Kids Activities, side hustles

How I Wrote and Self-Published a Children’s Book using Kickstarter!

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With small children, my days are filled with requests to read a book.

Especially before naptime or night time!

As a book lover, perusing stores for wonderful children’s stories has been a fun part of parenthood and I hope to instill a love of reading in my children with beautiful stories and rich imagery.

Do you remember in elementary school getting the little scholastic flyer with books you could order, and you’d get so excited waiting for your order of new books? Ahhh, such a good memory (if you liked reading of course!)

There are some amazing childrens’ books, and I’ve taken to buying independently published books like this incredible book by adventurer and photographer Chris Burkard. Check out his Instagram account, by the way!

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The Boy Who Spoke to the Earth, my Favourite Childrens Book That I Found on Kickstarter!

Truth be told, there’s some shitty ones on my bookshelf as well.  And my kids pull those to read alllllllll of the time, and I catch myself moaning and promising I’ll get rid of them secretly.

As a side note, never be afraid to get rid of the books you don’t like.  The whole point is to actually read to your children and if it’s a book that YOU don’t enjoy, it’s pretty unlikely you’re going to read it to them, right? 

Here’s the process of how I self-published a children’s book (step by step overview)

There are so many things we can decide to do with our money.  We all make decisions around where we want to spend it.  What if you took some of your money you were going invest in your child’s education, or toys, or clothes, or whatever, and created a permanent, long-lasting legacy for them, by writing a book just for them?  Honestly, it is such a cool thing to do, regardless of whether you want to sell the book later on.

I personally couldn’t find any beautiful fantasy-inspired children’s books with gorgeous artwork (I grew up loving fantasy stories, mermaids, Pegasus and other magical creatures) so that got me thinking, it would be nice to have one for my children.  I also wanted to impart some really important lessons to my children.

We all raise our children hoping to share the truths we’ve come to discover in our time on earth.  What legacy do I want to pass onto my own children?

-A beautiful, creative and magical imagination they can tap into and escape to.  I want my children to have a vivid inner world. I believe magic exists if you believe in it.

-A sense of stewardship and love for the natural environments they have the privilege of growing up in.  Our next generation are the caretakers of this earth.

A sense of adventure and playfulness.

-A connection with bravery and courage.  I want both of my children, both male and female to know that courage is being afraid and doing it anyways, and that the greatest rewards & growth come with the greatest challenges.

-The knowledge that they have a deep inner well of innovation and creativity.  I believe this is something no computer, no technology could ever replace, and it is our duty to encourage each generation to tap into their brain’s potential (the human brain is not used to its full potential yet, we have far to go.)

The importance of lifelong learning and the constant pursuit of gathering knowledge and wisdom.

Big stuff, right? I decided to put these into the story.

 

The project was daunting and in all honesty, I didn’t know where to begin. But it felt right.  And that’s an important point.  You can have the biggest bucket list in the world but you also need to have an intuitive sense of when the time is right for one of those projects, and the patience to wait if it doesn’t quite feel right. I thought about this for 2 years before I did it, and felt ready in 2016.  I consider this the biggest check mark off of my maternity leave #2 bucket list (I started it on mat leave #2 and finished it just before mat leave #3.)

 

SKETCHING OUT THE STORY LINE & WORLDS OF KINTARA + FIND OUT A WAY TO BRING THE IMAGES TO LIFE

I started with sketching out some visual representations of the images I had in my mind for this story (many are based off of recurring dreams I have had since I was a child.)

I turned to Deviant Art.com, an incredible community of artists, and found a spectacular fantasy artist who took commissioned work and who had a beautiful visual style that matched my vision for the book’s artwork.  Over a number of calls and emails back and forth, we decided on 8 different worlds and renderings for a negotiated price.

BOOK COST RESEARCH

Next, I researched how much it would cost to put the whole thing together and print it, using different size dimensions and options.  I went with a Canadian company to start with, because it felt right to do so for the first edition print which was for my Kickstarter backers, and it was also my first time doing it.  It worked out to a few thousand dollars.  On-demand printing seemed to be in the $30-$40 range through blurb.ca (eventually I’ll find a more affordable printer but in the beginning my priority was to just get it done!)

RAISE SOME FUNDS TO PAY FOR ARTWORK AND A FIRST PRINT RUN

Obviously, I don’t have thousands of dollars to throw around on mat leaves, lol, so I decided to put myself out there and launch a Kickstarter Campaign to raise funds to pay for the artwork and print about 50 copies for backers.

I set the reward to be a copy of the book. It was my goal to cover the graphic design and printing with my campaign, which I set at $2000.  I really didn’t research Kickstarter a lot, I just figured it out as I went and looked at campaigns for books that I had bought for my kids and studied what they did.  I’m sort of glad I went in there so naive and overly confident.  It’s a lot of work to run a good Kickstarter campaign and once it got going, I threw myself in with daily updates, sharing of the story and development as it went along.

The Gates of Kintara Childrens’ Book Kickstarter campaign was successful.  To be honest, you really have to hustle hard on Kickstarter and social media to raise funds in time (Kickstarter prefers you stay within a 30-60 day window btw.)

Kickstarter also works on an all-or-nothing basis.  You have to meet your stated goal.

I was so grateful for my network of family and friends who were incredibly supportive and generous – they were the primary source of startup funds (95%) , with a few random donors  (5%) from the Kickstarter world!

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DEVELOPMENT OF THE ARTWORK:

The process was very fun, taking each image, developing the structure, then the colours, and sending each written page to the artist with an outline of the message I wanted to convey.   It is a surprising amount of work.

