Accessible Eastern Canada

I am Canadian (raised, of course, on Anne of Green Gables stories), so I’ve always wanted to explore the Eastern coast of Canada. So a few years ago, we took a dream vacation with my parents in Maritime Canada.

I was in a months-long massive flare-up during the trip, so all of the activities we did had to be accessible to me. At the time, that meant we would need to cover short distances on level ground with a cane, or have wheelchair access for any longer distances. I wasn’t yet diagnosed with celiac disease at the time of the trip, so unfortunately I cannot speak to the celiac-friendliness of the places we visited.

If you are dreaming of a tour of Eastern Canada, here are some of the highlights and must-see places from our trip.

Jolly Breeze Whale-Watching Tour

Bow of a sailboat is seen against the sparkling sea, with link to Jolly Breeze site.
The bow of a sailboat is seen against the sparkling sea. The rigging extends up and out of sight in the photo, with ropes and lowered sails stacked at the front of the ship (Photo credit Livable by Design).

Hands down, this was the best experience of our trip!! We knew we wanted to go whale-watching during our stay. I have a bit of a fear of things lurking under me in the water, and the thought of going out in a rubber dingy or a small boat terrified me (not to mention, it would have been extremely challenging to navigate with a cane). We more or less stumbled on the Jolly Breeze, and it was like winning the lottery!

The Jolly Breeze is a steel replica of a 1900s ship, completely decked out to look like an old wooden ship. In their shop/office in St. Andrews, NB, child passengers can choose from a wonderful chest full of costumes and dress up like pirates. They offer the use of complimentary jackets to all customers. At first, we didn’t see the need. We were sailing in mid-June on a sunny day. Thankfully, though, we took the jackets. Once we were out on the open waters, it was frigid!

Black and white image looking upward along a ship mast, with rigging and sails visible.
Black and white image seen looking upward along the mast. Rigging, sails, and flags are visible alongside the mast. (Photo credit Livable by Design)

We boarded the ship via a floating ramp. The tides vary wildly in this area. We sailed out at low tide, meaning the ramp was at an incredibly steep incline. It was a bit of a challenge for me with the cane, and it definitely helped to have my husband close by for support. When we returned at high tide, the ramp was almost horizontal.

A high pier is seen with cars along the top. A steep metal ramp leads down to wooden docks. A small ship is moored next to one of the docks, with additional boats visible along the left side of the frame. (Photo credit Livable by Design)

Getting onto the boat was a little challenging, as well. It required stepping from a floating dock up into the ship. If you have serious mobility impairment or are wheelchair-bound, it would be difficult to access the ship. That being said, with assistance I think it would be possible to be lifted aboard. Once on the ship, the deck was wide and level and didn’t present much of a challenge. The company was extremely accommodating and responsive, so if access is a concern, I would recommend speaking to them directly to see what could be arranged.

Once we were on board, the adventure really began! There were long benches along the sides of the ship as well as down the center of the deck. The crew were fantastic: friendly, knowledgeable, and very welcoming. Ours were the only kids on board that day, so they put them to work helping to hoist the sails, raise flags, and take the helm. We happened to sail on my son’s ninth birthday, and they made him a special “crew member,” and asked for his help with various tasks.

Below deck was a cozy cabin fitted out with a small kitchen, and a table with bench seating. They had coloring pages for the kids, pirate puppets, and pirate and sea animal toys. The access was little more than a ladder, but it was not a necessary part of the voyage.

Dorsal fin and back of a minke whale in the water.
The dorsal fin and back of a black minke whale is just visible above the water. A smaller tugboat with tourists is seen beyond the whale. (Photo credit Livable by Design)

We cruised through beautiful waters out to the open sea. Our trip took place in mid-June. We didn’t realize it when we were planning, but this was actually just ahead of the tourist season–and ahead of most of the whales. Minke whales were just appearing in the area, and we did see some (as well as dolphins and seals). Later in the season, they see a much wider variety of whales and sea life.

The crew of three included a marine biologist. At the midway point of the trip, she produced a bin filled with sea water and a variety of sea creatures: star fish, lobsters, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, etc. The biologist collected the specimens at low tide each morning, keeping them alive on board, and released them each night. She gathered the children and explained each animal in detail, then allowed them to pick up, touch, or hold the different creatures.

A bin is shown with various sea creatures.
A person in black gloves holds a plastic bin filled with lobsters, sea stars, urchins, sea cucumbers, and some strands of seaweed on board a ship.

On the return to shore, the crew served us split pea soup and soda crackers. It was absolutely delicious (the company will share their recipe on request, and it’s become my family’s go-to recipe for split pea soup!).

