Archive for the 'Outside the Classroom – Ottawa Area' Category

Outside the Classroom: Dining out with Kids


As a mother of three, there are times when I throw my hands up in the air and declare “I’m not cooking dinner tonight!”.  The children are usually thrilled. They have visions of going to a restaurant that has a play structure in the dining area. My husband is less than thrilled. The idea of trying to get the children to sit down and eat instead of racing through a maze of tunnels absolutely exhausts him. So, we compromise.

During the winter months, my husband and I will take the children to Pizza Hut. They have “Kids Eat Free” on Tuesday nights. This is wonderful for two reasons. First, the children are eating for free. Secondly, there are lots of other families in the restaurant with young children so the other patrons are very tolerant of my noisy children! Each of my children orders a personal size pizza with a juice. They get to take the cup home with them. We’re in and out quickly. We all leave happy.

During the summer months, we take the children to East Side Mario’s. They have a “Kids Eat Free” every Monday night. We go at about 5pm and we always sit on the patio. For the most part, we have the patio to ourselves. If the children are noisy or messy, I don’t panic (too much!) because we are outside and not disturbing other customers. The children’s menu offers some variety, although they always order pizza. The dessert that is included consists of three very small sized ice cream cones. My children delight in the fact that there are three cones each, and I feign shock and horror. We are usually done our meal before the main dinner crowd arrives. As we are leaving, the waitress produces a treasure chest from which each child can choose a toy. Again, we all leave happy.

The trick to dining out with children is to order their meals when your drinks order is made. Remember to ask the waitress to bring the children’s dinners as soon as they’re ready. This way, the children get their meals quickly, and can eat them while you’re waiting for your meal. While you’re eating your meal, they get their free dessert. After the children have eaten, they are usually calmer and better able to sit nicely and be happy.

What are your favourite kid-friendly restaurants?

Good luck, and enjoy the upcoming patio season!

Ottawa Area Activity: Canadian Agriculture Museum

Over the years, my children have loved visiting the Experimental Farm, also known as the Canadian Agriculture Museum. The first time we went there, my youngest was a newborn. The focus quickly became finding a bottle warmer (there is one, near the Dairy Barn!). We brought a picnic, and enjoyed it in the shade of a tree near the play structure. Afterwards, my two older daughters (then aged 2) participated in an ice cream making demonstration. The Experimental Farm was a hit!

There are daily demonstrations. During April, these demonstrations include “Rabbit Care”, “Meet the Lambs and the Kids”, and “Help Feed the Sheep”. I like the “Afternoon Milking”, but the cows can be quiet loud and this was upsetting to my littlest daughter. Also, in the Demonstration Kitchen, the staff will demonstrate some chocolate recipes, offering samples and sending you home with the recipes.

There will be special events for Easter, on April 22-25. These include an Easter egg hunt for children 6 and under as well as a “Signs of Spring Egg Hunt” for those 7 years old and over.

Price of Admission:

Families (2 adults and 3 children): $16
   Additional children: $3 per child
   Additional adults: $4 per adult
Adults: $7
Children under 3: free
Children (3–14): $4
Students: $6
Seniors (60+): $6, free on Tuesdays

Parking is free!

Don’t forget to visit the Arboretum and Ornamental Gardens. These are free to all who want to visit, and have free parking. This is an ideal area for picture taking, picnicking, and letting the children run off any excess energy. It’s a wonderful end to a wonderful day. Enjoy!

Ottawa Area: More March Break Ideas!

The Ottawa-Gatineau region staggers March Breaks. My children just finished their holiday, and many children have yet to start. I had wonderful plans of exciting and new activities to do with my children. However, during their week off, we faced incredible amounts of rain and snow, as well as various illnesses. I gave up on my planned activities. Here’s what we did instead:

We spent time at the Ottawa Public Library. We went to the Nepean Centrepointe location which has a newly renovated children’s area in the basement. The children don’t have to be quiet, and I can sit on the floor and read story after story to my children. Also, we can take out as many books as we like. We always leave with bags full of stories!

We also took advantage of the free admission to the Children’s Museum at the Museum of Civilization. Every Thursday from 4-8pm, there is no charge for admission (although we did pay $10 for parking). My children enjoy the freedom and adventure of exploring the child-size buildings. The exhibits include a theatre with dress-up clothes, a boat with a crane that can be loaded and unloaded, a “Kids Cafe” where the children use plastic food, and a pyramid they can enter and learn about hieroglyphics (as well as many other fun things to do). The Canadian Museum of Nature also has free admission on Thursdays from 5-8pm.

We took our children to Starr Gymnastics. They have locations on Lancaster Road in the east end, and Morrison Drive in the west end. The drop-in class was $5/child. This gives children the run of the gym for an hour. It was the perfect way to blow-off a little bit of steam in the afternoon. If you want to participate in the drop-in, please call ahead first. The drop-in will not be available during camp times. Having said that, if you are still looking for a March Break camp, there are spots available at Starr Gymnastics!

