Healthy Lunches - images of kids

6 healthy school lunch ideas your kids will actually eat

It’s almost September, which means back-to-school time and a return to the daily routine of packing school lunches. Let’s admit it . . . we as parents all resort to store-bought granola bars, applesauce and drinking boxes at some point, but with the options below, hopefully you’ll start out this school year on a healthier note!

  1. Water and milk are best to drink

    Find a cool, reusable drinking container you kid loves (maybe an Elsa or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle will do the trick) and use a fun cooler pack or freeze the water container to use as a cooler pack to keep the drink cold throughout the day.

  2. Soup, chili or pasta

    If you make a slow cooker meal on the weekend (or also a great idea for those busy weeknights when you don’t have time to cook!), ensure there is extra for lunch leftovers. One of my son’s favourite is this carrot and lentil soup (he calls it “honey soup!”). Warm a thermos with hot water for a few minutes, then heat the food and place in the thermos. This should keep it warm enough for the first nutrition break.

  3. Cheese and crackers

    Look for low-fat flavoured rice cakes and whole grain crackers. If your child doesn’t like cheese, try some yogurt. Add a protein like turkey or chicken and kids can make cracker ‘sandwiches’.

  4. Bread creativity: Wraps, pita and more

    A great alternative to the traditional sandwich and there’s definitely more choice out there now compared to the Wonderbread we grew up with! Try different kinds of grains, flatbread or tortilla wraps with a variety of filling options – fruit, veggies, tuna, cooked egg, deli meat, etc. Let your kids pick out what they like.

  5. Veggies/fruit and dip

    Switch it up and try something new (snap peas and cauliflower or kiwi and strawberries). Your child can help prepare it and sort the foods by colour, shape or texture – a learning experience! Healthy dip options
    include hummus, plain yogurt, guacamole or a low-fat salad dressing.

  6. Muffins

    Muffins are quick and fun to make on the weekend with your kids, and are a great alternative to packaged granola bars and sugary gummy snacks. A few favourites in our house include: cranberry blueberry bran muffins, banana muffins and broccoli and cheese muffins.

For more ideas and tips, check out our Welcome to Kindergarten healthy eating video, featuring Andrew Hunter Elementary School students and created in partnership with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.

Remember to label all containers with your child’s name and make sure your child can open and close the containers  on their own. Use reusable containers to encourage waste-free lunches, and ask about classroom and school allergies so you are aware of what is safe to bring to school.

Also, encourage your child to help make and pack their own lunch and snacks – they will be more likely to eat it if they help prepare it. Even three, four and five year-olds can help pack the containers in their lunch bags. Healthy eating helps kids focus in the classroom and gives them the energy and nutrients they need to learn and play!

~ Melanie Rumley, Communications Specialist, SCDSB


EatRight Ontario

Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit

Health Canada

Preparing for the first day of Kindergarten

With the first day of school only a month away, many parents have started thinking about how to prepare. For parents with children starting Junior Kindergarten, there is a new routine to think about, along with what to pack for their child and how to make them feel comfortable about starting a new journey.

The first day for all Junior Kindergarten students in the Simcoe County District School Board is Thursday, September 7.  Here are some helpful tips on what to pack and get ready for the big day:

Be supportive
Some children feel a mix of nerves and excitement about heading back to school. Listen to your child and provide support. Show your child a photo of you on a first day of school and talk about your own experiences. Remind your child about all the caring people at his or her school. Talk about a time when your child overcame anxiety.

Get excited while prepping together
Pick a first-day-of-school outfit together, shop for lunch ingredients and plan the lunch menu for the week. Involving your child in the back-to-school planning can help generate some excitement. During these activities, talk about the great things about school—like seeing and making friends, the new staff members your child will meet, the sports and activities and the interesting things they will learn throughout the year.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit also has Tips for a Healthy Back to School.

If your child is turning four in 2017 and you haven’t registered them for Kindergarten yet, visit and watch our Kindergarten in the SCDSB video.

You can register over the summer (until Aug. 25) by calling 705-734-6363 x11750 or emailing to schedule an appointment to register in person at the Education Centre in Midhurst. Starting August 28, please contact your home school to register as school offices will re-open that week.

Watch for our upcoming blog post on healthy and fun lunch and snack ideas!

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:

Keep your kids busy this summer with these fun activities

Are your kids getting bored already? Running out of ideas for things to do? Check out these ideas in and around Simcoe County.

1) Visit your local library for a wide variety of books for your children to discover as well as free summer programs! From arts and crafts to Lego and robotics, your community library has something for the whole family.

