Go on...get your feet wet at Calypso Waterpark!

Last year the Kids in the Capital team got a rare chance to spend the day together! When we are invited to check out an activity or an event, it's often something we do alone or with one of our kids. But this time, Calyspo Theme Waterpark sent us on our merry way with 8 tickets for both our families! 

Neither Lara or I had visited Calypso before, so we were curious to experience Canada's leading waterpark.

Safety

Before I go on, let's just talk about the elephant in the room. When Lara and I posted about the trip on our personal Facebook pages, some of our parent friends were concerned about safety at Calypso, especially given the media attention they've been given over the past several years..

Lara and I can honestly say we felt the park was very safe. There are over 120 certified lifeguards throughout the park, as well as other well-trained staff. During our time in the wave pool, lifeguards were quick to point out to us a safer place to sit with our little ones once the waves got too big. As well, during our time at the Jungle Challenge (an obstacle course featuring walk-on logs, crocodiles and water lilies), a lifeguard offered to stand with my youngest while I helped my oldest navigate the ropes.

Life jackets are available for free if you leave a piece of Photo ID with the staff. I made sure both my girls were wearing life jackets so that if I lost hold of them, I would at least have a back-up in place. As parents, we also need to be responsible for our own children. Choosing play areas/rides that are age appropriate (and skill-level appropriate!) is the best way to go.

Fun Stuff

So what is there to do? Lara and I have children under the age of 8, so the giant waterslides were out of the question.

My girls and I spent most of our time in the Zoo Lagoon - a large kiddie pool with baby slides and smaller gentle slides. There was lots of sliding, splashing, spraying and climbing, and both kids were happy.

A couple of Lara's kids also enjoyed the Pirate's Aquaplay, which seemed great for ages 6+. My girls watched on as a GIANT bucket of water would fill and then dump over the entire pirate ship, soaking the people below. It looked like a blast. Her kids also enjoyed several of the slides at the park, which were appropriate for children as young as 5.

We did try the lazy Jungle Run river, although my girls were frightened by the animal noises coming from the speakers and the waterfalls that we had to navigate.

Food

There are many restaurants on site, and I saw a lot of families with lunches packed in coolers. There was ample picnic space, shaded by beautiful coniferous trees. And of course, the highlight of the girls' lunch was their Chapman's ice cream.

Extras

We'll definitely be going back, and I think next time we'll make sure to bring:

  • A wagon to carry towels, shoes etc. Everyone leaves their stuff by the chairs and picnic tables, and I didn't feel worried about things going missing.
  • A lock for valuables - locks can be rented, although I saw some people had brought their own. The lockers can hold your wallet, phone etc.
  • A nice picnic lunch
  • Our own life jackets
  • Water shoes

Disclaimer: Lara and I received day passes to Calypso for ourselves and our families. All of our opinions are our own, and we have to admit, we're quite opinionated ;)

 Have you been to Calypso? What did you think?

Kindness Matters: Why Kindness Became a Priority in our House

As a new parent I had countless conversations with other new parents who would fondly remember their childhood as one where kids roamed the neighbourhood. Where kids went out after dinner to play and headed home when the street lights came on. Where kids knew all the adults in the neighbourhood, and therefore could ask at nearly every house if they needed help. Where kids did not have extra-curricular activities planned for every waking moment, which require driving to various locations around the city. They spent their free time in backyards or at the park, where they had to create their own games and they were allowed to get bored.

At the end of these conversations, the new parent would sigh and resign themselves to the fact that their children’s childhood could not possibly have these great features of their own childhood.

But I always replied with, “why not?” We have the power to create the type of childhood we want our children to have. And I think that it starts with getting to know our neighbours and building a strong community. And you get to know your neighbours by being out in your community.  

So I decided to write down 75 Acts of Kindness for Children in order to help families get started building their friendly community. Then I started working through them with my own kids.  Here are a few ideas of the things that we did that you can try with your kids. Simple, easy, and so gratifying, and great way to build community spirit!

Clean Your Park

Pick a day to go out and clean up your neighbourhood park or school playground. Bring rubber gloves for you and your adults to use when picking up garbage.

