Pool games just got sweeter with the Watermelon Ball JR!

We have had a great summer to spend time in a pool. It’s been hot and mainly dry, which means my daughter and many of her neighbourhood friends are water logged from spending so much time in the pool! We love having fun and safe water toys for the kids (and adults) to play with in the pool. Some of our favourite pool toys include:

1) Smart Noodles® Link’Ems™

Smart Noodles® Link’Ems™ are just like real pool noodles but you can link them together to create mini rafts and fun objects. If your kids love to use their imaginations, they will create tons of fun things for these smart noodles – we have seen mini cars on ours, as well as frogs using them as safety rafts until they get close enough to the side of the pool to escape. And, of course, they are handy to hold onto to just float around the pool.

Smart Noodles Link’Ems

2) Inflatable Flamingo

Who doesn’t love a good old fashioned floaty toy - but made more fun? Admittedly, this inflatable flamingo belongs to me. I bought it three summers ago at Tag Along Toys and unlike some of the discount store brands, this one is made from durable plastic that has survived many kids twisting its neck as they try to climb on. My pool time always includes my flamingo!

Inflatable Flamingo

3) Pool Toypedos

Toypedos move super fast underwater and then they sink. It’s the perfect "sinky toy" for advanced simmers who love the challenge of swimming fast to catch things before they sink. You can get them at many local toy stores.

Toypedo

4) Original Watermelon Ball®

This ball looks, feels and behaves like a watermelon in water. Really! We tested it last summer and a real watermelon sinks to the bottom and then floats back up to the surface just like this ball (I don't recommend trying it at home). The Watermelon Ball® is simply safer, cleaner and a lot more fun to play with. You simply fill the ball with water and you’re ready to go! We love playing underwater pass with the ball (it travels super fast under water). It is heavy though, so we have a “no throwing it up in the air” policy to avoid it accidentally coming down on someone’s head.

Watermelon ball

5) Watermelon Ball JR®

Warning - you and everyone who plays with this will love this pool toy!!! Just like the original, but easier for little hands to hold, the Watermelon Ball JR® is new this year and is smaller and lighter. It is also much more colourful, making it easier to spot in the water. My daughter and her friends love dribbling, kicking, passing and intercepting the ball under water. This is by far one of her new favourite toys to play with in the pool. It is also very durable, which comes in handy when someone accidentally tosses it out of the pool and onto concrete.

Similar to the original, you simply fill the ball with water and it’s ready for play! As noted on their website, you can pass the Watermelon Ball Jr.® “up to 10 feet underwater and even bounce the Watermelon Ball JR off pool walls for trick passes and winning moves!” It’s a water toy the entire family will love year after year (recommended age is 6+)!

We love playing underwater soccer with the Watermelon Ball JR® - we section off "goal nets" using whatever is near by that can easily sit on the concrete around the pool and the opponent has to try and get the ball past the goalie. Our rules include - no above water passes and we make an "invisible line" that the person with the ball cannot pass. It's a lot of fun for swimmers of all ages and abilities. It's a lot of fun (and a good workout too). ;)

Watermelon Ball JR
Playing with the Watermelon Ball JR

 


For more information on the Watermelon Ball JR, including where to get one, visit the PlaSmart website, follow PlaSmart toys on Twitter or like their Facebook Page!

Disclaimer: PlaSmart provided us with a Watermelon Ball JR® for the purpose of review, but the countless hours of fun are all ours!

Dancing to Blue Skies by Bobs & LoLo

When my daughter was younger her favourite musicians were the Canadian children’s performers Bobs & LoLo. The Vancouver-based duo caught the “ear” of my daughter when she was a toddler. Their music video for “Raindrop Pop” came on Treehouse and from that moment on, my daughter was hooked.

