Healthy habits for families on Earth Day

By Jason Haug, Program & Project Management Officer, Ottawa Public Health

Every year on April 22, we celebrate Earth Day – the largest environmental event in the world. Usually when people talk about Earth Day, they associate it with recycling and picking up garbage. These are great places to start, but they are not the only things we can do. 

Earth Day is the perfect time to think about what changes we can make on a daily basis that make this world a little bit greener, cleaner, and healthier. It is about reducing our carbon footprint. This includes thinking about things like the amount of fuel we use in our cars, the amount of energy we consume, and what products we choose to purchase. 


One of the best ways to reduce your family’s carbon footprint is to change the way you get around. Making actual footprints will reduce your carbon footprint. That’s right! Walking for short trips instead of using the car is one of the best ways to cut back on fuel and pollution. Think about the many trips we make every day: to work, school, or to the grocery store. How many of these are short trips? Ottawa Public Health recommends walking for short trips of 2 km or less. A trip of 2 km is about 30 minutes of physical activity, which can help adults reach the recommended 150 minutes of actvity needed each week. Children aged 5 to 11 years should be getting 60 minutes of physical activity per day. 

One way school-aged kids can squeeze in more physical actvity is by walking to school. If walking alone is an issue, consider organizing or joining a walking school bus. A walking school bus is a group of children who walk to school together with one or more supervising adults. This idea helps keep kids safer and gives them some much-needed social time. 

Another way to boost physical activity while also being a bit greener is to reduce screen time. Consider implementing an electronics-free day once a week and replacing that screen time with a fun activity such as skating, swimming at the local pool, or going for a bike ride. 


According to the David Suzuki Foundation, livestock production accounts for 70 per cent of all agricultural land use and occupies 30 per cent of the land surface of the planet. How about introducing Meatless Mondays into your weekly menu plans? One great way to make sure you are eating mainly plant-based foods is to follow Canadas Food Guide. Most of your daily servings should come from two plant-based groups: vegetable and fruits as well as grain products. 

Eating local produce is also another way to keep things a bit greener. “Food miles” refers to the distance food has to travel to get from the farm to your plate. The fewer miles your food travels, the less fuel is used and the fresher your food will be. 

Ottawa families can celebrate Earth Day by joining a community organization called Hidden Harvest. Hidden Harvest encourages residents to plant fruit and nut trees on their property and share the harvest with local food banks. Not only does this teach kids important food skills, but it also shows them a way they can give back to their community. 

For more information, visit or call 613-580-6744 (TTY: 613-580-9656). You can also connect with OPH on Facebook (, Tumblr (ottawahealth. , Twitter (@OttawaHealth) and on Pinterest (

Earth Day awareness begins at home

When we include our kids in our efforts to make good use of our unwanted things, we raise them to be conscious of their environmental footprints. 

When we include our kids in our efforts to make good use of our unwanted things, we raise them to be conscious of their environmental footprints. 

By Sarah Niman

Kids of any age can help clean their room, but there seems to be a universal disdain for the chore. We all recognize the sounds: a whine, the exaggerated exhale, the drawn out, “but mo-ohhhhhhm!” 

Motivation is in especially short supply with days growing longer and warmer. If only there was a way to turn this dreaded job into a rewards system, one that doesn’t cost a dime. 

Earth Day (April 22) gives us a chance to clean out closets and start a conversation about where things go when we are finished with them. 

Open up the window to let the fresh air in, and get some empty laundry baskets: it’s sorting time. Little hands can help sort torn clothing, older kids can separate outgrown and worn-out items. Broken action figures, ripped books, scratched DVDs—purge it all. Rather than opening a trash bag and throwing it all in, kids can divert waste from the landfill in a number of ways. 

If a toy, book, shirt or other item is still in good condition, it can be donated to a number of places that will resell it or pass it on to other families. The Youville Centre dispenses baby items, kids clothes and toys to single-parent families in need. The Salvation Army and the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul thrift stores sell them at low prices to those who cannot afford items new. Value Village buys donated items from charities that will drive to your door to pick things up. All you have to do is call the Canadian Diabetes Association or the Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy to schedule a pick-up. You can also forge alliances with neighbours, friends and family and offer your second-hand clothes to those with kids right behind yours in age. 

If you’d prefer to teach your little entrepreneurs about business, you could involve them in consigning their items. Many Ottawa neighbourhoods have consignment stores that will sell your hand-me-downs and give you a portion of the proceeds. 

