Category Archives: Books

Why I love Chapters. And it’s not for the books.

by Zach

I’ve always liked Chapters bookstores. They have books, places to sit, and the staff leaves me alone when I read stuff and then put it back on the shelves.
Since I’ve had kids, I’ve come to appreciate Chapters even more. Big, reasonably clean, air-conditioned, and no sharp tools for the kids to injure themselves (or anyone else) with.
However, the Chapters Rideau (47 Rideau Street, right downtown at Sussex & Rideau) has a particularly fond place in my heart, for one reason: Thomas the Tank Engine. They have what is, by my standards, a huge Thomas playset in the kids area, on the 2nd floor. I’m not familiar with the whole collection of Thomas toys, but it seems to me they must have all the trains, plus a ton of tracks, bridges, a roundhouse, and so on. There’s plenty of pieces to play with, and lots of space around the play table for more than one kid at a time to get in there and start moving things around.
The tracks are all glued together, and onto the table. This may discourage creativity in designing new railway tracks, but I imagine helps keep things from wandering out of the store, or from falling over and thereby requiring parental hands to put everything back together.
Sometime in the relatively recent past they re-designed the kids area slightly, opening the space by, I think, removing some shelving. There’s now a few extra kid-sized, colourful tables and chairs next to the train set, and, to my delight, some grownup sized chairs. If you’re lucky, you can read something while the kids move Thomas and his friends and frenemies around. There are also bathrooms relatively nearby. I strongly recommend scrubbing everyone’s hands after going anywhere within six feet of the Thomas playset.
But wait, that’s not all! When I used to take my daughter, when she was around a year and a half or so, she greatly enjoyed the escalators in the middle of the store. We would go up, and then down, over and over. They’re got wide steps, and she could navigate them pretty well, including doing the walking-up-the-down-escalator routine. If possible, I suggest going early in the morning before you really have to start dodging people who are actually trying to use the escalators to get to the books.
A little while ago, they added boxes and boxes of scooters and wagons to the kids area. A few are unpacked and available for use. I feel a bit anxious about kids speeding around in a relatively small area, on the 2nd floor, close to the escalators, but, if it buys a few more minutes of relative calm …
Needless to say, there’s books, too. We tend to use the library more than we buy new books (all our bookcases at home are overflowing, anyhow), but it’s a great place to pick up a birthday or baby shower present. Who doesn’t like books? At least, if you have the space for them…

Zach is a dad to a four-year old girl and a two-year old boy. He doesn’t blog but he is married to Capital Mom who does.


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Filed under Activities for kids, Books, Free, Parenting tips

Their own library card

by Brie

The library has a special place in my heart. My mom worked for a long time for the Winnipeg Public Library and so I spent many, many hours over the years sitting in a corner of which ever library she was working at with a big pile of books.

Even after my mom no longer worked in the Children’s section she would still bring home her favorite kids books for us to read. Part of the excitement I had when I first started going to the library with my now 4-year-old girl, I first took her to story time at 5 weeks even though she had no idea what was going on, was being able to find the kids books I used to love to share with her.

Now we have hit another exciting milestone. The girl and her two-year old brother got their very own library cards! I even took pictures. For those of you that know me, you know this is a big deal because I never carry my camera with me.

This is the girl with her library card. She was very excited to finally get it in her hands. She even tried to write her name on the back. Unfortunately the space is pretty small and so she had some trouble fitting her larger letters on. So I helped. I also helped the boy by signing his card. He didn’t appreciate that very much and insisted on signing it himself.

I had kind of assumed that my kids were too young for a library card, then I heard about Every Kid a Card. This campaign is encouraging kids to sign up for library cards. Until September 24th any kids 12 and under that sign up for a library card also get a City of Ottawa pool pass, a Every Kid a Card zipper pull, an invitation to the Big Wheels wrap-up event, a Ottawa Senators hockey card and a ballot to win fabulous prizes including a laptop, two Ottawa Senators tickets or a Sparty’s Kids Club membership. My kids had to rip the envelope open as soon as they got it and deposit the ballet right away. I tucked the rest of the goodies in my diaper bag for later. And by later I mean a time where I can look at them quietly by myself.

Getting the kids their library cards was quick and easy. The hard part came when we went to leave. There was a serious of unfortunate events evolving too many books, my forgetting to bring a bag, the girl’s determination to carry her books herself, the elevator being out of service and a steep flight of stairs. Finally the three of us and our books managed to leave the building but not before I cursed the architect for designing a library with such excellent acoustics.

Do your kids have a library card? How old were they when they got their first card? And most importantly, do you make them pay their own fines? 🙂

Brie is the mom of a 4 year old daughter “the girl” and 2 old son “the boy”. You can read her blog at Capital Mom.


