Our Children Winter 2019/2020

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Halifax’s Family Magazine ourchildrenmagazine.ca

Winter 2019/2020

Season of

Celebration Haligonians come together, sharing beloved traditions and making new ones

Play on

Intergenerational play benefits family members of all ages

Nourishing traditions

Feasts with family and friends are common across many holidays and cultures


Health & Wellness • Nutrition • Book Reviews

Comfort & Joy Celebrate Canada’s East Coast with family & friends!!

Good Fogo Island



six cookies

Fall/Winter 2019






kitchen gifts

Unique lobste feast

Of seals and shipwrecks Tourism Nova Scotia

ory Meats

Local gadgets: great

PEI’s ddling shermanr

Exploring Grand Manan


toasts • Vict

Cookie fiesta! One recipe

For the love of fossils Visit the Parrs shore

cod • Oats &

In a pickle

travel saltscapes.com/

A new book on fermenting foo ds






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Winter 2019/2020


SEASON OF CELEBRATION Haligonians come together, sharing beloved traditions and making new ones

13 17

Nourishing traditions Feasts with family and friends are common across many holidays and cultures

Play on Intergenerational play benefits family members of all ages

DEPARTMENTS 7 Editor’s note Enjoy the magic of the holidays with family, food, music, and play

8 First bell Events, products, trends, and more

24 Nutrition How to teach healthy eating habits

28 Health & Wellness Changing the tune on dementia

30 Book reviews Our Children reviews How to Raise a Reader, The Wereduck Code, Sid the Kid and the Dryer and Ella McKeen, Kickball Queen



On our cover Families around Halifax celebrate the holidays with beloved traditions and learn to embrace new ones.

Marcia-Lisa Dennis OT Reg. (N.S.), Doctoral candidate (OTD)

Overcome problems with concentration, trauma, concussion, reading, sensory issues, depression, anxiety, addictions, light sensitivity, emotional regulation, balance, coordination, handwriting, etc.

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Cutting edge programs to improve brain function by forming new pathways (neuroplasticity).

Publisher Fred Fiander

Sales Director Patty Baxter

Senior Editor Trevor J. Adams Editor Tracy Stuart Production and Creative Director Shawn Dalton

Designer Graham Whiteman Production Coordinator Paige Sawler

Production and Design Assistant Nicole McNeil Printing Advocate Printing & Publishing Advocate Media Managing Editor Ken Partridge Contributors

Rehabilitate Your Brain.

Jill Chappell Heather Laura Clark Kim Hart Macneill Edwena Kennedy Heidi Tattrie-Rushton

For advertising and editorial enquiries: Tel. 902-420-9943 Fax 902-429-9058 publishers@metroguide.ca 2882 Gottingen Street Halifax, Nova Scotia B3K 3E2 metroguidepublishing.ca ourchildrenmagazine.ca Subscriptions 1-833-600-2870 circulation@metroguide.ca No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the publisher. Return undeliverable addresses to Metro Guide Publishing at the address above.

Our Children is a Metro Guide publication.



Joy to the world

Enjoy the magic of the holidays with family, food, music, and play.

Tracy Stuart, Editor Our Children Magazine

@OurChildrenMag www




What I love most about our Halifax community are the things we have in common: food, www family, music,

and play www

I’m thrilled to join at such a special time of year. As you’ll discover in this issue we are entering a time when families gather to celebrate their traditions. Let the joy of the holidays begin! What I love the most about our Halifax community are the things we have in common: food, family, music, and play resonate with us all. These are the fibres that weave us together regardless of what holiday your family celebrates. Our girls started school last year for the first time. Our youngest daughter was in junior primary and our eldest in senior primary, so it was the first year either of them participated in a holiday concert; they were bursting at the seams to put on a show for us. The concert far exceeded my expectations. When I was young our school concerts were filled with Christmas carols, the re-enactment of the Christian nativity story, along with other well-known winter jingles. But this was not the case for our girls. The diversity and backgrounds of the children who entertained us far outnumbered that of my childhood. The Grade 1 class alone spoke 14 different languages, reflecting their variety of cultures and backgrounds. The songs they sang, the skits they performed, and the diversity of the religious celebrations represented a true global

perspective. They sang songs of spinning dreidels, they recited poems that captured the joy of winter, they sang many songs in French. One class performed a traditional Russian dance, and at the break we were served baklava and dallam (Arabic coffee). It was refreshing to see how multicultural Halifax and Nova Scotia have become. In this issue, I’m delighted to bring some of these cultures and traditions to light. In the story “Nourishing traditions” on page 17, journalist Heidi Tattrie-Ruston explores foods associated with several cultural celebrations. Heidi also enlightens on “Diversity in the holidays” where she invites us to learn more about the multicultural traditions that families celebrate right here at home (see page 21) that may be different from our own. I hope we inspire you and your families to get out and play in our winter wonderland. Our First Bell section (see page 8) is brimming with ideas for you to infuse joy into the coming months, from rolling your sleeves up and tackling the Rubik’s Cube at the Discovery Centre, to taking in a fantastical play at Neptune Theatre, to cheering on our hometown hockey heroes at the Scotiabank Centre, Heather Laura Clarke gives you lots of activities to keep you entertained. Happy holidays from our family to yours!


