My go-to as a parent has always been go-out. 

Babies crying, toddlers melting down, siblings bickering? Get the heck out of the house. Go somewhere. Gather with friends. Playdate. Meet up. Drop in. Strength in numbers, right?

Now as all our favourite go-to spots in Toronto have temporarily closed and we all adhere to the prescribed social distancing in order to contain and slow the spread of COVID-19, I struggle to find balance with kids, work and everything in between. I know I am not alone. 

We have a lot of find-your-own fun activities at home – LEGO (what would we do with you?), mini sticks and spike ball in the basement, and an abundance of card and board games. And we’re lucky to have a backyard. But I know with two more weeks ahead of us (and more?!), parents will be looking, if they haven’t already, for more indoor and outdoor things to do.

So I write this to you as a bit of self-motivation at a time of self-isolation. I’ve turned to some of our favourite Toronto destinations for some ideas, plus some online offerings from around the world. I’m both impressed and annoyed by all the new virtual options to occupy our kids. Aren’t our kids online enough? So I have tried hard to find some activities to experience as much as possible IRL.

I’ve started with this list below, but join me on Kids in T.O. Facebook and Kids in T.O. Instagram where I’ll post some new ideas that pop up as these uncertain times continue. PLEASE share some of your ideas with me too.


Get some fresh air: I’m dipping into some of our past excursions outdoors where you get get out while remaining crowd-free. Discover a new ravine. Some our past travels included Glen Stewart Ravine in the east end, these little kid-friendly nature walks in Toronto (note: Riverdale Farm is closed; the park behind Evergreen Brick Works is open), and 5 stops in the Lower Don. Take a walk or scooter along the beach boardwalk or hit your favourite bike path or go for a ride to The Leslieville Spit (it’s technically closed, but trails remain open). Skateboard parks in small numbers are an option too.

Talk to your kids about COVID-19: If you haven’t already, this Q+A in The Conversation is the best I’ve read yet on how to talk to your kids about COVID-19.

Stay busy indoors: There are literally hundreds of ideas here. Some of our favourite family-friendly Canadian publications have suggested some ways to keep kids busy — CBC Parents rounded up 20 indoor activities; Today’s Parent has 87 fun activities to do at home with your family; and Active for Life shared a list of 200 activities you can do with your kids at home.

Parlez-vous français: French-speakers in TOw, there is free access to the platform IDELLO for online resources to keep your French tip-top.

Online T.O. experiences: While these are not necessarily kid-focused, they are fun for the whole family to enjoy, while supporting local artists and musicians. Toronto Life has put together this list of some live musical and cultural experiences online like music lessons from the Arkells to mini-operas from the Canadian Opera Company. ICYMI, the Zoo has started posted live videos of their animals on Facebook.

NEW: You can ride Canada’s Wonderland’s roller coasters via their Youtube page.

Virtual museum tours: These 12 international museums who offer virtual tours.

Go to a park: While gathering at playground with lots of kids in not recommended, but getting some fresh air in one of the city’s wide-open spaces are a must. If you’re not already convinced to take a walk in a park, read this article on ‘the need for parks in a time of sickness’ in the Globe. Afterwards, you can cross the border and visit these five American National Parks that offer virtual tours.

Engage with authors and artists: The Toronto Public Library has shared 38 ways to use the library at home (including lots of options for kids). We found daily online doodle sessions with Piggie & Elephant author Mo Willems, downloadable printables from Toronto dad, author & illustrator Hilary Leung (like printables from Ninja, Cowboy, Bear), and online read-a-longs and activities from Toronto children’s book author & illustrator Debbi Redpath Ohi.

More read-a-longs: Here is an even longer list of authors doing live readings for kids and a list via CBC Books of Canadian children’s book authors who are doing online readings.