Tax Changes Ahead!

Some of us look towards the tax season with dread, but there’s also lots of reasons to be excited if you have a family. Plus, how great is it that February has an entire day devoted to family? Almost all Canadian families are given an extra day to spend time with each other. H&R Block wants to give Canadian families another reason to celebrate Family Day, by reminding them of all the credits and deductions they’re entitled to. Want more money for your family vacation next year? Then, pay attention.

Changes to benefits this year: There’s a new benefit in town and it’s called the Canada child benefit. It actually replaced the Canada child tax benefit and Universal child care benefits last year. Canadians may be entitled to this tax-free monthly payment that helps eligible families with the cost of raising children under the age of 18.

Last chance for certain credits: This is the last year to claim the Children’s arts tax credit and Children’s fitness tax credit. If your children participated in a program of artistic, cultural, recreational, or development activity (such as tutoring), you may be able to claim up to $250 of the fees paid, per child. If your children played hockey, took horseback riding lessons, or participated in some other eligible program of physical activity, you may be able to claim up to $500 per child for the cost of registration in these programs.

Child care expenses – Canadian’s who paid for daycare or a child care program such as a summer day camp, may be able to claim these expenses.

Other benefits to remember – if you have a child under the age of 18 who is eligible for the disability tax credit, you may be eligible to claim a transfer of the unused amount. If you are caring for a dependent with a physical or mental impairment, you may be able to claim the Family caregiver amount .

Whatever you do, be sure to contact a tax professional to make sure you receive all the benefits you’re entitled to!

Family Day Fun!

Looking for fun this Family Day? We have you covered! The Lower Mainland has tons to offer in the way of family-friendly activities and we’ve rounded up some of the best.

  1. Willowbrook Shopping Centre Peace Play Day
    11am to 6pm for a day full of family fun! This free, kid-friendly event will feature activities, demonstrations, and exhibits to celebrate world peace and harmony including: Decorating a LEGO peace tree with trees, flowers, and more, to celebrate world peace; Peace Passport: The first 600 kids aged 4-16 to complete a Peace Passport will receive a gift pack*. All completed passports will be entered for a chance to win a trip for 4 to the United Nations in New York!; Crafts, a Minute of Peace at 2pm, dancing, music, demonstrations and more!
  2. Family Day at the Fort
    Step away from technology and spend Family Day having good, old-fashioned fun at the fort! Starting at 10 am, put your kids to work, the old-fashioned way, with 19th century family chores. From 2 pm to 3 pm, take photos of your kids in historical outfits while they play dress up. Afterwards, watch blacksmith demonstrations, coopering demonstrations and earn a prize by completing our family scavenger hunt.
  3. Family Fun Day at the Nature Park
    Richmond Nature Park
    Come to the Richmond Nature Park for some adventurous family fun! Explore the bog through special scavenger and treasure hunts. All ages are welcome. Admission is by donation.
  4. Bloedel Conservatory or VanDusen 
    Check out the amazing creatures at the Bloedel Conservatory or VanDusen Gardens, where admission is free on Family Day! There are amazing flowers, mazes, snacks, beautiful foliage and animals to visit and lots of learning opportunities for little minds.
  5. Skate at Robson
    Everyone loves to skate, especially when semi-outdoors but protected at Robson Square, downtown Vancouver. Best of all, Family Day means free skate rentals and hot chocolate to keep energy up and tiny hands toasty!

Happy Holidays from WestCoast Families

Here at WestCoast Families, we have a special team that works so well together that it makes each month a pleasure to crack open the computer and get to work. We’re lucky to have one another, and we know it.

This year, our country has seen a lot of turmoil and hatred, making it scary and sad to click on the news each morning. But it has also been a year of change and excitement and generosity. Let us remember, especially during this time of year, how lucky we all are to live in such a great country and what a joy it is to be in a world where gracious acts of kindness are not only possible, but just as prevalent on those news channels. When I hear of kids getting involved with their schools to put together Christmas baskets or parents donating to food banks as a family, I feel a swell of pride and simultaneously grateful that I have food to eat and a roof over my head.

This year, I spent much time considering the gift I would buy for a child to be donated to a Christmas Wish organization. When I picked a Play-Doh set that would have tickled me pink as a kid, I excitedly paid and dropped off my gift, along with about ten other people at the exact same time. All over the country, Canadians have chipped in, donated, volunteered, and supported and this makes me wildly proud to be a part of that positivity and kindness.

So whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or nothing at all, we hope that this spirit of generosity will continue throughout the year. Let’s make that a New Year Resolution for 2016.

