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. 

Junior Mall Walkers

by Dawn My kids NEED to get out of the house, everyday. Days spent stuck at home because of poor weather outside are torture, not only for them but also for me. We could bundle up and dress appropriately of course, but sometimes you only get 10 or 15 minutes before the kids are whining to go back inside.

Head to the mall! Lots of room to run around. (Leave your wallet at home if you're worried about being tempted. Just remember to bring enough for a coffee.) Go early. Most of the malls are open to the public before the stores open for Mall Walker clubs. It's also an ideal place for eager little walkers who like to touch everything. Let them burn off some energy running down the halls when they can't get into the shops.

Our favourite is Carlingwood Mall. It's almost all one level (the Dollarama and Bargain Shop are downstairs) so few worries about tumbles down stairs and the stores don't open until 9:30 which gives us a little extra hallway time. My youngest (a toddler) and I head over after dropping her older sister off at school. She gets 30-45 minutes to run before the shops open, then is tired enough to sit quietly in her stroller munching on a Timbit while I run my errands. It's a popular mall with seniors too, so if you little one likes attention as mine does, (s)he'll get plenty there!

And it's not bad for Mom's self-esteem either to be told how cute your kids are. :)

Dawn is mom to two daughters, 5 year old Dolly-girl and 18 month old Booboo. She tries very hard to remember which one is which.

The Ottawa Public Library: The Ruth E. Dickinson Branch

by Shawna For those of you that use it, this will be a “no duh” kind of post, but for those of you who haven’t discovered it yet, your library is waiting for you! The Ottawa Public Library is a fantastic resource for parents, no matter what age your kids are!

Almost every Thursday I take my 4 year old daughter to Evening Story Time at our local branch, Ruth E. Dickinson (and pretty soon my son will be old enough to push back his bedtime to allow him to go too).  There, starting at 6:30, they read story books to groups of youngsters - half of which are usually in their adorable pyjamas - for half an hour, and when that's done they do a craft.

The library has regular events for all ages, including Babytime for the youngest set, on up to Homework Club for older kids.  Sprinkled into this mix are special and themed events, as well as some regular features such as conversation groups for various different languages.

Even if there's nothing scheduled, the library is a great place to go on a rainy or cold day to get out of the house and pick through the bins and shelves of brightly-coloured books for some free entertainment for you and your kids. They even have DVDs, and you can reserve most material.

I often like to log on from the comfort of my home computer and browse through the kid movies and books (and maybe some grown-up ones too) and add the ones that pique my interest to my "hold" list.  When it comes in I get an email letting me know that I've got a week to pick it up (which I do when we go to Storytime).  How easy is that?  I can even do this to secure passes to the museums of Nature, Science and Technology, and Civilization, though the waiting list for them is hugely long, so you have to be patient.  And as soon as I've used one of the passes and returned it, I go right back onto that list.

The best part of all this?  It's free!  Free!  Free!  I am always amazed to arrive at Storytime and not find every kid in Barrhaven there!

Shawna is mom to 4 year old Sage and almost-2-year-old Harris.  She has  been writing online since 2003, and her latest project is a fledgling photography blog.  Like many parents, she has a computer stuffed with thousands of pics of her kids.