Looking for something to do around Ottawa this March Break? How about...
- making some treats for your backyard birds
- borrowing a giant stack of library books, music, and DVDs from the Ottawa Public Library
- taking the bus and taking mom or dad out for lunch
- visiting one of our many museums and galleries (Pro tip: check websites beforehand and plan your visit for non-peak hours.)
- planning a playdate or two... because it's good when parents give each other a break, right?
- renting a bunch of DVDs (Harry Potter marathon anyone?) and inviting friends over to watch. Pj's and butter beer are optional.
- baking a batch of pretzels
- whipping up some ice cream... out of snow (!)
- cooking up a batch of maple taffy
- making your own owl-themed bowling pins
- exploring something new (and free!) to do in Ottawa with kids. This list might give you some ideas.
A sure way to get kids of all ages excited about an activity or event is to include food. Whether it’s sampling something exotic or familiar or working together to prepare a tasty treat, creative culinary activities are a great way to spend time together as a family.
One of the best places to start a food-themed adventure is at Ottawa’s own Canada Agriculture and Food Museum. The Central Experimental Farm is a jewel of a green space in the centre of the city whose mandate has long extended beyond agricultural research. To expand its offerings, in conjunction with the opening of its new Learning Centre, the museum was rebranded last spring to include a greater food component. The goal is simple: to teach us all in greater depth about the vital connection between farmers and the food we eat. Kids may learn a little bit about some of these concepts in school, but there’s no better way to reinforce the message of the essential roles that farmers play every day to feed us all than by visiting a working farm.
This month, the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum (cafmuseum.techno-science.ca) is celebrating the imminent arrival of spring with its annual flurry of special events – called the Foodology Barnyard Break. In addition to a number of fun animal-themed activities in the Central Experimental Farm’s numerous barns, visitors can also take in a wide variety of food-related demonstrations including Taffy-ology: The Science of Maple Taffy Making, Eggsperiments, All About Milk and more. Many are hands-on, and there are maple-themed crafts as well!
While there will be extra activities thanks to this March Break programming, there are also a couple of great interactive exhibits running for a longer duration at the Agriculture and Food Museum that help to illustrate the journey from field to fork. Happily, they are as engaging for adults as they are for kids. One of the newest is called A Piece of Cake and it looks at all the behind-the-scenes effort that goes into baking an apple cake, illustrating that producing flour, eggs, maple syrup, apples, milk, and butter takes a lot of hard work – far more than just a trip to the grocery store!
Another fun activity is a nostalgic look at cooking appliances, called Memories are Made in the Kitchen. This display features the top-rated kitchen items past and present and just might provoke interesting conversations with your kids as you look at the generational changes in favourite kitchen appliances since the 1970s.
A favourite exhibit that has been at the Farm for many years is called The Fascinating World of Bread Making, showing how wheat is grown and harvested, and the step-by-step process of bread making, complete with samples for tasting. Kids are fascinated by the transformation that takes place when yeast and flour collide; there’s a good reason this exhibit has been running for so many years as it is both fascinating and instructive.
After visiting the museum, why not head home for some kitchen experiments of your own? A quick stop first at the grocery store offers a chance to talk about some of the food messages learned at the farm. Take your time to look around at the store’s well-stocked shelves and coolers, and talk about where the food has come from, what farm products are among the ingredients and perhaps what items are locally sourced. At the same time, you can pick up some supplies for your own yummy experiments. There are almost two dozen tasty recipes to try on the Museum’s own website, or you can make this fantastic ballpark-style pretzel recipe which is as fun to make as it is delicious to taste!
By Lynn Jatania
Kamerine Gardam of Life of K is one busy lady. Being a mom to two young kids would be more than enough to fill up her time, but her love of family overflows into many different interests.
The unplanned (and rather exciting!) home birth of her second child led to her passion for natural childbirth, and now she works as a doula, quietly and gently helping women tap into their inner strength. On her blog, that’s led to lots of great childbirth, baby, and parenting advice posts that reassure new parents that everything is going to be just fine. Add in utterly charming shots of her two preschoolers and cute anecdotes of their family life, and the result is a beautifully positive and empowering look at what it means to become a parent.
Meanwhile, in her free time (ha!), she’s an avid reader, and her mini book reviews are a great resource for parents who don’t have time to browse the shelves at the library. She’s always on the lookout for great family activities in Ottawa, and finds time to review many of them for her blog, including keeping an ongoing checklist of must-see locales. She also manages to putter around on Pinterest and Twitter, passing around tons of great ideas for crafts, birthday parties, and essential baby items.
Above all, Kamerine is all about community. Every blog post she makes is about sharing – sharing her thoughts, but also welcoming discussion and new ideas. She’s a friend to all and her natural interest in people comes out in every blog post she writes. And to top it all off, she’s got a lovely series of posts where she profiles other Ottawa and Canadian blogs worth reading – genuine and heartfelt endorsements that help share the bloggy love far and wide. And today we’re echoing it right back at her.
