Healthy Living in the North

Attention parents! Do you have your back-to-school routines planned out?

Collage of kids going back to school.

Many thanks to the Northern Health nurses who sent in their family back-to-school photos! How can you make back-to-school healthy?

As summer holidays wind down, excitement of the new school year is on the horizon. Getting ready for back-to-school season can be a stressful and challenging time for parents and families. Establishing (or re-establishing) healthy routines is an important step to making the transition back to school happy and successful for the entire family.

Consistent routines help children to feel safe and secure and teach them to know what is expected of them. To establish routines, begin practicing them a couple of weeks prior to the start of school. Remember to be positive role models for your children. Getting a new school year off to a good start can influence their attitude, confidence, and performance both socially and academically.

Try to ensure that you incorporate healthy eating, physical activity, and adequate rest and sleep into your family routines as you gear up for school. Start each morning off with a nutritious breakfast for everyone. Evidence shows that kids who eat a healthy breakfast do better in school, have increased concentration and have more energy. Also remember that snacks and lunches can be just as healthy as breakfast! Involving children in planning and preparing their lunch provides a chance for them to learn about healthy eating.

Collage of kids going back to school

Many thanks to the Northern Health nurses who sent in their family back-to-school photos! How can you make back-to-school healthy?

Along with healthy eating, be sure to encourage your young ones to be physically active for at least 60 minutes every day. Spend time together being active as this will contribute to reducing screen time for yourself and your children. It also avoids unnecessary sedentary behaviour.

Ensuring that children get enough sleep (9-10 hours/night) is also important throughout the school year. Adequate sleep is essential to healthy growth and development. Sleep helps to promote alertness, memory and performance. This is why it is so important to establish consistent bedtime routines that will make it easier for your child to relax, fall asleep, and sleep through the night.

Remember that families are unique and there is no one-size-fits-all back-to-school routine. Choosing routines that will work for your family and sticking to them is what’s most important.

What does your back-to-school routine look like?

  • Make bedtime the same every night.
  • Plan for healthy meals.
  • Limit screen time.
  • Talk with your child every day.
  • Teach your child about safety.
  • Encourage independence.
  • Make homework a routine.
  • Prepare the night before.

This article was originally published in the August 2015 issue of A Healthier You magazine.

Karen Wonders

About Karen Wonders

Karen was born and raised in Ottawa and over the last 30 years has lived in various cities and communities in Alberta and B.C. She has a nursing degree from the University of Victoria and currently lives and works in Prince George as a Public Health Nursing Program Manager. Karen is a strong advocate for the health of children and youth with her primary focus being in the area of "healthy schools". She is a director on the board of the Directorate of Agencies for School Health, which adds great value and is complementary to her. In her spare time, Karen enjoys travelling, spending time with her family and friends, and taking long walks with her dog Theodore.

Share

Foodie Friday: Planting seeds for healthy eating

Tomatoes, corn, eggs, chives, and potatoes

How do you involve kids in cooking? Even young kids can wash veggies or use a butter knife to cut up hard-boiled eggs. Hands-on food experiences help build kids’ knowledge, skills, and confidence with food.

Are you interested in helping kids become good eaters? Young children can’t do much with nutrition information, but they do benefit from:

Now that summer has arrived, there are many opportunities for hands-on food experiences for children. Build curiosity and excitement by involving kids in growing and gathering food. Even one potato plant or tomato plant in a large pot, or a small pot of chives or parsley, can provide great learning experiences for kids.

Imagine:

  • their excitement as they see the plant starting to grow
  • their sense of pride when they water the plant
  • their anticipation when they harvest the food from the plant
  • their curiosity as this food becomes part of a meal or snack

These practical learning experiences build their knowledge, skills and confidence with food.

