Language Development Lab and Childhood Cognition and Learning Lab

Whoa, that's a big title....don't let it scare you! These two laboratories at the University of Ottawa are welcoming and fun environments, dedicated to the study of language learning and child psychology. I had a chance to check out the labs with both of my daughters - the Language Development Lab accepts infants ages 4 months to 24 months, and the Childhood Cognition and Learning Laboratory studies 3 to 5 year-olds. As a researcher myself, I believe strongly in participating in research whenever I can!


So how does it work?

We arrived at the University of Ottawa on a weekday morning, and were greeted in the parking lot by Caitlin, the lab coordinator. Parking is covered, so you don't need to worry about that! Caitlin showed us upstairs to the waiting room, where my girls dove right in to play with the toys they keep stocked for busy little people.

I got a tour of both labs (in the same building), and met with Dr. Cristina Atance and Dr. Christopher Fennell who head up the laboratories. Then we got started!

My 5 year-old was led into a separate room, and I was able to watch her on a monitor with headphones. She was unsure at first, so we spent a couple of minutes showing her that Mommy would be watching her on TV. The activities consisted of a series of games that studied her understanding of self continuity (basically, does she get that there is a "future self" and is she able to save for that self?) You'll find yourself giggling at your child's responses!

In the language lab, I was able to do the experiment with my youngest daughter by holding her on my lap. It only took about 6 minutes (maximum is 10), and objects were presented on a big screen with words playing on a speaker. A video records your child's reactions to the pictures and words.

The director let me know that they're really interested in studying infants who are learning language in bilingual homes. So if you speak two languages with your child, please consider signing up top participate!

What do I get out of it?

How about a big pat on the back for contributing to our knowledge of child psychology and language development? :)

Seriously, though, you'll have a chance to observe your child's understanding of some really important concepts, and an opportunity to participate in future research.

What do my kids get out of it?

It's a really fun outing! They get to play with the toys in the waiting room, and my girls really enjoyed doing the studies. They were also gifted some great swag: a colouring book with crayons, special colouring paper, a t-shirt and a book.

The entire morning took about 2 hours (1.5 hours in the lab, and then tack on extra time for wrangling your kids!) If you're only bringing one child, this would obviously be shorter. They also loved stopping at the coffee shop downstairs to get an almond croissant and take a peek at a living wall that's been constructed in the new part of the building:

photo (1)

To find out more, visit the labs' websites:

Childhood Cognition and Learning Laboratory

Language Development Laboratory

Also give them a follow on Facebook, here and here!

Science FunFest “Rocks”! (…and minerals, and maps, and insects…)

The Canada Science and Technology Museum is closed for repairs, but your kids can still get their science “fix” at Science Funfest. Held annually as part of National Science and Technology Week in October, this FREE event features more than 70 interactive activities for your budding young Einstein, with hands on experiences in energy, forestry, mining, geology, mapping, astronomy and agriculture.

Science FunFest

As Funfest veterans, my kids (ages 4 and 8) recommend:

• Bringing in your favourite rocks and fossils for identification • Mining chocolate chip “ore” from a cookie “mine” (HINT: choose your tools wisely and clean up the mine site for biggest profits!) • Creating colourful spin art using solar energy • Seeing glaciers shrink over time in satellite pictures from space • Getting up close and personal with snakes, bugs, and spiders - (parents may be interested in meeting the Emerald Ash Borer; the invasive insect ravaging Ottawa’s ash trees) • Jumping up and down to make an earthquake that can be measured by a seismometer • Spinning the wheel for a skill-testing question in the food safety quiz (…how safe is the food in your lunch box by noon?) • Trying your hand – and eyes! – at land surveying and star-gazing • Starting a chemical reaction to make custom-coloured slime to take home

There are plenty of free giveaways at Science Funfest, so make sure you pick up a complementary “swag bag”. Balloons, face-painting, and Natural Resources Canada’s huge green mascot “NRCat” make it fun for even the littlest ones!

Science Funfest takes place rain or shine on Sunday, October 19 from 11am-4pm at Natural Resources Canada’s Booth Street Complex (on the corner of Booth Street and Carling Avenue across from Dow’s Lake). Dress warmly as some activities are outdoors in tents. Parking is free, and there are a few concessions on site.

Have you been to Science Funfest? What’s your favourite activity? Let me know in the comments.

