June 15, 2012

Top 10 things to do with your kids this summer

Our guest post today is from my friend Mel who blogs at Melanie OTG.  She is a fellow Toronto based blogger, who has two young kids and is very informed about what’s happening in and around our fair city.  Her post today is about the ‘top 10 things to do with your kids this summer’.  There are a couple references to some of our local haunts, so if you find yourself up North this summer, please check them out; if you’re not able to visit the T-Dot, then we encourage you to find similar spots in your town to have fun with your kids.  

I get excited just thinking of the warmer weather, longer days, and soaking up the sunshine (and getting that Vitamin D naturally!). When taking your kids out this summer, don’t forget to bring sunblock, hats, and be aware of the UV Index for the current day and try to time it so you’re not out too long when the sun is the strongest- between 11am and 4pm, or try to find shaded areas to play in!

Here are my top 10 things to do with your children this summer!

1. Scribble, Draw, or play Hopscotch with Sidewalk Chalk

Whether young or old, this is something your child can do (unless the chalk tends to go in the mouth and not on the sidewalk!).

I love sitting on my front porch step watching my 17 month old while he scribbles with the different colored chalk, and my 3 year old makes pictures of the sun, and practices her favourite letters! Soon I’ll try to teach her hopscotch. If you need a refresher on the rules of hopscotch like I did, click here for a video, and here for instructions.

2. Pick Your Own Fruit and Vegetables at a Farm

Rhubarb, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, black currants, corn, squash, pumpkins are just a few examples of what you can pick yourself and bring home. Besides being a fun outdoor activity, your child can learn where fruits and vegetables come from, and may take pride in eating what they picked. And, they may even be more agreeable to eating those *yucky* vegetables if they helped pick them!

Tip: Strawberries can be back-breaking to pick. Try blueberries or raspberries as they grow on bushes 1- 2 metres high, and buy fresh strawberries already picked!

Andrew’s Scenic Acres in Halton Hills grows a variety of fruits, vegetables and flowers for you to pick. They also have a free farm animal area and playground. Also try Markham’s Organics Family Farm.

3. Play in Parks and Playgrounds & Have a Picnic

Neighborhood parks and playgrounds are wonderful, free ways for kids to stay active and get some fresh air. Bored of your usual playground? Check out a playground a bit further that might offer different equipment for your kids to explore, like a rock climbing wall, monkey bars or rope ladder. Bring a ball, frisbee, or even a kite if it’s windy enough.

And why not pack a picnic and have lunch or dinner out so you can stay longer? One of my favourite memories is packing a picnic for the whole family (well, it was take-out actually.. don’t judge) and having dinner beside a playground we’d never been to. The kids had a great time exploring new surroundings and the hubby and I got to sit down and relax while the kids played (.. until my little guy decided to try the ladder instead of the steps!).

Try entering in your postal code at the top right hand side of our site and see what parks and playgrounds are around you! Send in photos of playgrounds you frequent for other parents to see and we’ll add them to our site and give you photo credit (email mel@melanieotg.ca)!

4. Enjoy Water Play

Whether it be turning on the sprinkler at home, inflating a wading pool in the backyard, bringing a slip ‘n slide out onto the grass, or going to a nearby splash pad, outdoor pool, water park, lake or ocean, you can bet your kids will have fun playing in the water! If you’re going out don’t forget to bring water toys such as rubber duckies, inflatable balls, noodles and anything else you have to make your outing more enjoyable for the kids.

And if your kids like playing in the sand like mine do, be sure to bring the buckets and shovels, and show ’em how to make a sand castle!

Don’t forget to frequently apply sun block and consider bringing water shoes to help prevent your child from falling on slippery surfaces. If your child doesn’t swim yet, consider bringing a life jacket, water wings or a swim ring. My daughter, now 3 years, loves motoring around the pool in a swim ring (with me tailing her of course!).

If you live in or around Toronto my new favourite provincial park is Earl Rowe in Alliston (~ 1 hour north of Toronto). There’s a 1 acre pool with a big shallow end for young kids, 2 big sandy beaches and a man-made lake where you can rent canoes or paddle boats! Opening in mid-June is Petticoat Conservation Area’s new kids water facility in Pickering!

5. Learn a Summer Sport

There are so many summer sports to choose from! Pick a couple your child and you are interested in (you because you’ll be more enthusiastic about helping them learn!). Canoeing, kayaking, swimming, mini-golf, golf, baseball, T-ball, soccer, tennis, badminton, basketball, football, volleyball, ultimate frisbee, biking. There’s so much to choose from! Sign your child up on a team, register for a mixed sports program, find centres near you that have drop-in times dedicated to basketball, volleyball or soccer, organize pickup games with kids in the neighborhood, or set time aside and make it just you and your child enjoying the sport together!

If you child is younger, try canoeing in Harbourfront’s Natrel pond for $4pp. Life jackets are available for as young as 18 months! And if you’re looking for instructional sport programs, check out Sportplay!

6. Let your Child Experience the Thrill of Rides!

At an early age children can ride the merry-go-round, and many amusement parks will have a train ride. Next step is the twirling tea cup rides, animals that go *gently* up and down and round and round, and before you know it your child will have graduated to be on rides themselves! Find out what Amusement parks are near you this summer and let your child feel the thrill of being on rides!

