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This summer our goal was to keep things as simple as possible. Our kids learned to fill their school free hours with creative play and sometimes complaining of boredom. "It's ok!" I told my husband, "in their boredom they will find something new to do" (dear god I'd silently pray, I hope the internet was right!) And you know? they actually did. Minus some squabbles, flopping around on the floor, picking at their toes kind of moments - they eventually did find new things to create, play, explore and do!
As the summer wore on we wanted to take advantage of having time together as a whole family and explore. Short on time and funds we elected to see what was around us we hadn't yet tried. In my "research" (read insta-stalking) I found a great Instagram poster called @littleadventuresgta A local mom posting about cool parks, play spaces and outdoor areas around the Greater Toronto Area that she enjoyed with her family. Perfect! I can just do what she is doing, I mean look at her cute pics I thought to myself. I shared the idea with hubby and off we went. Of course, as most moms know a simple trip to a park is not just as simple as grab the keys to the car and go. With three kids under 7 I usually still require a bag or two of essentials. Here is my park date packing list
blanket for lounging, snacking or toddler tantrums
balls, frisbee, bubbles or chalk for additional fun
sunscreen and lots of it
snacks (enough to feed 3 times your actual amount of children)
a couple of books or coloring items
first aid bag (band-aids, polysporin, bug bite cream, and epi pen)
optional - bikes or scooters with helmet
**I bring additional activities because I fully intend to park it with my book and coffee on said blanket for at least 3 hours!
Here is the list of parks and our favorite parts.
The first park we explored was the area of Newmarket, Ontario known as Fairy Lake. It's basically a small lake system along the downtown Newmarket district. It has walking trails, bike paths, playgrounds, splash pad, lots of ducks to watch, a dam, beautiful flowers everywhere and the cutest take a book/leave a book library you have ever seen. The location of this park/path system is perfectly nestled in their main street area with ample parking, restaurants, and cute little shops to grab an ice cream or coffee. While this was more of a walking adventure the kids (7,5 and 1.5) all enjoyed it. Their favorite spot was the branch of Muskoka chairs spelling out "KINDNESS" because as my oldest put it "that is so important"
Next, we moved on to what the kids call "Ninja park" but is actually called Rouge Crest Park in Richmond Hill. The affectionate title from my little ones is a perfect description of our morning. They were ninjas for hours. Climbing up, down, in, out, around, over and jumping off of all things climbable in a 40ft cage type structure. It also had hammocks, splash pad, toddler climber, work out equipment, basketball courts, bike paths and a large field for us to throw the frisbee. The grounds are gorgeously maintained and again ample parking. While my kids vote the climbing cage as their fav I know hubby and I never really left the hammock swings.
Because we had been exploring outside of our town we decided to check out a new park in Stouffville. Most of our parks are the basic red and blue stairs and slide structure. I am not complaining, as I am happy that Stouffville has so many park spaces for families. But my kids need to climb, crawl, stretch and explore in creative ways to burn energy. The basic climbers encourage up and down play. But the new park on Boadway Crescent is the exact opposite. Its tucked in a new development area just as you enter the town. Its quiet and has a large green space for running and playing soccer etc. The kids call this "Spider park" because of the large spider web-like rope climber. We brought along a few friends (another essential on my packing list whenever possible) and enjoyed a few timbits since the Tim Hortons is just next door.
I had heard great things about the new Aanin Community Centre and park in Markham and so, of course, added it to the list. To say this was our favorite park ever would be an understatement. My kids still ask to go almost a month later. Whoever designed this park, I applaud you! The park has everything you would want in a play structure. Astroturf ground cover, picnic tables (that also double as checkerboards) basketball courts, soccer field, beautiful climbing structures for toddlers and of course an active circuit to cause even the most agile of big kids some mental and physical exertion. Because it is beside a community center you also have the benefit of washrooms, library with a cute kids zone, indoor playground and nursing area. We were so happy to stay and play that my friend and I joked we should order pizza to the park and really stretch out our time. I later called and found out that several major pizza chains offer this delivery service! MOM WIN!
While summer has come to an end and we are all back to school and fall routines there is still plenty of time to get out and explore new communities and areas. It doesn't have to cost a lot financially but the experience of trying something new, getting outdoors and appreciating all that our communities have to offer is rich in memories.