The Odd Squad: Cineplex's Family Favourites Program

My daughters are avid TVO Kids fans. It helps that we don't have cable, so the choices are limited based on what our antenna can pick up!

Several weeks ago while watching Saturday morning cartoons, my daughter ran upstairs yelling, "The Odd Squad movie is coming! The Odd Squad movie is coming!!" She had seen the promotion for the release of a full-length Odd Squad movie, based on the super popular show about kid agents who solve math-related problems CSI-style.

So I went online to check it out, and discovered the movie was being shown as part of Cineplex's Family Favourites Program - a weekly Saturday morning (11 a.m.) movie for only $2.99 - with a portion of the sales being donated to Free the Children. I bought the tickets immediately and we counted down the days.

I've taken my kids to a couple of movies in the past, but at 6 and 3, there haven't been too many. I was a little worried about how my youngest would handle the length, but was glad to see that the movie ran only 1 hour and 5 minutes. She happily clutched her bag of popcorn, and sat through the whole thing, with only one or two loud questions!

You may imagine a "family movie" to be loud and annoying, with little ankle biters kicking the back of your chair, babies crying or children talking loudly. I was pretty surprised that it was anything but! The theatre was packed, and despite a few questions, we were mainly all sharing the fun of watching a hilarious movie. There were many adult laughs too :)

It helped that the Odd Squad movie was brilliant - a racially diverse cast, with a strong girl ("Ms. O") in the "chief" role. Fun math problems are snuck into the story about creatures who can multiply themselves, and the hilarious "Weird Tom" adds some zany adult humour to the mix. Many of the lead characters are female, which is a great because it encourages girls to experience math and science as fun activities!  

The Odd Squad movie continues to play at select theatres around the city, but I've been informed that you can catch the movie on Monday, August 1st on TVO Kids! Don't miss it!

Have you been to see a movie at Cineplex's Family Favourites? Did you enjoy yourself?


10 Classic Kids Books for Summer Reading

My daughter is now reading on her own, but before she insisted on reading herself to sleep we would read chapter books together, many of which I read as a child. I find the school year a busy time for kids to read books outside of those needed for school. Summer is the perfect time to break out classic books and share them with a new generation of young minds.

You don't have to break the bank purchasing these books either! The Ottawa Public Library is a great resource and even if a book is not available at your local branch, you can request it and have it transferred to your branch (which usually only takes a couple of days if the book is already available).

Besides the traditional 19th century classics such as Little Women, Black Beauty and The Swiss Family Robinson there are many contemporary children’s books that have also made the classics list, including:

1) Ramona and Beezus by Beverly Cleary

Ramona and Beezus

Can you believe Beverly Cleary turned 100 years old this year? Her Ramona books, however are as timeless as ever. Ramona and Beezus is the first in the series of Ramona books and starts when Ramona is only 4 years old. Ramona is a great reminder of how important it is for kids to have the run of their neighbourhoods and also get into a little mischief sometimes. Ramona is a perfect book to start reading with emerging readers or as a first chapter book for more independent readers.

2) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

With the release of the movie version of The BFG this summer, why not introduce your kids to Roald Dahl’s other classics including Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was the first novel read by my daughter’s second grade class and she couldn’t put it down (and I often had to remove it from her bed at night). It was THE book that made my daughter love reading.

3) Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Charlotte's Web

What’s not to love in this beautiful story of true friendship between Wilbur the pig and Charlotte A. Cavatica, his spider saviour. Although the ending may draw tears, the power of friendship plays an important part in this book and is a story any child will carry with them for a long time to come.

4) Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter

 My daughter and I started reading this one together when she was five – she was instantly engrossed in the magic and possibility of Harry Potter. She immediately cheered for the underdog (in this case, Harry) and loved seeing him so confident doing what he does best – magic! She hasn’t read the others yet, but we have them in the house and she says when she’s ready for more “magic” she knows where to find them. I like the Harry Potter books because they are enjoyable for readers of all ages and because it’s fun to use the word “muggles” and have your children know what you are referring to.

5) Holes by Louis Sachar

 A great book about building self-confidence told through a mysterious and engaging story of Stanley who is sent to Camp Green Lake where he and the other campers are forced to dig holes every day. Holes is a fun book for kids heading to camp (even though Stanley’s is a juvenile detention camp, but don’t worry he didn’t commit a crime). I read this book in university for a children’s literature course and finished it in one sitting – not because of its length so much as the interesting story.

6) Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables

 An undeniable Canadian classic, Anne of Green Gables is a lighthearted read at any age; not to mention it’s the perfect accompaniment if you are planning a family vacation to Prince Edward Island this summer. Anne is an outgoing girl who is sure to win the hearts of anyone who reads her triumphant story of convincing her adoptive parents that they need her and how she makes everyone fall in love with her partly due to all of the humorous situations she finds herself in.

