Winter Inside and Out

winter activities

Often in winter it’s challenging to get active. Our bodies slow down, we just want to cozy up on the couch and watch movies. It can be a challenge in the cooler weather to not only get outside but to find fun and engaging winter activities. Both you and the kids start to experience cabin fever as you’ve done all the regular activities inside and out. Not only is everyone bouncing off the walls but you need some fresh ideas to enjoy the winter season. With Calgary winters often being long and chilly it is time to get creative!

For me I like to google it and see what’s out there for indoor and outdoor activities in the winter. Not only does it get my own creative juices flowing and I create activities of my own, I find some really cool ideas. These are just a few of winter activity ideas I recently found, but these are my favorites! So whether you’re inside or out, here are some unique indoor and outdoor activities for winter that will not only keep the kids occupied, but engage their imagination as well.

Outside

You’ve gone skiing, skating, tobogganing, and built many snowmen. There’s even a giant snowfort in your front yard that if it gets any bigger you will not be able to get to the front door. These outdoor activities will expand kids fun time outside and will definitely expand their horizons and create something new.

1-     A winter picnic. Pack sandwiches, cookies, and thermos of hot chocolate. Take a blanket and enjoy a picnic in our winter wonderland.

ice castles2-    Ice castles. Fill a variety of ice cream and yogurt containers with water; let them freeze overnight. Once they are frozen, take them out of the containers and build your castle. For a splash of color, put food coloring into the water before freezing.

3-    A scavenger hunt. Make a list of winter items, get the kids to help you with this beforehand, then go out and see how many you can find. A short list of 10 items is great, and learning about what there is in nature in winter.

4-    Snow mini-golf. Set up a mini golf course in your backyard using a variety of items from the house. Tramp down the snow to make paths, uneven surfaces and use things like hoola hoops, plastic rings, and balls to set up a course. Grab a putter and you’re ready to go.

animal track5-    Look for animal tracks. Winter is one of the best times to find tracks as the snow makes it easier to spot them. Go for a walk and bring a guide book to help the kids figure out what the track is (find one at the local library, find one online or purchase one like Animal Tracks of Alberta
on Amazon). As an option, bring your camera to take pictures of the tracks, so you can look at and identify them at home.

 

Inside

There are many indoor venues to go to in the winter to keep busy; the swimming pool, library, and local museum. At home it can be a bit more challenging, and after baking the 12th batch of cookies, and having multiple friends over, you need a little variety.

1-    Build a fort. Use couch cushions, blankets and cardboard boxes. Let the kids be creative as they build, let them knock it down a few times – and rebuild. Once completed they can enjoy playing in it. (Ensure it is safe and under adult supervision).

2-    Create a play. Have the kids write their own play, assign parts and do a performance. Kids can create the stage, costumes, props and present to friends and family.

IMG_69113-    Make an indoor snowman. This works great with a big group of kids; split them into 2 teams, give each team a roll of toilet paper. One team member is the model and the others wrap the model in tp to turn them into a snowman. Use construction paper to make the nose, eyes and other features.

4-    A puppet show. If you have puppets grab them, otherwise the kids can make their own. They can also make their own puppet theater and present to friends and family.

5-    Play hide and seek. Who says this is just an outdoor game? Set clear guidelines and boundaries about where to hide and let the game begin.

Do you have any great indoor or outdoor winter activities? Share your favorites below!

How to Set up an Easter Egg Hunt

Easter Egg HuntThis weekend I have the pleasure of spending Easter with my extended family. An unusual occasion, my parents and two sisters with our families have come together in my parents BC home to celebrate my father’s 65th birthday. As an added bonus we get to throw Easter into the mix as it falls on the same weekend.

Growing up my sisters and I loved Easter morning. The Easter Bunny would often leave tracks and paw prints, as a a little dirt in the house, as well as fill and hide our baskets and Easter Eggs. We love hunting for everything, in fact this was as much fun as what was in the basket and eggs when we found them. The eggs were the best part. I think because there were so many of them. You’d find one and then there’d be more and more. And sometimes we’d even miss one or two, finding them later in the year because the Easter Bunny had hidden them so well. Now with my own children, I continue the tradition of hiding eggs.

Easter weekend in OliverMy children love it just as much as I did. Peeking out of their room Easter morning, discovering a trail of eggs from their bedroom and down the stairs. Sometimes they discover the Easter Bunny has even left one or two in their room! And they get so excited to learn that he was so close.

Of course over the years I have gotten creative with the hunt. Sometimes hiding eggs outside or making a scavenger hunt out of it with clues inside and a larger prize at the end. In my creativity I got curious, as I do, about the hunt for eggs even began, and what other people were doing with this fun fabulous event.

I discovered this traditional Easter activity has been done for many centuries. Part of a salute to spring it is done in a variety of ways.

The Easter Egg Hunt is a tradition that many children participate in all over the world every Easter. It is a simple activity of finding colored eggs and putting them in an Easter basket. No matter how the hunt is conducted children get excited about this yearly activity.