Using the City of Ottawa’s online Waste Explorer, you can learn how to sort broken and worn-out items for recycling, sparing the garbage bin. Depending on the material, it can be recycled in the regular blue box pickup, or collected at special household waste collections, held throughout spring and summer. 

On June 7 and 8, put your unwanted items on your curb for Ottawa’s citywide give-away weekend. Make a “free” sign out of a piece of cardboard, tape it to your items, and let your neighbours help themselves to old books, movies, kitchen gadgets, and unwanted gifts. 

Some parents may have the inclination to take a DIY route instead. Involving kids in crafty upcycling projects can extend the life of well-used items. There are a number of online tutorials for turning T-shirts into bags and art smocks, oxford shirts into dresses, and baby onesies into hats. Ottawa mother Susan Markus turns old T-shirts and bed sheets into yarn she then knits into stuffed animals. She then sells the toys through her Etsy shop and Tickled Pink in the By Ward Market. 

Helping kids understand what happens next in the consumer chain is the hidden reward for clearing out closets. Making real-life connections fosters a greater sense of responsibility and awareness about why it matters. At the very least, a cleared space may be more likely to be kept clean by easily distracted kids. 

Ottawa’s waste ends up in one of two landfills: the Trail Waste Facility or the Springhill Landfill in Osgoode. If our waste patterns remain the same, Springhill will be full by 2018, and Trail by 2035. 

When we include our kids in our efforts to make good use of our unwanted things, we raise them to be conscious of their environmental footprints. And hey, if all else fails, an after-dinner ice cream for a hard day’s work has been known to turn even the biggest skeptics in the under-12 crowd. 

Sarah Niman is a writer, wife, and mother of four. She blogs at

10 great ways to spring into motion this May

Looking for a good place to fly a kite? We asked Twitter and here’s what our tweeps told us! @iebrown suggested the “open space by the war museum (where Bluesfest main stages are) – you can often get a good breeze off the river.” @KanataDad cast his vote for Walter Baker Park, and @RossBrownfoot reminded us about the great space at Vincent Massey Park. Thanks guys!

Looking for a good place to fly a kite? We asked Twitter and here’s what our tweeps told us! @iebrown suggested the “open space by the war museum (where Bluesfest main stages are) – you can often get a good breeze off the river.” @KanataDad cast his vote for Walter Baker Park, and @RossBrownfoot reminded us about the great space at Vincent Massey Park. Thanks guys!

By Jason Haug, Program & Project Management Officer, Ottawa Public Health

 May is a beautiful month to get outside and be active. There are many fun things to do with kids of all ages. We’ve decided to highlight some suggestions for you this month in case you’re interested in trying something new! 


You don’t need to sign up for an organized activity to be active. It’s simple! Just play! Unstructured play is a great way for kids to learn social skills and motor skills. Games like tag, hide-and-go-seek, red rover – basically the games that we used to play as kids – are just as fun today. Check out Participaction’s Bring Back Play website ( for easy-to-find activities to fit your family’s needs. 


All you need is chalk and a hard surface – like a driveway or sidewalk – to create a fun game. You can draw a race track, an obstacle course, or a traditional hopscotch grid. Aside from the obvious physical benefits of hopping, hopscotch can also help your child learn how to count, balance on one foot, and explore their creativity. 


There’s something magical about bubbles, isn’t there? Maybe it’s because they look like mini balloons, or maybe it’s the unpredictable ways they move. Even pets enjoy the thrill of chasing them down. You can have a good hour of fun just letting your kids run after the wild elusive bubbles. You can easily make your own bubbles by combining 1 cup water, 2 tablespoons corn syrup, and 4 tablespoons of dish soap. 


Not only will this allow you and your child to run around together on a windy day, but it’s a great opportunity to get crafty with your designs. There are tons of free and easy designs online to help you construct a simple kite. Try Choose one of these designs for your next family project. And beware of power lines and thunderstorms when you go! 


Ottawa is home to many great nature paths and hiking trails. Whether you use the hike to teach your child about flora and fauna, or just to get some some fresh air, the choice is yours. Pro tip: wear sturdy footwear and bring water, especially if it’s warm. Find a good trail near you at 


Whether it’s baseball, basketball, soccer ball, or football, the warmer weather allows you the chance to play some great team sports. Team sports teaches your child commitment, respect, and cooperation. Games can also teach fundamental movement such as throwing, catching, kicking, running, and jumping. You don’t need to be in a league to enjoy the benefits of sports. How about gathering up a family with similarly aged children and challenging them to a game? Grab a ball and head out to an open space. Game on! 


