Family Workshops at Nepean Visual Arts Centre

I had the pleasure of checking out a family workshp last month with the Nepean Visual Arts Centre (located at the Nepean Sportsplex.) The workshop was called "Trim Your Tree," and no, this didn't involve saws ;) This two hour workshop led us through two holiday ornaments for decorating the house and tree.

Family workshops are offered for one fee per family (maximum 4 participants,) but I had brought my 7 year-old alone. There is no age range, but your children should be interested in sitting for 2 hours and able to concentrate on the project. A 3 or 4 year-old may not have that patience.

We started with the feature craft - hand-painted Reindeer! We were supplied with the pre-cut/glued reindeer, and a huge table full of paints and decorations were at our disposable. There were four different reindeer samples to look at, but we were encouraged to be creative! Steps were broken down into manageable tasks, and my 7 year-old had no problem at all following along.

After the reindeer were painted, they got their faces and were adorned with bells, ribbons, stickers and stamps. We then took a break, and the workshop facilitator came in with delicious cookies and hot chocolate with marshmallows - YUM!

We finished the afternoon off with an ornament for the tree. My daughter was sad it was over, and said "when can we come back?" I loved the one-on-one quality time with her, and getting creative without having all the mess in my house was a bonus! 

Looking ahead, NVAC will be offering "Parent & Me" pottery classes in 2017. I'm excited to sign us up. If you're looking for last minute stocking stuffers, a gift certificate to NVAC or NCAC (Nepean Creative Arts Centre) would be make the perfect gift. Or sign your child up for a workshop or class, and make them a cute gift card that they can open on Christmas morning!

How do you like to get creative with your kids?

Celebrating Father's Day in Ottawa

Growing up, my Mum would always say “ask Dad” whenever we presented her with a challenging question. Dad was the bastion of knowledge and facts. He was also the dispenser of punishments, whilst Mum was the hugger, the advice giver. Perhaps because of their differing styles, they made excellent parents and I often try to emulate their example in my own parenting. I still ask Dad tricky questions from time to time, and I always go to Mum for emotional support and advice.

Although my husband and I try not to promote particular gender stereotypes, we do find that we parent our son in very different ways. My favourite activities to do with him are reading together, snuggling, chatting and going for walks. My husband’s top picks are taking him to the park, playing with cars, playing soccer and giving him a bath-complete with toy boats capsizing and lots of splashing!

And in that way Mothering and Fathering are very different schools of parenting, at least in our house.

Of course it’s quite sexist to suggest that all mothers are nurturing and all fathers are fun, but even if they are not traditionally different, parenting styles between the sexes do differ.
Something that brings me great joy is to spy covertly on my husband when he is playing with our son. I find their father/son interactions are so radically different from the way I play with him, and I am able to see my husband in an adorable role of doting father. Some things that they do together sans Mama, include:

•    Laying on the floor, playing cars, complete with engine noises
•    Gentle teasing- “Oh no-you don’t like going to the park, do you???”
•    Chasing-around and around the living room
•    Tickling and wrestling
•    Making up silly songs (many include the word bum)
•    Wearing empty toy boxes on their heads and calling each other “box heads”
•    Watching classic Transformers episodes

In all these ways and more, I appreciate the balance, enthusiasm and affection my husband brings to our child’s life and activities.

So this Father’s day I am going to let Dad sleep in, while I take our toddler to the basement and try and take a leaf from Daddy’s playbook, get on the floor, make car noises and wrestle until we can’t catch our breath.

And then later we’ll treat Dad, by doing one of these awesome Father’s day activities right here in Ottawa and the surrounding area:

Cumberland Heritage Village Museum

2940 Old Montreal Rd, Cumberland: Take a look at all the tools and trades. Participate in a carpentry activity, and watch blacksmith, woodworking, and sawmill demonstrations.

The Aviation Museum

11 Aviation Pkwy, Ottawa - Get an up close look at all types of planes and helicopters.

Billings Estate National Historic Site

2100 Cabot St, Ottawa - Father’s Day Antique Car Show, cars, BBQ, and live music.

Pinhey's Point Historic Site

270 Pinhey Point Rd, Dunrobin - Learn about traditional crafts such as blacksmithing, woodworking, and more. 

Fiona Tapp is a freelance writer, Educator and Mum to one. Check out her blog and portfolio, and find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Parc Omega

When you have three kids spanning three age groups finding a family activity that does not inspire groans from at least one moody member is a huge coup...and we have found one.