Easter Egg HuntHistory of the Easter Egg Hunt

Easter originated as part of the pagan spring celebrations with both the egg and the rabbit as symbols of rebirth and fertility. The egg specifically was a symbol of the rebirth of the earth in the spring. These celebrations of spring and rebirth were adopted by early Christians as a symbol of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In my search I learned that there is no known date as to when the Easter Egg Hunt originated, but that the Easter Egg itself has been around for many centuries. In Medieval Europe eggs were forbidden during the Lenten season and therefore were a prized gift when received on Easter Sunday. Eggs were often given wrapped in gold leaves or boiled with leaves or petals of certain flowers to create brightly colored eggs. This tradition eventually evolved into what is known as Egg Rolls and the Easter Egg Hunt.

Variations on How to Set Up an Easter Egg Hunt

There are many different ways to set up an Easter Egg Hunt. Depending on the ages of the participants and what is used in the hunt. All variations may be set up inside or outside.

You will need:

Easter EggsEggs – colored hollow plastic eggs, chocolate eggs, hard-boiled colored eggs, paper eggs on colored paper (you could color your own eggs with the kids earlier in the week and hide those)

Baskets or fun container for collecting eggs (you could do an Easter craft making your own decorative container or basket)

  1. For each child that is hunting have them choose one color of egg (green, yellow, pink, etc.) Whatever color they choose is the only color egg that they are to retrieve. Hide the eggs inside or out, clearly outline the boundaries and let them hunt! This is great when kids of a variety of ages are hunting because it makes it fair. Older children will not take all the eggs because they are hunting only for their color and it gives the younger children an opportunity to hunt and enjoy themselves.
  2. Set up like a treasure hunt; hide paper eggs with clues on them. For young children, one can simply write the name of the place they need to go to next, like “living room” or “kitchen”. For older children one can develop clues or riddles that they have to solve in order to figure out where to go next. Make as many clues as desired. The last clue will lead the child to his Easter treat.
  3. When doing a hunt for a large group, hide only the colored plastic eggs. Children may use an Easter basket to collect their eggs and may collect as many as they can find. When they are done hunting children then return to the start and trade in all their colored eggs for an Easter treat.

I’m also a firm believer that adults can participate too! All adults need to play and I have watched countless adults enjoy games and treasure hunts. In fact last year I set up a hunt for my friend and he loved it. His eyes lit up and he was so excited as I watched him zoom around finding clues. And of course that is one of the reasons I love that I get to share Easter with my family this weekend. Both my parents and sisters love to play and love to celebrate the holidays, so tomorrow morning there will be a hunt for all of us. And I am sooo excited!!!


For the Love of Board Games

images-34I absolutely love board games! Growing up we played them all the time and had all kinds of them. From the traditional Monopoly to the unique and complicated Shadowlord, we would play board games for hours. My parents played with us to, especially my Mom, who still loves playing to this day.

Each year for Christmas we would get a new game. It was the family gift from Mom and we would wait in anticipation for what would come from under the tree. The challenge was of course as we got older, finding a game that we didn’t already have! But somehow Mom would find one and most of them were pretty good (cause some of them were not, though honestly I could not tell you the names).

images-32I have endeavored to continue the tradition with my kids, each year seeking out what’s new and hot, or faulting to some of the classics (cause yes all the games are still at my Mom’s house, so we have to buy our own. Which is totally ok cause then we have lots to play when we visit her). I have noticed over the years some of our favorites when growing up, are no longer available or have changed; like Survive (no longer available and not to be confused with Survivor), Pay Day (we really like the old version best) and Careers (also no longer available, but we loved!)

As a result my kids also enjoy board games, for which I am grateful, cause they will play with me! I also know that board games offer lots of learning in a fun way, like introducing colors and counting in Candy Land Board or strategies in games Settlers of Catan
as well as the basic concept of winning and losing and good sportsmanship.

I was very excited this year to find out what was new and hot in board games this year and discovered some great games. Some we already have but some we do not. Now the question is which one to buy for under the tree?

Hottest Games this Christmas

Settlers of Catan – hot and the current favorite in our house, Settlers is a strategy game, where players are trading and building in the mythical world of Catan. Dice is rolled to earn resources in which to build settlements, cities and roads and earn victory points. With the game board changing each time you play (and expansion sets to grow your game) you will never tire of this game.

Ticket To Ride – October 2, 1900 – it’s 28 years to the day that noted London eccentric, Phileas Fogg accepted and then won a bet that he could travel “Around the World in 80 Days.” Now, at the dawn of the century, some old friends have gathered to celebrate Fogg’s impetuous and lucrative gamble – and to propose a new wager of their own. The stakes: $1 million in a winner-takes-all competition. The objective: to see the most cities in North America – in just 7 days. Ticket to Ride is a cross-country train adventure game. Players collect train cards that enable them to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout North America. The longer the routes, the more points they earn. Additional points come to those who can fulfill their Destination Tickets by connecting two distant cities, and to the player who builds the longest continuous railway.

7 Wonders – 7 Wonders is a game that lasts 3 ages. In each age players receive cards from a particular deck. Cards are played simultaneously in each age to pay or collect resources as needed. Each card has different strengths and advantages making it important to pay attention to your neighbor. This strategic card playing game will engage ages young and old alike.