Here is a recipe for a potato salad that can be made with local or store-bought ingredients this summer. It’s a flexible recipe – if you don’t have one of the vegetables, no troubles (well, except the potatoes – it just wouldn’t be potato salad without the potatoes, right?). Involve your kids! Even young kids can wash vegetables, use a butter knife to cut up the boiled eggs, or mix together the dressing.

Interested in more ways to plant seeds for healthy eating? Check out the resources for parents, teachers, and childcare programs after the recipe.

Potato salad

Not your same ol’ tater salad! Lise shares a perfect summer recipe with lots of modification options for your family to explore!

Not your same ol’ tater salad

Ingredients:

Dressing

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • 2 tbsp mustard
  • Pepper, to taste

Salad

  • 7 medium potatoes, diced, boiled and drained (try keeping the skin on)
  • 2-3 ears of corn, boiled, niblets cut from the cob (or 1-2 cups canned or frozen corn)
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
  • 1-2 cups green beans, steamed and chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • Small bunch of chives, chopped

Instructions:

  1. Boil potatoes, drain and put in a large bowl.
  2. Mix together dressing and toss in with potatoes (the dressing absorbs well when the potatoes are still warm).
  3. Prepare all other ingredients and mix together with potatoes.
  4. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Modifications:

Add or substitute kale, parsley, basil, baby tomatoes, thinly sliced onions, radishes, or something else! What would you or your kids tweak in this recipe?

More resources

For schools

  • Start small with a program like the BC Agriculture in the Classroom “Spuds in Tubs” program.

For childcare

  • Food Flair is a resource for early learning practitioners with many food activities for young children. See the “Fun and Learning About Healthy Eating,” “Bundles of Fun,” and “Let’s Make” sections.

At home

  • In addition to hands-on activities in the garden or in the kitchen, check out your local library’s collection of kids’ books about growing, harvesting, cooking and eating food.
  • Check out Better Together BC and the videos from winners of the Hands-On Cook-Off contest.
Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise started her career as a dietitian with Northern Health in 2004 when she moved to Terrace "for a year." More than 10 years later, she is now part of the regional population health registered dietitian team and she continues to love living, working and playing in B.C.'s northwest. Lise enjoys playing outside with her husband and friends and you might find her skiing, biking or kiting. She’s passionate about local food, keeps a garden, enjoys local community-supported agriculture (CSA) and farmers market goodies, and carries out food preservation projects.

Share

“Sip Cup” – Friend or Foe?

Running water from a tap filling a glass

Ditch the sip cup! Beginning at age one, start to introduce your child to a regular lidless cup.

These days, families with young children are on the go! With this comes the challenge of keeping children healthy and happy. One of the more common conveniences that we see for young children between the ages of 1-3 is the “sip cup”.

Sip cups have been around for several years. With a spouted lid, they are often preferred as a drink container by parents for several reasons. Parents can choose what beverage they put in the sip cups, lids are spill-resistant and the cups are break-resistant and reusable.

But, depending on how they are used, did you know that they could be putting your child at a higher risk of tooth decay?

If your child has teeth, they are at risk for tooth decay. Tooth decay can happen as the tooth is erupting too! To minimize the risk of tooth decay, have your child drink water for thirst. Other beverages contain sugars which coat the teeth over and over again, every time your child takes a sip. Even fruit juice contains natural sugars. Water is the safest drink between meals and for thirst. The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends introducing your child to a regular lidless cup around the age of one. So you can skip the sip cup! Remember to wash cups in hot soapy water between uses.

To help protect your child’s teeth from tooth decay, use a “pea sized amount or less” of children’s fluoride toothpaste, morning and night. Help your child brush until at least 8 years of age and continue to check how they did with brushing after that. Avoid soft sticky foods such as dried fruit, raisins or candy that will stick on your child’s teeth for long periods of time. Choose fresh fruit instead of juice or dried fruit. Drink water for thirst and visit your dental team regularly.

The Canadian Dental Association encourages the assessment of infants, by a dentist, within 6 months of the eruption of the first tooth or by one year of age.

