Kids in TO

Got Kids in TOw? We do. And we're out exploring to find you the best family-friendly activities in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Monkey Magoo’s

It had been over two years since our last visit to Monkey Magoo’s on Kingston Rd just past Victoria Park. And how little it has changed. (This is a good thing!) As we all know, indoor play spaces can get played out quickly. Not here. Clean, lots of natural light and friendly staff.

Although there isn’t a lot of open space to run and ride on the many four-wheeled toys, there is a great selection of activities. Lots of play houses, a mini train track and a slide-and-ballpit. We know it was a good visit when the toddler in TOw spent most of the time exploring and not asking for mom to play.

TRIP TIPS:

Getting there: At the corner of Kingston Rd and Fallingbrook Rd. just east of Victoria Park. Green P to the west ($1 per half-hour). Paid street parking in the area ($1.50 per hour.) Some free residential parking in the hood. Stroller-friendly - no stairs, no ramps.

Cost: Drop in play is $7 plus tax per child ($5.50 for each additional child/under 1 are free.) Savings if you buy 10-visits or three-month memberships. Check the site before you go, especially on the weekends, as it may close for private parties.

Baby-friendly: Although it is for 6-and-unders (they also offer some after-school programs), the sweet spot is probably 1-3 years. For those with wee ones in TOw, there is a baby zone cordoned off by walls (the perfect size for cruising) in the centre and a comfy couch and crib in the corner.

Potty time: Two bathrooms on the main floor, with kid-sized seat and a baby change table.

Snacks time: A kitchen area with kid- and adult-sized tables and chairs for (nut-free) snacks right next to the play space. Also a great spot for parents and caregivers who may need to pause for sip of complimentary coffee and tea while watching the little ones.

Park time: Blantyre Park and outdoor pool is walkable – just north along Fallingbrook Rd.

DETAILS:

www.monkeymagoos.com

1212 Kingston Rd.
(3 blocks east of Victoria Park)
416.693.1048
fun@monkeymagoos.com

 

 

 

S. Walter Stewart Library

If you’re like me, you stay faithful to your local Toronto Public Library and rarely venture to another location. However, a recent trip outside our hood to the S. Walter Stewart Library inspired me to start expanding my book-borrowing zone and check out some of the free family-friendly offerings at the city’s 98 branches.

Just west of Coxwell and south of Cosburn in the east end, we found an entire lower level dedicated to young readers. At the centre of it all – a spaceship! Preschoolers will love to climb in and leaf through their newest finds and toddlers can check out all the hands-on stations. There are lots of tables and chairs, a dial-a-story phone, a separate room for reading and programming and two kid-friendly computers where youngsters can listen to stories and follow along with the text. The mini book return box was a particular favourite.

And if you’re not a library lover yet, then let these 10 reasons by The Grid convince you otherwise.

TRIP TIPS:

Getting there: Driving, it’s at the corner of Durant Ave and Memorial Park Ave. Free parking lot on north side and free residential parking. On TTC, take the O’Connor bus northbound from Coxwell subway station.

Stroller-friendly: Ramp to the main entrance and elevator to the lower level.

Plan your visit: Check the schedule for Preschool Storytime and Toddler Storytime. (April-May session is wait-listed.) For the next session, register in-person on the first class. Bring a snack (see below) and wear layers (it’s quite warm especially in the kids area, the tank-topped and t-shirted staff agree!)

Snack-friendly: Bring your own, or if you’re desperate there are a few vending machines on the lower level next to the washrooms. There is a section with table and chairs meant just for that (no eating in the library area.) There are some tables in the main entrance as well.

Potty time: Family washroom with change table on main and lower levels.

Not just books: Remember that with a valid adult library card, you can take out a Museum + Arts Pass for your family (2 adults and up to 5 children) for one of Toronto’s arts and cultural attractions for free. All branches have these passes, but only 32 in priority neighbourhoods offer a limited number of those to the popular ones like ROM and the Toronto Zoo. (S. Walter Library is one of those – passes available as of 9am every Saturday. There is usually a line-up right at 9am.)

