Keeping Cool in the Summer Heat: Family-Friendly Activities


Whether you spend it inside or in the great outdoors, summer is a tricky season for keeping cool. Excessive heat can be very dangerous, especially for infants and young children. Check out these tips, tricks and activities for staying cool while still having fun in the summer heat. 

Family-Friendly Activities to Beat the Summer Heat

It's hard to believe that in just three short weeks kids will be heading back to school and summer vacation as we know it will be coming to a close. Where has time gone?!

Despite the heat and humidity that has now decided to grace us with its presence at the tail end of summer, its important that we make the most of what time we have left before our normal routine kicks in again.

Today, I'm teaming up with an amazing group of Ontario mommy bloggers to share our favourite ways to beat the summer heat with our little families, and make the most out of what's left of everyone's favourite season.

Check out my little family's four favourite ways to keep it cool this summer. (Then make sure you hop on over to check out Amber, Erica and Kate's tips and favourite activities too!)

Create outdoor water play


For this water-loving toddler of ours, most of the ways to keep cool involve just that, water! From the kiddie pool at the cottage, to the sprinkler in grandpa's backyard and even the lake at grandma and poppa's, Morley is not picky when it comes to where, when or how she plays in the water. Even the bath will do.

A refillable kiddie pool is one of our favourite ways to stay cool during the summer heat. Fill it up, toss in a random assortment of toys, throw up an umbrella and watch your water baby come to life. Bathing suits optional, of course.

Family-Friendly Activities to Beat the Summer Heat

>> Related article: Tips for Keeping Baby Cool in the Summer Heat

If you don't have the space for a kiddie pool, check out a local city pool or community centre near you for open swim times.

*Remember, never leave young children unattended near the water.

Visit a local splash pad


No backyard? No problem. The perfect alternative quick place for your children to enjoy the cool water on a hot and sunny day is at a local splash pad. Splash pads are unsupervised water play areas and are conveniently located in many parks and playgrounds. They often include engaging water features such as shower heads and spray jets that keep children laughing for hours. 

Splash pads, and even lawn sprinklers, are a beneficial form of outdoor play for your tot, helping develop their coordination as they run through, dodge and grab at the water and their problem solving skills as they need to learn how to turn the water on and what spray or water head it will come from next.

Family-Friendly Activities to Beat the Summer Heat

I don't know about your neck of the woods, but there are so many new and exciting splash and spray pads popping up in Toronto, including one just around the corner from our house! Ever since Morley figured out how to turn the water on, there's no stopping her (or getting her to leave at the end of our visit).

Eat a cool treat


Enjoy a tasty, cool treat in the shade. What's your go-to? Is it ice cream, homemade popsicles or watermelon? Morley's really not too picky, and is known to dabble in all three.

Family-Friendly Activities to Beat the Summer Heat

And, if all else fails...

Stay indoors


I know, I know, staying indoors seems against what summer is all about. But sometimes when the mercury is rising, staying indoors is a much needed relief. And, who said you can't have fun indoors anyways?! Staying in doesn't mean staying home. Instead, visit your local library, science centre or aquarium for lots of fun and learning, in the air conditioning. One of our favourite indoor spaces in Toronto to visit is Ripley's Aquarium of Canada.

>> Related article: Family-Friendly Indoors Destinations in Toronto

Family-Friendly Activities to Beat the Summer Heat

Don't forget to check out these other fabulous mamas and their tips, tricks and activities here: Emmett's ABCsAnna Georgianna and Bird of Balance.


How do you keep cool in the summer heat? I'd love to hear!


Family Travel Made Easy with Happytrails from MEC



Whether you’re hiking a trail, going for a stroll around the block or just limited on space, a child carrier backpack is the way to go for comfort, affordability and convenience.

MEC Happytrails Child Carrier Backpack Review

I love our Bob Revolution stroller. I really do. Up to this point in our parenting journey, I can't imagine what it would be like with any other stroller. I really can't. It's rugged, it's durable and it's comfortable for baby.

But sometimes, it just doesn't do the trick.

Like, for example, when we're hiking.