Jolly Breeze was by far the most expensive attraction on our trip, but it was well worth the splurge. If you are looking for an unforgettable excursion for all ages, I can’t recommend them enough!

Eskasoni Cultural Journeys

Cape Breton was originally, and still is, home to the Mi’kmaq people. We wanted a way to learn more about their culture and introduce our kids to the indigenous people of the area. We discovered Eskasoni Cultural Journeys, and it was a fabulous experience!

The tour takes place on Goat Island, Eskasoni, a remote and beautiful area in Cape Breton. We were guided along a 2.4 km trail through beautiful ancient woods, as we learned and experienced different parts of Mi’Kmaq culture.

We were hosted by a beautiful group of indigenous people who were passionate about sharing their culture and history. They were warm and inviting, and we felt welcomed into their community from the moment we arrived. The tour began outside the main office, where we learned how to play an ancient game with sticks and wood pieces. Our kids were fascinated. Next, we ventured into the forest where we were told about the history of the island and its people. The trail was made of packed gravel, and very level throughout. I had no trouble walking it with my cane, and we made frequent stops where I could rest. I don’t think it would have been difficult to push my wheelchair, had we needed it. They also had a golf cart available, and offered me a ride for part of the journey. They would have been happy to drive me the whole way if needed.

A little ways into the woods, we stepped into a large teepee to participate in a smudging ceremony. Our tour guide explained the history and importance of these ceremonies, and burned sage to demonstrate how the ceremonies were performed.

Image of a teepee in a forest clearing.
A small white teepee is seen in a clearing in the woods, surrounded by log stump seats and a fire pit. A body of water is visible in the distance through the trees.

From there, they led us down by the water where we gathered at picnic tables to learn the art of basket weaving. After a brief demonstration, we had the opportunity to try it for ourselves, weaving small wooden bookmarks.

Four flower-shaped wooden bookmarks are seen on a red picnic table. The pieces are joined by basket-woven twine. (Photo credit Livable by Design)

Next, we learned to make “Four Cents Bread,” Mi’Kmaq traditional bread, over open fires. We mixed bread dough in open bowls, pressed it onto wooden sticks, and roasted it over campfires.

Image of Four Cents Bread being baked over a fire.
A stick with bread dough wrapped around the end is held over a campfire.

After the bread baking, we learned about traditional herbal and medicinal remedies. Then we gathered around to learn some of the basic traditional dance steps.

Image of indigenous woman chanting for dancing tourists.
An indigenous woman in traditional purple dress with feather in her hair beats a leather drum and chants. A group of Caucasian tourists holds hands, dancing in a circle in front of her.

Finally, our tour led us to a “Trading Post,” where we saw beautiful examples of Mi’Kmaq craftsmanship in basket weaving, wood carving, the making of knives, pottery, etc. Nearby, log-hewn teeter totters and swings provided entertainment for the kids.

Image of indigenous man holding handcrafted traditional items.
An indigenous man in traditional deerskin clothing holds up various handcrafted items, such as an axe, satchel, and beaded strands. On a table near him are various other indistinguishable items. A teepee is seen in the right background, and a campfire to the left.

Finally, we wound our way back to the main office, with a small gift shop. The children were offered traditional deerskin clothes to try on for pictures. We parted from our tour guides with hugs and warm well-wishes, and felt we were leaving behind a group of wonderful friends.

A stop sign is seen at an intersection. At the top of the sign, it reads, “Naqa’Si,” and at the bottom, “Stop.” Street signs in this area were written in both Mi’Kmaq and English.

Cabot Trail Drive

Rick Steves reportedly calls this the best drive in North America, and now I understand why! The Cabot Trail is a 185-mile long winding road that hugs the coastline and hills of Cape Breton. Around each corner was a new breathtaking view, different from the last. Some of the passes were a little harrowing in our large passenger van, but all of it was stunningly beautiful.

Image of wide stream along the Cabot Trail.
A wide stream is surrounded on both sides with lush green grass. At the edges of the frame are stands of tall evergreen trees. The sky is bright blue and clear of clouds. (Photo credit: Livable by Design).

Much of our trip was seen from the car windows, since we covered a massive amount of territory in our short stay. By far the most stunning ride was along the Cabot Trail! There were little restaurants or shops from time to time along the place, and a few scattered houses. But for the most part, there was nothing but wide open, wild space and unobstructed nature.

Image of mountain descending to sea level, with trees in foreground.
A tree-covered cliff descends into bright blue waters at a distance, with a grove of trees in the foreground. (Photo credit: Livable by Design)

Image of winding road through mountains.
A paved road winds around a curve and out of sight. On one side, there is a cliff wall. On the other, rolling tree-covered hills with mist rising above the trees. The sky overhead is overcast. (Photo credit: Livable by Design)

Image of tree silhouetted against sunset.
The sky is pink at sunset. The silhouette of a mountain slopes downward to the right of the image, and we see a tall evergreen tree silhouetted against the sky.

