Family Fun Activities: Pokemon GO

Pokemon GO came out at the beginning of summer and it's been really popular ever since. I've wanted to write this post for a few weeks, but to be honest I was just too busy playing the game to sit down and write!

Some people seem to think that Pokemon GO is just another time wasting game but based on what I've experienced and witnessed, it's actually a great way to get your family out of the house and active together. Today I'm sharing a few of the reasons I think it's a great family activity.  

I'm not going to get into TOO many details on how the game works in this post, but if you want me to break it down into a "what is it and how do I play?" post, leave a comment and I'll do that next week!

1) You gotta move

In order to find the Pokemon (unless you're using some kind of "cheat" which you really shouldn't be) you have to get up and walk around and explore new places. You can't sit in your house and find lots of Pokemon, you need to go for walks.

Not only do you need to go looking for Pokemon, but you get eggs that you need to incubate, and to incubate them, you need to walk (there are 2km, 5km and 10 km eggs for example.) So, we go on evening Pokewalks and when my kids need to get outside but are just in a mood where no idea appeals to them, I'll often give them the phone and a destination to walk to and see if they can incubate an egg (this obviously depends on the age of your kid though).
 


2) You get to explore new places

Want a reason to go and look at monuments and talk about the history of a city? Play Pokemon GO with your kids because monuments, statues, murals, etc. are generally PokeStops (a PokeStop is where you go to get supplies such as Pokeballs, which you need to catch Pokemon, potions to revive and heal your Pokemon when they've been in a battle, and other cool things).  You need to go to PokeStops to keep playing the game and PokeStops can be really fun to explore.

We have walked around Confederation Park, Pembroke, Cobden, Renfrew, World Exchange Plaza and Sparks Street, and the deal is that whenever possible, we stop and see just what the PokeStop is all about.

We've seen cool statues, fountains, read the war memorial statues and explored the waterfront in Pembroke and my kids and husband went on a crazy bridge in Renfrew (I have a fear of bridges, so I stayed on land and took a photo, :)

3) Combine it with other activities

Some people have told me they think geocaching is better. I think geocaching is amazing and since my husband doesn't really enjoy Pokemon GO he has taken the opportunity to be out in new places to find the caches that are often in some of the similar places as you can find many PokeStops. We're getting to do both at the same time and the kids really enjoy both aspects of it.

Other ways you can combine it with activities is to go to farmer's markets or see if anyone is hosting a Lure Party. (A Lure Party is when a PokeStop has someone activate a lure which attracts more Pokemon. If you see a PokeStop with pink dots hovering around it, someone activated a lure so you're sure to catch more Pokemon than usual there. Sometimes business owners will activate the lures to make coming to their store or business fun for the whole family. I know some farmer's markets have done this, as well as business associations. It's a fun and smart way to combine activities - one person shops (my husband) while I catch Pokemon and let my kids help. :)

Use it as an opportunity to teach 

There are a lot of things that come up when playing Pokemon Go with your kids that are great lessons to teach.

Don't walk and play. The phone will buzz if there is a Pokemon around so know where you're going, walk with eyes ahead, and then stop and look down when needed. You hear all kinds of stories about people walking into traffic. This can happen with far more than just Pokemon GO, use it as an opportunity to talk about being safe.

Some people feel that people are trespassing to play Pokemon GO. Again, this is an opportunity to teach your kids about trespassing and privacy, and about the importance of not going places you aren't supposed to be. Playing together adds the opportunity to do this.

A few words of warning:

- Pokemon GO drains your cell battery really quickly. Make sure to have a full charge before you go out and maybe even bring a battery pack along with you.

- Pokemon GO data usage isn't horrible, but be aware and check in on how much you're using so you don't end up suddenly using your data for them month. It seems quite similar to other map apps so if you keep those on during long drives, this wouldn't be different.

