Just about every store, virtual or real, has a countdown to the holidays. For some this is a stressful reminder, for others this is “the most wonderful time of year”. No matter how you feel about the reality that winter really is coming, we all have a number of items to check off our lengthy to-do lists.
Keeping the kids entertained over the December holiday break, and keeping them active and engaged throughout the winter is not an easy feat. Many parents struggle to find ways to stave off boredom, particularly with a full week off of school post New Year on the calendar this year when many adults are back to business as usual.
One of the most amazing things about Toronto is the plethora of kid friendly camps, workshops, and activities available to entertain and educate our children, even when school is out of session.
Here is some of the best holiday season and winter programming the city and the GTA has to offer, compiled in one place. Hopefully this will help make your planning a little more jolly and bright!
Cirque-ability – Junction Triangle
Parents with kids who are literally crawling the wall with energy when the cold weather is keeping them indoors may want to consider registering their little gymnasts into classes at Junction Triangle’s own Cirque-Ability. Heather Kentner, Director and Founder, Cirque-Ability boasts their camps saying, “Aerial and acrobatic classes at Cirque-ability are a unique and fun way to stay active, learn new skills and build confidence. We are a positive, non-competitive atmosphere where kids really have an opportunity to shine at their level.” Kids put on a mini-circus show for parents on the last day of camp and show-off everything they have learned.
Nella’s mom is doing flips for what her daughter has learned at Cirque-Ability.
Nella loves circus class, and we think she learns so much from it—about circus acrobatics, but also about respect, personal strength, listening, having fun, focusing, working with others, and trusting in her own potential. We deeply appreciate Antonia’s friendly, non-moralistic, upbeat, attentive and inspiring style in teaching all these things to Nella and others.
Sessions run for 8-16 weeks, with the winter classes running from January 7th to March 31st. Winter registration begins on November 21st. Registration for March Break Camp begins November 22nd. To find out more about Cirque-Ability visit them online.
Photo: Maker Kids
Maker Kids – Bloor West Village
Bloor West Village’s Maker Kids has a mission to empower the leaders of tomorrow with the skills and mindsets to help change the world. With a focus on STEM based programming (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), Maker Kids offers programming that is designed and created by industry professionals and makers (NASA’s Singularity University graduate, engineers, entrepreneurs, teachers and speakers at Queen’s University). Danielle Lim, Marketing Manager, Maker Kids says, “Our kids STEM programs teaches and encourages a wide variety of skills. Soft skills: A) confidence, B) social skills, and C) engagement. Technical skills: A) coding, B) design, and C) robotics.” Programs are for boys and girls ages 8-12 and teaches that it’s okay to fail, learning through experience, and allows for celebration for making (and not just what they’ve made).
Parent Roberta Janzen is very happy with the program:
Maker Kids has impressed me from the start. It’s the ultimate playground for wired, technology- oriented kids or any child that wants to play “inventor”, and what kid doesn’t! The atmosphere is relaxed and the teaching method is child-centered. Creativity comes first and no question is left unanswered. Experimentation and the learning process are emphasized more than the end result.
Maker Kids has Sampler Camps available December 27-30 and January 3-6 where kids will learn coding, robotics, Minecraft and more. Their 10week after-school program for winter 2017 begins January 23rd. Visit them online to find out more about their holiday, March Break, PA Day, and regular after-school programs.
Montgomery’s Inn – Etobicoke
Want your child to travel back in time and bring tradition to their activities? Look no further than Montgomery’s Inn for some pioneer based learning. Alexandra Kim, Acting Curator, Montgomery’s Inn says the inn has a long tradition:
The Inn has stood at the corner of Islington and Dundas for over 150 years so it has a long tradition of playing the role of a welcoming host, bringing people together through food and drink. We work hard to make sure that our programming reflects this rich history, and connections between the Inn and the community.
The Inn wants visitors to enjoy making and decorating the delicious tastes of holidays past. Programming for Stir up Sunday, November 20, has the Inn’s historic cooks showing participants how they’re made in addition to some tasty treat sampling. There are two Christmas Cookie Decorating workshops the weekend of November 26th, and the Annual Gingerbread House Workshop December 3 and 4 is for kids of all ages.
Our cookie decorating and gingerbread workshops are led by master baker Monika Pardi. These workshops again reflect the Inn’s strong focus on the central role played by food in Christmas celebrations. These workshops are always super popular and sell out very quickly. As well as taking home their beautiful creations participants also get recipes so that they can make more cookies at home. And each year there’s a surprise cookie which never fails to delight.
In addition to these historic workshops the Inn has a Holiday Farmers’ Market and Gift Sale on December 7 from 2-7pm. To find out more visit the Montgomery’s Inn website.
Photo: Oaks ‘n Acorns Junction
Oaks ‘n acorns – The Junction & The Danforth
Oaks ‘n acorns has two locations in the city for ultimate convenience. Most programming is geared towards children aged 4 months up to 6-years-old and explores art, music, dance, and cognitive development. The winter term began November 12 and will run until late January, but not to worry there are pro-rated and single session classes available! Breanne Ritchie, Studio Manager, The Junction says, “Over the holidays both locations offer exciting special events including Santa’s Lil’ Workshops Bake & Craft, and an opportunity for kids to come and meet Santa in early December.”
The Danforth location offers a camp for school aged children January 2 to 6th and both locations continue to run PA Day camps for local kids where kids explore a fantastic schedule of planned programming designed to keep them fully active and learning. Camp activities include programming in Arts & Crafts, Dance & Drama, Storytime, Creative Movement, and GymTastic Fun & Games.