Parc Omega

Located about an hour from Ottawa, and an hour and a half drive from my neck of the woods, Long Sault, Parc Omega is a little bit of wilderness in our back yard, minutes from quaint downtown Montebello. It is a terrific stop if you are on your way to Mont Tremblant.

The parc is comprised of 1500 acres, offering a 10 kilometer driving path through meadows, lakes, forests and rocky hills harboring a virtual pot pourri of exciting wildlife.

And I mean exciting. Especially if you happen to be in the possession of carrots.

Why? Because the wildlife that calls Parc Omega home loves their carrots.

What kind of wildlife? Wapiti, black bears, buffalo, red deer, white tail deer, caribou, beavers, the fallow, arctic wolves and timberwolves. And the boars. Oh, the little piggy boars!

With the exception of the wolves and the black bears, the collection of animals at Parc Omega roam free and plentiful, jauntily approaching your vehicles for food.

And this is where the multigenerational family bonding begins...all my children were initially equally terrified of the huge noses probing their way into the truck, sniffing out the food they knew must be in there somewhere.

The tour at Parc Omega starts at the front gate, with imposing statues that got the kids excited right away ( okay, maybe not the teenager).

The park is open year round, offering different adventures for every season, and there is seasonal pricing.  The hours vary as well, so check before heading out.

The first stop is at the "House of Park", a log cabin housing a snack bar  ( the teenager got excited about this...fries...yum ), a gift shop ( all the kids dug this;)) and a lower area where nature exhibitions are held. When we visited in February, there was a spectacular nature photography exhibition, with huge prints taken within the park. There were also arctic wolf pups playing and nestling up against the windows of the building, in a fenced in area where the parc often places it's most vulnerable members - babies and recovering animals. These little guys were a huge hit with children and adults alike.

The most important thing to note about this stop are the carrots.

Carrots make the drive through the park more fun and they are available by the bag at the gift shop cash. You can bring your own ( carrots are the preferred food for the animals as they are sweet and safe for them ), but the park carrots are nice and long making feeding very easy for your children. There are rules around who to feed and not feed, depending on the season, and all this is explained to you upon entering the park. We were not allowed to feed the buffalos...and one look at them lumbering up to and rubbing against the truck explained why. They are huge.

Once on the road, you will be greeted almost immediately by large caribou who anticipate your carrot sharing. The drive through the park is slow going, with most cars making the most of the feeding opportunities. You do have to be mindful of fingers and staying inside the vehicle, but in 10 years of visits we have never had a bitten finger.

You are able to tune your radio to FM 88.1 in English or FM 90.1 in French to listen to a good narrative about the park, it's history, philosophy and the animals found within it's boundary...which sometimes includes wildlife from outside the boundaries...

There are three walking paths available to visitors, and often you are able to visit with and feed deer along these protected trails. We were lucky enough to catch the opening weekend of the "cabane a sucre", and enjoyed taffy on a stick and a short walk in the brisk sunny weather. This is a new feature at the park and it was busy and popular the day we were there. The maple trees are tapped right there.

So, with all these possibilities, what did my kids enjoy the most? The teen enjoyed the fries, the tween loved feeding the deer and caribou ( after her initial "squeeeeeeee" moment ) and the baby loved pointing out all the boars. Of which there are many. Too many, lol, and not very bright...I was worried about hitting them a few times.

I loved the flying wild turkeys and my husband was thrilled with the fact that the cranky caribou did not leave a permanent hoof print on the truck when he kicked the door when cut off from his carrot fix.

All of us were thrilled to see the black bears out of hibernation THAT DAY, enjoying the sun. That was really exciting as they were very close to the fence.

The whole tour took us an hour and a bit, and you are allowed to go around as many times as you wish. Many people, in the summer, bring picnics and enjoy lakeside dining on the patio at the  "House of the Park". There are statues for the kids to clamber over and inquire about and lots of place for them to run during and after the car ride. There are also bird of prey shows in July and August.

A side note...if you are hungry after leaving Parc Omega, there is a great greasy spoon/ casse croute in Montebello called "La Belle Bedaine". The poutine was too die for. Seriously worth the stop:).

