Celebrating Canada Day with kids takes extra planning, but these tips can help.
Remember when Canada Day used to mean meeting all your friends downtown, enjoying refreshing drinks on a sunny patio, dancing to your favourite Canadian bands in an electric crowd, and then belting out the national anthem while taking in a magnificent fireworks display.
Those were the good old days, but now you have kids and your July 1 may look different.
Just because you have little ones doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the day, in fact Canada Day is a great excuse to enjoy some family fun.
Whether you’re thinking of braving the crowds at a public event, staying home, or hitting up a pool party, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to the safety and enjoyment of your little ones. Here are some tips to help you get through.
- Plan an activity that’s feasible
If your child is miserable, you will be too, so make sure you pick an activity that’s realistic for your child’s age and abilities. Older kids might enjoy the excitement of a major city event, but younger kids might prefer a Canadian-themed backyard party with other kids their own age, a visit to a museum, or a few hours at a smaller community celebration (many communities host these, and they tend to be quite family-friendly!).
There are lots of fun and festive foods and crafts you can make if you decide to stay home, even for part of the day. And think outside the box when it comes to activities! If you want to do something patriotic and summery that might not be as busy, Canada Day is a great time to go pick some local berries, visit a national park (many of them have Canada Day activities), or take a trip to a pioneer village.
- Hope for the best, pack for the worst.
Whatever you decide to do on July 1, if you plan to leave the house, you’re going to need stuff, and probably more stuff than usual.Canada Day can be a scorcher, so you’ll want to make sure to pack plenty of drinking water no matter what you decide to do that day. Sunscreen and hats are also essential for any daytime adventures. If you plan to be out all day, don’t forget longer sleeves for when it gets cooler (and buggier) at dusk, and it never hurts to bring a full change of clothes for little ones, because if any of the activities you attend happen to have water balloons, water stations, water anything, your kid is going to be attracted to it like a moth to a flame.
Kid-friendly, portable snacks are also always a good idea, because a hangry kid is fun for no one, and you never know how long the lines at the nearest food stand will be.
- Brush up on your sun safety skills
Children can burn or become dehydrated easily, so if your plans involve being outside on July 1, you’re going to want to brush up on your sun safety skills.
The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) recommends keeping kids indoors or at least in the shade during the hottest time of the day, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Babies should be kept out of direct sunlight completely, Health Canada notes. Sunscreen is not recommended for babies under six months old but should be applied liberally and often to older babies, toddlers, and kids.
Hats with a wide brim and a back flap, sunglasses with 100 per cent UV protection, and loose cotton clothing will all help protect a child’s skin from the rays, CPS suggests. Make sure your child drinks plenty of water, even if they don’t feel thirsty, and be extra cautious for signs of heat illness, which include thirst, fatigue, leg or stomach cramps, and cool, moist skin, CPS said.
If your child shows these signs, it’s time to cut the outdoor celebrations short and bring your little one inside to cool down and re-hydrate.
- Crowd safety is key
Canada Day crowds can be bustling and keeping track of kids in public can be a daunting task even at the best of times, so you’re going to want to put some crowd safety tips into practice.
Before you go, take a photo of your child in what they’re wearing that day, that way you know exactly what they’re wearing and can show others a photo if you get separated. You can also write your cell number on the inside seam of your little one’s shirt so they can show it to someone.
When you get to the event, pick a meeting spot in case you get split up, and consider introducing your child to a police officer at the event so they don’t feel intimidated approaching one if they need help.
If you lose your child, tell police or security workers at the event right away and one family member should wait in the designated meeting spot.
- Kids might be fascinated by fireworks … or they might be terrified
Fireworks are synonymous with Canada Day, and most events end with a splashy display that lights up the skies and, potentially, your kid’s amazed eyes, but fireworks might be more frightening than fun for little kids. They can cause “unnecessary stress” for toddlers and babies, who don’t understand the reason for the loud sounds, the flashes of light, and the crowds.
Experts recommend preparing kids beforehand by explaining what they’ll be seeing “pretty lights followed by a BOOM”, and even showing them some videos on YouTube. Picking a family-friendly location where your child can see other kids reacting (hopefully positively) to the fireworks can help too, but if your kid is terrified, don’t force it.
The Children’s Health & Safety Association in Canada recommends all kids watching fireworks wear some type of ear protection.
- If all else fails … there’s always dessert (and bedtime)
So, you didn’t make kid-friendly plans, it’s too hot to go anywhere, anyway, and the idea of entering a massive crowd with your children makes you want to curl up into a ball? You can still knock Canada Day out of the park with our old friend: sugar. Whip up a quick and easy patriotic treat for your kiddos like watermelon maple leaf’s, Inukshuk party snacks, or a Canadian flag cake. Let the kids play with the hose or run through the sprinkler all afternoon, serve them with these delicious snacks, watch the fireworks on TV, and bam, you did it.