Minecraft, Turtles, and Star Wars...oh my!

by Karen

Something that no one ever told me about parenthood was that there would be a revolving door of interests that my child will commit every iota of passion his little body can muster into loving, before leaving them collecting dust in his room - or the back of his mind. 

In the last three years (he's almost 7), here's a rough idea of what we've run through:

  1. Thomas the Tank Engine
  2. Star Wars (this one has remained constant, because I am doing my best to raise him right)
  3. DC Comics (so far, not much interest in Marvel)
  4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 
  5. Sonic
  6. Minecraft
  7. Angry Birds
  8. Skylanders
  9. The LEGO Movie
  10. All things Mario (of Nintendo fame)
  11. LEGO Chima
  12. LEGO Ninjago
  13. Even LEGO Friends (because toys are not for boys and girls, they're for kids big and small)

It's possible I've forgotten more than what's on the list above. One of the best parts about my little man's passionate dedication to each of these interests is that he wants to inhale every morsel of information about them that he can. He's a fairly advanced reader and he loves nothing more than getting character encyclopedias, handbooks, and anything else he can get his hands on to read. He's also not above mixing his interests. I adore that Brandon's school allows him to bring these books every single day he wants. They are eager to encourage reading of any kind.

Two years ago, on Valentine's Day, I bought Brandon his first LEGO set. It was just a small generic set, but now he's hooked. He also got the idea from Evantube (careful showing this channel to your kids - it's a bit addictive) that he should keep his boxes, in pristine condition. 

So we do.

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Ah, the things you'll do to foster the interests your kids have. (Velcro is your friend.)

It's fun and mind-dizzying and I know more about each of the things on that list than I ever wanted to know. Of course, fostering these interests along with a strong love of reading means that he's keen to educate me and his dad on every minute detail. 

Sounds fun, right?

So, what is your little minion into these days? :)

So, what is your little minion into these days? :)

Karen Wilson is a mom to Brandon (6) and wife to Matt (who is glad to have a 6-year-old as a new excuse to play with toys...er, LEGO). Her latest claim to fame is having found enough LEGO studs to buy Lord Business in The LEGO Movie video game. She's thinking of starting a business - Stud Finder for Hire.

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:
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!