Angela is mom to a teen, tween and toddler, wife of an intrepid businessman, master of two big dogs and she loves her camera-baby very much. She is a displaced montrealer living in Long Sault, Ontario. She blogs at

From the Dock

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Winter activities in Ottawa: Feeding the Birds at Mer Bleue

While Misty is dreaming up ways to make things feel a bit more winter-y I'm all for embracing the warmer temperatures and doing some of the outdoor things I usually avoid because I don't like being cold. 

This weekend I thought we would enjoy the lovely weather and get outside and we headed to Mer Bleue Boardwalk to see if we could find some chickadees to feed. Mer Bleue is a few minutes down Anderson Road from the 417 so it's a short drive from a lot of the city.

What to feed the birds

I'm no great expert on this but we stopped at bulk barn and for $2 or so of the wild bird seed I got enough seed that we could visit at least 5 more times without running out. Someone else who recently went to feed the birds said the birds seemed to love black sunflower seeds even more (and you can get that at bird shops). I stopped for coffee for myself on the way and asked for three small empty cups for the kids so they could each have something to carry a reasonable amount of seeds in on their own.

Where to find the birds

I've only done this a couple of times but here's what I've found to be key (please leave a comment if you have other/better ideas :).... listen for the chickadee dee dee noises... they tend to be close to treed areas, and then put some seeds in your flat hand and wait to see if they show up.

It's not very scientific, we found the birds in quite a few different places around the boardwalk, including in the tree right next to where we parked in the main parking lot. In fact, the most photos I got that I love were taken within 10 feet of my van!

I learned something pretty quickly with my three though. While the birds will land in a completely flat hand that isn't moving, the sensation of having a bird land on your hand is kind of strange and the kids didn't love it so much. My daughter dealt with it best. The boys each tried it once and then wouldn't try it again.

So what do you do instead?

Birdseed on the head! The birds happily landed on all three kids' hats within a few minutes of me putting some seed there.

Birdseed on hat works well. Beware the six year olds who will take off their hat and dump the seed directly into their hair.

Birdseed on hat works well. Beware the six year olds who will take off their hat and dump the seed directly into their hair.

Enjoy the Boardwalk

The Mer Bleue Boardwalk is a nice 1.2 km walk that is completely flat. The three kids (9, 6 and 6) made it the whole way without anyone trying to convince me to carry them or having to be left behind (at least not for long). It's beautiful, there's a self-directed tour if you're interested and if you're lucky your kids will pose for a few pictures for you.

If you're more of a winter person than I am, you can go and check this out once there's snow on the ground too!

There are so many great activities in Ottawa, leave us a comment and let us know where you like to go out and enjoy nature with the kids.


Petrie Island: Summer Fun

Living down the road from Petrie Island is wonderful - this east end beach is a great place to stay cool in the summer, and it also has walking trails and a Nature Interpretive Centre. Our location means that we can easily bike to the islands from our home in Orleans.

There are many things to do at Petrie Island:

  • Check out the nature and interpretation centre - there are aquariums with reptiles, and samples of native plant species. For history and geography buffs, there is a lot of information on the history of the islands and how they were formed.
  • Summer Children's Programs and camps: with hikes, crafts and other activities, kids will really enjoy getting to know the area. We missed it this year, but hope to sign the girls up next year!
  • Hiking: 7km of trails with lookout points along the way
  • Swimming: be sure to check the City of Ottawa's water quality reports, as Petrie is notorious for being closed :( C'mon river clean-up!!!
  • Fishing: not something we've tried, although I remember attending an ice fishing derby one year at Oziles marina
  • Paddling, kayaking: you can launch non-motorized boats at the free boat launch, and Oziles also has these boats for rent.

There's always a very good chance you'll spot a turtle at Petrie...especially if you check out the interpretive centre!

We've packed snacks and lunches, and used one of the many picnic tables in the area. And of course, the young ones enjoy time on the play structures.

Check out the Friends of Petrie Island for information on getting there. Parking is not free (boo), but biking is! I highly recommend you bike to Petrie if you live in Orleans (or further if you're up for it!) Our 5 year-old made it the whole way, with only a couple of stops.

Have you been to Petrie Island? What's your favourite part?