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Chasing butterflies

And 14 other cool things to do with your children this summer

Chasing butterflies
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Video: Chasing butterflies and other cool things you can do with your family in Winnipeg

Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, July / August 2012

The look of wonder on your child's face as a butterfly gently alights on a flower before their eyes, flashing its brilliantly coloured wings: this is one of the moments you'll treasure forever.

But you'd better take that mental snapshot quickly, because chances are your child will soon be dashing off, chasing other butterlfies as they float above the flowers and fountains within the Shirley Richardson Butterfly Garden at Assiniboine Park Zoo.

When you're a kid, that's what summer is all about in Winnipeg: encouraging your inner explorer, learning about nature and history, exercising your imagination, all the while grinning from ear to ear. Whether it's visting butterflies, playing dress-up or learning how drive a race car, Winnipeg offers families a wealth of activities during the summer months.

Explore Outdoors

Chasing butterflies

The Shirley Richardson Butterfly Garden is located next door to Toucan Ridge inside the Assiniboine Park Zoo. This year, the 2,200 square-foot exhibit will have an even wider range of butterfly species. While at the Zoo, take in the Water's Extreme Journey, where young visitors pretend to be a drop of water and embark on a voyage through rivers, lakes, wetlands, and even their homes, eventually reaching the healthy ocean. For the lucky little raindrops who get to the end of the maze, there is an exciting finale as they take a ride on a 24-foot zipline and drop into the watershed . . . literally.

The Zoo welcomes back the Canadian Raptor Conservancy from Ontario for another exciting season of thrilling aerial displays and acrobatics, featuring birds such as the bald eagle, barn owl, peregrine falcon, red-tailed hawks and more. There's also the new International Polar Bear Conservation Centre, where kids can learn about polar bears and the arctic ecosystem.

Join in the Children's Sunday Nature Adventure Series at the Qualico Family Centre for workshops for children ages 7 to 11. The Aug. 26 event is I Spy a Butterfly. Pack a picnic when you go to the new Nature Playground, as your kids will want to spend the whole day. There's a sand and water play area, slides, a crow's nest, willow tree tunnels, basket swings, a giant robin's nest, rubber mountains, net bridges and a Children's Garden inspired by the classic childhood board game, Snakes and Ladders.

Head for the Lyric Lawn for Movies in the Park, when Assiniboine Park screens your favourite family blockbusters. Bring your lawn chair and bug spray! Aug. 10 features The Incredibles and Pirates of the Carribbean, the Aug. 17 double bill is Happy Feet 2 and Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and Aug. 24 features Dr. Seuss' The Lorax along with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Dragonflies and dip-nets

Dip-netting brings up the oddest creatures, some of which will make your kids squeal with excitement. If you've ever wondered what lurks below the boardwalk, head to FortWhyte Alive in August on a trip of discovery. Along with all the things to do at FortWhyte, like seeing the indoor aquarium and the prairie dog exhibit, kids will love the treehouse and watching the bison herd, and have fun fishing in the lakes. FortWhyte also has a number of programs in August, including some for grandparents and grandchildren, and others where you can learn traditional archery and which wild plants are edible, or become a Voyageur by paddling a 15-person canoe! FortWhyte is also home to the Winnipeg Sailing Club, which hosts lessons for children, adults and disabled people in the summer.

Go swimming!

There are 10 outdoor swimming pools in Winnipeg, with all sorts of fun features to keep you cool on the hottest of summer days, including slides, wading pools for the wee ones, lap swimming for the adults, and splash pads. Pack up a picnic and stay cool all day!

Check out the revamped Kildonan Park Pool which has the fastest two flume slides in the city, along with a "beach entry" to the 50-metre pool, making it accessible for people of all ages and abilities. For those kids who don't want to get their toes wet, there's the big play structure to explore!

Where can you find three kids' waterslides, a splash pad, bumper boats and special events nearly every day in August? At Fun Mountain, which also has seven adult waterslides, hot tubs, heated pools and lifeguards, along with mini golf. This month, enjoy magic, pool parties, clowns, pirate adventures and more.

The nearest beach to Winnipeg is a short trip up Highway 59, to Birds Hill Provincial Park. Bring a wagon to haul in your beach blanket, picnic basket and towels along the hiking trail to the beaches, where you'll find plenty of shoreline to stake your claim in the sand. Remember to bring a bucket and spades, as your kids will want to build sandcastles!

Watch history come to life

The Forks National Historic Site presents the 6,000-year history of human presence and activity at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers through the use of interpretive exhibits, award-winning sculptures, walking trails, a native prairie garden and a riverside amphitheatre for performances and events. Take in 6,000 years of history in 60 minutes during a walking tour hosted by Parks Canada interpreters, or play Cache Me If You Can when you use a GPS to track down hidden caches.

Nearby, head to the Forks Market proper and let the kids figure out the Oodena Celebration Circle, run up and down the ramps to the Riverwalk, and climb the stairs to the observation platform atop the market building itself. Your teens probably already know the Plaza at The Forks is Canada's best and largest urban skate plaza and bowl complex. The Skateable Sculpture Plaza is an urban landscape designed and built for the regular use and enjoyment of skateboarders and BMX cyclists.