Happy Holidays, Folks. — Kelly S. Thompson



Top 5 Items to Pack for Family Camping

Who doesn’t love camping? For any type of outdoor adventure, preparation is the key. Start by making a checklist and keep things organized. Based on the type of activities you have planned and camping site, time of year and duration of the trip, a checklist may vary. Here are 5 essential things you must have with you on a family camping trip.

Kids camping

  1. Tent
    Travelling with the kids can be fun. Sleeping under the stars might be what the little ones want, but it’s not the best idea. Mosquitoes and insects won’t let you sleep; also, what do you do if it starts raining? A tent is an essential camping item. There are numerous kinds available in many different shapes and sizes.
  1. Hiking gear
    Camping usually involves hiking and trekking. Proper gear is fundamental, whether we’re talking about shoes, backpacks, jackets, compass or gloves. Don’t forget water bottles, lanterns, and a map to help you return to the camping site in case you get lost.
  1. Linens
    In this category we should include more than one type. First we have blankets, which should be used on the ground as well as for tucking during chilling evenings. Second we have table linens; only this time we have no table. Consider cotton materials and use them at breakfast, lunch or dinner. And last but not least we have towels which families can use when eating, or for eating.
  1. Healthy snacks
    Healthy snacks are essential on a camping trip. Fruit and veggies salads in bowls are excellent, as we as sandwiches and energy bars (these are for adults). Kids should limit themselves to having chocolate, yoghurt, or whole grain cookies.
  1. Games
    To stay entertained make sure you don’t forget the games. If you’re the kind of travellers who loves technology rather than chess, then make sure to invest in proper charger.

By Jason Phillips and!

Healthy Family Expo!

It’s spring cleaning time! Are you looking for small steps to healthier, more active, eco-friendly family living?

Healthy Family Expo has the answers for busy Lower Mainland parents at the Vancouver Convention Centre on Sunday, March 29th!

THIS EVENT TURNS THE TYPICAL EXPO ON IT’S HEAD! Parents can test drive a hybrid vehicle, join in on a family fitness class, or taste and shop their way around the 100 exhibitors. But it’s the kids who will be blown away by the enormous Active Kid Zone, with a giant hamster ball track, rock climbing wall, bouncy castle, face painting, Tumblebus, run bike and sportball areas, fitness classes and the not to be missed Bobs & LoLo concerts at 11 am and 2 pm!

Mark your calendar for Sunday, March 29th and grab your Expo tickets online now and you will be entered to win a 2015/16 Family Season Pass to Cypress Mountain! First 200 people through the door will receive a child day ticket to Sea to Sky Gondola and $1 from every ticket sold supports Canadian Autism Network.

Sharing is caring, so Healthy Family Expo has over $5000 in pre-expo giveaways from exhibitors and partners leading up to the $10,000 Grand Prize Showcase (including a 1 year lease on a Toyota Prius C) to be won at the event!

To get involved in the fun:

  1. Meet the Expo blog ambassadors & enter to win a $2,000 pre-Expo healthy family prize pack!
  2. Join the Expo Facebook Event for daily flash giveaways all month long, and even BIGGER prizes at the March 26th Facebook Party!
  3. Buy tickets and join the party!

Kids Camp Expo 2014

Parents and kids won’t want to miss the Kids Camp Expo on March 2 in Vancouver at Heritage Hall, 3102 Main Street. This is an opportunity for the whole family to learn about all the fun camps available in our area and to meet directly with camp directors. There will be info on day and sleepaway camps, sports camps, arts camps and special needs camps all for kids aged preschool to eighteen years old.

The first 100 families get a complimentary swag bag of sponsor goodies and there is also free face painting and balloon twisting for children. On top of that, there are $3000 worth of prizes to be raffled and a speaker series for adults. Some of the speaking features are:

Helen Kelesi, Aka “Hurricane Helen” – 11:30 – 12:15

Formerly ranked the #13 Top Women’s Tennis Player in the World – by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). Speech Topic: Bring out the world class athlete in your child this summer- Top Tips from a National Tennis legend

Sydney Badger – 1:00 – 1:45
Sydney Badger Cuisine Inc.  Cooking Instructor, Personal Chef, Yoga Teacher & Outdoor Educator.  Empowering families through simple, healthy meals.  Speech Topic: Easy Healthy Snacks – Fuel your child for a fantastic summer!

Mirit Murad – Parent With Choice – 2:00 – 2:45
Family/Parent Coach: How to select the right summer camp and activities for your child this summer – Top Tips from a Parent Coach

If you can’t make it to the event, don’t worry! You can check out the Kids Camp Expo Online!

Visit Kids Camp Expo for more info.