Cape Breton National Park

We took a break from the stunning vistas of the Cabot Trail to explore Cape Breton National Park. It was the first of the Canadian National Parks we visited. All of the National Parks provided activity books for our kids with information about the wildlife and plants that could be discovered there. They also received a collectible rubber key chain at each park (what kid doesn’t love a collection?). The Canadian National Parks also do a fantastic job with accessibility and identifying accessible trails, services, etc. This site provides an overview of all of the National Parks, with the option to search by Atlantic, Western, etc, parks; and to search by individual park. We read ahead on each place that we visited to pinpoint accessible trails and facilities, and it was a life saver!

Image of Skyline Trail, with link to Cape Breton Island site
A winding boardwalk trail extends to the edge of a grassy cliff, overlooking the sea. The sun is just setting over the water, and rolling mountains rise up to the left of the image.

Cape Breton is will and rugged, and absolutely stunning. We saw most of it by car, because it was getting later into the evening by the time we entered the park. We had hoped to visit the Skyline Trail, pictured above, but the sun was getting a little too low by the time we reached it. Many of their lookout points are easily accessible, though, by cane or by wheelchair.

We took some time to drive back to a waterfall, the Mary Ann waterfalls, off the main road. The route to the falls was rough and rocky, but it was worth the drive. The stream and falls were beautiful. A gravel path led down to the water, and it was easily managed with my cane. My family ventured down to the water’s edge, but I had a wonderful view from the path. There were even picnic tables and benches where I could rest.

A stream winds through a rocky bed, surrounded by tall trees. (Photo credit: Livable by Design)

The area is known to have an abundance of wildlife, including moose, black bears, and coyotes. We came the closest to seeing them at this stop, although we were never fortunate enough to actually stumble on wildlife in the flesh (traveling with noisy kids no doubt had some correlation to the lack of wildlife!). We saw fresh bear scat along the trail, and many of the trees had evidence of rutting (moose rub their antlers against the tree trunks).

Confederation Bridge, PEI

There are two ways to get from the mainland to Prince Edward Island: by bridge, or by ferry. We explored both!

Crossing from New Brunswick into PEI, the eight-mile-long Confederation Bridge is stunning! Once we were on the bridge, we enjoyed views of nothing but sky and water for miles. What an amazing experience!

Image of Confederation Bridge, PEI.
A long raised bridge stretches across the frame and into the distance over sparkling blue water. A cluster of evergreen trees are seen on the left of the image, and a red sandy beach leads from the trees to the water. Dramatic white clouds hang overhead.

Green Gables Heritage Place

This place is every Anne of Green Gables reader’s dream! A visit to Green Gables was an essential part of our trip, of course!

Image of Green Gables house.
A white sided house is seen atop a grassy hill, with green roof and green trim.

The highlight, of course, was the house itself. The area around the house is level and easily accessible by foot or wheelchair. A ramp allows access to the first floor of the house, where rooms are set up look like the scenes from the L.M. Montgomery books. The second story is not wheelchair accessible, but I was able to manage it with my cane and pacing myself.

Outside of the house, there is a barn with a collection of period clothing for children to try on. There is a buggy where tourists can try on hats and red braids and pose for a photo op.

Image of girl in buggy at Green Gables Heritage Park, with link to Washington Post article.
A Caucasian girl sits in a black buggy wearing a period floral dress, a straw hat, and red braids. A wooden barn is seen in the background, with various tourists. The ground beneath the carriage is red packed gravel.

There is a wonderful visitor center with accessible bathrooms, and an extensive gift shop. But my favorite place was actually the little area behind the house, Lover’s Lane. This real-life wooded path inspired the Lover’s Lane of the Anne of Green Gables books, and it was every bit as romantic and magical as L.M. Montgomery described! A wide, level packed gravel trail leads through the Acadian forest, and it is accessible by foot or on wheelchair.

Image of Acadian forest in Lover's Lane, PEI.
A forest clearing has large ferns and low-growing bushes surround a stream filled with red rocks. (Photo credit: Livable by Design)

Another great nearby destination is Avonlea Village. Based on the spin-off books and television show, this great stop is made up of cute little shops grouped together. When we were there, ahead of tourist season, almost nothing was open. We were able to enjoy some ice cream at the visitor center, but all of the other buildings were closed up. At the height of the season, though, this would be a fantastic place to spend the day popping in and out of the beautiful shops. The area was paved and level, and would be easily accessible on foot or wheels.

