Summer camp is an adventure that many kids participate in yearly.  Whether it is a day camp or a sleepover camp, these are days spent learning new skills, making new friends and creating great memories.

This year, camp may look a little different.  In many places across the country, “in-person” camps have been cancelled or there is a restriction on the number of children that can attend, leaving many parents and children wondering what to do for the summer.

This is where Virtual Summer Camps come into play, literally and figuratively.  With both free and paid camp options available, you can find virtual summer camps all over Canada offering a variety of different activities and learning experiences for your child(ren).

So check out your local camps or the links below and find the perfect summer camp for your child(ren):

Virtual Summer Camps for Kids

Virtual Programs in Canada

Stem Camp

Are you worried that your child may get hurt in the kitchen? Will they accidentally set the barbecue on fire? Or just how much of a mess will they make? Not fond of the idea that food could be wasted? While some parents may find the idea of cooking with their children or letting their children take over the whole task of cooking daunting, with a few tips and age appropriate tasks, this can become an enjoyable and delicious activity for the whole family.

And summer is the perfect time to “get cooking” with your child(ren) and let them try out new skills.  Divide up the meal preparation, letting them make a salad or side dish.  For older children, teach them how to “fire up the BBQ” and get grilling.  See what cool, refreshing summer dessert they can create.

Kraft Canada has divided their cooking tips by age appropriate skills:
Children 6 yrs & under
Children 7-9 yrs
Children 10-12 yrs
Children over 12 yrs

Here are some real-life tested recipes plus articles and tips on cooking with your kids
Parents – Cooking with Kids

Food Network – Cooking with Kids

Easy recipes for kids to make

Kid Chefs

 

Although summer hasn’t officially arrived, the warm weather definitely has us being outside and looking to be more active.  As the different parts of our country start to open up, we still need to ensure we are practicing healthy habits, such as physical distancing.

Boating is a great summer activity that you can do with your family that can allow for physical distancing.  And there are many different options that you can choose from, if you don’t have or want a motor boat.  “Human Powered Boats”, are a great entry point into water activities.  These include kayaks, canoes and standup paddle boards (SUP). Not only do these offer a form of exercise, they are less expensive to purchase or rent and they are environmentally friendly (as no gas is used). Check out your local marine stores, outdoors stores or certain big-chain retailers for their selection to purchase or go to your local boat rental.  And don’t forget to pick up all the equipment, both standard and safety, you will need for your new or rental watercraft.

One of the best things about these types of watercraft is that they allow you to explore waterways that a motor boat is not always able to get into.  Being able to go into shallower water, checking out the fish and other water animals swimming by you as they are not frightened by a motor, getting closer to shore to see the animals that have come to the shore for a drink, listening to the sounds of nature are all favourite parts of the experience when you are out paddling.

While we may not be able to take physical classes at this time, there are resources and videos online that can assist you in gathering knowledge about paddling. Check out:

StartBoating this summer

 

Feeling more adventurous and want to explore Canada in a more unique, back-to-nature way, then look into a paddling vacation. Check out these top spots in Canada.

Top Kayaking Destinations in Canada

Top Canoe Trip Ideas

 

Or explore the local lakes, rivers and canal systems in a House Boat. These offer a unique vacation alternative to renting a cottage.

House Boat Rental

July 1st…Canada Day…this is one of the biggest days Canadians celebrate each year.  Fireworks, parades, music concerts, barbeques, picnics, festivals, this is the day as families and communities we gather together and celebrate.

This year our celebration will look a bit different as many cities are moving their celebrations online into a virtual format.  Canadian Heritage is promoting not 1 but 2 virtual online celebrations for July 1st.  The daytime show “Canada Day Across the Country” will offer a 1-hour virtual tour of celebrations across the country.  The evening show “Canada Day Together” is a 2-hour special, virtual edition of our annual iconic celebration that will include performances by great Canadian artists

Check out more details at:

Online Celebrations in Canada

While you are there, check out the different interactive activity packs that explore history, arts & culture, culinary and outdoor activities.  Make a traditional Canadian dish for the family meal, quiz your friends on Canadian history, train like a Canadian Olympic and Paralympic or create your own Coat of Arms with the kids.

Many communities are joining in and creating their own virtual celebrations as well.  Some communities are listed here or you can check with your local community

Celebrations Across the Country

 

You may have heard the term Vertical Gardening, but just what is that??  In simple terms, it is literally growing plants upwards instead of outwards.  Whether you have a large space for a garden, or a very limited space or want to grow indoors, a vertical garden offers you a different space perspective for growing vegetables and flowers.