Classics

images-33Jenga – I still remember the commercial for this game when growing up. “Take a block from the bottom and put it on top, take a block from the middle and put it on top. Jenga, Jenga, j-j-j jenga”. This classic block stacking game, challenges each player to build and then take turns removing blocks without the stack crashing.

Twister – A great fun family game, this is the game that ties you up in knots. Using the spinner each player has to place a hand or foot on the appropriate color. It gets challenging when the color start to run out or are a little too far away!

Clue – Figure out who killed Mr. Body by going from room to room in the mansion and making guesses. All the classic characters, all the classic weapons.

Pictionary – Get your partner to guess what you’re drawing before the timer runs out. Play against other teams and score points for correct guesses.

Chess – Trap your opponents King using your knights and pawns. An excellent game of strategy.

Checkers – Through moving and jumping the goal is to claim all of your opponents pieces.

Games for Toddlers

Hungry Hungry Hippos – I have always loved this game. It makes a lot of noise but is so much fun! Hippo mouths chomping to eat the most marbles, whoever eats the most wins.

Trouble – a younger version of Sorry, Trouble is a fun way to introduce children to moving their pieces around the board. As they race towards the finish, they also have to be careful to not get bumped back to the beginning. The best part of this game is the popper in the middle, so much fun to pop!

Let’s Go Fishin’ – The first time I played this game was actually with my niece a couple of years ago. It’s hilarious! (and also not that easy) watching these fish mouths open and close as you use your fishing rod to hook them and take them out. I laughed my head off it was so much fun. Is great for enhancing hand eye coordination and just a giggle to watch those gaping fish move all around.

 

Candyland

Candyland

Candy Land – Choose your sweet character and dance your way along the rainbow path to Peppermint Forest, the Lagoon of Lord Licorice and Princess Frostine’s Ice Palace! Let your imagination soar as you make your way to King Kandy’s Castle to win.

Connect 4 – Drop your round discs into the slots to create a line of 4, while trying to stop your opponent from doing the same. Sounds easy, but you can only drop one at a time!

All Round Favorites at our House

The Game of Life – Move around the board and try your hand at ‘life’. Choose college and student loans, marriage, kids, a new car. Goal is to build your wealth and see what kind of life you can create.

Sorry – A great game of slide and collide, as you move your men around the board trying to get home before the other players. Drawing cards to move your men, you try to bump others back to the beginning before they bump you!

Scattergories – A fun game using letters. Pick a theme card and roll the dice. From the list each player must come up with something that fits that item starting with the letter rolled. Sound easy? Well there is a time limit of course

Cranium – Cranium is a great game with 4 elements to it, allowing everyone to shine. Acting, drawing, data or words complete tasks in these categories to win points and advance around the board.

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Blokus

Blokus – This is a great strategy game we discovered a few years ago. The goal is to place as many of your pieces on the board while preventing the other colors from doing the same. The challenge is the pieces are in different number of tiles and shapes

Battleship – This classic game of who sunk my Battleship takes me back to days of asking for E4 with my sister. A two person game, each person places their battleships and then takes turns guessing on the grid to try and find and sink the opponents. They also have electronic Battleship, which is super fun, with all the explosion sounds and such.

Yahtzee – A great family dice game, rack up points by getting groups of numbers, straights and maybe even a Yahtzee. This game of luck and strategy makes it both challenging and exciting.

Taboo – Try and get your partner to guess the word on your card without using that word or any of the five other words on the card.

Survive, Careers, Trust Me (all no longer available :(, but have to mention – Ok Survive is the best! You build an island that is sinking and have to save all your men and get them to the safe islands on the outer rim, before the volcano explodes. Careers classic, create your formula of happiness, fame and fortune then go around the board on different career paths to achieve your dreams! (We love this game so much my Mother recreated the board so that we could play it at my house) Trust Me is a great game of buying, bluffing and making deals all for the most cash! (it is really too bad you can’t get these games anymore, I’ll never give mine up!)

Do you enjoy board games at your house? What are your favorites?

 

 

What Can you do with a Giant Sand Dune?

IMG_1546Approximately 100 km north of Perth, Australia, nestled in between Indian Ocean Drive and the Indian Ocean is the small quaint fishing and tourist town of Lancelin. This literally  ‘don’t blink or you’ll miss it’ kind of place, is home to gigantic beautiful white sands dunes. A place where you can play and enjoy in a way you may have never thought of before. Whether it be 4 wheel driving or sandboarding, exciting adventures await in this neat little town. Lancelin is one of those hidden gems on the west coast of Australia that you don’t want to miss.

IMG_3974We had decided to rent a car for the day and go north of Perth. Our main goal was to go see the Pinnacles in Nambung National Park but had a couple of other stops in mind that day. We had already toured Yanchep National Park where we saw koalas up close in their natural environment as well as wild kangaroos; a must see for kids and any adult that wants that ‘classic taste’ of Australia. I had heard about the white sand dunes and the possibility of going sandboarding and this intrigued me. How cool would it be to sail down the gorgeous white sand in the warm spring sunshine. Shorts and bare feet a must?

