Buy farm-fresh food for baby at Healthy Meats

As a health-conscious mom, what my baby ate was one my top priorities for the first year of his life. This was especially important when it came to buying meat. A quick Google search led me to visit Healthy Meats in downtown Whitby, a family-run store that sells locally-sourced chicken, beef, pork, turkey, bison and fish. Healthy Meats pride themselves on their selection of meat products produced without the use of steroids, hormones, dyes, water injection or systematic use of antibiotic treatments.

A view from the street of the Healthy Meats store

There are many reasons for new families to check out this store – You may be a supporter of local business or perhaps a mom that worries about what’s in your little one’s food. What every customer will take away from a visit here is personalized and friendly service that you can’t get from the meat section at big supermarkets. I had not intended to stop for a chat but the staff here are always so friendly that I do. The staff visit the farms that they source from, so if you have questions about the products available, they can find an answer for you.

Healthy Meats is located in Downtown Whitby at (121 Brock St N, Whitby).

Cost: Most products will cost $2-3 more per kilogram than than what you would expect to pay for the antibiotic-free range of meats at Superstore.

Get fitted for baby’s first walking shoes

 Finding shoes for my little man was straightforward until he really started walking. It required me to think more about the construction of the shoes he was wearing. Robeez were nice, but too soft for outdoor use. The boots from GAP I liked had a firm sole, but seemed too clunky for learning to walk. The usual places I would buy clothes only had more of the same – fashionable, but poorly constructed shoes. This left me researching online like crazy for the perfect shoes for his growing feet. The more I searched for reviews online, the more of a chore it came to be. Turns out I was searching for the wrong thing. What I should have been looking for was Kids Kicks, a local specialty shoe store for kids. It’s a small store but a busy one, with attentive and helpful staff ready to help you find the right shoes.
Some of the styles available at Kids Kicks

There are over sixty styles available in the infant section at Kids Kicks.

The service here is incredible. I visited on a weekend so it was pretty chaotic with all the families in the store, but the staff here were calm, friendly and patient at all times. The owners have put some thought into this though – there’s a ticket dispenser at the front of the store which helps staff keep track of which customer to serve next. During busy times like weekends and back to school season, taking a ticket is critical. The store fills up quickly and it’s the only way to keep track of everyone. If you’re able to come on a weekday, mornings are usually a lot less busy.
Once my ticket number flashed up on the screen at the back of the store, I was ready to go with my list of must haves:  something flexible but strong enough for the outdoors, well constructed to protect growing feet and cute enough to match multiple outfits. There are a ton of styles and brands available here that meet all these needs. From a quick count, I saw over sixty styles available for boys and girls for sizes 0-8. Now here’s what I love about the staff – they took the time to measure my little one’s feet, direct me to appropriate styles and explain the features of each of the shoes that we were trying on. If I had questions about any of the products, they were able to answer my questions all while maintaining an aura of calm among a sea of stressed out parents. I was out the door in less than half an hour, and the only reason it took me so long was because I was debating between two styles. Kids Kicks really made the whole process enjoyable. Now that I’ve been here I can’t imagine going anywhere else.
Cost: Infant shoes at Kids Kicks range between $35-80 a pair.

Join the Food ‘4’ Thought drop-in program.

If you meet the criteria to join, the Food ‘4’ Thought program is an opportunity to ease your transition into motherhood fully-equipped with a network of moms and local resources on standby. What makes this program unique is that it is available to moms in the period of most change – both before and after birth, all the way up until baby is 6 months of age. Many programs for new moms in Durham typically run for much less than that – Babyville, for example, is only 4 weeks.

A pregnant woman chops vegetables for a salad

The Food ‘4’ Thought program is a publicly funded initiative available to anyone who is pregnant and aged 26 or younger. Weekly sessions are moderated by a Program Support Worker who is responsible for creating an inclusive, safe and friendly environment for moms to support each other, learn about community resources, obtain advice from healthcare providers and receive fresh fruit and vegetables, milk and prenatal vitamins. There are seven drop-in sites in the Durham Region, including Ajax, Oshawa, Uxbridge, Cannington and Beaverton. At each weekly session an Early Childhood Educator is available to assist, so any moms interested in attending with their older children are welcome to join.

