Category Archives: Health

Getting Back to Nature

Fall is the perfect time of year to celebrate nature and all of its glory. Many of us head outdoors to savour Autumn’s colours and the remaining days of sun before the really cold weather moves in.

But what if we allowed our children the gift of nature every day – rain or shine? Even in the cold and snow.

What would happen if our kids played freely in the forest, the meadow or the walking trail and witnessed each season’s changes first hand – up close and personal? 

Back to Nature 1

My colleagues and I recently had the opportunity to attend a Nature and Early Learning Conference with keynote speaker Marlene Power, Executive Director of Forest School Canada to answer those questions. During the conference, each one of us was taken back to that magical sense of wonder we experienced in nature as children.

When kids are exposed to and become familiar with natural settings, they form connections that reap immeasurable benefits. Repeated exposure to that environment allows them to build a relationship with nature – connecting them to something greater than themselves.

Natural spaces foster a sense of adventure, discovery, and wonder in all of us – but especially children. Outdoor play becomes about imagination, collaboration, dialogue and children directing their own learning process (emergent curriculum).

Back to Nature 2


At the forest and nature school here in Ottawa, children are encouraged to play freely outside, in a natural setting. They learn to navigate varied terrains, in all different kinds of weather. They develop a respect for nature and learn to map out their understanding of the forest. Other interesting observations from the Forest School is that outside, skills and abilities become more important, leaving materialism and social hierarchies with less currency. Imaginations take over and the children reinvent uses for found items. The ideas, physical skills and stamina developed from spending time in the forest enhance feelings of competency and esteem in the children attending.

“The evidence suggests that viewing, interacting with, and living in natural environments can have multiple effects on ‘reducing stress, increasing patience, increasing self-discipline, increasing capacity for attention, increasing recovery from mental fatigue, or from psychopysociological imbalance,’ (Russell et al., 2013, 9. 482)”

“Environmental education is linked to better performance in math, reading, writing, and listening and better critical thinking skills (Bartosh, 2003; Ernst & Monroe, 2004)” … “Play and exposure to green spaces can also reduce children’s stress levels, protect their emotional development, and enhance their social relations (Kuo & Taylor, 2004; Ginsburg, 2007; Weinstein et al., 2009; Children & Nature Network, 2012).”

~ Taken from Forest School Canada’s website.

Children can interact with nature inside too. Consider bringing the outdoors in for even more benefits!

Back to Nature 4

Here toddlers and preschoolers added found treasures to salt dough for an open-ended art activity.

For many more fabulous ideas on bringing nature into your daycare, Humber College and The Back to Nature Network produced an excellent guide called ‘Ready…Set…Wonder


Signature - Jo

Nutrition and Food Safety for Young Children

Feeding children can sometimes be challenging but proper nutrition is essential to their development.

For the pickiest of eaters, exposure to new foods is key. Children may need to be exposed to an unfamiliar food up to 8 times before they are willing to try it. When introducing a new food, serve it alongside foods the children are already familiar with and like. Maintain a positive attitude and model sampling new foods in front of them. Best practice is to offer no disappointment or praise when a child refuses or tries the food.


Allowing children to choose how much they would like to eat (if at all) is best so it’s important to offer a variety of healthy foods and textures. When possible allow children to serve themselves by offering a buffet or assisting them to pass dishes around the table.

Canada’s Food Guide recommends that toddlers and preschoolers eat the following each day:

Children aged 2-3 years: 4 servings of vegetables and fruit, 3 servings of grain products, 2 servings of milk/milk products and 1 meat product

Children aged 4-8 years: 5 servings of vegetables and fruit, 4 servings of grain products, 2 servings of milk/milk products, and 1 meat product

Note that one serving is considered the typical amount a child of that age will eat in one serving, and is not necessarily a portion size.

In order to achieve these nutritional goals, aim to include all of the 4 food groups at each meal and foods from at least 2 food groups for each snack. This can be as simple as serving raw vegetables with hummus for dipping. Add a glass of milk to add a third food group!

healthier choices include:

– choosing wholegrain for more fiber

– steaming or baking foods instead of frying

– selecting foods that are unsweetened, low in sodium and fat

– choosing at least one dark green and one orange food per day – these options are high in essential vitamins (folate and vitamin A)

For more information on ~feeding children, 

~ food safety, visit: (I love their food storage chart)

~ the NutriStep (Nutrition Screening Tool for Every Preschooler), check out:

Thanks for reading!

Signature - Jo

Healthy Choices

March is nutrition month, so I’d like to share some helpful resources today to help you and your children make healthy – and hopefully exciting – new choices in the kitchen.

healthy choices food

The first resource is the Eat Right Ontario website that offers tips on easy, budget-friendly menu planning. The resource section provides information on such things as tips for feeding young children and printable PDFs like Bake It Up!; a book filled with nutrition tips and recipes for baking healthier treats. What a fantastic resource for getting children excited about, and involved in the kitchen. Younger kids can help pour and stir while older ones can read recipes and measure ingredients.

Children’s development is directly affected by their food choices. Poor nutrition can lead to decreased academic performance and behaviour problems. If you suspect a child in your care may have a nutritional issue such as poor growth, iron deficiency or unhealthy feeding, you may benefit from Public Health’s Health and Nutrition Screening Tools workshop at CCPRN on May 2nd from 7-9pm. For more information on the NutriSTEP Screening Tool (Nutrition Screening Tool for Every Preschooler) click here. To register for the workshop, go to and search in the calendar of events.