If you are planting your vertical garden outside, you can be very creative with what you are using.  Use old fence boards, trellises, arrange pots or boxes in alternating stacks, use shelves or other hanging options to set up pots, even clean PVC pipes or a hanging shoe rack offer garden options.

 

Vertical Gardening Ideas

How to plant a vertical garden

 

For an inside vertical garden, you will need a panel or tray system as these types of gardens are hydroponics based.  There are several different styles/makes of a tower style garden available for purchase.  Most of these systems use aeroponics.  This is the process of growing plants in air or mist environment instead of soil and uses water and liquid nutrients within a soil-less medium.  One benefit for a hydroponic garden is less wastage as they have a closed nutrient/water flow. This means no runoff of the water, it stays contained and in constant circulation.

 

What is hydroponic gardening

Vertical Hydroponics

 

What are the benefits of a vertical garden over a traditional garden bed?  Well, for one you are not bending down as much to tend to your garden bed.  These types of gardens are considered low maintenance as you don’t need to weed or deal with pests the same way. The harvest yield for vertical gardens can be significantly higher than a traditional garden, especially if you bring the garden inside for the winter as you are now able to grow fresh vegetables all year round.  And vertical flower gardens help bring beauty to “ugly” walls and fences that you may have.

 

And there is still time to create the vertical garden that is perfect for you.  Get out this weekend and create a new vibrant living vertical space in your yard/balcony/deck.

We have such a rich history here in Canada and there are many museums available to share this history with us. Most summers, we get the opportunity to explore these different museums across Canada and learn new pieces of our history.  This summer may be different with virtual tours taking over in place of physical tours.

The National Air Force Museum of Canada in the Quinte area of Ontario is dedicated to telling the history and preserving the pieces of Canadian military aviation.  This museum offers over 75,000 square feet of display space and is attached to a sprawling 16-acre air park.  There are over 35 aircraft on-site for visitors to see, including an early 1900’s airplane, WW1 and WW2 aircraft, post-war aircraft and current day military aircraft.  This museum also has the distinction of possessing the only Halifax Bomber aircraft in North America in its collection.

For anyone who is not aware, the Halifax Bomber was a vital component of the RAF/RCAF Bomber Command’s air offensive over German-occupied Europe during the Second World War. The Halifax was a multi-purpose aircraft, where it participated in missions like bombing and supply drops, as well as in weather and maritime reconnaissance.

Join us on a virtual tour to learn more about the Halifax NA337, what happened on its final mission and the story on how it was restored to its original wartime condition.

The Halifax Bomber Learning Video

To learn more about our rich Air Force history and other air craft in their collection, visit the National Air Force Museum of Canada

The warm summer weather is starting to arrive, and the sunny days are perfect for being outside.  This is a great time to encourage your child(ren) to get out and explore, build or create.

Forts are always fun to design and build. Add an “outdoor kitchen” onto the fort and allow for fun dirt creations.  A sandbox can provide hours of fun.  Create a city or race track, using a mixture of materials with the sand like toys or building blocks.

Obstacle courses are not only a create way to promote physical activity, but are very creative as well.  Challenge your child(ren) to use as many different objects in and around the house to create different obstacle courses for the family to do.  Outdoor scavenger hunts are another fun option for exploring the yard, the neighbourhood or a local forest.  Or let their creative flow with different Backyard Games and turn your backyard into a giant board game.

The warmer nights allow us to extend our outdoor activities into the evenings. Turn your backyard into a “drive-in” movie theatre, and invite the neighbours to do the same.  Arrange for a movie night, using a projector and white bed sheet as the screen. Enjoy family campfires, experimenting with different fireside snacks like s’mores or banana boats.

Enjoy making your backyard more fun with these ideas.

 

 

I think I got my love for growing vegetables from my Grandfather.  He was a market gardener in the Toronto area and had fields of tomatoes, leaf lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, celery and beets across Etobicoke.  Even after he had retired, he still loved growing vegetables in his backyard garden.  He would save the seeds from the “prime” tomatoes he grew and use them the next spring to create new plants. I can remember having a toasted tomato sandwich with one of his beefsteak tomatoes. The tomato was so big you only needed one slice and it covered the whole piece of bread.