I spent every lunch time at work, over the course of a year working on the book, but what a cool way to spend lunch hour!

Here’s an example of the forest world.  In this world, the little girl (in her dreams) meets a magic being who encourages her to take her magic talents (caring for the natural world) back to her earthly life.

 

The little girl in this book is actually my daughter (I sent a photo of her to the artist) and each world is the landscape of recurring dreams I’ve had since I was a child.

PUTTING THE BOOK TOGETHER, FORMATTING AND PRINTING:

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This is where things got technical and if I’m being honest, super frustrating because this is where I hit a wall with technical ability. I simply couldn’t get the hang of how to use the Blurb Book formatting software or In Design software, and the terminology for the book dimensions and setup was like another language entirely to me.    Not to mention at this stage, I was very pregnant and about to go on maternity leave #3 and wanted to be done!

My brother has graphic design knowledge and totally helped me out with the formatting,  I pretty much sent him the artwork and he managed to get it all into the dimensions and pdf format for printing through Blurb.  The thing with blurb is that they offer discount codes of up to 40% so WAIT until one comes out and THEN print.  A 40% off code was conveniently released just in time and the second it came out, I jumped on it.  WITH the code it still cost over $30 per book, so anyone serious about self-publishing and selling printed copies should definitely consider other means, as you simply cannot compete with the children’s book market at those prices.

GETTING A BAR CODE IN CANADA:

In Canada, you have to register (free) for an ISBN Code (ISBN = International Standard Book Number) and all of it is done through the following Government of Canada website for no cost. Simply follow the steps and it is a very quick (less than 2 weeks) process start to finish.  I did this step right before formatting the final book for printing, as you’ll want to put the ISBN on your book cover (I put it on my back cover.)

PRODUCING AN E-BOOK

Once the hardest part is done (formatting for printing) I had to think abut formatting for an E-Book and possibly selling on Amazon.

I approached the project as three parts:

1.) Develop the book (1 year)

2.) Get the first edition printed and Kickstarter pledges fulfilled (2 months)

3.) Share the second edition with the world 🙂

     This third and final step has a lot of pieces to it:

– Edit a second edition (I am picky and want to edit the fonts and story now that i           have read it to my children many times!)

– Find cost-effective printing to make it commercially viable.

-Share it on my Podcast, the Great Parental Leave (read it for the kiddos!)

-List the 2nd edition on Amazon as a paperback and E-Book

I hope this gives you some inspiration!  Of course this is a major bucket list item and isn’t for the faint of heart but truly, you can do anything your heart desires and if you approach it the right way, it doesn’t have to cost a small fortune to self-publish a children’s book.  I did mine for less than $500 net cost when all was said and done.

I have a beautiful book written for my children now (my daughter loves that it is her in the book!) and a permanent legacy to leave them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Crafts, Kids Activities, Nature and Forest Play

Nature Crafts for Children and Toddlers – Autumn Leaf Wreaths for Kids

Up here in Canada, the days are touched with the cool air of autumn and we’ve even had our first snow (!) which says to me, beautiful autumn is going to be a quick one this year!

I wanted to share one of my favourite autumn crafts today.  I am passionate about nature-based crafts that get the kids outside.

This craft checks the box for getting them outside, out gathering all sorts of things, and it is also educational in that you can talk about colours. Also, they get to glue things.  If you are a toddler parent you know that anything sensory is a WIN!

So I present to you, fall autumn leaf wreaths.  By the way, this is a craft that costs nothing to do unless you need glue and pens!

Supplies:  -An old cardboard box, cut into a wreath shape and cut out some leaf shapes.

-Pens

-Glue

The best part of all of this is getting the kids outside to gather leaves, sticks, pinecones or whatever else they would like for their wreath!

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When you return from your walk with your bounty of autumnul goodies, have your kiddos separate the items by colour or sort them while you cut out a round wreath shape  and a few leaf shapes from any old cardboard you have kicking around (diaper boxes are great for this)

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Next, add some colours to the wreath and create some ‘leaves’ with pens!

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And then, the part they’ve been waiting for… GLUEING.  Kids love this stuff.

And eventually, you will have the sweetest little wreath (my kids added “icycles” since their nature walk involved picking leaves out of the snow!)

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Families in Calgary, Kids Activities, Lifestyle Design, Nature and Forest Play, Toddler Gear

Toddler Mountain Bike Parks in Calgary – Fish Creek Mountain Bike Skills Park


Toddler fun in calgaryNot far from where we live is the Fish Creek Mountain Bike Skills Park (here is a map for the location)  and a description of the features on Trail Forks.

Don’t be mistaken, this bike park isn’t just for the big kids and adults.  This park is absolutely amazing for toddlers on balance bikes, as well!  It has been a wonderful (free) place for our family to get outside and play on our bikes for the last few seasons.

There is a dedicated beginner’s oval track for toddlers and small children to get used to it. We found that with both of our kids on striders, they preferred to walk up and ride down the hills on the pump track, so the oval is nice for them to go and do that at their own pace.

On the main pump track, you’ll find yourself trying to encourage them to move, to keep the bike traffic flowing if there are others there. And we all know how well a toddler takes to being told what to do 😉

There are a variety of features, and it is well spread out. The CMBA has a great little blurb on how to use the track, the terminology, and tips on skills such as how to get through a pump track, or around the berms.  The park itself is great for people like me – a mama of 2 toddlers and a baby whose eyes are usually darting around frantically like a mother chicken watching her 20 babies. They can’t go too far, and the parking lot ,as you can see in the photo below, is close by when you have to surfboard carry your toddler that doesn’t want to go home.  Excellent.