Go online: KidsSpace has tons of resources for young readers – games, e-books and reading recommendations. Check out their top picks for kids five-and-under.

DETAILS:

S. Walter Stewart Library
170 Memorial Park Ave.
416.396.3975

Hey Meatball

Since pasta is always a hit at our house, we took the family to Hey Meatball for a meal out. It was our second-go at the Queen St. East location (the main Hey Meatball is on College Street) after a failed attempt shortly after opening. (Let’s just say the combination of kids outnumbering adults in our group, plus no high chair made for an interesting experience.)

This time, it was much smoother and less messy (they have one high chair now.) The chalkboard menu features meatballs in sandwiches or on noodles ($12). Kids get 2 (instead of 3) balls ($7) and there are a number of veggie side-dishes ($5). It may land on the pricier side of eating out, since you place your order, pick up and clean up your dishes. But the quality, quantity and speediness are definitely worth it. And really, what makes a parent happier than empty plates at the end of a meal?

Our faves: Mom loved the Little Abbey (bean and veggie vegan balls, no soy); Dad gave thumbs up to the house-made hot sauce (available for purchase at College location); kids devoured spaghetti and meatballs.

 

TRIP TIPS:

Getting there: North side of Queen St. E at Logan. Driving, paid street parking along Queen ($1.50/hr; Sundays free!) On TTC, 501, 502, and 503 streetcars. From Pape Station on Bloor-Danforth take the 72 Pape bus, off at Queen and walk west.

Kid-friendly:  The happy children eating pasta photo gives the family-friendly vibe. Other than the kids menu, no extras to entertain (other than streetcar watching out the window.) No baby change table in washroom.

Kid Menu: Spaghetti and meatballs with marinara, bolognese or mushroom gravy; mac n’ cheese or meatball sandwich. Lots of sides and you can mix and match meatballs with dishes.

Gluten-free: The Queen St. location offers gluten-free pasta (no buns.) Some of the sides also gluten-free.

In the hood: Ed’s Real Scoop next door and Jimmie Simpson playground just west.

College St locationWe haven’t made it there yet but called to find out about its offerings. The menu is mainly the same (College does not have gluten-free pasta); one high-chair; no baby change table; kids table/station with a few toys and books.

DETAILS:

Hey Meatball

East End: 912 Queen Street E
647.340.6439
Mon-Fri 11:30 am – 10 pm
Sat-Sun 9 am – 10 pm

West End: 719 College Street
416.546.1483
Mon-Fri 11:30 am – 10 pm
Sat-Sun 9 am – 10 pm

info@heymeatball.com
facebook.com/heymeatball
@TeamHeyMeatball

 

 

 

 

Kids Fun Town

Indoor playgrounds have been popping up all over TOwn. And given the winter we’ve been having, we couldn’t be more thankful for some new inside options. Add Kids Fun Town to that list.

About a month old, this eastend play space on Danforth Ave just west of Woodbine Ave has all you need and then some to keep the six-and-unders busy — from a bouncy castle and ball pit to a playhouse and piano.

It’s a typical-of-the-area storefront size, so it can feel cozy and maybe a bit overwhelming given the number of activities and toys (then add in the hum of bouncy castle and children’s music in the background.) Capacity is around 20 kids, depending on the number of adults in TOw. We were there on a Friday morning with about 10+ other children and it didn’t feel crowded. My preschooler loved the mini-rock climbing structure and basketball net, while the toddler got into the playhouse and ride-on toy mini-roller coaster thingy.

Open daily. Before you drop in, make sure to check the calendar for private events (they do parties!)

 

DETAILS:

Getting there: North side of Danforth. Paid parking along Danforth ($1.50/hr.) On TTC, get off at Woodbine Station. Woodbine buses 91 and 92 also stop there. Walk west.

Cost: $7 per child ($5 for sibling). Current promotion for $25 for 5 visits. Monthly passes are $65.

Dress-code: Socks for everyone.

Strollers: Outside parking with complimentary locks.

Potty-time: Bathrooms downstairs. Baby change table.

Snacks: Yes, bring your own nut-free. Small room in back with two tables and a water-cooler.

In the hood: Need some kids and baby items? Visit Silly Goose Kids a few doors east. Closer to Woodbine, Deserres art store has a good selection of kids toys and craft supplies.

DETAILS:

Kids Fun Town
2040 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON
416.277.7689
info@kidsfuntown.ca

 

 

Mini-Nastics

Gymnastics has to be one of the best activities for kids. Perfect for practising coordination, building confidence and burning energy. So we were happy to check out one of the newest options for want-to-be tumblers in TO – Mini-Nastics.

Located above the Starbucks on the Danforth near Jones, this second-floor corner studio is bright, colourful and filled with about every piece of equipment your child would need to feel like a real gymnast – balance beam, trampoline, ball pit, high bar, tunnels, hula hoops and ribbons. All kid-sized of course.

We especially love the small play space in the back where you can contain, I mean, entertain the other children who are not participating. (No more waiting in hallways!) In addition to recreational gymnastics programs for ages 6 months to 7 years (you can try a free trial class), they also have Open Gym on Thursdays from 6-8pm (play along or drop off) and host birthday parties.

TRIP TIPS:

Getting there: Located on the north side of the Danforth, where Jones Avenue ends. Driving, check out parking info below. By TTC, it is in between Pape and Donlands Stations. Stairs to studio.

Parking: Paid street parking along the Danforth ($2.25/hour). Green P ($0.75/half-hour) off Langford Rd just behind the building. One-hour free residential parking in the area.

Stroller parking: Room to park at the side of the building (bring your own lock) or the owners are happy to help you bring them upstairs to the back room.

Baby-friendly: In addition to the classes for the 2.5-years-and-under, there is a small play space in the back. Kids can wait here for their class to start or parents/caregivers with other children in tow can hang out here. Baby change table.

Dress-code: Comfy clothes to move in. Kids go barefoot and those accompanying leave shoes at door.

In the hood: Grab food at the family-friendly The Works or Big House Pizza just east.

DETAILS:

Mini-Nastics
842 Danforth Ave, 2nd Floor
416.788.7565
mininastics@gmail.com
@mininastics
www.facebook.com/MiniNastics

 

Brickyard Grounds

Gerrard and Greenwood 1934

Gerrard and Greenwood 1934

Fast forward to 2014 and say hello to Brickyard Grounds. Barely a few months old, this warm and inviting corner café has become a neighbourhood favourite, drawing fans from north and south of Gerrard St. E and attracting families for a treat after skating and tobogganing at Greenwood Park next door (the location of what used to be a brickyard.)

Lots of light, ample seating, super-friendly staff and a delicious range of eats and drinks. For those with Kids in TOw, you’ll notice lots of family-friendly touches — hot chocolate kid-sized, kid-priced and at kid-friendly temperatures plus a lego table with puzzles and books in the back.

IMG_6322

TRIP TIPS:

Getting there: Driving, you’ll find some free residential parking in the hood and paid parking along Gerrard St. E. On TTC, the 506 Carlton streetcar along Gerrard St. E and 31 Greenwood Ave bus (from Greenwood Subway station) stop out front. No steps for strollers and room for a couple at the front, but best to leave them outside.

Kid-drinks: Kid-sized, kid-priced at kid-friendly temperatures for their hot chocolate and hot apple cider. Milk and juice boxes.

Food: Pre-made and made-to-order breakfast, lunch and brunch options. No kid menu per se but all kid-pleasing. You’ll find mac ‘n cheese and plain waffles on the weekends.

Potty time: Bathroom on main floor with ample space on the sink counter (for baby-changing needs.)

In the hood: Greenwood Park is just around the corner. Winter sledding and skating and summer swimming, splash pad and park.

Read up: Check out this local blog write-up on the history of the brickyards along Greenwood Ave.