Our Children | Winter 2019

By Heather Laura Clarke

Full STEAM ahead



STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics, and we can’t think of a better place to explore all things STEAM than the Discovery Centre on Lower Water Street. Check out the new Beyond Rubik’s Cube exhibit: a multi-sensory, interactive experience in robotics, art, music, computer programming and engineering. It’s running now through Jan. 6. There’s so much for your children to do: they can program a robot to follow their commands through a maze, learn to solve a Rubik’s Cube (without just peeling off the stickers) and make cool digital patterns on the interactive touch tables. Psssst, remember the Discovery Centre has free admission every Wednesday from 5–8 p.m!

Welcome to Moose Country Whether you’re raising a hockey-loving kid or a kid mostly interested in the popcorn and a later-than-usual bedtime, Halifax Mooseheads games are a fun family outing at the Scotiabank Centre. While you’re reading this issue, there are home games scheduled for Dec. 13, Dec. 28, Dec. 31, Jan. 3, Jan. 4, Jan. 10, Jan. 12, Jan. 23, Feb. 1, Feb. 4, Feb. 8, and Feb. 9. Youth tickets are $10 (for kids 12 and under). See TicketAtlantic.com or call 902-451-1221.




winter term


classes + camps + parties

aerial circus programs . pilates . more 1535 Dresden Row 902-405-5500

www.iness.ca Downtown Halifax

Explore Nova Scotia’s natural, cultural wonders Are you due for another visit to the Museum of Natural History? The exhibitions are always changing, plus there are hundreds of permanent exhibits on our local mammals, birds, geology, and marine life. Ninety-six-year-old Gus the Tortoise goes for a stroll every day at 3:30 p.m. and if you are lucky you might get the chance to feed him a bit of fresh lettuce during his outing. Don’t miss the Science on a Sphere presentations that let you experience live weather, the planets, earthquakes, and ocean currents, all on a huge 5.5-meter round screen. There’s even a neat demonstration on Facebook friendships! Family admission is $12.50 for one adult and children or $17.95 for two adults and children; the best deal is an annual family pass for just $42.50, less than the cost of three visits.

902-426-1990 info@halifaxcitadel.ca www.halifaxcitadel.ca


Our Children | Winter 2019



Create a masterpiece Wear old clothes because this could get delightfully messy. Halifax Central Library, on Spring Garden Road, is hosting Art Day with Ross Creek Centre for the Arts on Dec. 7 from 1–4 p.m. Drop by with your kids to make awesome art together and bring your finished masterpieces home at the end. Everyone is welcome and there’s no pre-registration necessary, but adults must accompany children under seven.

Support local shops If your kids have a bit of holiday cash that they’re eager to spend in January, why not take them to a sweet locally-owned bookstore like Woozles so they can #BuyLocal? Introduce them to local authors and titles like The Terrible, Horrible, Smelly Pirate, by Jacqueline Halsey, Carrie Muller and Eric Orchard, or Hockey Morning Noon and Night, by Dorette Groenendyk.

Take off to Neveryou-mind-land Get ready for a fresh, funny take on the classic tale of Peter Pan. Neptune Theatre’s holiday show runs now through Jan. 5, 2020, and Wendy, Michael, and John will be introduced to a wild cast of characters, including peculiar pirates, a posse of Underdog Kids and a show-tune-lovin’ Captain Hook. There’s going to be a special ASL interpreted performance plus a “relaxed” performance that’s ideal for anyone with sensory sensitivities. Tickets are $30-$87 plus fees and taxes, available at neptunetheatre.com.


Make it a movie date It can be pricey to take the whole family to the movies, so we’re fans of Cineplex Family Favourites events. On Dec. 14 at 11 a.m., Cineplex Theatre in Dartmouth Crossing and Lower Sackville are showing Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch and charging just $2.99 per person for admission. Tots under three get in for free, and you’ll earn 25 Scene points for each ticket purchased. Grab Kid’s Packs for everyone and enjoy a late-morning snack as you kick back and watch the Grinch’s heart grow three sizes.

Where children become everything they can be Singing, dancing and acting classes for 4 - 16 year-olds

www.stagecoachschools.ca/halifax 906-266-2601


Stagecoach Performing Arts is the trading name of Stagecoach Theatre Arts Limited. Stagecoach Theatre Arts schools are operated under franchise and are independently owned by their Principals. Stagecoach and Creative Courage For Life are registered trademarks of Stagecoach Theatre Arts Limited.


Our Children | Winter 2019

Season of Celebration

Haligonians come together, sharing beloved traditions and making new ones By Heidi Tattrie-Rushton


f you walk through any store in Halifax between Halloween and January, you could be forgiven for thinking that the only holiday celebrated is Christmas. But Halifax’s population has been steadily diversifying for decades and we’ve become a more multicultural and multifaith community. Learning about how other cultures celebrate this time of year presents an incredible opportunity for families to connect to the wider community and expand their understanding of the world.




