Monday, January 26, 2015

*HEALTH & WELLNESS* Staying Healthy During Cold + Flu Season

by Arja Pennanen Lytle

The perfect recipe for tea!
It’s that time of year again, and everywhere you turn you hear of another person battling a cold or flu bug. Even if you don’t have kids in school, unless you live in a bubble, it’s unlikely that you can avoid coming in contact with germs of some kind.  We all know that washing our hands well is one of the easiest ways to prevent the spread of bacteria that causes all these ailments, but what else can you do to keep you and your family healthy?

The best way to take care of any illness is to avoid getting it in the first place.  Keep your immune system strong and your body will be able to fight off many illnesses before you really start to feel their effects.
Keep your immune system in fighting form with a few of these strategies:

Avoid sugar.  I hope you’re not tired of hearing people preach the ill effects of sugar yet, and even if you are, I’m going to add one more reason to the long list of why sugar isn’t good for you.  It suppresses your immune system.  Each time you consume sugar you’re lowering your body’s natural defenses, and hampering its ability to fight to keep you healthy.  Look for added sugar in yoghurt, cereal, granola bars, dried fruit, and even canned/jarred sauces, 4g of sugar on the nutritional facts label is equivalent to 1tsp of sugar.  Yikes!  Don’t be fooled into thinking that fruit juices are any healthier just because they don’t contain added sugar. Fruit naturally contains sugar, and without any fibre from the whole fruit to keep things balanced, those natural sugars hit your blood faster and have the exact same effects as added sugar.

Make friends with garlic & onions.  Don’t use much of either when you’re cooking?  Time to change that.  These vegetables do more that just add depth and flavour to anything you cook, they also contain potent compounds that are antibacterial, antiviral, and play a role in a strong, healthy immune system. Don’t bother with jarred, minced garlic though as you won’t get the health benefits, just the flavour.  Chop it or mince it fresh.

Make sure you have a happy gut.  If you’re not already on the probiotic train I highly recommend that you get on board.  Probiotic-rich foods are an easy way to start, though I wouldn’t rely on flavoured yoghurts as the sugar in them will actually feed the bad bacteria, negating any positive effect that the probiotics will have in your body.  Beneficial bacteria can be found in fermented foods like plain yoghurt, miso, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir, but be aware that the amounts you’ll find in these foods won’t be enough to truly alter your gut bacteria.  You should definitely consider taking a probiotic supplement, which is also available for kids.  For more information on why you need probiotics, and what to look for, check out my “Healthy Gut, Healthy Body” post.

Get enough sleep.  If you’re not getting enough sleep at night you’re automatically more vulnerable to illness.  Haven’t you ever noticed how a cold seems to take hold right after you start feeling run down?  When you sleep your body regenerates and repairs itself.  It’s tempting to stay up a bit later at night, especially after a busy day where it feels like you haven’t had a moment to yourself, but try and to be by 10:30 each night to ensure your body gets the rest it needs.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, a cold or flu strikes.  Once you start feeling the symptoms it’s time to step up efforts to make sure that you don’t end up feeling too rotten, for too long.

Drink some tea!  As soon as I feel a scratchy throat, or any other symptom that suggests a cold is settling in I start pumping myself full of fresh lemon tea with honey, and sometimes ginger.  I boil water, squeeze the juice of a lemon into it and add a touch of raw honey – simple as that!  If I feel like ginger tea I boil some sliced ginger in water for 5-10 mins then strain, and add honey and fresh lemon juice.  I swear it helps!  Raw honey is full of antibacterial properties and soothes scratchy throats and coughs.  Lemon is high in vitamin C, and is also very alkalinizing for the body, meaning it lowers our acidity making us less vulnerable to illness.  Ginger is warming and has anti-inflammatory properties, making it a great thing to have when you’re under the weather.

Eat garlic.  Remember how I said it contained antibacterial properties earlier?  Keep eating it!  You can cook with it, or better yet, plan in advance and make garlic infused honey that you can keep on hand as a natural cough remedy and throat soother.  I swear it tastes good enough to add to tea!  The Internet is full of ways to put honey and garlic together, but the way I’ve been enjoying most is one I saw on the Instagram page of Dr. Rachel Schwartzman, ND.  Fill a jar 1/3 way with garlic cloves (chop some if they are very big) and then fill the jar with raw honey, right to the top.  Put a lid on it and put it in a dark place for about a month. Strain the garlic out and voila!  An all-natural cough/sore throat remedy that tastes good!

If you do get sick listen to your body and get some rest.  Same goes for sick kiddos.  It may be inconvenient to keep them at home, but they’ll heal faster and you’ll help avoid the spread of germs to others in the process.

Stay healthy!

Learn more about Arja of Balance Body and Soul!
"I'm a holistic nutritionist & mama to a busy kindergartner with a passion for teaching people how to eat to feel good!  I love to help people sleep better, think better, feel sexier, and just generally more balanced by putting the focus on eating foods that make you feel your best.  I use whole foods, lifestyle adjustments, herbs, and some supplements to help people correct imbalances and achieve their health and wellness goals."

Thursday, January 22, 2015

PLAY is...

by Dale Ho

We commonly refer to those everyday simple tasks in life as 'child's play' yet play could be considered one of the most complex things out there.