Wendy is a freelance copywriter in Ottawa and a totally unbiased employee of the Earth Sciences Sector at Natural Resources Canada. 

Butterfly Show at Carleton University

Butterflies Until this Monday, you can see butterflies at Carleton University. This is a free event though they do accept donations.

Live butterfly show sign

Over 1000 butterflies, representing more than 40 species, are flown in for this event. The butterflies are let loose in the greenhouse and flutter around for everyone to see

.Butterfly show dates

What I recommend:

  • don't bring your stroller or park it just past the entrance in the designated area;
  • wear bright clothing so the butterflies will be attracted to you;
  • don't wear a sweater (it's hot in there!);
  • be prepared for a line.

And don't forget to snap a picture in front of the enormous butterfly in the hall before you leave!

Website for more info: Annual Butterfly Show at Carleton University.

Thanksgiving Weekend Round-Up

Phew, what a week! The blog's been quiet while I was away at the Birth and Beyond Conference in London, Ontario. I'm back now, and dealing with all the email and work that's piled up in my absence :) One thing on my mind this past week was Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving has always been a special time for my family. As a child, I spent the weekend up in Haliburton, Ontario at my grandfather's cottage. Cold nights by the fire, marshmallows, canoe trips on the lake, and going for wheelbarrow rides (which ended by getting dumped in a pile of leaves at the bottom of the drive).


We're far from Haliburton here in Ottawa, but we share the vibrant colours and crisp sunny days with cottage country. I'm motivated to plan fun activities for my family to do while I've got three days off. Here's a list of the ideas I've gathered:

1) For families with older kids - a Haunted Village at Cumberland Heritage Village Museum.

2) A hike in Gatineau Park to see the Fall colours.

3) If you're up for a full day, you could pair your hike with a trip to a Quebec cranberry farm.

4) A walk along the Mer Bleu Bog Trail.

5) If you have a babysitter or are kid-free, you may want to get that last round of golf in!

6) The Ottawa Farmer's Market is still open and it's hopping! I'm planning on heading there on Sunday to stock up on veggies for soups and stews.

7) A country fair is perfect for this time of year! The Pontiac Country Fair is taking place in Gatineau Park this weekend.

8) Pumpkin patch! Saunders Farm, Millers Farm, and Cannamore Orchard are a few popular places.

9) Thanksgiving Weekend activities at the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum.

10) Help others in need by making a donation to your local food bank!

What do you do Thanksgiving weekend?



Community Cup 2014

It's hard to make connections in our community. We're busy people, with jobs (sometimes multiple jobs!), kids, pets, housework and financial worries. But building a community to support yourself and your family is a marvelous way to make friends and find others to lean on when times get tough. I've built my own community here in Ottawa in many different ways, and participating in groups and events has been instrumental in helping me find other like-minded parents to hang out with.

That's why I was excited to hear about the Community Cup, taking place this Saturday (June 28th) at Brewer Park.

The Community Cup is a not for profit, multicultural initiative that integrates volunteerism and sports. Initiated and hosted by the Catholic Centre for Immigrants in 2005, this volunteer driven, major event in Ottawa, is primarily a fun and engaging way to help newcomers and non-newcomers connect in a barrier free way that celebrates diversity and welcoming communities. The Community Cup is now an annual community festival, featuring soccer, multicultural dance and music, international food, a citizenship ceremony, events for the kids, and more.

In this day-long event, there will be:

  • A 64 team co-ed recreational 7-on-7 Soccer Tournament with 4 divisions starting at age 7 and up.
  • A Community Tent hosting 25 Ottawa-area non-profit and community service organizations
  • Live Entertainment and Music with hints of Multicultural flavours
  • Live streaming of the FIFA World Cup matches
  • A Kids Zone for ages 14 and under providing non-stop activities, games, crafts, entertainment and a youth soccer challenge.
  • Soccer Skills Challenge hosted by the Ottawa Fury and CKCU. Come meet the players!
  • An Interactive Demonstration Sports area presented by various sports clubs/groups to learn and try out new sports and find out how to get involved. All abilities welcomed.
  • A Canadian Citizenship Ceremony (1pm to 2pm). Witness and welcome newcomers to our great country.
  • Experience delicious Local Food provided local vendors and food trucks.

And bonus? You can pop over to the Ottawa Farmer's Market for some fresh fruit and veg!!

Check out the website for more details, and comment below if you end up attending! Have fun!!