Our Children | Winter 2019

Buddhists celebrate Children's Day on the eve of the winter solstice.

Children’s Day In the Halifax Buddhist community, Children’s Day is celebrated on the eve of the winter solstice in December. There is a candlelight ceremony in the evening and then the children go home to eagerly wait for a visit from the royal couple, who traditionally leave gifts for the children to find when they wake up in the morning. Michelle Munro, a Halifax mother of two, says her children look forward to the candlelight ceremony where families in the community gather to celebrate together each year. “It’s a lovely celebration in sync with the natural world, family, warmth, and everyday magic,” she says. “The short dark days will get longer again and the light returns.” Munro says every family is different in terms of what the king and queen might leave for the children but, in her household, they receive a small gift, typically something that emphasizes and encourages quality time for the family. “It’s usually a game people can play together or something we can create together,” she says, adding that another special part of the day is the food. “My husband’s family tradition is to do a big brunch, rather than a turkey. Many families I know do the same,” she says. “It’s a feast of the senses!”

Guy Fawkes Day Ruth Nilsson, mother of two in Windsor Junction, has many fond memories of growing up in Scotland and celebrating Guy Fawkes Day with her family. Guy Fawkes was part of a plot to blow up the British Houses of Parliament, but he was arrested while guarding the explosives, foiling the plan. In the U.K. (and in Newfoundland where they call it Bonfire Day), people remember this event each year on Nov. 5, marking the anniversary with bonfires and fireworks. Nilsson says when she was growing up the children built effigies of Guy Fawkes to burn on the bonfire and then went door-to-door with their creations. “It was a huge celebration. You would go around and ask for a penny for the Guy,” she says. Special autumn treats and campfire foods are part of the holiday fun too. Nilsson remembers that a friend’s mother even baked a special cake and decorated it to look like a bonfire.

Ruth Nillson re-creates the Guy Fawkes Day celebrations of her childhood for her two sons.

While some celebrate it here in Nova Scotia, it’s not nearly as popular as it is in the U.K. She keeps the tradition alive here with her sons, however, by joining forces with another local family from Newfoundland, and having a big bonfire and fireworks on the day.

Sinterklaas In Stephanie Miller’s home in Upper Tantallon, her two children eagerly await Sinterklaas, a Dutch holiday at the start of December that she and her Canadian husband celebrate with their Belgianborn children. “Sinterklaas is just for children. My kids leave their clogs out on the fifth and they receive small gifts and treats, usually a chocolate letter of their name, on the sixth of December,” she explains. “We then celebrate the day with a traditional Belgian meal of boulettes and frites.” Sinterklaas is where the name Santa Claus came from; the origination of the holiday is the celebration of St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 6, although most of the excitement and fun happens on the eve of the actual day.


Stephanie Miller and her family (above) celebrate St. Nicholas Day with a traditional Belgian Sinterklaas.

Claudia Castro's family celebrate the Day of the Dead by drinking colada morada and sharing sweet breads called guaguas de pan.

Miller says they celebrate Christmas as well, but for them that day is a family day and a much quieter holiday while Sinterklaas is focused completely on the children.

highlands of Ecuador many indigenous people still decorate the graves and tombs of those who are no longer with them and bring special foods to the cemeteries to share.

Day of the Dead

Eid Milad un Nabi

Claudia Castro of Dartmouth is the mother of two children and originally from Ecuador. She moved here about seven years ago and says that the Day of the Dead (Nov. 2) is an important holiday in her home country and her culture. She observes the holiday with special food and drink. “We celebrate with a typical drink called colada morada which is made from purple corn, fruits, cinnamon sticks and sugar,” Castro says. “We also make a sweet bread in the shape of human figures called guaguas de pan.” This holiday is a joyful one as they believe the deceased loved ones awake on this day to celebrate with them. Castro says in the

Emad Aziz is the father of two children in Halifax. He says that, as a Muslim family, Eid Milad un Nabi (Mawlid in Arabic) is their focus. This is a celebration of the birthday of Prophet Muhammad. “The actual birthday is unknown since the Islamic calendar begins when the Prophet migrated to Medina from Mecca, and not when he was born,” he says. “Various opinions exist on an estimated birthday.” Because the Islamic calendar is different than the Western one, the dates of Eid are different each year. This year it occurs in November. Aziz says that the Prophet never actually celebrated



Our Children | Winter 2019

his own birthday, so the practice came into being after his death. Now people around the world celebrate Eid Milad un Nabi in many ways. “[It is recognized] through processions, prayers, fasting, poems, speeches and na’ats [hymns] that romanticize the Prophet, his attributes and the message of Islam,” Aziz says. “Feasts are held, charity is given to the needy and people decorate homes, shops and streets with lights and colours akin to Christmas festivities.” His family uses the time to focus on the special people in their life. “Typically, we celebrate by connecting with family and friends who are away. There is a special treat and we invite local friends to dinner,” Aziz says. “We talk about Islamic history with the kids, so they are aware of its significance, and the Prophetic attributes such as kindness and charity that all Muslims are encouraged to follow.” This theme of family connection, sharing meals together and giving generously is one that many cultures connect with at this time of year with their celebrations, including other special holidays that local residents enjoy such as Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, Christmas, and Yule.