Prince Edward Island National Park

The famous red sand beaches of Prince Edward Island are definitely the stars of Prince Edward Island National Park. My mom remembered camping on the island as a little girl, and spending long hours playing in the sand on the beaches.

Image of couple on boardwalk at PEI National Park, with link to PEI tourism site.
Image of an Asian couple in shorts and short sleeved shirts looking out from a long wooden boardwalk, overlooking grassy dunes and red sand dunes.

Every picture I’d ever seen of PEI looked full of color: the red earth, bright green fields, and brilliant blue skies. Again, our timing for the trip was a little off. Arriving in mid-June, PEI was just beginning to emerge from the long winter. The skies were overcast and grey–none of the brilliant colors I expected–and it was cold and drizzly. Even so, the views were breathtaking!

I had been a little apprehensive about navigating the sandy dunes with my cane, and I knew my wheelchair would never make it through. There are some boardwalks and level places, but to explore the beach itself, there was no easy access. My husband surprised me and arranged to rent a specialized beach wheelchair! It looked like something that could tackle Mars, but it made all the difference.

Image of author in beach wheelchair.
Image of the author, a Caucasian woman, in modified wheelchair with large rubber wheels, surrounded by family. They are pictured on a red sandy beach next to the water, with grey overcast skies overhead. (Photo credit: Livable by Design)

The dunes at this park were pretty epic, and our kids enjoyed jumping and tumbling off the tops of them into the soft sand. There was also a great playground where they could run off some energy (while I, in all honesty, took a cat nap in the van).

There are also countless quaint lighthouses in the area. Many have plaques that detail the history of the lighthouse or of the area. They make fantastic photo ops, too!

Black and white image of low-growing grasses and vegetation on a low hill, with wood-sided lighthouse in the distance.

Northumberland Ferry

We had taken the bridge into PEI, but wanted to experience as many different things as we could on our trip. So on our way out of PEI, we decided to take the Northumberland Ferry. What an adventure! We lined up with several other cars prior to the departure time. When it came time to load, it was like a well-oiled machine. We were directed where to park and had no trouble getting our large van on board. Then for the duration of the journey, we were free to roam the large ferry. There were several observation decks, indoor seating areas, restaurants, and gift shops.

Image of loading ramp for Northumberland Ferry.
A wide ramp onto a large white ferry is shown. A yellow bar blocks the entrance, with a STOP sign on one side. On the top aspect of the ferry is a red maple leaf, and a Canadian flag flies from a pole atop the ship. (Photo credit: Livable by Design)

We gathered on an upper observation deck at the front of the ferry to watch as we pulled out of port. It was fun to see the Atlantic up ahead in front of the massive bow of the ship. The ferry was large, so there wasn’t an excessive amount of movement and rocking. We did have one little person feel motion sick, but it didn’t take us long to get our sea legs.

Image of bow of ferry heading out to sea.
The bow of a large ferry is seen heading out into open water. The decking is bright green, with rows of white seating, lifeboat rigs, and miscellaneous equipment on deck. (Photo credit: Livable by Design)

The ferry was wheelchair accessible, and easily navigated with my cane. There was plenty of seating indoors and out, too, so I didn’t have to go far before finding a place to rest.

We enjoyed ice cream from COWS Creamery, a local ice cream company with adorable merchandise. We also had time for a quick lunch in the cafeteria. It was a very memorable part of the trip!

Fundy National Park

I could have stayed in Fundy National Park for a week. It was our final stop, by far my favorite, and I wish we’d been able to explore much more of it!

A steep rock cliff with evergreens on top stands at the edge of a rocky beach. Small inlets of water are seen amid the rocks. (Photo credit: Livable by Design)

As with the tides on the Jolly Breeze, Fundy has phenomenal changing tides. We explored at low tide, and the water was out miles from the shore. That meant we had an entire field of beautiful seashells, rocks, and sea glass. The area also has a significant Jurassic history, so it’s not uncommon to find amazing fossils at low tide! We took our time exploring and wandering around what had been the sea floor just hours before.

A large expanse of rocks and seashells stretches out to the horizon, with water pooled in places. A tree-covered cliff is seen in the distance. (Photo credit: Livable by Design)

The sea floor was certainly not wheelchair accessible, and a bit of a struggle on foot. I actually used walking sticks for additional support as I navigated the uneven terrain. Eventually, I made my way to a pier with large rock boulders to rest. My kids took the opportunity to climb the boulders and play King of the Mountain.

The author, a Caucasian woman with curly brown hair and red-framed glasses, sits on a large rock boulder surrounded by large rocks. She wears a blue jacket and jeans, and holds two red walking sticks. (Photo credit: Livable by Design)

There are some wonderful trails in the park, including some that are primarily made up of boardwalks. Wheelchair accessible trails are clearly marked in the park literature and online.