- It can be addictive to the parents as well as the kids. So I hear anyways ;)

Over all, I think the Pokemon GO can be a really fun family activity and it's motivating to many people to get outside and moving. In my opinion it's a great example of how games can make life MORE social, because we have met up with friends in parks to go Pokemon hunting together. Games don't need to make you sedentary and antisocial, they can motivate you to get out of the house when it otherwise would be hard, move, and hang with friends!

Do you play Pokemon GO?

10 Things You MUST do before summer ends

It’s already the middle of August (how did that happen)? But summer is not over yet! Enjoy the last few days and weeks of summer with this list of 10 things you MUST do before school starts back up - and with it, everyone’s extra-curricular activities and regular routines.

summer must do list

1)   See the Parliament Hill Sound & Lights Show

The Sounds & Lights Show on Parliament Hill ends in September, but why not take the kids to see it now? The start time is 9:30 p.m., so if there is a day where the kids have napped and you think they can handle a later night, why not grab a picnic blanket, sweaters and snacks and head out to Parliament Hill to watch this year's beautiful Northern Lights show!

2)   Play at a Splash Pad

We have had a hot, hot summer, which means it was the perfect summer to tour Ottawa’s best splash pads! There are hundreds of splash pads within the City of Ottawa, many of which are new within the last 10 years. It’s a great way to stay cool and let the kids run off some of their boundless energy. So, go out there and enjoy them before they are turned off for the season.

3)   Tour the Outaouais

Just across the bridge from downtown Ottawa are some of the region's best hiking and outdoor activities the entire family can enjoy. From the water slides at Mont Cascades to letting the kids explore the mazes of Eco-Odysée or feeding the animals at Parc Omega, there are many fun and exciting things for families to do in the Outaouais!

4)   Jump in a Lake

This might sound silly, but for me there is nothing more refreshing (and signifies summer more!) than jumping off a dock or running into a fresh and cool lake. There are many lakes around the Ottawa area, including some within the city limits. Do yourself a favour and jump in a lake (before we’re once again skating on them!)

5)   Spend an afternoon at a park

Every spring we ask readers to share their favourite Ottawa parks with us. This year we shared our thoughts on the new Millennium Park in Orleans as well as Barnabe and Cardinal Parks in Ottawa East and last year we discussed the popular Walter Baker Park in Kanata. Park play is always a memorable part of a child’s summer, so get out there and spend an afternoon at a park (and then share your favourites with us!) 

6)   Read together on a hammock

The best way to get your children reading is to read yourself! Earlier this summer we shared a post with classic kids books for summer, so head over to your local library and pick up a couple. Then get reading or just lay together in a hammock!

7)   Stay up late and star gaze

Now that the sun is setting a little earlier, why not set up a star gazing haven in your backyard? Even if you’re in the city if it’s a clear night chances are your kids will spot a star or two and there are many websites that have information on star names, including this site that has a printable star chart for kids: http://kids.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Printable_Star_Charts  

8)   Go to Calypso

Calypso Waterpark has water slides and fun for kids of all ages and is the perfect way to cool off on a hot summer’s day! The best part is that there is plenty of free parking and you can pack your own lunch and picnic on site or buy food there! Some family favourite activities at Calypso include Pirate’s Aquaplay and Zoo Lagoon. Claypso is a great way to exhaust the kids on a day that may otherwise be deemed as too hot for outdoor play. 

9)   Take the kids kayaking

Kids as young as four can kayak! It’s true! And while they may not paddle far, their love for the sport will increase as they get older and so will how far you can paddle together.  You can still purchase kid’s kayaks at many local retailers and there are plenty of nice evenings left to spend kayaking together.

10)  Feed some ducks

What child doesn’t enjoy feeding ducks? Feeding the ducks near Billings Bridge made our 50 Things to Do With Kids in Ottawa list this summer, so why not grab some bird seed and head down to where ducks live near you and count the ducks who come to you! A great math exercise for younger kids and a test of patience for older kids.

So, what is on your to-do list of activities to do with the kids before everyone’s fall routine settles in? Leave a comment and let us know.

