Butterfly Show!

By Shawna I almost hate to let you in on this little secret, because I’m afraid of it getting too crowded, but as a faithful Kids in the Capital contributor, I cannot keep it to myself: Carleton University’s Department of Biology hosts a free butterfly show in their greenhouses every fall, and it’s on right now, right now, right now!

That’s right, every day from September 29 to October 8 inclusive, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, you can bring your kids to see a fluttering, flittering, flapping display of gorgeousness free, free, free!  (Donations, however, are appreciated of course).  It’s also a great chance to grab some pictures of exotic, colourful butterflies that aren’t native to the area.  Or some pictures of your kids.  Or, best of all, some pictures of your kids interacting with exotic, colourful butterflies!  I went last year with the kids, and it was a big hit.  Sage in particular was utterly thrilled when a butterfly landed on her.

Here are the details!

You’re welcome.  Now don’t tell too many people…

Shawna is mom to 4-year-old Sage and 2-year-old Harris.  She has  been writing online since 2003, and her latest project is a fledgling photography blog.  She plans on visiting the butterfly show twice this year: once with her kids and camera, and once with just her camera.

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Summer of Awesome - Altitude Gym Clip and Climb

The Altitude Gym is a rock climbing gym over in Hull for serious rock climbers. Athletes in training can get out the chalk and the fancy sock-shoes and climb a variety of walls that are intensely challenging. Not too kid friendly.

But! They have a totally awesome, one-of-a-kind, kick-ass back room: the Clip and Climb.

Altitude Gym Clip and Climb

A mecca for little climbers everywhere. WHOO WHEE!

It's several funky, offbeat, fun climbing walls and structures meant for amateurs and kids. You climb just in comfy clothes and regular running shoes.

Altitude Gym Clip and Climb

You climb, and you climb, and you climb.

Altitude Gym Clip and Climb

There's easier walls and more challenging walls. Walls with lights, walls with doorknobs, walls that are made of velcro that you climb with velcro gloves.

There's glow-in-the-dark walls, lego-themed walls, and timed walls for racing purposes. There's also a series of pillars you can climb and those ones near the top are HIGH, OMG. Also wobbly. O. M. G.

Altitude Gym Clip and Climb towers of terror

The Clip and Climb is meant for families and it's especially great for a single parent with several kids in tow. That's because the kids are able to clip themselves in, and once they are checked by a staff member, they're free to climb. They don't need anyone to hold the rope ("belay" is what the cool kids call it) at the bottom.

Why is that? Each wall in the Clip and Climb room has a giant retractable pulley thing at the top that holds the rope you are clipped to. As you climb, the rope coils up and stays taut, giving you a bit of support.

When you hit the top, you just let go, and the pulley thing provides counter weight, lowering you slowly to the ground. You tether the climbing rope to the ground, unclip your harness, and you're free to run off to the next wall and climb away.

Now, some caveats: my kids were quite tentative at first, and even though they were allowed to climb on their own, they felt much more comfortable with a parent at hand. The Clip and Climb is not cheap, and Sir Monkeypants and I did not do a whole lot of climbing on our own, so if you are coming in with a lot of kids, it's probably worth it not to climb yourself, and just act in a supervisory/supportive role. On the other hand, it did encourage our kids a lot to see us climbing ourselves, so that was worth it for inspiration purposes.

Another warning: the pulley system will definitely catch you when you let go...but, there's a couple of feet of free fall before it kicks in. You really have to find the heart to trust the system and it can be a little scary the first time. The free fall thing actually did not seem to bother my kids at all, they were soon climbing then swinging away from the wall in a carefree manner. I personally, however, found it a bit alarming and every time I hit the top of a wall, I had to spend a minute or two talking myself into letting go. I am a HUGE WUSS. It was good for me, though.