Image of boardwalk through forest.
A zig-zagging wooden boardwalk winds through a thick forest. (Photo credit: Look Before You Live blog).

After all the traipsing over the sea floor, I was exhausted. We explored Caribou Plain Trail, one of the accessible trails, by wheelchair. It was largely made up of boardwalk, although there were some stretches with roots or rocks that were difficult to navigate. I was able to walk these stretches with my walking sticks, but they would have been a challenge if I had been confined to my wheelchair. Other trails seem to be slightly more accessible. Still, it was a beautiful hike with gorgeous Acadian forest vistas as we wound into the woods.

Image of dense Acadian forest
A thick forest with scattered light filtering through the tress. Undergrowth of ferns and low-growing plants covers the forest floor. (Photo credit: Livable by Design)

There are countless other attractions on the Eastern Coast of Canada, but these were my family’s highlights. If you are in the market for a wonderful vacation, I highly recommend a trip to Maritime Canada! What are your experiences in the area? I’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments below.

*Information valid as of 2018, and current information verified via attraction websites. Most Livable by Design photo credits to my dad, our resident photographer!

Low-Energy Winter Activities to do With Your Kids

Parenting with chronic illness–oof, am I right? Parenting at the best of times requires so much of us. And, to be honest, sometimes I just don’t have much to give. Of all the struggles that have come in my health journey, this probably tops the list. I often feel I’m missing out on family time, and I always feel guilty.

When my kids come to me and ask me to do something with them, I often feel an inward groan (which also makes me feel guilty!). I love my kids and I love spending time with them, but on the days when I’m struggling just to stay upright, it feels overwhelming to consider finding an activity to do with them.

If you fight a similar battle, here are a few low-energy ideas that might help you find ways to connect with your kids on the bad days (and check out my spring and summer activities!).

Image of vintage photo album being held in two hands.
Image shows an antique photo album with brown paper pages, displaying six black and white photographs. Six photos show a Caucasian family in various poses, including on the back of a white horse, posing with an antique automobile, and surrounding a Christmas tree. Two Caucasian hands are holding the album open.

1. Look at photo albums

If your kids are anything like mine, they love to hear stories about the past and to see pictures of themselves. My kids even enjoy seeing pictures from my college days, or from when my husband and I were first married. Family history is important to them, and I think it helps them feel grounded and secure.

They love to pull out the photo albums, wrap up in a blanket, and lose themselves in the pictures of the past. And let’s be honest, this is a low-expenditure activity! You can join them by sitting on the couch, or even lying down in bed while they look at pictures next to you. If your hands are painful or weak, let your child hold the book and turn the pages.

Family movies are a great option, too. Load up the videos, curl up, and enjoy the trip down memory lane with your child!

Image of small Pooh-style bear in red sweater sitting on an armchair before a fire.
Image shows a small yellow teddy bear with knitted red sweater resting with head turned toward a fire in a brick fireplace. He is sitting on the edge of an olive green armchair.

2. Drink hot chocolate or tea by a fire

On a cold winter’s day, is there anything cozier than curling up by a fire? And, let’s be honest, hot chocolate is one of those indulgent treats that just makes everything better. Or, if you are a tea or coffee drinker, that’s fine too!

My kids live for a cozy fire. Unfortunately, we don’t have a fireplace in our house. Instead, we’ve found some work-arounds: we have a small space heater that looks like a fireplace. My husband and I have a wall-mounted electric fireplace in our room. And we also have the ability to load up a “fireplace” on streaming services and have the appearance of a roaring fire flickering on our TV screen. None of these are quite like the real thing, I’ll admit. But on a cold winter’s day, they’re an easy way to spend time with my kids without needing much energy. We can curl up in blankets, watch the flickering flames, and sip warm drinks.

Image of snowman in red hat with smiling face.
Image shows a small snowman in red knitted winter cap. He has eyes, mouth, and buttons made of whole cloves. A red crayon is used as his nose. Two black stick arms protrude from his sides. He is smiling and background is blurred.

3. Window Snowman Contest

Speaking of snowy days, is there anything kids love more than playing in the snow? If you live in an area that gets a good amount of the stuff (and if your kids have as much boundless energy as mine), it might be a good idea to send them out into the great outdoors! Challenge them to make their own snowman–large or small–using any materials they like. They could use the traditional hats, scarves, and carrot noses. Or they could find whole cloves, rocks, crayons, or other materials to bring their snowman to life. Just make sure they build them within sight of a window you can easily access. Then, when the snowmen are built, take a minute to observe them from the window and choose a winner. You could even assign different categories, such as Best Construction, Largest Snowman, Most Creative Use of Props, Most Personality, or Funniest Snowman. Your kids will have expended some of their energy, and you won’t have spent much of your own!

