Category Archives: Activities

Stuff you can do with your kids inside or out that will get them off the couch, away from the TV, and into a place of wonder and amazement.

camping in Ontario

Outdoor Adventure Show Is Made For Kids

Fresh back from the 2016 Outdoor Adventure Show in Toronto, I can report the attraction was designed with young families in mind and it really is a great place for Heads-Up Dads to spend Saturday with the kids.  It’s cost effective too. Adults pay $14, and children age eleven and under get in free.

There’s no sandbox, bumper cars or bouncy gyms here, and no food courts either, but the whole show is something of a play zone with every vendor offering up something cool for young people. The three-day exhibition has a wide array of adventure options for all age groups right there on the trade show floor.  Many booths have interactive games for 8-12 year olds, mostly puzzle challenges; smart dealers know they need to tie up young family members so they can talk shop with parents.

Here are some of the more interesting ‘youth engagement’ strategies I witnessed,

The Adventure Convention Organizers Included Activities for Young People

tradeshow passport for prizesThe show’s organizers had young families in mind when they created the Outdoor Adventurers Passport wherein kids can collect stamps (paw prints) from vendors for prizes at the end of the journey.  A completed passport could be turned in for both short term rewards and a chance of winning a much bigger prize later. The true benefit is for vendors of course as this tactic effortlessly draws in families with young children; this passport is an ice breaker with an easy greeting ritual and friendly exchange that makes it real easy to talk afterwards.

Everywhere I looked there were young people getting their adventure on; they were climbing rock walls, and in one corner of the show kids were zip lining between platforms overhead.  In this respect young people acquired a different perspective on the event than their parents.

Outdoor Adventure Show rock wall climbing
Kids climbing up the rock wall – photo by Rob Campbell

A Spinning Wheel Mesmerizes Kids and Dispenses Coupons to Parents

SpintheWheel1There were a couple Crown & Anchor wheels which had been repurposed into spin-the-wheel games for coupons.  The one on the right was operated by Tourism Toronto and dispensed SUP vouchers, gift certificates, coloring books and there was almost always a crowd of youngsters in front of this rig.

But the real pedestrian crush occurred in the main aisle just inside the front door where it bottle-necked around the Flight Center and a hot deals travel agency. If you were shopping for discount airfare for your next family trip then this was probably a good place to be. Regarding the crowd I think what happened was the new people coming in the door came up against the folks who’d been around once already and everyone jammed up on Main St there in front of Xcitelife.

Xcitelife is a Marketplace for Unique Experiences for the Whole Family

People could not get down the center aisle without encountering a list of fun things to do at Xcitelife; the booth attendants wore black shirts with red X’s. This is the company motif and the X stands for experience and not extreme. Their charismatic greeters stood near their company flags drumming up excitement for their experience marketplace and they signed up many influential new users.

Xcitelife at the Outdoor Adventure Show

Xcitelife asked families to make a Bucket List; their software helps decision makers source travel solutions in the coming months and years. Check out Earth Girl and another great profile from the show is Martin,  The new members wrote their aspirations on red paper X’s which they pinned to a dream board. The board soon displayed the collective vacation fantasies of the entire show and it was from this arena that a prize winner was eventually selected.

Xcitelife-bucketList1
Paul’s own Bucket List – photo by Rob Campbell

“Everyone wants to live an Xciting life, but too often folks get stuck in the ordinary” says Paul Peic. “At Xcitelife we’ve made it our mission to transform lives through experiences.”

There was no food court, but there was protein available at the show.

D&D Meats from Alliston Ontario, venison sausages

Kids love cured meat! D & D Meats were among the only food vendors at the show. There were granola bars and trail mixes in the survival quadrant, but this booth was the only meat option.  This family-owned cured meat shop from Alliston Ontario had a wide corner all to themselves, and were doing a brisk business selling beef jerky, pepperoni, sausages and kielbasa.

All day long people streamed through the crowded event eddying about in open areas of the trade show floor and milling around the central water pool.  This aquatic attraction was also called the Demo Pool and frequently had young performers showing off their skills in the latest model kayaks.

The crowd also collected in front of three live theatres where experts shared stories and advice. This author came upon the Adventures in Paddling stage just as the float plane touched down on Rabbitkettle Lake on the Nahanni River and a flat water paddler unpacked stand-up paddle boards for the whole family.

