Family Activities

Fun and Free Activities for Families in Calgary, Things to do in Calgary with Toddlers

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Hi everyone!  My husband and I are taking a class called “debt destruction” which includes lots of brilliant financial coaching and habit reconstruction.  One of the topics that came up recently was family entertainment expenses.

This summer, with a 3 and 4 year old, was quite a big shock to the system – why? We started getting them into registered programs.  We easily spent several grand this summer on that – we definitely accumulated some pretty good debt in the process. A  registration for September here, a camp there, summer school for two little ones and a few other things added up FAST on the credit card.  I endeavoured to pay these things off once I returned to work from mat leave but as you know, you are so busy playing catch up on other things, you don’t do it!

After that, my husband and I realized that we simply can’t (and don’t want to) keep up with the registered stuff with three kids, and we both like more flexibility in our schedules and spontaneity anyways. We’re all for free play and random adventures and hate having our schedules booked up.

So, if you are feeling the same after this summer, and have toddlers and young children in your house, here is a list of fun and frugal family activity ideas in Calgary!  Crafts deserves its own section because it is a passion of mine, so stay tuned for seasonal craft posts.  But for now, some ideas for fall!

Fish Creek Library (amazing section for the kids with free story and song times) 

Downtown library (visit the firetruck (Engine23) for stories read by real firefighters!)

Grab a copy of Calgary’s Child Newspaper, sit down with your iphone and add events into your calendar that capture your interest.  So often we simply forget what’s going on  / coming up.

Devonian garden and its fantastic indoor playground.

Calgary Police Headquarters Youth Link / Museum is AMAZING for the little people

Baking – no comments, not my area of strength lol

Community skating and toboganning areas

Cycle along the pathway in east village – there is an excellent playground by the East Simmons Building.

Go hiking

Tumble time / play time in community centres. Usually weekday mornings. Our favourites?  Lake Bonavista ($4 per kid, from 9:30 – 12:30) and Mackenzie Lake Community Centre.

Explore the many pathways, steps and gazebo at Reader Rock Garden

Many community churches also have parent-tot playgroups and non-denominational events.  Most of them are listed on Meetup! 

Go on a Halloween scavenger hunt – print out pictures of pumpkins, ghosts, etc. and get the kids to point them out / cross them off.

Look at Calgary Meetups, Rad Mums YYC or Born to Be Adventurous Mamas YYC for Calgary Mom get-togethers outside in nature.  Free!

Take the kids and a few logs down to Fish Creek Provincial Park, roast marshmallows in a firepit.  If it’s snowy, take maple syrup and try making maple candy!

Sip a coffee at the Calgary Farmers’ market while your kids play in their cute little indoor playground (free)

Buy a 12 pack of submersible colour changing LED lights, make a GIANT bubble bath and pop a light in there for each kiddo.  This was a HUGE hit with my kids.  I like these ones on Amazon! – You can also pick them up in Safeway!

Attend the Michaels Craft Stores $2 kids craft Saturdays 10-12, sign up in store.

Download the Geocaching app, or buy a few cool things from the loonie store and do your own treasure hunt in the trees with the kids (they LOVE this stuff.)

City of Calgary pools have $2 family swim days, these are called “Splash Swim” – they are busy, but very affordable!

In Inglewood, visit Plant YYC and pick up some ‘terrarium supplies’ and a miniature figurine or two.  Your child will love collecting moss and making their own little house.

Make a fairy garden, you can buy cute doors at Michaels and spend only $5 – less if you use the weekly 40% off coupon (use the Flipp App)  – they have theme doors based on the season which is SO fun!

Book a visit to Calgary Children’s Reading House in Inglewood

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 

Set up a tent in your basement, the kids LOVE “camping out” in it!  You can even give them some LED lights for their ‘campfire’ and marshmallows on sticks.  These are easily available in Loonie Stores.

Go to Loose Moose Improve Theatre’s childrens’ shows and watch your kids hysterically laugh!

Snow?  Toboganning!  Check out this great toboganning park review by Family Fun Calgary! 

 

I hope these got your creativity going.  Get out there and enjoy! xo

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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!