Image of blank piece of paper and pencil crayons.
Image appears on a brown kraft-colored background. There is a white blank piece of paper with an assortment of wooden colored pencils scattered around the paper.

4. Play a simple game

Brain fog is no joke. And board games like Monopoly or Settlers of Catan are not only mentally involved, they last for-e-ver. While my kids typically prefer more conventional board games, some days I just don’t have it in me. If you feel the same, opt for simple games. Tic Tac Toe, Hangman, and Mad Libs are perennial favorites that don’t require much of you. They can even be played while you are lying down, if needed. If you struggle to write or use your hands, ask your child to move the pieces for you. If you have an older child, they can write for you while playing Hangman or Mad Libs.

These games are also great on the go. If you spend a lot of time in waiting rooms or in the hospital, they’re excellent time-passers (and fun for adults, even if you don’t have your kids with you).

Image of boy and girl reading in blanket fort.
Image shows two young Caucasian children, a boy and a girl, huddled in a dark blanket fort. The girl has long blonde hair and rests her head on her left arm as she lies on her stomach. The boy has short blonde hair and holds a flashlight on an open book in front of them. They sit with heads close together.

5. Build a blanket fort

Who doesn’t love curling up in a blanket fort? There’s no better place for laying low, resting, reading a book, or just being together. If you’re up for it, work with your child to create the perfect, cozy blanket fort. Make it as big as you’d like, and fill it with blankets, pillows, flashlights, or fairy lights.

If you just don’t have the steam, challenge your kids to build it for you. Even young children can usually put together a small fort. Talk them through the basics, or show them how to drape blankets over a table top. When they’re finished, join them inside to curl up and snuggle. Who knows, they may fall asleep before you do!

Image of older child reading a book.
Image shows a medium-skinned young person sitting in dappled sunlight with an open book. We see the blurred outline of their head, and see their left hand holding the top of the book, with the right index finger pointing at the page. There is a white wall and wooden floor in the background.

6. Read together

Oh, books. It seems one of my kids always has their nose stuck in a book, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. As energy expenditure goes, reading has one of the lowest energy requirements out there. Even so, it can be difficult on your bad days.

If your child knows how to read, invite them to read aloud to you. It can be a simple book they know well, or a new book you read together for the first time. If you’re feeling up to it, you can take turns alternating reading with them. But if you need to rest and listen, that’s OK too! If your child is not yet reading, you can still invite them to “read” to you. Ask them to tell you what’s happening in the pictures on the page. You’ll no doubt be laughing by the end of their story!

If your child is a little older and has outgrown children’s books, have a throwback day. Ask them to pull out all the books they loved when they were little, and read them to you. For even more fun, have them hold up the pictures and read the stories like a teacher, or like you no doubt did when they were small. You’ll all enjoy the trip down memory lane!

If there is something that especially interests your child, consider a book run to the library to find books on that topic. A library run will require some energy expenditure, but many libraries offer hold programs, where library staff pull all the books you requested and have them ready and waiting to be picked up. This saves you energy traipsing around the library in search of the perfect book. Some libraries even offer to bring the books to your car. As unfortunate as the pandemic has been, it’s put in place some services that are incredibly helpful to those of us living with chronic illnesses. Take advantage of these, and save your energy for the things that matter more!

Two African American girls listen together with headphones.
Image shows two young African American girls sitting side by side in a living room. We see an older girl with long black braided hair in two buns on top of her head wearing headphones, looking off to her right, and appears to be smiling. She wears a light gray blouse and jeans. A younger girl sits to her right. She also has white headphones and braided hair in buns, and wears a white shirt with open laptop in her lap. She has one hand with pointer finger and thumb extended and appears to be talking or singing along with music.

6. Listen to an audiobook

Sometimes reading the book out loud, coaching your child through unfamiliar words, or even holding a book in your hand is just too difficult. On those days, consider listening to an audiobook with your child. There are countless services for borrowing or buying audiobooks, and many of them are free. Check with your local library to see if they offer online services such as Hoopla.

Listening to an audiobook also pairs well with other activities if needed, such as curling up in a blanket fort or sipping hot drinks by the fire.

Image shows a puppet theatre with an assortment of animal puppets.
Image shows a puppet theater made with gold, olive, and maroon vertical stripes. A burgundy velvet curtain is raised over the center of the puppet theater with a black solid backdrop. In the center, a Caucasian arm is visible holding a pig puppet raised high with one arm waving, wearing blue overalls. To either side we two additional pig puppets, one with red overalls and the other with green clothing. Overlaying the image we see faintly in white font, “Getty Images” and the photographer’s name, “Anne Richard/EyeEm.”