Rapid Media Best Kayak Reviews 2016 Paddling Buyer’s Guide, also SUPs, Canoe Reviews.

Adventures in Paddling theatre was surrounded by the latest model SUPs or Stand Up Paddle Boards, canoes and kayaks for sale, and on the far side of the opening stood the Rapid Media booth with giant posters displaying their magazine titles.

Kayak buyers guide, rapid media
2016 Paddling Buyers Guide – photo by Rob Campbell

Elijah Liedtke pointed out the 2016 kayak reviews and then he gave me an insider link to the online kayak reviews, paddling buyer’s guide. which is free and considered one of the big secrets of the show.

Kayak1sharablemoment2Rapid Media had some all-ages engagement strategies at play, and in the age of shareable moments the magazine title cardboard cutouts were really busy, especially the ‘Wild Women’ Adventure Kayak magazine cutout seen at right.

Rapid Media has done well in the paddling space with four popular magazines, Adventure Kayak, Canoeroots, Kayak Angler, and Rapid the whitewater magazine. These publications are gorgeous print mags filled with real life travel stories, photos, videos and professional gear reviews from expert paddlers all over the world. At the show the editorial staff were selling half price annual subscriptions.

Each of the three live theatres was sponsored by one magazine or another, and besides the paddling magazine one was dedicated to scuba diving and another to hiking; and the land trekking theatre was sponsored by Outpost Magazine, which is all about getting geared up and making long distance journeys across vast scenic landscapes.

Outpost Magazine at Outdoor Adventure Show

History Exhibits Tell Stories at the Outdoor Adventure Show

Iroqoius Village tribal experience

First Nations storytellers enthralled kids by relating the Voyage of the Iroquois. The area attendants were dressed in native Canadian regalia, and the walls of their particular open attraction were filled with images taken by passengers inside the giant twelve person canoes. These pictures are from summer trips that spend two or three weeks paddling the historic trade routes of the Voyageurs!

Kids could indeed soak up a lot of history from the installations at the show, and at one exhibit in particular there was displayed stone axe heads, arrowheads and spear points from the Stone Age. At noon in the Survival Theatre on Saturday there was an expert from Parks Canada who was able to show crowds how the First Canadians could hunt and kill great beast with primitive weapons. One guy seen below actually assembled arrows and spears in front of a live audience.

collecting arrowheads from native Canadian settlements

Kids of all ages love the Toronto Adventure Show and the best part are experts like this guy who share first hand knowledge.  This is a family show that’s fit for outdoor adventurers of all ages – more information about the 2016 Outdoor Adventure Show on Toronto Guardian.

Five Reasons To Plant a Fruit Tree With Your Family

There are probably a hundred or more good reasons to plant a fruit tree with your family, here are five.  Familial aspects aside, all of this falls into a greater green world order and general coming-of-age by an environmentally apologetic humanity.  The greenest people of earth are the children; they’re part of a hyper carbon conscious future that embraces Garden City Transformations.  Kids know that fruit trees are one of six Elements Needed to Make a Garden City in Toronto and elsewhere, in every metropolitan center, in every country, in every continent all over the world.

kid_fruit_tree1Planting fruit trees in a big city is sometimes restricted by municipal bylaws. The city doesn’t plant apples, pears or cherries by choice, and property developers are restricted from planting them by city ordinances for a whole lot of reasons; maintenance and liability are the predominant arguments against city planners planting fruit bearing species along streets and sidewalks.  Homeowners can plant anything they want in their backyards however, and can obtain fruit trees in nurseries here in Canada, and in Ontario and those include Henry Fields Nurseries and Sheridan Nurseries, neither of which specialize in any particular fruit tree varietals (like most nurseries in Europe do) nor will they deliver to your residential property.

One of the secrets of planting trees in the city is to also buy a big bag of soil and make a burm around the seedling. This helps the small tree survive the heat of summer and the cold of winter. Professional tree planters dig a deep hole and then fill it with black garden earth from vegetable composting programs and then put the original soil back on top. In Toronto you can buy a big bag of soil from Weedaway for about $120, and have it delivered right to your home.

Five Reasons to Plant a Fruit Tree with a Young Family

1.  The fruit tree will grow as your family grows and the memory of planting the tree becomes a powerful growth myth that will be part of each child’s psyche – the memory of planting the tree becomes synonymous with making an investment and nurturing growth and performing small physical improvements over time. The tree can be sourced locally or bought from an online vendor that will deliver in Europe and the USA, but no such businesses exist in Canada.

