If you have a child who loves fire trucks, be sure to take them to the Fire Truck playground at the Gordon R Snow Community Centre in Fall River - it's literally right beside a fire station and it's not uncommon to get a glimpse of the fire trucks heading to a call, or just out for a wash.
The air has that unmistakable crispness to it, the leaves are dying in a blaze of colourful glory and the word pumpkin is plastered on every other sign, which, to me, means it’s time to hit the beach.
This article was originally published in the Chronicle Herald's weekly community papers and has been republished here with their permission.
I was that parent who had her child in swimming lessons at three months old. Obviously I knew she wasn’t actually going to learn how to swim as a newborn but I felt very strongly about my child being comfortable in the water and learning to swim as early as possible. It’s an essential life skill, I said, It should be a high priority for every parent, I preached.
My daughter will be five in a few months and we recently went to a birthday party at a pool where she spent the whole time sitting on the sidelines because she’s afraid of the water. After an enthusiastic start, we quickly fizzled out on the lessons and now we have two kids who won’t go in the water.
The pool party was my wake-up call. This summer I will be signing my daughter up for the free swimming lessons the HRM offers at their outdoor beaches and pools. Rhonda Dea is the Coordinator of Aquatic and Leisure Services with the Halifax Regional Municipality and she agrees that every child should take swimming lessons, but says parents need to know that the goal at a young age isn’t to nail that butterfly stroke.
“We want a child to be able to swim themselves to safety, first and foremost. They can achieve that with the basic skills,” she says. ”Water safety is something all children should be taught.”
Besides preventing drowning, swimming lessons also teach children respect for their classmates and instructors, how to work as a group, listen well and how to safely respond to a variety of water situations.
There are also some things parents can do at home to help their child become more comfortable in the water such as having them face the stream of water in the shower to get used to water on their face, which is something Dea says many children are afraid of.
A parent’s attitude while playing in the water with their children can also impact a child’s anxiety around swimming.
“If a parent has their child at a beach or a lake, or even a public pool, and their child slips under for a second it is important that the parent doesn’t react in a panicked way,” she explains. “The child reacts to the parent’s panic. It is great to see a parent pick the child up quickly, make sure they are okay and continue on.”
Dea recommends children start swimming lessons by three years old. By that age most children are independent and able to follow directions. Also, they are in non-parented classes by then which Dea says can be an advantage as many children often listen better when their parents are not with them.
I’m looking forward to watching my daughter learn how to have fun safely in the water this summer from the comfort of my beach towel and, let’s be honest, the fact that I get to spend her swimming lessons making sand castles with my toddler isn’t a bad deal for me either.
The Sackville Kinsman Playground on First Lake Drive has long been a popular spot with our family. We've been going to it since Mr. M was a newborn and Miss M was just 2 years old. Both kids LOVE that there are four bridges that connect into one big square and spend lots of time just running around and around it. We like to play the Billy Goats Gruff game where an adult is a troll under the bridge - much squealing and giggling ensue.
It's been fun watching Miss M tackle a new piece of equipment each time we visit and - like this time - conquer it.
It also has three different slides - one big one and two smaller ones - so there's never a line-up for the slide; and a set of swings with two "baby" ones and two "big kid" ones you can see in the background here. The surface is pea gravel and includes one of those little play areas for selling...rocks?
It's right beside a little supervised beach and walking/cycling trails so we often try to fit in a walk or bike ride while we're visiting the playground. I do know the beach is sometimes closed for bacteria so check before you plan to head in.
And, the most exciting part of all, is the new Splash Pad. It's been about a decade in the making - and they broke ground on it over a year ago. Last summer we enjoyed watching the construction vehicles. This summer we've been watching people working on it and Miss M has been yelling at Mr M to stay back from the caution tape. :-)
The good news is that today it finally opened! We can't wait to make a trip down there the next sunny day we get. It has three different stations depending on the level of water you want so there is something for everyone.
This playground/splash pad can be found at 71 First Lake Drive in Lower Sackville, right across from the Sobey's.
EDITED TO ADD A 2017 UPDATE:
They now also offer a great little snack shack with food like hot dogs and chips, and, of course, cold treats like ice cream and popsicles, at very reasonable prices. The perfect addition to a summer fun day!