Although rugged itself, our stroller just isn't suitable for rugged trails.  The ups and downs, bumps and dips, are just too much for it to handle. Our feet do a much better job. 

But, seeing as Morley is our outdoor adventure companion, not haven something for her to travel with us in just isn’t an option. Instead, we need an alternative when we need to ditch the stroller.

>> Related article: Benefits of Outdoor Play

MEC Happytrails Child Carrier Backpack Review

Enter MEC's Happytrails Child Carrier Backpack. The solution to our dilemma.

Made from aluminum and 420-denier nylon, this carrier features a real backpack suspension system – with a lushly padded hipbelt and a shoulder strap attachment point that is infinitely adjustable for any user up to 183cm (72 inches) in height – making your child easier to carry on the trails, or wherever your adventures take you.

The 5-point child-restraint harness keeps your child safe and secure, with fleece straps for added comfort. The diaper bag clips off to become a daypack. The carrier also includes a removable sun hood, which doubles in keeping the child's head dry if it rains. Maximum passenger weight is 23kg (51lbs.). (This carrier is intended only for children who can sit upright unsupported.)

MEC Happytrails Child Carrier Backpack Review

Our Happytrails carrier got a lot of use on a recent visit to the family cottage, and Flowerpot Island where strollers were not recommended.  It met rain, it met sun, it met gravel roads and rugged trails. It also met full of energy little girl that can fall asleep just about anywhere. 

Since dad and poppa did most of the carrying, here are their thoughts on MEC's Happytrails Child Carrier Backpack. 

Dad says,


Likes: The removable rain/sun hood, which comes standard, is key. In the woods, we didn't need to worry about the sun, but the hood came in handy for keeping the branches off of Morley's face as we hiked the trail on Flowerpot Island. When it started to drizzle, the cover did a job at keeping her head dry. (However, if it were to rain harder, other parts of her body that were exposed would get wet. A rain jacket would be needed if it were to rain.) We loved the lower cargo bag, which can be removed and used as a small daypack. There was the perfect amount of storage space for a day hike. 

Dislikes: None.

MEC Happytrails Child Carrier Backpack Review

Poppa says,


Likes: The carrier allows you to balance the weight. You can adjust the straps accordingly so that it does not pull on your shoulders, and instead put the weight on your hips. The removable sunshield is definitely needed to help keep some sun off the child. The collapsible kickstand makes it easy to set the carrier down on the ground without the worry of it toppling over when the child is still strapped in. 

Dislikes: The carrier only comes in one colour (navy blue, pictured), so a variety of colours to chose from, or a more neutral colour, would be nice. Adding a water bottle holder would be handy for older children so that they could take a drink whenever needed. 

MEC Happytrails Child Carrier Backpack Review

Tech Specs


Weight: 3 kg / 6.6 lbs
Volume: 18 L
Widtht: 36 cm / 14 inches
Length: 74 cm / 29 inches
Max carrying capacity: 23 kg / 51 lbs

Price: $159.00 ARV (Canadian dollars). Available online or in store.  

Additional information: Replace sun/rain hoods available.


MEC Happytrails Child Carrier Backpack Review

Conclusion


Getting your little one exposed to the outdoors will be a fun experience for the entire family. By opting for a carrier instead of a stroller, you will be able to explore the outside world in a whole new way! 

The Happytrails Child Carrier from MEC is an affordable option for anyone in need of a child carrier. Despite the low cost, it is extremely durable and comfortable for both adult and child. This little family gives it two thumbs up! Or, in the case of the photo above, two eyes closed.


What's one thing that you can't live without when traveling with children? I'd love to hear!






Disclaimer: To & Fro was not compensated for this post. All opinions are 100% that of To & Fro. We are simply sharing a product that we love. 

Good Times Outside Our Comfort Zone


Whenever I think of good times outside, my mind usually floods to our favourite outdoor activities, and those that we know - hiking, camping, fishing, kayaking and swimming.

When thinking of outdoor fun, an outdoor festival is usually not the first thing that pops into my head. You could easily say they are a bit outside of our “outside comfort zone”. 

But, why can't they be a good time outside? After all, outdoor festivals are just that, outdoors. And with loads of activities for all ages - from food to music and everything in between - they're also a guaranteed good time. 

