Little Ray’s Reptiles : An educational outing

One of the things on my daughter’s summer bucket list was to visit the baby sloth at Little Ray’s Reptiles. So, I took a morning off work to go with her and my mom. Apparently my mom and my daughter went last summer as well, but this was my first time visiting.

We arrived at Little Ray's Reptiles just as the doors opened at 10 a.m. There was a summer camp in session and a school bus pulling in with another camp dropping in for a field trip. Needless to say - there were a lot of people in Little Ray's that day.

Little Ray's Reptiles

The building was VERY warm. An employee came by to apologize and let us know the air conditioner had broken; however my mom noted that it was just as hot in the building the last time they were there, last summer.

The adorable baby sloth (three months old) yawning

The adorable baby sloth (three months old) yawning

I was a bit surprised that Little Ray’s would be fully air conditioned because I remembered when the Canadian Museum of Nature had their reptiles exhibit, with similar reptiles native to tropical climates, that they had to ensure the exhibit was separated and the doors closed to keep the exhibit warm and humid at all times. When I looked it up on their website, they mentions an air ventilation system that should keep the building at 20 degrees. Regardless, if you go, be prepared for a warm, tropical-like temperature inside the building.

What kinds of animals are there?

Little Ray’s has many (over 150) different species of animals, frogs, snakes and reptiles to look at and learn about. My daughter stopped to try and find each one in their habitat (like a “Where’s Waldo?) as well as read about them. She was very impressed by the size of the resident alligator.

Little Ray's Reptiles

Little Ray’s Reptiles also has an outdoor area with a few rabbits, a lynx and bald eagles. Apparently there is also a kangaroo, but he wasn’t outside when we were there. It took us about an hour to tour the building, as my daughter likes to stop and learn everything about the animals. There were many toddlers and preschoolers there at the same time as us who enjoyed looking at the ferrets and frogs as well as the rabbits.

A lynx at Little Ray's Reptiles

The Live Show

The main attraction is the live shows in which staff takes out various creatures and share facts about them with the audience. When we were there my daughter got to hold or touch and learn about a tarantula, a scorpion and a cobra snake. They also brought out the baby sloth, but because we had a rambunctious, busy audience there was no touching the sloth, just looking and photos, which was enough to satisfy my daughter’s love of sloths.

While my daughter had a great time during the show, I would have liked to have seen the pace of the show move a little faster. I love that the handler takes the time to give everyone who wants to hold an animal a chance to, but I wish there had been a second person who continued to teach. This would help little ones - who often have a shorter attention span - from getting restless and wanting to walk about when they have been requested to sit down. The group we had also would not stop talking, which made it hard to hear what the handler was saying. Some ground rules regarding talking, etc. prior to the show would have made it more enjoyable.

Holding a tarantula at Little Ray's Reptiles

What you need to know

  • You can expect to spend about an hour and a half at Little Ray’s Reptiles – more if you plan on staying for the live show, which really make it worth your money.
  • Little Ray’s Reptiles is a privately funded zoo and a member of the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums and has more than one location.
  • General admission is $12.50 for adults, $10 for seniors, and ages two and under are free. There is also a family rate of $48 for 4 people.
  • There is free parking in the parking lot in front of the building, as well as along Bank Street. The day we were there was quite busy, so they had a staff member directing traffic and making sure those parked along Bank Street were safe.
  • Summer Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 7 days a week (from May long weekend to the September long weekend)
  • There is a gift shop
  • There is no place to eat there, but there are restaurants located nearby in Findlay Creek (including a McDonald’s.)

My daughter loves learning about animals - if your have a child with a passion for animals then they will probably love Little Ray's Reptiles too!

Activities to Celebrate National Flag of Canada Day

On February 15, 1965 the Canadian flag, as we know it, was raised for the first time on Parliament Hill, and in 1996, February 15th was declared National Flag of Canada Day.

If you’re looking to get your kids involved in National Flag Day here are six fun and educational Canadian flag-inspired activities:

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Dress in Red and White

This is a great way to teach younger children what the colours of our national flag are and is an easy activity for everyone in the family to participate in. You can even break out any old Canada Day shirts you may have.

Create a Trivia Game

The Government of Canada website is a great source for flag facts. Write down some trivia about the flag on index cards and create a game out of it.  Depending on the age of your children you can make the questions as simple as what are the colours of the flag, to what year was the flag created, to what do the colours on the flag symbolize.

Host a "Fold a Flag" Contest

Although I still cannot properly fold a flag, there are many demonstrations online and this could be a fun challenge for kids of all ages. From how many folds does it take to properly fold a flag to who can fold it properly the fastest, this activity is a great way to learn the proper protocol for handling and folding the national flag.

Make Your Own Flag

From construction paper to felt, there are many ways to create your very own Canadian Flag. And you only need red and white! Break out the paints, pompoms, clay or Play Doh–whatever red and white crafty materials you may have on hand.

