calming music and videos on the main foyer TV
  • Class sets of yoga mats available for use
  • Grade 4-8 students participated in the Can You Feel It stress management program delivered by Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit

Congratulations to all of our Healthy Schools on a job well done!

Gifts for our Tiny Teachers

Roots of Empathy Baby Celebration 2017

On May 29, the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) celebrated our sixth year of Roots of Empathy, a unique program that brings a Tiny Teacher – a baby in their first months of life – into elementary classrooms. The 2016-17 school year saw Roots of Empathy in almost 30 SCDSB schools, led by volunteers, SCDSB staff and Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) Public Health Nurses.

This year we celebrated the remarkable contributions of all of our Roots of Empathy instructors, families and babies with a picnic at the Education Centre. Hope Park, a volunteer instructor who has been facilitating the program in the SCDSB since 2012, was honoured for five years of service with the program. Director of Education Steve Blake and many SCDSB superintendents of education were in attendance to meet and thank our little ones and their families, and acknowledge the power of the program and the work of all of our Roots of Empathy Instructors.


Roots of Empathy is an international evidence-based program that started in Toronto. By observing the growth and development of the baby and the attachment between the baby and their parents, students in Roots programs learn to be more caring and empathic global citizens. Since 2000, the program has been evaluated in numerous independent research studies, which have shown that children who participate in the program demonstrate decreased aggression and increased social and emotional understanding, empathy, knowledge of parenting and pro-social behavior (e.g. sharing, helping and including). This program supports our board’s work to ensure equitable, inclusive, safe and caring schools.

For further information, please contact the Roots of Empathy key point persons for the SCDSB, Stephanie Ross and Denise Cole, at

Everyday superheroes

From June 5-11 2017, communities across Canada will be celebrating Parachute Safe Kids Week. This year’s theme “everyday superhero” encourages children to become leaders in road safety by learning how to keep themselves and others safe when they walk, bike or wheel.

Want to get involved? Here are some ideas to get you started:

At school:
• Take a picture showing your class’ pledge to be an #everydaysuperhero using Parachute’s online poster
• Create a bulletin board or art display to share road safety messages and honour your everyday superheroes
• Lead a walk around the school neighbourhood and have students identify safe or unsafe things they notice, then challenge them to come up with solutions
• Recruit a team of student leaders to organize school-wide activities to promote and celebrate road safety

In the classroom:
• The Ontario Road Safety resource provides complete lessons for teaching age-appropriate road safety information. Cross-curricular lessons are available for Kindergarten through Grade 12.
• The TD Think First for Kids program teaches children how to think first and play safely to prevent brain and spinal cord injuries. The resources (available in both English and French) meet Ontario curriculum requirements and are endorsed by Curriculum Services Canada.
• Create a free account, or log into Ophea teaching tools to access lesson plans, curriculum supplements and activities on a range of health topics

At home:
• Teach your child the importance of wearing a helmet and how to make sure it fits properly
• Be a good example by wearing a helmet too
• Set clear, age appropriate safety rules and supervise closely. Children under 10 should not ride on the road alone. They need to practice building safety skills in a safe environment with adults around to role-model and supervise.

Join us in celebrating Safe Kids Week. Share your ideas and everyday superhero moments on Twitter @SMHealthySchool using the hashtag #everydaysuperhero.
~ Stephanie Ross RN

Have more questions? Visit the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s website or call Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520 to speak with a public health nurse.

Collingwood elementary school students become chefs!

It’s never too early for students to start learning about healthy eating and food preparation. This month, Collingwood elementary schools have teamed up to participate in the You’re the Chef initiative. Offered with support of the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit and the Healthy Kids Community Challenge, the program teaches students the importance of eating healthy and the skills needed to safely prepare meals with veggies and fruit as star ingredients.

“We’re excited to give students an opportunity to get hands-on cooking experience, and to develop skills that will last a lifetime,” says Karen Moffitt, vice-principal at Mountain View Elementary School. “Our community partners are incredibly supportive of our efforts to help our students make healthy choices now and for the future.”