For more information and some great dental games for kids, please visit:

Brenda Matsen

About Brenda Matsen

Born and raised in B.C., Brenda completed her diploma in dental hygiene in 1987, moved back to northern B.C. to work, raised her four sons in Prince George and, in 2009, obtained her BHSc. Brenda is the manager of the Northern Health Dental Program and has been with Northern Health since 2002. She is passionate about making a difference and appreciates the "can do" attitude of fellow northerners. When not at work, Brenda can be found enjoying the great outdoors in a variety of activities with her husband and Vizslas, throughout all our beautiful seasons.

Share

Foodie Friday: Families cooking together (featuring Lila’s Apricot Almond Granola Bars!)

Two young girls putting vegetables into a soup pot

Children and youth who spend time in the kitchen with their families develop important cooking skills! How do you involve your kids in the kitchen?

I was recently involved with teaching some after-school cooking classes with youth in Gitsegukla, a Gitxsan First Nation community approximately 40 km southwest of Hazelton. While I was initially a bit nervous about teaching a classroom full of rambunctious sixth graders, it ended up being one of my most rewarding experiences working as a dietitian! As the kids arrived to the first class, I could tell there were a few skeptics in the group— they thought it would be “too healthy.” Luckily, curiosity and hungry tummies were on my side! After a lesson on food safety and knife skills, the room was buzzing with excitement as the kids chopped, grated, and prepped the food. The cooking classes were a hit!

As a dietitian, I am always encouraging families to make meals together. Why? Well, kids who spend time in the kitchen with their families develop cooking skills that support them in becoming independent, healthy eaters. Cooking is also a great way to expose kids to a variety of different foods and it helps them learn where food comes from. Making a meal to enjoy with others also provides a sense of accomplishment, pride, and builds self-esteem. And those are just some of the many reasons I encourage cooking together!

So the next time you find yourself preparing a meal or snack, why not involve the whole family? To get started, assign each family member with task that suits their abilities.

Apricot almond bars on a plate.

These apricot almond bars are a great way for families to spend time together in the kitchen! Younger kids can measure and scoop, more experienced kids can chop, parents can supervise, and everyone can learn and enjoy!

Things younger kids can do:

  • Washing fruits and vegetables
  • Peeling with a vegetable peeler
  • Measuring and pouring cold liquids
  • Kneading, punching, rolling, or cutting out dough
  • Stirring, tossing, or whisking
  • Sprinkling, spreading, and greasing

Things older kids can do:

  • Threading on wooden skewers
  • Cutting soft fruits and vegetables
  • Grating
  • Cracking eggs

Things more experienced kids can do:

  • Roasting or sautéing vegetables
  • Baking, broiling, or boiling meats and alternatives

For more tips from an online community dedicated to helping families cook and eat together, visit the Better Together BC website. Be sure to check out the recipe demonstration videos posted by families across B.C.! Here is one of my favourites: Lila’s Apricot Almond Bars.

Is there a recipe that your family enjoys making together? Please share in the comments below!

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

As a Community Dietitian based in Terrace, Emilia supports 15 different aboriginal communities in the Nass Valley, Kitimaat Village and the Hazeltons. Emilia recently completed her dietetics internship with Northern Health as part of her dietetics training from the University of British Columbia. She is passionate about finding unique, client-centered approaches to supporting families in their current feeding efforts. In her free time, Emilia enjoys cooking, mountain biking and cross country skiing.

Share

Talk to your kids

Children in hockey gear watching a hockey game from the bench.

Children and youth face pressure from multiple fronts to try tobacco products. Movies, music, television, and even sports can glamorize tobacco. Talk to your kids about tobacco and be a tobacco-free role model!

This blog post was co-written by Nancy Viney and Reg Wulff. Reg’s bio is below and you can read more about Nancy on our Contributors page.