Geocaching is a fun activity for older children who love adventure and exploration. The point of geocaching is to find specially marked containers found at specific GPS coor dinates. It is like a real-life treasure hunt, and can even be done with a smart phone. There’s a lot of great information at, especially if you’re starting out. If you are looking for something simpler for younger kids, planning a scavenger hunt can be fun too (no gadgets required)! Check out this article about geocaching for more information.


Gardening is fun physical activity with beautiful and edible results. It also teaches kids that it’s okay to get a little bit messy sometimes. Raking, lifting plants, digging holes, and patting down soil are some of the many ways to keep fit while planting a garden. Perhaps this is the year you plant your own carrots, tomatoes, or herbs? It can be very rewarding to cook with the foods you grow yourself, even if it’s in a container garden. 


Walking or biking to school is an easy way to get your kids active before and after school hours. It can also give you a chance to have extra social time with them. It’s been shown that kids who are active before school hours tend to perform better academically. A cool way to motivate your child might be to track how far they have walked on a map. Maybe the goal is to walk from Ottawa to Toronto? They can colour in how far they’ve walked at the end of every week. 


To be active you also need to have the right fuel. A perfect picnic includes a variety of sliced vegetables and fruits, whole grains, cubed cheese, nuts and seeds, or home made trail mix. This will keep your little ones energized so that they can enjoy ideas #1 through #9 on the list. 

For more information, visit or call 613-580-6744 (TTY: 613-580-9656). You can also connect with OPH on Facebook (, Tumblr (ottawahealth. , Twitter (@OttawaHealth) and on Pinterest (

Pinterest roundup: Hoppy Easter!

It's Monday, and that means we're sharing some of our favourite things from our Pinterest boards. Since Easter is right around the corner we thought it'd be fun to share a few ideas to celebrate the season:

Are you following Capital Parent on Pinterest? Follow us for family crafts, great kid-friendly activities, recipes and more. You can read all of our past Pinterest round-ups right here.

Parenting blogs we love: Healthy Mumma!

Meet Shauna Ironside of Healthy Mumma. Photo courtesy of Andrew Geddes, Union Eleven Photographers.   

Meet Shauna Ironside of Healthy Mumma. Photo courtesy of Andrew Geddes, Union Eleven Photographers.   

By Lynn Jatania

Shauna Ironside understands. She knows that when you become a parent, your own needs often go on the back burner – who has time to worry about health and fitness when you’re barely getting three hours of sleep a night and busy monitoring the food intake and bowel movements of several other small bodies? But at her blog, Healthy Mumma, Shauna has tons of great advice and tips for working a little (low pressure!) healthful living into your busy life. 

Health and wellness is always at the forefront of Shauna’s mind, as her day jobs include athletic therapist and osteopath. But her blog isn’t cold and clinical – it’s personal, warm, and gently encouraging. Expecting your first baby? Shauna’s got the goods on all the equipment, training, and personal support you’ll need – be sure to read her essential guide to breastfeeding prep. Just gave birth? She’s got a series on dealing with post-partum incontinence – frank advice that you won’t find many other mommies talking about. And we just love her ideas on using kiddie toys for exercise – fun, funny, and easy enough that parents at any stage will be encouraged to get down on the floor and get a little active. 

Her best inspiration, however, comes from her personal experience with her own baby boy, who recently turned a year old. She admits it’s hard to fit workouts into her schedule, to get enough rest, and to actually sit at the table to eat. But she still tries to carve out a little time for herself – both for her own sake and that of her son. It’s a place we’ve all been, and with Shauna leading the way, maybe we’ll all climb our way back to being Healthy Mummas.

Notable Quote 

I know my body needs more. My sanity needs more. The last few months I’ve been feeling kinda Blah - with a capital b. I think it has been a combination of not eating well enough, shifting hormones as B started nursing less, and the dark winter days, but I know that my lack of exercise has also played a role. 

This time last year and into the spring, I was doing a heck of a lot more than I am now. I was committed to my three swim sessions and a postnatal fitness class once or twice a week. I even got in a run every now and then. And in the lovelier, warmer weather, I walked daily with B. Everywhere. I’d walk while he napped in the buggy. I’d walk to visit my parents. I’d walk to and from exercise class. I walked and walked. And walked some more. 

