Summer is, and has always been, the firefly-lit, scraped-knee, chalk-fingered magical domain of kids…Here are our first 10 kid-friendly ideas to kickstart the summer.
For many residents of East Gwillimbury who live in the country, experiencing farm life is “daily life”. For all others, there’s Brooks Farm! Here you’ll find strawberry picking, train rides, zip lining, a giant “jumping pillow,” a cute market store…Bring sun hats- it can get hot. (Try also: Strawberry Creek Farm and Forsythe Family Farms.) To continue with the farm theme, pick up some fresh treats at the EG Farmer’s Market every Thursday from 3 to 8pm and Newmarket Farmer’s Markets every Saturday morning!
What kid wouldn’t value and remember the quiet words of wisdom imparted by their parent as they rounded eighteen holes of a golf course together? If mini-putt’s more your game, imagine chuckling over the ball that kept on missing the hole over and over again. For years you’ll recall the triumphant hole-in-one that even the youngest might obtain (in miniature golf)! Try Northern Greens Golf & Family Fun Centre (for its friendly staff and proximity) and Cardinal Golf Club’s Northern Adventure Mini-Putt (for its deluxe design).
The classiest place to go on any given summer day may well be the McMichael Art Gallery in Kleinburg. Introduce your children to the Group of Seven, First Nations, Inuit, and contemporary artists. Wander through the magical Sculpture Garden. Discover the grounds. Play in the kids’s area. Have fun selecting your own documentary about a Canadian artist to watch in the mini-auditorium. The McMichael is open literally every single day of the summer, even on holidays. Closer to home, the possibilities of creating art together are endless. One popular idea is painting your own pottery at Whatnots Craft and Ceramics Studio in Newmarket. A perfect cozy, rainy day activity.
There is really nothing like the zoo for the ultimate in animal experiences. Interactive activities and animal sight-seeing inspire kids to care about wildlife and protect habitats. Other zoos to consider besides the Toronto Zoo (and its amazing splash pad – bring your bathing suit!) is the Elmvale Jungle Zoo, close to Barrie (with lots of “hands-on” fun) and the Bomanville Zoo where you can actually ride an elephant! Short of the zoo, opportunities abound in the area to see reptiles in all their scaly splendour – There’s Reptilia in Vaughan, and that crazy, huge, 100-plus-year-old turtle who sometimes emerges from Oak Bank Pond in Thornill. Zoo to You visits the Mount Albert Sports Day Fair and other local fairs each year. Reptilia brings reptiles to you as part of various events in EG. On a regular day when you are driving the kids home from daycare/daycamp/errands/Grandma’s, pull out some carrots. Feed some horses at the side of the road. They’ll love it.
The incredible, open-bay vista at Barrie is a sight to behold. A day at the beach is well-spent here. Plus, the playground at the Barrie waterfront is huge and fun – with really, really cool equipment. Check out the Town of Georgina’s waterfont areas too. Swim at the Ray Twinney Recreation Complex , the outdoor Gorman Pool or Magna Centre in Newmarket. Bonus marks go to the Magna Centre for the fun bucket that tips over and splashes unsuspecting swimmers from up high! Try Bradford West Gwillimbury’s Leisure Centre (beautiful and new – plus the pool is salt water!) East Gwillimbury now has four splash pads! Splash pads: the best thing to ever be invented since parents were kids! (So, too, are sprinklers, slip-n-slides, wading pools, and backyard pools amazing inventions!) Finally, EG is now home to an exciting new wakeboarding park in Mount Albert (more about this in 20 Things to Do With Your Kids This Summer, Part II).
Did you know that LM Montgomery wrote 11 of her 22 novels in Leaksdale, north of Uxbridge, where she lived most of her life? Take a drive to nearby Uxbridge and retrace the life steps of LM Montgomery. While the manse where she lived with her husband and sons is not yet open to the public (its restoration is a work-in-progress), one can nonetheless see a commemorative plaque and imagine Canada’s most beloved authoress penning the tales of Anne of Green Gables inside. One can also visit the Uxbridge-Scott Museum. Read the classics this summer with your child –the Ramona Quimby series, Danny the Champion of the World, The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be, From Anna, Harry Potter, Tales of a Forth Grade Nothing, Stuart Little, Little House on the Prairie – or watch as your child disappears into a tent in the backyard with his or her own stack of books. While your son or daughter is at it, they might as well get credit in the EGPL TD Summer Reading Club contest.
Call to action for all EG kids! The EGPL Library Summer program is where it’s at. Last year’s roster of crafts, tween events, lego, summer movies with popcorn, and Grande Finale Season-Ending Sundae-Making Party are sure to be repeated. Adults can pick up a book or DVD for the weekend while they’re there!
Find a kid-friendly show at the Newmarket Theatre, Queensville Players, Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts, Stephen Leacock Theatre and Theatre Aurora. Silvercity Newmarket offers reduced-fare family movies on Saturdays “Family Favourites”). Some venues host outdoor movie nights.
The park is a mainstay, a bread-and-butter option. So mix it up. Optimize the park. Work its many applications! There’s the day the kids might enjoy a picnic at the park. Then the day they might figure out that pulling the baby in the wagon is fun, or riding their bikes to the park is fun. The “Tennis Court Hang-Out.”. The “Park Playdate” (where a playdate’s base of operations is at the park rather than at someone’s home). The Basketball Match. Splash Pad Balloon Fun. Hopscotch. School parks and other alternate parks. Dusk visits. Fitting in exercise for you, the parent or caregiver, at the same time as caring for kids can sometimes be challenging. It is made amazingly possible at the All Our Kids “Dinosaur” Playpark in Newmarket . Here one finds an impressive array of outdoor, all-weather fitness equipment ready for use. Meetups at Anchor Park and Fairy Lakes with the Ontario Early Years Centre are also something fun to consider. The Early Years’ summer schedule offers many park-based programs. Sometimes you may learn more about parenting from talking with other parents/caregivers on such occasions than you can from reading any parenting book. Both parent/caregiver and child gain.
For every mall or plaza, there’s usually one or two “value-added” kid features associated with it. Knowing about these features can turn a regular mall visit into a super experience. Like the soft foam play park at Upper Canada Mall. Family Washrooms at UC Mall are geared towards tiny tots for whom potty training is such a big part of their world. Forever XXI may be a draw for your teen/tween at UC Mall. Sears Department Stores almost always have nursing rooms. Tangers Outlets in Cookstown offers a small park near the parking lot. Vaughan Mills‘ draw is the giant bear and fish wall at Bass Pro plus tables made from actual cars in the food court (along with tiny table-and-chair sets in the middle of the food court). The Newmarket Plaza boasts an actual shark at Big Al’s Aquarium Supercentre (be sure to time your visit with feeding time the “Shark Feeding Frenzy” – Tuesdays at 7pm – for an even better experience!) Kids at Sea is a stone’s throw away from the Newmarket Plaza – kids will have fun dressing up, playing on a giant pirate ship and parents can sip coffee from a large selection of Timothy’s coffee.
Stay tuned for the next ten “things to do with your kids this summer”! Coming soon…
Photo Credits: clockwise, from top left- Croixboy, limaoscarjuliet, Yatmandu, RDeep, theyedropper’s world, wladyslaw, CDeep, John Morgan