Ottawa Parks: Barnabe and Cardinal Farms

Every day on our way to daycare, I drive my daughter by two parks on Des Epinettes in Orleans: Cardinal Farms Park and Barnabe Park. She can see the play structures from the car, and asks the same question: "when can we go THERE, mama?"

I finally had some time the other morning to drive over that way (walking to the parks from our house would be too long for both of my girls!) 

Both parks are within walking distance from each other, which makes it an extra special outing for the little ones. We started at Cardinal Farms Park, which is super shaded, and includes a small soccer field and track. The park borders on our local ravine, so you could also explore the "woods" if you had time. Sadly I forgot to take pictures of this park, but there is a bigger structure for the older kids, and then a fenced structure and swings for the younger kids. 

Once they'd had enough of Cardinal Farms, it was a quick 5 minute walk down the street to Barnabe Park. Barnabe stretches long and wide between des Epinettes and Jeanne D'Arc. 

There were two awesome things about this park:

1) It's a short walk across Jeanne D'Arc until you reach Bridgehead at the corner of Jeanne D'Arc and Innes. This is a major bonus for tired parents.

2) There is an old-fashioned water pump at this park! I have never seen anything like it - the kids get to pump water up and down through some plastic tubs. Although this is not the same as cooling off in a splash pad, the kiddos spent lots of time splashing around in there (and "watering" the pavement)

So if you're looking for a different park to check out, try these two in combination one morning. And make sure not to miss your coffee ;)

Prince Edward Island: Canada’s Family Vacation Hotspot

Confederation bridge

Confederation bridge

My husband and I fell in love with Prince Edward Island long before we said our matrimonial “I dos” in Brackley Beach twelve years ago. When we visited the island as a couple, we would read all day long on the many picturesque beaches and take in as many lobster suppers as we could. Now that we are parents, and St. Ann’s Lobster Suppers is no longer in operation, our trips to Prince Edward Island have changed to become more family oriented.

If you are planning on taking a family vacation to Prince Edward Island, I promise that you will instantly fall in love with the rolling hills, friendly locals and of course, the red sand and red dirt. Every one who visits the island has their own unique experience. For my family it is in a quiet, private cottage overlooking the sand dunes of Brackley Beach and includes a lot time on the beach and eating a lot of fresh seafood (so, maybe not that much has changed over the years). ;)

Based on my most recent trip to the island, here are some tips on where to eat, where to play and where to take pictures while in Prince Edward Island:

Where to Eat in PEI (in the summer)

Many restaurants on Prince Edward Island are seasonal (only open during tourist season), meaning their food is fresh and full of local flair!

I am a huge fan of Richard’s Fresh Seafood located in Stanhope within Prince Edward Island National Park. Their lobster roll is good, but so is their scallop burger and fish sandwich! And if you like local PEI potatoes – well, you get a lot of homemade fries with every order.

But if you are looking for mussels, I highly suggest the Blue Mussel Café in North Rustico. Their mussels are cooked to perfection! And their appetizers are delicious – especially their Seafood Chowder Poutine.

Our favourite lunch spot is the PEI Preserve Company in New Glasgow. Their homemade preserves and scones are second to none. Top that with a cute view of the Gardens of Hope and River Clyde and you will instantly fall into vacation mode. They also have 40 types of tea from all over the world – perfect if you’re a tea drinker.

Top left - me sipping beer from PEI brewing company at the blue mussel cafe; from bottom left to top right: pei preserve company, dorion's fisheries; olde village bakery in north rustico; richard's fresh seafood and a wall in blue mussel cafe.

Top left - me sipping beer from PEI brewing company at the blue mussel cafe; from bottom left to top right: pei preserve company, dorion's fisheries; olde village bakery in north rustico; richard's fresh seafood and a wall in blue mussel cafe.

While in New Glasgow, make a reservation (no really, MAKE A RESERVATION) for supper at The Mill in New Glasgow. The chef, Emily Wells, is award winning and her dishes are sure to thrill your palate – in particular the must-try Lobster Pad Thai. My daughter loved the views from this place as it too over looks the River Clyde.