One of the things I really feel is important when traveling is to vary the kinds of experiences you have. Not only is it great to see the tourist spots, the museums and well known sites, but it is very cool to experience it in an adventuresome way. An active way that will provide you with an experience that you will never forget. Besides especially with kids, you need to interject these kinds of activities into your touring. Plus honestly the adults need it to.

IMG_3978We were on our way back from the Pinnacles, about 45 minutes north of Lancelin. We had planned to stop in on our way back and check out the sand dunes. I was getting very excited about the prospect of these sand dunes and going sandboarding! My sister had been there before and said it was quite cool. And I knew Matthew and D’Wayne would really enjoy it.

We had timed it just right, as it was about 4 in the afternoon, so we still had a couple of hours of sunlight left. We stopped at the local gas station and inquired about the dunes and renting sandboards. Turned out it was super cheap! Only $20 a board for 2 hours, with a $100 deposit, which of course we got back when we returned the boards.

We rented 2 boards and were off. Just a short drive through town (about 2 minutes) and a turn to the left we came upon these magnificient sand dunes. Massive is exactly what they were and going on for miles and miles. Some of them looked pretty steep as well! Even steeper then some of the ski hills I have been down.

The boards themselves are actually just snowboards with no bindings attached to them (You can rent the ones with the bindings on them if you want). You waxed them with a light coating of wax (provided by the rental place), and then up the big hill you went to slide down.

IMG_3989The sand dune itself was fairly steep and a good climb. Matthew took off like a shot and was up the hill in no time, zooming down. His eyes alight and sparkling. I treked off with Chloe to go down. It was a steady walk up but we made it to the top no problem. It was when I looked down that I had to catch my breath. Yes there was stunning view of the sun shining over the ocean, but it was not that that had me with a lack of breath. It was a lot steeper than I thought it was and I was actually a little apprehensive about going down.

IMG_3991I knew I couldn’t disappoint Chloe who was very excited to go down. I took a breath and sat on the board, putting Chloe in front of me. I pushed the board and tried to get us going down the dune, but was having a heck of a time. Because of the weight of both of us, and not having done this before, we were a little stuck in the sand at the top. I called for back up 🙂

D’Wayne came up the hill with Luke and gave it a go. Of course he got them going no problem, so I quickly nominated him to go with the kids going down with each one at a time. I watched and took pictures and video for a while, enjoying the fabulous view of the sun setting over the ocean and watching all the kids go flying down the hill. Screams delight carrying over the hill.

IMG_3966Up and down, up and down, over and over they went, loving every minute of it. Eventually the kids ditched the boards altogether and started sliding down on their bums or stomachs, Matthew even rolling down the hill (that my friend is a brave young man). I eventually took my turn as well, first going down on the board by myself, then taking turns going with Luke and Chloe.

One thing we made sure Luke and Chloe did when they went down was to cross their legs in front of them. This was for safety as you could get going pretty fast and it’s easy for a leg to get caught and bent behind you (or in some other position you would prefer not to have it in).

We crashed a few times, I crashed by myself. Yet it was all a lot of fun. And it was the most perfect timing, zooming down the dunes as the sun was setting over the ocean.

After about an hour we were done. Not only had we gone about 100 times, we were tired and our legs were burning out from climbing the dune over and over. We gathered our things, put on our shoes and headed back to the rental shop to return the boards, everyone charged with excitement. It was an absolutely fabulous experience! It was definitely one of the best parts of our trip to Australia. And the only reason I had even inquired about it was because I had read in one of the tours to the Pinnacles that they stopped somewhere to go sandboarding.IMG_3973

We finished our evening ordering fish and chips for dinner to eat on our ride home. Happy and satisfied we drove back to Perth, ready to share our adventures and pictures, with those who would listen to us babble on about our fabulous day and the adventure and experience that sandboarding provided. An experience not to miss!

Connecting Children through Nature with Parent Me in the Park

IMG_4149Crisp autumn leaves crunch beneath our feet. The morning is crisp yet fresh, as we move along the wooded trail exploring. The kids are playing peek a boo amongst the trees, peeking out from behind tree trunks or hiding ‘obviously’ within the twigs. The pace is relaxed, amiable, and comfortable as we explore the natural world together.

This is how we spend our Thursday mornings at Parent Me in the Park. Exploring the beauty and wonder of Edworthy Park with other parents and children. Enjoying all that nature has to offer as the season changes and shifts, learning and discovering new things each week.

IMG_4150I love this program. It is one that is close to my heart as I am an outdoor enthusiast myself and believe strongly in the power of teaching and bonding with children in nature. I also believe there is huge value in connecting children to their natural environment at a young age. “More and more research is highlighting the benefits of spending time in nature. Rain, shine or snow… (Parent Me in the Park) a morning of fun and discoveries.” If they use that childhood wonder and curiosity to learn and appreciate the planet through the outdoors, then they will take good care of it as they grow up.

Lead by Nancy Richard, a certified PCI Coach and Early Childhood Educator, Parent Me in the Park is a wonderful program that does just that. Through exploration, songs and stories, she not only connects the children with nature but teaches us, as parents, to connect with our children as well, creating a bond with them, like no other.

IMG_4130I discovered this program when I was at Angel’s Cappuccino and Ice Cream Cafe earlier this Fall (which was also a wonderful new discovery) parousing the bulletin board and saw a poster for the program. I was intrigued and excited, so we went the first week to find out what it was about.

Now our first week was actually in Griffith Woods, which is located in southwest Calgary in the community of Discovery Ridge. Due to our whacky snow storm that hit in early September, Edworthy Park had been closed due to all the damage and fallen trees from the snow. The location didn’t matter though, Nancy weaved her magic with all the children quickly and easily.

IMG_4131Luke and Chloe were engaged right from the start with Nancy’s calm and easy going manner, and Chloe’s new ‘job’ pulling the wagon full of all our supplies for our morning. The layout of the program is similar each week with a short circle of songs and games, then a walk (or meander) through the park pausing and discovering along the way. We choose a path and go and explore, finding sticks, pine cones, rocks, etc. along the way. Nancy goes with the flow, finding those teachable moments, whether it be about berries or pine cones, as our walk progresses.

After our walk, we enjoy a fantastic snack of fresh bread and apple butter, with yummy cloudberry herbal tea. For some, this is the best part, enjoying this delicious and nutritious snack together in the outdoors. Once snack is completed we sit on the blanket together for a short story, which Nancy tells with the use of hand puppets. All in all a very relaxing, very enjoyable morning.

IMG_4151Both Luke and Chloe love it, as I never have trouble getting either of them ready or out the door. In fact, Luke who is sometimes hard to move, always jumps up after breakfast and gets dressed, standing at the door waiting. I think it’s fantastic!

And I love going to Edworthy Park as well. Looking forward to discovering a new area each week. My favorite so far being the Douglas Fir Trail; considered one of Calgary’s finest hiking trails with some of the most easterly Douglas Fir trees on the plains. It is a beautifully treed trail that leads along the cliff above Edworthy Park.

I was also pleased to discover there is a lot of Calgary history around Edworthy Park, which I always find interesting and fascinating to learn. Nancy will share tidbits she is familiar with, but there are also signs throughout the park describing the history of the area and how the park served Calgary in its growth and development.

IMG_4152Another benefit of course, is the friendships that are forming between the parents, as we come together each week with our children. Finding out about each other, things we like to do, places we like to go and the challenges we also face as parents. Creating another opportunity for support in our parenting journey.

IMG_4155It is a beautiful morning, one that provides many benefits for the adults and children alike. We always leave feeling happy, satisfied and full, ready for whatever comes with the rest of our day. I would highly recommend Parent Me in the Park to any parents with young children between baby to 4 years old. It is an experience you’ll never forget and a bond that you won’t create anyway else.

For more information on this program and to register contact Nancy Richard or find Parent Me in the Park on Meetup.com.

The Playground at Darling Harbour

IMG_3416

Darling Quarter Playground

One of the things that I discovered while traveling with 3 kids is that the pace of things is much different than with one child, or for that matter just adults. You do not get to see as much as you would like in one day as there are smaller legs to walk on, more pee breaks and more frequent stops for food or snacks. You also have to remember that even though you may want to see 5 different museums in a day, though you can successfully engage the kids in one, further engaging them in another could be quite the challenge.

It is important to slow things down a little and do some ‘kid stuff’ not only for the sake of the children but for your sanity as well. Let them play and run off some steam and be kids. This does not mean that you have to give up seeing the one part of the city you really wanted to see. It just means you may experience it differently.

Chinese Garden of Friendship

Chinese Garden of Friendship

One area in Sydney we did this (and is definitely worth touring) was Darling Harbour. Home to the Powerhouse Museum, the Chinese Garden of Friendship, the Imax, National Maritime Museum and Sydney Sea Life Aquarium to name a few. Yet this time around, we decided to go for the kids and experience it ‘their way’.

Hence, my friend Dana recommended we go and check out the playground there, as she said it was a fabulous place for kids. She described the different water games, slides, and swings that were down there and explained how massive it was. Though I thought, well ok it’s a playground, I was intrigued, so decided that we should go and check it out.

I have to say I was super impressed. A definite ‘must do’ for all families, this spectacular playground features an array of activities that promotes learning and imagination for all ages. The Darling Quarter Kids Playground as it is called, is absolutely amazing and definitely not one to be missed. The range and variety of activities, engages kids of all ages, and will keep them entertained for hours! From the huge Octanet, giant slide and flying fox, to the swings, supernova and waterworks, there is something for every age and ability.

As soon as we arrived the kids were off like a shot. The challenge was the 3 of them were off running in different directions. Matthew I knew could hold his own and would check in periodically, but it was the twins exploring new skills that had me running around trying to make sure they were safe and in sight.

IMG_3415

Giant Slide 8 metres long!

They were definitely expanding their comfort zone that afternoon, as both Luke and Chloe really enjoyed the giant slide and were going up and down over and over. To go up, they had to climb up the ‘climbing wall’ at the back of the slide, with a rope to aid them; then they slide down. It wasn’t the slide that concerned me, but the 3 metre high ‘climbing wall’ to get there. I felt it was a little high for my four year olds and was a nervous about them climbing up. You know with their attitude of being untouchable and all. I was proud and freaked out at the same time as they very agilely went up to the top.

To be honest I was not worried about them climbing up but more about them falling down. I guess this is one of the lessons a parent must learn in letting go and trusting in their children.

The slide itself, was super fast and 8 metres long. Well super fast for an adult, probably about the right speed for a little person (yes I did go down it once, then decided that it was much too fast for me and I would just supervise the climbing).

IMG_3413Matthew really enjoyed exploring the different water works such as the water scoop and water screw and also successfully climbed up to the very top of the Octanet – at 10 metres high, giving me a heart attack, as I calmly congratulated him when he called “Mum, look at me!” and then asked him, very calmly to come down.

There are also sand diggers and smaller slides, plus swings of all sizes. All 3 of them enjoyed the giant ring, which is like a huge tire swing but with room for a lot more kids and swings a lot wider. The flying fox was the one that really impressed me, similar to a small zip line, but one that kids can easily navigate themselves and is not too far off the ground. Even I wanted to go on that one!

The playground is well set up and laid out, with an area for shade on hotter days and bathrooms right there. The promenade adjacent to the playground is lined with a variety of cafes and restuarants for those adults who require coffee or refreshment as you monitor the children at play.

The best part of all is it’s free! And a wonderful opportunity to enjoy this area of the Sydney Harbour while the kids are fully entertained! Whether you stay for an hour or the entire afternoon, adults and children alike will be engaged the entire time.

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

Unfortunately, we only stayed for about an hour ourselves that day as we had spent the morning down at Bondi Beach and needed to head back for supper after a full day of activities. But it was definitely worth the trip down to have the experience. Both Luke and Chloe still talk about the giant slide and is one of the many things that they ask to go back to and do again and again.

What fantastic or unique kids playgrounds have you found in your travels? whether local or abroad?

The Taronga Zoo

IMG_0119One of the many things I love about Australia is the range of unique animals that exist in this country. Because of their isolation from the rest of the world for so long, this allowed these unique species to develop and exist. From the koala to the platypus, more than 80% of these animals, plants, reptiles and frogs are found only in Australia.

With that, no trip to Australia would be complete without a trip to at least one of the zoos or wildlife parks, to catch a glimpse and sometimes a cuddle, with some of these amazing animals. Of course, I would much prefer to see some of these animals in the wild (I say some because honestly I am perfectly fine seeing the crocodiles and the snakes behind glass, thank you). But it is a extremely cool experience to see a koala, kangaroo or echidna in their natural environment.

Platypus

Platypus

Unfortunately, these experiences can be rare, depending on where you are traveling and how long you are spending in Australia. Therefore I always recommend at least one zoo experience of some kind so you can have an opportunity to see these unique critters.

While in Sydney, we chose to experience the Taronga Zoo, which is a natural bush area on the harbour’s north shore. It is easy to get to from Circular Quay, with a short (and beautiful) ferry ride to the zoo’s entrance. You can purchase a combo ferry and zoo entrance ticket at the terminal which does provides great savings, as opposed to purchasing them separately. Also with the pre-purchased pass you can take the cable car up to the top from the ferry terminal, which gives you a birds eye view as you zoom overtop of the zoo to the main entrance.

Fort Denison

Fort Denison

The kids were all very excited to get to the zoo, as we had been promising them we would ‘go and see the animals’ since about 10 that morning, but it had taken us until almost 2 pm to get ourselves organized, fed and down to the ferry terminal. We bought our ferry zoo combo pass and boarded the ferry for the north shore. It was a beautiful day, so we sat up top where we could catch the views of the harbour as we sailed.

This was an unique experience for me, as the last time I was in Sydney, we did not go on the water, so I got to see a different view of Sydney. Chloe and Luke asked many questions as we sailed along, wondering what this was and that was. We sailed past Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair, which we had been to earlier that morning; and Fort Denison, another of Sydney’s historic landmarks.

IMG_0121Once at the Taronga Zoo ferry terminal we made our way to the cable car. There were also options to take a bus to the top main entrance or a short walk. The cable car was super cool, much like a gondola for us, the car would slow down as we got on and had a seat inside, before we were whisked away over the tree tops. It was great way to see the layout of the zoo and where things were. We could see how the zoo had taken great care to create spacious enclosures for all the animals simulating their natural habitats. Luke screamed in delight as he spotted the elephants, asking to go see them when we got on the ground. We also caught the giraffes and orangatans to from this view.

IMG_0134The zoo itself has an extensive collection of Australian animals. As we passed through the entrance we received a free map to help us plan our route. Unfortunately we only had 2 hours to tour this extensive zoo (I would recommend a full day so you can see the entire zoo at leisure and take advantage of the shows and keeper talks as well), so we had to choose our route carefully. Our first priority were the koalas and we were not disappointed. Cuddled up in the trees, we got fantastic views and photos. Commonly called koala bears, koalas are actually not bears and are part of the marsupial family (animals that have young in their pouches). They are not related to bears at all!