DETAILS:

1289 Gerrard Street East
416.465.4444
@BrckYrdGrnds

The Clay Room

Kids love to paint. (The mini art gallery on our fridge is proof of that.) So why not let them make that artful mess somewhere else next time?

We recently had our youngster channel his inner artist to painting ceramics at The Clay Room on the Danforth. There are over 300 pieces to choose from, ranging from plates to frames to piggy banks. The drop-in set-up makes it easy to go when boredom hits at home. It took us about an hour to paint two small projects – about the attention span of a four-year-old with mom in TOw. A week later, we picked up the final project that had been glazed and fired on site.

It makes for a great homemade gift-giving option. (You know, to ensure that your shelves don’t end up like your fridge.)

IMG_5831 

TRIP TIPS:

Getting there: South-side of Danforth in between Logan and Broadview. Paid parking ($2.25 per hour) along the Danforth (though no parking during some rush-hour windows.) Free residential parking in the hood (though you’ll find lots of one-hour only without permit.) On TTC, Chester or Broadview stations.

Cost: The flat rate for studio time is based on the size of the piece (objects range from $4 – $45.) This includes supplies and assistance from the staff. The person helping us seemed used to kids and provided some great advice on colours and how many to use in order to keep the little ones engaged and guarantee a pretty good outcome. For us, each piece (a mug and a photo frame) cost $20.

Age: Depending on your child, the sweet spot would be around 5-and-older. It’s an all-ages studio and they seemed used to hosting kids (and the potential noise and mess that comes with.) I was pretty conscious of the adults who may have had their artistic zen disrupted by a few excited preschoolers. Adults can have parties too.

More painting: Open every day. Check out their birthday party and camp options.

In the hood: Need baby/kid supplies or gifts? Local and ethical kid products at 100-Mile Child (north side just east of the Big Carrot) and baby stuff at Fab Baby Gear across the street.

DETAILS:

www.theclayroom.ca
79 Danforth Ave.
416.466.8474
contact@theclayroom.ca

Sago Sago

Screen time. Whether you’re at home for some quiet time or out with Kids in TOw, we shouldn’t feel (too) guilty about handing over our device once in a while, right? Especially not when you have some good kids apps to offer.

We’ve recently got to know Sago Mini, a series of apps for toddlers and preschoolers. These aren’t just “games,” but a tool to inspire learning and imagination. Like books, there are tons of conversation-starters, so it gets even better when parents play along.

The Toronto-based company Sago Sago loves their fans and often hosts play dates (our son calls them “iPad parties”) to test out their projects-in-progress. Find them on Facebook and Twitter to learn more.

photo

Sago Mini Bug Builder

We’ve been exploring the apps with our preschooler. And our toddler has enjoyed the odd swipe. Here is what we’ve found:

Pet Cafe: (Preschooler’s fave) Easy and fun to figure out solo. Lots of learning – counting and matching. Our preschooler especially loves the smoothie-making (aka mixing colours.) (Free)

Bug builder(Mom’s fave) This one inspires the little artist. Our preschooler loves to decorate his own bug and show off the final product. Okay, mom likes to design her own too. It’s a quick and fun process, which makes it great for taking turns. ($2.99)

Sound Box: (Toddler’s fave) We call this one the dancing dots. Our preschooler and toddler love to make noise and discover how their taps, shakes and tilts create sounds and reveal surprises. A number of fingers can join in so good for friends and siblings. ($2.99)

Doodlecast(Family fave) This is super interactive for all ages. Simply draw from a blank page or from a series of built-in backgrounds. What is phenomenal is that you can record the conversation as you draw, save the story to your device and share with friends and family (or with Sago Sago via Facebook or YouTube.) Available in 16 languages. ($2.99)

Music Box: Both kids love to make music. Each tap plays a note of two recognizable tunes. Our toddler mostly loves to make objects pop up along the way, whereas the preschooler gets a kick out of controlling the song’s tempo. ($2.99)

Forest Flyer: Preschooler has more fun with this one, taking Robin through the forest and discovering little surprises. Like a book, you can ask lots of questions based on what you see. ($2.99)

Ocean Swimmer: Another open-ended adventure. Lots of characters to encourage storytelling and tons of surprises along the way. ($2.99)

Maple Town

Tis the season. The sweet sweet maple season. And lucky for us Torontonians, we need not travel far to find that sugary goodness. With so many farms and parks to choose from, all offering tons of family-friendly activities, sugar shacking is a perfect reason to leave the city for a day.