Filed under Books, Free

Applesauce season: Reading about and making applesauce

by Brie

I saw the book sitting on top of the shelf the last time we were at the library. Knowing that a Kids in the Capital apple picking meet up was planned in a few weeks I had grabbed the book with one hand while running after the kids. Am I ever glad I did.

My 4-year-old girl and I have read Applesauce Season (link is to the Ottawa Public Library in case you want to reserve the book) at least five times a day in the two weeks since we brought it home. The story is about a little boy who goes to the market to buy apples and then makes applesauce at home with his family. The book illustrates about all the steps in making applesauce and includes a recipe at the back.  The book also talks about different kinds of apples and all the different ways you can serve or eat applesauce.

This past Saturday when we were at the Main Farmers’ Market I asked the girl if she wanted to make applesauce. The answer was a loud yes. So we bought a bunch of apples for applesauce and “as many for eating out of hand”. The last bit was her quoting from the book.

While we made the applesauce the girl made sure to follow the actions on each page very carefully. She also quoted sections of the book to me as we went along.I was instructed to cut the apples in “quarters or sixths”, just like in the book. She was not happy when she realized that we didn’t have a food mill like in the book, but we managed. Instead I peeled and cored the apples before cutting them into sixths and then used a potato masher while they cooked to break the apples up. To that we added some fresh apple juice also bought at the market and let it all simmer in a pot on the stove for twenty miutes.

In fact, making the applesauce was very easy.  The only tricky part was that the recipe was at the back of the book and the girl wanted to follow along with the pictures and the text. This resulted in me adding way too much cinnamon sugar to the applesauce. But in the end, I think the girl was quite happy with that. When the applesauce had cooled the girl ate some from “a special cup”, just like the boy in the book.

Applesauce Season has been a fabulous book at just the right time of year. I loved how enthralled the girl was with it and the information that she picked up from it about apples and making applesauce. I loved that we went from reading it to making applesauce together. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to get their kids excited about apple season and applesauce.

And if you have any applesauce left over you can use it in this easy cake I made for the meetup. Combine 2 cups sweetened applesauce and one beaten egg. Stir together 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp baking soda. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Add 1 cup raisins now if you want them. Mix everything together well and then pour into a 9×9 inch baking pan. Cook at 350F for about 45 minutes.

 Enjoy and celebrate applesauce season!

Brie is the mom of a 4 year old daughter “the girl” and 2 year old son “the boy”. You can read her blog at Capital Mom.


Filed under Activities for kids, Books

Audio stories: my secret weapon

by  Brie

There are times when I want to get something done. Okay, there are lots of times when I want to get stuff done. Most of the time I am unsuccessful for various reason, but the main reason is that I live with two kids four years old and under. Sure, I can steal some time if I put on a video but I don’t always want to give them some (read: more). That is when I pull out my secret weapon. Audio stories.

I remember when I was a kid we used to listen to stories on records. So one day I went looking for some great stories for my kids to listen to. My recommendations are ones that I have bought, grandma has kindly bought or I have found online. Often you can buy the stories on CD with an accompanying book. I like that, but in our house the books get tossed aside quickly in favour of sitting on the couch reading other books while listening to the story play.

My favorites are:

Free to be You and Me takes me back to the days of lying on the floor listening to a scratchy record. We have the CD and it plays the same great  stories, poems and songs that I remember. We also have the book, which I read almost every day for six months when the girl was two. Except for the fact that it is a very big and very long book I loved reading it to her. I would even sing the songs and I try to avoid singing. You can check out the CD, book and video and also download some of my favorite songs to your MP3 player on the website.

– We have a number of classic stories on CD from Puffin Storytime. These include MadelineCorduroy and Curious George. All of these are books that I had read the kids already so they  knew the story before I put the CD on. Once the stories are done, there are songs and poems. I think the girl likes those just as much as the stories!

Robert Munsch is one of my favorite storytellers. And lucky for us he shares his stories online! His fabulous website lets you choose a book to listen to online. Let’s face it, he tells the stories much better then I do. The girl is enraptured when I put his stories on (we also own one of his CDs) and will happily sit for a record amount of time. Another reason to love Robert Munsch.

Do your kids listen to stories on records, tapes, CDs or online? Please share your favorite audio stories.

Brie is the mom of a 4 year old daughter “the girl” and 2 old son “the boy”. You can read her blog at Capital Mom.


Filed under Books, Free, Parenting tips

Ottawa Public Library: Treasures for the Little Ones in Orleans

by Isabelle

I still remember going to the library with my mom as a preschooler. I don’t know how often we went, but I do know that every time we did, I took out a huge stash of books, often the same ones over and over again. Now that I have my own preschooler, I love our library trips. We are huge readers, and going to the library means that we’re getting a little variety in terms of bedtime stories. With four books every night, we go through them pretty quickly.