Bobs_and_LoLo-promo_white-040.jpg

Music by Bobs & Lolo is easy on adult-ears and upbeat and fun for young ears. When no one is looking, my now 9-year old daughter can still be found singing and dancing along to Bobs & LoLo with her four- and two-year old cousins. My daughter thinks it's neat that she has passed on her love of Bobs & LoLo to her cousins. My four-year old niece loves dancing to their newest album and when asked her favourite song, she eagerly replied, "Blue Skies!" She likes it because it's a long song and has lots of blue skies in it! ;)

Bobs & Lolo’s catchy songs often carry a life lesson or environmental message (I still catch myself singing “R-E-C-Y-C-L-E – Recycle, Recycle with me” when I ask my daughter to put something in the recycle bins.

Bobs & Lolo’s newest album, Blue Skies, is filled with familiar beats their fans have come to adore, this time celebrating “sunshine and laughter, individuality and creative expression, big feelings and bigger hearts, special days, special places and the special little people that fill our lives with love, hope and happiness.”

BlueSkies_COVER_ARTWORK.jpg

It comes as no surprise that Blue Skies is nominated for a 2018 Juno Children’s Album of the Year Award. Their music is memorable, fun and is a perfect introduction into music for young kids.

Robin Hardy and Lorraine Pond are the creative geniuses behind Bobs & Lolo. They met as Girl Guides and have been making music together since they were teenagers. I recently asked them a few “behind the scenes” questions and here is what they had to say:

1)   How did you get started together?

We've been Bobs & LoLo far longer than we have been songwriters, performers or business partners. We actually first met as kids at a Girl Guides camp on Vancouver Island. Years later we ended up at the same high-school where "Bobs" and "LoLo" were our childhood nicknames nearly a decade prior to becoming our stage names.  

2)   What made you decide to create children’s music together?

The whole project evolved quite organically from our friendship and a mutual interest in music and working with kids. While we first met singing around a campfire, we later studied classical piano with the same music teacher and also sang in a choir and self-directed a cappella quartet. Before we started our musical adventures as Bobs & LoLo, Robyn (Bobs) was teaching elementary school and Lorraine (LoLo) was working in environmental education for the non-profit sector. Songwriting and live performing started out as a fun side project to create support materials for our separate jobs working with children. We never dreamed those early days would lead to running our own business, touring or national television!

3)   What are the inspirations behind your newest songs?

Blue Skies is probably our most personal writing project to date. We've always written songs inspired by our own childhoods and a shared love of the outdoors, nature and active living. Blue Skies definitely champions these values but we also found ourselves writing more personal pieces for our own kids, families and all of the longtime fans who have become friends over the years. This album has such a mix of influences and inspiration from family love songs like "We Love You" and "Sunshine" to upbeat kiddie-mosh tunes like "Jump With Me", "Ran To The Park" and "We Can Go Anywhere" to our signature blend of folky jazz in "Whatever the Weather" and "Scrub Scrub". We're really proud of all 14 songs on this album and hope the music and messages resonate with families everywhere.     

4)   Both of you have families of your own now – how do you find a balance between family and your music?

Probably the biggest bonus of our industry (next to the obvious fun factor!) is that for the most part, we can include our families. Whether on tour or simply as creative inspiration, we try to bring the crew of minis along. That said, with 5 little ones between the two of us all aged 6 and under, life on the road has gotten a little more complex in recent years, but we still try to make it a family adventure whenever possible. Away from the stage, we find balance by spending time with our families in nature, weaving music and laughter into our daily lives and celebrating both parenting wins and struggles with our close network. 

5)   What does a typical weekday look like for you?

Like all working parents, each day is pretty much a feat of multi-tasking craziness. A typical day starts with an ambitious list of what we want to get through which often includes a number of work-related items, play dates, extracurricular kiddie activities, school drop-offs and pick-ups, meal planning and subsequent grocery runs, quick walks for the dog, park play, meetings in the minivan and conference calls in the bathroom so we don't wake the babies, of course. We can also usually count on some sibling mediation, preschooler negotiations and a ridiculous amount of potty time too. The combo of parenting and professional life definitely has it’s share of challenges, but we feel fortunate to be able to do both. Some days hold big wins for work and family and some days are better left in the fog of motherhood and caffeine. 

6)   What is one thing fans would be surprised to know about each of you?

The first thing that came to mind is that Bobs' favourite food is bacon and LoLo is a vegetarian. We're not always matchy-match!   