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It is located in South East Calgary, about 10 minutes from South Centre Mall and just a few km from Annie’s Cafe and the Bow Valley Ranche.

I highly recommend going over to Annie’s in the summer for ice cream afterward if it’s a hot day 🙂 It has a beautiful native garden, art installations and lots of places for the kids to explore while you sip coffee leisurely.  It’s a hugely popular spot so there’s always little friends to make.  Ah, toddler life, when you are up and out for the day at 8am because you’ve already been up for 2 hours….

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Photo Credit:  Calgary Mountain Bike Alliance (CMBA)

Interestingly, this park has been in the works for some time (15 years!) and for  a long time, there was strong resistance (and the belief that it wasn’t doable) at the Provincial *and* Municipal levels in Calgary, even as other parks were being built, such as Chestermere and Canmore.  This really surprised me, because I’ve always thought of Calgary as progressive and outdoor-activity oriented.

Once people retired, management changed over, etc. the project came to fruition thanks to the dedicated work and persistence of several advocates and the CMBA.

And did you know there are plans to put another park in at Glenmore Resevoir?!  Exciting!  $150k has been raised and about another $125k to go.

This park needs volunteer hours, material and equipment to continue finishing the development of it, especially the NW corner.  You can email the Calgary Mountain Bike Alliance if you’d like to contribute in any way you can! bikepark@cmbalink.com

Go have fun!

 

xo
Carina

Baby Gear, Families in Calgary, Happiness, Kids Activities, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Nature, Nature and Forest Play, Outdoors Activities

Hiking Heart Creek Trail with Toddlers – Toddler-Friendly Hikes in Calgary and Canmore.

Heart Creek Trail with 2 toddlers and a baby 🙂 

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Today my husband and I rolled out of the house with our two toddlers (4 and 3) and baby (1) to finally go do Heart Creek Trail.  We haven’t done any hikes yet this summer, but we’ve heard about this trail on lots of family outdoors groups.

We find that with hiking, we HAVE to commit, get up and go.  It really takes commitment – no changing minds.  It honestly takes a bit of dedication, because so many things can happen in the 2 hours between the kids up at 6:30 and getting rolling at 8:30. Meltdowns, complications, distractions or just the weakening of our own willpower to get in the car and drive for an hour and a half! 🙂

One thing that I am constantly fighting in order to get to the mountains, is the urge to leave the house in a somewhat not-disastrous-state. It’s quite a state after morning wild animal feedings 🙂

I work so hard not to feel it but my house IS messier than the average house and I full disclosure, I am still working to shake off  shame about it (which is hard to do when you do get judged and it reactivates your shame.) I constantly feel the need to clean it before we go.  Which is silly, because even if I do clean it, my ‘clean’ is still messy to other people, so what’s the point? lol.

I had been succumbing to the urge to clean earlier in the summer and finding that I was using my best energy and best time of day to clean and “organize” – basically, more often than not, it would wind up resulting in us not getting out!  So stupid when it’s not even a value of mine, I’m just doing it because of long-held shame and fear of judgement.

So, for the second half of summer, I’m pretty much leaving the house a disaster, saying fuck that and going to the mountains!  This is a belief that is no longer serving me.

We try to get everyone up, snacks packed, everyone changed, stuff thrown in a bag and coffees ready for us. Almost always, somewhere along the line we usually forget a coat, or a pair of extra pants, or someone’s water bottle, but if it means getting up and out, we can roll with that 🙂

Now, with out out of the way, onto the fun part – Heart Creek Trail, it is toddler approved (4,3,1)

Heart Creek is ideal for age 3+

Under 3’s will get tuckered so have a mode of carrying if they do!

I am pretty adventurous with my BoB Stroller and Double Chariot Stroller, however, I’ll say that Heart Creek is *not* doable with a stroller.

However, there are lots of natural features to keep the toddlers going!  You start off with a very slight toddler-friendly ascent up a hill (top left photo), over rooty, rocky trail for about 10 minutes before the trail opens to a nice meadow and view of Heart Mountain.  From there on in, you follow the creek, where there are fun bridges criss-crossing the creek, a toddler-friendly crossing where they step over slabs of rock, and trail mostly consisting of loose and compacted river rocks and pebbles.

Despite the bear in area signs, it was a busy trail on a Sunday in July, but not overly busy.

We turned around at the climbing area (75% of the way) as our parent spidey senses were tingling and we sensed the kids were getting tired. It wound up being a good judgment call.  Always turn around before meltdowns, and leave something more to look forward to the next time.  That’s kind of our approach to hiking now.

I think in our earlier parent days we were adamant about completing the whole hike or trail and we’d always wind up carrying someone back to the car or dealing with meltdowns.

We’ve learned to let that mindset go and simply go for the experiences on the trail, rather than where the trail leads to, or the “accomplishment” inherent in a hike.  It takes a bit of work to pull back and turn around before you are ready to, but it makes for a better experience for everyone!

 


Tips to keep your toddlers going on a hike:


-Snacks


-Point out cool features (lots of mushrooms on your right, on the first part of the hike – keep your eye out for the cute pink ones!)


-Don’t see at it as getting to a destination – look at it as a chance to explore and play in different features along the trail. We loved the little creek crossings on the rocks as well as the bridges.