Make a Card for your Waste Collection Operator

Draw a thank you card for the Waste Collection Operator who collects your garbage each week. You can tape it to the outside of your garbage bin. This is the driver of the garbage truck in our neighbourhood, his name is Douglas.

Leaf Jumping Party

Pick a nice, sunny fall day and have a leaf-jumping party in your yard. Ask your adults to rake all the leaves into a big pile and then invite a few neighbourhood friends over to play.

Skating Rink

Use your community skating rink at least once each winter. Bring some extra kid-size hockey sticks to share with the other kids skating there. Ask your adults to help you organize a game of tag.

And the best part about doing Acts of Kindness is that it makes you feel good too! By doing Acts of Kindness with your children, they will see that you value kindness, empathy and compassion. And because I believe that all children start out wanting to make the adults in their lives proud of them, your kids will start to look for more ways to be kind and helpful. As they keep receiving positive reinforcement for completing Acts of Kindness, they will start to internalize the fact that they feel happier too. And then completing Acts of Kindness will start to become a habit.  

If we raise a generation of happy kids who regularly complete Acts of Kindness and who are constantly looking for ways to help other people, imagine what they will be able to do when they are the decision makers. Imagine how they will be able to make the world a better place.

The acts of kindness were so successful and popular. Friends and neighbours kept talking about how they would love to have something to help them do the same with their families. So I put together a book of 75 different ideas.  It’s called, Plant a Garden of Kindness, A Child's Guide to Filling a Year with Weekly Acts of Kindness. If you’re looking to try this with your family, check out the book – it’s written in journal format so you can track all the amazing things you’re doing in your community and have a record of it to boot. 

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Lindsey Barr is the founder of World-Changing Kids (WCK), a community of friends where everyone is invited to create, inspire, teach, learn and support one another. A community where everyone feels loved, included and safe. 

WCK's mission is to bring people together to work on amazing projects that will make the world a better place. The ultimate goal is to raise as many children as possible within this beautiful community and then set them loose to see what they can do, to see how they will change the world.

For more information on Plant a Garden of Kindness, A Child's Guide to Filling a Year with Weekly Acts of Kindness check out WCK’s website and visit WCK on Facebook  and on Instagram.

Five reasons to love spring in Ottawa

There are many reasons to love Ottawa every time of year, but there is something magical about this time of year that puts a little extra 'spring' in my step. So, with that in mind, here are five reasons to love spring in Ottawa: 

1)   Sugar Bushes

Maple Syrup Season

Maple syrup season is pretty much over, but this spring was one of the best I can remember with an overabundance of sap and maple syrup – yum! Packing up the family and heading to various sugar bushes in the Ottawa region for pancake breakfasts and wagon rides is a tradition in our house and is a favourite early spring time activity. Some of our favourite sugar bushes within the Ottawa area include: Fulton’s Pancake House, Proulx Maple & Berry Farm and Stanley’s Olde Maple Lane Farm. We never leave for home without at least one litre of fresh local maple syrup. 

2)   Baby Animals

Back before my daughter frequented the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum on school trips, we would make a point to visit the working farm every spring to visit the barns to see lambs, calves, piglets and ducklings. The farm is oozing with cuteness in the springtime and is a great place to educate your child on Canadian agriculture and farming. And if you are lucky enough to visit on a warm day there are plenty of areas for family picnics and the onsite playground is always a hit with the kids.

3)   Canadian Tulip Festival

Tulip Festival

The Tulip Festival takes place May 12-23rd this year, and runs annually for about two weeks. It’s your chance to snap some gorgeous photos of your little ones smelling some of the more than one million tulips in bloom. The best spots to see the tulips are along the Rideau Canal, Dow’s Lake and Commissioner’s Park. Ottawa Tourism has a handy “Tulip Map,” which is great for planning your trip.

4)   Parks reopen

We love to ski and snowshoe, but there is nothing more fun for my daughter than heading to the neighbourhood park with friends after school for a little fresh air and fun. Kids in the Capital has written about many great Ottawa parks in the past (you can find those posts by clicking here), but we’re always looking for updated information or information on new neighbourhood parks, so if you have a favourite park let us know!

sunrise

5)   Longer Days

The earlier sun rise means I am more inclined to get my morning jog in before noon and the longer evenings mean we all have more energy and desire to not only do our chores, homework, etc. but we also have time to get outside and have fun before the sun sets.