Last tip: there are two structures in the Clip and Climb that cost extra. One is a giant slide - they pull you up on a hand hold to the top, then you let go and literally fall straight down before sliding out the curved end. It's SUPER FUN - all three of our kids LOVED it - but a tad expensive at an extra $4 per slide. Then there's the Leap of Faith - a tower with a crane where you can climb up to a platform, then leap out into space and try to catch the swing on the end of the crane. Again, it costs an extra $4 to try this stunt and it's a real test of your mettle - we saw a few smaller kids back out.

Altitude Gym Clip and Climb Giant Slide This is the giant slide - I was too gutless to try it, but the kids loved it.

Now, let's talk details. First, you need to reserve a spot for the Clip and Climb; your reservation covers 15 minutes of safety instruction and then an hour of climbing. You can usually call one or two days in advance and have your choice of time slots; I should mention that the Clip and Climb is only open on weekday evenings from 5 to 9, and on weekends from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Your one hour of climbing isn't cheap; the cost is $13.95 per person (regardless of age), and don't forget the giant slide and Leap of Faith are extra. All in all, we spent close to $100 for our family-of-five Clip and Climb experience, so it's not the kind of thing we'll do every week; still, it was a unique experience, we loved the fact that our kids got to do something new and something physical. Since it's indoors, it's a great place to take antsy kids on a rainy or snowy day to blow off some steam, and it's great if you've got a wide range of ages, since older kids and teens can have the run of the place on their own while you're helping any youngsters.

Children under 5 require a one-to-one parent supervisor; however, I'm not sure I'd go much younger than five for this activity. Precocious four-year-olds who really love to climb and have a lot of energy would have a good time; younger than that will likely find the walls too tough and maybe too scary.

Our own five-year-old is a tentative little girl, and she required quite a bit of coaxing just to go three or four feet up in the air on a handful of walls. She's still quite anxious to go back, though. OF COURSE.

Overall, we all give the Clip and Climb a Summer of Awesome Must Do.

Hey look, that's me! Hey, that's me!

Lynn is mom to three tombliboos and blogs over at Turtlehead.

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Ottawa area attractions: Mont Cascades

by Amanda Our 2 year old has a new phrase these days. “Water slides. Go! Water Slides?”  We are frequent visitors to Mont Cascade. So frequent that we have purchased season passes again this year and our son recognizes when we get close because he says “Water Slides!!” Mont Cascade is located in Cantley, Quebec, approximately 25 minutes from downtown Ottawa.

Ticket prices are only $15 for adults or $35+tax for a season’s pass (2 and under are free!) making it is a very affordable option for some fun in the sun. The water being heated this year adds to even more enjoyment.  At $35 for a seasons pass we can justify only going for a few hours at a time. Sometimes with smaller children this is needed for those who still nap or just need to head home for some quiet time.

The kids area consists of a 3 smaller slides that end up in the beach like wading pool and 2 larger slides that bring you down to the bottom in their own little area. Check it out here. Our 2 year old loves going down the 3 smaller slides on his own but with the longer walk up to the top for the 2 larger slides, called Lemonade and Tangerine for their colours, he has an adult ride with him.

We have discovered that depending on what kind of bathing suit bottoms you wear will greatly impact your speed, or lack thereof.  My husband has his “water slide shorts” that offer speed! Even going on the slides with our son they catch some great speed and shoot out the bottom.  If you are wearing bathing suit bottoms that are made out of cotton you may find yourself pushing yourself down the slide more.  When we visit during the more busy times one adult generally stays at the top of the slide and the other at the bottom to do the catching as they come into the water. Our son does the small walk back up to the top by himself with us watching him. This is done more for the fact that he doesn’t understand the concept of not letting the older kids jump in front of him and to wait until the child before him is completely out of the way before it is his turn!  There is a height restriction in the childrens area but adult or older children are able to slide with the little ones at all times.

With many daycamps frequenting the park this summer I suggest trying to go on a Monday or Tuesday. Generally these are days where daycamps do not take day trips off site.  Plan to be there right for opening, 10am, or head later in the day around 3 when many people are leaving for the day to get home for dinner.  That being said we did meet some friends there on a Friday early afternoon and despite the parking lot being full the kid area was not overwhelming.

