Family Fun at Room Escape Ottawa

KITC would like to welcome back, guest blogger, Stephen Johnson. Stephen Johnson is an Ottawa writer who loves to write about family travel.  During the summer, you will most likely find him and his family at a local fair or festival.  During the winter, a beach in Mexico is a likely bet.  

Two years ago,  I didn’t understand all the buzz about escape rooms.  The concept of locking yourself up in a room and having to escape within a certain time seemed crazy to me.

My perspective totally changed when we recently tried an escape room in Kingston, Ontario. Our family had a great time searching for clues and working together. It left us wanting to find an escape room closer to home in Ottawa.

We checked online and found one close to our house that looked like fun,  Room Escape Ottawa. There were five different rooms to choose from with three being listed as youth-friendly. Despite our son, David’s, protests to try the scariest room, we all settled on Boom Room. The description listed the room as being a rigged enemy bunker that was timed to explode with only sixty minutes to escape. Our house has a similar feel in the morning to get everyone up and out the door on time so I thought our chances were good.

We arrived at Room Escape on Bank Street and found out it was in the same facility and business as Archery Games Ottawa. I wondered if perhaps we did not finish the room on time, we might have to do archery games without a bow and arrow!

We were greeted by our escape room host who went over some of the procedures and gave us the scenario. We entered the room and quickly got to work. The room was dimly lit except for a red emergency light giving the space the feel of a World War II bunker. It was authentically decorated with camouflage and other military paraphernalia.

Room Escape Ottawa

We were also provided with a walkie-talkie where we could request assistance. Clues were provided either via a television or our host would come in to assist. I thought this was a great feature especially for those with younger kids as it could be frustrating to be stuck on one puzzle for too long.   

I do not want to give away too much of the escape room in case you try it, but let’s just say there were many different elements including cracking codes, interpreting a board game and diffusing bombs. Ultimately, we did not make it all the way out of the room but got very close.

This experience is a great way to teach problem-solving skills, working together and generally just having a great time.   

Room Escape Ottawa has two other rooms which are suggested for the younger set. Stranded explores being stuck on an alien planet while another De-Composed is listed as being Canada’s first multiplayer virtual reality escape room.

We will certainly be back to Room Escape Ottawa whether to try out another escape room or archery games.  I still don’t think anyone from their staff could escape our house as quickly as we do on a Monday morning!    

New Books at the Ottawa Public Library

The Ottawa Public Library is back to share some of their new fall books for children with us. This month’s post is by Ann-Marie Miller, Supervising Librarian, Children’s Dept., Ruth E. Dickinson Library.

A Home in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown

A Home in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown; illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

This is a new release from the much-loved author of Goodnight Moon and many more well-known picture books.  The text begins and ends with a memorable rhyme and the story takes us through a day in the cozy barn while the winter wind rattles outside.  Pinkney’s illustrations here are scrumptious, as always.

Take Your Turn and Time to Share by Nancy Parent; illustrated by Luigi Aimé

In large format suitable for the 3-5 year old crowd, the classic stories by Rev. Awdry are adapted in a new series: Thomas & Friends Really Useful Stories.  The stories focus on those gentle life lessons which all children must learn. 

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How Do Dinosaurs Learn to Read? By Jane Yolen

How Do Dinosaurs Learn to Read? By Jane Yolen; illustrated by Mark Teague

This is the new entry in the entertaining How Do Dinosaurs… series.  With big, bold, mischievous dinosaurs romping through every page and rhyming text  printed  in big well-spaced fonts, this one is sure to engage.  The end pieces provide tips for parents on teaching the alphabet and encouraging reading. 

The Bunny Band

The Bunny Band by Bill Richardson; illustrated by Roxanna Bikadoroff

A bunny caught looting badger’s garden promises to help the garden grow if he is released.  The bunny returns nightly after that with his bunny band to serenade the garden.  Magically, the harvest is grand and all share in the abundance.  A wonderful fable, well-told in rhyming text 

Where is robin

Where is Robin? by Maggie Testa; illustrated by Patrick Spaziante

This is an early reader that is sure to appeal to even the most reluctant beginner.  The story of Robin’s disappearance is told in only 100 words making it an excellent choice for starting your child’s lifelong reading adventures. 


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Unlimited Squirrels in I Lost My Tooth by Mo Willems

The creator of Elephant & Piggie, now gives us Unlimited Squirrels.  In I Lost My Tooth! , Zoom Squirrel has lost a front tooth! The Squirrels leap into action when they discover the missing tooth is a baby tooth! The book features a funny, furry adventure, bonus jokes, quirky quizzes and nutty facts. Great for the grade 1 crowd.

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Meet Yasmin by Saadia Faruqi; illustrated by Hatem Aly

This is the first in a series of early readers featuring Yasmin Ahmad. Yasmin is a spirited second-grader who’s always on the lookout for those “aha” moments to help her solve life’s little problems. A creative thinker and curious explorer, Yasmin and her multi-generational Pakistani American family will delight and inspire readers. 

