September may be months away, but that school bell will be ringing before you know it. Keeping your kids’ skills razor sharp this summer will make that transition back to class as painless as possible.
You (and your child) will be relieved to know that keeping his or her mind in top shape doesn’t have to involve hours hunched over boring workbooks.
Julius Caesar once said that “experience is the teacher of all things.” Because Ottawa has so many different activities on offer, you can pick and choose what your child can see and do based on his or her interests and needs. For the next couple of months, make this city your child’s teacher with our roundup of educational activities.
Join a reading club
Studies show that kids who keep reading all summer do better when they return to school in the fall. After mid-June, sign up at any Ottawa Public Library branch for the TD Summer Reading Club, Canada’s biggest bilingual summer reading program for kids preschool and older. This free program, which is easy to incorporate into summer plans (even if you’re going away), encourages a love of reading. Participants receive a notebook and stickers that allow them to track their reading and connect with other readers online.
Step into the past
As a parent, you’ve likely been to the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Canadian Children’s Museum inside it more times than you can count. But have you been to the Canadian War Museum, the National Gallery of Canada, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum and the Canada Agricultural Museum? And when was the last time you visited the Currency Museum of the Bank of Canada, Diefenbunker, the Royal Canadian Mint or Laurier House? If your answer is “the Grade 8 class trip,” it might be a good time to check them out again.
While some of these museums are better suited to school-aged children than preschoolers, all of them have something to teach your kids about our country’s history. Don’t overlook the Billings Estate National Historic Site, Cumberland Heritage Village Museum, Fairfields Heritage House and Nepean Museum. Community museums, including the Bytown Museum, Goulbourn Museum, Vanier Museopark and Watson’s Mill, also have much to offer in terms of local history. If you’re feeling extra motivated, all of these museums have websites where you and your children can read up on what you’re about to see.
Watch history in action
Learn about the history and functions of Canada’s Parliament with a free guided or self-guided tour. Start at the Centre Block, home to the Senate, House of Commons and the Library of Parliament, where a special exhibit of Canada’s foundational documents marks the 150th anniversary of Confederation.
Next, take a trip to the East Block to check out restored heritage rooms and the offices of Sir John A. Macdonald, Sir George-Étienne Cartier and the Privy Council. Don’t leave without getting a view from the Peace Tower and a visit to the Memorial Chamber, which commemorates Canadians who have lost their lives in military service. Free same-day tour tickets are available at 90 Wellington Street.
All high school students in Ontario must complete 40 volunteer hours. Relieve the school year time crunch and jump start your teen on his or her hours this summer. Not sure where to start? Ask your child where her passion lies. For example, if your son loves animals, the Ottawa Humane Society may have a position for him. The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board lists Volunteer Canada, Youth Employment Strategy and Charity Village among the sites that have youth volunteer opportunities in the Ottawa area.
Learn something new with the city
If you don’t want the structure and commitment of a camp but still want to keep the kids busy, look to the City of Ottawa. There are more options than we could possibly list here – swimming (both lessons and drop-in), dance, martial arts, music, cooking, fine arts, pottery, and sports galore, from soccer and ball hockey to the more unusual offerings of rock climbing, cheerleading and dodgeball.
If your kid’s tech-savvy, he or she might appreciate the highly-respected digital arts programs, which includes the Maker Studio, where participants use simple electronics, LED lights and conductive materials to build robots; and the Scratch Animation program, where children create and screen a short animated film.
And if your kid simply likes to play chess or build with LEGO, the city offers programs for those things while getting them out of the house and socializing with other children.