Tag Archives: ontario

Camping in Bon Echo: Part 1

My family loves to camp. Or maybe I should say my husband really loves to camp, and I sort of love it. I don’t mind sleeping in a tent, and I’m happy outdoors as long as the bugs aren’t too bad. But I have a terrible fear of bears, and feel uneasy in the wilderness. I know that I have a better chance dying in my automobile than dying at the jaws or paws of a bear, but there isn’t much rational thinking that occurs when I’m imagining myself (or my girls) being eaten alive.

Camping 1

Despite my reservations, I believe that camping is a fantastic activity for kids. Not only are they learning new skills and an appreciation of nature, but they’re doing what kids do best – getting dirty and exploring the world!

So each year we plan a camping trip with good friends of ours, who also have two daughters around the same age as our daughters. This year we chose Bon Echo Provincial Park, about a 2.5 hour drive from Ottawa.

Camping 4

We reserved site #165, which is one of five walk-in sites at the Sawmill Bay campground on Mazinaw Lake. Bon Echo also has back country camping, cabins and yurts. 

Positives:

  • There’s a lot to do with kids. We rented a canoe for 1 hour and went to check out the native pictographs on Mazinaw Rock. The park offered amazing kids programs every morning at 10am, and most evenings at their amphitheatre.
  • The beaches are sandy and clean. The girls spent many hours wading, swimming and building sand castles.
  • The walk-in sites are beautiful – rocky and treed, and right on the water. You could easily jump off the rocks at your site and go for a swim. The lake is the second-deepest in Southern Ontario.

Camping 3

Negatives:

  • For a walk-in site, I expected to have neighbours who had done a lot of camping and respected general camping rules. Nuh-uh, didn’t happen. We ended up with several yahoos camping on either side of us – one couple lighting their fire with charcoal and starter fluid, another dragging giant logs and brush to burn, and a group of campers with no respect for quiet after dark (to give them credit, they weren’t drinking or anything – they were just obnoxiously loud people. In fact, the following group at that site were the ones drinking and carrying on, and even they shut up at 11pm. I could have kissed them!)
  • Walk-in sites and young children don’t really mix (but as another positive, I’m in really great shape after all that walking back and forth!)
  • Lack of policing from park rangers: our friends were staying in the main Sawmill campground, and had a horrible experience with drunken teenagers (or maybe they were 20…whatever). And in the walk-in campsites, we didn’t see a single ranger in seven days. I realize funding is scarce, but I think a walk-through each evening is warranted.  I could have made the park a ton of money by handing out tickets for all the infractions I spotted
  • The park was BUSY. Although I appreciate the human bodies surrounding me (as protection from bears, of course!), my hubby and I could have done with a quieter experience. We camped Achray in 2012 and it was very peaceful.

Camping 2

Although my negatives seem to outweigh the positives, we still had a wonderful time. The girls had a blast with their little friends, and the giant tarp my husband rigged up over the campsite saved us from days of rain. We’re already planning our trip next year, and need ideas. What are your favourite campgrounds for kids?

Oh, and no bears were spotted. That didn’t stop me from having a 2am heart attack after I heard what I thought was a bear – it was just a really loud racoon :)

 

What To Do If Full-Day Kindergarten Isn’t Right For Your Child

This is a post from our sponsor Bells Corners Cooperative Nursery School. I’ve heard amazing things about their school, so check them out!

September will mark the final year of Ontario’s roll out for full day junior and senior kindergarten, meaning kids as young as three will be heading off to school for at least 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. Though this new programming may feel like a financial and logistical blessing for dual income families, a vast majority of parents are left feeling uncomfortable with their children’s ability or readiness to cope with institutional care for such long hours in their young life.

Emily 2

While the actual benefits of full day kindergarden are being publicly and feverishly debated, these parents are still left on the sidelines scrambling to find alternatives – alternatives that will not only meet (or better, exceed) the educational milestones of the mainstream kindergarten curriculum, but nurture their child’s innate curiosity, instil a love of learning and celebrate their unique little personalities.