Bear country: Bearly a Misadventure by Doreen Cronin

Bear country: Bearly a Misadventure by Doreen Cronin; illustrated by Stephen Gilpin

The chicken squad is hungry but the caretaker who feeds them is missing and there is a bear in the neighbourhood.  Doreen Cronin provides another amusing adventure for second graders.  The large fonts and many illustrations make this an easily accessible first novel. 

Magic School bus rides Again: Sink or Swim by Judy Katschke

Magic School bus rides Again: Sink or Swim by Judy Katschke

The Magic School Bus Rides Again with new chapter books for the grade 2-3 crowd to explore.  Here science facts are wrapped up in just the right amount of adventure to keep those new readers engaged.  In Sink or Swim Ms. Frizzle takes the bus under the sea and the class is sent off in their own mini-subs to explore. Will there be sharks? 

Babymouse Tales from the Locker: Lights, Camera, Middle School!

Babymouse Tales from the Locker: Lights, Camera, Middle School! By Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Babymouse is back in a new series, Tales from the Locker.   The new series is in the very popular illustrated novel format.  This gives you a chance to transition your graphic novel reader to a more text-rich format while still providing plenty of visual appeal.   In this first story, Babymouse joins the middle school film club with hopes of directing a masterpiece.

Jack and the Geniuses at the Bottom of the World
by Bill Nye and Gregory Mone; illustrated by Nicholas Iluzada

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Jack and the Geniuses is a new series from Bill Nye, yes - the Science Guy.  In At the Bottom of the World, Jack and the geniuses, who are two foster children living with Jack’s family, take off to Antarctica with their neighbour, Dr. Hank, for a science competition.  When an old colleague of Dr. Hank’s goes missing on the ice, the intrigue and adventure begins.  Bill Nye makes sure that all scientific facts are accurate and there is more information about the Antarctic at the end of the book.

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Inkling by Kenneth Oppel

This is the story of an ink blot that leaps off the page. The Rylance family is stuck. Dad's got writer's block. Ethan is troubled by a school project and Sarah pines for a puppy. One night the ink from Mr. Rylance’s drawings runs together--and then leaps off the page! This small burst of creativity is about to change everything. Kenneth Oppel is the much acclaimed author of Firewing, Sunwing and Silverwing as well as many other prizewinning novels.  Suitable for grade 4 or 5 students.

Chase: Get Ready to Run and Escape: Don’t Stop Running  by Linwood Barclay

Once your child has read Chase, they will be asking for Escape just to find out what happens to Chipper and Jeff.  Chipper is a dog that has been implanted with a computer and Jeff is the orphan son of the scientists working on the project.  Both are being chased by The Institute for the secrets they know.  Jeff and Chipper both know they will never be safe if they are captured.  Linwood Barclay is a well-known author of adult adventure.  Suitable for grade 6 to 8 students.

Chase Get Ready to Run and Escape Don’t Stop Running  by Linwood Barclay .jpg

Back to School: French immersion reading recommendations

The Ottawa Public Library is back to share some of their favourite French immersion books for children with us. This month’s post is by Catherine Malboeuf Children Librarian, at the Ottawa Public Library.

Back to School: French immersion reading recommendations

September is back to school month, and for many kids across Ottawa this means the start or continuation of French immersion classes. To help ease everyone ease in, here are some great French books that would make a good read for immersion students of all ages. 

Histoires de lire, Éditions FonFon

This attractive collection is geared toward kids just learning to read and will also be perfect for early immersion students. Written by veterans’ children authors from Quebec, each book contains about 140 words, short sentences and a repetitive narrative. The stories are funny and well written, and complemented by Jimmy Beaulieu’s mischievous illustrations.  

J’aime lire (periodical)
Mes premiers j’aime lire (periodical)

The magazine « J’aime lire », geared toward children 7-10 years old has been around since 1977. Each issue of the magazine contains a short novel divided in chapters, with  comics,, games, and more. For younger kids, “Mes premiers j’aime lire” offers “a novel to read like a big kid”, plus  games, comics and a code to download an audio version of the story as a read-along.

Mini-Syros Soon

This collection from French editor Syros offers an introduction to science fiction for kids ages 8 and up. Although they are not necessarily geared toward immersion students, these short novels (around 100 pages, in a small format) offer interesting stories from some well-liked French science fiction and fantasy writers and  can be used well into into high school. 

Oser lire : Scène de crime/cœur de perdrix/5 cadavres

A new collection from publisher Bayard Canada, « Oser lire » offers two versions of the same story in one book. The first is short, light on description, and goes straight  to the heart of the plot, but leaves much unsaid. The second is longer, offering more detail to understand the intricacies of the story. This collection is geared toward reluctant teen readers, with the intent that the shorter version of the story will make them curious enough to read the longer one. They can also be quite useful for older immersion students, including teens and adults.