-Make nature bracelets so they can pick things along the way! Still have to write a post about this, but essentially, make a bracelet out of duct tape, with the sticky side up.  As your kids hike, they can add little things to their bracelets like leaves, moss, twigs and the occasional wildflower. 

-Scale it.  Remember they are little people in little bodies.  We really had to work on getting out of our “goal of completing a hike because we drove an hour there” mindset and focus on the experiences along the way on the trail.  Ironically, this is a really nice analogy for life. 🙂

If you enjoy reading about trails on blogs, here are some blogs about Heart Creek Trail written by other wonderful bloggers!  These are always what inspire me to get out there!

Other blogs on Heart Creek Trail & Area

I love the Hiking with Barry blog, he’s a lovely guy and sold me my XC skis last year! Here’s his blog on Heart Creek Trail 

Tanya scrambled up Heart Mountain (sans kids you can make it a great scramble / summit hike!)

Here’s the standard All Trails Heart Creek Trail Map

With or without kids, if you complete Heart Creek and still want more, why not do Bow Valley Nuclear Bunker after lunch and explore the man made cave inside?  (take a flashlight, it’s pretty cool and starts from the same area as Heart Creek!) 

Baby Gear, Families in Calgary, Happiness, Kids Activities

A List of Fun Things to Do in Calgary with a Baby and Toddlers during the Summer. Things to do With Children in Calgary.

FUN THINGS TO DO IN CALGARY, CANADA WITH KIDS UNDER 5 (SUMMER EDITION)

On my 2nd mat leave, I wrote a post on fun things to do with a baby and toddler in the winter.    

One thing we do in our house each season, is make a fun list of things to do with our 2 toddlers and baby, in that season (by the way Western Canadian seasons are really sunny and hot, or really sunny and freezing lol!)

I find that I’m not particularly creative in the mornings, which is exactly when we wake up, feed the kids, get them dressed and start fielding the questions of “Where are we going today?”

We also find that we come up with excellent unique ideas all the time but it’s when we are out driving or doing something, and then we forget about them!  So, this summer I made a point of writing down all of our ideas between my husband and I.

Many of these we have done, many of them we have not.

So, I present to you, the ultimate list of fun things to do in Calgary in the summer with a baby and toddlers / small children in tow.

Fun things to do in Calgary with babies and toddlers – Summer Edition! 

Go visit the Bow Hatchery.  Play in Pearce estate park, go feed the fish in the hatchery, get a kids’ fishing rod and catch a trout in the family pond.

Go park at Pearce estate park, enjoy the playground, walk through the nature trails to the newly opened LIvingston Channel for a morning of fun water play.  This is a separate channel off of the bow river, beside the kayakers’ rapids but is safe for kids. Remember your PDFs.

Visit lakes!  Sikome Lake in Fish Creek Park, Quarry Lake in Canmore, Two Jack Lake in Banff. All of these have sandy beach areas for the kiddos.

Visit Reader Rock Garden, there is a tea house / cafe and kids love climbing the rock steps.

Attend an open air theatre performance in Princes Island park, which has great playgrounds.  You can pick up a gorgeous picnic from the nearby River Cafe.

Take the Gondola up to Sunshine Meadows and walk around.  Have a beer at the day lodge.  Kids LOVE the Gondola ride.  You can also do Banff but it is $$$$.  Make sure you pick up coupons from any major mall’s information desk.

Visit a spray park. Our favourites in Calgary are:  (South) Glenmore resevoir variety park, (Central) Riley Park and (North) Bowness park.

If you are at Bowness park, take out a boat or ride the train that goes around the park.

Catch little minnows and watch your children delight in them nibbling their toes at the beautiful Bebo Grove in Fish Creek Park.  Don’t forget hot dogs and lunch – benches and firepits on a first come first serve basis.

Take the C-train downtown.  Let the kids splash around in the fountains at Olympic Plaza. Picnic in the sun and explore Stephen Avenue Mall (walking street downtown, often filled with vendors in the summer.) . If it’s too hot, head inside to the great playground surrounded by the Devonian gardens, inside The Core shopping centre.

Also downtown, explore the Dragon City Mall. Take the stairs up to the Dim Sum Restaurant, Feed the Koi Carp Fish and try out a few Dim Sum dishes. Very family friendly, especially on weekends.  Fast in and out service.

Roast Marshmallows over a fire pit anywhere in Fish creek. We particularly love Voitier flats area (end of elbow drive) – there’s a hidden tree house by the way, and very friendly chickadee birds 🙂

Rainy day?  Go to the massive, massive hide ‘n seek indoor playgorund facility – generously sized so you the parent can enjoy (or easily extract your crying toddler)

Another rainy day? Go see a matinee movie at any movie theater.  We like the Canyon Meadows movie theatre which has movies for cheap.

Rent a chariot and bikes from Nomad Gear Rentals, who come to YOU to fit gear and pick it up, too!  Ride 15km around Glenmore Resevoir.  Stop in the spectacular Jack Rabbit Trail area for the kids to explore the forest, and end at the family friendly 1600 pub for a pint and eats.

Feeling braver on bikes?  Park in Canmore, bike the Legacy Trail with your kids.  20+ km one way to Banff, but we usually picnic at a nice halfway point that has a lookout and picnic area.   Then, obviously, pub.  We recommend the Iron Goat. Try their grilled calamari and blueberry bison burgers.  OMG.

VIsit the Eau Claire Wading pool downtown, surrounded by Eau Claire Market.  Try and time it with one of the many festivals and events that take place in the area.  Walk across the bridge to Princes Island park and visit the famous peace bridge.

Visit the historical Annies Cafe in Fish Creek provincial park. Grab icecreams for the kids, beer wine or cider for yourself, and let them romp through the lovely native gardens and art installations.

On the road that goes to Annies is the AMAZING mountain bike skills park.  Little rippers on balance or pedal bikes?  Go early to avoid the teens, but they w ill love it.  Grab that well earned ice cream at annies or cool off at sikome lake after, both are on the same road.

If you feel like exploring further, when you exit annies cafe, in front of you in the distance  (1km) you’ll see the ridge on the other side of the park. Take the pathed path that way, cross fish creek and turn right to explore a set of caves in the hillside.  The path does a 2km loop (stream changes trail)  before returning to the bridge back across to annies cafe.

Have a brilliant day out at Kayben farms in Okotoks, about a 30 minute drive.  Giant slides, farm animals, forests to explore and a crazy fun giant inflatable trampoline for big and little kids alike.  Often live music on the weekends and damn good stone oven baked pizza.

Pick up fresh vegetables, pick berries yourself and visit the beautiful cafe and at Saskatoon farms.  The extensive labrynth of gift shops is a bit stressful with small unpredictable humans, but they’ll want to be over at the chicken pen anyways, so no worries there 😉

Go watch a movie on the 360 degree dome at the Telus Spark Science Centre. Save your money for this one, and the zoo, a day pass for a family will run you quite high.  Again, keep your eye out for coupons in books at the information desks at local malls.

Visit the Calgary Farmers’ market on Blackfoot Trail, your kids can romp in the barnyard playground while you enjoy coffee and market goodies.  We totally recommend picking up some spices at silk road spice market, the crafted store, and I’m always in eden essentials for crystals and bath stuff – don’t forget the amazing chicken sausages at missing link.  They are AMAZING.

Tip: They have single and double car strollers parked behind the playground so you can actually shop the market with happy toddlers enclosed,  and bring cash for the face painting booth right beside the playground.

Older kids?  Pick up some led candles from superstore grocery store, and set up a little evening candle light fairy picnic anywhere in Fish creek!

Visit St. Patricks Island natural playground, which is the back entrance to the zoo.  There is an amazing nature-inspired playground a short walk from the parking lot.  If you fancy exploring further, cross the bridge across the bow river and visit the east village playground and citizen sidewalk cafe / bakery in the east simmons building.

Want to grab some art and craft supplies?  Why not time it with the free art and craft classes that michaels offers for kids.  they run from 1-2 hours and you can leave them while you shop.  Check out the website for details.

Stand up Paddle board at Two Jack Lake or Canmore Resevoir. Rent from Bow Valley SUP once you are out there, they do lessons too – or Nomad Gear rentals in Calgary.  Small rental car? No worries. Rent an inflatable which fits in a large backpack and comes with a pump that is easy to use.

Both have beach areas so the parents can switch off!  Don’t forget a pfd for your kiddos who will want to climb aboard, and maybe a sense of balance 🙂 But don’t let bad balance stop you, you can always stay very stable and paddle on your knees!

Expose your children to a safe, easy, beautiful rockies “hike” close to Calgary.  Heart Creek Trail.

Build a tree house in fish creek.  Or better yet, find the ones that are hidden, like this Teepee on the ridge overlooking fish creek 😉    This particular one is a hit with our kids and saskatoon berries are nearby for picking and eating!

Pack up a picnic and go to Bragg Creek Provincial Park Day Use area (please not this is not west bragg creek day use area, the two are different.)   Take your children on the lovely Alder Trail hike, a short loop.  Keep it to 1km for the 2-3 year olds and don’t Cross the highway at the top of the hill –  just enjoy the forest, mossy slopes and creek.

4-5 year olds or using a carrier? Follow the trail, cross the highway and do the loop which will take you an extra 3 km.   You can do the upper loop with a trail stroller or chariot but you’ll have to handle it aggressively.  Carrier better.

There is a big expanse of grass, fire pits, benches and if you walk down the hill, there are wonderful areas for the kids to explore, throw rocks and wade in the water.  People have built some safe side channels for the kids to explore along with little bridges.

Another popular option is Fullerton Loop.  Combine with a stop in Bragg creek for ice cream and mamas, visit Gypsy Maries shop in the main shopping area for the most amazing selection of unique items and handmade stuff.

Visit any U-Pick Farm, or animal farm.  Calgary Corn Maze, Butterfield Acres are great options!

Go a bit further nto the mountains and explore Grotto Canyon, keep an eye out for petroglyphs in the wall and if you go all the way, you will be rewarded with a fantastic waterfall.

Troll Falls is another toddler friendly short hike.  Kananaskis village is a great stop for the kiddos to explore with ponds, restaurants and the hotel.  Troll Falls trail head is a 2 minute drive from the hotel and is a short, easy hike to a very spectacular waterfall.  I like being close to “bases” so that if we have meltdowns, we have alternatives!

Visit Heritage Park – it really is SUCH a great day out.  Your children will love it and the vintage rides are a blast even for grownups.  Don’t underestimate the swings or carousel 🙂   Make sure you introduce them to a root beer and vanilla ice cream float!

Try out Geo Caching and download an app.  You can do it all from your smart phone nowadays.

Do you have playground fans?  Check out the Calgary Playground Review with an ongoing list of Calgary’s best playgrounds!

Visit the new Youth Link police museum, located at Police Headquarters.  It is absolutely fantastic and even includes a helicopter simulation and a police car you can explore!

While you are up that way (northeast Calgary) grab some takeout and watch some planes land at the airport.  A highlight for toddlers.

Check Calgary event listings there are many social and cultural festivals going on! 

Go inside a real fire truck! Visit Calgary central library so your kids can explore and read inside a firetruck. Firefighters even come by to read children stories!

Pick up a cheap second hand book in the wonderful childrens’ section at fair’s fair books in Inglewood.  Book worms will love the random chairs and aisles of used books, memorabilia and oddities.  Afterward, go across the street to the Hose and Hound pub for a pint and lunch in an old firestation.  Walk across the street and enjoy the enclosed playground and sandpit behind the Alexandra Centre Society.

Feel like a break?  Why not put your little ones into an unparented yoga class at Wymbin yoga in Inglewood while you check out the amazing  (and child and dog friendly) Cold Garden Brewery or shops in Inglewood? We love the Yoga Sprouts class, great for 2-5 year olds.

Other Inglewood Favourites? Live music, amazing curries and more at Gravity Espresso and Wine.  The best sub sandwiches ever at Spolumbo’s Deli, the outdoor playground at Mills Park, exploring the trails of the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, and walking across the bridge to the east village playground.

Keep your eye out for the free Calgary’s Child, Where Calgary, Impact and Avenue Magazines about town.  Really well produced magazines.

 

Tip: They also throw amazing birthday parties for the little ones.  

Budding thespian and book worm?  Visit the Fish Creek Library with its spacious, toy-filled early learning area, and its stage with costumes that the children can perform on.  Lots of music and reading days too, check out the schedule.

Rainy day?  Wave pools abound.  Our favourite is Southland Leisure Centre.

Watch your children collapse into fits of giggles at Loose Moose’s improv and children’s theatre.   This theatre is behind the awesome Blackfoot Farmers Market.

Rent a tent or if you own one, camp at home!  set one up in your yard. Remember, for your kids this is magical!

Book a visit to the Calgary Children’s Reading place.  This house downtown has been completely designed as a reading house with nooks, crannies and secret spaces to curl up and read in. At the end of the visit, your child gets to select a book and bring it home. This is a MUST do with small children in Calgary.  if you love books you’ll be blown.away and the resident “house mothers” will help make the visit extra special for the little ones.

Visit Pinterest for a multitude of childrens nature craft activities.  A favourite of ours is making nature bracelets, since there are so many lovely wildflowers in the summer.  Make a bracelet with duct tape and have your kids explore, and find things to stick on their “bracelets.”  I plan to write about each of these on the blog, so stay tuned.

Tip: search “nature bracelets” “nature stick loom” “mud faces on trees” “forest faces” and “journey sticks” for some amazing nature ideas.  

Make an Inukshuk (or cairn) by the river or on a trail where rocks are to be found.

I hope this list gets you started exploring around Calgary!

PLEASE add to this list if you have more suggestions, hopefully this will make your summer in Calgary a wonderful one!

Creativity, Happiness, Kids Activities

What to do with a Baby and a Toddler in Calgary (in the winter) – Activities for families in Calgary, Family Fun in Calgary, Family Activities Calgary

 

FUN THINGS TO DO IN CALGARY, CANADA WITH KIDS UNDER 5 (SUMMER EDITION) (1)

A great list of 30 unique ideas for families with young children visiting Calgary during the winter – baby and toddler-friendly.

pinterest1

What authority do I have?  Well, I’m the mother of a 3 year old and a 1.5 year old.  We’re all pretty active and go stir crazy inside, though I confess – I DO like my crafternoons by the fireplace as well!  All of these activities are tried, tested and true with my family.  We’re still learning a ton, especially about layering in winter.  Neither of us parents grew up with particularly outdoorsy families, and our skills in any winter activity are

All of these activities are tried, tested and true with my family.  If you want me to blog further or do a “field report”  on any of the experiences below, please leave a comment! We’re still learning a ton, especially about layering in winter.  Neither of us parents (Carina and Trevor) grew up with particularly outdoorsy families, and our skills / knowledge in any winter activity are pretty low.  But we have the right attitude and I think that’s all that matters!

XC skiing, skating, even toboganning.  Our skills are down there with our 3 year old – but that’s the joy!  We are experiencing all of this together and designing the family that we want to be.  

This is a good chance to comment on a sentence that stood out from a book I am reading, Tools of Titans (highlight recommended btw.) In one part of this book, there is a discussion on discovering who you are, versus creating who you are.

You don’t just go on living life and all of a sudden “discover” that you are a certain type of family or a certain type of parent.  It’s about designing and creating it, so that one day you “discover” you are precisely that.

And you know what?  This list of ideas all started with a pinterest board I started in 2010 that I titled “My Ideal Life” and in it, was an active, adventurous family.  I liked the idea.  Even though I hadn’t a clue whether I wanted kids, or how to do half of the activities on the board.  🙂

The biggest piece of advice I’d offer, especially with the outdoors activity stuff, is go into it with zero expectations.  Your kids may love it, or they may melt down 10 minutes in, and you find yourself driving 40 minutes back home, debating whether or not to surrender and just give them the damn iphone in the back seat to gain a moment of peace.  You may spend 20 minutes getting them into a snowsuit and then they announce they have to pee.  You may get to a hike and realize their snowboots are all of a sudden 2 sizes small, let alone impossible to get on when they do fit.  Been there, done all of that in the last two weeks.