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Eid Milad un Nabi is celebrated by connecting with family and firends who are away, inviting local friends for a special meal, and ensuring the children understand their faith and culture.


Let the Discovery Centre help you solve the “What to do this weekend?” puzzle.

www www

Beyond Rubik’s Cube is an interactive experience in robotics, art, music, computer programming, and engineering that celebrates over 40 years of the world’s most popular puzzle. What will you solve?

43 Quintillion Possibilities.

1 Simple Solution.



Our Children | Winter 2019

NOURISHING TRADITIONS Feasts with family and friends are common across many holidays and cultures By Heidi Tattrie-Rushton


ne thing that every culture around the world has in common is that holidays and food traditions go handin-hand. Family and friends gather for parties and meals with special dishes they make and enjoy yearly playing an important role in the celebrations. Amanda Nahas of Halifax is a mother of two, coming from a family who loves food. Her husband owns Mezza, a local Mediterranean restaurant, and her mother loves to cook. “Family gatherings are a big deal in our culture and the food is made with a whole lot of love and passion,” she says. Nahas is Lebanese and Antiochian/Greek Orthodox. She says their Christmas feast is an “endless spread” filled with traditional Lebanese dishes. “Some of the most common foods are riz a djej [spiced chicken with a nutty rice] and Lebanon’s national dish, kibbeh, which is minced meat and bulgur. It is often prepared raw for Christmas, but we also have a cooked pie-like version, served with laban [yogurt],” she says. “We can’t forget about the grape leaves or mezza plates of hummus, baba ganoush and tabbouleh.”




Our Children | Winter 2019

Amanda Nahas and her family who love celebrating the joys of food.

Nahas says they have added a turkey to their meal due to the Western influence, but lamb is traditionally served at Christmas in many Lebanese homes. The French and Mediterranean influence on Lebanese cuisine plays a role in their food, particularly the desserts, such as the Bûche de Noël (a yule log cake). “Some households also prepare a traditional rice pudding topped with nuts and coconut, known as Meghli,” she says. “This dessert symbolizes the birth of Jesus Christ and it is also made and served in celebration of newborns.” Shivani Dhamija of Halifax has two children and runs an Indian catering company and cooking school. She grew up in India and her family is Hindu. This year they celebrated Diwali, the festival of lights at the end of October. It honours the return of the deities, Rama and Sita, who were exiled for 14 years until good over evil, or light over darkness, triumphed. The people light up their houses for Diwali each year to lead them back home. “For kids, Diwali is always about firecrackers, new clothes, and of course, lots of good food,” she laughs. One of the traditions Dhamija’s family follows is becoming strictly vegetarian during Diwali. No meat is allowed to enter their home and she says some families also ban onions during the festival. “It’s all good meals though,” she says. “It’s a lot of desserts

Firecrackers are a traditional part of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.

actually, lots and lots of desserts. It’s just like Christmas where you give cookies and gifts to your neighbours, it’s very similar to us. We get dressed up and go to each other’s houses and give desserts to our neighbours to wish them a happy Diwali.” Family and friends flow in and out of each other’s homes during the festival and Dhamija says the belief is that Lord Ganesh and Goddess Lakshmi visit every home as well so it’s important that someone is always ready to greet visitors with a clean house and plenty of food, especially sweet desserts. “There are lots and lots of good foods, but this is really the time of desserts,” she says. “There is kaju katli made of cashew nuts and that is one of my favourites, then rice pudding and halwa and one of the most important is gujiya, which is so delicious.” Dhamija was taught how to make many of these treats by her mother. “My mom makes a

FEATURE Left: Traditional foods to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights at the end of October.

Shivani Dhamija and her family.

lot of desserts, she still does. She is very creative,” she says. “I have seen her cook all my life and I learned a lot of tricks from her.” Her two boys also love eating the traditional desserts of Diwali, and her younger son’s favourite sweet is the Indian treat mithai. She hopes to teach both of her children how to make the desserts when they’re a little older so she can continue to pass down the tradition. In Nahas’s family, she learned about her culture’s foods in much the same way Dhamjia learned about hers: in the kitchen, with hands-on lessons from the generations that came before. “It was quite literally spoon-fed to me,” she says. “Typically, all of the aunts, mothers, and grandmothers gather in the kitchen and help in the preparation. It can take all day or multiple days. To watch them pour their hearts and souls into these traditional dishes is incredibly enjoyable. You can really sense their joy and pride in the family recipes full of rich history.”

Nahas says she and her husband’s parents and grandparents have worked hard to hold onto traditions to ensure the younger generations understand and value their roots. She is looking forward to teaching her own children in the same way and inviting their family and friends to continue to join them in their holiday celebrations through the years. “We love to host,” Nahas says. “As my family would say, Ahla w Sahla [Welcome!], Tfadalou [help yourselves], and Sahtein [Bon appétit!].”