A day trip to Prehistoric World

KITC would like to welcome Naomi Bianca to the blog. Naomi Bianca is the proud mom of Jax who is 3 1/2 and his little brother Hudson who is 17 months. The below post was originally posted on Naomi's blog. Check it out here. 


Just a 90 minute drive from Ottawa, Prehistoric World is a little gem in the country located near Morrisburg, Ontario. A magical land of full size dinosaur replicas throughout a beautiful 1 km wooded nature walk. A true site to be seen, these huge dinosaur replicas are all handmade by the owners who live right on site. Originally built as a hobby, it was turned into a tourist attraction for thousands of visitors to enjoy every year. We couldn’t wait to see it!

Jax and Hudson were super excited to see all the dinosaurs and when we got there, they literally couldn’t contain their excitement as they ran with their friends from dinosaur to dinosaur. Each and every one had a sign to explain what species it was and give more information.

Hudson was too funny, pointing and roaring throughout the trails.  Check out the video on my instagram (@naomibianca613).

It was another beautiful summer day, and we were all sweating as we ran around exploring the site. No problem if you miss anything because you can walk the path as many times as you like! The kids (and parents) were all so excited, it’s almost like Jurassic Park! Once you complete the nature walk, there is a good-sized sand pit where you can dig for fossils… how perfect for the kids to explore… and we spent a good hour there playing and digging around.

Prehistoric World Ontario

On our way out we spoke to one of the owners and the kids were fascinated when they found out that he was the man that actually built all those replicas with his own hands. You just had to have seen their faces! I HIGHLY recommend visiting this little attraction. We will probably go back once more this summer but it’s for sure a once a year thing at the very least.

They are open from late May to Labour Day in September, from 10 am to 4 pm and accept last visitors at 3:15 pm. Very important to note is that they only accept cash. The entrance fee is $10 for adults and $4 for children, free for kids 4 and under. It’s kind of nice that they are old school, hence cash and no website. But if you want to learn more, here is a link to their online brochure:

http://www.westislandkids.com/pdf/Prehistoric-World-Brochure.pdf

Handy tips: Bring bug spray since you’re walking through a wooded area and there are most definitely mosquitoes. If you happen to forget, no problem, they have some to purchase. There is also no food to purchase on site but lots of picnic tables for you to bring your own lunches. About 5 minutes down the road, there is an ice cream stand that sells food.

Have you guys ever heard of Prehistoric World? Funny to note, I went when I was a kid and not since, but so fun to live it all over again with my kids! Any questions about anything let me know. Also, anything you want me to cover or visit, let me know! We’re always on the hunt for our next adventure!

Monkey Rock Music: Kids Music Doesn’t Have to Drive Parents Crazy

John King is the director of Monkey Rock Music, which offers music classes for young children (ages 0-4 years) and their adult caregivers in Ottawa and Montreal.

Let’s be honest - listening to kids’ music is the worst

Sharing music with your child from a young age will result in a lifelong interest in being a part of music. That interest will hopefully lead to wanting to take dance lessons, singing lessons, piano lessons, or at least the high score in Guitar Hero. But most kids’ music is saccharine, canned drum beat, earworm garbage.

Fortunately, sharing music with your child does not have to mean children’s music by any stretch of the imagination. Share the music YOU love. Dance around your kitchen with your baby to Drake, crank Cardi B in the car, start a toddler mosh pit to Nirvana. Your child will take your love of music from you and run with it. This, above all else, will make music meaningful for your children.

This is why Monkey Rock Music always includes a rock and roll sing along in their classes, something parents know and can get into - Wonderwall, Shake It Off, Brown Eyed Girl, etc. Our album might be the only hard rock kids’ music on the market. Amps at 11.

Monkey Rock Music Kids Music Program

Engaging in music

The key to engaging anyone in music is to make it easy to be a part of - sick beats make you want to dance; catchy riffs make you want to sing along. One of the biggest mistakes music teachers make is to try and ‘teach’ music at too young an age. For toddlers, the only goal should be to show them they can be a part of music - and it can be fun.

Music for young children should be 100% participatory, with simple, repetitive actions - ideally with interactions between parent and child. Programs should balance introducing new songs to keep things interesting, with repeating past songs to help young singers learn the music and lyrics. We even provide families with videos of our staff performing the songs, so kids can practice at home while still maintaining that connection to their weekly rock star hero.

Monkey Rock Music Lesson

The point: You need to have fun

Don’t do any music program with your kids that you don’t enjoy. You set the tone in all things for your child from the moment they’re born, and if you’re not having fun, they can tell. The best parent/child programs get this, and will focus as much on your enjoyment as the babies’ - being a parent of a young child is HARD, and any classes you take should make it easier.

Monkey Rock Music Guitar