 

Whether you use tobacco or not, you probably don’t want your kids to start smoking or chewing tobacco. Let your kids know how you feel about tobacco and make an emotional appeal to help them avoid becoming addicted.

It’s a fact that if a young person can make it to their 19th birthday without becoming a tobacco user, then chances are they will never become one. Parents need to talk to their children about tobacco use, though, as youth can face pressure to use tobacco from a variety of sources.

We all know that peer pressure is a significant source, but what about other sources?

Movies, television and music have long had a powerful influence on youth. The tobacco industry uses that influence to exploit youth and recruit new tobacco users. Smoking in movies and on-screen is portrayed as glamorous, powerful, rebellious, and sexy while the health consequences are ignored. Listen to music on the radio and you may be surprised at how often smoking or cigarettes are referenced.

In May 2014, the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit released a report that examined the exposure to on-screen tobacco use among Ontario youth. During a 7-year period, approximately 13,250 youth aged 12 to 17 began smoking each year as a result of watching smoking in movies. Of these smokers, it’s projected that more than 4,200 will die prematurely as a result of smoking.

Kids can also face pressures while participating in sports. While Major League Baseball has long been associated with chewing tobacco, other sports like hockey and football have similar issues. The Sport Medicine and Science Council of Manitoba surveyed 2,000 athletes aged 12 to 21 regarding substance use and found that 52 per cent of male hockey players used chewing tobacco or snus. By age twenty, 75 per cent of Manitoba hockey players who took part in the survey reported they had tried “chew.”

Parents, coaches and other role models can counter these influences. Don’t assume that kids have the skills to resist peer pressure or media influences. You can help kids develop refusal skills to avoid tobacco and the addiction that can develop after one or two cigarettes. Coaches and athletes can set the example and not use tobacco products around kids. Sports and recreational organizations can develop, implement and enforce tobacco-free sports policies.

January 18-24 is National Non-Smoking Week. Let’s work together to influence youth to live a healthy, tobacco-free life.

 

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

Share

Cooking with kids

Grilled cheese sandwich with vegetables and nuts as toppings.

Cooking with kids is a great way to spend time together and teach them invaluable skills! Kids as young as two years old can help wash vegetables and choose ingredients like the toppings for their own grilled cheese sandwich!

While it may seem more like work than fun, cooking with kids at any age is a great way to spend quality family time together while teaching important life skills.

Cooking with kids can be a gift that keeps on giving, now and in the future. When kids cook at home they are:

  • Exposed to healthy foods, which may positively shape their lifelong food preferences.
  • Given opportunities to build reading, math, chemistry and problem solving skills.
  • Provided opportunities to develop self-confidence and creativity.

Here are a few things to remember:

Provide age-appropriate opportunities to grow cooking skills.

  • Kids as young as two years of age can help in the kitchen with simple tasks like washing fruits and vegetables and adding ingredients to a bowl. By age 12, kids can have the skills to do independent meal planning and preparation. Check out the Nutrition Tools for Schools guide for more information on age-appropriate food skills
  • Supervise kitchen time and demonstrate safe food handling practices, including hand washing and keeping cooked and raw foods separate, as well as safe practices like working with knives and what to do in the case of a fire.
Ingredients for a grilled cheese sandwich

When cooking with kids, be sure to provide age-appropriate tasks, supervise for safety, keep it simple, and make it interactive. The skills kids learn will last a lifetime!

Keep it simple.

  • Choose recipes that have fewer steps and ingredients and/or take a portion of a recipe and let your child help. For example, your child may be able to whisk and scramble the eggs while you complete the other pieces to make breakfast burritos. Check your local library or online for cookbooks with simple recipes.

Make it interactive.

  • Especially in the beginning, cooking may mean letting kids choose from a variety of prepared ingredients to make their own version of the meal. In my home, “build your own meal” recipes have always been winners with all ages – our favourite being build your own pizza where everyone chooses from bowls of diced veggies, fruit and meat, grated cheeses and sauces like pizza sauce, pesto and hummus to top whole grain pita, tortilla or pizza dough.
Grilled cheese sandwich with lots of toppings.