Bring a cooler and pack your lunch and snacks. There is a canteen available and a Subway restaurant. Prices can start to add up quickly. Just remember not to bring any glass bottles or containers, as they are not permitted.  If you get there early grab a picnic table with some shade and an umbrella.  There are also a few cabana’s to rent if you are going with a group but I do find them very awkwardly placed over by a smaller pool and not close to the children’s area and away from many of the main slides. This could be a draw for those with older children so the parents have a quiet place to sit but those with young children would not have easy access from the kids area to their cabana’s.

For older children there is “Splash Forest” with a few small tube slides, spraying water and buckets of fun.  We have only frequented a few of the “big slides” and have found that the line ups can get quite big in the mid day.  Expect a line up to wait for your tube or mat if they are required for your slide of choice and then a long walk up to the top of the slide. However, it would be a great way to tire out the kids for the drive home!

The lifeguard in me also feels the need to gently remind you to keep your eyes on your child at all times and to stay close.  From what I have seen over the past two years frequenting this water park is that the lifeguards are not always as vigilant as they could be.   Because they are a private waterpark and not a City pool they do not have to follow the same standards and the lifeguard to bather ratio is quite large.  We have noticed there are a few lifeguards who are fantastic with the children, encouraging high fives as they walk back up to the slides, gently reminding children to walk instead of run and responding to questions or needs of park users. Next time you want someplace to cool off why not head to Cascades? We’ll see you there!

Amanda is a mom to a 2 year old boy and 4 month old baby girl.  When she is not out having fun with the kids you can find her getting her yoga on at www.littlelotusyoga.ca

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Question of the month: Summer Activities

All this warm, warm weather we've been having has us thinking about summer activities. There will undoubtedly be a steady stream of BBQs, birthday parties, playdates and other typical activities to keep us all busy through the summer months. What are some of your family's summer traditions?

Do you have any special plans for the summer? Camp? Museums? Events?

Camp Wannahaha!!!

Despite the weather of late, I have been looking into summer activities for the kids.  there is no shortage to choose from, either through the City of Ottawa or local churches and organizations.  This year we chose two from the City and one called "Camp Awesome" through one of our local churches.  I hear it's "awesome"  hee hee. This is all well and good, but summer can be LOOOONG for a mom of two demanding active children.  Last year I came up with a way to make summer both fun for my lovelies as well as easy for me to get things done without being "ON" 24/7.  Summer camp at home!! We did as all good camps would do, we planned out each weeks activities from crafts to excursions.  We came up with a fancy camp name "Wannahaha"  Then we made a flag and a sign which we hung outside the house.  We made up camp rules and chores for cleaning up.  Then we made a camp shirt.  That took care of the first week.  There were also door labels to put up in the house.  The kids thought is was awesome.

I made three jars with labels.  Each morning the children had to pick an activity from each jar.  They were labeled "Chore", "Craft/Science" and "Extra".  The kids had to do the chore first and then we could go onto the other activities.  The "Extra" category is a mixture of things that everyone wanted to do. ie: trip (great for touring the city), cooking, outdoor activity (sprinkler), movie etc...  If the children chose to do more than one chore, they could earn an extra activity a week - although this year I will make a BONUS jar instead. It will have big things in it.  For example - go to a movie, the beach or a big cost item.

For the most part, I tried to keep the activities close to home (or AT home more like) and on the lowest cost side as possible.  it may sound like a daunting task, but in fact we had way more activities to do than we had time.  Here is the list we used last here.

I have also since found new sites that have low or no cost activities at home than can be used.  Like this one.

I almost think this is more fun than going to a camp for younger children since it is tailor made for your individual children and they get to program all their own activities.

With summer fast approaching, what are some ways you're planning to keep your children entertained?