Family friendly art studios in Montreal – Future Jackson Pollock?

Top Art Studios Montreal

It looks like it’s going to be another rainy weekend in Montreal. Yet another.

To make the most of the lousy weather, I’ve compiled a list of fun indoor art activities. Why not cultivate your child’s inner artist by visiting one of the following child-friendly art studios in Montreal:

4 Cats Art Studios

This is a chain (franchise) of studios around Montreal (and North America) and I’ve heard great things about their kid programs. They have tax deductible classes for children aged 2-10+. Adult participation is welcomed (sometimes mandatory depending on the age) and they have cool after-school programs, too. My son is still too young for our family to test this out but I welcome comments from other families!

Locations: 5026 Parc Plateau/Outremont, Montreal, QC H2V 4E8, (514) 508-3889

And 2748 Blvd. St-Charles, Kirkland, QC H9H 3B6, (514) 505-3727

Website: http://www.4cats.com/

 Café Ceramic

Another cool little franchise in Montreal is the Café Ceramic. I’m sure you’ve heard of the concept: paint a pre-formed pottery piece while you enjoy some coffee/food. I always liked the concept and I plan on introducing my son as soon as the paint is more inviting on the ceramic than on his face! I’ve been to some of these ceramic cafes in different parts of North America and I’ve really enjoyed the time spent relaxing while painting and chatting with friends. If your kids are old enough to understand the concept, I highly recommend these chains!

Locations: 4338, St-Denis, Montréal (Qc) H2J 2K8, 514 848-1119

565, Boulevard Saint-Martin Ouest (Qc) H7M 1Y8, 450 669-9399

3240, boul. Taschereau (Qc) J4V 2H3, 450 443-8582

Website: http://www.leccs.com/

Any other recommendations for great child/family-friendly art studios in Montreal area? Let me know!


ZigZagZoo (Vaudreuil-Dorion, Qc) — Welcome to the Jungle

ZigZagZoo jungle gym

ZigZagZoo jungle gym

ZigZagZoo, in Vaudreuil, Qc (20 minutes west of Montreal) is an amazing combination of jungle-gym, slides, ride-on games, indoor mini soccer field and even a kid-sized climbing wall. The feedback from friends had always been positive so we decided to finally experience it this weekend.

Aimed at kids 12 years and younger, I would say the ideal age is about 5-8 years old but my toddler son (17 months) was squealing with excitement and thoroughly enjoyed himself. Whatever your child’s age, I can promise this: he/she will be exhausted! Oh, and if you get on your hands and knees and crawl through the gym with your kid, I think the whole family will be afternoon napping.

Needless to say, I was impressed. My husband lamented that nothing like this existed when we were growing up! It’s an overwhelming structure at first (especially for a younger child) but it’s hard not to join in on the excitement. The entire gym is echoing with the sounds of laughter and happiness; there is movement at every corner of the room and yet, through the chaos of excited kids, everyone is polite and patiently awaits their turn.

For parents of younger children, get ready to crawl through an entire maze of padded suspended bridges and winding plastic tubes. I loved that I could interact with my child by being inside the structure with him and sharing his excitement as we discovered new paths and found “secret” compartments (secret only because there was a few moments without other kids in the area). ZigZagZoo also has a section devoted to toddlers ages 3 and under. For those with older kids, you have the luxury of a few minutes of free time as your child explores the gym with friends or with friendly strangers. My husband and I took turns (trust me, it’s hard to crawl!) guiding our son through the jungle gym and all parents–even those who watched casually from a distance–seemed to supervise their children’s behavior.

Enjoying one of the many games at ZigZagZoo

Enjoying one of the many games at ZigZagZoo

The gym is equipped with quite a few parent-friendly additions. They have a decently priced snack bar that serves pretty good food (at least they are trying to be healthy while still appealing to kids), new moms have the privacy of a nursing room, the bathrooms are very diaper-change friendly and for those who choose to brown-bag their lunch, they have a picnic area. The whole area is carpeted so boots/shoes must be removed and they have lockers to keep purses safe. It’s also a peanut-free facility for those with allergy concerns–a nice touch.

Lastly, but importantly, the place was very clean! Everything was in excellent condition–I never feared that my life was at risk because of poorly installed or rusty equipment–and the carpet was spotless. The jungle gym looked very sturdy and the mats/pads weren’t stained and fraying.

They offer birthday packages and my husband and I are already contemplating purchasing the year-long membership for $135 (for one child and one adult)–especially for the winter months when outdoor activities are restricted. They cater to large groups (a whole classroom, for example), so make sure to check their calendar if you plan a weekday trip. Don’t you just wish your grade school had organized a trip to a place like this?!

Overall? I highly recommend ZigZagZoo!