Building your own grilled cheese sandwich is a great way to involve kids in cooking and along with a salad or soup, makes a delicious and balanced meal!

To get you started, try this recipe for “build your own grilled cheese sandwich”:

  • Bread (any kind you like)
  • Cheese (try mozzarella, cheddar, brie, gouda, or another favourite)
  • Toppings (sliced pears, apples, avocado or tomatoes; caramelized onions, cooked sliced potatoes, grilled vegetables like peppers or zucchini, spinach leaves, sliced meats, etc.)
  • Condiments (pesto, honey, mustard, jalapeno jelly, jam, etc.)

Lay the ingredients out and let your family pile all their favourite cheeses and toppings on the bread. Brush each side of the bread with a little vegetable oil and then bake, broil or grill until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted. To make a balanced meal, serve with a green salad or a bowl of tomato soup!

For more healthy eating ideas and recipes like this, visit the recipes section on the Northern Health Matters blog!


 

This article was first published in A Healthier You, a joint publication of Northern Health and the Prince George Citizen.

Flo Sheppard

About Flo Sheppard

Flo has a dual role with Northern Health—she is the NW population health team lead and a regional population health dietitian with a lead in 0 – 6 nutrition. In the latter role, she is passionate about the value of supporting children to develop eating competence through regular family meals and planned snacks. Working full-time and managing a busy home life of extracurricular and volunteer activities can challenge Flo's commitment and practice of family meals but flexibility, conviction, planning and creativity help!

Share

A safe Halloween is a happy Halloween

Two children wearing costumes trick-or-treating in the snow.

Decorations, costumes, and treats can make for lots of distractions on Halloween. Following a few simple safety tips will ensure a happy Halloween for everyone!

Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat!

Remember when you were a kid and the excitement you felt as Halloween approached? It was such an exciting time: planning your costume, carving pumpkins, decorating the house, attending Halloween parties, trick-or-treating, and counting your loot once you returned home!

As a kid, I couldn’t wait to go out trick-or-treating; I wanted to start as soon as school was out and go until I dropped. The most exciting time was when it became dark; I was so scared to walk up to that haunted house with the graveyard in the front and the scarecrow next to the door! Could I build up the nerve to stand next to that goblin or witch and knock? I had to, of course, because everyone knew that the best treats were at the scariest houses.

Halloween is a fun and exciting time, but children become distracted with treats and costumes and safety rules are easily forgotten. These distractions increase a child’s chances of being struck by a vehicle and this makes for one unhappy Halloween.

Check out these simple safety tips for a happy Halloween:

  • Children under the age of nine should be accompanied by an adult or responsible older child.
  • Teach your child to stop at the curb, look left, look right, and look left again as well as to listen for oncoming traffic.
  • Select costumes with bright colours. Increase your child’s visibility using lights and reflective material. Bring a flashlight and choose face paint over a mask.
  • Always cross streets at crosswalks, street corners, or intersections. It is never safe to cross between parked cars or other obstacles.
  • Stay on the sidewalk when walking from house to house. If there is no sidewalk, walk beside the road, facing traffic. Trick-or-treat on one side of the street.
  • Drive slowly; there are more children on the streets.
  • Watch out for kids!
  • Reduce distractions such as cell phones and loud music and stay alert.

For more on Halloween safety visit:

Shellie O'Brien

About Shellie O'Brien

Shellie is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team with a passion for health and wellness. She enjoys the outdoors, animals, recreational dogsledding, reading, and healthy living. When not at work, she can be found on her rural property with her family of happy, healthy huskies.