As a special treat for our house full of sick children, we had “Family Movie Night”. The children got to pick a movie and some snacks. Once everyone had their pyjamas on, we all cuddled up together and watched a cute movie. My children were happy to stay up late and were thrilled to have this extra cuddle time with Mummy and Daddy. It was a win-win.

I hope you have a wonderful March Break, and that your children are healthy!


Gwen blogs at She can also be found on Twitter @GwenVsTheKids

*image credit: stock.xchng

Ottawa Area: March Break Activities

Schools in the Ottawa area have staggered March Breaks, some beginning as early as February 28, and some as late as March 14. Spending March Break in and around the Ottawa area can be a lot of fun. With a little bit of preparation, families can have an exciting vacation while staying at home.

Are you looking for an entire day outside with children of varying ages? My children love snow tubing. There is a great place in Gatineau called Domaine de L’Ange Gardien. The hills are of varying sizes, and thoughtfully laid out with safety in mind. There is also a T-Bar lift that is simple enough for small children to use (this is a big hit). The snow tube rentals are included in the cost of admission, as is space indoors to have a little break or to eat lunch. There are also trails to walk on through the woods as well as sleigh rides.

Try visiting a sugar bush this season. Fulton’s Pancake House and Sugar Bush has a variety of activities to keep everyone happy. These include trails, self-guided tours, games like “I Spy” and “Mystery Hunt”, face painting, horse drawn wagon rides, and lots of other fun activities. Most of the time, these are offered mainly on the weekend.

However, Fulton’s will be hosting these special activities everyday from March 12- March 20. 

There are other sugar bushes in the area worth checking out as well including Stanley’s Olde Maple Lane Farm and Proulx Sugarbush and Berry Farm.

Sometimes, an hour or so outing with the children is all you need to make the day special for them. The Ottawa Public Library is an excellent place to head when the children need a change of scene. They offer all sorts of programs over March Break as well. There are programs for all ages ranging from preschool to 18 years old. Best of all is that all of the programs are free!

Still in need of ideas? Have a look at the Ottawa Information Guide which has outlined lots of activities for all ages. Also, don’t forget the local park. Children still enjoy parks in the winter, and running about outside is the best way to ensure a happy and healthy March Break.

How will you be spending March Break?

Have fun!


Gwen blogs at She can also be found on Twitter @GwenVsTheKids

*image credit: stock.xchng

Outside the Classroom: Ottawa Edition – At The Movies

It’s cold outside. And I have a cold. And the children are bored. And I fear that one more toboggan run might be the end of me. It’s time to grab the kids and go to the movies!

I’m a big fan of the Ottawa Family Cinema.  It is inexpensive and the parking is free. That’s all I need to be happy! Lots of different types of movies are screened, including “Little Fockers”, “The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader” (3D), and “Tangled” (3D). The cost for a family of five?  Non-members would pay $25 and members would pay $15 if the tickets were ordered in advance. Worth checking out!

Another good place to see movies is the Rainbow Theatre in the St. Laurent Mall. Tickets are only $5, regardless of age. Having said that, there is a $3 charge for 3D movies. A family of five can see a movie for $25. This weekend, both “Yogi Bear” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” are playing. There is lots of free parking.

The IMAX at the Museum of Civilization is worth seeing. It is a more expensive option, but there are “Mix and Save” packages that offer savings if you wanted to visit the museum as well (you haven’t lived until you’ve visited the Children’s Museum within the Museum of Civilization!). There are various shows ranging from the 32 minutes “Animaloplois” to the feature length film “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One”. To see an IMAX film (that isn’t feature length), it would cost a family of five $38. Parking is an additional charge.

In Ottawa, everyone is talking about Winterlude. For my family, “Plan B” is definitely going to the movies. Because sometimes, everyone needs a break from the winter, if only for a couple of hours!

Gwen blogs at She can also be found on Twitter @GwenVsTheKids

*image credit: stock.xchng

Outside the Classroom: Ottawa Edition – Winterlude!

February in Ottawa means Winterlude! It runs from Friday, February 4 until Monday, February 21.

One of the “must dos” is skating on the Rideau Canal. The canal is about 7km long, although it’s not necessary to skate the entire canal. There are lots of huts along the canal where skates can be put on. The very little ones like to be bundled up and pulled in a toboggan. There are skate and toboggan rentals (as well as skate sharpening) available near the NAC, Fifth Avenue, and Dow’s Lake. However, the Fifth Avenue location is only open on the weekends. Also, the NAC has a “Boot Check”.

Everyone loves the famous Beaver Tails. The pastries are worth the line-ups! Also on the canal, there are lots of activities including the Bedzzz Annual Bed Race, the Winterlude Triathlon, and the Great Canadian Beaver Cup Pond Hockey Classic.