Bake an Edible Flag Cake

Bake a vanilla cake in a rectangular-shaped baking pan. Cover completely with white icing, and then add strawberries or raspberries for the sides and maple leaf. This dessert is super fun to create together and a delicious way to teach the shapes that make up the the Canadian flag.

Count Flags

Take a walk or drive around the city or neighbourhood. While out and about, ask the children to count as many Canadian flags as they can—you can find them on schools, businesses, city, provincial and national buildings, etc. The kids will be excited when they spot the Canadian flag and you can even use this opportunity to teach them about provincial flags and other national flags.

Do you celebrate National Flag day with any educational and fun activities? If you have one to add to our list, leave a comment and let us know.

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?

Give the Gift of Experience: The Canadian Museum of Nature

The Canadian Museum of Nature is known at our house as "the castle." Every time we pass the stately structure on the 417, my girls catch a glimpse and cry "the castle, the castle!"

Although it does not house any royals (of the human kind,) the Museum of Nature takes children on a wild ride through natural history, with world-class galleries featuring dinosaurs, mammals, birds, dazzling minerals and rocks, live invertebrates, and a water gallery with a 19 metre-long blue whale skeleton!

The 100 year-old museum building is 4 stories high, and children love to climb the stairs or ride the giant elevators. Each floor has permanent exhibits, as well as special exhibits that are open for months at a time (one of our favourites was Bugs Outside the Box, and we're excited to check out Reptiles).

In the fossil gallery, travel back in time to meet the dinosaurs

The water gallery holds a skeleton of the largest animal in the world, and is a family favourite.

The beautiful dioramas in the Mammal Gallery create life-like scenes of animals' habitats.

The Bird Gallery is my daughters' favourite

That's where they get to play "veterinarian" to all the sick birds. While they're distracted, I get to sneak over and read a bit about some of my favourite birds.

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Bug-loving kids will love Nature Live, where they can view live insects and participate in scientific activities.

And that's just the beginning! There is the Stone Wall Gallery, Earth Gallery, Canadian Wildlife Photography of the Year, and 3D movies. There are also the super popular adult programs, such as Nature Nocturne (with themes such as Chinese New Year or Halloween), and special brunches on New Year's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day and Easter.

So if you are looking for an experiential gift for your children (or pssst, grandparents! This makes a great gift for you and the kiddos too!) look no further than a yearly membership to "the castle."

And don't forget!! You have TWO MORE DAYS to enter our Holiday Giveaway, where you get a chance to win a yearly membership to the Canadian Museum of Nature!

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!

Sounds & Lights Show on Parliament Hill

I remember the first time I attended the Sound and Lights show on Parliament Hill - it was late August, and a beautiful night (not too hot, not too cold!). I left my toddler at home as the 9:30 p.m. start time seemed late for an 18 month old. I was totally blown away by the show - it is truly a feast for all the senses. Several years later we attended the winter sound and lights show with our two girls, and they still rave about the "magical castle."

This summer you are once again in for a treat with Northern Lights - the latest instalment of the Sound and Lights show. I plan on checking it out in early September (when the start time is 9 p.m.) but we polled our readers to get some feedback on attending the show - either solo or with kids! Also, check out last year's review by Kids in the Capital contributor Chris!

How to get there

I encourage you to use OC Transpo and make it a big adventure, but I know that's not always convenient. If you plan on driving, know that you can't park ON Parliament Hill itself, so you will need to find parking on a side street or a paid lot, and walk up. One reader said she parked at the World Exchange Plaza (45 O'Connor St.) - parking is free there on weekends!

When to go

Show times are 10 p.m. in July, 9:30 p.m. in August, and 9 p.m. in early September. Weekends are probably a bit busier than weeknights, although remember that Parliament Hill is big - lots of space to find a seat!

What to bring

"We brought a wagon for the little kids, just in case, and some drinks and snacks in a cooler. We also brought a couple of picnic blankets to sit on." (Carly H.) You can also bring chairs or blankets, but remember you need to lug them from your car onto the hill. Most people sit right on the ground on blankets!

What to expect

"I thought the show itself was really good. There was a fair bit of history in it for a 30 minute show, but it was quick in that the scenes changed constantly and the moments of history were brief but informative. The lights themselves were incredible - so beautiful and precise." (Carly H.)

"My kids... learned a lot throughout, and asked questions.The show was beautiful, more than they had imagined it could be. My son was so proud to be Canadian when it was done." (Karen D.)

If you have children with sensitivities to noise and lights, it may be too much for them to take in. Our reader Carly noted that the sound was loud and echo-y, and the lights were bright at times, so some children may find it hard to handle.

Who would enjoy this show?

The Sound & Lights show is great for all ages, although you know your child(ren) best! Several readers commented that their younger ones were fidgety after about 20 minutes, but that children 10 and older really got a lot out of the history and heritage. Super young kids and babies may just fall asleep, or be dazzled by the lights long enough for you to enjoy the show.

And it also makes a great date night! Consider getting childcare, indulging in a nice meal downtown, and then walking over to the show to end your night. Very romantic to be sitting on a blanket with your loved one!

Have you been to the sound and lights show? What did you think?