Barrie Public Library
Orillia Public Library
List of other libraries in Simcoe County

2) Take a hike! Visit your local conservation area, connect with nature and get some exercise. Some examples include:

Earl Rowe Provincial Park
Scanlon Creek Conservation Area
Minesing Wetlands Conservation Area
Tiffin Centre for Conservation
Edenvale Conservation Area
Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area

3) If you live in Simcoe County, you aren’t far from the water! Plan a beach day, get some sun and enjoy the water (safely –wear sunscreen! Keep your eye out for our upcoming post on sun and water safety).

4) Get crafty! Check out some of these outdoor summer craft ideas and learn how to turn a walk in the forest into an adventure:

Summer craft ideas for kids
Discover – Woodland adventure booklet

5) Get out and enjoy what your community has to offer at a summer festival or event. Here’s a list of some events going on this summer:

Alliston Potato Festival
Carrot Fest
Downtown Orillia Summer Block Party
Canada 150 Celebrations – Rubber Duck Tour (Midland)
Movies By the Bay

6) Go to a local park for a picnic. Get the kids to help make and pack a healthy lunch for all to enjoy. Click the link below for ideas on what to pack:

What should I pack in my picnic basket this summer? 

7) Check out local museums and historical attractions in our area:

Centennial Museum & Archives – Penetanguishene
Huronia Museum
Leacock Museum and National Historic Site
MacLaren Art Centre
Museum on the Boyne
Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons
Simcoe County Museum

8) Try a new sport, get your bikes out or rent a boat/canoe for the day.

9) Go berry picking or visit a local farm/farmers’ market for fresh produce. Here’s a list of some local pick-your-own farms:

Barrie Hill Farms
R Family Farm
Murphy’s Farm Market
Ego’s Garden Centre
Fernwood Farms & Market

10) Make fun summer treats that are healthy and will keep the kids cool on a hot day:

More than just ice cream: The frozen treats of summer

Top 10 exam study tips

Exams can be extremely daunting, but they don’t have to be! Getting into the right study habits can make all the difference when ensuring success. Give yourself the best chance with these study tips!

1. Give yourself enough time to study. It’s easy push off studying, however last-minute cramming is usually not the best way to approach an exam. Avoid pulling all-nighters by creating a study schedule to organize your time. You may want to give some exams more study time than others, so find a balance that you feel comfortable with.

2. Log off. This might be the most obvious tip but hardest to achieve. Extensions such as StayFocused, SelfControl or Cold Turkey can temporarily block time-wasting websites to help minimize your distractions.

3. Speak out loud instead of simply reading. This may sound weird, but you’d be surprised how much more you can remember when you’ve said it out loud. Studies show that speaking out loud versus just reading or writing your notes can improve your memory.

4. Sort out what you don’t understand. Clarify the meaning of any words or concepts you don’t understand before trying to study them. If you aren’t clear about what information means, memorizing it won’t help. Additionally, prioritize the hardest subjects first in each study session.

5. Form a study group. Connect with other students to form a study session. You may have questions that they have the answers to and vice versa. As long as you make sure you stay focused on the topic for an agreed amount of time, this can be one of the most effective ways to challenge yourself.

6. Test yourself. Whether you’re using good ol’ fashion flash cards or using testing websites such as GoConqr, teaching yourself the material is one of the best ways to know the content.

7. Take a break! Don’t overwork yourself. Everyone’s different, so develop a study routine that works for you. If you study better in the morning, start early before taking a break at lunchtime. Or, if you’re more productive at nighttime, take a larger break earlier on so you’re ready to settle down in the evening. Try not to feel guilty enjoying some sunshine instead of hunching over your notes.

8. Doze off. It can be tempting to stay up all night trying to memorize everything in your textbook, but all-nighters rarely get you an A. In the days leading up to the exam, aim to get seven to nine hours a night so sleep deprivation doesn’t undo all the hard work you’ve put in.

9. Eat brain food. You may feel like you deserve a treat or that you don’t have time to cook, but what you eat can really have an impact on energy levels and focus, so stay away from junk food. Keep your brain and body fueled by choosing nutritious foods such as fish, nuts, seeds, yogurt and blueberries. Try some of these study snacks this exam season.

10. Learn what works. Some people are early birds, some are night owls; some prefer to study with a pal, others need complete and total silence. Experiment to find what’s most effective for you, then stick with it!

Best of luck!

10 things to do this weekend in and around Simcoe County

With the May long weekend approaching, it’s time for us to go out and enjoy the beginning of the summer months. Celebrate the unofficial kickoff of summer in Ontario by going outside, by the water or under the stars with family and friends. Luckily, in the Simcoe County area there are a variety of activities you can participate in this weekend.