When you have a new baby or a toddler who doesn’t sleep well, you’re up multiple times a night and likely functioning on fumes and caffeine during the day. I’ve been there and made it through the other side: my kids both, for the most part, sleep through the night, and I have re-entered the world of the living. I’m happier and my memory is so much better. I put together these tips to help you if you’re still a zombie mom.
1. Nightlights to light the way.
Have a nightlight in your room, your kid’s room, and the hallway in between. And the bathroom if you’re a frequent night pee-er. The last thing you want to do is turn on the lights all bright when you’re hoping to get back to sleep as soon as possible.
2. Clear the way.
Before you go to bed at night, make sure the floors are clean. Even if you just push the toys, books, random crap to the sides, do it. You don’t want to be stumbling down the hallway and come down on a board book, a dinky car, or some other small, impossibly sharp object, at 2 in the morning. Your feet will thank you.
Read the rest of this post and more at Life of K.
We’re big fans of family game night here at Capital Parent. Board games are a wonderful way of building connections with our kids. It’s time well spent, and in many cases, board games can teach some pretty good life lessons too, whether it’s counting, strategy, or good sportsmanship. That’s why we’re so pleased to introduce a new family board game column here at capitalparent.ca!
We have a small team of board game lovers on hand (and we’re looking for more!) who will be taking a closer look at classic board games as well as new ones, and sharing their best tips and recommendations with fellow parents. But there’s a catch. All of the reviews (except the one that was published in the March issue) will be exclusive to the website. If you don’t want to miss any we recommend bookmarking the site or subscribing to our e-newsletter.
By Andrea Tomkins
UNO has been part of our family’s game collection for years. I can’t even remember how it came into our lives, but I’m very glad it did. UNO is our go-to choice if we’re undecided about what game we want to play, or when we’re travelling. It’s small – the size of two packs of cards side by side – which makes it perfectly portable and easy to slip into a suitcase or backpack. We’ve played UNO in airports, in a yurt, in a tent, and of course, at the dining room table.
This game is ideal for families with kids who are over the age of six or seven but it’s just as fun for older kids and grown-ups. 2-10 people can play, which makes it a good game to enjoy with friends and extended family too.
Games with long and complicated rules can be a turnoff if you’re itching to play quickly. Thankfully, UNO is easy to learn and the rules are simple. UNO is essentially about getting rid of the cards in your hand by the end of the game (which is signaled by someone slapping their last card on the table and yelling UNO, but more about that in a moment). Each player is dealt seven cards, and the remaining ones are placed face down in a pile. The top card of the pile is turned over to form the beginning of a discard pile. Taking turns, players have to match the card on the top of the discard pile with one they have in their hand, either by colour or by number. There are special cards too – miss a turn, switch directions, pick up cards, wild cards – this is what makes game play rather unpredictable, and sometimes a bit punishing (but it’s all in good fun).
Rules dictate that players have to say “UNO” if they have one card left in their hand. This may be one of the most fun things about UNO (aside from winning of course). When our kids were younger they took particular glee bellowing UNO as loud as they could the moment they had one lonely card in their hands. (It’s worth noting there’s a penalty if you are left with one card and forget to say UNO, and the kids will love pointing this out.)
One of the board game skills that took our kids a long time to learn (and they’re actually still working on it) is how to sort and hold cards in their hands and keep them close so they can’t be seen by the other players. UNO provided some pretty good training on this front.
UNO is slightly more about luck than it is about strategy, which means everyone has a good shot at winning and players who are losing by a mile have a shot at catching up.
You can play a couple of rounds and call it a day, which is perfect if you’re playing close to bedtime. You can also play to a certain point amount (say 500), which is great for rainy days when you’re stuck in a tent.
March can be a tough month for Ottawa birds. There’s often still snow on the ground and food is in short supply.
Bob Volks from Gilligallou Bird in Almonte says this is a “transitional time” for birds because they’re starting to prepare for nesting.
“The quality of seed is important,” he adds. “They need to eat to produce heat.”
Making bird-friendly tree decorations is a great activity to do as a family and it doesn’t take much in terms of supplies. If you don’t have a good tree in your yard, it might be fun to decorate a neighbour’s tree. Or how about inviting some friends over for a play date to make a big batch, and then heading out together and stringing them up at the park?
For the hanging decorations you will need:
- stale bagels (just make sure they’re not moldy)
- peanut or soy butter
- a good bird seed mix or unsalted peanut/raisin mix
- apples & oranges (This is a great way to clean out the fridge and get rid of the bruisers at the back of the crisper!)
- scissors & twine
Cut the stale bagels in half and loop the string through each half and tie in a knot. (Doing this now prevents everything getting covered in peanut butter later.) Spread the cut sides with the peanut or soy butter and press each one into the nut or seed mixture. (This part is best done on a big tray or pie plate.) Hang each decoration on a tree branch. If you have extra seed mix left over, sprinkle it around the base of the tree to attract visitors.
As for the fruit, slice each one and tie to the tree with twine. The orange slices are particularly pretty when the sun shines through them.
