GUTS – A program that answers the question, “What’s inside?”

In this science-inspired program, campers will be diving in to see what’s really inside a wide variety of “stuff”. From electronics to plants to everyday items and even toys, kids will have fun dissecting, deconstructing, and learning more about how things work on the inside.

Join us for GUTS during Week 1, July 3 – 6, 2018.


Summer 2018 Calendar

Click here for descriptions of the Heartwood majors for our 9-12 campers.


A recipe for a hide-inside kinda day

Here is a fun recipe you can do with your kiddos inside on a rainy or snowy day, courtesy of our Camp Chef recipe vault. I like it because the recipe is very easy and it only needs one bowl. The kids like it because there is an opportunity for smashing.

Berry-Smash Muffins


1 2/3 cups fresh or frozen strawberries (raspberries, blackberries, or a mix of berries work well too)
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup yogurt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (for a whole-grain option, spelt flour works really well)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract


  1. If you are using frozen berries, let them sit out the the bowl you will be using for about half an hour, just long enough for them to be smashable. (You don’t want too much of the juice to run out as this will make the batter runny).
  2. Heat oven to 425 F.
  3. Put a paper baking cup in each of 12 regular-size muffin cups, or grease just the bottoms of 12 muffin cups. (Or use the silicone ones)
  4. Slightly smash strawberries in large bowl, using fork. (If you’re letting a little person do this, a potato masher is a fun accessory)
  5. Stir in sugar, yogurt and eggs until mixed.
  6. Stir in other ingredients just until moistened.
  7. Spoon batter into muffin cups.
  8. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until light golden brown or toothpick poked in center comes out clean.
  9. Cool 5 minutes.
  10. Loosen sides of muffins from pan if needed, and take them out of the pan.

Makes 12 muffins.


Why Camp?

I’m often asked why I spend my summers off from teaching running camp. The most “in a nutshell” answer is that I want to change the world, but that usually doesn’t help with the whole people-thinking-I’m-crazy thing. Go figure.

So here’s just one of the many reasons: I want to be a booster.

When I think about the non-related adults from my childhood, there are two distinct groups about whom the memories remain vivid.

The first group is unfortunately not so positive. Let’s call them barriers.

  • The swimming instructor who made me repeat the same level for three years, simply because I refused to be pushed backwards off the diving board (I think it was supposed to be a “recovery” drill.) When I moved to a different pool I passed two levels above it on the first try. I have never felt confident as a swimmer.
  • The local music teacher who picked favourites and despite giving private lessons to most of the budding singers in the area, never “had room in the schedule” for me.
  • The drama teacher who type-cast me as a dancer and never gave me the opportunity to try anything different. Years later, despite 30+ theatre credits on my resume, I still feel self-conscious about my acting ability.

Of course I realize there are other sides to these stories that I am not considering here. I am not intending to dig up ancient grudges by mentioning these anecdotes. These memories were made when I was a child/early teen and are coloured by my viewpoint and experience of that time. But what is important to focus on that despite the incomplete picture they may represent, they are the memories as I saw them at the time and they have had a lasting effect on my confidence. What a child is able to see and understand is what is remembered, and what is remembered is what has the potential to shape the future.

But there was another group of adults in my life, too. Let’s call them boosters.

  • The dance teacher who recognized my vocal talent and arranged for opportunities to showcase it. Let me emphasize that: that’s right, she was a DANCE teacher. It wasn’t even her area of expertise. But she saw something in me that she thought should be encouraged, and she made it happen. MANY doors in my future were opened when she made that simple choice. (RIP, Maureen. <3)
  • The vocal instructor who squeezed me into her schedule (as a result my dance teacher’s – and my mother’s – persistence) so I could get the qualifications I needed to study music at university.
  • The teacher I had in grade 4 who listened to me talk way more than my fair share and encouraged my strange obsession with turning my bedroom into a hobbit hole (and even donated some props for the cause).
  • The house league soccer coach who took me on as an assistant coach when I was a teenager and taught me how to organize a practice, keep kids busy and happy, and teach them something at the same time. (This is really where my destiny as a teacher was forged.)