7)   What is one piece of advice you have for kids looking to get started in the music/performance industry? 

Success in the arts definitely takes a certain level of business acumen. This is something we learned along our journey. If there are areas that you lack expertise, ask questions, do the research, forge your path and never stop believing in yourself and the value of your creative. There have been many times in our careers where we pondered whether the personal investment was worth the return. As an artist or entrepreneur, you will always put in more hours than you might at any other job. Usually for less pay. The pay off will come. Seeing something you love and believe in thrive and grow is so incredibly rewarding. When you find something you are truly passionate about, the drive to see it succeed provides the fuel and stamina to get through the long hours and hard work. Let your light shine. It is a gift to the world and yourself! 

If you have never heard of Bobs & Lolo before, be sure to check them out online. You will be singing along to their music in no time!  When my daughter was younger, I had a hard copy of their albums in my car and a digital copy on my iPod. They are quickly loved by young ears and I have no doubt that their music will become iconic, much like other beloved Canadian children’s performers before them.

If you’re interested in getting your own copy of Bobs & LoLo’s newest album, Blue Skies, you can stream it on Spotify or purchase it on iTunes or GooglePlay.

WIN AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF BLUE SKIES

Or you can enter to win an autographed copy of Blue Skies as well as an autographed postcard!

**Contest is now closed. Congratulations to Lisa B.! **

Disclosure: KITC was provided with a copy of "Blue Skies" for the purpose of this review however, as always, all thoughts and opinions are our own.

Paying Fun Forward with Saunders Farm

Located in Ottawa’s far west end, Saunders Farm is best known for their memorable Haunting Season activities and challengingly fun Summer Mazes. Their mission is to create a space that provides fun, food, and memories for everyone, which they accomplish through opening their doors to tens of thousands of guests each year.

Saunders Farm is my family’s summer and fall go-to destination. Between April and September is Mazes Season (Saunders Farm has the world’s largest collection of mazes and labyrinths). During this time Saunders also hosts memorable birthday parties, Farm Camps, Farm Dinners, and corporate and team building events. 

In October, Saunders Farm turns to Haunting Season and Fright Fest - daytime is family-friendly and evening is... not for the faint at heart and is perfect for those who love a good scare!

Things to do

During summer and fall, kids (and adults) can be found playing on Saunders Farm's unique play structures and tree houses, sliding down the big witch mountain slide, jumping on the jumbo jumpers, getting lost in the numerous mazes or racing the pedal carts. It's outdoor fun for the entire family! Oh, and they sell delicious homemade fudge onsite that is irresistible!

Give the gift of Saunders Farm this Christmas

Annual Pass Sale (and Paying it Forward)

This year, Saunders Farm is once again offering their Play it Forward annual pass sale. For each 2018 annual pass sold in the month of December, they will donate a pass to less fortunate families in our community. Annual passes are on sale for $49 + HST!

What's included with an Annual Pass?

  • Unlimited Access to their Summer Mazes Season, Haunting Season, and FrightFest.
  • Bring-a-Friend Pass to be used anytime. Must be accompanied by Pass holder.
  • Exclusive invitations to special events held on the Farm throughout the year. You're part of a ridiculously amazing club... woohoo!
  • 10% off Birthday Party packages 
  • $20 off 1 Summer Farm Camp registration
  • 10% off purchases in the Farm Shop

Holiday gift cards

Saunders Farm also offers $25 gift cards (available for only $20) and $50 gift cards (available for only $40). Saunders Farm gift cards make the perfect gift for friends or family, stocking stuffer, or teacher gift. Gift cards will are available year-round, but the sale price is only for the month of December!

WIN an Annual Pass!

We love everything Saunders Farm has to offer local families, which is why we're giving away an ANNUAL PASS! The winner will receive an Annual Pass that is good for the Summer and Haunting Season, and the good news is that you don't have to wait until spring to learn more about Saunders Farm. You can follow their fun all year round online:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/saundersfarmfun/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SaundersFarmFans
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/saundersfarm  

To enter

To enter the giveaway visit our Facebook Page and on the thread pinned to the top of our page tell us one activity mentioned in this post that you’d like to do at Saunders Farm! Hurry though - the giveaway ends Friday, December 8th at midnight!