Celebrate with a bang!

All weekend, the Barrie Kinsman are selling fireworks in the Sears Barrie parking lot from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. All proceeds from sales go back to the community for various charities around the area.

Enjoy local goods from the Farmers’ Market

This Saturday the Orillia Fairgrounds Farmers’ Market will officially open for the season. The market is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. There will be horse-drawn wagon rides, a pancake breakfast from 9 to 11 a.m., fire trucks on display and more than 40 farmers, food producers and artisans.

Watch a flick under the stars

The Sunset Barrie Drive-in located on Line 4 of Oro-Medonte will be open all weekend. Pack the family into the car and enjoy some movies! On Sunday night there is a special dusk-till-dawn event.

Celebrate all weekend long at Blue Mountain

All weekend Blue Mountain Village is hosting a May long weekend celebration. Start the unofficial kickoff to summer on your favourite village patio while enjoying live music, face painting, scavenger hunts, hiking, gondola rides and Groove Dancing. There will also be fireworks over the mountain Saturday at 10:15 p.m.

Connect with the community at Portarama

Head over to Tay Township to enjoy Portarama Family Festival this weekend. The festival begins Friday at 5 p.m. and ends Sunday at 10:30 p.m. with fireworks. You can expect many family-oriented activities at this community event.

Celebrate Police Week

This Friday, families are encouraged to bring children to the OPP Museum from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. During those hours there will be a variety of activities including colouring, make your own OPP buttons and a special “try on a uniform” station. Special guest for the day will be Provincial Constable Martin Hill, Community Safety Officer for Orillia who will be present from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. and will be available to meet with children. All children will also be eligible for a free draw of an OPP stuffed dog toy, compliments of the Friends of the OPP Museum.

Try Treetop Trekking

Sunday is ‘Funday’ at Treetop Trekking in Horseshoe Valley and Hunstville. Save $10 off all individual rate three hour Zip Line and Aerial Game Treks in May and June, 2017.  You can book your adventure with the promotion code “sunday_funday” here.

Visit the Scenic Caves

Celebrate the Victoria Day weekend outdoors at the Collingwood Scenic Caves, open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. all weekend. It’s a prime weekend to view trilliums on the nature trails and trees beginning to blossom. This weekend the Scenic Caves are offering self-guided tours of the caves, 420 ft. Suspension Bridge, Thunderbird Twin Zipline, Children’s Adventure Playground, Mini Gold, Gemstone mining and more!

Get crafty

Create fizzing fireworks with the kids using just coffee filters, vinegar, baking soda and food colouring! For full instructions click here.

More s’mores!

No campfire? No problem! Try a twist on the classic summer snack with this S’mores on a stick recipe your kids can help you make!

Have a fun and safe long weekend!

5 ways parents can help their teen succeed on the Literacy Test

The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT) will take place on Oct. 20 this year. Most Grade 10 students will write it. For the first time, the test will be completed online. It will take place at school on school computers. Students have three hours to complete it. Only the students writing the OSSLT will be at school during the test—we have modified the school day.

The test evaluates students’ ability to read, understand, and communicate their thoughts. Teachers are helping students prepare for the test by providing regular activities and feedback.

There are things parents can do to help too. Here are five tips to help your teen prepare to write the literacy test:

  1. Encourage your teen to complete the practice test on the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) website. Why not try the test out yourself? Then you and your teen can talk about it.
  1. Suggest your teen practices the areas of the test that require a written response. There are sample question and answer booklets available on the EQAO website.
  1. Encourage your teen to practice regularly. The test evaluates their literacy skills across the Ontario Curriculum of all subjects up until the end of grade 9, so the work they have been doing in all classes has been preparing them for the test. The additional practice will help them feel confident on test day.
  1. Encourage your teen to talk to a teacher if they’re feel unsure about the test or have questions about what to expect. Keeping open lines of communication will help school staff address any issues before test day.
  1. Do what you can to make sure your teen sleeps well the night before the test. A nutritious breakfast will also help prepare their mind and body for the three-hour task. And your words of encouragement and support will help too.

The OSSLT is a graduation requirement. Like you, we want your teen to be successful on their first attempt. By working together with the school and your teen, you can help increase the chance of success.

But—don’t worry—if your teen isn’t successful, there are more opportunities. Students who are not successful in October can write the test again on March 30, 2017 either online or on paper. The October test will not count as a failed attempt. This is because the Oct. 20 date was added this year since it’s the first time the test will be completed online, rather than with a paper booklet.

List of Dos & Don'ts for the OSSLT