Summer in the city: 10 fun family activities

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By Lara Shannon, Wood’s Homes Community Engagement Coordinator

Are you looking for something new to do with your kids this summer? There are so many wonderful places to visit in Calgary. While my girls were growing up, some of the activities we all enjoyed most are listed below.  I’ve included the ages of my girls when they liked these activities most. Click on the links for more information and directions:

Riley Park- outdoor wading pool
Ages: 2 – 6, Price: free

Splashing in the water and the shade of the beautiful mature trees made this the perfect place to have a picnic and stay cool. With so many little kids to play with my girls never wanted to leave.  It was also a great place for me to connect with other parents.

Calgary Farmers’ Market
Ages: 0 – 6, Price: free (face painting and balloons at reasonable prices)

When the girls were little we visited the Calgary Farmer’s Market every week. I loved to get a coffee and watch the girls enjoy the bouncy castle, balloons, clowns and face painting. The girls were often mesmerized by the young people performing on various instruments and loved to put loonies and toonies in their instrument cases. I could also get some shopping done making it a fun and practical stop.

Devonian Gardens
Ages: 0 – 6, Price: free

This downtown park is located on the 4th floor in the CORE Shopping Centre. This was a favourite for my kids and I to meet up with friends when the weather was too hot, cold or rainy to play outside.  You can bring food with you or there are plenty of places to grab a coffee, juice or snack and watch the kids play.

Prince’s Island Park & Eau Claire Market
Ages: 3 – 10, Price: free

We spent so many awesome hours playing at the playground, listening to buskers and having picnics at Prince’s Island Park. When it got too hot or started to rain we took the five minute walk over to Eau Claire to play in the indoor playground. We have also enjoyed attending the Calgary Folk Festival and watching Shakespeare on the Bow.

Heritage Park
Ages 3 – 10, Prices: Day pass: Adult – $26.25, Child – $13.50, Family season passes start at $170.
I always felt like we had actually taken a trip to a different land when we visited this enchanting park. The girls were 4 and 6 when we got our first season pass. After we visited all the rides and shops, I would put a blanket down in the green space and relax while watching the girls play in the grass.  We always took the train from stop to stop – I truly think this was the best place to spend a warm summer day in town.

Bowness Park – Boating on the lagoon
Ages 6 – 12, Boat rental price: $15 for ½ hour, $20 for 1 hour
We experienced some magical moments on a canoe in the lagoon. With the green of the surrounding trees reflecting on the water and the ducks and ducklings floating along with us, we found this activity both exciting and relaxing.  Bowness Park also has train rides for younger kids, picnic areas, a playground and a lovely cafe on the west side of the lagoon.

Sandy Beach (4500 14A Street SW, below River Park)
Ages: all ages, Price: free
This is a fantastic place to take kids for a beach experience in the city. Bring shovels, buckets, towels and sun hats.  There is also a playground and washrooms nearby.

Calgary Public Library
Ages: all ages, Price: free (if you return your books on time!)
This has been a favourite with our family since the girls were babies. At 13 and 15 they still ask me to take them there.  They also have programs and events for all ages.  A great place to go on a rainy day!

Bowmont Park – Saskatoon Berry Picking
Ages: all ages, Price: free
My kids and I have picked Saskatoon berries every summer in Bowmont Park for years. One of our favourite picking spots can be reached by parking in the northwest community of Silver Springs, one block south of Value Village and following the bike path to the east until you go down a steep hill.  Right at the bottom of the hill there are many bushes on the left (the river is on your right).  There is a path into the bushes where you can find plump and juicy berries from mid-July to mid- August.  We then enjoy making Saskatoon berry crisp or pie together.

Calaway Park
Ages: All ages Pricing: Junior (3-6 years) $33, Regular (7 – 49) $39.95
This amusement park was always one of the most exciting adventures for the girls! It’s expensive so a good idea to plan for a longer outing.  We usually take snacks and lunches to avoid also paying for food.  It’s a good idea to pack for all weather possibilities and prepare to spend at least an hour in line for the log ride (my girls’ favourite) on a hot day.

Our favourite day trips

Troll Falls and Big Hill Springs are two great day trips we enjoy regularly.  With easy and scenic hikes that are less than an hour from Calgary these are accessible for all members of the family.  Click on the links for directions and more information.

Two activities we want to try

The Plunge (Slip and Slide) and Skyline Luge at Canada Olympic Park are two activities that we look forward to experiencing.  Click on the links for more information.

I was told by many wise parents to be present and enjoy these times with my kids and that the time flies by. It’s true!  I am so grateful for the memories and look forward to the few years we still have before they are off on their own adventures.

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The Habit of Happiness

By Jordan Britton, Wood’s Homes Youth & Family Counsellor

Happiness seems to be the thing everyone looks to chase, one way or another. Catching it, however, is impossible due to the emotion naturally washing in and out of our lives, similar to the ocean’s tide and its cycles. Like the ocean, controlling this emotion is met with the same futility. Understanding what control we have, and don’t have, over our emotions is crucial in our own self well-being. With this in mind, it’s important to understand that there are ways in which to manipulate more positivity into your life, by which happiness is a pleasant by-product.

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Nature is nurture: How I get my kids to unplug from technology and plug into nature

Wood’s Homes’ property on the north side of the lagoon in Bowness

By Lara Shannon, Wood’s Homes Community Engagement Co-ordinator

There is so much research that shows the mental health benefits of spending time in nature, but how do we get our kids out of the house and away from their devices? With my girls, who are 13 and 15, it is clear how beneficial it is for them to spend quality time in the outdoors every week.

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’13 Reasons Why’: If your kids are watching it, parents should watch too

By Dr. Angelique Jenney
Wood’s Homes Research Chair in Children’s Mental Health

‘13 Reasons Why’ is a series about suicide that is available for viewing on Netflix. The story is based on the 2007 novel ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’, written by Jay Asher. It is about a female high school student who kills herself because of several problems with other students at her school.  She leaves behind cassette tapes for a friend that she recorded before committing suicide.  And there are 13 reasons why she did.

This show would be very difficult to watch if you have experienced any similar hurting  in your life as it could trigger memories or other difficult feelings.

One of the things we know is that parents are often just a few moments behind their trend-savvy kids – and when you mention this show you are likely going to find out they’ve already watched it through to the end. If that’s the case, ask if they would introduce you to it; perhaps they would be willing to introduce you to the first and last episodes.  If they feel strongly about a particular episode in between they might also choose to share it with you – and that in itself could be telling. The most graphically disturbing episodes come with a viewer warning which should prompt a parent to gently state:

Hmmm, do you think we are ready to see this part? We can skip it entirely or stop it if it gets too upsetting.”

Children under 14 years should probably not view those episodes at all.

If nothing else, watch the 30-minute Netflix addition called ‘13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons’– which has the creators, the novelist and the show’s characters talking about what they hoped viewers would take away from this show. It provides an excellent opportunity to educate yourself and have a great conversation with your kids about all of the timely and important topics introduced.

Here are 13 reasons why parents or caregivers should watch (and tips for discussion starters):

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