How to get your kids away from the TV with fun and educational programs around Calgary
By Elena Redd
If your children watch television, play video games, surf the ‘Net or use cell phones, they’re immersed in what industry insiders call 360-degree marketing. According to the Media Awareness Network, children in Canada see 3,000 commercial messages every day—stamped on toys, slipped into movies, even plastered in school hallways. The idea these commercials send is simple: you are what you buy.
While you can’t remove your children from the modern age, you can enroll them in programs that sell a very different idea: you are what you know. We’ve scoured the city and found six programs that give children hands-on experience with art, music, literature, theatre and nature—with no commercial messages.
Drop-in Art, Creative Kids Museum
For a chance to get artistic, the Creative Kids Museum hosts a drop-in art class every Saturday morning. Different art forms are experimented with each week, from working with fabrics and paints to ghost writing to water art and painting with fruits and vegetables. These drop-in sessions leave participants free to decide what they want to do.
Program leaders man the tables to provide examples and tips, but these sessions are run informally to let everyone explore their creative side. The best part of this activity is that it’s open to more than kids; parents can play too, making these art sessions a great family activity.
Saturdays, 10 am – noon, free with admission.
Children of all ages will find a theatrical experience to enjoy with Storybook’s two theatre programs: Cookie Cabaret and Adventure Theatre. Cookie Cabaret produces shows for preschool- and elementary-aged children, while Adventure Theatre is directed at a slightly older audience, particularly school-aged children. Both programs strive to make live theatre a fun experience.
This year Cookie’s season includes If You Give A Mouse A Cookie based on the popular children’s book by Laura Joffe Numeroff and two original plays—one with a stegosaurus appearing in a little girl’s backyard and another with a small boy who gets to go to pirate school.
Adventure Theatre features two classics: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Original works include The Other Side of the Pole, a Christmas play exploring the commercialism of the season through the eyes of Santa’s elves, and The Revenge of the Space Pandas, a wild adventure where three friends get knocked off the Earth and land on a planet ruled by space pandas. $20.
Other Side of the Pole: Dec 5 – 20
Vertigo Mystery Theatre – Y Stage
This children’s theatre company strives to produce shows that are both thought-provoking as well as entertaining. Y Productions, a branch from Vertigo Mystery Theatre, began with the idea to provide entertainment that explores and reflects issues young people deal with every day. The hope is that the plays will spark discussions at home of deeper issues and help prepare children and teens to cope with an increasingly complex world. These plays take on topics like body image, peer pressure and cultural identity.
Highlights in the 2009/10 season include The Invisible Girl, which explores our culture’s obsession with beauty and popularity as one girl goes from being in the popular group to becoming an outsider in her fifth grade class; and An Illustrated History of the Anishnabe, which looks at Canadian history from an Aboriginal Perspective.
On a lighter note, King Arthur’s Kitchen tells the tale of Camelot through King Arthur’s kitchen staff as they prepare for a feast, while in The Tooth Fairy a young girl goes on a wild adventure to find out what is really done with all those teeth put under pillows. $10 – $12.
The Invisible Girl: Nov 27 – 29
An Illustrated History of the Anishnabe: Dec 4, 5
Monkeyshines’ Book Club
Kids and parents can read together with one of Monkeyshines in-store book clubs. Monkeyshines is the city’s only children’s bookstore, and it’s located in Marda Loop just outside of downtown. With various books chosen from a variety of genres such as mystery and science fiction, parents and kids read books together for later in-depth discussion at monthly meetings. Clubs are offered for different age groups including 8 to 9 years old, 10 to 12, and 12 and up.
Monkeyshines’ book clubs run from October to November, and January to April. Each session ends with a party and visit from a children’s author. Previous author appearances have been made by Lois Lowry, Monica Hughes, John Wilson, and Hazel Hutchins. All book club meetings are held on Tuesday evenings, $75. Registration can be done in store at Monkeyshines, or by calling 403-240-1723.
Wee Wigglers, Calgary Zoo
Finding something cultural for a toddler may seem difficult, but the Calgary Zoo has a unique program targeted just for this age group. Wee Wigglers strives to get young kids interested in nature by giving them a hands-on experience with zoo creatures.
Different animals are brought in for kids to see up close and occasionally touch. Animals that have previously been featured include a millipede, tarantula, porcupine, bats, a parakeet, an owl and different types of snakes.
Animals are chosen according to what is available each day, and all creatures selected are used to being around people. Each session, the zoo picks a theme, such as mammals, insects or birds. To register, visit calgaryzoo.com or head to the zoo’s North Entrance. $12 excluding zoo admission.
Nov 3 & 10.
Symphony Sunday for Kids, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra
Classical music is made accessible with the Symphony Sunday for Kids. On select Sunday afternoons, popular children’s musicians perform with the orchestra. This season the roster includes Peter and the Wolf, narrated by TV personality Dave Kelly and set to the music of Prokofiev; Treehouse TV’s Judy & David’s Boombox; and a theatrical performance of Roald Dahl’s Little Red Riding Hood.
Children in attendance also get an opportunity to learn more about the instruments used with the “Musical Petting Zoo” that takes place before the show. Here kids can try out some of the instruments used by the orchestra and learn more about music. $26.
Judy & David’s Symphonic Adventure: Nov 22.