The key is not to let expectations prevent you from doing things.  Because if there’s one thing we know as parents, our kids will also surprise us. One snow shoe could be terrible and leaving us questioning “why bother?”  Actually no, it’s more like “F*** why did we do this!” Yet, the following week, we have a magical time and our 3-year-old surprises us with her endurance and fortitude!

As you read every family blog where it seems they are out in these amazing winter adventures in and around Calgary, remember that there was a meltdown or two in there, and what seems like a day out, was probably just a short trip.  But regardless, they still did something epic and we still find ourselves looking at their instagram or facebook feed with admiration and a secret longing to design our lives more intentionally.

THAT is the goal of this post, to encourage you to stop liking others’ instagram posts and start creating your own – to embrace the beauty that is winter (sorry, I write this with ALL of the enthusiasm of a kid that didn’t grow up around snow and is still, to this day at 34, mesmerized by it.)   Design the type of life where you don’t have a ton of time to spend on Instagram liking other people’s photos and feeds, because you’re too busy creating your own adventures!

Alright, off of that soap box.  What is the point of today’s post?

I was asked by a work colleague for a list of ideas for a family visiting Calgary in January (deep winter!)  There are SO many on the internet and most of them are copied from the same few sources, so I tried to add some really unique ideas to this post, and went back through my own journals of what we’ve gotten up to in winter.   I will confess, my list does have a bit of an outdoor activity focus (assuming it’s above -15c, my threshold for enjoying winter with small children.)  I also believe that outdoor time buys you EXCELLENT NAPS AND APPETITES (read: you time!) so it’s a win-win situation. 

I hope this will give you some creative indoor and outdoor activity ideas when you are in Calgary with a baby and small toddler, as well as some fantastic bloggers to follow and websites to use as a resource.

Stay warm and have fun!

 

1.) Telus spark has an incredible section for young children, The Creative Kids Museum – with admission you have access to the main science centre (and) the childrens’ area.

2.)  Try out the lunchtime mom + baby yoga offered at the Holistic Institute of Health and Fertility in the south (Deer Run.)  Then, pop next door to the Cornerstone Cafe for the most amazing cafe food you’ll ever try (I love the vegetarian wrap.)

3.) Also in the same neighbourhood is a drop in yoga program, for both parents and toddlers OR toddlers unattended!  www.yogabears.ca – fish creek is also within a 5 minute drive, with Annie’s Cafe, and the Ice Caves (see list.)

4.)  Go west (1 hour) to Grotto Pond & Grotto Canyon on Highway 1A – this is a favourite destination of ours, because our children tend to tap out in the car before we get to Canmore (1 hour 20 min.)

Grotto Canyon and Pond are just a few minutes after Exshaw on Highway 1A.  YOu can take Highway 1 west most of the way until the 1X turnoff to Exshaw before Lac Des Arcs. Trail Peak Guide to Grotto Canyon

 

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Skating with my 3 year old on grotto pond in December 2016!

 

Natural mountain lake skating at Grotto Pond (ice rink in centre, loop around outside)

Posts by Tanya Koob on Grotto Pond.for Grotto canyon which is do-able for young children – so if your toddler or baby meltsdown, you have a plan B activity right there ready to go! We bought out sled along and skated with the kids in the sled, and then on the hike, we had b aby in a backpack and toddler walking.

for Grotto canyon which is do-able for young children – so if your toddler or baby meltsdown, you have a plan B activity right there ready to go! We bought out sled along and skated with the kids in the sled, and then on the hike, we had b aby in a backpack and toddler walking.

5.) In Calgary, Bowness park / lagoon has amazing skating on the river and fire pits to warm up beside.A sweet cafe is nearby, and if you love alernative / health food stores, the Light Room in Bowness is worth visiting.  Post from Family Fun Canada.

6.) Delta Lodge at Kananaskis – Fantastic family friendly resort with an icerink outside of the hotel and a massive outdoor hot tub that kids love.  Right beside the ice rink is a rental place, with xc ski, snowshoe, walking and bike paths.  You can also rent chariots with winter attachments there for risk-free activities.  Great blog post.

7.) Calgary Zoo Lights – Until January 8th –  you can buy a day admission pass, go at 4pm and stay until the park closes and the zoolights switch on, or go later (after 5 and just pay for the zoolights portion)

8.) Nomad Gear Rentals bring the rental gear to you and fit your children!  Or if you want to stay in Calgary, use Nomad Gear Rentals to rent a variety of gear for yourself and the kids, and explore Fish Creek Park, especially the Ice water falls and caves near to Annie’s Café just off of Bow Bottom Trail.   We just used Nomad this past week to try our 3 year old out on xc skis for the first time and Andrel was lovely to work with.  Rates are competitive with other local rental shops!    Winter Rental List including skis, xc skis, fat bikes and snowshoes.

9.) To warm up, Calgary farmers’ market is a fantastic place to go with a playground area, and adults can enjoy coffee and eat food since the foodcourt is adjacent to the playground area. I highly recommend the spinach and leek gallette (gluten free) from the little fresh crepe place!  At the playground area you can access free fire truck and car-shaped strollers that fit either one or two kids!  Combine that with an ice cream or macaron and this is my secret to getting shopping done there!

 

10.) A beautiful forested part of fish creek is Bebo Grove (at the end of 24st SW) Reviews of Fish Creek Park and favourite spots on Yelp. 

11.) Toboganning at Confederation park or St. Andrews hill (near University of Calgary)  great blog post by Family Fun Canada (another great site to check out.)

12.) Grab hot drinks and drive by the spectacular Christmas lights at Spruce Meadows (deep south of city)  – on until January 8th.