Float your boat

Even if you don't have a skipper's license, you can still take the kids out on the water, when you ride the Splash Dash boats. Scenic and historically informative halfhour tours of Winnipeg's downtown waterways leave The Forks' harbour every 15 minutes with boat captains providing commentary and historical insights on many points of interest along the way. If you don't want to devote a lot of time for a tour, a water taxi runs a regular schedule to eight docks along the Assiniboine and Red Rivers. Take the river for your trip downtown and delight the kids!

Retreat indoors

When it's too hot or rainy to take the kids outside, it's nice to know there are kid-friendly indoor places that allow them to burn off steam.

Curl up with a good book

Imagine a summer of fun and adventure at your local library! Discover thrilling books and amazing things to do all summer long, when you take part in the Summer Reading Club. There's also story time for kids aged three to five, programs for school-age kids and teens, and the Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball team players dropping by for readings.

Join in Family Literacy Fun Day at your local branch. Families will travel between multiple stations, taking part in exciting games and creative activities that promote the playful use of reading, writing, and language skills. Each family will receive a "passport" that will be stamped after each station is visited and the activity is completed.

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McNally Robinson Booksellers' Kim Rannie offers stories, rhymes and fun for kids ages three to five during Preschool Storytime, held on July 27, Aug. 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31, starting at 10 a.m. in the atrium of the Grant Park bookstore.

Make a masterpiece

Feeling crafty? Take part in the Aug. 2 field trip hosted by the Robert A. Steen Community Centre to Crock A Doodle, where you can paint a pottery piece, which will then be glazed and kiln fired. There are 64 community centres, and a number of schools which run a wide range of free drop-in activities for kids ages six to 18.

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Kids can connect with the art at the Winnipeg Art Gallery on Family Sunday on Aug. 25, during an afternoon of music, storytelling, and art making. Enjoy an interactive tour of the exhibition, followed by a painting session where kids can create their own fantastical creature inspired by what they have seen in the show.

Museums and galleries

Museums in Winnipeg have plenty to fascinate people of all ages, and it's the hands-on activities that attract kids and keep their imaginations going.

Manitoba Children's Museum

Younger kids always have hands-on fun at the Children's Museum, running around the 12 galleries, from the Lasagna Lookout to the locomotive that forms the spine of the museum. This summer, hatch one-of-a-kind creatures or mix and match to make your own Impossible Animal at an interactive travelling exhibition, on until Sept. 3 at the museum.

Manitoba Museum

Kids adore the Science Centre, located on the lower level of the Manitoba Museum. Here, they can explore technology at more than 100 hands-on stations, and have fun playing with the Matrix room and the Flash room. Kids can build a race car and put it through its paces on the test track, something that keeps them engrossed for hours. The nearby Planetarium recreates the magic of the night sky, or helps you take a journey in your imagination to far-off planets and stars. The museum itself keeps kids on the move from gallery to gallery, exploring the Parklands (the poop drawer is a favourite), trying to spy all the animals in the Boreal Forest, and pretending to be pirates while on board the Nonsuch, the replica of a 17th-centuryship that sailed from England to Hudson's Bay.

Lower Fort Garry

The creak of Red River carts, the pounding of metal on metal and the smell of freshly baked bannock greet everyone at North America's only restored stone fort from the fur trade era. Wednesdays in August are Children's Day at Lower Fort Garry, where the kids can sign on as a worker for the Hudson's Bay Company and take part in hands-on activities. Watch a puppet show that brings the past to life, when the main character in the story gets sent back to 1851.

Western Canada Aviation Museum

Where else can you fly a plane, spot a flying saucer, take a trip to outer space and still be back in time for lunch? Skyways! The Western Canada Aviation Museum Children's Gallery features interactive scanners, demonstrations, cockpits, wind tunnels, instrumentation and more hands-on fun.

Mark your calendar

Folklorama - Aug. 5 to 18

This two-week long multicultural festival isn't just for adults. There are plenty of kids' components at the more than 40 pavilions. For example, the Ireland-Irish pavilion has face painting, Irish arts and crafts, bodhrán (ancient Irish drum) decorating and even leprechauns. Or at the Russian pavilion, you will walk into a Russian fairytale, an enchanted land where kind animals and warriors roam, friendly creatures dance and sing, and playful clowns make everybody laugh. The Cuban pavilion has a children's show with jugglers, magicians and a clown on Sunday. The Scottish pavilion has a children's corner featuring dance lessons and a scavenger hunt.

Festival of the Arts - Aug. 14 to 17

The Children's Museum will host its Festival of the Arts, featuring workshops, performances and experiences where kids will be immersed in arts and culture. The festival introduces visual, dramatic, musical and dance art forms, including print making, storytelling, African drumming and a dance workshop.

StreetFest 2012 - Aug. 18

Presented by the Manitoba Metis Federation on MacGregor between Mountain and St. John's, this day includes kids' entertainment along with live entertainment including fiddling and dancing.

Susie Strachan is a communications advisor with the Winnipeg Health Region.

Wave: July / August 2012

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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