Location: Place St-Charles, 980 St-Charles Ave, local 120, (Exit 35 Nord on Highway 40), Vaudreuil-Dorion, J7V 8P5

For hours and rates: http://www.zigzagzoo.ca/en/hours_rates.shtml


Ikea Montreal & Boucherville — Shop till you drop? Drop off the kids & shop!


Family-friendly Ikea (they even have family parking!)

I’m usually a huge promoter of outdoor activities but lately the weather has been so lousy  in Montreal. Whereas with the first signs of spring we are out hiking and hoping for our first camping trip, I sit here today watching snow falling in the middle of April. It’s not the mid-winter light and fluffy snow; it’s worse than rain–the heavy, penetrating snow that dampens your clothing and leaves you thoroughly cold and soggy.

Unless the weather brightens, we’ll be sticking to indoor entertainment this weekend. Ikea has indoor entertainment for children and their parents! Like my previous post on Chapters, Ikea offers free entertainment for kids while parents can dream about their Ikea house. (Fight Club has forever ruined that for me!)

Ikea is like Costco in that I’ve never successfully left the store without purchasing something. Judging by their billion-dollar profits, I think it’s safe to say that I’m not the only one who can’t leave without a purchase. So I don’t feel bad when my toddler spends an hour or more in the kids’ section playing “house” or running around all the toys that are open and on-display.

For the older children, there is the famous ballroom. The aptly named “Smaland” is just bursting with young and fun energy. Come on–admit it!–you still wish you could belly-flop into the pool of plastic balls. Unfortunately, my son doesn’t meet the requirements yet; he’s still not tall enough (37″-48″) and he isn’t yet potty-trained. Children are only allowed in with their socks.

Ikea's Smaland Ballroom

Ikea’s Smaland Ballroom

The food isn’t the greatest nor is it the healthiest but it’s hard to beat their prices and my son adores their fries. They have vegetarian options for those who would prefer to stay away from their meatballs (though I’m not sure if their “meat”balls have ever even seen meat…) and they do have healthier options like chicken salads and a smoked salmon plate.

Ultimately, Ikea really caters to kids: their bathrooms are fully equipped (I’m pretty sure they offer diapers), there is never a lack of highchairs, they offer free (decent) bibs and all kid meals come on plastic plates (luckily because my son enjoys the occasional plate-flinging session). Ikea has family parking spots (though good luck finding an empty one), stroller-friendly elevators, wide aisles and kids running around everywhere!

The Montreal (Cavendish) Ikea is currently undergoing renovations but when it’s complete it promises to be the largest in North America. While they still have the play area for younger kids, the ballroom isn’t available. The good news is they are improving and enlarging the Smaland play area! The parking size is also supposed to increase dramatically–good news since that lot is a total mess on weekends. Until their renos are finished (Summer 2013), I would recommend heading over to the Ikea in Boucherville.

Ikea website: http://www.ikea.com/ca/en/


Montreal Store: 9191 Cavendish Blvd., Montreal, Qc, (H4T 1M8)

Boucherville Store: 586 De Touraine, Boucherville, Qc, (J4B 5E4)


A little time out – Chapters Montreal


Most parents will agree: we adore our children but sometimes we need a little break. My husband and I have found our little oasis in the city at the Chapters on Ste-Catherine, corner Stanley. The basement or “ kid zone” has a large, carpeted area where kids can sit and read or test some of the toys on display.

When we are downtown, we always make Chapters a part of our trip. The admission price? Starbucks coffee! Well, that’s our price; the area is completely free to anyone during opening hours.

We purchase our coffees at the Starbucks on the third floor, collect a few magazines or books and proceed to my son’s favorite spot. To name a few of the options: the basement has a train table, a play kitchen, several self-propelling plasma cars, a bunch of tester toys (opened boxes) and obviously tons of books/puzzles/board games.

There are child-sized chairs available but with my 6-foot frame I feel like a goof trying to straddle it without falling over—I leave them to the kids while I take the comfy carpeted floor.

Here’s the best part: my toddler son can play for almost two hours while I supervise from a visible distance. I can sip my coffee, flip through a magazine or cook book and relax while he plays with the toys and interacts with other children (within reasonable bedtime hours I’ve never seen the children’s section empty).

If your kids are a little older, they will enjoy the plethora of books all unwrapped and ready to be explored. The tween/teen section is right next to the children’s section and it’s filled with plenty of age/interest-appropriate books and music fan-club magazines.

Don’t worry, Chapters isn’t losing out. Every few times we invariably come home with some new obsession my toddler refused to put down. Toddlers are amazingly strong and their lungs surprisingly powerful when they vice grip a new (and unneeded) toy. This is a free activity but it might add up according to your child’s persistence! Admit it: we all have a bucket of those unnecessary “fine, I’ll buy it to shut you up” toys.

Chapters is located at:

1171, rue Sainte-Catherine West (corner Stanley)

Opening hours:

Sunday and Monday 10am to 9pm; Tuesday to Friday 10am to 10pm; Saturday 9am to 10pm

Official website: