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Staying entertained indoors during smoky conditions

Some local businesses are coming up with creative ways to keep clients busy and active indoors, as wildfires in British Columbia are creating poor air quality conditions throughout the region.
Indoor fun
Sheldon happily avoided the smoke by enjoying the indoor obstacle course at Airdrie Puppy Pals.

Some local businesses are coming up with creative ways to keep clients busy and active indoors, as wildfires in British Columbia are creating poor air quality conditions throughout the region. “We’re very lucky – we have gyms, we have a climber, we have places to go within the structure of our daycare,” said Bev Hanowski, director of the Magic Mountain Daycare in Airdrie. “Each room plans things we would not normally have, so it’s extra special.” For example, Hanowski said, children of all ages are enjoying activities in the science room throughout the day, over and above what they normally would. The facility also offers a games room with video games the kids can use, on a limited basis, to keep entertained, as well. Hanowski said the daycare started limiting the amount of time kids could be outdoors when the air quality rating rose to five, and kept them indoors when the rating rose to nine or 10. “The staff organize for special fun activities to keep [the kids] occupied, because they can get bored,” she said. “It’s also sort of a novelty for them, because when the weather is good, and they’re outside much of the day, to be able to stay inside and play is actually kind of a fun thing for them.” Field trips had to be cancelled, however, she added, including one planned to the RCMP Police Dog Service Training Centre in Innisfail. Magic Mountain isn’t the only daycare to cancel field trips. Janet Saliba, director of Jumping Jelly Beans in Airdrie, said she had to cancel a few outings and replace them with indoor activities. “We have a little gym, so they still can get some gross motor activities going on,” she said. “We’re doing challenging activities, by dividing them into teams.” Saliba said, while it can be demanding for staff, there are a number of ways to keep kids occupied indoors – including baking and arts activities, which parents can also do with their kids at home. “Kids like sensory [activities] like baking – they made bread yesterday,” she said. “We come up with things for them to do in here and we follow their interests, too. We ask them what they want to do.” Four-legged friends can also suffer from the poor air quality. Nikki Nordick, owner of Airdrie Puppy Pals, said her staff is keeping their daycare clients indoors while the air is smoky. But there are lots of things owners can do at home to keep their pups engaged and burn off some energy, she said. “It’s a perfect opportunity to practice your obedience in your house. Polite leash manners – put them on a leash and a collar and walk around your house practicing some of that manners aspect,” she said. “We’ll teach them tricks. You can teach them to jump through a hula hoop. It’s a great mental and…a great physical [activity] and fun for the whole family.” There are a number of websites and Facebook pages that offer suggestions for canine enrichment activities, according to Nordick. One is, which suggests stuffing Kong toys with treats or creating a snuffle mat. “Snuffle mats are crossed felt that you hide things in and then they have to use their nose to find them,” she said. “Hide and seek is always fun.” Nordick said one of her favourite activities involves poking holes in a recycled plastic pop bottle, filling it with treats and suspending it from a rod mounted in a doorway. The dog has to learn to spin the bottle to get the treats out, she said. Treating the current air quality situation like it’s winter is likely the easiest way to get through it, according to Nordick. “We monitor the outside conditions – if it’s too cold, too rainy, if the dog park is packed with people – and our daily activities go on as usual,” she said. “We just stay indoors.”

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