The five-week program includes topics such as:

  • the importance of vegetables and fruit
  • food preparation skills
  • safe food handling
  • basic kitchen safety

The students are excited about learning how to cook healthy snacks and meals, and the program is already showing positive outcomes. One parent noted that her child now accompanies her to the grocery store and looks specifically for fruits and vegetables from the recipes learned in You’re the Chef.

Students have learned to make healthy and delicious meals/snacks such as:

  • blueberry grunt
  • veggie pitas
  • cheese and veggie quesadillas
  • cheddar apple yogurt wraps
  • smoothies
  • fresh cucumber and tomato salad
Making healthy lunches…check! Healthy after school snacks…check!
Try some of these recipes from You’re the Chef.

Nottawa ES Hits #1 in BrightBites Hall of Fame!

Bright Bites logo

Looking for ways to improve healthy eating at your school? A new provincial program called BrightBites might be just what you need! That was the advice that the health unit’s Registered Dietitian Jody Dawson shared with Nottawa Elementary School last year when they identified healthy eating as a focus for their school learning plan.

Nottawa ES is top of the list in the Bright Bites Hall of Fame

Nottawa formed a nutrition sub-committee with support from students, staff, parents and the health unit and earned seven BrightBites badges, placing them at #1 on the BrightBites Hall of Fame! They engaged students for support and ideas for the breakfast program (they asked for more veggies!!!), and switched to healthy classroom celebrations, rewards, incentives and healthier fundraising options. They also successfully hosted their fun fair sans candy sales and sold fruit kabobs instead. To top it all off, Nottawa is now an order and pick-up site for the Good Food Box programs to make it easy for families to participate.

BrightBites is a free, easy to use, online program that offers tools and resources to help school leaders create a healthier school nutrition environment. Getting started is easy!

Bright Bites First Bite iconSchools can earn digital badges and compete with other teams for a spot on the BrightBites Hall of Fame. Badges are available on a variety of healthy eating topics, such as: packing healthy lunches, classroom celebrations, rewards and incentives, promoting water and reducing sugar sweetened beverages and making curriculum connections to healthy eating.

Think you’re ready to start earning badges for your school? Check out the website and follow the steps listed for the badge you’re interested in. Engage students and start to transform your school with small steps and share your stories and successes. Share your badges on social media or on your school website and claim your spot on the BrightBites Hall of Fame!

Looking for support? Public Health dietitians and nurses from the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit are available to assist your school with implementing BrightBites. Contact your school public health nurse or visit to get started.

~ Stephanie Ross RN
Follow the Healthy Schools team on Twitter @SMHealthySchool

Dabble: What’s in your lunch bag?

What's in your lunch bag?Children are going back to school next week and that means a return to the daily routine of packing lunches.

To help spark some lunch ideas we asked members of the Communications Team to bring in a lunch that they’d send with their child. There was only one rule: it had to be made with items we had on hand. Here’s what we came up with:

Lunch one:IMG_2387_web

  • yogurt drink
  • ham and cheese
  • crackers
  • grapes
  • carrots
  • popcorn
  • cheese grits tots (learn to make these yummy bites of deliciousness)

Lunch two:IMG_2391_web

  • granola bar
  • apple
  • grapes
  • crackers
  • yogurt
  • bean salad (make this salad by combining a bean mix or chickpeas with tomatoes, cucumbers, salt, pepper and lemon juice)

Lunch three:IMG_2399_web

  • turkey, lettuce, cucumber and mayo wrap
  • crackers and cheese
  • yogurt
  • strawberries
  • carrots and tzatziki dip

Additional tips:

  1. Pack a reusable water bottle. This is a great alternative to sugary drinks.
  2. Pack enough food to last 2 nutrition breaks.
  3. Practice opening and closing food containers.
  4. Label your child’s belongings including lunch bag, water bottle and food containers.
  5. Pack a waste-free lunch by letting nature wrap your food for you! Oranges, bananas, apples and hard-boiled eggs all come in their own handy packaging.

Looking for more inspiration?  Check out 6 healthy school lunch ideas your kids will actually eat, Earth-conscious + health-conscious lunch ideas and tips for packing a waste-free lunch.

~ Jamie Campbell, Communications Officer, SCDSB