For the garland you will need:
- toasted O cereal
- a large dull needle & thread
This activity is surprisingly satisfying because the cereal is easy to string and it doesn’t take very many to make a good long garland (although it depends entirely upon how much cereal is eaten during the process). Be aware that the garland will get heavier as more cereal is added, increasing the risk of accidental spillage and surprise cereal loss. We recommend tying the first cereal piece to the end of your thread and working on the floor.
After you’re done making all of your decorations, hang them carefully on your favourite tree.
If you have extra time and energy you can take this activity to the next level by:
- Hunkering down with binoculars to catch a glimpse of your first arrivals.
- Keeping a notebook or checklist of bird sightings and any other surprise visitors.
- Looking up the birds you spotted in a bird book and identifying who’s who.
- Placing bets: who’ll visit first? Who’s braver, birds or squirrels?
- Checking the decorations the next day for missing nibbles and prints in the snow.
You will be amazed at the trouble these two manage to find around the house!
By Lynn Jatania
Ah, March Break. For the kids, it’s a dazzling, glowing, shining beacon of hope in the bleak midwinter. A chance to escape the doldrums of routine, and instead spend hours of quality time fighting with their siblings over who has dibs on the iPad. A glorious holiday with no obligation to visit distant relatives or pressure to try loathsome casseroles, but rather to lounge around in unwashed jammies for an entire week while attempting to score a visit to the toy store using the time-honoured technique of resolve-crushing repetitive whining.
For me, the bickering, the fragrant eau du child in the air, the constant stepping on freshly-wheedled Legos is all worth it for one glorious, smashbabulous, supercalifragilistic source of awesomesauce, and that’s this: I do not have to make any lunches.
It’s the one chore that I just slog through, the one that hangs like a dead albatross around my neck. Here’s a typical morning for me. I get up, after having hit the snooze button two, or three times (or four, or you know what, SHUT UP alarm clock). Then I open the kids’ doors in the futile hope that a little hallway light will lead them forward into gentle wakefulness. I stumble downstairs, take out three lunch bags, three water bottles, and approximately 1000 snap-lidded plastic containers. Then I open the fridge and await inspiration.
When my husband comes down a half hour later, chances are good he’s going to find me in the same position, still waiting.
Here’s my little chant, sung over and over in the dim refrigerator light – one veg, one fruit, two grain, one protein. Just fill the little boxes with these basic puzzle pieces, and surely the whole will add up to more than the sum of the parts. Start basic. Fruit – what’s still good? What’s fuzzy or mushy? It’s a complex sudoku of selection: A won’t eat X, B won’t eat Y, if I cut up an apple I could split it between A and C, but then who will eat the pineapple, which is on its last legs and is only tolerated by C, and don’t even think of giving a banana to B or you WILL HEAR ABOUT IT. Then it’s the vegetable’s turn: lather, rinse, repeat. Matching produce to child before your first coffee of the day is practically an extreme sport.
Grains are complicated numbers game, like being back in grade 12 algebra. Given: a young boy has a 30 per cent chance of eating a muffin, bumped up to 40 per cent if it has chocolate chips in it; plus a 25 per cent chance of eating a dinner roll, a 45 per cent chance of eating a granola bar, and a 38 per cent chance of eating rice crackers. How many of these thing s do you need to put in his lunch to ensure a 90 per cent chance that he will actually eat anything at all over the course of the day? Show your work. And they said my engineering degree was being wasted as a stay-at-home mom.
It really cheers me on to pretend I have a celebrity chef at my shoulder, complimenting me on my hard work. On my right, Jamie Oliver leans in: “Is that carrots you’re adding? Chock full of vitamin A, and on the fourth day in a row, too – that’s real dedication to your children’s eyesight. Even if they only have a lick of one baby carrot, that’s enough vitamins for a week. Good job!” On my left, Gordon Ramsay praises: “Excellent, fabulous sear on that fried ham sandwich. Really spectacular. ‘None’ is the exactly right amount of seasoning and sauce. Amazing – they’re fools not to eat it.” At my back, Rachel Ray: “Nothing at all wrong with a container of cold leftover pasta, honey. Add a little EVOO and you’re golden – I’ll even help you eat it when it comes back home.”
No one should have to be so creative at 7:00 a.m. I admire greatly those moms who somehow have the energy to include a note in their kids’ lunch, too. I must restrain myself, for surely my little love notes would read, “Sorry the cucumbers are a little sketchy, I forgot to buy a new one this week” or “If these pear slices come back home, they are only going back into tomorrow’s lunch, so think about that” or maybe “FYI: Santa can TOTALLY TELL if you ate the cookies before the celery sticks.” On second thought, maybe I should add in those notes after all.
By March Break, I’m just about out of ideas for the year. It’s been a steady diet of Same Old, Same Old for months, and we’re all ready for a week’s worth of If You’re Hungry, There’s Microwave Popcorn In The Pantry. Jamie, Rachel, Gordon and I are on holiday – for one magnificent week, at least.