Parenting tips: What to bring to the cottage

by Amanda I grew up in the country where dirt biking, wood piling and frequenting lakes where a regular part of my childhood. We lived extremely close to many lakes and most of our family members and friends either lived on a lake or had a cottage. We had access to many great spots for spending our days.

There is nothing like jumping off a dock into refreshing water, cutting in and out of the wake as you water ski and wearing a bathing suit all day long as you bbq and relax in the outdoors.

Whether you are visiting a local beach, heading to a friends cottage or renting this summer here are some of my favourite (and need items!) to bring along with you if you have children in tow.

  • Bathing suits and towels (of course!), hats and sunscreen.
  • Water shoes- even if there is a sandy beach and the water bottom is smooth you never know if you will discover a new area that is a bit rougher or be walking through the woods with uneven ground or rocks.  They are also nice for hot days when some surfaces get extremely hot where your little one may be walking. We put our son's water shoes on and he wears them to the cottage and we know we have them with us should he need them.
  • Sand toys. No beach nearby, just water? No problem! Use buckets, shovels and beach toys in the water, use buckets to clean off feet after walking back up to the cottage, use them to collect rocks, leaves and other nature memorabilia!
  • Sidewalk chalk- this can come in handy and keep children busy for hours as they colour rocks, trees, the deck and more! Super easy clean up the next time it rains or by using those sand buckets full of water to clean it up!
  • Bubbles. Okay what kid doesn’t like bubbles? Seriously!
  • Pool noodles, lifejacket and a ball! This can lead to hours of fun playing in and around the water.
  • Heading out to a cottage for a few days? Head to the dollar store and stock up on a few colouring books, crayons, stickers and other things that can keep the kids occupied indoors if and when needed.
  • Don’t bring too many pieces of clothing, towels, etc. It’s the cottage! Rinse it out in the lake and hang it over a chair to dry!
  • Designate a large blanket or old sheet that you can keep in your car for beach days or sitting by the water to enjoy a picnic.

What are your must have items when heading to the beach or the lake for a day, two or even a week?!

Amanda is a mom to a 2 year old boy and 4 month old baby girl.  When she is not out having fun with the kids you can find her getting her yoga on at

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A Toddler paradise - Constance Bay Beach

by Pam Wheeeee - summer is here (has been for a while, it seems, but, you know...officially)!!!

As a mom of toddler twins (one of which isn't even walking yet), I am always on the lookout for great fun options for outdoor play, especially ones that are safe (well, as safe as possible) for them.

Enter an outdoor oasis a mere 15-20 minute drive from our front door in Kanata - Constance Bay. I mean, I KNEW there was a beach there, and I also recalled that it was shallow, but it wasn't until a veteran mommy friend of mine invited us to join them so that we got to experience it.

How much fun did we have? No crying. At all. All morning long right up until after their normal naptime. Sitting and splashing. Walking and splashing. Eating and splashing. Splashing and splashing. With lots of sand everywhere, and water that as far as I could tell was under my knee height. It was fantastic, and there was no need to strap the girls into bulky life jackets. They were happy little clams.o go that it occurred to me...this might be a fabulous place for an unpredictable, non-swimming, fickle toddler...or two.

A couple other notes:

  • There is no one in the parking lot at 9:30 am on a Friday (we parked by Point Lounge at 346 Bayview Drive - easy to Google and get to).
  • Meeting up with other veteran Mommies means you learn tips and tricks.
  • For instance, take one of those portable umbrellas and set it up right in the water - shade for the mini-splash contingent!
  • Eat your snack or lunch right in the water - chances are that what you brought your toddler are things that can be eaten by hand, so why struggle with sandy hands, feet, and ultimately food?
  • And finally, when leaving, take your messy sandy toddler deeper into the water, undress them in the water, rinse off completely and walk them straight to the car to put on the fresh diaper and clothes. Worked brilliantly. Also meant that it was straight into bed for naptime when we got home.

What fabulous local 'getaways' do you know? What ages are they perfect for? Share!!!

Pam (@paminottawa)/ is mom to twin toddlers Alexandra and Hailey, trying to rid herself of her mommy tummy, and is also a strategic social media communicator with the government on the side.  She is also newly able to change poopy diapers again after 6 months in cast with a broken arm. All things important in perspective.


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It's summertime! Let's all stay safe when swimming

Over Victoria Day weekend, my family had an impromptu invite to go to a friend's cottage by the lake. So, I packed up the car, threw Brandon in and we escaped! (Kidding...we gave my dear husband a chance to get caught up on tons of stuff he wanted to do.)

Today, my friend texted me this picture that was taken on our trip to the cottage and I uploaded it to Instagram because Brandon was so cute concentrating on swimming. It prompted the following conversation:

My little chat with Alison got me thinking, though. Swim safety is so important to prevent anyone from having an incident in the water, but it's particularly important for children who are naturally the most vulnerable. According to the Lifesaving Society's 2011 report [PDF, 1.9MB], approximately 500 people die each year in Canada from drowning, and most are swimming when they get into trouble.