Good Times Outside Our Comfort Zone at The Big Feastival

It's been approximately 500 days since Steve and I have had a night to ourselves. Not that that is a bad thing, we would much prefer to spend time just the three of us. But, sometimes a kid-free adventure is needed. 

So, when my parents encouraged us to get away for a long weekend (and happily jumped on the opportunity to take Morley), we were left with the question - what do we do


Good Times Outside Our Comfort Zone at The Big Feastival

When deciding on the perfect weekend, we had three criteria - something new, something not too far from home, and most important, something outdoors. 

To help us narrow down our options, we turned to MEC's new digital platform, GoodTimesOutside.ca

Good Times Outside is a MEC-vetted source for city-dwellers from coast to coast to discover fresh outdoor experiences in their own backyards. Its designed to easily break down the barriers that might keep people from heading outdoors and spark mini-adventures, while giving solid advice on how to make it happen. 


Good Times Outside Our Comfort Zone at The Big Feastival

So, what did we decide? With the help of Good Times Outside, we opted for an activity a bit outside of our “outside comfort zone”. We decided to check out The Big Feastival (August 18-20), at Burl’s Creek in Oro-Medonte, ON, approximately an hour and a half north of Toronto. 

Delivering an extravaganza of delicious food sound-tracked by perfect summer sounds, this UK-born festival celebrates its first year in Canada with a weekend of top entertainment, hosting star appearances from the food, music and children’s entertainment world. It is three days filled with feel good food, music and family fun. And of course, plenty of good times outside.

And while a festival may be a new type of outdoor adventure for us, The Big Feastival does offer something that is familiar - camping! Thanks to festival sponsor MEC, we’ll be festival-going in style and turning it into a three-day camping adventure.


Good Times Outside Our Comfort Zone at The Big Feastival

The idyllic Burl’s Creek allows for festival-goers to get back to nature, chill out and top off their big day out, and good times outside, with a night under canvas.

Festival campers have the option to bring their own tent, or have MEC do all the work for them. And if they chose the latter, at the end of the weekend they can even walk home with a brand new MEC tent! 

Campers will also have exclusive access to the MEC Co-op Lounge daily from 7:30am to 3:00pm for morning coffee, last-minute supplies and gear rentals, free Wi-Fi and expert advice from MEC staffers to ensure your weekend is the best of the summer.

Not camping? No problem. Festival goers can visit MEC at the Good Times Outside Grounds all weekend for ongoing and scheduled things to do, including yoga and fitness classes, a climbing wall and slack lining.

Good Times Outside Our Comfort Zone at The Big Feastival

Good food, good drinks, good company, good music and a guaranteed good times outside. 

Hope to see you there! 

Be sure to check out GoodTimesOutside.ca for more outdoors adventures around your area! And don't forget to use these top hashtags for outdoors lovers to show off where your good times outside take you.

What is your idea of good times outside? I’d love to hear!






*This post was brought to you by MEC ad GoodTimesOutside.ca, however, all opinions are 100% my own. All photos courtesy of The Big Feastival and MEC.  

The Perfect Visit to Flowerpot Island


On a recent trip up to the family cottage on the Bruce Peninsula, we planned a day adventure to Flowerpot Island. One of the best, and most popular, experiences in Parks Canada’s Fathom Five Marine Park, Flowerpot Island is also one of Canada’s most fascinating natural attractions.

Read more about our recent Flowerpot Island adventure, here.

Making the Most of Your Visit to Flowerpot Island, Fathom Five National Marine Park

Whether you’re into camping, swimming or hiking, the Island has just about something for every weekend adventurer. But, before you plan a trip over, there are some things to know. Here are some tips on how you can make the most of your visit to Flowerpot Island.

Flowerpot Island - What to Know Before You Go


How do I get there?

Flowerpot Island is located in Georgian Bay, 6.5km from Tobermory, and reached only by boat. Two private tour boat companies operate return trips from Little Tub Harbour to the Island from mid-May to mid-October (weather permitting) - The Blue Heron Company and Bruce Anchor Cruises. Experienced paddlers can also kayak or canoe over to the island. 

