Category Archives: Free

McLaurin Bay

by Annie

Last summer, the kids and I stopped briefly at the the playground at Parc Martin Larouche in Gatineau (rue Notre Dame at rue Joseph Roy). Julian was 5 and Emma was 2. We didn’t stay for very long because it really was a “big kids” park and Emma wasn’t able to climb up to go down the slides. We noticed that there was a nature trail starting at the playground, but there were too many mosquitoes to venture into the marshy woods at that time of year.

With all of the rain we’ve been getting lately, we were anxious to get out and enjoy the outdoors this weekend. Since Emma is a year older and the mosquito season is over, we thought it would be fun to check out this park and trail again. So we packed a picnic lunch and headed out.

When we arrived, the kids checked out the playground. There are large rock climbing walls that you have to scale to get to the top to access the big windy slides. There are also lots of things to hang from (like monkey bars) and balance on, making it a great park for kids to test their abilities. There are a few swings too (two baby swings, two regular swings), but the highlight really is the play structure.

Once the kids had played for a while, we decided to check out the trail. The trail is 1.6km one-way or 3.2km round trip. It starts from the playground and goes through the woods and across wetlands of McLaurin Bay (Baie McLaurin) before coming out at the Ottawa River. At the start of the trail, there is a sign indicating the number of different species of flora and fauna that can be found along the trail. There are hundreds of different species of birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, insects and plants. As I read off the statistics to the kids, they became a little bit anxious that we might run into lots of scary animals along the trail.

The first part of the trail winds through the woods and the colours were brilliant. The next segment is a bridge across the marsh at the edge of McLaurin Bay. The bridge is a series of floating docks with railings held together by a cable, so the bridge moves up and down in the water as you step from one piece of the bridge onto the next. The next part of the trail goes by several lookouts. One of them is a deck overlooking an area populated by beavers (no lodges/dams to be seen today) and the other is a tower with a view of the whole bay. The final segment goes through the woods again and comes out between a few homes in a residential area by the Ottawa River.

I had briefly considered taking our picnic lunch with us on the trail and eating it when we got to the Ottawa River. I’m glad we didn’t though, because the end of the trail at the Ottawa River is all private property except for the very narrow exit of the trail onto the river-side road (Boul. Hurtubise), so there isn’t really anywhere to sit and have a picnic.

All along the trail there is signage indicating the types of birds, fish, trees, and other things that you can find in the nature reserve. The kids enjoyed looking at the pictures and also pointing out the things they spotted along the trail, including different types of squirrels, a dead mouse, a fuzzy caterpillar, interesting mushrooms growing in a tree and plenty of red “Canada” leaves.

Once we got back to the playground, we took out our picnic lunch and ate at one of the picnic tables right next to the play structure. The kids came and went from the table, taking a few bites and then heading off to go down the slide again, and then coming back for more.

The one downside, and perhaps the reason we didn’t stay any longer, is that there are no washrooms at the park. So when nature called, we went on our way…

Annie is an Ottawa-area mom of 2 kids. She blogs about the art and science of parenting at the PhD in Parenting blog.

My Kids Funky Closet
Sunday October 17th 10am- 3pm
The Glebe Community Center
175 Third Ave @ Lyon St in The Glebe

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Filed under Activities for kids, Free, Out of town ideas, Outings, Parks

Costume Swapping for Halloween

by Laura

October 9th is National Costume Swap Day in the United States.  This green event is promoted by Kiwi Magazine, Green Halloween, and Swap.com.  It is a simple idea to save money and the environment too.  Children are encouraged to swap costumes and keep old ones out of the landfill. 

Some children lose interest in dressing like Luke Skywalker or Cinderella.   My kids are happy to reuse costumes but this year they have both outgrown their outfits.  I am not handy with a sewing machine or a glue gun and have purchased costumes in the past.  Instead of spending money or trying to create something in the wee hours of October 30th, simply trade/borrow costumes with fellow trick-or-treaters.  
 
According to the National Costume Swap website, “swapping half the costumes kids wear on Halloween would reduce the annual landfill waste by 6,250 tons, equal to the weight of 2500 mid-sized cars”.   In addition, swapping reduces packaging, transportation, and manufacturing impacts too.  
 
A costume swap can be as simple as sending an email to friends/classmates, or organizing something larger at a brownie/cubs meeting, local library or recreation facility.  I imagine that even folks with little interest in eco-friendly ideas might be keen to save a few dollars.  It is a win/win idea. 
 