7) The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

If you have a strong reader in the house then The Secret Garden may be of interest. It’s about young Mary Lennox who’s lonely beginning make her appear rude, but thanks to a good-natured maid, Mary discovers a secret walled garden and unlocks all its mysteries. This story teaches the value of friendship and the healing power of being surrounded by nature and living things. It’s a beautifully told story that will have children looking for secret gardens of their own!

8) Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter

This book was my absolute favourite growing up! Pollyanna is an optimistic young orphan who lives with her wealthy but strict Aunt Polly. Pollyanna finds the positive in everything – including being locked up in an attic and even after an accident causes her to lose the use of both of her legs. Although it sounds a bit dark, the story of Pollyanna teaches children to look for the good in any situation and cannot help but make you feel happy, even at the end of a hard day.

9) The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis


For many kids The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is their introduction to the fantasy novel. It’s the first book in The Chronicles of Narnia series and is sure to hold the attention of even the most reluctant of readers. Four children discover the magic land of Narnia through a wardrobe in an old country house. Once there they discover talking animals, a witch and a seemingly permanent winter world... what ensues is an adventure sure to lastingly stick in the minds of anyone who reads it.

10) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Remember the first time you travelled down the Yellow Brick Road? Why not share the girl with ruby red shoes, her little dog, and her magical friends with a new generation of inquisitive readers?  The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is full of timeless humour, wisdom and, of course, mystery and adventure!


11) A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

 Although Lemony Snicket is a pen name, this harried writer tells the story of Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire who lost their parents in a fire. Through a series of 13 books, Lemony shares how, following the fire, the children are placed with a murderous relative who is trying to steal their inheritance and the adventures that soon develop because of it. Throughout it all, Snicket tries to dissuade the reader from continuing… but of course he fails because the story is too engaging to not continue reading!

Do you have a classic children’s book we should know about? Share it in the comments!




Talking to Our Children About Racism & Diversity

By Salina

On a recent trip to get my 5 year-old daughter her first pair of glasses, we came away with a little something we didn’t ask for - something which has undoubtedly left an imprint on my 5 and 7 year-old children’s self-image and identity. Something which has happened before, many times, and which will likely happen again. 

One of the employees took a good look at my brown-skinned, curly-haired children, next to my blond hair and pale skin, and decided it was her right to know exactly how this happened.

She blurted out “Oh, they are so beautiful! What is their background?” as if we were looking at a pair of pedigree dogs.

I wish I could say this was the first such experience for my children, but it was not. The relentless and pointless questions we receive imprint themselves on the very fabric of my children’s identities. These experiences tell my children that they must be different; worthy of comment after comment. White kids with white parents don’t get asked about their background, they don’t receive endless comments about how difficult it must be to manage their hair, or that their father must be “dark,” or assumptions that they are not from Canada. What makes people feel they have the right to say such things to and about my children?

I know that most people don’t mean to cause harm with their ignorant questions and comments, but the result is the same, intended or not. The result is that my children feel different, singled out. The next time you feel yourself burning with curiosity about someone’s ethnic background, I suggest you stop and ask yourself this : How would you feel if you were asked to explain your very existence to complete strangers on a daily basis, just to satisfy their curiosity?

That said, I'm not arguing that we should be colour blind (or practice what we call "whitewashing" - ignoring the existence of racism and our own role in perpetuating social injustice.) In fact, most children are curious and open about differences between people. I believe it's up to parents to open the line of communication on racial diversity without making assumptions or asking intrusive questions, so that they don’t grow up to be the eyeglass store employee in the above incident.

So how can we teach our kids to navigate our racially diverse society?

We need to teach kids to talk about race and culture in a positive way, rather than avoiding it like it’s a dirty little secret. If a friend has brown skin, it’s okay to describe him that way. Kids notice these things. My children often point out the colour of people’s skin and they are certainly aware that they have brown skin. If everybody avoided mentioning this fact around them, they would come to regard it as something shameful, something so bad that we don’t even talk about it. 

  • Help children understand race by normalizing it with exposure and lots of discussion; talk about race in a factual way, not an exotic way. 
  • Read books with as much diversity represented as possible 
  • Challenge and discuss stereotypes you and your children encounter in the media and elsewhere
  • Have dolls of a variety of ethnic backgrounds
  • Take your children to some of the many festivals and celebrations put on by various cultural communities within Ottawa
  • Make friends outside of your racial group whenever the opportunity arises 
  • Avoid making assumptions about people based on appearance
  • Teach kids the truth about Canada - which is that unless you are First Nations, your ancestors were immigrants at some point; this country does not belong to one group more than another
  • Teach your children to look at the world with an open mind and to treat others as they would like to be treated

We have enormous power as parents to shape the next generation; let’s use our power to create a better future for all of our children.