What operator should I chose? 

The Blue Heron Company is one of two companies that offers private sightseeing tours to and from Flowerpot Island. It is the company we have always used as a family, which is the reason we chose it for our recent trip. I cannot comment on the pricing, boats, service, etc. of the Bruce Anchorage Cruises. 

The Blue Heron Co has several cruise options to chose from, including a non-stop, express and sunset cruise, and several cruises departing Tobermory every day they are operating. We opted for the glass bottom cruise, which includes shipwreck sightseeing, whereas the cruise back to Tobermory is direct.

Blue Heron Company
Phone No.: 519-596-2999      1-855-596-2999
Address: 7454 Highway 6, Tobermory, ON N0H 2R0

Bruce Anchor Cruises
Phone No.:    519-596-2555      1-800-591-4254
Address: 7468 Highway 6, Tobermory, ON N0H 2R0

Making the Most of Your Visit to Flowerpot Island, Fathom Five National Marine Park

Where can I buy tickets? 

Both companies operate out of Little Tub Harbour in Tobermory. Tickets are available for purchase at the dock, or online in advance. We recommend purchasing tickets in advance, as cruises will fill.

Tickets are purchased as a round trip, and departing and returning times must be selected at the time of purchase. 

How much does it cost?

Prices vary per cruise company, cruise type and time of year. Check the website for more details.

Please note, every person stopping on Flowerpot Island is subject to National Park entry fees (*waived with the Discover Pass in 2017). This fee is included in your ticket cost, and is remitted to Fathom Five National Marine Park and help to cover the upkeep costs of the island. Lately they have been used to build a rain/sun shelter on the dock where you will load/unloaded, to improve the trail system all the way to light station, and to build new washrooms facilities. 

Making the Most of Your Visit to Flowerpot Island, Fathom Five National Marine Park

What is a glass bottom boat?

Don’t let the name fool yet, the entire bottom of the boat is not made from glass. There is a large section of the bottom of the boat that is glass, however, the shipwrecks are also easily viewed over the sides of the boats as the water is very clean and clear. 

What time should I go? 

The Island can get very very busy! (Don't believe me? Check out the photo below, taken around noon.) We recommend booking the first boat out in the morning (in our case, 9:00am) and returning in early afternoon (in our case, 12:50pm). This gave us approximately 2 1/2 hours on the island, which was plenty of time to view the formations, visit the light station, hike the loop trail, have a snack and dip our toes in the water. As we left, the boats coming in were very full. Leaving at 12:50pm also allowed us to escape the afternoon heat.

Making the Most of Your Visit to Flowerpot Island, Fathom Five National Marine Park

How long should I spend on the island? 

Parks Canada recommends the following: 
  • 1.5 hours: See the flowerpots and cave 
  • 3 hours: See the flowerpots, cave & light station 
  • 4-5 hours: See the flowerpots, cave, light station, picnic, hike the entire loop trail

What facilities are available on the Island?

  • Compost toilets (at Beachy Cove and light station)
  • Picnic shelter
  • Hiking trail
  • Camp sites (reservations required)
  • Historic light station and museum
  • Small snack bar available at light station (cash only)

What do I need to bring?

  • Sturdy footwear  
  • Sunscreen
  • Bathing suit, towels
  • Hat, sunglasses
  • Bug spray
  • Camera
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Bag for garbage
  • Enough water to last the entire visit
  • Snacks and/or picnic lunch

Making the Most of Your Visit to Flowerpot Island, Fathom Five National Marine Park

I’m traveling with my children. Are strollers allowed? 

If travelling with small children, leave the stroller at home! The trails on the island are not suitable for a stroller, and it will be more a hassle than its’ worth. Instead, opt for a child carrier. We love MEC’s Happytrails Child Carrier (review to come).

Are there garbage facilities on the Island?

Remember, this is a National Park. Please leave no trace – pack out what you bring with you. What goes in, must go out. There are no garbage or recycling facilities on the Island, so visitors must take home all of their trash. Parks Canada was on hand at the dock, providing those arriving with biodegradable bags for waste. 

