We’re always looking for fun and interesting things to do with our toddlers. The best experiences are the ones in which we can share and bond with them. Even if they’re still too young for a lot of activities, and winter further narrows the options, we’ve discovered some really exciting things to do! Indoor activities aren’t dependent on weather—just crowds (and nap time), so wherever it is, get there early!
Here are the first few ideas in, probably, a 5000 part series….
Children’s Discovery Centre
Each Discovery Zone is engaging, interactive, and stimulates wonderment and curiousity. We begin in Imagination Station on the surface of the moon with the solar system all around us. Here, my son discovers Feltro, an interactive construction tile system made of magnetized felt. I step back and watch as he begins building shapes, which quickly transforms into a hockey game. Next up, Mini City, where tricycles, scooters and balance bikes zoom along tracks, and a gravel pit equipped with shovels and hard hats keeps my boy occupied with absolute focus. It’s amazing how he instantly knows what to do with a shovel and partners with other children to fill buckets. We pass through the Campground and Story Land, but his ears immediately perk up at the sound of a drum circle emanating from the Boom Room. Free-form rhythms with a range of percussion instruments have my son staring in a happy daze until he excitedly grabs a djembe drum, joins the circle and begins banging away, while smiling from ear to ear. Snack time. We pull up a chair and spread our picnic at Eat Street. Satisfied, he’s on to the Art Hive. My son determines every step—I just follow his excitement. Painting on canvass and on a squeegee wall, he evokes Picasso and Pollock, discovering colour, movement and tactile sensations through paint. Playing here takes the pressure off as I revel in watching my child exploring; supporting his confidence to learn at his own pace; seeking and figuring things out on his own. What a joy! And there’s so much more, but that can wait for our next visit. Now, I think we’re both tuckered out.
*This is a brilliant grassroots pilot project initiative, only open in this temporary ‘pop-up’ location until May 31st, 2016. A permanent home depends on its success. I don’t know what we ever did before, but every child should have this experience.
(For more info go to: www.childrensdiscoverycentre.com)
Sky Zone Trampoline Park
Everybody loves to bounce. At Skyzone the sky’s the limit. Donning traction-socks we stand at the foot of a vast checkerboard of trampolines. Cautiously wading his toes over the edge, my son looks up at me for the go-ahead nod, and then, boing! My little Newton discovers the coefficient-of-restitution for his tush bouncing across the mat in futile attempts to stand and walk. “What is happening?” His wide, quizzical eyes seem to ask. Relishing his newfound buoyancy, this quick study begins frolicking around the room more rapidly than I’ve ever seen feet move. It is so funny watching him try to dart across the mats without falling, and then, bursting into precious child’s giggles when he does. It’s also a great exercise in using his stabilizers for the first time, because it’s not merely an up-down activity—he’s running back and forth across an indoor trampoline park while I chase him. (In addition to Toddler Time, there are also programs here for bigger kids, including adults, from Skyrobics to a SkySlam court to Ultimate Dodgeball.) We enter the Foam Zone. Imagine a vast kids’ ball pit four-feet deep and filled with 10 000 foam cubes. I immediately sink, while my son ecstatically flips and rolls along the surface, amazed by this surreal terrain. There is so much laughter between us. Afterwards, he falls right asleep with a smile on his face. Who knows what he’s dreaming, but I am already thinking about his next birthday party here.
(For more info go to: www.skyzone.com/ca/toronto/)
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
A first glimpse into the beauty and majestic colour of the marine world: 16,000 aquatic animals fluidly teaming around us as we follow North America’s longest underwater viewing tunnel with more than 5.7 million litres of water and over 100 interactive opportunities. Holding my son as he presses against the glass with fascination, I can only imagine how he’s processing what he sees. Every few feet he points to a passing shark or stingray, smiles and says, “Wow”. The moving walkway is slow enough that he can view everything in the sea, but fast enough that the floor captivates him too. We venture for the aquatic-themed tube slides. Up and down, up and down, I can’t tear him away. Throughout our tour of the galleries from Canadian Waters to Rainbow Reef through Dangerous Lagoon and Ray Bay, he is simply awestruck. There is so much visual stimulation, various buttons to push and levers to pull that we can remain at one viewing portal for as long he wants, and come back again and again. “Swipe your arm to spin the jellyfish,” reads one screen. The creators of this installation are brilliant. Waving his arms about, my son cannot believe the connection between his own mechanics and the creatures on the screen. Initially unsure about the glass crawl spaces, even a bit reluctant; his expression quickly changes to delight as he giddily races back and forth making a game out of it. It’s wonderful to watch him discovering, and to know that a place like this exists right downtown. For Sea Squirts (young toddlers), there is a marine-themed art activity, circle time and story in the Discovery Centre. For families, there are even sleepover nights with the sharks in the Dangerous Lagoon Tunnel. What is most impressive about this attraction is that my son can run from viewing station to station, be completely entranced by one display, and still be excited and engaged to see what lies around each and every corner. The aquarium is a living attraction to which we can return to learn, and it is constantly changing. (For more info go to: www.ripleyaquariums.com/canada/)