Did you know that children younger than 6 or 7 are immune to motion sickness? Unfortunately for us as we grow older we are more prone to it! A couple *wild* rides and I’m sure I’d be done for the day. I’m glad I only need to go on the kiddie rides for the next few years. And then, my two children can ride together while I relax on a bench! 😉

Canada’s Wonderland is an obvious choice for older kids but did you know they have a whole section called Planet Snoopy for younger ones? I’m planning on going this week so look out for my photo album! Another favourite is Centreville on Centre Island geared for the younger age group.

7. Go on a Scavenger Hunt

Here’s something different to try with your kids. A friend created a scavenger hunt for her 3 year old daughter and I thought it was a wonderful idea! When your kids are young you can simply create a sheet with pictures of common things you can find outdoors like a leaf, flower, stick, bird, ant, airplane, and so on. Cut out pictures from a magazine or find images on the web you can copy and paste into a Word document. Your child can check off each item when he sees it.

If your child is older you can make it more complex by requiring him to answer questions, gather items, or take photos.

Click here for some great, free ideas for scavenger hunts!

8. Check out Festivals in your Area

With summer comes countless festivals to celebrate holidays and well.. summer!

Many festivals will have child-friendly activities like crafts, games, face painting, free balloons, various entertainers, and of course, rides. And don’t forget the *special* treats like ice cream, cotton candy, funnel cakes, popsicles and popcorn!

Tip: Be sure to set expectations on how much junk food your child can have before you leave!

Check out our Fun for the Month posts packed with special events. There’s lots of festivals coming up for Canada Day long weekend so be sure to see what’s going on in and around your area!

9. Visit a Zoo or Aquarium

Kids love zoos and aquariums and it’s a great learning experience for them. My kids have lots of books about land and sea animals, and of course they have lots of stuffed animals. I recently went to the zoo and my toddler recognized a monkey and said “oo oo ah ah”!

Check the zoo schedule before you go to see if there are any shows, feedings, or keeper talks and make sure to plan your day accordingly. And be sure to look for signs stating interesting facts about the animals!

I bet you’ve been to the Metro Toronto Zoo, but what about Jungle Cat World in Clarington, the Bowmanville Zoo, African Lion Safari and Marineland in Niagara Falls?

Free options include the Riverdale Farm petting zoo in Toronto’s east end, High Park Zoo in Etobicoke, Lionel’s Farm in Markham, and Riverview Zoo in Peterborough!

10. Go Camping!

I couldn’t imagine going with my kids so young but I recently was inspired by a mom who has two young ones. You might ask, Why go camping? I used to ask this myself. Well, kids have fun sleeping in a tent, they get to explore nature, it’s affordable, and I’m sure you’ve already guessed what I’m going to say, a great learning experience! You can teach your (older) child survival skills like how to build and take care of a campfire, and use it to cook hot dogs and roast marshmallows. And you’re away from the City so you get to see the stars at night!

Try Sandbanks Provincial Park which has beautiful sandy beaches and sand dunes, or if you’re up for a couple hour drive from Toronto, head to Byng Island! They have a two-acre pool, a large wading area and a spray pad, as well as a diving board in the deep area.

Bonus thing to do:

11. Cloud Gazing

I’m slipping in one more. I was lying down in the backyard yesterday while my kids were running around and I looked up at the sky. There was this huge cloud that looked like a seahorse to me.. or maybe a dragon. My daughter lay down next to me, asking what I was looking at. I pointed up to the sky and asked her what the cloud looked like. “Huh?” she said. “Does the cloud look like a seahorse?” I asked. “Oh, ya, yes it does” she responded.

Here’s a great article on encouraging your child’s imagination and why it’s so important in the first three years of life.


Enjoy your summer ! 🙂


  1. Aloha,
    Stopping by from the hop to say “hey”. Hey! And horray for summer!


  2. This is a great list. I love the idea of a scavenger hunt. We live right beside a big lake with all kinds of possibilities. I think I may try that this year. 🙂

  3. It’s really easy when your kids are little but as they get older into preteens it gets harder to keep them occupied without hearing “I’m bore” all the time! Thanks for the tips. Also, stopping by from Katie’s Linky.


  4. Hi Char!

    Visiting via Thursday Favorites, great list on this post. Our heatwave is upon us, hope your weather is better ? Thanks for stopping at my blog today.


  5. I absolutely love going camping but cannot convince my brood of testosterone just how very much they would enjoy themselves … although that definitely does not mean I am going to give up trying! Thanks for these great tips! Wanted to let you know that I showcased the Weekend Blog Hop Till You Drop on my blog as well as added your button to my Blog List (relatively new and still updating) to help spread the bloggy love! Have a great weekend!

  6. We number seven earlier this week. It was a lot of fun.

    • A scavenger hunt is a great idea Amber! I’m inspired to print a sheet and take my toddlers out to find things around my neighbourhood. Did your little ones have fun scavenger hunting?

  7. Great ideas 🙂

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