2. The fruit tree is handy biological reference to study and explain, and it can take on the characteristics of a pet with almost no maintenance or additional expense of keeping an animal – so its the perfect family member.  The tree’s first blossoms make it easier to talk about nature’s many and various reproductive systems. Registering the tree, means the kids can volunteer later on at charities that visit private homes and tour city parks picking fruit for charity driven gourmet baking initiatives and wildscaping programs. Los Angeles has a fruit picking outreach program for kids called Fallen Fruit, and Portland Oregon has an apple tree harvesting program for their inner city youth that is famous because it at has been featured in motion pictures.

apple press is fun exercise for kids3. The fruit tree is part of the fabric of nature and has lovely blossoms in the spring that attract buzzing pollinators and floral photographers. A fruit tree  in the springtime is a lovely photo backdrop and the fertility metaphor is a subtle and strong reminder of the promise of prosperity.

4. A  fruit tree attracts cool wildlife and colourful birds. A robust apple tree will bring deer out of the woods, and cherry trees attract squirrels and other storyfull rouges. This is good for kids as animals sell adventure- good for adults as sophisticated songbirds serenade our souls.

5. You can make fruit juice with family members many years later, maybe your grandchildren.    Juicing is great way to get vitamin C into a child’s body, and most kids LOVE IT.  Fresh juice is amazingly more healthy than canned juice and way more fun- it can be frozen into ice cubes and kept as treats for rainy days and they won’t even know it’s good for them. But more importantly its the activity as a unique and productive exercise that they remember all their lives.

Picking the fruit and making juice completes the investment metaphor. Kids doing work under the tree completes the life metaphor. Watching kids work with specialized equipment is a concept for a new TV series.  Kids making fresh juice in the backyard is pure fun and drinking that juice is one of life’s greatest rewards.

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Affordable Winter Birthday Party ideas for Kids

Snowman-fun-for-kids-in-winter

Brrr.

Yes, it is cold out there.

Winter has finally arrived—but don’t let that get you down. Go ahead, celebrate winter. Revel in it. Throw a party and make the most of it while it lasts. Spring will be here before you know it.

Kids love it. If your child’s birthday is coming up soon, and you live in a place where the snow piles up, you’re in luck. You can have a great party outside in the snow, the kids will have a blast and unlike a trip to Disney world, you won’t have to spend much money.

Even though the snow can be the bane of an adult’s existence, kids consider the snow to be fun, exciting, and full of opportunities. When dressed warmly, they don’t even seem to notice how cold it is outside if they’re in the middle of building a snowman or making snow angels.

If you want to throw a birthday party, and winter wonderland is in your backyard, why not bundle up, have a lot of fun with your kids and save some money at the same time? If you love winter, then you will love this:

4 great ideas for winter birthday party activities for kids:

1. Snowman Building Competition:

Have the kids form teams of two or three, and each team can try to build the best snowman. (You and the other parents at the party can be the judge of who wins). You may want to give the kids some buttons, carrots, and scarves to decorate their snowmen with. Kids could also bring some supplies from home like hats and brooms, if you let their parents know about the competition in advance.

2. Snow Football

This is a particularly good idea if you’re throwing a party for young boys. Playing football in the snow is actually a lot safer than playing football any other time of the year. Piles of snow are generally a lot softer than the pavement. So, if kids happen to accidentally fall during the game, they can get right back up again and keep playing. It’s probably a good idea for you to have the kids play touch football instead of tackling football, especially if they’re on the younger side.

3. Snow Angel Competition

The kids make snow angels, and the parents decide which one is the best. This is pretty similar to the snowman competition. When you hold any type of competition for kids, it’s actually a better idea to not offer some kind of prize or reward to the winner. Kids tend to get a little more upset about not winning if there’s a prize involved. Plus, forgoing the prizes saves you some money.

Winter games for kids

4. Paper Snowflake Construction

Once the kids get tired from playing outside, you can take them all inside and have them make paper snowflakes using colorful paper. Kids love making their own snowflakes and taking them home as party favors. You could also have the kids draw snowmen and other winter characters. Having the kids make their own party favors is a great way to cut corners.

Sound like fun? Consider your own version of the activities above, put on your best winter gear and get outside. This year, celebrate the best that winter has to offer and throw a snow party to remember for your birthday boy or girl this year!