13.) Indoor / outdoor winter crafts:  Winter Playdough sensory activity.  Make natural playdough, go outside and collect pine cones, pine needles, etc and bring them back and make pictures by pressing the items into the playdough and letting it dry.

14.) Go to Calgary Central Library (downtown) to visit a fire truck! there is a full sized firetruck in there (Engine 23) stacked with books. On Fridays they have readings for children by local firefighters.

15.) Also downtown:  Visit the lovely Devonian gardens on the upper floor of the core shopping centre, which also has a playground.

16.)  IMHO, the best wave pool is Southland leisure centre (great baby area and toddler slides) and you can pay for 1 hour. They also have drop-in times for the Kinder room, active play and tots for $5.20 per child.

17.) Snowshoe in west bragg creek with your family!  (baby in backpack, toddler in sled or kids’snowshoes you can rent)  – get a wrap and hot chocolate at cinnamon spoon.

 

snowshoe
Snowshoeing on New Years Day in West Bragg Creek with our 1.5 and 3 year old! (we plan on getting her some snowshoes!)

 

18.) Go for a walk and Make maple syrup taffy in the snow. Recipe here. 

19.)  Go to Plant in Inglewood and buy the jar of supplies to make your own terrarium – there is one they have for kids! Or you can pick your own plants, rocks, mini figurines (sweet little mushrooms and gnomes) for about $50 you’d get everything you need!  Great article on kids’ terrariums on CBC! 

20.) Fish Creek library has an incredible play area including a closed of area for babies, a stage with moving backdrops, costumes, reading forest and sensory toys for both toddlers and babies on the 2nd floor, it is worth a visit!  There seats for the adults to relax while the kids play!  It is across the parking lot from Southcentre mall.  The Calgary Public Library also has a rotating schedule of sing along, counting and stories  depending on which library in the city you go to.  http://events.calgarypubliclibrary.com/programs/online-registration

21.) If you would like to shop, Southcentre mall in the south has a beautiful mall & there is a prechool where adults can drop off their children while they shop:  http://greendoorschool.ca/  Or you can rent a police car or firetruck (one or two children capacity) with built-in smart screens to keep the kids entertained while you shop.  I recommend starting at Analog Coffee and also visiting Rocky Mountain soap company for amazing natural, toxin-free products produced locally in Canmore.  The lemongrass bubble bath and lavender bum / diaper spray  is a favourite in our household!

22.) Indoor Crafts: Put snow into a large tub, and have a “snow painting” activity, or pick up a snow painting kit from Canadian tire and go outside to create art (not the yellow snow kind!)

23.) Try out skiing or tubing at Canada Olympic Park, you can pay for certain amounts of time if you are not sure how your child will react to a.) skiing b.) cold.  The 2-hour preschool age package is $14.99, younger is free.  For equipment, 2 hour rentals for preschool age is $9.95. The foot pass is $9.99 for adults to use the magic carpet to get the little ones safely up the bunny hill if you’re daring enough to try skiing with them 🙂  Rentals are

The foot pass is $9.99 for adults to use the magic carpet to get the little ones safely up the bunny hill / assist them  if you’re daring enough to try skiing with them 🙂

If they tap out on the ski hill, there is the bobsled track nearby or indoor skating in the Winsport complex.

24.)  Buy some snow shovels for kids from the loonie store and some “pretend” gemstones  or other treasures, draw a treasure map, and bury them in the snow for the kids to find with a bucket. The little ones love dropping.  Search ” winter activities, toddler” on pinterest to get started with an insane list of ideas and create your own activities / inspo board.  Pinterest is amazing for parents. Here is my own Kids’ Activities Board on Pinterest.

25.) Pick up a free copy of calgary’s child magazine at most grocery stores or anywhere where free magazines are distributed http://www.calgaryschild.com/family-fun/1581-115-things-to-do-with-kids-in-and-around-calgary they have a great events listing and amazing lists of ideas for activities.

 

26.) Visit Gasoline Alley  at Heritage Park (especially if you have shiny car fans in your family) and the old tyme candy / toy stores in the central plaza, then lunch at the Selkirk grille.  Glenmore reservoir is also nearby, you can walk along the path there.

27.)  Grab lunch and watch planes take off from the YYC airport runway (there is a great viewing area at the end of the runway) – the Edward Laborde Airplane Watching Area 

28.)  If it is nice out, check out one of Calgary’s many great playgrounds, Calgary Playground review has an excellent list! 

29.)  Round up everybody and Go for Dim Sum – our favourite is the family friendly Central Grand Restaurant downtown in China town (kids will love the koi carp fish pond at the entrance where you can feed the fish.) Avenue magazine has a great article on dim sum op tions in Calgary and advice if you are new to the experience (and its delicious food) which is in a kid-friendly format of “little eats” and is bought to you via steaming bamboo pots on carts. Children can also choose their own desserts at the desert area.

30.)  Go to a loonie store, pick up little figurines (animals, etc.) and build a winter car race track (for the little guys) or a winter forest for the animals (get branches and stick them into the snow) – kids have fun scavenging for rocks, branches, etc.

Favourite Calgary bloggers or websites:

http://www.rockiesfamilyadventures.com/ Great outdoors activities ideas for families w/ young children and also reports on conditions from different areas.   Family adventures in the Canadian rockies is a facebook group worth joining with a great community happy to offer suggestions based on the area of the city you are in.

Calgary Playground Review http://calgaryplaygroundreview.com/ 

Great infographic on dressing babies for cold weather