In both the barrier and booster stories, the adult involved was in a position of authority, and there was a potential for either fostering or inhibiting growth. The only difference is whether the adult’s actions helped (booster) or hindered (barrier).

In my own close circle of friends there are both parents and (currently) non-parents. Whether they have their own children or not, they are all united by the fact that they LOVE my kids. In the short time that my boys have been alive in this world they have been guided and praised by their own little team of cheerleaders. They have encouraged them as they learned to sit upright, held their hands as they learned to stand, and let them bite their fingers as their teeth came in. As I think about them growing older in this crazy world, I am comforted knowing that they have this team of adult non-relatives who are rooting for them. And hopefully, they will find some other boosters (teachers, coaches, parents of friends) in our community as their own circles widen.

This is one of the main reasons I started Maple Key. In every child’s life there are countless adults who have the power to make a difference. If we’re lucky, we have more boosters than barriers. Camp is a magical place where we have the power to create a culture that is FULL of boosters. (If you haven’t read about the 40 Developmental Assets you need to. It’s important – whether you have kids or not.)

This is what we have to do. We have to be champions for these kids and build them up so that the odds are skewed in their favour. When they go out in the world and encounter people whose actions will tear them down (and they will – it’s inevitable) they will have the confidence and the resilience to ignore them and just keep on truckin’.



An advent calendar that’s full of memories, not sugar

That “chocolate” that comes in store-bought advent calendars is just awful.

I love the tradition… but not the taste. So several years ago, I bought my own reusable advent calendar with wooden compartments for each day in December so that I could put my own chocolate treats in it. Yay for good chocolate! Unfortunately, after we had Gaelan I quickly realized that the compartments were just too small for more than two people’s worth of chocolate. This was a serious issue, because I don’t share chocolate.

I started thinking about what I could reasonably fit in such a tiny compartment that could still be enjoyed by the whole family… and that’s when I came up with our family activity advent.

The family activity advent may not be full of chocolates (now Mommy’s stash is hidden elsewhere) but it certainly does have plenty of treats. I printed out a calendar for December and wrote a special holiday activity for the day on each one. (I used a calendar to plan them out so that the more involved activities would be on days when we would actually have time to do them – randomly doesn’t really work for this unless they are REALLY simple.) Then I put each one on a separate slip of paper, and tucked them into the truck.

(Hint: Number the slips of paper so you can get them back in the right order easily if you drop them. Or if your toddler decides to climb up on the table and pull them all out. Not that I would know.)

What exactly your activities are will vary by personal tastes and your family traditions, but here are some suggestions:

  • Take out the Christmas mugs and pick your favorite! As of today, only Christmas mugs are allowed for beverages until Christmas.
  • Make snowflakes for the windows.
  • Write letters to Santa.
  • Write Christmas cards.
  • Make a Christmas pizza.
  • It’s St. Nicholas Day! Check your shoes for candy. (Note: Dec 6.)
  • Get the Christmas tree!
  • Christmas puzzle day.
  • Pick out a new Christmas cookie recipe.
  • Christmas bubble bath.
  • Make special hot chocolate.
  • Plan a secret act of kindness.
  • Make an ornament out of your kiddo’s hand or footprint.
  • Make candycane popcorn.
  • Find 5 things in the house to give to charity.
  • Pick out Christmas outfits.
  • As of today, all bedtime stories must be Christmas carols.
  • Put on your jammies and go for a drive to look at Christmas lights.
  • Make Christmas pancakes.
  • Put out a Christmas treat for the birds.
  • Roast marshmallows at the fireplace.
  • Family Pajama Party, Game Night & Picnic under the tree!
  • Read “T’was The Night Before Christmas” (Dec 24)

You can also pick out some special outings for certain days – like going to the Magic of Lights. Download our holiday family activity calendar for ideas!


A Christmas gift to make with your kids that you can personalize for anyone

Bami Ballen: European Surprise Ball

Are you looking for a project you can do with your child that can be given as a gift? Try a bami ballen!

Bami ballen are easy and fun to make, can be personalized super easily, and, depending on what you put inside, can be made very inexpensively as well.