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Effective Monday, September 30, 2019, the following Halifax Transit fares will be in place: Children (0 to 12 years) ride Halifax Transit FREE Payment of any bus fare will allow transfer to ferry

Conventional Bus, Ferry and Access-A-Bus Cash

10 Tickets

Monthly Pass

Youth – 13 to 17 years Senior – 65 years and up




Adult – 18 to 64 years




Additional payment for transfer to Regional Express

Regional Express — Routes 320, 330 and 370

halifax.ca/transit 311


X Pass

with ticket, Monthly Pass, UPass, EPass or transfer

Youth – 13 to 17 years Senior – 65 years and up



+ $1.00

Adult – 18 to 64 years



+ $1.50


Our Children | Winter 2019

PLAY ON Intergenerational play benefits family members of all ages By Kim Hart Macneill


nthony Wight and his wife eagerly await their meal. On the menu tonight is spaghetti and lettuce soup. The location is familiar, as is the chef, their four-year-old son Jack. Amid his plastic play kitchen he dreams up menus of imaginary food to serve to his parents. Wight admits the lettuce soup is hilarious, but says in addition to being fun, there’s a lesson in the game. “We’re teaching him about the process of life,” says Wight. “Food doesn’t just magically appear. We’ve never gotten into the hard lessons, but he understands the process of going to the store and paying for things because he makes a game out of it.” Jack’s restaurant is a place to express his creativity. For his parents it’s an opportunity to giggle about dishes like lettuce soup. But intergenerational play, or play between adults and children, offers numerous benefits.

Son Truong is an associate professor of Recreation and Leisure Studies at Dalhousie University’s School of Health and Human Performance. His research focuses on children’s play. While there aren’t many long-term studies on the effects of intergenerational play, he says the early studies show positive benefits. In early childhood education it’s widely accepted that learning should follow play-based methods, says Truong, but when children enter their Primary school years and beyond, play becomes less frequent. “Sometimes we view the serious learning as needing to take place at the desk, inside the classroom with students sitting, listening, and writing. It’s not experiential, and it’s not necessarily interactive.” There are the obvious individual benefits of play for children, the development of “head, heart, and hands,” says Truong, or mental, psychosocial, and physical development, plus opportunities to learn from older children and adults. “When we look at playful




behaviour in adults and we see generally stress reduction and many reports around the calming or relaxing nature of play.” Play falls into two general categories: structured and unstructured. Structured play is play with a purpose that offers a specific learning goal. For Wight’s family, structured play often takes the form of board games. “It teaches him that you’re allowed to be competitive without being overbearing and there are rules that you have to follow,” says Wight. “With something as simple as Candyland, sometimes there are obstacles that get in the way that prevent us from winning. In snakes and ladders, you roll the dice, go down the snake, and all of a sudden you’re not winning anymore but it’s still fun. He enjoys it just as much as we do.” While organized games offer an important opportunity to learn life lessons, unstructured play offers children and adults the chance to express their imaginations. A recent exhibit at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax, in partnership with the Royal British Columbia Museum, called Family Bonds and Belonging features a dedicated intergenerational play area. “We wanted to have not only a fun area for kids to romp, but also a way for them to play that would involve their parents and build into the intergenerational theme to make people think about family relations,” says Dan Conlin, curator. Amid couch cushion and blanket forts, beanbag chairs, and a giant TV and lamp, children and adults let their imaginations flow. “The idea is to make adults kind of feel like they’re kids again,” says Conlin. “When everything seems so big and we were so small.” The giant TV is actually a shadow-puppet theatre. Often, says Conlin, the adults were the ones putting on the show. “We think it deepens people’s appreciation for relations between generations, as well as providing a lot of fun. It’s the first exhibit I built that included a blanket fort, and I hope it’s not the last.”

Our Children | Winter 2019

Above: Playing board games with adults helps children develop skills like counting and strategy.

Right: Ian Potter Children’s Wild Play Garden in Centennial Park in Sydney, Australia.

Truong also stresses the importance of including outdoor play and making space in children’s lives to appreciate nature. This doesn’t need to mean heading deep into the wilderness, but simply embracing the outdoor spaces in your own neighbourhood. His team recently visited the Ian Potter Children’s Wild Play Garden in Centennial Park in Sydney, Australia, to understand how children play outside. The park offers a dramatic landscape rich with open spaces, dry creek beds, a water-play area, a bamboo forest, tunnels, turtle mounds, and a treehouse. “In particular, when [children are] involved in play-space design, they’ll say, they want spaces to do big things, to run, to slide, and to swing,” he explains. “But then also, the quieter spaces or even the private spaces, which are generally not accessible to children in school or public playing areas because the sight lines are often what adults are concerned about.” Often, says Truong, schools structure play areas to separate children by age for valid logistical reasons such as limited play



Blanket Fort in Family Bonds & Belonging at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.


space or concerns about bullying, but sometimes that can limit intergenerational learning from older peers, which is especially important for only children. “We know there’s benefits for children in playing together with their peers and learning from their peers who might have certain skills,” he says. “They can scaffold out learning about each other, the pure learning that can take place, whether it’s physical skill, problem solving, or communication. All of that is happening in the playground.” For all of the cognitive benefits that come from intergenerational play, Wight says the most important aspect for him is building a relationship with his son that’s not tied to his role as parent. “We’re building that other relationship with him,” he says. “Yes, I’m his parent. Yes, we have to make sure he goes to bed and eats food, gets to school and all these other things. But he also gets to see this side of us, that whole sense of joy that comes from being parents, when we play together.”