You’re probably wondering when I am going to mention lobster suppers. I’m not. As I mentioned, my favourite was St. Ann’s Suppers, which was lobster supper served in the basement of a Catholic Church with incredible mile-high pie for dessert, but they have since closed up shop and while New Glasgow Lobster Suppers are popular, they are not for us.

Cooking lobster

Cooking lobster

Instead, I highly recommend heading to Doiron Fisheries in North Rustico and buying fresh lobster and cooking it yourself! It’s fun for the whole family! Or if cooking lobster is not for you, Doiron’s also sells it cooked. They also sell fresh fish, scallops and mussels.

Once you have your fresh PEI lobster, go to the Olde Village Bakery in North Rustico and pick up some homemade potato salad and buns (and pie) and then go back to your cottage and enjoy your own lobster supper in comfort. Seriously. You won’t regret it.

What to do

From golfing to kayaking, there is something for everyone in PEI, including spending a lot of time at the beaches (of course). Besides the beach, are a few family favourites:

Hiking or Biking

robinson's island, PEI

robinson's island, PEI

This year my family and I brought our mountain bikes with us. Every morning we ventured to the trails around the island’s National Park. Our absolute favourite is Robinson’s Island. A 5 km loop, there are moguls and obstacles for the young (and the young at heart) as well as gorgeous views of great blue herons, bald eagles, foxes and more! You can also walk or bike the old road that leads straight to the beach on Robinson’s Island where you may find big seashells and washed up treasures like buoys, seaglass and driftwood.

Green Gables

Anne of green gables

Anne of green gables

If this is your first trip to PEI then you have to visit the house at Green Gables. You just do. It’s full of history and of course everything Anne, but it’s also fun for the kids – especially because they may get to meet Anne herself!

Because it’s owned by the National Parks there is often fun programming taking place. This year when we visited they had a bilingual scavenger hunt for kids, which was a fun, interactive way to encourage the kids to read and learn about L.M. Montgomery and the island. When they are done the scavenger hunt, kids can hand in their books and receive a free memento from their time at Green Gables.

In addition to the house there are also trails to walk and explore. A perfect way to spend a good part of a day!

Shining Waters & Sandspit Amusement Park

If you are on the island for more than a couple of days invest in a weekly pass to Shining Waters and Sandspit. Shining Waters is the island’s water park and although it’s not as big as some of the monstrosities elsewhere in Canada, it is perfect for a fun filled day or even a couple of hours of cooling off and having fun. There is a roller coaster and rides for kids of all ages (although I would say 12 and under would probably have the most fun). The water slides are fast and guaranteed to make even the most over-tired of child smile (believe me, I know).

Sandspit is the island’s amusement park. There is a Ferris wheel, roller coaster and other fun rides. We spent a lot of evenings there just so my daughter and her friend could run around and eat cotton candy without getting sand in it.

You can purchase a weekly pass that covers both of these parks, which makes spending an hour or two there every day feasible, and believe me your kids will love it! After all, family vacations are about the kids having fun and making memories!

From top left: roller coaster at SandSPIT, BRACKley beach, brackley drive-in theatre and the ferris wheel at sandspit

From top left: roller coaster at SandSPIT, BRACKley beach, brackley drive-in theatre and the ferris wheel at sandspit

Brackley Drive-In

The Brackley Drive-In is the island’s only drive-in theatre, and it is a great one! It’s clean, well taken care of, and is easy to get in and out of.

Drive to the town of Brackley Beach and get ready to see some classic 1950s cars, listen to some classic 1950s tunes before the show and then get ready for one or two in-theatre movies! There is a playground at the theatre to occupy kids until the movie starts and of course there is a canteen on site as well – and treat prices are very reasonable! Gates open at 8 p.m. and there is a $1 off coupon on their website, oh and ticket prices include a soft drink! This is seriously my favourite drive-in theatre in Canada.

Where to take pictures

Beaches

Island crab

All of them, but if you’re looking for red cliffs try the Argyle Shore (south side of the island) or Cavendish on the north shore (go in the evening or first thing in the morning for pictures without people).