Satisfied we moved on to the rest of the zoo. We saw crocodiles, snakes, lions, tigers, elephants, giraffes, kangaroos, emus, wombats and even a goanna outside on his own. We looked diligently for the platypus in his enclosure, but to no avail (these animals are nocturnal so are hard to catch a glimpse of during the day).

Goanna

Goanna

We managed to cover about 2/3 of the zoo in the time that we had but had to leave because the zoo was closing! We didn’t even get a chance to go into the gift shop 🙁

The other advantage of going to the Taronga Zoo is the stunning views of the Sydney Harbour from atop the hill. Even though we would have liked to have stayed a little longer and finished the zoo, we enjoyed our time there.

The highlights were definitely the koalas, the views, and the ferry ride to get there. There are other wildlife parks in the greater Sydney area, such as the Featherdale Wildlife Park and the Koala Park Sanctuary, which offer opportunities to hand feed some of their animals or experience encounters where you can be face to face! These parks though are located about 30 minutes outside the city.IMG_3383

We cuddled up on the ferry, tired yet satisfied with our afternoon at the zoo, each of us pondering what we liked best, and what our next Australian adventure might be…

 

Bonding 40 feet in the Trees

Bonding with my oldest son is a bit of a challenge these days. He’s 11 and into all kinds of things that are not a huge interest to me. I’m 41 and his Mom, so there are not a lot of things that I like that are of interest to him. We do have some common ground of course, we both love board games, especially Settlers of Catan, so you will often find us in the evenings battling it out for the longest road and the most settlements.

Sometimes it’s a timing thing to, I’m making supper, or having to tend to his younger brother and sister. So when we had the opportunity to go to Sky Trek in Revelstoke, British Columbia to do the high ropes course; I jumped all over it.

P7290215We had been to the Enchanted Forest next door earlier that morning with my Mom and the twins, which we thoroughly enjoyed. But Matthew and I were both kind of eyeing the course through the trees. I had always wanted to go there since they opened and though Matthew had had the opportunity when he was about 5 to do the kids course, he wanted to get up high in the trees. So when Matthew asked about the course I said well let’s go check it out.

His eyes lit up, he was so excited with just the prospect of ‘maybe’ going. We discovered that the course took 1-3 hours to complete and though reasonably priced we wondered what Gran and the twins would do for that long.

My Mom graciously offered to watch the twins while we went and did the course. So after a quick lunch, off we went! I grabbed my closed toed shoes from the car, which I was glad I had thrown in that morning, as there are no open toed or flip flops allowed. Though I wish I had also had the foresight to put in socks, which would have been much more comfortable.

Matthew and I were both excited and almost ran up to the clerk to get going. First of course we had to fill out waivers, then pay, then meet our guide to get geared up and ready to go.

online-skytrek-02The course consists of 4 components, each one getting higher and more difficult as you go. Training is first, where your guide gives you a demonstration of the elements and obstacles, what equipment to use and how to keep yourself strapped in and safe. We all had helmets, harnesses and carabiners. We had 2 that we needed to clip in and each had to be done in a certain way in a certain order. He showed us how to use our zipline attachment as well as telling us only 3 people to a platform and to remember to call clear after we completed an element – which was the cue for the next person to go.

Then there’s the green, blue and black courses, each one getting higher and more difficult as you go. So by the time you hit the black course you are 40 feet in the air and challenged!

Matthew went first and I was following along behind him. At points when we were waiting for others in front of us we would chat or connect, discussing the last element or what was coming up; continually moving higher and higher. I found the first 3 parts comfortable and easy to navigate, but by the time I hit the black I was not only tired but a little freaked out. Some of the elements were pretty tricky and they definitely pushed my comfort zone.

The very last leg of the black course you could choose to do the double black diamond or stay on the single. The double black offering shorter lengths, more rests, but more challenging (lots of swinging obstacles), while the single black was one long haul across a rope net, which was more tiring but a lot easier to do.

Matthew, the trooper, chose the double black. In fact in his mind there was no question as to whether he would do it or not. I applauded him, but said I was going to stick to the single. Matthew did very well, I was so proud of him. The last leg on the double black he was there legs spread apart between two triangle elements, and ‘resting’. I could tell he was tired, but he was almost there and he was determined. It was one of many moments that I was proud of him or maybe got a little teary eyed watching him and how he confidently navigated the course, though at times I knew he was a little freaked out like I was.

We completed the course with one final zip line to the bottom and high fived each other on the ground. We were surprised to discover that it had indeed taken us 3 hours to complete the course. No wonder we were tired!  And thirsty! as you can’t take water or any extra stuff up there with you. In fact I asked a lady on the ground if she would take a few photos of us and send them to me (unfortunately I don’t have them yet), as though there were times when I could have taken a really nice picture or two, there was no way I would have been able to carry the camera!

Some people may argue that because it was an individual activity that it was not really a bonding experience. But I would disagree. We connected and shared an experience where we both pushed our limits and can now share and discuss this experience. I also have etched in my mind some of those great ‘shots’ of him in the trees which will last forever in my mind.