Why limit it to children’s costumes?  Adults attend Halloween parties and dress up to hand out treats at the door.  I wonder if my pal Kelly is growing tired of her pink pig costume and would like to dress this year as a defeated Leafs fan?  Perhaps our neighbour Steve wants to swap his vampire cape with my husband and dress as scary mask guy.   Oh, the possibilities are endless.

Although it is not a national event in Canada, a costume swap puts a fresh spin on an old tradition.   It is an opportunity to make a difference, save money and enjoy some holiday fun.   Happy Halloween!

Laura is a wife and Mother to beautiful 8 and 10 year old girls.  She describes herself as an eco-advocate and moderate neat freak with a recessive frugal gene.  Laura provides light-hearted commentary for every day, practical green living on her blog the Mindful Merchant.

My Kids Funky Closet
Sunday October 17th 10am- 3pm
The Glebe Community Center
175 Third Ave @ Lyon St in The Glebe

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The Butterfly Show at Carleton University

by Tiana

Last Sunday my mom and I brought my 2 year old son to the Butterfly Show in the Nesbitt Building of Carleton University. He really likes butterflies and we thought he would have a blast. We were correct!

Bobby becomes a Butterfly

For those not in the know, the show runs from Oct 2-11th inclusively and is absolutely free (although donations are recommended). You can find free parking on campus on weekends and the O-Train stop is a 2 minute walk from the show. Did I mention this is FREE? I love free activities for kids!

The show takes place inside the greenhouse. It is very warm and humid so wear layers that you can remove because it doesn’t take long to get too hot in there. The butterflies are loose in the greenhouse and are fluttering about, mating (!) and sometimes will even land on you. Visitors can bring slices of oranges to encourage butterflies to come have a sip of OJ. When we walked into the smaller greenhouse, a little boy with a butterfly on his sweater handed Bobby a slice of orange already hosting a butterfly. It happily sat there sipping away as it got passed from child to child.

Butterfly on Orange

We stayed for about 45 minutes total. In that time we went through 2 greenhouses, had butterflies crawl on our hands and even got to see two emerge from their chrysalises.

This is a must attend event for anyone who isn’t absolutely terrified of butterflies.

Tiana is mother to Bobby Hurricane. You can catch her being generally awesome over at Sassy Red Head.

My Kids Funky Closet
Sunday October 17th 10am- 3pm
The Glebe Community Center
175 Third Ave @ Lyon St in The Glebe

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Adventures at Mud Lake

by Krista

I am a city girl that was raised with a cottage, so I appreciate the beauty of leaving the city and heading to the lake/woods. I have not been able to go to my family cottage that much this year, and have been really missing the peace and quiet that comes with being away from it all. It was only when I found myself at loose ends with my almost two-year-old this weekend that I remembered that there is a wonderful spot close by that brings me to the lake, without having to leave the city – MUD LAKE. Located in the Britannia Conservation Area, it is a small wooded lake surrounded by a hiking trail.


We parked on Cassels Street, where the opening to the path is pretty obvious when you are looking for it. Goose was pretty excited by the nature show that she was given, stepping out of the car to see some neat looking caterpillars, fuzzy and multicoloured, nothing like the boring brown and green ones we have at home. We headed down the path and checked out the first little lookout on the water’s edge. We had been there all of three seconds when a duck swam up and walked right up to where we were crouched.


Goose was beyond excited. After many squeals (which somehow did not scare the duck away) I managed to get her back on the path, where we wandered to the next little lookout and saw a couple more ducks and a chipmunk, also a hit. As we continued deeper into the woods, the path wound away from the water. I feared that this might be our undoing, as the lake was the big attraction, but nature won out. There were plenty of bugs, plants, neat looking trees, and birds to keep us both in awe.

After about ten more minutes of walking, we hit a fork in the path. After a little bit of indecision


we headed left and found ourselves on one of several wooden viewing platforms. We were lucky, as there was a Great Blue Heron in the water in front of us. We watched for about ten minutes. We got to see him catch a fish, which delighted Goose, who squealed and startled him.


After he flew away, we turned around and headed home, happy with all we had seen.

Throughout our walk we bumped into a fair number of people, mostly runners, birders or photographers, but it was not at all crowded, even though it was a weekend. A few of the more serious nature lovers were dislodged by the noisy toddler, but they were all good-natured about it. Before we set out I couldn’t recall if the trail was safe for toddlers or suitable for strollers. I decided to chance it and leave the stroller at home and am glad we walked. The trail is certainly suitable for strollers. It is crushed gravel, fairly well packed, and about three feet wide in most sections.