This month CCPRN is also kicking off Recipe Tuesdays on Facebook so be sure to ‘like us’ to view the healthy, seasonally relevant recipes we’ll be featuring. We’ll be posting more recipes on our Pinterest ‘recipe & menu planning’ pinboard as well.

Thanks for reading,

Signature - Jo

Sleep Safety

Many home child care providers use portable playpens, or ‘Pack ‘N Play’s for naptime sleep arrangements.

sleep safety pack & play


These are a practical alternative to cribs because they are small, inexpensive and fold up compactly when not in use. But before using a playpen in your daycare there are safety issues to consider:

– Follow the instructions for use and size/weight restrictions of the product.

– Playpens are not as durable as cribs and require regular inspection to ensure their safe use. Only use the mattress that was supplied with the playpen. Check for soft spots that could pose a suffocation hazard. Discard as soon as a hole has been poked through the mesh sides. A child can climb out or become entangled if there is even the smallest hole in the side of the play yard. There is also a risk of choking if there are any tears in the fabric.

– Be sure that all four sides of the playpen are locked in place before use.

– Do not place a child in the playpen when a bassinet or changing station is attached. Babies should not be placed on the attachments to sleep.

– Do not add items such as pillows or extra padding that could cause a child to suffocate in a play yard or a crib. Large toys and stuffed toys should not be placed in the playpen because your child could use them to climb out.

– Play yards are not recommended for unsupervised sleep. For example, they are not a good solution for night time sleeping or for sleeping in another room.

Older playpens come with greater safety concerns. Check the Health Canada Consumer Product Safety website for more details.

Where you place your child’s playpen or crib should also be carefully considered. Do not place near hanging blind cords or near furniture that can be reached to pull themselves out of.

Health Canada recommends the use of cribs as the safest place for a baby to sleep for long periods of time. Cribs should not be any older that 10 years old and must meet the following regulations:

– There must be a label with date, manufacturer warnings and instructions must be included or available.

– The gap between the mattress and the crib should be less that 3 centimeters.

– The mattress must be firm and flat.

– The mattress support must be bolted to the corner posts of the frame.

– The corner posts must be less than 3 millimeters higher than the rails.

– The space between slats must be less than 6 centimeters.

– The drop side of the crib must be sturdy.

– There must not be any sharp edges or points, loose nuts or bolts, broken, cracked or missing pieces. It also must not be repaired or modified in any way.

Cribs are the safest place for babies to sleep because they have the most stringent regulations and are intended for long term sleep arrangements.

For more information on Health Canada’s regulations and recommendations for sleep safety, click here. For Health Canada’s Consumer Product Safety up-to-date recall list, click here.


Thanks for reading,

Signature - Jo

Keep Germs at Bay for the Holidays

It’s that time of the year again and many of us are burning the candle at both ends, trying to check off all the items on our long ‘to-do’ list before for the holidays.

We may be doing too much and feeling a little run down already. But what could be worse than not getting it all done in time?  With just two weeks left before the big guy in red makes his appearance – many of us worry about illnesses taking over our households in time for Christmas.

Sick child

Here are some steps to take to prevent the spread of germs:

– Remind your families about your policies on illness and explain that you are taking extra precautions as the holidays approach. No one wants to be sick over Christmas break, so parents should be understanding when you ask them to think twice before sending a sick child to daycare. A good rule of thumb is to keep a child home for 24 hours after they have been free of symptoms of vomiting or diarrhea. In the case of respiratory illness, it is usually safe for a child to return to daycare once they are free of fever and feeling better.

– Of course, frequent hand washing is even more important at this time of year; particularly after playgroups and before meals or snacks.

– Make fresh play dough – daily if possible. Toss out old playdough that may contain germs or viruses.

– Disinfect toys by wiping off organic matter and then soaking them in a bleach solution ( 1 tsp bleach to every 10 cups of water) for 10 minutes. Then rinse with water and let air dry. If using a spray bottle, spray a clean cloth or paper towel and wipe the object with it.  Hard plastic toys can be cleaned in the dishwasher with a rinse cycle of 82’C for at least 10 seconds.  But cleaning is not just for toys – don’t forget those storage bins and craft supplies too!

– Disinfect surfaces that are touched frequently such as doorknobs, phones, keyboards, etc.

– Wash plush toys (and hand puppets if possible) in hot water with laundry detergent. Limit their use when a child is sick in your home.

– Ensure that each child has their own bedding and that it is not shared.

– Encourage hugs instead of kisses.

– Cough into your sleeve (or a tissue), not your hand. Encourage your children to do the same. Don’t share utensils or drinking glasses.

– Consider getting the flu shot. Childcare providers caring for children under 5 years have now been added to the list of recommended recipients.

CCPRN is hosting a new Outbreak Management Workshop for Caregivers at the office on Monday, January 14th at 6:45pm. Register on our website: or if you are not a CCPRN member and would like to attend, please call Doreen at 613-749-5211, ext. 23.

If you would like more information on best practices for disinfecting your home in the meantime, check out the Ottawa Public Health website here – because who wants to be home –sick– for the holidays?!

Signature - Jo

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