Share

FASD Awareness Day: September 9th

pregnant woman, health. dad, mom

If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, the safest choice is to drink no alcohol at all.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is the term used to describe the range of harms that can result from alcohol use during pregnancy. At Northern Health, we are committed to supporting International FASD Awareness Day. This day was chosen so that on the ninth day of the ninth month of the year, the world will remember that during the nine months of pregnancy a woman should abstain from alcohol. FASD can be prevented!

Drinking alcohol at any point during a pregnancy can harm the baby because baby’s brain and nervous system are developing throughout the entire pregnancy. Alcohol’s effect on the developing brain can mean that children may have lifelong learning difficulties and problems with memory, reasoning and judgment.

What if I was drinking before I knew I was pregnant?

Having a small amount of alcohol before you knew you were pregnant is not likely to harm your baby. Quitting alcohol now and looking after your own health are the best ways to ensure that your baby is healthy. Pregnant women benefit from:

  • Lots of rest
  • Regular medical care
  • Healthy food
  • Supportive friends and family
  • Healthy recreation and physical activities
  • It is best to avoid cigarettes and other drugs during pregnancy, including alcohol

Tips for partners and friends of pregnant women

  • Have a non-alcohol drink option at parties or gatherings
  • Bring non-alcoholic drinks for outings
  • Hang out with people who don’t drink
  • Encourage women who are pregnant not to drink
  • Respect the decision made by pregnant women not to drink
  • Participate in recreational and physical activities with your pregnant friend or partner
  • For yourself, be aware of Canada’s Low Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines (ccsa.ca)

Where can I get more information and help?

If you need help to cut down or stop drinking, be sure to talk to someone. Friends, family or a doctor, midwife, nurse or counsellor can help. In addition, these are some great resources:

What are some ways you support families not to drink alcohol when mom is pregnant?

Sarah Brown

About Sarah Brown

Sarah Brown was born in Zambia, Africa and has lived and worked in many small rural communities across Canada. Prince George has been home for the past 20 years with her husband, two children, cat and dog. Sarah is a graduate of UNBC and a Public Health Nurse Practice Development Leader. She has many interests in the field of preventive public health. Sarah love’s being outdoors (even in the snow!) and is often out hiking, appreciating the beautiful trees, birds and blue skies of the north. Sarah is passionate about learning, reading, gardening & watercolor painting!

Share

IMAGINE Grants profile: Family FUNdamentals

An eight month year old laughing.

Family FUNdamentals is ensuring that kids stay laughing as they grow older through healthy eating and physical activity.

About the IMAGINE Grants

Northern Health’s IMAGINE grants fund health promotion projects by community partners, including northern groups/organizations and schools or districts, to support the health and wellness of northerners where they live, work, learn, and play. Ideas for projects are inspired and guided by Northern Health’s Position Statements. We’re happy to introduce an ongoing series of blog posts that will highlight past recipients of IMAGINE grants and share their great work with you!

Introducing Family FUNdamentals in Terrace, B.C.

Running June 5 to July 3, 2014 in Terrace, Family FUNdamentals —  a program funded by the IMAGINE Grants — is working with children five years of age and younger to prevent eating disorders before they start. Program facilitator, Anne Peltier, explains the need for such a program: “There is growing literature to suggest that children as young as three are aware of weight and body size and commonly express a desire to be thinner. Children at an early age are exposed to messages that emphasize the importance of being thin and looking fit.”

The only program in B.C. designed specifically for parents with children under five, Family FUNdamentals’ goal, as described by Anne, “…is to foster a competent parent/child relationship with food and activity to promote healthy growth and development of children and prevent disordered eating.” They accomplish this goal by focusing on healthy eating, weight, activities, positive body image, and proactive parenting skills that encourage fun through family-based activities.

The program originated from Family Services of the North Shore, expanding upon the work of the Jessie’s Hope Society to ensure that the provincial eating disorders prevention work becomes Jessie Alexander’s legacy. IMAGINE grants funding allowed coordinators to facilitate the program in their community, as well as purchase resources and the food needed to prepare the healthy snacks provided during the program.

