Attractions & things to do for the kids in your life


Kids craft activities at Harbourfront Centre

For artsy kids

Hands-On Activity Program at Harbourfront

Every weekend from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., families can enjoy FREE quality craft activities in Miss Lou's Room. When I visited the room during the LunarFest 2014, they were offering a very nice craft activity: a horse mask to celebrate the beginning of the Year of the Horse. We could see kids wearing their mask all around the premises. Every weekend brings a different activity.

Miss Lou's Room overlooks the pond in the summer and Natrel Rink in the winter. It was named after the internationally recognized storyteller Louise Bennett-Coverley. You'll find this room up the stairs near the corridor with arts showcase leading to Harbourfront's Lakeside restaurant. (Read this post on 5 tips to better enjoy Harbourfront during the construction.)







LunarFest 2014: Year of the Horse at Harbourfront

Fun winter

This weekend (Jan. 25-26) would be a good one to go skating on Natrel Rink. You'll get the LunarFest 2014 as a bonus, launching the Chinese Year of the Horse. 

I attended the event today, teased by the promise of a 2-storey hight rock horse installation and the "first ever lantern theatrical inspired by puppetry". Well... The rock horse turned out to be an 12-foot high inflated structure and the first ever lantern theatrical was 15-minute long and looked pretty much like displays from a Lantern Festival we saw years ago at Ontario Place, with a voice over which sounded more like a documentary than a play. Nevertheless, the other less advertised indoor activities are cute enough to make it a very nice addition to a skating session in the Natrel Rink (and a good excuse to come inside to warm up). The event goes on Saturday and Sunday, January 25 and 26, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Visitors can make a pretty horse lantern (the white version of the one shown in the video clip below, on how to assemble the horse craft). Those who build the craft on the premises will get a LED light to install inside their horse lantern. You can write wishes on giant paper lanterns which will be launched mid-February in Vancouver. You can write a message inside a Lucky Charm pocket to take with you to give to a friend. There's also an intriguing Fortune Telling station with numbered sticks to draw to read your fortune. They sell $5 dumplings in the restaurant.

Finally, pay a visit to Miss Lou's Room on the second floor to make a fun horse mask. Every weekend, you can expect a free craft activity in this room. 





Greenwood Rink and surroundings

Fun winter

In the spirit of the movie Frozen! (Published Jan. 19, 2014)

When I visited Greenwood Rink to admire the new skating trail and covered rink, It felt like we were in the middle of the latest Disney movie Frozen. Thanks to January's ice storm (in 2014) followed by a series of days without snow fall, skaters spilled over the fenceless skating trail to try the blanket of ice covering the whole park. Everyone seemed thrilled by the novelty of the vast space, despite the bumpy state of the improvised ice. I expect visitors will be able to enjoy the same conditions until the next major snow fall!

I had noticed the murals by the park and was glad to take a closer look. The cushions on the residential house are quite impressive!

In the lane right next to the house, I saw funny characters on the wall.

Then, along Greenwood, is a wide mural of a fall scene. If you're wondering why there are many signs with the word "brickyard" above the mural, and a new café (which opened early January 2014!) named Brickyard Grounds, read this article about all the brickyards in this part of town at the turn of the century.

The Brickyard Grounds' website was not up and running yet at the time of writing this blog but you will soon be able to see their menu on it. They will serve breakfast and serious sandwiches daily, and brunch (including scrumptious waffles) on the weekend. They offer kids' hot chocolate for $1.50 and serious coffee for the parents, which in my books makes it the perfect stop before or after your skating outing. (The café is just one block north of Greenwood Park.)



TOP-5 personalized Christmas gifts

TOP fun lists

My TOP-5 personalized Christmas gifts found on Pinterest

Wondering what to give to kids who seem to have everything? I've always worked around this (first world) problem by making personalized gifts. I've created laminated chess boards where the black square was replaced by photos of siblings. I've done domino games where each number was replaced by a specific family member.

Here are a few other interesting ideas for personalized gifts I found on Pinterest. You'll find more on my Personalized creations/gifts board. Note that these gifts are also fun to give to grand-parents. 

1) Laminated faces

Go to a place like Kwick Kopy (in Toronto, they offer printing and laminating services) and have photos of your kids' face enlarged. Cut them out, then ask the service supplier to laminate the result. Add water-based markers with this gift.

2) Fun family Alphabet

Have your family pose to create the shape of all the letters in the alphabet. Go to your local printer for their one-hour service (bring a book and wait in nearby café while you wait!). You can put the photos in a small album.

3) Board game pawns

Cut out the silhouette of each family member and insert in large clip. It will giveSnakes & Ladders a whole new twist.

4) Cliff-hanger bookmarks

Have each family member to pose as if they were hanging over a cliff, at the tip of their rope. Cut out their silhouette and attach to a thread. In this example, the threads were braided together. Give with a book!

5) Jumping puppets

More elaborated craft. Click on the image to get to the original source of this craft but also have a look at this link to see a better explanation.



How to use all your family photos

For parents


Never have kids had their childhood better documented than the current generation, with parents fully equipped with digital cameras and smart phones.

Yet, very seldom do we take the time to acutally look at our photos. Gone are the photo albums which we take off the shelf from time to time to relive happy times. Here's a cool and modern solution to this problem from a creative dad I met recently.


Darshan is leaving his young family on a weekly basis for business trips. Every Thursday night brings him back home and every Friday night is Movie Night for the whole family to catch up and reconnect with each other. You must have heard about the concept of family Movie Nights (where an age-appropirate movie is watched by the whole family in the intimacy of their living room). Here's how the young dad took Movie Night to the next level.

It can get very lonely

For those who don't travel often, a kidless night in a hotel seems like heaven! But you can get too much of a good thing and spending many nights in a hotel can get very boring. Darshan started to use his free time to sift through the thousands of photos stored in his computer. He got to create themed files: the last family vacation, a special birthday, the birth of a sibling. One Friday night, he decided to plug in his computer into the television set to show his good work to his family. It was a bit like watching the previews at the cinema.

At first, his kids protested, anxious to watch the movie. But it rapidly grew on them. They loved watching their family on TV. Everyone would comment as they remembered the fun moments captured by the camera. The "preview-before-Movie-Night" tradition was born.

I was so inspired by his idea that I stopped procrastinating and got to gather all our Halloween costumes photos into one file. Here's what my family will see before the movie next time we sit together to watch a film!




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Buy the book Toronto Street Art Strolls

Nathalie's tips for a smooth outing

After years of doing all kinds of outings with my children, I can assure you the secret to a perfect outing lies in the details, not the destination.


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