Tomatoes seem to be one of the staple vegetables I have always grown.  Starting in pots on the balcony of my first apartment, adding them into planters at the trailer, then growing them in a backyard garden at my house.  Slowly over the years, we have expanded the selection of vegetables in the garden.  It is now a spring routine, where the family talks about what vegetables we want this summer.  Tomatoes are still a staple on the list, but we have started to experiment with different kinds of carrots (heirloom the favourite so far), cauliflower, broccoli, cucumber (seedless english style is the favourite over the field variety), watermelon (that didn’t go well), pumpkin (they grow very well), peppers, cantaloupe (another fail), snap peas (those never seem to make it inside when the child is asked to harvest them), and different kinds of beans (the snake beans were the favourite, but hard to find).

Here is the vegetable selection for our garden this summer.  Will be changing the layout slightly as we now cage part of the garden to keep the rabbits and squirrels out, as they have been loving the beans, carrots and snap pea sprouts.

What is in your vegetable garden this year?

There is something very satisfactory in growing your own vegetables.  They seem to be brighter in colour and taste sweeter.  Late May is usually the time we are able to plant our vegetables in our gardens.

If you are new to growing vegetables, here are a few tips to keep in mind for creating a vegetable garden:

  1. Space: What space do you have available for growing?  Do you have a larger yard that you can create an area exclusive to vegetables?  Are you using planters or pots on a deck or balcony?  Whether you are in a house or an apartment, you can grow a variety of vegetables.  For more ideas on a balcony garden, check out our post.
  2. Location: Where in your yard will you put the garden? It is important to keep in mind the sunlight and water drainage.  Most vegetables need a fair amount of sun.  And if your yard has a low part that is always flooding after heavy rain, this is not a good place for the garden. Just like a high point that dries out quickly is not good for growing vegetables.
  3. Vegetables: What do you want to grow? More importantly, what do you like to eat?  Some vegetable plants can be very fruity with their harvest, so be prepared to freeze or share with family and friends.

Now it is time to get ready to plant.  Whether it is a new or existing plot, we do need to remember to dig and turn over the dirt, breaking up the big chunks that formed over winter.  This is a good time to add in any fresh dirt and/or compost/manure as fertilizer.   Find the placement for any cages that you are using for tomatoes, cucumbers or vine vegetables like peas or beans.

Before you plant, have a plan for pest control.  What wildlife is in your area that may enjoy snacking in your garden?  Some vegetables, like beans, peas, carrots are more susceptible to being eaten than others, such as tomatoes or pumpkins, so create raised beds or add fencing around your plot to keep them safe.  Some people swear by coffee grinds to help protect their tomato plants from bugs.  Others recommend a gentle soapy “wash” to protect plants.  Add mulch or a weed cover to help prevent weeds in your garden.  You can also hoe and cultivate on a regular basis to keep the weeds away.

When you are at the local garden centre selecting your plants or seeds, remember not to over buy or over plant.  Usually a 2-4 plants of one type of vegetable are good and will provide a manageable harvest.  When planting seeds, think of doing 1 or 2 rows (depending on the length of the row, add more as needed).  For plants like peas and beans, think about planting at alternate times, so that you can extend the harvesting time.

Throughout the summer, continue to weed, monitor for bugs, water the garden when needed and feed your vegetables with fertilizer. And enjoy the delicious vegetables you will be able to harvest.

Looking for more tips, check out these experts:

Mark Cullen, gardening expert

Vegetable gardening for beginners

Planning your first vegetable garden

Living in an apartment does not limit you in enjoying a garden.  You can choose to make it as simple or as complicated as you want.  You can make it seasonal or build up a year-round collection of plants.

One thing to keep in mind when considering what plants to have is how much sun does your balcony get during the day.  Are you north facing and have shade most of the day or south facing with full sunlight.  Do you face east and get the morning sun or are you west facing with the warm afternoon sun.  When you are choosing plants at the local garden centre, be sure to check on how much sun they need daily and choose ones that fit your sun conditions.

There is such a wide variety of container styles these days that allow you to be creative with your space.  Look at the container options that will “hang over” the railing.  These offer a unique canvas to create colourful flower arrangements.  Do consider adding trailing or vine flowers like morning glories, nasturtiums or fuschias to add dimension to your hanging boxes.

If you are placing containers on the ground, consider going with a few larger containers or raised planter boxes instead of lots of smaller containers. The larger containers will give the plants the room their roots need to stay healthy. These containers are also good for the plants that will come inside for the winter.

Also think vertically. Additional space can be created on the walls using shelving or trellises.  Use hooks to hold hanging planters.  Or be creative with wooden crates and build a vertical planter pyramid.  If your balcony is large enough, refurbish an old wooden ladder to create a unique pot holder

 

For more tips on creating a balcony garden check out:

10 Tips to starting a balcony garden

 Turn your balcony into a lush garden

 10 Balcony gardening tips

 Tips for starting a balcony garden

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