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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New Food Challenge

by Misty

A friend of mine recently snapped a picture of this book at the grocery store the other day and tagged me on Facebook. Two days later, a different friend sent me this handy chart.

Hmmm, could my friends be trying to tell me something? It’s no secret that my oldest daughter is Picky with a capital “P.” We tried baby-led weaning with my youngest and I suspected that’s why she turned out to be much more adventurous at dinner time. But I’ve been told by many other parents that personality often plays a big part in children’s fussiness at the dinner table.

My five year-old is certainly one determined little girl. Meltdowns occur daily over things like itchy tags, socks with a “bump,” pants that are too baggy, and hair that gets in her face. When it comes to food, she doesn’t like things mixing on her plate, food touching, weird textures, and specks or flakes (i.e. herbs and spices). But most of all, she doesn’t like anyone telling her what she should/should not eat. She definitely thrives with control.

So I’m excited to start a new food challenge with her this year. Using a combination of the chart above and the book, we’ll be trying as many new foods as we can manage. She’ll have a hand in designing a little chart, choosing new foods she would like to try (pomegranates and blood oranges are at the top of my list of new suggestions!), and helping to prepare them. I can’t wait to see how this goes!

Do you have a picky eater? How do you manage mealtimes with your family?

Pinterest Round-Up: Keep boredom at bay over the holidays!

I'm one of the lucky ones who will have time off in between Christmas and New Year's. And the way the holidays fall this year, my manager has given us an extra day so that we head back to work the same time the kids head back to school - Monday January 5th. So that's exactly 11 days we have at home as a family. I imagined us getting outside a lot - sledding, hiking and maybe even trying out some skiing. But alas, the weather man is predicting a very rainy Christmas in these parts. No snow, and possibly ice once temperatures drop again.

So I'm turning to Pinterest in an effort to plan some fun activities that will amuse my girls all week. We have no family visiting - no meals we have to cook (other than for our family of four), no outings scheduled and no "awww, Mom, do we hafta go?"

So here are several great Pinterest pins, appropriate for younger children:

Make your own play dough!

Get little bodies moving indoors

Indoor physical activities

Make a kazoo!

DIY Moon Sand

Tell me, what do you have planned for the holidays?

Anytime is #GameTime with Mattel

Game on! Mattel challenged Kids in the Capital to surprise friends and family with a game time moment. They provided me with some new games and a Game On buzzer and encouraged me to play. I am so excited about this promotion - promoting games and playing is perfect for me and my family. My kids are 5 and 3.5 and games provide the opportunity not just to play, but to learn.

The day I received the games I eagerly opened the box, thinking of all the fun we could have. Could I invite friends over to play a game of Apples to Apples? What about bringing Uno with me to my parent's house? Unfortunately our whole house has been sick since we've had the games, so my game time moments haven't been very creative.  But you really should check out what Mattel did in a Canadian mall - playing Pictionary and surprising shoppers with prizes! (Check it out on YouTube)

Over here, us sickies have been playing our new games pretty much non stop. The games from Mattel are all rated for 7+ years but I can assure you that my kids were able to play along with most of them.

Bounce Off

Our absolute favourite has been Bounce Off. This game reminds me of a drinking game we used to play at the bar where you try and bounce a coin into your friend's beer. Basically there are two colours of balls and you have to bounce them onto the playing field and be the first to make a pattern. There are easy patterns and harder patterns. The kids had fun bouncing the balls all over the place. It's deceptively hard to create the patterns!

Bounce Off!

The other favourite around here is Uno.

Uno

I remember playing this with my family as a kid, and what I never considered back then, was how good this game was for teaching colours and number recognition. It also teaches taking turns, which isn't so easy when you're 3. With some gentle coaching we can have competitive games.

Uno

Apples to Apples and Mad Gab are a little beyond my kids at this point but I'll be sure to bring them out the next time we have friends over.

Apples to ApplesMad Gab

A big thank you to Mattel for our new games and for encouraging play. Anytime really is game time!

Game on!

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.