Over the years, my husband and I have searched far and wide for new places we haven't explored yet. We love to camp and hike, and especially learn about our natural surroundings in our beautiful country. So when we came across a park whose trails were mostly hikes through rock formations and caves, we were hooked.
So what is "spelunking?" One guide had us walk through a cave tunnel alone. He met us on the other side of the tunnel, and exclaimed: "There! Now you are spelunkers! Spelunking is exploring caves without a guide." (Note: We only ever explore caves that have been cleared to be safe and offer guides!
This hobby has led us to some beautiful environments worth seeing. We have witnessed and learned about thousand year old fossils, stalactites, Aboriginal tribes, icebergs, and even bats. It has been an amazing learning experience of the history and natural evolution of Canada.
We are big fans of the Scenic Caves Nature Adventure in Blue Mountain, Ontario (Which was where we had our first caving adventure and realised that this was a thing!) and the Bonnechere Caves in Eganville Ontario. Our next goal is to the visit the Crystal Caves in Bermuda.
Have you ever toured a cave? Do you have any suggestions on where we can spelunk next? Let us know by leaving us a comment below!
When we moved two years ago, it was to a town that had an abundance of parks, splash pads and green spaces... and we could not wait to explore them all.
Enter Stoller Parking, a Montreal-based blog with maps, photos and reviews of (now) over 700 parks in and around Quebec, all honestly judged by Christine Latreille and her family. Stroller Parking has been quite the inspiration to me. First, Christine's blogging skills are amazing: the blog itself is aesthetically beautiful, and her writing is honest and down-to-earth. Following Stroller Parking on Facebook definitely made me want to start my own blog. Second, I was reminded about the importance of spending quality time with our kids - while they were still kids.
"Think of it as a kid’s version of a pub crawl." I joked to my husband.
In the spirit of Stroller Parking, We came up with a plan for our short stay-cation last summer which we lovingly called Park Hopping. (We must have had Disney on the mind since we love the Park Hopper passes.) I mapped out every playground, splash pad, hiking trail and park in our area and created a checklist. Each morning, we would pack a lunch, start out at one park we haven`t seen yet and stay until the kids said they were done playing with everything and we drove on to the next park closest to the one we were already at. (my GoogleMaps app came in very handy for this!)
Our Park Hopping week was full of gross motor development. For my children who are a bit afraid of heights at times, I watched their confidence soar when they climbed up some of the wall climbing equipment.
It opened up dialogue and I learned what their favorite playground equipment was and why.
It allowed us to seek out the best of a situation: after walking away from a seriously dated playground (I actually had to ask the kids not to climb the sole climbing structure because it was rusty and slippery due to moss growing on it...) the kids found a patch of tiny wild strawberries.
One aspect I didn't think of when coming up with our plan was the social experiences that unfolded. My shy daughter came out of her shell and began approaching children in the playground and asking them if they wanted to play: all on her own! She even met some new kids that had just moved and would be attending her school.
The best part about all the benefits our kids are getting from playgrounds is that they are FREE! They are our tax dollars at work, so take advantage of them as often as you can!
Thinking of charting and exploring your town's parks and playgrounds? Check out my
Park Hopping DOs & DON'Ts:
Do pack for the day.
Pack a picnic and bring a bottle of water for each family member: you'll be working up an appetite and you will need to rehydrate!
Protect yourselves with sunscreen, bug spray, hats, and footwear that will facilitate climbing and running.
Bring a few sand toys with you, you never know when the sand will be more interesting than the climbing equipment!
DO make a map and checklist.
Chart your parks! Draw a map with your kids and plot where each park is and add a checklist so you know which parks you haven't been to yet. You can even turn a notebook into your Family Park Hopping Journal and write and/or draw your favorite parts of each place you visit. Add a simple ratings feature. (We used smiley faces and sad faces.)
This little journey of ours is not a race. In fact, a year later, we are still checking off parks on our map. I wanted to make sure that when we do go to the park it's to relax and enjoy each other's company.
DO join in!
When I'm not obsessively taking photos of my kids, I climb right on up the structures with them. It's enlightening to see the world from their perspective and I mean... hello free exercise!
DO take care of your parks
"We have to treat the park like it's our own backyard... because it kinda is our backyard..." is a direct quote from my mouth that I impressed myself with while I picked up some stray bottles beside a splash pad one morning.
One time, I witnessed my former-greens-keeper husband pull all the weeds out of a sandbox.
Is something not up to par in the park? On two occasions, I contacted the city to politely let them know that there was something wrong in a park. One was for a wasp nest we found, and the other was because the splash pad stopped working in the middle of a heat wave. Both calls were positive interactions and I was thanked for letting them know.
DO your research
Use your town's website for more information about the parks in your area, and if you're close to the Montreal area, DO check out the Stroller Parking website by clicking here: http://strollerparking.ca/
Melissa is a mom, wife, and early childhood educator who blogs about her journey looking for new experiences for family time.