To register for the Food ‘4’ Thought program, you must be pregnant at the time of registration. More information about the program is available on the Girls Incorporated of Durham website.

Cost: Free!

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Schedule a haircut at Styles & Smiles 4 Kids

For those of you that like the idea of trying Melonheads for a first haircut, the Styles & Smiles 4 Kids salon in Pickering has similar features without the high price. This salon location was previously the Little Tots Hair Shop which had been in the area for over 20 years, specializing in kids cuts. Since Little Tots chose not to renew their lease for this location, some of the stylists that previously worked with them have taken over the lease and are re-opening as a new business – Styles & Smiles 4 Kids.

I visited the salon while it was undergoing renovation and their look is more modern than what you may have seen before if you visited this location in the past. From my experience trying different salons in the area, what stands out about this one is how clean and fresh it feels. The salon is colourful, yet modern. And similar to Melonheads, little ones can sit in themed chairs while they get their haircuts. There’s also lots of toys available in the waiting area for kids waiting their turn – there’s a foam mat play area stocked with toys and a new ball room (ball pit) to be installed. This setup is perfect if you have to bring along an older child for your baby’s first haircut.

A poster advertising the grand opening of the Styles and Smiles salon in Pickering

Operating in the location that was previously the Little Tots Hair Shop – Styles & Smiles 4 Kids is owned by a group of stylists who previously worked at Little Tots.

Despite not knowing the long history of this salon, the expertise of the staff shows from watching them work with the other children that come in. When I visited I met Sofi, one of the new owners of Styles & Smiles, while she was talking to a six year old about having his haircut. He was scared and didn’t feel like trying a haircut today. I watched as Sofi talked with him to explain what would happen and made sure that was what he wanted. The little boy left and Sofi let him know she would be there when he was ready. No pressure at all! I was impressed. Which brings me to my next point – It’s best to walk in for an appointment. I only waited less than five minutes because the child that came in at the same time as me decided not to go ahead with their cut. It’s really depends on the day, so come at a time when you know your little one is fed and rested.

This Wednesday, April 1st, Styles and Smiles 4 Kids (1725 Kingston Rd, Pickering) will be hosting their grand opening. Their salon is open 10am-6pm weekdays, 9am-5pm Saturday and 11am-5pm Sunday.

Cost: Kids cuts start at $16 (+ tax and tip).

Find some relief with Drop-in Childcare

I’ve spent the better half of this week sick, and as moms we all know how hard it can be to take care of a baby while we’re not at our best. Thankfully, there are childcare options available locally for these type of situations that you can arrange on short notice.Two infants play together with a soft book

Building Blocks Academy, is a childcare centre in Whitby (Dundas and Thickson) that offers a drop-in childcare service for infants. To use this service, you are required to pre-register with the centre ahead of time. Pre-registration includes providing emergency phone numbers, proof of vaccination and any other important information about your child that staff should know. Once registration is complete, you can call to arrange drop-in care anytime within 24 hours notice.  This is a sanity-saving option for times when your normal caregiver is unavailable, in emergency situations, when you’re home sick or those times that you need a little break. The centre is open from 6am-6pm and has a ratio of 1 care provider for every 3 infants.

Cost: Registration is $40 and this is a one-off fee. After paying for registration, full day care is $56 per day for an infant under 18 months. Any time under 4 hours is considered a half day, in which case you would pay $28. This fee includes lunch and snacks.

 

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Burn off some energy at Boomers Play Place

Boomers could easily pass for a well-equipped, basement playroom. You can find all the things here that you’d expect to see in someone’s home – jigsaw puzzle foam flooring, recliners, sofas and an assortment of toys you can find at any Toys R Us. The staff are warm and made me feel like I was being greeted by a friend. I received no introductory speech about indoor play space rules or rates. I was welcomed as if I was visiting a home.