To be fair to myself, life was a little different back then. B was smaller, more portable, less mobile and could sleep anywhere – like through an entire exercise class. And I wasn’t working like I am now. So there are some big changes that I’d say have legitimately conflicted with my exercise regime, but this is not an excuse for the measly two hours (max) that I am getting in these days. 

It’s time to get real. 

Read the rest of this post - and more - at Healthy Mumma


"Green up" your child's next birthday party!

By Gwen Leron

Birthday parties are an exciting event in a child’s life. They are turning a year older, they get to celebrate with friends and family, and open presents. These are the things that come to mind when we think about birthday parties, but have you thought about the waste they leave behind? With Earth Day coming up this month, this is a great time to contemplate how we plan our children’s birthday parties and maybe find a way to work in some options that minimize waste. 

When it comes to planning an eco-friendly birthday, one may assume that it’s difficult and expensive, but that doesn’t have to be the case. With a little creative thinking, you can put together a greener party that will involve less trash at the end of the day and save money too. Having your children involved in the planning will also make them more receptive to some of the ideas involved. Here are four ideas to get you started:

Send eco-friendly invitations

Nowadays, there’s no pressing need for paper invitations that will be thrown in the recycling once the information has been recorded. Paper is nice, but you can opt for sending invites online with or

Buy reusable decorations and party dishes

Party decor can be used over and over again and will save you money in the long run. Google “DIY eco party decor,” for some great project ideas such as fabric buntings and cloth party napkins you can decorate yourself with fabric paint. If you are not the DIY type, a great source for eco-party decorations and tableware is

Go gift-free! 

For most kids, gifts may be a tough thing to give up, but with some explanation, many will understand and even come to appreciate the reasoning behind the no-gift decision. A good compromise might be to only have gifts from family and no gifts from friends. Another option is to ask invitees for a donation to a charity or cause near and dear to your family’s heart. is an earth-friendly, charity-based party planning service that is worth checking out.

Opt for eco-friendly loot bags (or don’t have goodie bags at all)

The kids really won’t miss loot bags, but if they are really important to you, consider giving earth-friendly items such as healthy homemade treats, seeds they can plant at home, or an eco-craft that was the result of a party activity.

Instead of loot bags, how about sending each child home with a cupcake or healthy homemade treat? Here's a recipe we love from our Pinterest page


Would you like to win tickets to see the Harlem Globetrotters?

Everyone's favourite basketball team is coming to Ottawa for ONE SHOW only on Sunday, April 6 at 2:00 p.m.!

The world famous Harlem Globetrotters will take fan interaction to a new level when the 2014 ’Fans Rule” World Tour comes to Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre. Online voting is now open at, and all fans can choose which new game-changing rules they want to see in their hometown.

The Globetrotters were the first organization in sports and entertainment to let fans vote on rules when the team introduced the concept last year. Since the fan response was so overwhelming, the team is doing it again – but with a major twist.

The 2014 online ballot includes three never-before-seen revolutionary rules:

Hot Hand Jersey – Both teams will have a ’Hot Hand Jersey” they can pass among each other. The player who is wearing this jersey will receive double the points on each basket he/she makes.

Make or Miss – The quarter begins with only two players on the court for each team. When a team scores, a teammate may enter the game. When they miss, the player missing the shot must leave the court, leaving his or her teammates shorthanded.

Trick Shot Challenge – Via three challenge flags per team, each coach can challenge the other team to make a trick shot. If the team makes the trick shot, they earn five points. If they miss, the other team receives five points.

We have four tickets to give away to the Ottawa game. Interested? Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below, and remember, the more actions you take, the better your odds are at winning. Good luck! 

p.s. Please make sure you are free to attend the game before entering. The winner will have to pick up their tickets at the Great RIver Media office (250 City Centre Ave., Suite 500) by 4:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon.

Kidsfest is right around the corner!

Who: YOU and your family
What: Kidsfest Ottawa
Where: EY Centre, big and stroller friendly!
When: April 5 and 6, 2014
Why: Because there's a lot to see and do! Kratts Brothers, Mike the Knight, Ray's Reptiles, Junkyard Symphony, Funatorium Explorium, and more. You can plan your visit around the main stage schedule if you like. Peek at the exhibitor list to see who else will be there.

Have you bought your tickets yet? If you buy them online you can use promocode CPSOCIAL2014 for a limited time, but you can also buy them in person at the EY Centre on the day of your visit. Any questions? Let us know.