• Board games: Pier 21 stocked its Family Bonds and Belonging play area with games for a range of age and language levels. Conlin’s team found their games at Value Village and the Salvation Army. Do the same at home so you’re ready to play with any visitor. • Visit outdoor spaces: Look for spots that offer areas for big play like running and climbing, and quiet spaces where you can interact with nature together. “We often found that children seek both types of environments in one play session,” says Truong. • Cook together: The Wights often let Jack help with supper by making a list of all the ingredients they’ll need and making a game of finding them in the fridge and cupboards. • Visit a museum: Though the blanket fort is packed up, Pier 21 offers other immersive spaces for family play. The immigration railway car encourages families to experience life in the past. “Kids pile into that train car and jump on the chairs,” says Conlin, and pretend they’re on a five-day train trip across the country.

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Our Children | Winter 2019

Raising mindful eaters How to teach healthy eating habits

By Edwena Kennedy


e hear a lot about slowing down and being more mindful in the adult world. It’s funny to me because mindfulness is one of those concepts we're innately born with, unlearn, and then need to re-teach ourselves as adults. If you observe babies and young toddlers you’ll see they are actually the most mindful of us all. They’re connected to their senses and the experiences around them. They look, smell, touch, and taste food before they eat it. They take their time. They only eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full. They seem to fully enjoy the moment and will quickly let you know when something doesn’t bring them joy. Toddlers are even quick to make comments about how they experience and enjoy (or don’t enjoy) a food. It may not be exactly how we think mindfulness should be, but it’s mindfulness.Then somewhere along the way, we lose those skills. Some may think this happens naturally, but I think we unteach mindfulness to our kids. Unintentionally of course, but nonetheless, our lack of mindfulness around food is bound to have an effect on our kids. Reversing this starts with awareness of our own actions, but there is a lot you can do to teach and preserve mindful eating practices starting in toddlerhood and beyond. Let’s start with the division of responsibility. We decide what food to serve, when to serve it, and (a part that many people tend to forget) where to serve it. Ideally, this really means sitting down at a table. Does it have to be every single time? I’m not going to pretend that we don’t eat meals around the kitchen island or in the living room sometimes, but the key is keeping that the exception, not the norm. Aim for at least once a day to try to make it a habit.

It’s important to take a break from other activities and designate a specific and sacred time for eating, nourishing, and connecting. We don’t often think of meals this way but it’s a great place to start. If we teach kids to enjoy meals and snacks with at least one other family member, sitting down, with our full attention drawn to the “event” that is mealtime, we will start to instill a new idea about food. It’s not just something that mom or dad shove into us when we’re not looking, or something we eat in sporadic bites as we play with toys. We want to teach them that it’s really a communal time for bonding, nourishment, and enjoyment. It deserves our full attention. This means no TV, phones, tablets, or toys. Distraction-free eating allows kids to focus on what’s in front of them and what they’re experiencing and helps them avoid eating too much, too fast, too little, or

without noticing at all. Have you ever seen a child leave the table, only to come back 15 minutes later claiming they’re hungry? Or have you ever seen a parent shovel food into their child’s mouth when they weren’t paying attention (risking overeating and a failed learning experience where tasting actually occurred)? As adults, what happens when you place a bag of potato chips in front of you while watching TV? Were you actually aware of eating or were you surprised when your hand hit the bottom of the bag and you realize you ate it all? To help babies and toddlers direct all awareness to the feeding experience, give them utensils and/or let them eat on their own with their hands (don’t stress about the mess or manners, those things will come). Let them be conscious of every move they make picking up a piece of food and bringing it to their mouth. Let them control

25 the pace of the meal, the speed at which they eat and chew. If they need to slow down utensils can help. If they eat too fast, try and eliminate the distractions and focus on conversation. Encourage your child to talk about the foods they’re eating. What colour is it? What shape? Does it feel squishy? What happens when they bite it with their teeth? Does it smell like anything familiar? How long can the flavour last in their mouth? The more creative you are with your questions and observations, the better they become at noticing and observing all aspects of a certain food. When this happens, they’ll start reversing picky eating and come to appreciate and savour the food in front of them. Practise making observations yourself, such as savouring the crispness of the salad, or delighting in the rich tomato flavour of the pasta sauce. As an experiment take a piece of spinach or a tomato off your plate, be fully aware of its taste and texture. Put your fork down, close your eyes, and chew. Then make your comments. Your toddler will see what you’re doing, learn, and may even mimic you with a food of their choice. Simply start the tradition of savouring. As much as we don’t want to hear “it’s yucky,” it’s good to practise nonjudgemental observations and accept what children notice about the food. Listen to your child’s comments instead of rushing to an immediate response. When your child refuses to eat something, ask why. When they know it’s fine not to like something and fully trust you won’t make them eat it, they learn to assess what it was they actually didn’t like about that particular food. Help them figure it out, was it taste, smell, texture, or temperature? Talk with them about how their bellies feel. When your kids are in tune they can start to understand what “hunger” and “full” really mean, recognize it in the future, and respond accordingly. This helps teach your toddler how to regulate their intake and eat appropriate amounts. Many times, kids get snacks on demand and they confuse the feeling of being bored or tired with hunger. If they aren’t throwing a tantrum to get the food that they want, they may claim hunger to get the snack they want. We often give in and offer them food outside of set meal and snack times, and in turn they never really learn what