We were there for about one hour, but did not walk the entire trail. It is over 3KM long, too long for the little legs. A cautionary note – there are no fences on the trail, nor at any of the lookouts. I did not feel that it was dangerous, but you do have to keep a close eye on your little ones if they tend to be “adventurous” like mine.


Krista is married to Willy and mom to a 3 year old son, Woo, and 1.5 year old daughter Goose. You can find her at Life in the Hutch or on Twitter @kgraydonald

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Salon Mom: Cutting your own kids hair

by Brie

It was time. I really couldn’t put it off any longer. I needed to face facts. My son needed a haircut.

My two-year boy’s long white blond hair was cute. He looks like a little surfer one of the moms’ at the park told me. It was true. He did. But he also was starting to have trouble seeing with his bangs covering his eyes. This was great for playing hide-and-seek but not so great for walking.

Why yes that discolouration on his neck is a large dolphin tatto. What else could it be?

I tried to put off the haircut. I brushed his hair to the side. I grabbed the hair at the front of his head and pulled it up into a top ponytail. Now he looked like a rocker dude. A cute rocker dude, but still, I wondered how long it was going to be before people asked me if he was a girl.

He really does rock this look!

Still I resisted. The first and only time I took him and his sister to the hairdressers was not a success. We drove all the way out to Melonhead in Orleans and I had to watch while he sobbed the entire haircut. He even sobbed while clutching a lollipop.

One day a friend suggested I cut his hair myself. I agreed, while still trying hard to think of a place I could take him for a hair cut that wouldn’t result in tears. Then one day when we were over visiting she told me she had bought me a nice pair of scissors for $2 at the grocery. Sized by what I can only describe as some force beyond my control, I decided then and there to cut the boy’s hair.

I sat him in his friend’s booster seat and started to cut. I will admit to being a little nervous. I was worried that he would end up looking stupid, but I figured if it turned out badly I could always take him to a real hairdresser to have it fixed. Plus, once I started I just couldn’t stop. I was having too much fun! It was like playing with the Barbie hair salon set I had as a kid. But with real hair!

So I cut and cut and it turned out great. I gave him a “boy cut”, which involved holding up pieces of hair and cutting it diagonally. Halfway through I was tempted to just leave him with the mullet I had unintentionally created, but then decided against it. In the end the haircut turned about great, I saved $20 and, best of all, no tears.

Proof that I should be allowed to cut hair again

The girl noticed her brother’s haircut as soon as she got home from school and asked me to cut her hair too. Salon Mom is open for business!

What about you? Have you ever cut your kid’s hair? Do you run a Salon Mom? Any tips and tricks to share for giving a great haircut?

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.

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A visit to the Byward Market

by Vicky

I love the Byward Market this time of year. The pumpkins, squash and sunflowers are out, and the fall colours are just stunning. On Sunday, we were looking for something to do outside with the kids, and decided to take a drive downtown. There is so much to see, do and eat in the Market, and we definitely covered all three of these categories!

Street parking is free on Sundays, if you can find a spot. We cruised for a while before heading right to the parking garage on Clarence. We walked through the courtyard and threw some pennies in a fountain. Then we walked right up to Sussex to check out the giant spider in front of the National Gallery. This was very amusing for Joel, he spun around and around the spider’s legs and giggled when I pointed up to the net of spider eggs hanging from the middle. This led to some interesting questions about how the spider had babies in her tummy and if it was  just like the way he was once in my tummy.

Next we walked down Sussex and stopped to look at models of downtown Ottawa. We talked about the buildings and the different streets, pointing out the peace tower and Major’s Hill Park. We collected acorns and maple leaves and then took the elevator next to 700 Sussex back down to the market.We walked back down George and checked out the totem pole, and looked at some beautiful bunches of flowers. (I wish I had bought some).

 

There were buskers and musicians to watch, but little people were hungry! I suggested we get a Beavertail, you can’t really visit the market without eating one. But guess what? Little people didn’t like Beavertails! Shocking I know! (Daddy ate it).  So we wandered through the streets window shopping, and made our way to the Moulin de Provence bakery, (where you can buy the famous Obama cookies) for another snack – a pumpkin cookie fit the bill.

All in all, the Byward Market provided nearly 2 hours of entertainment on a beautiful sunny almost-autumn day.  Add in a couple of history lessons (and an Entomology lesson on spiders!) and our afternoon was also educational.

I encourage you to take in what our city has to offer! I know I often take for granted all the beautiful and historical landmarks we have right in our own backyard. Why not play tourist for a day with your kids, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it just as much as we did.

Vicky is the mom to 3.5 year old son named Joel and 1 year old daughter named Mieka. You can read her blog at blog Some Kind of Wondermom.

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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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