I enjoy experiences like that with my kids and hope I get to have all kinds with each one of them. And I hope that they enjoy them to and that they will stand out in their minds as some of the best experiences they had, even though it was with Mom.

Easter Activities and Ideas

easter-bunny-2Well I have to admit that Easter has snuck up on me again! You would think that with calendars and the kids talking about Easter for the past month or more that I would have been more on top of it. But here we are the week before, actually only a few days away, and I have ‘clued in’ that maybe I should get ready for Easter.

We did dye eggs last weekend, which Luke and Chloe have been asking to do since the beginning of March, but that has been it so far. I always find there are so many cute and fun things to do around Easter and I have such great ideas! Then it comes and goes and we have done very little. And honestly the kids don’t notice really, but it is me who knows that we could do so much more!

easter activitiesThe things we typically do for Easter are an Easter Brunch on the Sunday, an Egg Hunt and search for Easter baskets. Prior to the day we usually color eggs and make a craft or two. We used to participate in some of the community Easter events, which usually include an egg hunt, but the challenge is now, the treat at the end contains ingredients that we do not eat, so I think it’s unfair to take the kids out and not let them have the prize. So we find other things to do.

We also now have a sugar free Easter, which is a little more costly, but pretty easy to do. The Easter Bunny brings socks and toys, chalk, bubbles, play doh and the like. The twins love it and don’t know any different because that is what it has always been for them. Matthew still struggles with the lack of candy in his basket but overall does ok as they are all getting the same. It is challenging though as the kids get older and hear and see what other kids get for Easter, or any other holiday for that matter. I guess that’s one of our many challenges as parents, making a decision for your family and hope for the best, trusting that you have made that decision for a good and sound reason – though the children, nor others, may not always agree with you.

easter activitiesThe bottom line is my kids still get to enjoy Easter and the many things that are part of it. The Easter Bunny still comes to see them, he’s just changed what he puts in the baskets and eggs. I have an Easter mold so I make some chocolates, so still get chocolate to enjoy and it’s better for us. Yes it takes a little more prep and effort but it’s worth it in the end.

So if you’re looking for ideas for things to do this Easter here are some great crafts and activities I have found over the years. Our favorites are the Easter Chick and dying Easter Eggs.

easter activitiesThere’s also some great tips and ideas on how to reduce or eliminate the sugar fest in the Easter baskets, as well as ideas to plan your own Easter Egg Hunt. Also some fabulous recipes for Easter Brunch, my favorite is always the Impossible Quiche, quick easy and I have modified it to make it dairy free and no one knows the difference!

What are some of your favorite activities and crafts or Easter Brunch recipes?

 

Party! Party! Party!

scaled_photoWelcome! I am very excited to be joining the Ultimate Blog Party 2014 again this year! I think this is a great opportunity to get out there and connect with other bloggers while sharing the things that you love, including your own blog! Thank you to Janice and Susan of 5 Minutes for Mom for hosting this fabulous event.

If you are new to Momma on the Move I’d like to thank you for stopping by and for those of you who are returning welcome back. It is a pleasure to have you all here.

8095971047_2a93f46d0a_bMy name is Carmen and I have 3 beautiful children, 4 year old boy/ girl twins and an older son. I grew up on the East Coast and have a deep love for the ocean. I love the outdoors, travelling, exploring new places and to getting out there to enjoy and embrace life!

The kids keep me busy with the twins now in preschool and our decision to eat sugar and dairy free at our house. When not playing with or helping the kids, I am in the kitchen trying out or modifying recipes to meet our needs. I have even been dabbling in some gluten free recipes over the past year as well.

IMG_2646We made the decision to remove sugar, back when my Matthew, my oldest was in grade 2, due to behavorial and sleep challenges with him. It was amazing the difference it made! Shortly after we went dairy free as I discovered both myself and my daughter had an intolerance and the gluten well, when I discovered I was still feeling tired after eating a dairy free/ sugar free muffin, gluten was the only thing left!

I have always loved to write but started blogging because I felt that I could share more faster and reach a larger audience. I find that there are so many things to share and explore, as life is a story. Everywhere we go I am taking pictures and thinking about how I make this into an informative, yet interesting blog post for my readers. Everything from crafts and activities for kids, our adventures camping and in the outdoors, to the many sugar and dairy free recipes, I like to blog about it!

I also like to include tidbits about the importance of taking time for ourselves, gratitude and being ambassadors for our planet.

I like creating a community where we can share, interact and learn from each other. Plus it’s stretched me in the world of technology as well!

IMG_2106Now that you’re here, sit down grab a cup of coffee and take a look around. Let me know what your favorite posts are, what you’d like to see more of. Leave a comment sharing with me who you are and where I can find you so we can connect and get to know each other. I’m looking forward to visiting everyone’s sites and making new friends.

Here are some of my favorite posts:

Firewalking

Rainy Day Activities

All Things Pumpkin

Natural Sugar Substitutes

RAK your Brain

Firewalking

Firewalking

 

Grasshopper Popsicles

Enjoy! See you at the party!

Let’s stay connected! Here’s where you can find me

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