If you haven't started panicking yet, it's time to figure out what things to do with your kids this summer. Summer has officially arrived in Toronto, and the youngsters are out of the classroom for the entire months of July and August. Your kids are probably excited about this, but you might be a little worried—what will they do all day? And how will you stay sane?
Finding ways to occupy your kids all day in the warmer months shouldn't be that difficult, right? Toronto is a big city, and that means lots of major attractions to enjoy: the Toronto Zoo, the CN Tower, several large shopping malls, and Toronto Island are just a few examples of what people come to town to see. But those activities, while popular for good reason, can also be pricey and crowded, especially during tourist season.
The city is also home to a variety of public recreation programs, but what do you do if you missed the summer registration date or didn't effectively navigate the Hunger Games-esque registration system and couldn't register for your top picks?
Good news: Hogtown is full of activities for every kind of kid, with something for every interest and age group. We've pulled together 20 of our favourite summertime activities for kids (and their parents!), but rest assured there are dozens more where these came from.
Ontario has some beautiful national parks, but what do you do if leaving the city isn't an option? Fortunately, there's Rouge Park, which is on its way to becoming Canada's first urban national park. You can go swimming at Rouge Beach, and overnight camping is even available at Glen Rouge Campground. As well, many of the park's guided nature walks are family friendly.
Allan Gardens, located near Cabbagetown, is one of Toronto's best kept secrets. This impressive collection of greenery—housed in six greenhouses covering more than 16,000 square feet--is free to all and open every day of the year. Go soon to see its agave plant before it blooms and dies.
3. Christie Pits Baseball
Of course, a Blue Jays game is a great way to spend a summer afternoon—but it can be a pricey one, too. But you can catch eight-time Intercounty League Champions the Toronto Maple Leafs at Dominico Field at Christie Pits Park, near Christie Subway Station, for free. Concession snacks are affordable, as well, and there are raffles and free programs at each game.
On the last Sunday of every month, from May to October, downtown's Kensington Market shuts its streets to vehicle traffic from noon to 7 p.m. and lets the pedestrians take over. Each month's event has a theme, and Pedestrian Sundays is celebrating its tenth year in the market this year. It's a great way to get to know the market, and to enjoy the best of its food, vendors, and artists.
Could you use a helping hand among the weeds? Or maybe your child's interest in gardening has inspired you to work on your own black thumb. The weekly workshops at parent-friendly cafe Playful Grounds are a great way to introduce children aged 30 months and up to the joy of growing your own plants and to teach them where food comes from.
A lot has changed in Regent Park over the past few years, and this recently opened aquatic centre is one of the best new additions to the neighbourhood. The universal changing rooms are accessible and family friendly, the warm-water pool is perfect for younger children, and older kids will go crazy for the water slide and Tarzan rope.
If you don't have the motivation to head out to the Toronto Zoo (even with the temptation of its new pandas) you can still take your kids to see some animals and learn a bit about wildlife. The High Park Zoo features animals like llamas, peacocks, and bison, and admission is free. To support the zoo, you can feed some of the animals for a small fee at certain times. While you're at the park, check out the great Jamie Bell Adventure Park playground.
The books shouldn't go away just because school's out—Toronto's got a great public library system, and TD's Summer Reading Club is a great way to get to know it. When kids sign up at their local branch they get a Club passport and magazine or activity booklet, designed to help them explore the world through reading, and they can collect stickers that activate online surprises.
Raising a budding musician? Help a girl in your life discover her inner Tina Turner or Chrissie Hynde at Girls Rock Camp. Local musicians volunteer to help girls aged eight to 16 play instruments and write songs over each week-long session. It all culminates in amazing concerts featuring the best of Toronto's up-and-coming musical talent—these shows are worth attending even if your child doesn't go to the camp. What else inspires a kid like watching someone their own age be awesome?
Too crowded at your local outdoor pool? You can still cool off, for free, at one of Toronto's many wading pools, located in parks around the city. There are more than 100 supervised pools operating from now until September, all over the city, and many of them are in parks that offer several other recreation options for you and your kids, like playgrounds and athletic fields.
The Toronto Institute for the Enjoyment of Music aims to make music accessible to everyone, and that includes children. Drop-in classes give kids the chance to try a variety of different instruments, and private lessons are also available.
Enjoy a cup of coffee (while it's still hot!) upstairs at Smock Cafe while the kiddos have fun downstairs with performer Rob Joy, who'll lead them in singalongs and bring out his puppet sidekick during Kinderoke on the first Thursday of each month. There's a break in between his sets for dinner in the cafe.
Is your kid a cartoon fan? Then he or she will love this 10-week class, also at Smock Cafe, which introduces the basics of cartooning illustration. Kids aged seven to 10 will learn skills like character poses through projects like flip books and thaumatropes.
Do you have a little daredevil on your hands, or a future activist for cyclist's rights? Joyride 150 offers three levels of bike camps for different levels of cyclists, from intro programs for young riders to intermediate skills and tricks. These were fully booked last year, so get on it!
Miss the deadline for the city's summer camps and classes? You've still got lots of options with Ryerson University's summer camps for kids. Options include sports camps, healthy living camps, basketball instruction, claymation, leadership training, and science—there's something for everyone.
Looking for a new way to get kids excited about fitness? Circus Academy might be the ticket. Kids will learn from professional circus performers, who teach activities like juggling, stilt walking, and aerial acrobatics. If you think it looks fun, they've also got adult classes!
Every kid loves the classmate with a giant trampoline in the backyard, but parents sometimes have safety concerns. The recently opened Just Bounce Trampoline Club gives children a way to burn off some energy and bounce around, without the worries. You can sign up for a class, or just go to spend the day.
Is your son or daughter one of those kids who loves taking things apart to see how to put them back together again? Then you'll want to head to Maker Kids in Roncesvalles. The non-profit space has summer camps for creative kids, as well as weekend workshops. If you've got a kid with a summer birthday, this would be a great spot for a party.
Computer skills are essential these days, and it never hurts to get ahead of the curve. Fortunately, they're also a lot of fun to acquire. Ladies Learning Code's Kids Learning Code monthly workshops teach skills like game design and HTML, and Girls Learning Code is aimed specifically at teenaged girls.
Looking for a fun day outside exploring one of Toronto's hottest neighbourhoods? Head to the Junction Flea on the second Sunday of each month—you'll find a mix of local vendors selling antiques and clothing and delicious food. While you're in the area, hit up 3030 Dundas St. W. a kid-friendly restaurant where you can sample some locally brewed beer.