Keeping Kids Busy in Ottawa during the Summer

For some reason summer always seems to creep up on me.  One day the kids start school and the next they are home for the summer.  Every year, we travel out to Vancouver for the month of August for Granny Camp.  The kids simply love “granny camp”.  My in laws have a place on one of the Gulf Islands and there is just so much to do.  The kids visit with cousins, swim all the time, and do crafts with Granny.  But until then, I have to make sure they are entertained at home.  We don’t have a lot of spare money for extra activities so I find we have to be creative.  My eldest (6 year old girl) does go to day camp for a few weeks but my youngest (3 year old girl) is at home with the nanny for the bulk of July.  I booked the youngest swimming lessons through the city as I find they are the cheapest.  So now my youngest is occupied for a 30 minute swim lesson every day for 4 weeks before we leave for Vancouver.  The swimming lessons are about a 20 minute walk from our house and under $150 for almost a month of lessons. 

Right next door to the community centre is an outdoor wading pool that opens at 10.  My nanny packs a lunch so that she and my daughter can spend the entire morning at the wading pool on good weather days.  Generally, in the afternoons all the nannies in the neighbourhood get together at one of the houses and do activities for all the children.  It is like a mega play date.  They alternate and host different activities, including crafts, outdoor play, circle time, dress-up, and free play.  The children are served healthy snacks at each play date and everyone seems to enjoy themselves.  This can easily be replicated by having all the moms in the neighbourhood host a day of “mommy camp” once a week to entertain the neighbourhood children.  This way you only have one day of entertaining to plan and it saves money for everyone. 
On bad weather days the plans could include a mega play date or a museum visit after the swimming lessons.  About six months after my first daughter was born, we invested in museum memberships to both the Civilization Museum (contains the Children’s Museum) and the suite of three federally-owned local museums (Agriculture Museum, Science and Technology Museum, and the Aviation and Space Museum).  These memberships are relatively inexpensive and can be used over and over.  The kids never seem to get bored.  Generally, the museums offer a craft or two and sometimes they even have special activities in the summer.  My daughter especially loves the Science and Technology Museum with its wide open spaces and very kid friendly exhibits.
We also visit the library.  Kids love visiting the library to get new books and on occasion a movie or two.  At the Ottawa Public Library they have an express section that sometimes has memberships to other museums or exhibits across town.  These passes are all free and can be borrowed for a week.  We regularly find Nature Museum passes.  The kids love visiting this museum (also knows as the dinosaur museum in our house) and it is a big treat. 
These are some of my tips for getting through the long summer.  Please post your tips in the comments so that we can all learn from each other.
Thank you everyone and have a great summer!

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