Holiday Activities for Kids in Ottawa

The holidays can be the perfect opportunity to spend quality time together as a family, but once the festivities of Christmas and Boxing Day are over, children can get a little stir crazy! With that in mind, here is a list of holiday activities for kids in Ottawa that will keep your kids busy, entertained and make for some incredible memories too! 

At the end of the post you will find a giveaway for THREE of the activities listed below (keep reading to find out which ones!).

1) Visit a Museum

museum-of-history-christmas

Ottawa has many great museums, and my kids really enjoy the Children's Museum at the Canadian Museum of History. I'll never forget a frigid day spent there last year, checking out the latest exhibits

2) Check out Christmas Lights Across Canada on Parliament Hill

Last year almost 20,000 people gathered on Parliament Hill to take in the sights and sounds of Christmas Lights Across Canada multimedia show (playing until Christmas Day).  In addition to the show, don't forget all the lights! Go for a walk in Confederation Park to see thousands of holiday lights on display. The lights are on display until January 7, 2017. 

3) Ride a Rollercoaster at Funhaven

Did you know Funhaven now has a rollercoaster? In fact, it's the ONLY rollercoaster in Ottawa! The Crazy 8 rollercoaster was custom-manufactured in Italy this past summer specifically for Funhaven. It was featured at the International Amusement and Attractions Expo in Orlando this November, before being shipped to Ottawa for installation. The rollercoaster is in addition to the other fun offerings of Funhaven including laser tag, bumper cars, a laser maze, mini-bowling, a jungle gym with soft air cannons, and a climbing wall.

 4) Visit Gatineau Playground Park

Grab the kids and head over to Gatineau for some indoor play from December 27th to 30th from 10am to 5pm at the Complexe Branchaud-Briere in Gatineau. This fun indoor playground features inflatables for kids under 5 as well as electric karts. There is also Teen Zone with extreme race inflatables, Just Dance consoles, and seven life size games. There is also a sports zone where kids can try new sports and different activities depending on the day.

5) Spend an evening at Alight the Night

Alight the night

Bundle up and get ready for a walk through a beautifully lit holiday-themed Upper Canada Village. This year Alight the Night features a Mistletoe Maze, a snow block-style maze made up of over 300 giant, white-wrapped bales of reindeer hay. There is also the a ferris wheel, which provides a unique view of the village below. As always, there is also old-fashioned horse-drawn carriage rides.

6) Take them to see The Blizzard Of Oz

After two successful runs of Freezing - The Musical, Ottawa Musicals is thrilled to bring The Blizzard of Oz to the Gladstone Theatre for ONE WEEK ONLY - January 3rd to 8th. This marks their 3rd annual family musical in the style of a panto. The heroine, Dottie, gets lost in a snowstorm and ends up in a strange land. Along the way she meets Bob Cat, Al Loy and The Faircrow. Lost in the big city, they get help from Glenda the Good while they try to stop Wanda the Wicked from taking over the Ruby Slipper Cafe. A twisted story full of music, dance, larger than life characters, jokes for both the young and old, local Ottawa references and more. You will be over the rainbow while you laugh, tap your toes and boo the bad guy in this year’s all new family musical. The Blizzard of Oz runs for ONE WEEK ONLY. Once tickets are gone, they’re gone. 

7) Go Swimming

Fun and affordable, a family swim can be just what you need to soothe tired muscles after a day of skiing. Or maybe it's been too cold for skiing, and your kids need to get their sillies out! Check out the City of Ottawa's public swim schedule - our kids LOVE the wave pools.

8) Go Bowling

Do you have fond memories of bowling as a kid? I promise parents, it's just as fun as it used to be ;) It's a great way to get the kids out of the house for a couple of hours, especially if temperatures are frigid. Check out Orleans Bowling or Merivale Bowling Centre!

