Saturday, July 8, 2017

Toronto Playground Review: Grange Park - New as of July 2017!

Grange Park was completely remade and reopened on July 8th, 2017. I've only been to the grand opening, but it's already one of my favourite Toronto playgrounds.

There's just so much here. Not only is it a pretty big park and playground, but there's also a water feature and splash-pad type area for kids to run around in bathing suits, plus a completely fenced dog park. 

There are two large playgrounds here. One is for kids over five, while the other is for younger children. The photos will do a much better job showcasing the park than any written words would:

The "older kids" playground.

The "younger kids" playground.

As you can see, there are slides, swings, climbing tools, a tunnel, and a lot of other great things for kids of all ages.

In addition to the two playgrounds, there's also a very big field which is great for kids to run around and play in, or to sit down and have a picnic with the family. 

This park has a lot of shade, thanks to all of the trees, but the splashpad, the playgrounds and the field are very sunny. It's a good mix that should satisfy everyone.

My favourite part about this park is that even though it's very close to a busy part of Queen Street, it doesn't feel that way. It truly feels like a quiet oasis that isn't anywhere near the city (except that you can see the CN Tower, which is kind of cool, in my opinion). 

My son could run around in the field and it's big enough that I didn't have to worry about him sprinting off into traffic or anything.

There's also a lot of great-looking buildings bordering the park.

I'm not sure if the park will stay as bright and open and friendly and clean as it was today at the grand opening, but I'm hopeful. Literally all this park is missing, in my opinion, is a sand area. But there's a lot of those in the city.

Bonus: There's a Starbucks at Queen for when you need coffee, which is likely always.

Grange Park photos:

Grange Park info:

Grange Park
(south of Dundas between Beverley and McCaul)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Why Toronto Libraries are Awesome for Kids (and Parents)

3:33 PM
Toronto Library Children's Story Time

A little while ago, the Financial Post published an op-ed that attacked Toronto's libraries as being "wasteful" and "another costly rider on the city’s Gravy Train." Politics-aside, I want to say that I disagree.

There are many reasons why.

For example, the article states that "Rather than the 100 branches it has now, a more appropriate number for a city of Toronto’s size might be 40 or 50." Reducing the number of libraries defeats one of the main purposes of libraries: their convenience and ease of use.

If you walk into nearly any Toronto library today, you'll find that they are quite busy. This can be a little shocking to people who expect them to be empty (since reading paper books has decreased) but it's true.

At any given library, you'll find people working, studying and using facilities such as printers, computers and photocopiers, in addition to reading books.

But, as for why this post is appropriate for this blog, you'll also find a tonne of great kids programs at the Toronto Library. (If you want to read more debate about that Financial Post article, Torontoist has you covered.)

Kids Programs at Toronto Libraries

My son goes to several different events at Toronto libraries each week. There are even special events for holidays and occasions, such as Halloween parties and puppet shows.

Many libraries have "toddler time" or "family time" which is great for kids of all ages. For example, I often take my 22-month-old son to the story times at the Yorkville Library, Lillian H. Smith Library and Spadina Road Library. They even have a new story time at the Toronto Reference Library that we've been to. You can find full details on these programs on the library website.

When he was younger, we often went to "Baby Time" at various libraries as well. He really, truly loves going to the library and I believe that puts him on a good path for life.

These kids programs have a few things in common:
  • They're all quite well attended. 
    • Sometimes there are only 5-10 kids in a program, but there have been times where I've seen 20 or 30 kids in attendance. This certainly shows demand for these programs.
  • They're drop-ins. 
    • You don't need to sign-up or book in advance, which is great for parents with young kids. Toddlers are notoriously tough to get out the door on occasion, so it can be tough to get them to regularly attend scheduled activities.
    • Having a drop-in also means you can try out new programs without committing to anything, which is great.
    • Having them at different libraries on different days allows you to be flexible with your schedules as well. If there was only one library program a week, it would be much more difficult to attend.
  • The librarians are incredible 
    • Every single program I've been to has been great. The librarians who run the story times are engaging, entertaining, enthusiastic and truly care. They work to ensure that the kids are enjoying themselves. They also frequently bring in props like puppets, scarves, shakers, etc. for the kids to use.
    • You can really tell that they enjoy running the programs and that they love kids. This matters a great deal.
    • After story time, you can ask the librarians for recommendations for book your child and I've found these recommendations very helpful. My little guy almost always loves the books  they recommend.