If you’re looking for sand dunes, try Brackley Beach near the Covehead Lighthouse or Greenwich Beach.

If you’re looking for waves crashing against sand, try Basin Head in Eastern PEI, en route to the town of Souris.

Scenary

The best road in PEI for taking pictures of the rolling hills is between the towns of Wheatley River and New Glasgow. If you are there the right time of year there are endless opportunities for fabulous pictures of potato fields in full bloom pretty much anywhere on the island. And if you’re there mid to late June – get ready for some amazing pictures of lupins!

Lighthouses

Covehead Lighthouse

My family’s favourite lighthouse is West Point because of the stripes, but Point Prim is the island’s oldest and is one of the few lighthouses made of brick constructed in Canada.

Covehead is the most photographed lighthouse on the island (pictured here with my daughter in a photo that was featured in the island’s tourism guide last year). It’s located in Stanhope.

For a complete list of PEI lighthouses, check out the Tourism PEI website.

Lighthouse at victoria by-the-sea

Lighthouse at victoria by-the-sea

My husband and I have noticed an increase in traffic during the summer months in PEI and even witnessed a traffic backup as we drove through Cavendish this year, but as busy as the island gets there is always a peaceful, welcoming place for every visitor to the island. I look forward to returning… again and again.

Have you been to Prince Edward Island? What are your favourite things to do as a family there?

Sounds & Lights Show on Parliament Hill

I remember the first time I attended the Sound and Lights show on Parliament Hill - it was late August, and a beautiful night (not too hot, not too cold!). I left my toddler at home as the 9:30 p.m. start time seemed late for an 18 month old. I was totally blown away by the show - it is truly a feast for all the senses. Several years later we attended the winter sound and lights show with our two girls, and they still rave about the "magical castle."

This summer you are once again in for a treat with Northern Lights - the latest instalment of the Sound and Lights show. I plan on checking it out in early September (when the start time is 9 p.m.) but we polled our readers to get some feedback on attending the show - either solo or with kids! Also, check out last year's review by Kids in the Capital contributor Chris!

How to get there

I encourage you to use OC Transpo and make it a big adventure, but I know that's not always convenient. If you plan on driving, know that you can't park ON Parliament Hill itself, so you will need to find parking on a side street or a paid lot, and walk up. One reader said she parked at the World Exchange Plaza (45 O'Connor St.) - parking is free there on weekends!

When to go

Show times are 10 p.m. in July, 9:30 p.m. in August, and 9 p.m. in early September. Weekends are probably a bit busier than weeknights, although remember that Parliament Hill is big - lots of space to find a seat!

What to bring

"We brought a wagon for the little kids, just in case, and some drinks and snacks in a cooler. We also brought a couple of picnic blankets to sit on." (Carly H.) You can also bring chairs or blankets, but remember you need to lug them from your car onto the hill. Most people sit right on the ground on blankets!

What to expect

"I thought the show itself was really good. There was a fair bit of history in it for a 30 minute show, but it was quick in that the scenes changed constantly and the moments of history were brief but informative. The lights themselves were incredible - so beautiful and precise." (Carly H.)

"My kids... learned a lot throughout, and asked questions.The show was beautiful, more than they had imagined it could be. My son was so proud to be Canadian when it was done." (Karen D.)

If you have children with sensitivities to noise and lights, it may be too much for them to take in. Our reader Carly noted that the sound was loud and echo-y, and the lights were bright at times, so some children may find it hard to handle.

Who would enjoy this show?

The Sound & Lights show is great for all ages, although you know your child(ren) best! Several readers commented that their younger ones were fidgety after about 20 minutes, but that children 10 and older really got a lot out of the history and heritage. Super young kids and babies may just fall asleep, or be dazzled by the lights long enough for you to enjoy the show.

And it also makes a great date night! Consider getting childcare, indulging in a nice meal downtown, and then walking over to the show to end your night. Very romantic to be sitting on a blanket with your loved one!

Have you been to the sound and lights show? What did you think?