9) Snowshoe or Cross-country ski in Gatineau Park

The snow this year is perfect for winter sports! Gatineau Park has one of the largest networks of trails in North America and has over 60 kilometres of snowshoe trails, varying in difficulty (rated from easy to difficult). Many trails lead to unique historic buildings and scenic views. Dress warmly, pack some hot chocolate and plan for an exciting day of outdoor play.

10) Go Skating

Our recent frigid temperatures mean many outdoor community rinks are open, including the Sens Rink of Dreams located outside of Ottawa City Hall on Laurier Avenue. For a complete list of outdoor rinks and their conditions, visit the city's interactive online map.

Giveaway

For one lucky family, we are giving away:

A Friends and Family Combo to Funhaven (including 1 game of laser tag and $5 bonus FunCards per person, and access to the climbing wall, jungle gym, and bumper cars);

AND a family 4-pack of tickets to see The Blizzard of Oz;

AND a family pass (5 people, max 2 adults) to the Canadian Museum of History!!

Use the Rafflecopter below to enter - you can submit as many or as few entries as are allowed! Contest closes at noon on Friday December 23rd. You must be a resident of Ottawa, and available to use the tickets to The Blizzard of Oz, January 3rd to the 8th. Good luck!!

Give the Gift of Learning to Read with Ooka Island

Some kids seem to pick up reading at an early age and are motivated to practice and improve. Other kids? Well, let's just say the process is not so smooth. Reading can be a hard skill to master, and those active little people in your life may be resisting your attempts to get them reading on a regular basis.

This holiday season, you may be tempted to run out to the bookstore and pick a number of books you think your child would like to read. While this sometimes works, there are other (easier!) ways to get their noses stuck in a book.

Ooka Island is an adaptive, game-based learn-to-read program that develops strong early reading skills through 24 levels of educational activities and 85 ebooks. Share your love of reading with a budding bookworm in your life by gifting them a subscription to learn-to-read on Ooka Island

Wait, what? Reading can become a game?

Yes! And a fun game at that! Lara's daughter begs to play this "computer game," and has given us her review of the program:

I like it because I can get a package of little books to read and you can play games. I also like the previews free play because as a reward for reading the books, you get to choose what you play. I also loves the alphabet song and the characters. Two more things I like: when you are rewarded with stickers and money to buy stuff like dogs, shorts, and bears.

Ooka Island makes you a promise: send your child to Ooka Island for 30 minutes, three times a week and they’ll graduate a confident reader in ONE YEAR. That's pretty impressive! Ooka also sends parents weekly progress reports that provide a detailed picture of where their child is excelling or having difficulty in reading. This actionable information empowers parents to maximize their child’s learning and to have meaningful and productive dialogue with teachers. 

How can I give the gift of reading?

Parents, grandparents, and family members will love that instead of buying another toy for the special child in their life, that they can give them the gift of reading with a ticket to Ooka Island, where children become confident, fluent readers.  If you have an emerging reader in your family, click here to give them the gift of reading this Christmas!

Giving the gift of reading is easier than ever. Ooka Island now allows family and loved ones to purchase a gift subscription (3 month or 1 year program) that can be redeemed at anytime by the recipient.  Every ticket to Ooka Island can be printed or sent to the recipient by email. With three gift subscriptions to choose from, Ooka Island is the perfect holiday gift for early readers!


Starter Subscription ($34.99 CDN / $29.99 USD)

Gift a 3 month starter subscription to Ooka Island and jumpstart them into reading. An excellent choice for any child!

1-Year Program ($99.99 CDN / $89.99 USD)

Gift a 12 month subscription and watch them become a confident reader! Recommended to complete program.

1-Year Program + Books* ($149.99 CDN & USD)

Gift little learners their first paperback library with a colorful collection of 11 Ooka books bundled with the 1-Year Program

*Shipping is free.
 

So if you are looking for a gift that will encourage a child's love reading a subscription to Ooka Island is perfect!

And don't forget to enter our Holiday Giveaway, where you get a chance to win a one year subscription to Ooka Island and a set of books!

This post is part of our 2016 Holiday Campaign, with support from Tag Along ToysThe Canadian Museum of NatureSaunders Farm and Ooka Island. Make sure to enter our giveaway!