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….
Ninjaz Canada Inc.
My son wants to be an American Ninja Warrior. Full disclosure: so do I. We can watch Ninjago, or we can go to a climbing gym or a gymnastics club, but one lucky google search lead me to an all-in-one centre for balance, coordination, climbing and fun! Lots of fun. We went for one hour, stayed for two, and then…booked twenty sessions! In addition to a massive jungle gym, the Kid’s Ninja Warrior Course includes warped walls, and obstacles like Floating Boards, Cargo Net Crawl, Cargo Net Tubes, Sea of Rings, Triple Traverse Box with Monkey Bars, and Ledge & Round Holds. We’re hooked. There’s an adult’s course too, and personal trainers, but the real joy here is that all the kids are active in a challenging but safe environment. Each time we visit, he grows, he pushes himself to climb higher, to balance longer, to reach for those rings and swing further. My boy’s going to be a Ninja!
(For more info go to: ninjazcanada.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: 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: ripleyaquariums.com/canada/)
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Associate Publisher and Executive Editor of DINE and Destinations magazine.