the feeling of hunger truly is since they’re bellies are always semi-full. This may also mean they don’t finish their meals at mealtimes because they feel “sort of full” and they’ve learned that they can ask for a snack 30 minutes later and get one when they realize they are still hungry. Instead of going through all this, or even automatically asking them to finish two more bites of food before they can end a meal, remind them the next eating opportunity isn’t for a while so they need to check in with their tummy to see if they need to fit anymore bites in. Ask: Is it full? Does it feel like they can’t fit anymore? How many bites do they think they need to feel full? Try a small bite and then reassess. Young kids really can do all this, we just need to give them the chance. They are always watching and learning from us. Over time, when they see you practising these things meal after meal, they will remember what they learned previously about their feelings and this will become second nature. “You can have dessert only if you eat your vegetables.” Sound familiar? This implies your child has to eat something “gross” to get to that delicious reward. It also shows them that being good is rewarded with sweets or desserts, so that as they get older, any time they feel like they deserve something at the end of the day they will go to food as their reward. Rewarding behaviour with food also teaches kids to override their feelings of fullness just to get to the dessert at the end. Rather than tuning in with their body to determine if they’ve had enough, this can teach them to eat past the point of fullness just to get the dessert. It’s much better to offer dessert occasionally regardless of behaviour. Alternatively you could offer dessert as part of a meal to help create a truly intuitive and mindful eating experience. For more strategies for how to raising healthy eaters, follow Edwina Kennedy on Instagram: @mylittleeater.

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Our Children | Winter 2019

Stephen Somers and Tressa Moore are parent navigators with the Halifax Regional Centre for Education. They assist parents in finding the right services available in education, justice, health, community services, and more for their families.

Wondering where to turn? Halifax Regional Centre for Education’s parent navigators will guide you


e know that navigating the many supports available to you and your family during the school years can be overwhelming. That’s why parent navigator (PN) positions were created in 2018. The role of the PN is to help parents and guardians of Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE) students find and access services available in education, justice, health, community services, and more. As part of HRCE’s Student Services Team, Tressa Moore and Stephen Somers have built strong relationships with community agencies throughout the region and have developed deep understandings of the tools and resources out there for you. Our PNs are available, free-of-charge, to help you find the support you or your child may need to find success inside and outside of school. They’ll meet you in a comfortable setting in your community to have a conversation about what your child may need. They’ll guide you and help connect you with the most appropriate services and resources. They’ll attend school meetings with you. They’ll be your co-pilot. n

WHO IS MY PARENT NAVIGATOR? Tressa Moore mooret@hrce.ca 902-464-2000 x4362 Available to families of students in the following families of schools: Auburn Drive, Cole Harbour, Citadel, Duncan MacMillan, Island View, J.L. Ilsley, Sir John A. Macdonald, Bedford and Forsyth Education Centre (Bedford & Dartmouth campuses) Stephen Somers ssomers@hrce.ca 902-464-2000 x4361 Available to families of students in the following families of schools: Dartmouth, Charles P. Allen, Eastern Shore, Halifax West, Lockview, Millwood, Musquodoboit Rural, Sackville, Prince Andrew

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Our Children | Winter 2019

Chester students change their tune about dementia A music-video project helps students see seniors as fellow performers and creative partners By Jill Chappell

Above: Group shot of "Back Then" participants ranging in age from 5–95 years old. Left: Ruah Hoeg and "Back Then" cast practise whistling.


ifferences between seniors and youth often create a generational divide but those distinctions have brought together a group of Nova Scotian students with seniors from Chester’s Shoreham Village long-term care facility. “We got together after school and we wrote some ideas to ask the seniors. For example, what were your chores?” explains 13-year-old Ruah Hoeg. “We asked the seniors a bunch of questions and used all of the information and turned it into a song.” The song, “Back Then,” was part of a project funded by the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia Community Grant program. It struck a chord with president and CEO Starr Cunningham. “Music is a powerful tool for our mental health and well-being,” says Cunningham. “We are so proud to invest in projects like this

that eradicate the stigma surrounding mental illness. The beauty of this project is that it has not only touched the lives of those involved, but it has the ability to change the way people think around the globe.” “Back Then” aims to eliminate the stigma associated with aging and dementia through music and video production. Speakers and singers range in age from 5–95 including more than a dozen Chesterarea youth and 20 seniors, some with varying stages of dementia. “One woman came in with this blank look on her face and they said she probably won’t sing, she can hardly even speak, but she’ll enjoy the music,” says producer Dawn Harwood-Jones. “And before we started playing, all of a sudden we hear this beautiful soprano voice going, ‘You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…’”


Jim Henman and Laura Smith doing a sound check.