Raising a child can be tough. It's often hard to keep kids entertained throughout the day. Knowing that the Toronto Library programs exist is so helpful. These programs are free and accessible to anyone (you don't even need a library card to attend), which is crucial. 

No one has to tell you that having a kid can get expensive. The fact that these programs are offered for free, and the fact that they're of such high quality, is very meaningful. Anyone can go to a Toronto Library story time with their kids. 

In these programs, the kids get exposure to reading, singing, music, dance, interactive play and they get to socialize with other kids. It's very common to have children and parents stay behind after a library program to read, play with toys (several libraries have bead mazes, train sets or blocks for kids to play with), or just to run around with other kids.

In this sense, the libraries kind of become community centres for these children. My son has certainly made friends at the library and so have my wife and I. They're great for building community with other parents.

If you live near a library and have a toddler, it's a really good idea to check one of these programs out. You'll be glad that you did.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Event Alert: Choir! Choir! Choir! and a HUGE Tree at the Eaton Centre!

3:56 PM
Eaton Centre Toronto Christmas tree

Did you know that they're unveiling the biggest Christmas tree in Canada today?

Choir! Choir! Choir! will be on hand at the Toronto Eaton Centre as the tree is revealed and lit!

It looks like it's going to be a fun time. The event kicks off at 5:30 and the unveiling and singing happens at 6pm.

I'll be there with my little guy who is now completely obsessed with Christmas trees!

(The photo above is not the tree. That's the one from a few years ago.)

More event details are available on Facebook:

2016 Toronto Santa Claus Parade Review

3:49 PM
Toronto Santa Claus Parade 2016

I went with my wife, son and some extended family members to the Toronto Santa Claus Parade a few days ago. I've been going to this parade my entire life, but this was the first year that my little guy was old enough to enjoy himself.

It was a pretty cold day, but above freezing, so we still had fun.

My son and his cousins (who came with us) are 21 months, 2 years old and 4 years old respectively, so we only went for the last half of the parade. They wouldn't have made it through the whole 2+ hours.

We stayed for about 45 minutes, which was enough to see all of the major floats including Santa, Mrs. Claus and, of course, Paw Patrol. Paw Patrol was possibly more exciting than seeing Santa!

(My little guy still prefers Thomas the Tank Engine to Paw Patrol, for what its worth.)

Pro-tip: We watched the parade as it went around Queen's Park and there was hardly anyone there. While, in some spots, the crowds are several people deep, we walked up halfway through and were able to get the kids a seat in the front with ease. The two younger kids had strollers and we brought a chair for the older one. It worked out perfectly.

Overall, we had a great time and we'll be going back next year. The parade really did a lot to get my son excited for Christmas and he's been talking about it ever since.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Top Five Places in Toronto to Take Your Children This Holiday Season

10:29 PM

The holiday season is here and, for people with kids, that means even more hustle and bustle than usual. The good news? Toronto is an incredible city when it comes to kids activities and the holiday season is no different.

There are so many great places to take kids over the holidays that you might only be able to see a few of them. Trying to prepare your list?  Here are my choices for the top five holiday season activities for kids in Toronto.

The Distillery Christmas Market

No list would be complete without this one. Warning: it gets really crowded, especially on weekends. In fact, because of the busy crowds, the market started charging an entry fee on the weekends to encourage more people to come out on off-peak times.

This year the fee is $6 on weekends, starting at 5pm on Fridays. "Express Pass" tickets are also available for $20, which allow you to skip the entry line.

The market runs from Friday November 18th until Thursday December 22nd. It is not open on Mondays. More details available at

The Holiday Fair at Nathan Phillips Square

New this year is a Christmas market at Nathan Phillips Square. It's said to be a "seasonal marketplace" and it's organized by Epilepsy Toronto (the same group that puts on Buskerfest each year.)

It's free and runs from December 8th to December 23rd.

I'm not sure what to expect from this one, but about 60 vendors are expected to participate and it seems to be "inspired" by the Distillery market, so it should be good.

The Evergreen Brickworks Winter Village

Last year, this was one of the most fun holiday markets that our family went to. It wasn't very crowded and it really felt like Christmas. There are food trucks and a farmers market and they sold fresh apple cider that you could order spiked, if that's your thing. There's also skating, a campfire, several vendors and more.

The Brickworks is one of my favourite places anyway, so having a holiday market there was incredible.

It runs December 10th to December 23rd and more info is available at:

The Union Station Holiday Market

This is a smaller market (or at least it was last year) that mostly has vendors, artisans, etc. but it's still fun. It's right at Union Station so it's super easy to get to, as well. The small size makes it great for young kids.