Is there drinking water available on the Island?

There are no drinking water stations on the Island. Ensure you bring enough water to last your entire visit, as it can get very hot!


Additional questions about a trip to Flowerpot Island, or another experience in or around Tobermory? Please ask! I’d be happy to help!



All Aboard to Flowerpot Island



Tobermory, ON is truly a hidden gem in Ontario. The list of things to see and do in and around the small town at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula is endless. From taking the Chi-Cheemaun to Manitoulin Island, swimming at The Grotto, indulging in an ice cream cone at the infamous Sweet Shop and everything in between, there really is something for everyone. 

Flowerpot Island, Fathom Five National Marine Park

One of my favourite things about this destination is the unlimited number of outdoors adventures. Having visited the area for 30 plus years now, I have been fortunate enough to check the majority off my list. Now, having a daughter of our own, we get to start that list all over again.

On a recent visit to the family cottage, one of those adventures was a trip to Flowerpot Island, located in Parks Canada’s Fathom Five National Marine Park

Flowerpot Island, Fathom Five National Marine Park

Last week, we boarded the Blue Heron V glass bottom boat in the Tobermory Harbour and took a sightseeing cruise over to Flowerpot Island, one of the best experiences in Fathom Five National Mark Park. (If you're not a scuba diver, of course.)

After departing the Harbour at 9:00am sharp, our first destination was Big Tub Harbour, home of the Big Tub lighthouse and the two shipwrecks. Both steeped in history.

While there are almost two dozen shipwrecks scattered throughout Fathom Five, the Blue Heron V glass bottom boat cruise gives you the chance to explore two, from above the surface of the water - the Sweepstakes (pictured below) and City of Grand Rapids.

Flowerpot Island, Fathom Five National Marine Park
Flowerpot Island, Fathom Five National Marine Park

After ensuring everyone got a view of the wrecks, the Blue Heron V hit the open water of Georgian Bay for an approximate 6.5km cruise to our final destination, Flowerpot Island. 

The Island is approached on the west side, allowing those onboard to view the light station and infamous “flowerpots”, before docking and unloading at Beachy Cove. 

Insider’s knowledge: The top right side of the boat will give the best view of the island and formations.

Flowerpot Island is famous for its namesake natural "flowerpot" rock pillars, but is also home to caves, turquoise waters, rare plants and a historic light station. 

Flowerpot Island, Fathom Five National Marine Park

Before it got too hot, or too busy, we decided to hike the 4.3km of well-marked trail that covers the east side of the 200 hectare island. 

We passed by both flowerpots, to the historic light station, which offers a small snack bar and museum run by “Friends of Fathom Five” volunteers. Instead of backtracking like most do, we continued on the looped trail. 

Insider’s knowledge: Appropriate hiking footwear must be worn on this trail. It is not suitable for beginner’s, or those that are not stable on their feet as the trail covers rocky terrain and has several sets of steep stairs.

Flowerpot Island, Fathom Five National Marine Park
Flowerpot Island, Fathom Five National Marine Park

The loop continued through the densely wooded island, past the six available campsites, eventually bringing us back to where we began at Beachy Cove. We then made our way to the smaller of the two flowerpots, where it was less busy and more accessible for Morley, and enjoyed a snack and dip in the cold, clear waters of Georgian Bay to end our day. 

Insider’s knowledge: If you choose to go swimming, be careful. The shoreline is rocky, the water is cold and there are deep drop-offs. Because the rocks are flat, they are also slippery. Water shoes are recommended. There are no sand beaches on the Island. 

Flowerpot Island, Fathom Five National Marine Park

Morley had such a blast splashing in the water that by the time our watches hit 12:30pm and we were due back at the dock for our 12:50pm departure, it was hard to pry her away.

After a quick 20-minute boat ride back to Tobermory, we enjoyed some celebratory fish and chips before Morley fell asleep peacefully in her carrier. That is how we knew it was good times outside had by all. 

More to come, soon: 
MEC Happytrails Child Carrier Backpack Review


Have you been to Tobermory and/or the Bruce Peninsula? I’d love to hear your favourite things to see and do!