By the end of this article it is my hope that you will see the many benefits of play to children of ALL ages as I do:

  • Play helps a child practise a new skill eventually moving on to achieving mastery. 
  • Play teaches social skills
  • Through play children learn language and literacy.
  • Play can also be used to introduce and reinforce new math concepts or practise the old ones.
  • There's independent play, group play and cooperative play!
  • Play helps a child make sense of their world around them.
  • Play is a universal language spoken by children around the world.
  • Play is therapeutic.
  • Play is healing.
  • Play knows no prejudice.
  • Play is ever changing.  

Dr. Ganea is the Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto in the Applied Psychology and Human Development Department, she shares her views with us on the importance of play and the vital role it plays in the development of the whole child.

"Play has a crucial role in children’s development....Pretend play allows children to engage in counterfactual reasoning, that is, to imagine ways in which things could be different than in reality. Imagination is necessary for many subjects that children will eventually be involved with in school, such as story comprehension, science or history.
...Role-playing is a way for them to practice being in another person’s shoes, to think about what it is like to think and do things from another person’s perspective. So, by imagining the world from another person’s perspective children get to learn about other people and about themselves. There is now good evidence that children who engage in fantasy play have better perspective taking abilities and greater social understanding and this kind of understanding leads to better social adjustment later in school."
                                                                                                             ~Dr. Patricia Ganea

To learn more about Dr. Ganea and the Language and Learning Lab Team go to:

These are just some of the many benefits of play; Play is clearly a vital part of the healthy development of the whole child.
Play doesn't stop or shouldn't stop as a child gets older! Play simply evolves. Even as an adult we should never stop playing! 

Think of your favourite game growing up and how it made you feel and KEEP PLAYING!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Making a Sight Word Tree

by Dale Ho

This activity idea is a great way to introduce and practise sight words.

Draw the outline of a tree on a large sheet of paper and pin it up somewhere both accessible and visible to the kids.

Using construction paper, trace and cut out several 'leaves', write one sight word on each leaf.  Get the kids involved, have them help you trace and cut out some leaves too.
Each week introduce new sight words, either you or the kids write one word on each leaf and stick it anywhere on your tree.

Watch your tree grow!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

*HEALTH & WELLNESS* Staying FIT and having FUN the FAMILY way!

During the warmer months it doesn't take us much coaxing to get outdoors and stay active, we've got mother nature on our side, however as the temps gradually get cooler it naturally gets harder and harder to do so.

These days we are all well aware of all the benefits of keeping physically active and now, equipped with this knowledge what can we do as a family to ensure we keep moving during the colder months?

The following are just a few ideas for families on staying fit and having FUN during the winter season from our friends at ParticipACTION:

Here are some ways for you and your family to sit less and move more this season: 

Family Fun!
  • Grab a sled and cruise down a slope.
  • Strap on your skis or snowshoes and hit the trails.
  • Ice skate with the family.
  • Build a snowman and a snow fort.
  • Make a snow angel, or two, or three.
  • Bury some goodies in the snow in a cooler, create a treasure map and send your kids on a hunt for buried treasures.
  • Pretend you are an Arctic explorer and make some important outdoor discoveries.
  • Play tag while staying in your tracks in the snow.
  • Go for a swim in an indoor pool or check out an indoor waterpark.
  • Play a game of hockey in your driveway or head to a rink with friends.
  • Find a way to make winter chores, like shoveling snow, fun.
  • Make getting ready to go outside a race. See who can get dressed in all of their snow gear first!
  • Learn a new winter game on our Bring Back Play app, like ‘snoccer’.
  • Take a hike. Get off the beaten trail and explore nature’s winter wonderland.
  • Create a winter obstacle course in your backyard or at a park.
  • Make your own backyard rink.

Exert taken from "It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Let’s make it active!" by Rebecca Jones previously published on ParticipACTION

Not only is it important for us all to stay physically fit throughout the year but let's not forget our brain health, without a doubt the winter months can take a toll on us all! The Ontario Brain Institute shares some simple ideas with us on how families can achieve this:

Your brain is constantly changing, and long periods of stress could cause changes to how it regularly functions.

Here are 10 things you can do to give your brain the break it deserves, so it is refreshed and prepared for the New Year. 

Winter Fun!
1. Give yourself a technology detox: Heavy tech use is linked to sleep disorders & depressive symptoms - now is a great time to disconnect.

2. Meditate. Be mindful. Think: Reduce stress hormones like cortisol and enable yourself to handle stressful events more effectively.

3. Replace some holiday treats with brain-healthy foods: Make time for breakfast and learn about brain-healthy food as suggested by scientists.

4. Read something interesting: Increase neural connectivity, and improve your ability to process and store new information.

5. Naptime isn’t only for Preschoolers: Enhance your creative thinking, memory, and learning by catching some shut-eye.

6. Don’t do too much hibernating: We’re social beings and we aren’t meant to hide away – reach out to family and friends. 

7. Indulge in the frosty weather and the activities it brings: Bundle up and boost your brain and body power with a winter walk, skating, or skiing. 

8. Sharpen your creative skills and bring novelty to your daily routine: Keep your brain active - playing an instrument, painting, woodworking, or knitting - creations can be meaningful gifts.

9. Take a break from work or School: A real break. Remind yourself that it’s okay to take a break, as you’ll be more productive once you get back to it. 

Why no tip #10? 

One of the great stressors of the holidays is feeling you have to compile and complete long lists of “must-dos”. You don’t. In fact, the best way to give your brain a holiday is to keep those lists as short as possible and simply unwind. 

With the New Year already upon us take some time to stay active, don't forget to make it fun and include the entire family!