Parent Den says his daughter loves the class:
I’ve been to Oaks n’ acorns both for classes and just to enjoy the cafe/stay n’ play. My 3-year-old daughter loved the fairy tale dance class and was so comfortable with the instructor that she did the class without me which is a bonus because I was able to enjoy a nice cappuccino while chatting with some of the other moms there. The space is clean, comfortable and inviting and the owners are very friendly.
Oaks n’ acorns also offers a monthly Kid’s Night Out event where you can drop your 2.5 to 8 year old off for an evening of playtime at the craft table and in the gym, a pizza party, and movie fun enjoyed with hot-air popped popcorn that we make together!
Another great feature for events at Oaks n’ acorns is that there is a sibling discount where registration for a sibling at an event will save you 20 percent. To find out more visit them online.
Photo: Ontario Science Centre
Ontario Science Centre – Toronto East
There is so much programming available to little minds who want to learn during the break and beyond! The education department has put together extensive Winter Break Camps (January 3-6) and PA Day Camps (December 6th). On their PA Day on December 2 kids can go to Flight school where they lift off, build a glider and watch it soar as they experiment with the forces of flight. During the winter break camp children learn about Superhero Science, get to join the circus, learn about magic, detectives and spies. Camp is designed for kids aged 5-12 years old and registration is available online. Families can also enjoy The Dream Machines (the works of English Cartoonist and constructor of whimsical kinetic sculpture, Rowland Emmett) at the Ontario Science Centre when they visit between December 9 and January 8.
Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives (PAMA) – Brampton
In addition to offering ‘pay what you can’ admission until January 8, 2017 PAMA has a whole lot of fun over winter break. Marketing Coordinator Erin Fernandes at PAMA encourages families to visit them:
Join us inside and explore our exhibition, the Museum Kids Trail and create a new art project daily. Diversity provides a starting point to begin to understand and value the many distinct cultures of the world and the Region of Peel. PAMA Celebrates Winter by exploring the theme of light from around the world.
There are so many Instructor Led Family fun activities over the break including: Oil Lanterns (Hanukkah), Seven Candles (Kwanzaa), New Moon, Trivia Day (Canadian Winter), Paper Lanterns (Diwali), Stars (Chinese New Year) & North Star (Epiphany) and Animals (Chinese New Year). Erin suggests exploring the new exhibits:
Our newly themed Manning Square (Kids Zone) opens December 16 and features a Kids on the Move exhibit with lots of fun ‘hands on’ activity stations. The Tunnel gallery hosts a new exhibit called Hurontario Street: Linking Peel will be featured, December 16 to March 5. This exhibition showcases the growth of Peel through the history, development, and cultural significance of Hurontario Street, which links communities from Lake Ontario to Caledon.”
To find out more about hours and activities visit online.
Photo: Royal Ontario Museum
Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) – Downtown Toronto
The ROM is no stranger to kids and camps having run their camps over summers for 78 years. This year they’re running a four day camp in the first week of January for kids aged 5-14 years old. According to Kiron Mukherjee, ROMKids Coordinator and Camp Director, ROMKids offers something for everyone:
Everything we do here is based on the research we have and we gear this knowledge to the age of the kids. For younger kids we use a lot of ECE philosophies in our learning. We draw a lot from Dinosaur and Egypt, and this winter break is the last week Chihuly is on display. For our camps for kids aged 8-10 we will spend a lot of time looking at fables and folklore. Kids will look at origins and history of dragons and visit the China exhibit and look at the dinosaur bones. In all of the camps we offer lots of art projects and science experiments.
Program leaders have direct access to the scientists for learning in addition to many great counsellors and instructors. Kids aged 5 to 10 can register for the full four day, or half days while the 11-14 year olds will get a full day at the museum. The ROM also will continue to offer PA Day and March break programming in addition to their Saturday camps which were the original days of camp at the museum. Kiron says Saturday is the best day at the camp:
The best thing about camp on Saturdays is how from 9am-10am, when there is no one there but the camp kids, they develop a real lifelong love and sense of ownership over this amazing space which for an hour is just for them.
To find more about ROM kids programming visit them online.
STEAMLabs – Downtown
Unlike traditional education, STEAMLabs has hands-on learning projects led by the interests of participants for both adults and kids. This means kids are better engaged through the act of physical making (not just absorbing of concepts), and interest-led learning provides an intrinsic motivation to learn. Ceda Verbakel, Director of Culture at STEAMLabs says the program is focused on being educational but it’s also fun:
Our programs are also very much geared toward preparing kids to be meaningful contributors in our evolving communities and workplaces by encouraging creativity within real design constraints, promoting technological literacy, and fostering a mindset of experimentation and necessary failure. Of course, our programs are also super fun, and led by a team of technology educators who love to see kids flourish!”
There are a variety of 4 day winter camp programs offered over the holidays (December 27-30 and January 3-6th) for kids aged 6-9 and 10-13. Themes of camps to select from include: Robot Winter Carnival Camp, Video Game Programming Camp, Hi-Tech Making, Pokemon Capturing Robots, and Minecraft Pro Camp. Parent Tammy, loves the idea behind STEAMLabs:
The mandate that we are all ‘makers’ and that creativity is the beginning of any great idea is apparent in the relaxed accepting vibe of the space and in the approach of the facilitators. Makers themselves, they seem to intuitively embrace and encourage what other classes and systems work so hard to repress. My boys flourish here and look forward to it every week. They show social skills improvement and more confidence since coming to STEAMLabs and finding their tribe.
STEAMLabs also offers afterschool, PA Day, weekend and Family Day Programming this winter. To find out more visit their website.