The Ice Garden is held at Confederation Park. This is a hit with the children who are absolutely amazed at what the artists can create. It’s particularly beautiful at night when the ice sculptures are lit.

The Sun Life Snowflake Kingdom is held at Jacques-Cartier Park. This is Winterlude’s gift to children! The park is transformed into a winter playground with massive slides. Parents, too, can go down the slides with younger children. Don’t forget to visit the snow sculptures and obstacle courses. The Snowflake Kingdom is my family’s favorite Winterlude activity.

The Winterlude Opening Ceremonies will be held at the Museum of Civilization on February 4. There will be music and fireworks. There will be free Imax presentations. The museum itself will be free after 5pm. During the weekend (February 6-7), the museum will sponsor the Fokus Snow Jam. This is where all you snowboarders can show-off your stuff! Also, Saturday night, there will be “Igloofest” which is an outdoor party with music, videos and more.

It’s important to remember (and plan for!) road closures in the areas around the Winterlude sites. A great option is to take the Sno-Bus when going from one site to another. The cost is $3.50 for adults, and a transfer for the entire day will be issued. Children 11 and under are free.

Of note: There is a Winterlude App you can download.  Also, follow @winterlude on Twitter and the Winterlude Facebook page for updates.

I can’t make winter go away, but I can make good memories. So, grab your camera and your children and throw yourself into Winterlude. It’s worth it!

Gwen blogs at She can also be found on Twitter @GwenVsTheKids

Outside the Classroom: Ottawa Edition – Winter Family Fun

I love the outdoors, but mostly from April to October. From November until the end of March, I hibernate. I didn’t realise this until I went through the thousands and thousands of pictures I had taken of my children last year, and saw that there were very few shots of them outside in the winter. I felt badly that they were missing out on some of the wonderful winter activities that I enjoyed so much as a child. This year, I have decided to change the way I approach the winter, and introduce my children to winter fun and exercise.

This year, my children and I have already been out tobogganing. We all had so much fun. What I found to be very helpful was the City of Ottawa list of approved toboggan hills.  This is a great resource because each toboggan hill has a short blurb written about the hill. The description includes the size of the hill, whether or not there is parking, and further relevant information pertaining to each particular hill. This allows you to choose a hill that will best suit your family.

There are 248 outdoor skating rinks in Ottawa. On the City of Ottawa website, there is a complete list. The list is divided into east and west locations. It also includes the type of ice surface and whether there are washrooms available. It also lets you know if each rink has boards, lights, and supervision. The only thing left to do is to get out and skate. Don’t forget your camera!

The easiest winter activity to do as a family is to build a snow fort. This can be as simple or as challenging as you make it. When I was a kid, my older brother used to build extreme forts, with tunnels and towers. I used to decorate the site with snow angels and snowmen. The point was, we could do this together, it costs no money, and it’s fun. The best part? The snowball fights at the end!

Gwen H.

Gwen blogs at She can also be found on Twitter @GwenVsTheKids


Outside the Classroom – Ottawa Area: December Savings

December is an expensive month. All this seasonal cheer and holiday merriment seem to add up to a lot of money going “out of pocket”. I’m torn between trying to give my children the same wonderful experiences that I had growing up and wanting to have money left over to pay the gas bill!

This year, I have searched high and low for things to do in Ottawa that are enriching, exciting, and affordable. Here are some suggestions:

  • Most of the branches of the Ottawa Public Library offer programs  throughout the year aimed at all age groups. The programs offered in December are festive and free (perfect!). Some of them are drop-in, like story time on Saturday mornings. There are some programs (like crafts and puppet shows), you have to register for in advance, which you can easily do online as long as you have a library card. My 5 year old daughters love story time at both the Centrepointe and Hazeldean branches. I was impressed because both librarians seem to be able to hold the attention of children ages 1-10!


  • Take a walk around Taffy Lane in Orleans. Most of the houses on the street are decorated with Christmas lights, and they seem to try to out-do each other. It is truly a sight that will amaze (or shock!) almost everyone. Most people drive around the street, often doing more than one lap. The street becomes quite congested in December and the traffic moves slowly. This is an advantage for those who want a good look from the warmth of their car! I prefer to walk. Seems more “Christmassy” to me. If you do walk, watch out for those cars because the drivers are looking at the houses!


  • The Ottawa Family Cinema is having their annual showing of “The Polar Bear Express”  on December 18. There will be a visit from Santa and his elves, as well as a gift for every child. There will also be door prizes and lots of singing! The best bit? If the tickets are ordered in advance, the admission price for both children and adults is only $7 ($5 if you’re a member of the Ottawa Family Cinema).

Regardless of what activities you decide to do, do them as a family. By doing things together, you turn the simplest activity into something magical. Cozying up with your family, a cup of hot chocolate, and a DVD is a great holiday memory for any kid.

Have a safe and happy holiday season, and enjoy each other!


Gwen blogs at She can also be found on Twitter @GwenVsTheKids.


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