Spring break is staggered across Canada this year, with time off from school extending beyond March and well into April in some provinces. Travel restrictions may still be in place, but that doesn’t mean kids can’t spend their week off touring their own country virtually. From mixing up a batch of invisible ink to learning to craft beaded bracelets under the guidance of Squamish and Lil’wat Nation artisans, there’s plenty to learn, make, do and explore online.
Super cool science projects
Go full-steam-ahead with online activities from PumpHouse in Kingston, Ont.. Its virtual Learn and Explore program has downloadable activities for kids of all ages and a range of interests that use supplies you likely already have on hand. Budding chemists (and undercover agents) will love making their own invisible ink, while would-be civil engineers can learn what it takes to build structurally sound bridges and tunnels in their own living rooms (tip: Scotchgard couch cushions in advance). For older kids, the Manitoba Museum has launched its Dome@Home program, releasing imaginations to explore the planets and stars. The episodic series led by planetarium astronomer Scott Young is available to livestream on Zoom or watch at your leisure on Facebook and YouTube. Resources for space-themed activities to pair with the sessions can be downloaded from the website.
Crafts and culture
With the daredevil in the family in mind, Quebec City has put Flip Fabrique’s Feria l’attraction acrobatic show online. It’s a modern musical circus performance that will inspire some backyard tumbling routines. Alternatively, tell the kids that researchers have unearthed an analog version of Dance Dance Revolution and sign up for a live-streamed Irish-dancing class on March 19, taught by two teen experts from Manitoba’s Folklorama festival. For parents in search of something a little more low-key, Nova Scotia’s Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 is offering downloadable projects with instructions on how to make crafts from all over the world, such as carp kites from Japan and Día de Muertos masks from Mexico. At the Royal Ontario Museum, ROMKids coordinator and camp director Kiron Mukherjee has been running a weekly show on Instagram Live that explores topics such as dinosaurs, strawberry DNA and prehistoric cats. Past episodes are available on the ROM at Home hub. Or get serious artistes an all-access pass to the East Coast Art Party, an online art-making subscription service that unlocks hundreds of step-by-step painting classes taught by fun and engaging instructors.
Whistler’s Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre offers activities to keep small hands occupied with a series of videos on making traditional Indigenous crafts, each led by Cheximiya Allison Burns Joseph of the Squamish Nation. The woven paper hearts or loom-beaded bracelets can be constructed with items already among kids’ craft supplies. In North Vancouver, food-truck operator Paul Natrall shares his passion for bread as Mr. Bannock, incorporating his Indigenous heritage with street foods from other cultures. While his signature bannock tacos and burgers may be out of reach during the pandemic, Natrall, who loves cooking with his own kids, has shared his bannock pizza recipe online. Consider this one a spring break activity with a major payoff – a day where no one asks, “What’s for dinner?”
Escape rooms went online this past year, providing a family-fun alternative now that we’ve exhausted our collections of board games. Improbable Escapes offers brain-teasing games for all ages and interests. For smaller kids, there’s the storybook-themed Neverland, while The Cure For the Common Zombie will appeal to older (or edgier) kids. Sherlock Escapes has a unique hybrid archaeology-themed Cavernous Caper in which a package of files and clues arrives via snail mail and leads players to an online experience.
Virtual outdoor and animal adventures
Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park Zoo is hosting free virtual family camps throughout March that feature a range of activities accessible to Canadians across the country. (Learning kits are available to be picked up, mailed or downloaded.) Its three themed Zoo Camp programs teach kids about going green (with the assistance of the zoo’s red-panda population), planting pollinator gardens for bees and butterflies, and getting interested in the birds that live in their backyards. In Canmore, kids can descend virtually into the Rats Nest Cave to learn about archaeological discoveries made there (think: bones and tools dating back 7,000 years), either exploring on their own or signing up for a live guided VR tour. They may even meet a troglobite or two. When evening comes, gather everyone around the desktop for the nightly illumination of Niagara Falls, courtesy of the attraction’s live webcam.
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