Two photos of the area inside Boomers Play Place. One view of the couches and infant toys, one view of the small indoor trampoline

This location is perfect for a mom looking to entertain multiple preschool age kids because of the wide variety of toys on offer from costume dress-ups, a play structure for more mobile kids, two slides, a small see-saw, a rocking horse, Exersaucers and playmats for baby. Unfortunately, these toys don’t seem to have a ‘place’ and are left to lay haphazardly on the floor. This makes it tough to navigate with an infant that’s learning to walk. There isn’t a sectioned off area for infants like you can expect at an Early Years Centre, so you will have to clear an area for your baby and hope that the kids that can run around give you some space.

Now on to the best and worst thing about Boomers: They have one of the softest foam floors I’ve ever come across! It stretches throughout the whole play space. This is great for keeping infants safe from any tumbles, but it’s not so well maintained. My only disclaimer is this: I wouldn’t recommend this location for any moms who have germaphobic tendencies. I count myself among them, so no judgement here! Many of the toys and foam flooring looked like they needed a good scrub so this place wasn’t for me.

Boomers Play Place (Unit 2 / 111 Industrial Drive, Whitby) is open every day from 9:30am to 3pm, with the exception of Mondays and Saturdays.

Cost: The rates are among the cheapest for an indoor play space in Durham. Infants aged 0-9 months visit free and children aged 9-24 months are $5. Additional siblings are 20% off and adults are free.

 

Have a playdate at Joeys World Playground

One of the best locations for a moms in Bowmanville to meet for a playdate is Joey’s World Playground. While mostly catered to older kids, there is a basic play space setup for infants. The variety of foam play structures available are best suited for little ones that can crawl, stand and toddle.

A view of the infant play space at Joeys World Playground

You can easily spend a few hours here between naps – There’s a cafeteria-style sitting area with high chairs and seats for both you and baby to have something to eat while you’re there. Joey’s World also sell a variety of adult and kid-friendly snacks and make coffee on site. Now here’s the best part: This place is open until 8pm every day of the week except Monday. These opening hours are longer than most of the indoor play places I’ve visited locally, so it’s earned a special place in my top places to go in Durham.

Joey’s World Playground is located at 380 Lake Road, Bowmanville, and is open everyday from 10am-8pm except Mondays.

Cost: A single play pass is $6.45 for children that are crawling and $9.45 for children that can walk. Adults are free, provided there are only a max of two per group.

Have your baby’s ears pierced

There’s plenty of debate on the hows of getting your babies ears pierced, so it’s worth doing your research before you decide if you choose to have your little one’s ears pierced with a needle or a piercing gun. There is a lot of information out there, but a good place to start is by reading the Association of Professional Piercers position on the needle vs gun debate. There are many clean, reputable and reasonably priced options in the Durham area for whichever option you choose. It’s worthwhile visiting these locations in advance to get a feel for their staff, learn about how staff are trained, check out the cleanliness of the equipment and ask any important questions that you may have.

An infant has her ears pierced

The procedure is fast and most babies will only cry for a few minutes – similar to what you could expect at a vaccination appointment. A staff member will first sterilize your baby’s ears, and then a mark will be placed on the ear where the piercing will be made. You’ll be consulted at this point to ensure that you’re happy with the placement and symmetry of the piercings. Once you’re satisfied, it’ll be time to secure your little one to keep them safe. You’ll be asked to hold your little one’s head securely and their arms down for the procedure. The piercing itself is over very quickly. Some locations will even use two staff members to piece both ears at the same time. Make sure you ask at the beginning of your appointment so you know what to expect.

Recommended locations that use a piercing gun in Durham:

Caryl Baker Visage
Locations: Oshawa Centre, Pickering Town Centre
Cost: The service is free with the purchase of a set of earrings which range from $45-79. You can expect to pay between $59-102 all up, including earrings, tip and tax.