Above: "Back Then" participant Jim Henman presents at the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia’s Annual General Meeting.

Thirteen-year-old Ruah Hoeg starring in "Back Then" with one of her fellow performers.

That magical moment led to many more throughout the course of the project. With the help of singer-songwriter Laura Smith and Juno Hall-of-Famer Jim Henman, the group fine-tuned their work. The finished product is a catchy tune comparing the world today with life when the residents were the age of the young people involved. “It was really interesting to learn what their lives were like back then,” says Ruah. “They were so sociable and interactive. They used to get together every day and have fun groups and play games. I feel like that doesn’t happen as much today as it used to.” Once the song was complete, a date was set for a music video shoot. Veteran Land and Sea videographer Robert Guertin offered to

help film the project. The highly professional setting made for a lot of excitement and instilled a great amount of pride. “If you want to tell someone they’re important, you bring in a camera that weighs 25 pounds and big lights,” says Harwood-Jones. “Everyone had a ball. There’s no question that these people loved being interviewed and loved the whole process.” The project provided the group with much more than music therapy and camaraderie. The positive, collaborative environment improved the symptoms of seniors living with dementia by reducing loneliness and depression. It also changed how the students interacted with their elders. “The kids learned respect,” says Harwood-Jones. “They learned how to speak up. They learned that seniors are valid human beings with very rich lives who have contributed to society in a big way.” Those contributions have left a lasting impression on the young people involved. Especially when it comes to how they perceive seniors living with dementia. “I was surprised by the fact that they still had most of their memories and how exciting they were,” says Ruah. “I originally thought that before our generation it was so boring because they didn’t have the internet and stuff. I think everybody should know how sociable and amazing seniors are.” An incredible change in tune for participants both young and old that has truly changed the way people think about mental illness. The Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia is thrilled to be funding another project by the Chester Municipal Heritage Society. Youth and Seniors will work together to create an online presence comparing life then to life now. To learn more about “Back Then” and see the video, visit mentalhealthns.ca/impactstories/back-then. Jill Chappell is the marketing and communications lead for the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia. n

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Our Children | Winter 2019

By Trevor J. Adams ’

How to Raise a Reader


By Pamela Paul and Maria Russo Workman Publishing Every bibliophile can remember the first time they fell in love with the printed word; the first time they glimpsed the Green Gables, met the inhabitants of Narnia, or discovered where the wild things really are. But how do you pass that love on to your children? Competition for kids’ attention is fiercer than ever, but if you take care, you can raise them to love books and open worlds of opportunities for themselves. Pamela Paul oversees all book coverage at the New York Times and Maria Russo is the newspaper’s children’s books editor, so they bring a refreshingly unacademic approach to subject offering practical tips from their experience on the front lines of kids’ lit. This book is a particularly handy reference for new parents.

Ella McKeen, Kickball Queen

The Wereduck Code

Sid the Kid and the Dryer

By Beth Mills Carolrhoda Books Ages 4–8

By Dave Atkinson Nimbus Publishing Ages 10+

Story by Lesley Choyce, art by Brenda Jones Nimbus Publishing Ages 4–8

Some kids call it kickball, others call it soccer baseball, but every kid knows the fiercely competitive playground game at the heart of this tale. One minute, it’s a pleasant summer afternoon with friends, with the eponymous protagonist enjoying her usual kickball dominance. Fortunes suddenly reverse as the new kid bests Ella, leaving her deep in the throes of an embarrassing (and highly relatable) tantrum. Slowly, grudgingly, Ella learns to lose graciously, accepting that she can’t necessarily be the best at everything. With bouncy writing and lively illustrations, this is a fun read for any kid, but if you find yourself raising a little hothead who thinks losing is the end of the world, it’s pretty much mandatory.

In the conclusion of his Hackmatack-award nominated Wereduck “thrillogy,” Atkinson picks up the story of young hero Kate, as she continues to search for a cure to her family’s ancient curse. This book is as gloriously strange as that summary suggests. Consider dialogue like: “I’ve just been doing a little research about DNA and human genetics … Haven’t you ever been curious about why you live in a werewolf family?” But strange isn’t bad. With warmth and humour, Atkinson continues to craft a large tale about family and acceptance, the things that make us different and what we can change. Every kid feels like an outsider and werewolves are the ultimate outsiders; a werewolf family makes for an odd story but the themes are universal.

The story about a young Sidney Crosby practising his shot in his family’s Cole Harbour basement, spending endless hours dinging pucks off a battered washing machine, is already local legend. You can even visit the city’s most famous Whirlpool, now a cherished artifact at the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame downtown. With this new book, acclaimed local writer Lesley Choyce imagines how those practice sessions might have unfolded, the bond that unfolds between the young boy and the sentient appliance that just wants to see him succeed. Even kids who aren’t into hockey will enjoy learning about this local hero, with his useful lesson: “My mistakes are OK … Every time you miss, you’re reminded to keep at it and get better.”


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