Summer’s here. That pervading sense of wanting to make the most of it is haunting you… Have no fear! Here are the next “10 things to do with your kids this summer” in this exclusive two-part series – with an emphasis on local.
Hit the classic Toronto spots. The CN Tower, The Ontario Science Centre , Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, a professional sports game (Toronto Blue Jays, Argonauts, Raptors, Toronto FC Soccer, Pro Tennis Rogers Cup), Mirvish Productions. Wild Water Kingdom, the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto Islands/Centreville, Centre Island Beach, Harbourfront Centre, the Olympic-sized outdoor swimming pool in the Beaches, Canadian National Exhibition, Riverdale Farm, Casa Loma, Edwards Gardens, Hockey Hall of Fame, Art Gallery of Ontario, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Black Creek Pioneer Village, Rainforest Cafe at Yorkdale Shopping Centre, a double-decker tour bus to get an overview of the city.
Kids’ CBC Days is a free day full of events and kid-character celeb sightings.
Go dowtown in style – it’s convenient and fun to ride the Go Train or Bus from the East Gwillimbury station. Alternately, you can park in the huge parking lot at Finch and take the subway in.
Remember the Toronto CityPASS for savings.
Toronto CityPASS is a booklet of admission tickets to 5 of Toronto’s attractions at 43% off the combined admission price. So, if you plan to go on a bunch of family field trips over the course of nine consecutive days (the time frame in which a Toronto CityPASS operates), it is well worth it. The five attractions covered by CityPASS are: the CN Tower, the Science Centre, Casa Loma, the Toronto Zoo and the ROM.
In “Give me Five More Minutes, Kids” author Karen Green dishes about having to come up with a “new game plan” now that the kids are out of school for the summer and she still has to put in work hours from home.
Whether you are working from home, full-time staying-at-home, working outside home, or some other kind of arrangement, parents need to get their stuff done. In some cases, there may only be 2 or 3 hours a day in which things can get done “sans enfants.” That’s not very much time. Kids benefit from devising their own ideas of what to do during independent play…however, helping to launch a project or challenge from time to time that they might not otherwise have participated in can be very valuable too. How much the parent does get involved/needs to supervise “beyond launching it” really depends on the age of the child among other factors.
Green is enthusiastic and hopeful about the “Project Idea.” She offers:
“Last year, I gave them the Lego challenge — they had all summer to create a universe using every single piece of Lego that we have. And we have a lot. On rainy days, on really hot days and on days when I was otherwise occupied for a bit, the girls went down to the playroom and went to town on the Lego. By time school began again, we could see the bottom of the 60 litre bin that the Lego had been stored in. The challenge had been a success, on many levels.”
What would seem to work best is that the project is something the adult is genuinely enthusiastic about as well (think Phil on Modern Family and his desire to share his love of magic with his son). So release your inner geek, your inner ham. You didn’t make the high school play, but you can now freely shout out, “hey kids, why don’t you find some friends on the street and put on a play by the end of the week!” Then watch the results in vicarious delight.
Other possible “projects:” filming a you-tube-style cooking video using the family video camera; writing heads of state to see what responses come in the mail; gardening a small plot of land or window box that the child can call his or her own; becoming a mother’s helper, babysitter, grass-cutter or junior handyperson and making some cash; starting a business (suggest reading Gordon Korman’s No Coins, Please as ultimate inspiration); an addictive craft like yarn spooling or gimp and embroidery-thread bracelet-making, finding four-leaf clovers, spending a day in French; putting on afternoon tea in the garden; creating a very elaborate obstacle course and using a stop watch to try to improve times; creating a treasure hunt; cards, board games; damning a stream; trying to create the longest hopscotch in the world (one that extends around the block); penpals; beginning training for the Olympics; creating a museum or library; building a fort or writing a book.