What are some of your favourite things about spring in Ottawa? To be honest, my absolute favourite thing is sitting in the backyard on a warm spring evening chatting with my husband over a glass of red wine… and I love hearing the bird chirping outside my window at 4:30 in the morning (my husband, however, does not). ;) 

Disney World: answering your questions on a magical vacation

This past March my family and I went on one of the vacations I've had on my bucket list forever - Disney.

I had a lot of specifics about how I wanted this vacation to go. I wanted my kids to be old enough to remember it and enjoy it, and young enough to still feel the magic that surrounds a place like Disney. My older son is 9 and my twins were 6 and I think that was definitely a great age to go (though I'm sure a few years earlier and a few years later also would work.)

Because this was a bucket list trip we decided to go all out. This trip was exclusively Disney, we had seven day park passes, we stayed on resort, we had a meal plan and we bought the photo package. I recognize not everyone will do Disney this way.

When I decided to write a post for Kids in the Capital about Disney I kept getting really overwhelmed at where to start. It was such a big trip with so many parts to talk about! I asked the Kids in the Capital community for some help and so I'm going to be answering some of the questions that came in through there, and also a few questions I've decided you should have asked but didn't :)

Let's start with the doozy

Why is it worth it? To me it seems like a lot of money and stress (and line-ups) so I'm still not convinced it's something I ever want to do....but maybe you can convince me

Disney knows what they're doing. Like, REALLY knows what they're doing.

My nine year old declared "This is the best ever and we haven't even done anything yet!!" when all we'd done so far was get up at 3am to catch a plane and then check in to our hotel. I think that alone was a great testimonial to what makes Disney special - it's clearly just magic :)

Ariel, I will love you forever.

Ariel, I will love you forever.

So why is it worth it?

  • Every detail is on point and adds to the experience (Check out my podcast on some of those details from a more marketing perspective on my business site)
  • Every ride and experience is well thought out - from the lines, to the fast pass system, to the incredible detail put into each ride - they are all quite spectacular.
  • There is something for everyone - let's say you have one son who is particularly unimpressed with princesses... he will be very impressed by the Jedis, the Toy Story rides and the cereal bar at the hotel.
  • The looks of wonder on your kids' faces. My daughter walked away from meeting the little mermaid and looked and me and sighed and said "I just didn't know that she would be SO beautiful."
    The kids still haven't stopped talking about the fact that they met Kylo Ren (or that he invited my son to join the dark side - HILARIOUS, but also clearly because he saw that he was wearing a Darth Vader baseball cap at the time.)

How to do you handle all the walking? (My son was 4 when we went, so we used a stroller. When we go back, he'll be 7. What is reasonable to expect from a 7-year-old?)

So here is my first thought on this - you can walk all day and wait all day at Disney. You need to decide what you want YOUR experience to be.

Before we went I had some great friends make some suggestions to me. I knew to book Fast Passes in advance. I knew to have the app on my phone. I knew which parks we were going to on each day.

We kept each day fairly light. 

Now - keep in mind that we had a seven day pass for exactly this reason. I didn't want us to feel like we had to go go go - so we didn't. We generally went to the parks from morning until early evening. We only did a few rides that we didn't have Fast Passes for (30 minute wait times or less). We took it easy and enjoyed instead of rushing. So while there was quite a bit of walking, particularly at Magic Kingdom, there actually wasn't a whole lot of complaining, other than from me on the day I wore the wrong shoes and got a blister ;)

What are the meal plan pros and cons?

We got the meal plan that included one sit down meal per day, one casual meal per day, and one snack. (The meal plans only come with full Disney packages when you're staying on resort.)

We got the meal plan because our friends had raved about the quality of the food - we agreed, it was quite good though the restaurants we chose were not picked based on food as much as experiences.

We got the meal plan that included the sit down options because we wanted to have the meals with characters. These were a big hit, though they often were buffets and the food was no more than okay. But the kids loved having character after character come and see us right at our table. And I got a few selfies in too.