Parents and guardians in and around Terrace can register for the program by contacting Anne or Tara at 250-638-1863, toll free at 1-888-638-1863, or by visiting them in person at The Family Place: 4553 Park Ave., Terrace. For parents interested in Family FUNdamentals who are not near Terrace, Anne recommends appropriate online resources or discussing healthy living with professionals, such as dietitians or paediatricians.

Northern Health is proud to help provide a starting point for amazing programs like this!

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Project Assistant in Health Promotions. He started at Northern Health in October of 2013. Mike grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007, when he moved here to pursue a career in radio. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, watching sports, reading, and ice fishing. His favourite thing about the north is the slower pace of life and the fact that he no longer has to worry about traffic every morning.

Share

Children: keeping them safe from falls and injury-free

Kathy and grandson

Kathy spending time with her grandson.

Children – those active little beings designed to move, explore, interact with the environment, challenge our thinking and delight our senses. It’s a big responsibility keeping them safe from falls and injury-free.  This is especially true during the early years when their curiosity, coupled with their level of development, can put them in vulnerable situations that can lead to injury, at home, at the playground and at child care.

Reflecting back as a parent of three daughters, I wanted nothing more than to keep my girls safe from harm. This included: preparing our home, keeping curtain cords up high and out of reach, securing shelving units to walls, ensuring all hazardous products were inaccessible, and lowering the hot water temperature to 49 degrees Celsius. I thought I had it covered; my little home was safe. Then the unthinkable happened. My two-year-old daughter pulled out the drawers in the kitchen, used them as a ladder, scampered onto the counter and somehow tumbled off, resulting in a serious fall.

According to the Healthy Canadians website, every day two Canadian children die from unintentional injuries and another 80 require hospitalization. These are staggering statistics considering many injuries could have been avoided had better preventive steps been taken.

In my case, I was close by and a fall still happened. What had I missed?

Preventing falls involves a combination of safe environments along with active supervision. Active supervision, or the level of supervision that a child requires, will change depending on their age, physical health, social skills and risk-taking behaviors. In general, active supervision means being within sight and reach at all times, paying close attention and anticipating hazards when your child is playing or exploring.

As a Licensing Officer for Northern Health, monitoring licensed child care facilities, I see first-hand the importance of being proactive and thinking ahead when it comes to safety and preventing falls. Children attending child care programs need opportunities to be physically active, to practice new motor skills, to play freely and to explore. Falls prevention strategies are not meant to take away physical activity, but to create a safe environment in which physical activity can take place.  Active supervision is also important in child care settings. By watching closely, child care providers can offer support, while building on the children’s play experiences, promoting their overall development and ensuring that play is enjoyable. In childcare settings, supervision, together with thoughtful environment design and arrangement, can prevent or reduce the likelihood of accidents and the severity of injury to children.

As the years passed and my girls grew, our actions and focus on safety and falls prevention changed.  We no longer had safety covers on the electrical outlets, hazardous products had found their way back under the sink, fragile decorator accessories were everywhere and the girls were allowed freedom away from mom’s watchful eyes. Today, I now have four active, little grand boys visiting on a regular basis. I find myself thinking of that terrible moment when my daughter fell, my responsibility as a grandparent and the actions I can take to ensure a safe environment for them.

Injuries can be devastating; we were lucky.  My daughter recovered from her fall and it taught me a valuable lesson – I can take steps to prevent the ones I care for from being injured.

Visit our Falls Prevention page for more information.

Enter the Falls Across the Ages contest to win prizes!

Kathy Basaraba

About Kathy Basaraba

Kathy is a Licensing Officer with Public Health Protection out of the Prince George office. In her role as a licensing officer, she monitors and inspects licensed childcare facilities to ensure the health, safety and well-being of children in care. Although she has lived in northern communities for most of her adult life, she is still adjusting to the cold and snow. When not at work she can be found at home, spending quality time with her family and friends.

Share