Side-by-side “getting jobs done” is another avenue to take this summer (again depending on the age – you’re not going to get too many fifteen-year-old boys seated on the floor beside you, folding laundry, for any length of time). Even with the younger ones, Playgound Confidential‘s Rebecca Cuneo Keenan is humorously realistic about such prospects: Read 13 Parenting Tips That Can Bite Me and Cooking with Kids Sucks.
But still, cooking and cleaning is a big part of life. There can be a spiritual possibility here – a time to connect in a moving-meditation kind of way. Particularly if you don’t mind how long it takes.
Living Well, Spending Less‘ Ruth Soukup writes, “I just started including [my two children] in whatever I was doing, whether it was cooking or cleaning or crafting”…”We simply began enjoying our time together.”
That drive or bike to the icecream parlour after dinner or the big game could be the one thing that puts a smile on everyone’s face all week. It may even be because it’s the simplest, purest, original-summer activity of all.
14. Random Destination
Pick a random street or destination on the map. Bike or drive or walk there. Look around at that random destination with fresh eyes like it was your destiny to go to that particular square foot on earth. Better yet, board the York Region Transit bus with no idea of where you are going to go (though some pre-planning and a transit schedule will be necessary to avoid getting lost or stranded at the end of the line!!)
Practice a random act of kindness together. Place a potted plant on some neighbour’s porch – pay the previous car order in the Tim Horton’s drive-through. Throw an informal birthday party for the kid on the street who doesn’t seem to have any birthday plans. Volunteer together.
Go camping at the Yogi Bear Jellystone campground in Bradford West Gwillimbury or Santa’s Village in Bracebridge. Head to Algonquin Provincial Park. Sing songs around the campfire. Roast marshmallows. Feel alive! Go to a cottage- Your cottage, your friend’s cottage, your brother’s cottage, your mom and dad’s, a rented cottage, any cottage will do. A permit can be obtained from the Town of East Gwillimbury for a bonfire in your backyard for a nominal fee.
Festival and fair season is summer season:
Schomberg Fair (late May): Mount Albert Sports Day & Spring Fair (early June) Georgina Highland Gathering, Sutton (mid-June) Music in the Streets Festival, Keswick (mid-late June) Oak Ridges Fair (mid-late June); Stouffville Strawberry Festival (late June); Canada Day at the Sharon Temple (early July); Purple Turtle Arts Festival, Georgina (mid-July); Around the World Multicultural Tour, Newmarket (mid-late July); Nin Os Kom Tin Aboriginal Festival, Newmarket (late July); Carrot Fest, Bradford West Gwillimbury (mid-August); Garlic is Great Festival, Newmarket (mid-August); Splash Water Festival, Georgina (mid July-mid August); Barrielicious Festival (mid July-early Aug); Newmarket Jazz + Festival (early Aug); Sutton Fair and Horse Show (early-mid August); Weaving Words: Sharon Temple StoryTelling Festival (September); Magna Hoedown, Aurora (September)and Special events at Canada’s Wonderland (throughout the summer).
Create a “bike route” by outlining in crayon the set of bike-friendly streets you would like to take with your child on an EG map. Give it a name like a national park trail. “The Diamond” “The Canyon Pass.” Then follow that route. Bike it in the very early morning hours if you can manage it – just to feel the day before everyone else.
19. Photo Contest
Enter the EG Shines Photo Contest (coming soon, details to follow!)
20. High-voltage Fun
Throw educational wholesomeness out the window for the day and go to Chuck E Cheese. The photo-booth-style pictures you’ll get from the various rides are probably the ones you’ll keep and weep over with nostalgia when you’re eighty more than any other, and they’re actually a good deal. Play Laser Tag. Experience Mount Albert’s new wakeboarding park. Play paint ball. Go trampolining, jetskiing, geocaching. Long live summer!
Image Sources (Foter.com/photos on flickr):strawberries (Sharon Mollerus), bucket of dandelions (gfpeck), four-leaf clover (cygnus921), roasting marshmallow (designsbykari), lemonade stand (Conlawprof), little helper (Rob, Joyce, Alex & Nova), father and daughter (Linh H Nguyen), fair (RDeep)