About the Author:

Lisa is a guest blogger and mom with many years of experience throwing everything from Super Mario birthday partys to a celebrity dress-up party on a budget. Throwing a birthday party? Need some help with ideas and solutions? You can get everything you need for a fun and memorable event from thePartyworks.

Fun for Kids at the Toronto Christmas Market

Toronto Christmas Market in the Distillery DistrictWho said a Winter Wonderland needs snow? If the crowds at the Distillery District’s Toronto Christmas Market opening ceremonies are any indication, the spirit of Christmas prevails with or without the fluffy white stuff.

This relatively new city tradition (inspired by the Christmas Markets in Germany and now in its second year) is a welcome addition to the holiday activities available to Torontonians in December. Every Christmas delight is covered, from a stand where you can purchase a Christmas tree for your home, to miniature cottages spread throughout the Distillery selling gifts and snacks, to a neighbourhood-wide liquor license (take your pick between beer or mulled wine), to the spectacular 45-foot Christmas tree (donated by Trees Ontario) and decorated with mint green sashes, shiny red ornaments and more than 12,000 reed switch component Christmas light bulbs.

Sound like fun? Ferris Wheel at the Toronto Christmas MarketYour kids will think so too–this is one Christmas event in Toronto for the whole family, and it is in continuous improvement in this regard. This event is so kid-friendly, it may come as a shock to your children! My advice would be to tell them you’re all going out to pick a Christmas tree, and let them discover the ferris wheel and the carousel for themselves. That’s Christmas magic.

On top of the tremendous novelty of outdoor carnival rides in winter, your kids will love the free candy canes, hot chocolate, fudge, and other ‘sugar plums’ on offer; though they won’t enjoy the subsequent trip to a Toronto dentist as much, ’tis the seaon!

Make this Christmas season a magical one for your kids by attending the FREE Toronto Christmas Market. For the occasion, one of the cobblestone streets in the Distillery has been renamed Santa’s Lane. Father Christmases of all cultures and customs will be present to tell their traditional stories and fill hearts with cheer, but to get to Santa’s house children must first find their way through a maze made out of small pine trees.

– Santa will be in the Distillery on weekdays from 2 p.m.7 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m., with a reindeer petting zoo on location during weekend hours.

-There will be daily reading of Grimm Brothers classics, and real-life characters Father Christmas and the Christmas Angel walking around.

– Write the North Pole via Santa Mail! Canada Post is providing two letter boxes from which letters will be shipped express to Santa. Kids can write Carollers at the Toronto Christmas Marketletters in Santa’s Workshop (indoors) as well as make crafts, stocking stuffers and play Christmas games with other children. With so much to see and do, you might want to make a whole day out of it, bringing lunch containers or opting to try some of the German street fare (like hot pretzels or schnitzel) available.

– Finally, take photographs! Lenzr.com is sponsoring a Toronto Christmas Market photo contest, rewarding the best photograph taken of the market with $250. 2nd place will receive a $250 restaurant gift certificate, and third place will receive a $100 gift certificate courtesy of the Distillery District.

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Fingerplay for the five and under set: Five Little Leaves

Leaf coloouring activities for Kids

Colouring activities for Kids

Hello Parents and caregivers of children under five…

Here is a fun fingerplay that you can enjoy again and again with your child and children as you adjust to the cooler weather, spend more time inside and celebrate the fall season together!

Fingerplays support your child’s development in so many ways. They encourage your child to listen and to speak, to co-ordinate hand and finger movements that accompany the words, to use their imagination, to practice counting and to hear the musical quality of spoken words. They play an important part of your children’s fine motor skills development which is the precurser to learning to draw, write and work with their hands.

You don’t need props to do this fingerplay, but the rhyme can easily be extended into a fun and simple craft activity, if you like. All you need are construction paper, tape, pictures of leaves (many can be found in Google Images, or here at 321coloringpages) and crayons or markers or pastels or paints…

When you have found leaf images you like, encourage your child to colour them, then help with cutting them out. Set the leaves aside, then cut out five strips of construction paper, just long enough to wrap around your fingers, like rings. Tape the ends together.

Cut strips of paper long enough to wrap around each finger

Now you can attach the leaves to the rings using paper clips. Put the leaf rings on your fingers and then you are ready to recite this simple rhyme that the little ones adore. With each repetition you can easily remove one leaf at a time by sliding off the paper clip. The leaf cut outs can be used to help your child understand number concepts such as counting and subtracting in a creative way.