My local branch of the Ottawa Public Library  is on Orleans Boulevard. It has a good selection of books for preschoolers in both English and French. There’s also a smaller section of board books, again in both languages, for babies and toddlers. The children’s section at the Orleans branch has kid-sized tables and chairs as well as a rocking chair for moms and dads.

This particular branch offers a number of different programs for kids of all ages. For instance, it offers several sessions of Babytime and Toddler Time each week, with stories, songs and games for the tiniest library aficionados. For preschoolers, the Orleans branch offers Storytime sessions on weekdays, and older kids (6-9) are invited to special events at the library, such as the Springfun program in April, where kids will hear a story, do a craft and participate in other activities. All of these programs are identified as “bilingual” on the library site, although it is unclear whether the stories and activities will be presented in English and French to the same group, or whether groups will be divided up according to language. For kids who need a little bit of help with schoolwork, the Orleans branch also offers a homework club on Saturday mornings for grades 1-10.

My little guy loves the library and I look forward to bringing my daughter to the baby programs when she’s a little bit older. No matter the season, a Saturday-morning trip to the library is always a treat for our family!

Isabelle is the mom of 3.5 year old Jay and two-month old Rosie. You can also find her at Dr. Peach’s Blog.


Filed under Activities for kids, Books, Free, Outings

The Ottawa Public Library: The Ruth E. Dickinson Branch

by Shawna

For those of you that use it, this will be a “no duh” kind of post, but for those of you who haven’t discovered it yet, your library is waiting for you! The Ottawa Public Library is a fantastic resource for parents, no matter what age your kids are!

Almost every Thursday I take my 4 year old daughter to Evening Story Time at our local branch, Ruth E. Dickinson (and pretty soon my son will be old enough to push back his bedtime to allow him to go too).  There, starting at 6:30, they read story books to groups of youngsters – half of which are usually in their adorable pyjamas – for half an hour, and when that’s done they do a craft.

The library has regular events for all ages, including Babytime for the youngest set, on up to Homework Club for older kids.  Sprinkled into this mix are special and themed events, as well as some regular features such as conversation groups for various different languages.

Even if there’s nothing scheduled, the library is a great place to go on a rainy or cold day to get out of the house and pick through the bins and shelves of brightly-coloured books for some free entertainment for you and your kids. They even have DVDs, and you can reserve most material.

I often like to log on from the comfort of my home computer and browse through the kid movies and books (and maybe some grown-up ones too) and add the ones that pique my interest to my “hold” list.  When it comes in I get an email letting me know that I’ve got a week to pick it up (which I do when we go to Storytime).  How easy is that?  I can even do this to secure passes to the museums of Nature, Science and Technology, and Civilization, though the waiting list for them is hugely long, so you have to be patient.  And as soon as I’ve used one of the passes and returned it, I go right back onto that list.

The best part of all this?  It’s free!  Free!  Free!  I am always amazed to arrive at Storytime and not find every kid in Barrhaven there!

Shawna is mom to 4 year old Sage and almost-2-year-old Harris.  She has  been writing online since 2003, and her latest project is a fledgling photography blog.  Like many parents, she has a computer stuffed with thousands of pics of her kids.


Filed under Activities for kids, Books, Free, Outings

Sandra Boynton books

If your bedtime routine is anything like ours, it includes book after book after book. That’s why I love Sandra Boynton books, they’re short and sweet, so I don’t mind picking up another when Joel asks ‘just one more story Mom?’ I received a few Boynton books as gifts when I had Joel, and have purchased many more over the past couple of years. We have quite a collection now, and they are by far the most read books on our shelves.

I first started reading Pajama Time to Joel when he was about 6 months old, and he never tired of it. It’s one of our favourites because it turns bedtime in to party time! Another one of we love is Oh My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs. This book is full of dinosaur opposites! Near the end all the dinosaurs get crammed in an elevator, which is Joel’s favourite part. He pretends that he is pushing the elevator buttons and joining the dinos for a ride!

Hippos Go Berserk is my personal favourite. I’ve read it so many times I can read it with my eyes closed, which I’ve even done a couple of times in the middle of the night. The ending is cute and always makes us chuckle.Moo Moo Baa Baa La La La is also a classic Boynton book. We don’t actually have it, but I can tell you that I have heard this book recited by parents several times before – at playdates, in the nursing room at the mall and believe it or not even during swimming lessons! A cow says moo, a sheep says baa, three singing pigs say la la la…

I highly recommend starting out your bedtime reading with a couple of Boynton books (‘serious silliness for all ages’ as the publisher’s site describes them). They’re so much fun to read and I guarantee your kids will love them! And so will you!

If you’re looking for a gift idea for a new parent or for a 1st birthday, you can pick up Sandra Boyton’s Greatest Hits Vol. 1 at Chapters.

If you’d like to read more about Sandra Boynton you can visit her website here.


Filed under Books, Parenting tips