We were told that there would be lots of food in this plan, even though it only included two meals per day and that was completely true. We kept trying to save so that we wouldn't use all our credits up and in the end we had a lot left over at the end, which we attempted to use by buying character cookies in the gift shop at 6 in the morning before our shuttle to the airport ;)

A few tips about how you can use your credits - the casual meals don't distinguish between kids' meals and adult meals so you can get 3 adult sized meals to feed a family of five and then save extra credits for snacks and breakfasts. You can also turn a casual meal into three snacks, which we did several times for evening and afternoon snacks.

Was it worth the cost? I didn't do the math but I will say this. I got much nicer food because it was already paid for than if I had been choosing a la carte. It took away the daily "how much should we spend on food" decisions and we were just able to enjoy the fun restaurants.

So are there any cons? It was kind of expensive and we probably could have gotten away without it. That being said, I'd probably do it again.

Should you get the photo package?

This is the question I added! :) I loved having the photo package. Any time we saw a park photographer I knew we could get a photo and because I love photos (and that may be key) I wanted lots of photos.

It was a great way to get lots of photos with me in them (one of the things the main photographer in a family often struggles with). 

We got magic pictures which are super fun and the kids loved asking for (and you have to ask.) Being told to pose a certain way to be able to see later what gets added in is a lot of fun :) 

I didn't have to carry my big camera around with us or feel like I had to be managing taking photos. We got hundreds of photos during our week and it was well worth the cost. But again, I LOVE photos and prioritize that a lot in life. 

We had an amazing trip and I could happily go on about many more parts of our trip, including the resort we stayed in (Art of Animation). If there's anything else you'd like to hear about, leave a comment and I"ll work on a second post!

Letting My Daughter Play Wild in "Animal Jam"

My daughter played her first online game at the age of three. We were flying to Winnipeg for a family event and needed something to keep her entertained while on the airplane and during what could have been an otherwise boring family event for a preschooler (there was only one other child in attendance). The game was Monkey Preschool LunchBox and I still remember how surprised I was at how quickly she mastered my iPod touch. Swiping, clicking and figuring out what was actually going on were nothing for her.

Since then my daughter’s “screen time” has been very limited. I have never been a proponent of video or online games for young children and my daughter (now 7) has never been a kid who needs to be convinced otherwise, but recently she asked if I could download an app on my iPad called, “Animal Jam” for her to play. She wanted to play because a friend of hers talked about the game all the time and she was, naturally, curious. For some of you this game may be old news, but for us – online games was a new parenting territory.

Before agreeing I searched online for details about the game and discovered WildWorks inc. created it for National Geographic and it centers around animals and the natural world. The game was made for children in her age group. Each player has their own animal and creates their own animal name, they can then interact with other players in the online world of Jamaa and earn money and sapphires toward decorating and upgrading their den or upgrading their animal and animal apparel (dragon winged tiger anyone?).

Animal Jam Online Game

Parents can set the controls so their child can only communicate with other players through preset phrases, such as “Hey everybody!” or “Want to trade with me?” (Because you can trade den furniture, unicorn hats, flip flops and many other fun treasures).

My daughter likes the game because she gets to be a horse (her absolute favourite animal). She is only “buddies” with her real life friends and her grandmothers, who she convinced to join Animal Jam and only play when she is around because why else would they play Animal Jam?

Somewhere amidst the many inner-game video games, treasure hunts and parties there are also educational tidbits about animals and plants… but don’t be fooled, that’s not why my daughter plays (but I often read over her shoulder and together we have learned a lot!). I like the educational aspect. I also like that the app and game itself is free to play (however sapphires, which are used to “buy” higher end treasures, cost real money).

I was worried the introduction of video games would be a bad thing for my otherwise creative girl who is outside whatever the weather, but other than a few times where I had to take the iPad away because homework needed to be done, she seems to understand there is a time and place for online games and that if it is nice outside then I don’t want her on the iPad (and she doesn’t seem to want to be anyway). I doubt it will stay this way, but for now… I’ll savour the moment.

I like Animal Jam and think it was a nice introduction into online games for our family. I grew up playing Pong on my family’s Commodore Vic20 and remember playing that for countless hours, so who am I to take away from my daughter having similar memories (albeit with more advanced graphics – and in colour)?

So, tell me, what video or online games do your children play?