Five ways to keep kids entertained at a cottage

We’re a cottaging family and spend at least two weeks at cottages every summer.

The packing list for the cottage may be long, but based on my years of cottaging with children I thought I’d make a list of my five favourites for keeping the family entertained.

I realized after writing it that my list falls to the less sporty type family so you may want to include some type of sporting equipment or balls or something too ;)

5 ways to keep kids entertained at a cottage

1) The super noodle

If you’ve ever been in a lake with children you know that, regardless of how well they can swim, their favourite place to be is attached to you. This is okay when you can stand up, but once you’re in water above your head, it can feel a bit like you’re about to drown. I quickly figured out that I needed multiple noodles in order to keep myself and a child up above water, but once I found the super noodles from Costco I was sold on spending $20+ on a noodle.

The super noodle will hold me and at least two, sometimes three children above water. It will even allow me to stay mostly above water as children catapult themselves off docks and into my arms. 

My general rule with the super noodle is that adults always get them first, as the only reason we invested in them is to help the adults stay afloat with the children who will undoubtedly try to sit on top of their heads while they’re trying to tread water. When all the adults are out of the water I’m willing to share and let the kids experience the fun of the super noodle too.

2) Child sized kayaks

kids kayaking

We previously wrote about kayaks on Kids in the Capital and I still think they are one of the best investments if you go to a cottage with any regularity. They cost about $100 and I have seen children as young as four master them really quickly.

Kids can spend a lot of time just trolling around close to shore while you supervise, the ones who are a bit more nervous about swimming out further or who just are less inclined to swim a lot can kayak themselves to floating docks, and you can go on a family kayak ride. Note: make sure you have some kind of towing rope on your kayak or theirs and an easy way to attach the kayaks together. I often end up towing kids back, but it’s well worth it to have had them kayak independently to start.

3) An art kit

Arts and crafts are a must at the cottage - especially for rainy days or quieter evenings. We come up with all kinds of projects while we’re at the cottage and many include crafting.

·      Painting rocks and sticks.

·      Scavenger hunts.

·      Simple paintings and drawings.

·      Creating a memory game.

·      Box monsters.

4) Books

Adults and kids alike bring many books to the cottage. We have comics and novels and activity idea books.

You’ll find people reading in hammocks, in bunkbeds, and sitting by the lake.

We’re a bookish family so we may lean a bit more heavily to the books than others, but I think the cottage is a great time to get a lot of great reading done – make it part of what you expect at the cottage! The Ottawa Public Library allows you to take most books out for three weeks (and they can often be renewed for another three), which is usually a perfect length of time for a cottage vacation.

5)   Lego and puzzles

Some kids are less outdoorsy than others – I have one like that in particular. While they might love it if we’d let them play on electronics all day, that’s simply not an option. Instead we make sure there are Lego or 500-1000 piece puzzles to play with. These cottage projects are perfect for the kids who want to stay indoors while the others are in the lake, and they are great for quiet creative time.

We can rarely find an activity that all five of us want to do at once, and now that our kids are a bit older (with our youngest being 8) we’re able to simply accept that we can split up and do what each of us wants to do. Having lots of options for every personality type has really helped everyone enjoy their time at the cottages.

What are your cottage must haves to keep everyone busy and entertained?

10 things to do with kids in Ottawa this summer

Summer vacation is rolling out the welcome mat for kids all across the Nation’s Capital. And if your kids are like mine, then they are ready to run off some energy and have some fun! Every summer my family and I make a “bucket list” of things we must see and do as a family to make summer awesome! This year our list is a little longer than 10, but here are our top 10 things to do as a family in Ottawa this summer:

10 things to do with kids in Ottawa this summer

1) Visit the new Canada-themed park at Mooney’s Bay

If you haven’t been to the new Canada-themed park at Mooney’s Bay with the family yet, pack a picnic lunch and plan a day or even a few hours to take in the play structures, slides and swings that each represent a different province or territory. The park is located next to Mooney’s Bay Beach—a great spot to cool off on a hot summer’s day!

2) Check out the new Canada Goose Arctic Gallery at the Canadian Museum of Nature

The  Arctic Gallery at the Canadian Museum of Nature just opened June 21st and is filled with interactive activities, games, interesting facts and educational fun for the entire family. This new permanent gallery is full of unique ways to celebrate Canada's Arctic!

3) See the Northern Lights Sound and Light bilingual show on Parliament Hill

The Sounds and Lights show is always impressive, but with Canada 150 it’s a must-see summer event this year! Grab some snacks and a picnic blanket and head down to Parliament Hill in the late evening from July 11th to September 16th to enjoy Northern Lights, a show about the foundations of our nation and so much more. For tips on how to make the evening a memorable one, check out our tips here.

4) Check out MosaiCanada 150

MosaiCanada 150 is a FREE horticultural event featuring paintings, sculptures, artistic works, as well as 40 impressive horticulture arrangements (some larger than life!). MosaiCanada 150 is held at Jacques-Cartier Park in Gatineau from June 30th to October 15th and is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. This unique horticultural event is a part of the ongoing activities celebrating Canada 150.

5)  Watch an outdoor movie

Every year we try to watch an outdoor movie and this year we not only plan on returning to the Port Elmsley Drive-In, but also grabbing a lawn chair and going to one of the more urban outdoor movies. Capital Pop-Up Cinema runs local outdoor movies that look like a lot of fun– here’s their schedule: https://www.capitalpopupcinema.com/2016-schedule.

6) Be wowed by La Machine at the end of July

I keep seeing the La Machine event pop up in my Facebook newsfeed and every time I see it, I can’t get over how impressive it looks. From July 27 to the 30th these big machines – including the dragon, LongMa, which according to the event website, stands 12 metres high, 5 metres high and weighs 45 tons, will be roaming the downtown streets of Ottawa. This incredible weekend is a part of the ongoing celebrations for Canada 150.

7) Visit a summer fair

Cotton candy, demolition derbies, carousels, concerts, live entertainment, and more, Ottawa offers many local summer fairs including these:
July 14-16: Almonte Fair 
July 28-30: Beachburg Fair
August 10-13: Navan Fair
August 17-20: Arnprior Fair
August 18-27: The Capital Fair 
August 25-27: Chesterville Fair 
September 7-10: Russell Fair 
September 14-17: Richmond Fair 
September 21-24: Carp Fair 
September 28-October 1: Metcalfe Fair 

8) Pretend we’re pirates at Pirate Adventures Ottawa

If you have ever wanted to bring out your inner Jack Sparrow or Jake the Neverland Pirate then this 75-minute interactive pirate-theatre cruise may be for you! Located at Mooney’s Bay this pirate ship adventure includes costumes, face painting, treasure maps, and much more!

9) Actually make it through the Mile Maze at Saunders Farm

Jumping pillows, an amazing play structure, and of courses mazes! Saunders Farm is a lot of fun and one of these days I WILL make it through the mile maze without having to ask complete strangers if they can help me find my way out. ;)

10) Connect with nature at Eco-Odysee

Beautiful scenery, water maze adventures, exploring and puzzle solving – Eco Odysee in the Outaouais is a great way to spend a summer’s day outside and in nature.

So, what’s on your must-do summer list this year? Share by leaving a comment! Happy Summer