It doesn't run for very long though, so you'll need to get on it if you want to visit. It's on from December 5th to 16th and more info is available at:

The Bay Windows

Sure, Mariah Carey won't be there when you arrive, but the Bay windows are still really fun for the whole family. They're at the Bay/Saks Queen Street location.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Spotify Playlists that Kids Love & You'll Tolerate

5:23 PM
Spotify Playlists Kids

Kids love music. From an early age, my little guy loved to listen to songs. Now that he's older (21 months at this point!) he loves to dance, drum, shake his toy shakers, and even try to sing. It's really fun.

However, an adult can only hear Barney sing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" so many before they need something new. And maybe an Aspirin.

On that note, here are a few Spotify playlists for kids that will also be appealing (or at least tolerable) to their parents:

Kids Workout by Spotify

This contains a lot of the usual suspects (Sesame Street, The Wiggles, Raffi, etc.) but it has enough variety that you won't run screaming from it.

For a while.

Pop For Kids by Spotify Canada

This is another playlist created by Spotify itself and, yes, it contains quite a lot of Kidz Bop. Yes, that can certainly drive you crazy. But kids love it, so here it is and at least there's a chance that you'll have fun with it to. It also has some other artists such as Katy Perry, Carly Rae Jepsen, Pharrell, The Lumineers and more, so those should help you keep your sanity.

Folk For Kids by Spotify

We almost entirely get away from "kids bands" and Kidz Bop (they're still in there though!) with this one. Peter, Paul and Mary, Crosby & Nash, Bob Marley & the Wailers, Woody Guthrie, and even Johnny Cash make appearances in this playlist.

Hits for Kids by Digster

This might not be appropriate for everyone, especially younger kids, but if you're looking for a playlist that contains Justin Bieber, 5 Seconds of Summer, Drake, Ariana Grande and more, you've found it. They're all pretty "poppy" songs that slightly older kids will enjoy. It's a playlist made by a Swedish Spotify user, so there are some Swedish songs in there.

Disney Soundtracks by Amanda Sherwin

Music from Pocahontas, Winnie the Pooh, The Lion King, Tangled, and, of course, Frozen, not to mention many other songs. Your kid will be singing these anyway, so why not have a playlist?

What are your favourite kids playlists?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Toronto Playground Review: Huron-Washington Parkette

Huron-Washington Parkette is located at, as you might expect, Huron Street and Washington Avenue in Toronto. It's one of the closer playgrounds to where I live and so I've gone here quite a few times with my son.

One thing that differentiates this playground from many other is the fact that the ground is entirely covered in sand. Some other playgrounds have wood chips, mulch, foam tiles or various other soft materials to protect the kids, but Huron-Washington Parkette is all sand.

This is a good thing and a bad thing.

It's good because my son loves sand. He's currently 19 months old and playing in sand is one of his favourite things. (As is attempting to eat sand, but we'll get to that another day....)

However, since there's sand all over the place in the playground, expect to have sand all over your home later on (and in your kid's stroller, and shoes, and clothes, and diaper, and... you get it.)

As for the actual playground, there's lots to do there for kids of various ages. There are some good slides, some swings and some fun climbing equipment. There is also a little metal car for kids to sit in (with TWO steering wheels - to avoid fights) as well as a bouncing lady bug/rocking "horse"  that my son likes.

Depending on the time of day, it may be somewhat crowded in Huron-Washington Parkette, but it's a big enough park and there's enough to do there that you should be fine on most days.

One of the biggest downsides, however, is that there's basically no shade in the playground area itself. That means it gets quite hot in the summer, so keep this in mind. There is, however, a decent seating area in the parkette, away from the playground, that has some trees, so you can sit there to eat lunch or a snack or just to take a break.

Overall, it's a very good park. It's completely fenced in, so kids can run free. Huron Street itself is a relatively quiet street, so you won't be bothered by too much traffic.

I'd certainly recommend this downtown Toronto playground for anyone who is in in the area and is looking for a good place to play with their kids.

Huron-Washington Parkette Photos:

Huron-Washington Parkette: Downtown Toronto Park 1

Huron-Washington Parkette: Downtown Toronto Park 2

Huron-Washington Parkette: Downtown Toronto Park 3

Huron-Washington Parkette: Downtown Toronto Park 4

Huron-Washington Parkette Info:
420 Huron St,
Toronto, ON
M5S 2G5