So I’m back from a trip to Toronto and Ottawa — where the snow banks were taller than me and trimmed with enormous, almost cartoonish icicles straight out of Pingu that sent the two-year-old into fits of glee. After promising him he’d get to wear snow pants and go sledding in Ottawa (Washington is in flowering tree season), the snow in the park actually proved to be too deep. Yep. Without proper snowshoes, (the tennis racket kind,) my feet kept falling through the snow until I was knee deep in powder. I was willing to to endure this kind of sled-pulling (what a glute workout!) but Will freaked out as his sled bumped and dipped into the craters I was creating with every step. So we gave up. Then rain came on top of the snow. And not long after the sun came out, it was time to leave. But a good trip nonetheless.
On the toddler side of things, we discovered the wonders of the Aviation Museum in Ottawa. We are old hands at airplane-related museums because Will, at the tender age of two, has already declared his passion in life and it involves a cockpit. So we’ve been to many airplane-themed museums and most have minimal set-ups for pre-schoolers. Or worse: there is only one plane you are allowed to climb into (like the single Cessna at the otherwise wonderful Smithsonian Air and Space museum where we spend more of our spare time than we’d care to admit) which means if there is more than one toddler/pre-schooler such as ours, who is still in the process of discovering the phenomenon known as “sharing,” it’s shrieking/crying/wrestling/begging/guilting time as we try to explain to our dear child that he’s already been in the cockpit half an hour and now it’s time for one of the other kids who have traveled half way around the country and have been standing patiently in the very long line to give it a try. The only thing worse than that are the museums where there is only one thing to climb into and it’s always cordoned off by a rope (that means you, Udvar-Hazy Center, with your little Cessna that just sits there and taunts my kid every time we come; though we love you for your Space Shuttle, your Blackbird, and your reproduction air traffic control tower.) At the College Park aviation museum, in the Maryland suburbs, at least the climb-into-able plane has two seats, so there is a bit less toddler-wrestling.
But it turns out that none of these compares to the kid nirvana that is Aviation Museum in Ottawa. First, it has a two-seater cockpit for kids to sit in and use and, ahem, abuse. They even pump in pilot-to-air traffic control chatter, and kids go nuts. Without exaggeration, Will spent about an hour “flying” in this cockpit on Saturday. Then we discovered they also had a small plane kids can climb into and received instruction in how all the gadgets and knobs work from a museum expert. Will didn’t get out until he had a good explanation for every knob, and got confirmation that the fuel tanks were indeed where he thought they were. Then, if that wasn’t enough, there was also a playroom for preschoolers stuffed with airplane themed toys (we’re talking planes, helicopters, aircraft carriers, luggage trains, and several plastic model airports). And they do birthday parties and sleep-overs. Who knew. As far as Will was concerned, they might as well have built the museum out of lollipops and toddler crack.
Here he is on our flight to Ottawa after wandering up to the cockpit to ask some very friendly and accommodating Air Canada pilots how they brakes work on the plane. That was before his lesson at the museum. Now he could probably fly the thing himself.