Our previous excursions were done late in the season so the sap had run dry and we were mucking around in the chilly weather. This year, we felt like we struck gold when we travelled an hour west to Maple Town, Mountsberg’s Maple Syrup Festival. So picturesque. A few small log cabins nestled in the snowy woods, steam rising from the kettles, and music playing from the main pavilion where pancakes are served.

20140302_114456

The bonus – and nothing to do with maple – is the Raptor Centre. We may have ate into our pancake-eating time hanging out with the hawks, eagles and owls. Who knew raptors trumped syrup in a four-year-old’s mind?

20140302_104637

What are your favourite maple syrup destinations? Maple Syrup Festival in Kortright and Bruce Mill’s? Bronte Creek? Or are you holding out for the world’s largest Maple Festival in Elmira on April 5th? Do tell! There are a few weekends left to indulge.

TRIP TIPS:

Getting there: Mountsberg Conservation Area is approximately one hour west on the 401 just past Campbellville.

Admission & Hours: Park entrance $7.50 per adult; $6.50 seniors; $5.25 kids 5-14; kids 4 & under free. Plus cost for any maple products and meals in the pancake pavilion. 10 am – 4 pm on weekends and during March Break (March 10th – 14th.)

Distance: five-minute walk from parking lot to sugar bush. All-terrain stroller could do it. Better yet, if there is snow, bring a sled for the little ones.

Play: playground and slide, barn with animals and horse-drawn wagon rides.

Explore: trails for hiking or snowshoeing on site.

Raptor Centre: home to over two dozen native birds of prey. Live shows outdoors in good weather; indoors in winter.

DETAILS:

www.conservationhalton.ca/mounstberg
2259 Milburough Line
Campbellville, ON L0P 1B0
905.854.2276
mtsberg@hrca.on.ca

Ontario Science Centre

Ontario Science Centre

Chances are you’ve been to the Ontario Science Centre. Many times. Us too. And I’m convinced that we’ll never see it all. With so many interactive hands-on activities and demonstrations for every age, we are always discovering something new or simply returning to that trusty ‘ol favourite spot. How long is it really possible to spend watching the balls in front of KidSpark? Well, long enough for mom to attempt an artsy shot.

Yes, there is much to see inside, but consider a walk-about outside. Kids love the tunnel. In the summer, there is a mini-splash pad east of the IMAX dome. Also, some weird gadgets on trees on the southeast side. Go and see (and let me know what they are!)

TRIP TIPS:

Getting there: All you need to know about getting there.

Parking: Two parking lots. $5 members; $10 non-members. I’m told there is some free residential street parking east of the Science Centre if you’re willing to walk from there.

Getting in: Admission but if you plan to revisit go with membership. The Science Centre is part of the Toronto Public Library’s Museum + Arts Pass program.

Navigating: Up is down, down is up. Because it’s built on the Don Valley, the 6th floor is the bottom floor. I’m confused every time. Lots of elevators and escalators. Strollers for rent, lockers, cafe, tons of places to snack, baby change tables and family washrooms. RBC bank machine near entrance.

Baby and toddler areas: Located in KidSpark on the 4th floor (recently revamped with new floors!) We love the little aquarium and soft cushion blocks in the gated baby area. Toddler space on the other side.

DETAILS:

www.ontariosciencecentre.ca
770 Don Mills Rd
416.696.1000
Contact online
facebook.com/OntarioScienceCentre
@OntScienceCtr

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