Salina Sunderland is the mother of three children ranging in age from 6 to 21.  She is also a private home daycare provider and cares for five additional children on a daily basis.  She is passionate about celebrating diversity, challenging stereotypes, and helping children build a strong foundation of respect and understanding. You can contact her at or check out her daycare website 

Ottawa's Best Splash Pads

As I write this, the City of Ottawa is in another heat wave and public health has issued a heath warning, reminding people to keep cool, stay hydrated and avoid strenuous physical activity outdoors.

Staying cool while still keeping kids occupied can sometimes be a bit of a challenge, but luckily with all of the public pools, libraries and splash pads around town, keeping cool is possible. One of my daughter’s favourite ways to cool off is at a local splash pad with her friends and luckily Ottawa has many splash pads, with more being built every year!

If you’re headed to a splash pad this summer, here is a list of some of Ottawa’s best!

Brewer Park Splash Pad

Now that renovations are complete, Brewer Park splash pad has everything from tipping buckets to a water slide! Lots of shade can be found under nearby trees and there is the playground is close by too.

Citiplace Splash Pad, 285 Citiplace Drive

This splash pad includes a windmill and spraying loop and also has a covered sitting area for parents to supervise in the shade!

Centrepointe Splash Pad, 260 Centrepointe Drive.

This splash pad has a tipping bucket, a spraying loop, a bird that showers water and much more. There are some shady spots under trees and lots of room for kids to play in the grass while they dry off.

Fisher Park Splash Pad, 250 Holland Avenue

Although the park that houses this splash pad is older, the splash pad is newer and there are plenty of mature trees to give parents shade.

Lansdowne Water Plaza, 1015 Bank Street

Not a lot of bells and whistles here, but children and adults are welcome to hop in and out of the 55 gentle water jets to cool off, which is fun for all ages!

Millennium Park Splash Pad, Trim Road

Millennium Park Splash Pad

Millennium Park Splash Pad

This pirate themed splash pad has a gazebo to give parents some shade as they get wet under the tipping bucket or sprayed by a dragon.

Plant Splash Pad, 930 Somerset West

A spraying fire hydrant, a showering rainbow and several fountains make this splash pad a lot of fun for children of all ages!

Walden Park Splash Pad, 130 Walden Drive

Located in Kanata North, the Walden Park Splash Pad has ample parking as well as lots of areas for parents to sit along the rocks (and if you’re lucky enough you’ll get a little wet too!). There are spraying circles and tall showers to cool off kids of all ages.

Walter Baker Splash Pad, 100 Charlie Rogers Place

Walter Baker Park Splash Pad

Walter Baker Park Splash Pad

With a tall dome, a water cannon and fountains combined with mature trees for shade make this park a great place for parents too. This splash pad isn't overly big, but it is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers.

City of Ottawa splash pads are open from May until September (weather permitting). For more information on splash pad locations within the City of Ottawa, visit their website at:

Do you have a great splash pad to add to the list? Leave a comment and let us know!


The New Millennium Park

I visited Milleninum Park (on Trim Road in Orleans) a couple of years ago, when the giant slide structure had gone up, and baby trees lined the playground. It was HOT. Although the kids loved the play structures, I found myself choosing different parks with more shade.

Fast forward to the present, and the City of Ottawa has made major upgrades to the park, including an awesome new splash pad. My husband and kids visited the other weekend for the grand opening.

The multi-million dollar expansion makes it the biggest build and expansion for a park, besides the development of Lansdowne Park. The roads got an upgrade, new parking and sports field, and of course - the new splash pad. 

The splash pad was designed by architectural engineers, and all the water drains into to a rocky riverbed and then into the sewer (the environmentalist in me is cringing slightly - water recovery systems cost about $100,000, but that's around what the City will be paying for all the water that gets used here!!)

Of course, the two main play structures are still a big hit, and the trees are growing slowly to create some shade. A brand new shelter helps, as well as the ability to run to the water for a cool down - perfect for these scorching summer days.

Our girls love pretending to be pirates and princesses atop the pirate ship, and a replica of the Parliment buildings has a giant slide and plenty of room for both parents and kids to climb. The twirly big top is also a hit (although watch out...they will get dizzy!!)  

All in all, we will definitely be back to Millennium again!

Have you visited Millennium Park? What do you love about it?