25.5.16

10 Things To Do In Montréal With Kids

I get e-mails on a weekly basis from readers asking what to do in Montréal and I really want to get better at resourcing people who are coming to my beloved city, so here's my first step! Tourist season is coming up so I thought it would be a good time to give you some ideas if you're coming here with kids in tow. 

 


First of all, may I compliment you on your excellent choice of Montreal for your family vacation? You know whats up.  Montréal is the largest French-speaking city, other than Paris, in the world, and is absolutely wonderful for families.  You’ll feel like you’re in Europe, but with all the comforts of staying in North America. Walking the cobblestone streets of Old Port or taking in the historic architecture of the city satisfies wanderlust, while maintaining a sense of home, which is priceless when traveling with children. If you’re lucky enough to visit Montréal with your little ones, here are our top ten things you cannot miss, in no particular order.

1. Enjoy Mount Royal 
Mount Royal is where the city gets its name, and has a day’s worth of activities for the whole family. Montréal families love hiking up the mountain in all types of weather. In the winter, it’s the best place to go cross-country skiing and sledding in the city, and there’s a lovely ice rink at the top. In the warmer months, families love hiking to the beautiful outlook for the best view in the city and enjoying the futuristic playground and Beaver Lake. If you're there on a Sunday you can join the thousands of locals drumming at the Tam Tams, too. 

2. The Science Centre
This is an excellent activity for kids of all ages. There are various rooms for each age group, full of hands-on activities and experiments. Children age five and under will love the first two rooms where you can build houses with enormous blocks, explore magnetic attraction, light, shapes, color, and more. You can also pay for special, temporary exhibits and visit the IMAX theatre. Plus, it's in Old Port, so you could do this the same day as
Voiles en Voiles!

3. Montréal Museum of Fine Art
This is a great option year round. On top of housing some of the most celebrated art, this museum is a great place for kids. Particularly on Saturdays, when the museum hosts workshops at 11am and 1pm for children, free of charge. Kids can create their own masterpiece and learn from museum curators, art teachers, and artists!



5. Botanical Gardens
The entire Botanical Gardens is a terrific outing, but specifically the Cultural Gardens. In the Autumn these gardens host lantern festivals, including jack-o-lanterns for Halloween. The succulent-obsessed (aren't we all?) will love the indoor dessert gardens. Kids can explore uninhibited while parents take in the beauty. Don’t miss the annual Butterfly Exhibit!
  

Montreal has some serious ice cream joints and it's always a fun summer outing with kids. The best part is that my top three places all offer a  99 cent baby cone that's perfect for the under-3 crowd. Hit up Noble Café, who serve Les Givrés and soft serve, la Diperie who are famous for their dipped cones and crazy toppings, and Kem Coba (if you can brave the line, which is so big it has it's own twitter feed, it's awesome!). 
 
The famous Kem Coba line on a Sunday afternoon.

6. The Biodôme
The Biodôme is magical. Brad had an annual membership before we even had kids! Haha! kids get to explore four major ecosystems in the Americas, that are set up as unique rooms to travel through and experience. It’s educational and very tactile as you walk through the freezing air of the arctic, and then the muggy climate of the rainforest. The penguins are very popular, particularly with Clover!


7. Spend a day at the park!
Montréal families live outdoors in the warmer months (and brave the cold in the winter, too!). Each major neighbourhood has a large park, a kin to New York’s Central Park, as well as smaller playgrounds and public spaces throughout the city. Spend an afternoon at Parc Lafontaine or Parc Laurier (our stomping grounds!) Pack a picnic, and enjoy free admission to the beautiful swimming pools, too. 



Parc Laurier - baseball diamonds, outdoor gym, pool, kiddie pool, play ground, public washrooms, everything free, except the pool on weekends.
8. Red Path Museum
This free museum is within the beautiful campus of McGill University. Some of the content might be over your kids head’s but there’s also plenty to excite them! Kids love the massive taxidermy and the dinosaur bones and fossils. This museum is also on the same street as the Museum of Fine Art, so you could do them both in one shot. Closed Saturdays, but don’t miss the fun workshops for kids of all ages on Sundays.


9. Voiles en Voiles
A huge pirate ship located in the historic Old Port district where kids, ages 3 and up can complete various obstacle courses and climbing activities. The whole family can compete together in this idyllic setting where all the action is. B and I really want to do this with the kids this summer! or maybe a date night? Open April-November only!


10. Explore the markets!
Montréal is a foodie city through and through. Take a break from the typical grocery store and enjoy one of the outdoor markets that Montréal is famous for. Marché Jean-Talon and Marché Atwater are the two best known, and are conveniently at either end of the city. Both markets also have lovely cafés that you must visit! Kids love running through the stalls and sampling the fresh produce, straight from the farmer’s hand, and parents will love the impressive selection of seasonal produce, meats, and cheeses.

Jean-Talon market in Little Italy.

23.5.16

teaching a toddler to ride a bike!

We have another biker in the family! Recently, Brad cleared his schedule on his day off and set out to teach Oli how to ride a real bike (without training wheels). It was windy and cold and our little guy (who is certainly not big for his age!) only needed THIRTY MINUTES before he was up and riding!