7. Have a puppet show

Kids love to put on a good show, don’t they? If you have creative kids and some puppets or stuffed animals around, why not ask them to put on a show for you? They don’t need a fancy puppet theatre, either. A table or ironing board covered in a blanket makes a perfect stage. They can add props if they’d like, or just act out scenes with their characters. If your kids are a little older and like to be creative, they can make their own puppets form socks and bits and pieces from around the house.

Or, if puppets aren’t really their thing, ask your kids to write a short skit that they can act out for you. They’ll no doubt love coming up with a set, characters, and rehearsing their scenes for the “big show.” And the beauty of all of these options is it fills the time for your kids, and you can enjoy it from the comfort of the couch or your bed.

Image shows a person's hand with fingers "walking" across a surface.
Image shows a woman’s hand with index, middle, and thumb fingers extended downward. The index and middle fingers are making a walking motion. The fingernails are painted different colors: orange, pink, and bright blue. The top of the background is bright blue with a semicircle divide, with the bottom half in light pink. Across the image we read “Getty Images,” with illegible photographer’s name.

8. Finger dance party

Have you ever heard of finger dancing? I used to do it all the time when my kids were really little. All you have to do is use two of your fingers as though they were legs, and make them “walk,” “kick,” and “dance” on any surface.

My kids absolutely love dance parties, and on good days, I can enjoy them with them. But dancing takes so much energy! So on days when energy reserves are running low, but dance fever is at a high, why not have a finger dance party? Play your kids’ favorite songs, whether they’re kids’ songs, pop songs, or anything else. Let’s be honest, watching fingers dance is just a little ridiculous, so it pairs well with funny songs. One of our favorites is the Chipmunks’ rendition of “Three Little Birds.” Regardless of the songs you pick, you’ll no doubt all be laughing before long.

Image shows a snowy countryside with icy trees and black road winding up hills.
Image shows a snowy scene. The sky is light gray, and there are rolling hills covered in white snow. A stand of ice-covered trees is at the center of the image with a black winding road running beneath them.

9. Go for a drive

Winter has its own kind of beauty, doesn’t it? A walk may be prohibitive because of symptoms and the cold. But a drive is a great way to get out of the house and enjoy the season.

This is one of our family’s favorite activities leading up to Christmas. We frequently go for drives through our city to spot Christmas lights and vote on our favorites. My kids especially love to make the drive in pajamas with a warm drink. But even after the Christmas season has passed, a leisurely drive to take in the snowy sights can be fun and relaxing. To make it even more fun for your kids, you could play winter bingo and challenge them to spot a series of winter-related things on the drive, such as snowmen, ploughs, or lingering Christmas decorations.

Image of brown cardboard takeout box.
Image shows a small brown kraft-colored takeout box in the center of a light gray background.

10. Try a new take-out food

This idea gets double points, in that it’s low energy but also saves on meal prep! For a new experience, try ordering take-out from a local restaurant you’ve never tried. Be as exotic as possible, and encourage your kids to try the new foods.

If you are ordering from an ethnic restaurant, you could even spend a few minutes talking about that country. Or research it with books from your library run. And who knows, you may find a new family favorite!

Making Gardening Accessible

I don’t know about you, but few things make me happier than having my hands in the dirt and watching plants grow. I’m not an expert gardener, but it’s a hobby I’ve always enjoyed. Sadly, when I became sick, it was also one of the first hobbies I had to let go. Kneeling in the dirt, gripping garden tools, and hauling watering cans to the garden beds just wasn’t feasible anymore. It took me some time to find solutions, but I’m happy to say I’m back in the garden again. If gardening is something you enjoy, there are many creative ways to make it workable. Here are just a few to get you started.

Image shows a wooden bench with two attached planter boxes, and links to Wayfair website.
Image shows edge of a swimming pool and smooth beige-colored patio stones. A wooden diagonal trellis is overgrown with climbing green plant. In front of trellis sits a medium-brown wooden bench with horizontal slats across straight back. On either side of bench, at a level height with bench seat, sit two small square planted boxes filled with plants and flowers.

I love just about everything about this garden bench. The cedar is beautiful. Wouldn’t this be a wonderful place to rest in the backyard, or along a path? The two planter boxes are small enough to be manageable, and just the right size for a pretty planting of flowers or a small container vegetable garden. All of the planting, weeding, harvesting, and admiring can be done comfortably from the bench seat. And when you’re not gardening, it still makes for a beautiful place to rest and enjoy the outdoors!

