Worth a Visit: Shenkman Arts Centre

It's our weekly "Worth a Visit" series! Have an idea you'd like to submit? The only requirements are that it must be in the Ottawa region and kid-friendly! Email Misty at kidsinthecapital@gmail.com

When we moved to Orleans, one of my first thoughts was "oh good, there's a theatre here!" I was born and raised in the suburbs of Toronto, and spent a lot of time downtown at the various theatres in that city. I wanted music and the arts to be a big part of our family life, so as soon as my daughter was old enough, I took her to her first show.

Shenkman Arts Centre is a wonderful hub of activity. We've seen several shows there - the Nutcracker, Duffle Bag Theatre, and coming soon, Sharon and Bram! Our family also attends their free events and festivals, like the upcoming Fête Frissons on February 7th. There are frequent art displays in the galleries, and many options for children's programming.

And bonus for parents, there are great shows for adults (some sponsored by Beau's beer - yum!). We recently saw Jeremy Fisher and Danny Michel there, which was an amazing performance! Check out their website for details on upcoming shows, and support our community's arts and culture!

Have you been to Shenkman? Have a favourite show you've seen? Leave a comment below!

The Best Cookbook for Kids You'll Ever Buy

Picky kids grow up to be picky teenagers - eating you out of house and home, but more like "leave the broccoli Mom...I got myself a box of Kraft Dinner!"

I was notoriously picky as a kid, and maintained that trend throughout high school. It wasn't until I moved away from home and had to cook for myself that I discovered that most people don't live off Zoodles and chicken nuggets. Normal people eat...gasp...stir-fry?

I'll be forever grateful to my Mom for buying me a copy of Clueless in the Kitchen: A Cookbook for Teens. To date, this is the recipe book I STILL refer to most often - and that's saying a lot for a self-proclaimed chef, who spends hours in the kitchen when she finds the time! It's simple, everyday recipes that everyone should know how to cook. And although you may not consider it the healthiest cookbook on the market (she doesn't skimp on comfort foods), it's a huge step in the right direction - real food, and simple ingredients.

Clueless in the Kitchen

The book starts by providing a guide to the kitchen - which gadgets are for what, safety and how to chop, slice and dice. There are handy conversion charts, and tips scattered throughout the recipes (e.g. how to make your own buttermilk). The end of the book provides funny menu plans for entertaining boy/girl-friends or cheering up a depressed friend.

There are no fancy pictures in this book. You won't be flipping through it drooling, but neither will you be scared off from ever actually using it (confess...how many of you have shiny, glossy cookbooks on your shelves that have never been cracked open?)

So if you have kids approaching their tween/teen years, you may want to consider this a gift. And then tell them that Friday night dinners are their responsibility :)

Do you have a cookbook that your kids use?

Technology and kids - setting up a new iPod

Kids using technology is a subject that is surrounded by a lot of debate.  My personal philosophy is that technology is a part of our lives and it can add a lot of value.  I'm happy to let my children use it, but I want to make sure they're doing it safely.  One way I do that is to start them young and be part of the experience with them.

My eight year old got an iPod touch for his birthday in September.  We were lucky because it coincided almost identically with the release of iOS 8 and their family sharing functionality.

Setting up a children's account

Kids under 13 aren't supposed to have Apple accounts, however, if you set if up through your own apple account - they can!   This way your child has their own ID, password, etc, but you are responsible for the account.

They then have all the features that anyone with family sharing has - like sharing apps and music others have purchased, but you also have control over what they are allowed to have on their devices.   "Ask to buy" means that the parent gets a notification to their phone and can allow or deny a request for any app, free or paid.  You can also set parental controls and restrictions.

My personal rules for my eight year old

We have talked about using technology safely, but more than that, at eight years old he has been told very clearly that nothing he gets to do with his iPod is private.  If it's on his iPod we have access to it so we know all the passwords and we can go through and read anything, any time.

If he sets something up himself and we do not have the password, he will no longer be allowed to have the iPod.

We let him have access to iMessage, but we know who he is messaging and we regularly go through all of the messages to see what kinds of things they're talking about to make sure they are appropriate  (so far it's mostly just a lot of back and forth emails and talk about Minecraft :)

We also have an app that allows us to turn off all his apps at certain times of the day or whenever we decide he shouldn't be playing - stay tuned for another post about that app soon.

Leave a comment and let me know if you let your kids use technology and how you monitor their usage.



Ottawa's Top 5 Family-Friendly Neighbourhoods

By Matthew Birks

Though there are many reasons why our nation’s capital is a great place to live, it is an especially popular spot to settle down and raise a family. The city is wonderfully cultural and historically rich, with an abundance of family-friendly museums, galleries and educational facilities to explore. Above all else, Ottawa is a safe and peaceful city, which boasts a reliable public transit system and values bilingualism (all definite pluses!). Read on to discover our top 5 picks of the best family-friendly neighbourhoods Ottawa has to offer!