Get the proper equipment for water activities, starting with a good lifejacket for weak or non-swimmers and any child under 5.

Having a cute swimsuit is fun, but a functional life-saving device, a.k.a, lifejacket, is more important. Anytime he was by the lake, Brandon had to be wearing his life jacket. He floated out beyond where his feet could touch the bottom numerous times, thinking it was a fun game when our host pushed him back to shore with the dinghy. If he hadn't been wearing a good lifejacket, that "game" wouldn't have been fun at all.

I also consulted the Lifesaving Society's drowning and water safety guidelines and here's what they had to say for children:

  • Restrict and control access to the water. Enclose backyard pools on all four sides with a fence and a self-latching, self-closing gate; drain bathtubs when not in use; empty unattended wading pools and buckets.
  • Wear a lifejacket when boating. Toddlers should wear a lifejacket anytime they are near water.
  • Stay within arms’ reach of young children when they are near water – in the backyard, the beach and in the bathroom.
  • Go to lifeguard-supervised beaches and pools.
  • Learn to swim. Enroll children in swimming lessons and in a swimming survival program such as the Lifesaving Society’s Swim to Survive.
  • In the winter, check ice before going out on it – clear, hard, new ice is the safest for travel. Avoid slushy or moving ice and ice that has thawed and refrozen.

HA! That last one just amuses me at this time of year, but it's serious business in the spring and fall.

BONUS! Don't forget to pack the sunscreen and drink lots of water.

I do not tan - never have, never will - and my son has inherited my pale genes, but even if you do tan, it's not safe to stay in the sun for prolonged periods without some protection. Trust me - after a sunburn that blistered (badly) when I was twelve and forgot my sunscreen for a canoe trip, I do everything I can to avoid getting burnt.

These recent hot, hot, hot days are great if you like the heat, but don't bask in it too long without staying hydrated.

What other rules do you have for water safety in your family?


Karen Wilson is a wife to Matt and mom to Brandon (4), who blogs about her life at Karen’s Chronicles. She can be found at Wellman Wilson, helping business use social media more effectively. Lately, she’s also busy planning a little conference and doing her part to keep the coffee industry alive.

Activities for Kids: Understanding Plants & Colours

Every once in a while we like to do a learning activity that is somewhat outside the box. This week, one class was working on understanding colours and understanding how primary colours made secondary colours.

The second class was biology understanding how plants processed water.

So, to make it fun to learn both, this is what we did:

We took a bouquet of white carnations, some small vases, food colouring and some water.

We put blue and red in two different vases for primary colours. Then mixed blue and red to make purple and the last one was yellow and red mixed to make orange. By putting the food colouring in the water it show how plants “drink” and the colour moves up the stem to the petals, eventually changing the petals to the colour of the water.

Then we watched the process evolve over the next 24 hours.

The above photos were taken in 6 hour increments.

And 24 hours later I get a nice and colourful bouquet for me :

Heather Burke is a very involved Aunt of 6, who loves to make learning fun while being educational and can also be found at

Swimming Success!

by Amanda Y Well after that teaser week of summer in Ottawa, it has made me start itching for the real thing so we can go swimming regularly up at the cottage.  Since he was 3 (now almost 5) J has regularly been taking swimming lessons through the City of Ottawa.  The first round of lessons was really an adjustment period because he refused to participate for the most of the lessons.  He would get in the water but not cooperate with the instructor.  However, since then he has been quite happy about going, some of the tasks are hit or miss with him, he doesn't love having water in his face or ears, but over time, things have improved.  The spring session started last week and I swear, that was a totally different kid in the water!  He was dunking his head, happily floating on his back, front float has improved drastically, he will actually put his face in the water, tentatively, but he used to outright refuse!  He loves to play the games like "What time is it Mr. Wolf?" and "Red light green light" It's too bad the lessons are only 30 minutes long, I think he would benefit from a longer lesson, even another 15 minutes would be great!

The City of Ottawa's Learn to Swim Program offers the Red Cross swimming levels.  They include Parent and Me classes, Preschool classes, and School-Aged program (up to 12 yrs old).

Not only are swimming lessons fun, but swimming is also a very important skill for a child to have.  Many people have a fear of water and so having lessons in childhood can help to prevent this.  Fear leads to panic and if you panic in the water, the outcome is terrible.  Just knowing how to handle yourself in the water can prevent so many accidental drownings.  Of course, even the best swimmers can drown, and I highly promote the use of life jackets in boats and on inexperienced swimmers in deep water.  Simply knowing how to float and keep your head above water is a critical skill, in my opinion.  I am a strong swimmer, my parents insisted we take swimming lessons and I am doing the same for J.  It is also the kind of class that grows with the child.  They continue to build upon and learn new skills including rescue maneuvers and CPR.  Also something to think about:  teens who become lifeguards and swimming instructors are paid quite well.  They can work at city pools as well as summer camps earning their own money.  The benefits just keep adding up.

For information about how your teen could become a lifeguard visit the National Lifesaving Society's website.

Who knows if J will ever go that far, but what's important to me is that he learn to swim and be comfortable around water.

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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