 
I thought Lily was a fluke, needing only about an hour to really master riding a "big girl bike", but Oli was the same so now I'm more convinced than ever. Brad is a great teacher - he's so patient and encouraging! - but really, the real reason they learned so seamlessly is because we used balance bikes for the two summers prior to learning. No offense, Brad!


The real challenge to learning to ride a bike is balance, not pedaling. The problem with bikes with training wheels is that they give a false sense of security to the child, and allow them to pedal (which is practically instinct and not hard to learn) without needing any balance. When the training wheels are off, it's a whole new ball game. I remember it taking weeks to learn to ride a real bike, and so many falls along the way! The balance bike avoids all of that!


Lily and Oli's transition from balance bikes to real bikes was so smooth! We have a few quiet streets near our house, and a nearby school has the cement yard open all weekend for practicing. Lily can now ride with confidence in the bike lanes that cover our city, but I don't think Oli is there quite yet. Probably in a month though!


I can't even believe she's old enough, but they say ages 2-5, so she definitely is. The day Oli learned, she was his biggest cheerleader, despite the cold weather. So sweet!

 

We bought both of our kid's big bikes from Kijiji and spent under $30 for each, but we splurged on their balance bikes and got them new, from Amazon, where they range from $60-$100. Now Chloe is starting on Lily's old balance bike! Look at her go!


This is one of the sweet milestones that I hope Oli will always remember. I still remember learning to ride a bike, sliding on gravel and skinning my knee at a bend in the road near my parent's old house. I wonder if I would have remembered it if I didn't get hurt? I've read that memories involving pain are stronger... so hopefully this whole balance bike thing doesn't work against us and cause our kids to forget learning to ride a bike, just because it was painless, haha!

There are so many things I love about each stage of parenting, but so far, having a biker gang, is pretty much tops.


20.5.16

NOW Foods sale, heads up!

Hey guys, I just wanted to let you in on a great sale happening right now at well.ca! All of their NOW Foods products are 30% off until Sunday!


If you're into the oilz (as I sort of am, read more here), I really like NOW oils and their bamboo diffuser has been on my list forrrrrrrrrrrever. I still don't think I'm ready to bite the bullet though... Can someone who owns it please tell me they can't live without it? I am in the mood to be swayed.

Also if you're gluten free, it's a great time to stock up on alternative flours or xanthan gum powder, if you make your own. Related note: I respect gluten-free foodies like no tomorrow! The lengths you must go to make a great pizza dough or chocolate chip cookie are arduous and yet there you are, making your own flour and thus pizza and cookies that would rival any of my gluten-feast meals. I'm seriously in awe. And sugar-free peeps (of whom I have boatloads of equal respect) will want to buy all the stevia. I'd really want to incorporate more stevia into my baking but adding sugar does more than simply sweeten - it changes the texture and volume too, so I'm not sure how. Would love any tips!

Just wanted to let you know, because I read somewhere that sharing is caring :) Have a great week!

18.5.16

a day in HER life - Robin


My days tend to vary depending on the whether I'm at work or home.

I started back to work a month ago, and while it is only three mornings a week, we are all still adjusting to this new schedule in our lives. The biggest adjustment has been leaving my daughter Ramona in the care of someone other than my husband and I. For the first month the drop her off at my mum's in the morning was filled with tears and anxiety, especially knowing she was upset the entire time I was gone - but she has since become much happier and comfortable with the arrangement (phew!).

I teach a busy toddler class, which thankfully makes the morning go by quickly, and before I know it I'm back at my mum's with Ramona glued to my side again. We only own one vehicle, so I spend the day with my mum until my husband finishes work and can pick us up.

My two week days at home have little structure - much like they did when I was on maternity leave for a year. I quickly learned to be very flexible with a baby - we are both happier when we just follow the rhythm of that particular day.


I wake up when Ramona wakes up - usually anywhere between 6:00-7:00 am. My husband lets me lay in bed a little longer while he makes breakfast with Ramona, and then I roll out of bed and get dressed right before he leaves for work.

My goal isn't to get things done on my days at home, to be honest. I'll occasionally do some light tidying, or we'll go out to pick up some groceries, but mostly that time is devoted to Ramona. We play, look at books, listen to music, go the library, occasionally put on a movie.


I try to read, go on social media, or get any small chores done during her mid-morning and afternoon naps. Some days (who am I kidding - most days) I feel like I've achieved nothing, but I have to remind myself that especially when it comes to raising children, not every accomplishment can be seen on the surface.


At the end of the night after dinner, my husband and I play and read books with Ramona on the floor of her nursery, then I nurse her and put her into her crib for the first part of the night (she joins us in our bed when she wakes up about half way through the night).

On Saturday mornings we finish any leftover chores or errands that we didn't have time for during the week - and then we try to do something fun in the afternoon if we aren't too beat from the aforementioned chores and errands. Sundays we usually go to church in the morning and spend the rest of the day doing absolutely nothing at home. Now that the weather is warming up, we try to get outdoors on the weekends and let Ramona explore and experience new things - for example, crawling on grass and the rocky beach on a recent picnic by Lake Ontario.


Thank you Robin, your pictures are gorgeous!

Instagram: @twentyventi