A beautiful stretch of homes in Barrhaven (photo credit: Mattamy Homes)

A beautiful stretch of homes in Barrhaven (photo credit: Mattamy Homes)

Barrhaven is a residential neighbourhood nestled into Ottawa’s suburbs. The area is the perfect spot to raise a family for countless reasons.  Rich with an abundance of French and English schools, Barrhaven boasts a superior school system. Parents can choose from a number of private and public options; the sheer number of which can make parents feel secure that they’ve made the best choice for their little one. The area is also home to a number of parks and playgrounds, which are sure to keep children happy, healthy and active during both winter and summer months. The Walter Baker Sports Centre is also a wonderful feature of Barrhaven. The complex is home to a library, two ice rinks for skating and hockey and an impressive pool equipped with a water slide (who doesn’t love water slides?) Barrhaven is a safe and suburban community with plenty of single-family homes to accommodate growing families. We are sure families will love it!  

Britannia Village:
Britannia Village is a group of neighbourhoods in Ottawa’s west end located right on the beauty of the Ottawa River.  Like other family-friendly neighbourhoods in the city, Britannia Village is wealthy, safe, wonderfully diverse and multicultural and also boasting a number of great schools. The Belltown Dome is perfect for recreational activities such as skating and hockey and Britannia Beach is a family-fun activity for young and old to enjoy (just hold tight until those warm, summer days roll back around—I promise they’re coming!). 

Glebe-Dows Lake:
Better known as the Glebe, this downtown neighbourhood is trendy, friendly and full of green spaces. One of Ottawa’s oldest neighbourhoods, the community is situated right on the Rideau Canal which makes it an ideal spot to jog, run, skate and take part in a host of other activities during both the summer and winter months. The area is also home to a wonderful school system, which gives parents a number of options to choose from. There are also a number of parks that pepper the area and serve as great spots for family outings. We are sure you will love the overall safety and family-friendly vibe that the neighbourhood offers!

Island Park:
Island Park is a beautifully quaint and picturesque community in Ottawa. The area is peaceful and safe and home to the scenic Island Park Drive, which is a landmark street of the area.  Amid the beautiful greenery that the neighbourhood has to offer, Island Park also boasts a great school system for young and old alike. 

Kanata Lakes:
Kanata Lakes is a beautiful, suburban neighbourhood in Ottawa’s west end. The area is safe, wealthy and diverse, with a number of elementary and secondary schools to choose from. The community is full of single-family homes and has a number of parks, playgrounds and sports fields for year-round outdoor fun and activities for kiddies of all ages. In terms of recreation and entertainment, Kanata Lakes is home to Kanata Theatre for all your cultural and intellectual needs and tennis, soccer, figure skating and hockey clubs as well. For those lazy, rainy days, don’t forget Landmark Theatres, the largest movie theatre in the city, which will prove the perfect outing for the entire family. 

Navut is a company that helps match people (mainly newcomers to Canada) with neighbourhoods suited to their desired lifestyle - read more about them in The Toronto Star. Check out their Neighborhood Finder to discover the perfect neighbourhood for you and your family!  

Do Babies Really Cost That Much?

By Misty Pratt, CD(DONA)

When we found out we were pregnant with my first, one of our concerns was whether we could afford to have a baby. You'd think a 28 year-old woman and 26 year-old man would be financially comfortable at that point in life, but we did what many others of our generation did - we went to school for a long time and racked up a lot of student debt!

My family doctor quickly dispelled the myth that babies cost a lot, and as I learned more about pregnancy, birth and postpartum, I realized he was right.

Did you know that many couples spend thousands of dollars on their first born? It's easy! We're told we *need* a giant list of essentials. And hey, we're new parents, what do we know?! If friends tell us we must buy a wipe warmer, we're bound to follow the advice.

In my blog post yesterday, I outlined some of the ways to prepare for life with a baby, including budgeting for a prenatal class and lactation consultant. My idea of "essentials" probably differs from the norm, but here are a few things that may help you save money and avoid the consumer trap:

1. Registries are great, as you can direct your friends and family to purchase truly useful items. A friend of mine created a registry for second-hand baby items!

2. Shop consignment - you'll find items that are practically brand new, at a much lower cost.

3. Ask around - we're all trying to reduce the amount of "stuff" we have laying around our house. You probably know many people who are done having babies, so do them a favour and take the baby things off their hands!

4. Don't buy the "trendy" items (think Bumbo) - these are things that you'll use for 2-3 weeks, and then discover, a) your baby detests the toy/machine/play thing; or b) it only worked for a short period of time. If you really want to try out the trendy item, ask to borrow one from a friend!

5. Remember that newborns are simple beings - they won't want to play with toys, and if you try shaking something in front of their face, they're bound to yawn and go to sleep. Your newborn wants three things - milk, warm arms, and sleep!

So what do you absolutely need to have? Here are my thoughts, and feel free to add to the list in the comments below!

- car seat
- some kind of sleeping surface, unless you want to co-sleep (which contrary to popular opinion, is not dangerous if done right). A bassinet or crib beside your bed works well.
- clothing (your baby will stay in PJs for a number of weeks....or if you're like me, months)
- diapers: cloth or disposable
- baby blankets and wash cloths
- good nursing bras

And that's it....really. There are SO many "nice-to-have" items - a sling or wrap will probably save your arms! And there are many things down the road that you might find you need (e.g. bottles perhaps). But if you're worried about money, and wanting to simplify the process, focus on the essentials.

Did you find you spent a lot of money on your first born?