Image shows a series of raised wooden planter boxes with inset fronts to allow wheelchair access, and links to Universal Design Style website.
Image shows a patio paved with herringbone pattern paver bricks, with brick building and darkened windows in background. Dappled sunlight is seen through trees. A series of three light brown wooden raised planter boxes is seen at an angle along the left side of the frame. Horizontal wooden planks make up the outer sides and center sections of the planters, which are each divided into smaller sections. The fronts of these sections are clad in vertical wood paneling and are set at an angle so that the base is inset from the top. Inside, we see an assortment of small green plants growing. In the foreground we see a small wooden barrel with lettuce or chard sprouting.

These raised garden beds are stunning. The separate angled spaces are perfectly constructed to make them wheelchair accessible. There is plenty of room to roll up to the edge and garden to your heart’s content! The raised bed design means they can be placed on a patio or large balcony, or set in the grass in a backyard. Even if wheelchair accessibility isn’t a necessity for you, a raised bed can be far more comfortable than kneeling in the dirt. I constructed raised beds in my backyard so that I can simply lean over and do my gardening, and it has been instrumental in getting me back into the garden. Raised beds typically require less weeding (a plus!), although they may need a little more watering. These beds are the perfect side for flowers or vegetables.

Image shows five medium-height raised cedar garden beds, and links to Universal Design Style website.
Image shows a series of five cedar plank raised garden beds sitting parallel to one another at the edge of a grass lawn, with gray paved sidewalk between each. Boxes are long narrow rectangular shapes, and we see them from their narrowest end at an angle from the foreground. Each box sits at a height of four planks. We see assorted garden plants growing in each, with a chain link fence and greenery in the background.

A sturdy raised bed such as these is another great option for accessible gardening. The space between these narrow beds allows for easy access to all sides. The height is perfect for sitting on the edge and leaning into the garden–no kneeling necessary! You could even add a narrow board along the edge of the beds to create a ledge for sitting. As with all raised beds, these require less weeding. A soaker hose woven through the bed could allow for easy watering without the need to do any extra work. These are a great option for vegetables, especially, but they could be beautiful brimming with flowers too.

Image shows raised self-watering cedar planter, and links to Gardener's website.
Image shows a long, narrow rectangular cedar planter box raised on four straight black metal legs. The planter sits on a paved gray patio at the edge of a grass lawn, and we see a low single-story house in the background with an assortment of tall tropical plants surrounding. A Caucasian woman with long straight brown hair stands behind the planter box. She wears a sleeveless gray tank top and jeans, and leans over the planter box apparently pruning and assortment of garden plants. She is smiling in the photo and looking down at the plants.

For serious low-maintenance gardening, it doesn’t get much easier than this raised planter! The height is ideal for easy access, and this planter is self-watering! The cedar is long-lasting and deters pests, too. This would be beautiful along a patio, or even out in the yard. Perfect for most vegetables or for a beautiful array of flowers.

Image shows a modified garden trowel with arm grip and easy-to-hold handle, and links to Gardening Today website.
Image shows the forearm of a Caucasian woman. The hand grasps a modified silver garden trowel, with yellow and green attachment that wraps around forearm and has a vertical handle to grip. Trowel is just beginning to dig into rich brown soil, and is surrounded by an assortment of flowering plants.

Sometimes gripping the tools needed for gardening can be a challenge, either because of pain or weakness or any other limitation. This device is absolutely ingenious! It allows the bulk of the force to be provided by the forearm, without the need to grip or lift weight with the hand. The arm bar can be attached to a variety of gardening tools for any job in the garden. This would be an amazing asset in the garden for just about any task.

Image shows a blue metal weeding tool with long handle extension, and links to  Home Depot website.
Image shows a bright blue tall, thin garden tool set against white background. At the top, we see a black adjustable knob, and a handle with black foam padding and blue metal lever. A long thin pole extends to the base. At the base of the tool, we see a small black circle and three long metal spikes, with a bright blue lever foot hold extending perpendicularly from the long pole.

While this tool does require some gripping, it eliminates the need to bend while weeding. Simply step on the foot attachment to guide the claw toward weed roots, squeeze the trigger, and pull up the weed! Much easier than bending and pulling or digging weeds by hand.

Image shows a small garden wagon with seat, and link to Lee Valley.
Image shows a small wagon low to the ground with thick black tires. A red metal tractor seat sits atop a red metal frame. A small red metal basket sits behind the seat and holds an assortment of garden hand tools. The wagon sits at an angle across a sidewalk of small paver stones, with a garden of mixed plants and flowers in the background.

This little cart is a fantastic asset to make gardening more accessible! The large wheels would be easy to roll over all types of terrain, and the adjustable seat height makes it easier to get to all kinds of garden beds. Plus, all of your tools can be carried in the basket so that they are easily accessible.