Bells Corners Co-operative Nursery School (BCCNS) provides an exceptional alternative or supplement to full-day kindergarten. Based on a core belief that every child and family has a right to a quality early years education and experience, BCCNS provides a unique and caring program that fosters hands on “learning through play” experiences specifically focused on developing self confident, life-long learners.

The program is staffed by experienced, passionate and educated teachers. “We maintain a cap of 16 students per 2 teachers to ensure adequate one on one time with each of the students on a daily basis.” says Chelsea Coe, Program Director at BCCNS. “The small class sizes also allows us to conduct special projects, exercises and experiments that would otherwise not be possible with a larger group of students. This means we are not only able to fulfill the curriculum standards set by the Ontario Ministry of Education, but we go above and beyond those requirements.”

If you live in the area and are looking at alternative care, contact BCCNS today!

 

Enjoying Nature Safely

by Amanda

When we are out enjoying nature with our little ones, it’s really important to be safe in our environment.  We must encourage our kids never to eat something such as a plant or a berry found outside unless we are absolutely certain it is in fact safe and edible. Many species of plants look very similar to each other, so if you are not sure, err on the side of caution and bring a snack with you!

If you suspect your child or another adult has ingested something or is feeling ill do not wait to call the Ontario Poison Centre.  They operate 24 hrs a day and in cases of suspected poisoning, time is critical.

Ontario Poison Centre (24 hrs) 1-800-268-9017 ontariopoisoncentre.com

Water Hemlock is the most poisonous plant in North America.  One mouthful of this species will kill an adult.  This plant should not even be touched.  Small amounts even through skin absorption can make you ill.  This plant can be found in wet, open areas, along shore lines and in marshes. Ingestion of this plant would require immediate medical attention.  It has small white flowers, jagged edged leaves and a long, hollow, purple stems.  People mistakenly use the stem as a natural straw and end up extremely ill.

Water Hemlock

Water Hemlock Flowers

Poison Ivy is a very common and irritating plant.  It coined the phrase “Leaves of three, leave them be.” It can be found close to the ground, climbing trees, or poking through rocks.  It also develops white berries at the base of the plant.  These are not edible.  Their leaves can have a glossy, purplish sheen, or be quite dull.  Most people will develop a skin rash as an allergic reaction to the oils in the plant.  You can pass it on to someone else, so no touching if you have it!  If you need to treat someone, please wear latex gloves.  Oatmeal baths and other topical ointments can be helpful in easing the itchiness and pain.  Calomine is messy, but effective.

 

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy Berries

Poison Sumac is just as common, but more aggressive than poison ivy.  There are many leaves to a branch and is a much larger tree, can be 6-7 feet tall.  It’s berries look very much like those of poison ivy, white, small and hard.  It grows in wet areas or damp ground near water.  A person’s reaction to poison sumac is very similar to ivy, only more intense.  The same treatment is recommended.

Poison Sumac

White Baneberry or “dolls eyes” and Red Baneberry are very poisonous if eaten.  Children are most often poisoned by these since they are easily grabbed and the red ones are quite attractive and glossy.  As few as 5 berries can make an adult seriously ill and just a few more than that are fatal.  Few people would ever eat that many since they are quite acrid tasting, but medical attention should be sought if ingested.

White Baneberry

Canada Moonseed is often confused with grape vines. The leave have a heart shaped base and lack the tendrils of grape vines.  They do bear a grape-like fruit but these berries and the roots of the plant are very poisonous.  They contain high levels of alkaloids and ingesting them can cause seizures.

Please be careful when out there exploring with your little ones and animals too!  Nature is so much fun to enjoy, but has it’s own natural defenses built into it.  What looks like a pretty berry could turn your day in the forest into a trip to the emergency room.

Photos from wildwoodsurvival.com

Amanda was born and raised in Ottawa where she continues to live with her husband and son “J”. Amanda is bilingual and interests include reading, blogging, socializing, and advocacy on children and teen issues.

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