Leaf finger Puppets

Leaf finger Puppets

 

Be prepared to say this rhyme over, and over and over again:

Five little leaves went out to play (hold up five fingers)

They danced upon a tree one day (wave hand back and forth)
The wind came blowing through the town
Wooooooooo!
And one little leaf came blowing down (wave one finger back and forth in a downward direction)

Repeat this rhyme, subtracting one leaf each time until no little leaves remain.

For more information on the importance of art in children’s education, or for educators, parents and care providers who are looking for creative ideas to share with young children, please feel welcome to participate in helping to create a community of teachers and learners who enrich the lives of young children through the arts at the Early Childhood Arts Connection.

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Photo Contests for Fall

October is an exciting time for kids – winds howl as classroom chatter turns to preparation for Halloween. “What are you going to be this year?” becomes the most-repeated question, though it’s often met with “It’s a secret!” Halloween is a great time to create lasting memories with your children, especially if you’re willing to get crafty and creative and help your child make a great costume. Many little girls may want to dress up as their favourite Disney princess and boys may likewise wish to personify a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle or another superhero, but convincing them to spend some time with you to see what costume creations you can come up with together may be easier than you think.  Your child may have their heart set on a store-bought costume; suggest making one together and tell them that if they really don’t like the costume they make themselves you can still go shopping for another one. If that still doesn’t work, it’s time to pull out the big guns: Lenzr‘s fall photo contests provide a lucrative incentive.

Homemade Halloween Costume Photo ContestThe Homemade Halloween Costume photo contest is proud to be your secret Halloween weapon this year. When you tell your child you can win $250 in cash (or candy) by making the best homemade costume it may not be long before you see pipe bending and box collecting going on in your living room as your young robot creates his/her new look. Boxes are versatile costume-building tools–you can make refrigerators, ovens, ‘kid-in-the-showers’–tin foil for sci-fi, burlap for zombies or mummies, or real flowers for Mother Nature. A homemade costume will carry with it the pride of its conception and construction, and the fond memories of making said costume with a parent will last indefinitely. You’ll also save money, and might even win money!

This contest was sponsored by a boutique marketing agency that specializes in social media contests.

The House for Renovation photo contest is another Halloween-themed challenge–this time focusing on that creepiest of buildings, House for Renovation Photo Contestthe infamous haunted house. The contest is titled differently, but haunted houses and houses in need of renovation are one and the same to Lenzr. They are not, however, one and the same to kids–kids wouldn’t give a second thought to a deflating porch or leaky roof, but tell them you suspect the place might be haunted and you’ll have instant interest. There are lots of Haunted House hay rides or neighbourhood walks at this time of year, and possibly even a house in need of renovation, I mean…Ghostbusters, on your own block. Try to include a story in your entry (even if it’s just what you and your kids imagine might be inside scaring people away).

The prize is an Apple iPad, courtesy of the contest’s sponsor, a Toronto mortgage broker.

Our Daily Bread Photo ContestThe Our Daily Bread photo contest leaves behind the chocolate, chips, pop and sugary candy of Halloween for the wholesome and sustaining taste of bread. Bread is an ancient food source vastly superior to the processed sugars that are soon to be the bane of teachers’ existences across North America. Do you ever bake your own bread at home? Breadmaking is not as difficult as it’s made out to be, and is certainly yet another way to connect with your children, while at the same time teaching them of the importance of making healthy, delicious food, and demonstrating their creative skills by taking a photograph that looks appetizing.

The prize is a breadmaker courtesy of the contest’s sponsor, a Natural Artisan Bakery that sells all its organic ingredients online.

The Warehouse Stockpiles photo contest is the most challenging contest of the lot, but rewards the best photograph with a great Warehouse Stockpiles Photo Contestprize. This contest is looking for submissions that depict inventory management and this could include car parts, food supplies and even children’s toys. This could be a great learning exercise for kids; young kids don’t think about things like manufacturing or distribution or production planning, often times they think that the store is where the process begins. If you are able to find a warehouse for you and your child to photograph, it will open their eyes to all the tremendous work that goes into bringing products to the public.

The prize is $250 and a photo licensing agreement with the contest’s sponsor, a manufacturing software making that is looking for warehouse-related photos for its website.