Summer – you’re finally here. And for T.O. parents, this means 10 weeks to fill with fun – or something, anything to keep the kids busy. You’ve lined up camps, signed up for weekly programs and organized some family getaways. But as we all know, there will still be days (and days and days) seemingly void of action. Not anymore. Here are 10 ideas on how to soak up every last drop of the sunny season.

  1. Go south – While many Torontonians make the weekly exodus to cottage country, we say head down to the ever-changing and beautifying waterfront. The newly unveiled Queen’s Quay makes promenading by foot, bike and car easier to enjoy all it has offer: Sherbourne Common, Harbourfront Centre festivals (family Sundays and free concerts) and literally dozens and dozens of parks that dot the water’s edge.
  1. Get Lost – This sounds magical (and slightly exhilarating for toddlers who like to take off.) We’ll be bringing the kids in TOw through the William Meany Maze, a 15,000-sq-ft labyrinth of 1,300 black cedars, that was just unveiled on Centre Island. (Meany donated $200,000 for its rebuild after the original, created in 1967, was dismantled a few years ago.)
  1. Set Sail – While on Centre Island, climb aboard a pirate ship. Pirate Life, a new theatrical adventure, lets little mateys search for treasure, fire water cannons, watch sword fights all on the “seas” of Lake Ontario. Costumes and a 5 o’clock shadow are strongly encouraged.
  1. Cheer –Does the influx of 7,000 athletes, families and fans for the Pan Am Games have you scared to leave the house? Nah. Consult the venue map, choose a sport and plan to take transit to help minimize the potential chaos. Tickets for kids under 16 are half-price and some spectating events are free. You can watch the sailing finals from Sugar Beach and cycling along the Lakeshore at Parkside.
  1. Get Dirty – We are waiting impatiently for the return of Evergreen Brick Works’ Pizza Nights when families can gather in Chimney Court for delicious pizza made in an outdoor wood-fired oven and the kids can dig, build, plant and water to their hearts’ content in the Children’s Garden – our favourite spot to play. For full on muck, let the kids loose at Mud Hero’s first kids race in Albion Hills Conservation Area in August.
  1. Splash – We’re hoping for hot so we can cool off at one of the 200+ free City of Toronto outdoor pools, wading pools and splash pads. We go at least once to Kidstown Water Park in Scarborough – tipping buckets, sprays and slides and yes it’s free.
  1. See a free film – Not everyone can stay up for 9 p.m. start (this mom included), but the idea of a free film with the family on a beautiful Toronto night is picture perfect. Many parks host their own family-friendly community screenings, but here is a list of some spots in the city to take in an outdoor movie. Rainy day option: Cineplex Family Favourites ($2.50 movies on Saturdays at 11 a.m.)
  1. Race – For the kids in TOw who always seem to have extra energy to burn, sign them up for run. Even better, in nature. The 5 Peaks trail races have a CLIF Kid Run series for kids 5-12. (There are four races in the Toronto area this summer.) Add some climbing and crawling to the mix at a Spartan Race. The Toronto Junior version, kid-sized obstacle course, takes place in Clarington in July.
  1. Read – The Toronto Public Library TD Summer Reading Club is back again with ways to encourage kids to read, plus tons of free activities at every branch. Plan a visit around one of the Kids Stop Early Literacy Centres. Get some what-to-read inspiration from this list of the Best Canadian Kids Books.
  1. Slow Down – Parents, while we’re loading up the calendar with trips and activities, a reminder to all (note to self) to schedule in some “do nothing” time. And be okay with it. You don’t have to be full adopter of slow parenting to benefit from the calmer pace.

Happy Summer!