Claires
Locations: Oshawa Centre, Pickering Town Centre
Cost: Ear piercing is free with purchase of Claire’s Starter Kit, which includes a set of earrings and an aftercare solution. Starter Kits range from $48-73, depending on the style of earring that you choose. You can expect to pay between $62-95 for the starter kit, tip and tax.

Recommended location that uses a piercing needle in Durham:

Motor City Tattoo
Location: 640 King Street E, Oshawa
Cost: $40 for both lobes. This fee includes the cost of the initial jewelry, which is made from surgical stainless steel. Expect to pay around $52 in total for the service, including tax and tip.

A few tips for a smooth appointment:

  • Many moms apply a numbing ointment known as Emla cream before the appointment to reduce any pain. You can buy this online or at any local pharmacy for around $18 plus tax. This is best applied 40 minutes to an hour before your appointment.
  • Make an appointment when the location of your choice is likely to be least busy. Typically, weekday mornings are the best time to go when it’s quiet and staff aren’t busy.
  • Locations using the piercing gun will recommended starting with a 14 karat white or yellow gold earring, as this metal is the least likely to cause an infection using their method.
  • Some locations will require proof of your baby’s 2 month vaccination for the procedure. Either call ahead and ask or bring along your vaccination card as a precaution.
  • Infections can happen, so it’s important that you choose a location that has trained staff to perform the procedure. Your piercer should be able to answer any question you have about skin needles and cross contamination.

If you know of any other reputable locations that offer this service or have any tips of your own, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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Take advantage of the First Choice First Haircut Free promotion

I’m not sure when the ‘First Choice Haircutters First Haircut Free’ promotion began but it’s something that I learned about from a few local moms. I couldn’t find anything official on the First Choice website, so I knew I had to investigate to find out more. The official word from the company Facebook page says that this promotion varies by location, but after speaking with upwards of 10 salons in the Durham region they all had the same response: All First Choice locations offer this promotion. Wohoo!

A little boy having his haircut

If I’d known about this a few months ago I would have booked my little one in for a visit here. What’s on offer is similar to what you would get at Melonhead – A lock of your little one’s hair and a certificate, minus a printed photo of the occasion. This is a small consolation considering that you can save yourself upwards of $20 just by visiting any one of these First Choice Haircutters locations locally:

Ajax
65 Kingston Rd East (Harwood and Kingston)
15 Westney Rd North (Westney and Kingston)
105 Bayly St West (Bayly and Harwood)

Bowmanville
87 King St East (Liberty and King)

Pickering
1340 Kingston Rd (Liverpool and Kingston)
705 Kingston Rd (Kingston and Whites)

Oshawa
1051 Simcoe St North (Beatrice and Simcoe)
300 Taunton Rd (Riston and Taunton)
595 King St East (Wilson and King)
1445 Harmony Rd North (Taunton and Harmony)

Uxbridge
282 Toronto St (Cemetery and Toronto)

Whitby
3975 Garden St North (Taunton and Garden)
4091 Thickson Rd North (Taunton and Thickson)
617 Victoria St West (Gordon and Victoria)

Cost: While baby’s first haircut is free at First Choice Haircutters salons, I recommend tipping your hairdresser as if you were paying the full cost of a kid’s cut ($9.50 a visit).

 

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Enjoy a free coffee at Mom’s Morning Out

Finding inexpensive ways to get out of the house can require some creativity, especially if you find yourself with a little one that is learning to walk in the middle of winter. Mom’s Morning Out is a meetup group organized by moms, for moms, to make new friends and find support in each other.

Mom's Morning Out is a meetup for moms at the Whitby Free Methodist Church

This group regularly hosts guest speakers and organizes special events which range from baby wearing demonstrations to Halloween costume parties. Best of all, coffee and tea are provided at no cost while your little one has room to explore. This event is perfect for moms with more than one child – preschoolers are also encouraged to attend!

Mom’s Morning Out is held every Wednesday morning from 10-11.30am at the Whitby Free Methodist Church (1916 Rossland Street East, Whitby).

Cost: There is no cost to join Mom’s Morning Out however, moms are encouraged to bring a long a nut-free snack to share.

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