Here’s what you need:

  • crepe paper streamers
  • clear tape or glue stick
  • large sticker or to/from label
  • ribbon
  • one “main” gift (which can be a little bigger if you want it to be) and 10 – 15 other small items

How to make your bami ballen:

  1. Start with your “main” gift or the most round of your gifts. If you can do so without damaging the item, tape one end of the paper streamer to it.
  2. Start to wrap the streamer around the item. Crepe paper is stretchy, so make sure that you pull the streamer tight as you go, and rotate direction so that the paper criss-crosses in different directions. Do your best to keep the crepe paper flat.
  3. Once the first item is fully covered, place a piece of clear tape so that your crepe paper won’t shift or slide. Then start adding in your other items, one at a time, as you wrap. Alternate which side you add your items on so that the bami ballen stays as round as possible.
  4. Wrap the crepe tightly around the items as you go, and tape or glue it periodically so that if your hands should slip, you won’t unravel the whole thing. (Try not to use TOO often though, as this does slow down the fun of unraveling it for the recipient)
  5. When you’ve got a nice sized ball (or have used up all of your gift items) wrap the crepe paper streamer around a few more times to make the ball as rounded and even as possible.
  6. Finish it off with a large decorative sticker or to/from label. Tie a ribbon around and make a bow for decoration.* Note: These can be easily altered to your preference. Usually a bami ballen comes out about the size of a baseball. You can use larger and bumpier items if you want to but keep in mind you will need more crepe paper, particularly if you want the result to still be round!

Bami Ballen Gift Filler Ideas

  • stickers or stick-on tattoos
  • small gift certificates (you can get a real one from a store, or you can make your own with your kiddo, ie good for one free hug)
  • small dollar store toys (a bouncy ball, tiny stuffy or similar toy make a great center item) for child recipient
  • jewellery makes an amazing center item too! (hint hint dads)
  • individually wrapped candy and chocolates
  • a small jigsaw puzzle (each piece wrapped individually)
  • balloons (uninflated, obviously)
  • small arts and crafts or office supplies (eraser,
  • not really a gift, but you can scatter in a little confetti if you want whoever cleans the recipient’s house to hate you (hint: you should not do this if YOU are the one who cleans the recipient’s house)

Think this sounds like great fun but you’ve got two left thumbs and limited crafting time? Let us do the crafting instead! Sign up for Santa’s Workshop and give your kiddos the gift of giving. 🙂


How To Make A Reindeer Food Buffet

A Reindeer Food Buffet is a great way to make a custom mix that you can leave out for Santa’s crew! It’s a fun activity to do in the lead-up to Christmas and adds some extra magic to your Christmas Eve traditions. Here’s now MKDC does it:

Step 1: Assemble your ingredients
Magic Reindeer are pretty adventurous eaters, so you can use your imagination. (But don’t forget the flying powder!)

*Note: Always make sure that all of your ingredients are edible. You don’t want any birds or other animals choking on the leftovers.

Step 2: Get some nice clear gift bags ready.
You can get them at the dollar store. Make sure you get some twist ties too!

Step 3: Let each kiddo make their own custom mix!
When you’re done, make sure you tie the bag closed tight so it doesn’t spill!

Step 4: Follow the directions on the tag!



Happy Halloween – Here’s a treat for you!

Happy Halloween to all our favourite ghouls and goblins!

Do the two trick or treaters remind you of anybody? Click on the colouring book page below for a printable PDF version and have fun

Wishing all of our camp families, past and present, a fun and safe Halloween!


P.S. We’d love to see your artwork! Post your kiddo’s creation on FB or Instagram and tag us, and I’ll send them an extra special bit of loot in the mail! 😉


Halloween 2017 Round-Up: Stuff to do with the family in & near Lanark County

Happy Friday the 13th! Here’s what’s coming up in our area for Halloween:

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Thanksgiving Round-Up: Stuff to do with the family in & near Lanark County

Need to keep those kids busy with the extra day off school? Got family visiting from out of town? Here’s a family-friendly list of what’s going on this Thanksgiving weekend:

More fun ideas:

Have I missed anything? Add your suggestions in the comments!