Five Family-Friendly Winter Activities

Five fun ways to get outside and make the most of the season

by Pink&Blue Contributor
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By: Melanie Lam

Grab Those Skis and Hit Your Favourite Ski Hill!

Fingers crossed we get an early ski season this year. Most ski programs allow children as young as three to take lessons. For snowboarding, kids generally have to be at least six years old. Most ski hills can make their own snow. However, if the temperature is too mild, smaller locations may have to wait to open and the larger locations may have fewer available hills.

Smaller city-run Centennial Park in Etobicoke and Earl Bales Park have racing programs for children as young as six or seven years years of age. These parks also have a freestyle terrain park for advanced skiers and snowboarders which includes rails, boxes and jumps (lessons are for children nine years and older).

At Glen Eden in Milton and Lakeridge in Uxbridge, you can ski, snowboard, take lessons, try out the terrain park and go tubing. Children must be 42″ or taller for tubing. If you’re looking for winter birthday party ideas, Glen Eden offers tubing birthday party packages. I may have to put this on my list for my daughter and son who are winter babies!

Here’s a list of other ski hills near Toronto:

Uplands Ski Centre in Thornhill

Snow Valley in Barrie (~ hour north of Toronto)

Hockley Valley Resort (~1.5 hours north of Toronto)

Blue Mountain (~2.5 hours north of Toronto)

Horseshoe Valley (~1.5 hours north of Toronto)

Chicopee (~1.5 hours west of Toronto)

Make a Snowman

Your snowman will fall apart quickly unless you use packing snow. In order to avoid disappointing your kids, test out the snow first. When your masterpiece is complete, don’t forget to take a picture of your proud little artists!

Ride Down a Hill in a Toboggan

Young and old can enjoy tobogganing. Make sure you dress warmly and pick a spot that’s not too busy or icy. If your child is young, get a toboggan big enough for you to go down together. Do wear a helmet! As the CBC reported a few years ago, “tobogganing and skiing are among the most dangerous activities linked to concussion.”

For the very young, a nearby neighborhood park with a slightly sloped hill will do. For the more adventurous, check out these favourites:

Jack Darling Park in Mississauga

Centennial Park in Etobicoke

Riverdale Park East in Toronto

Behind Swansea Public School in Etobicoke

Deer Pen Road, which runs alongside High Park Zoo in Toronto’s West End

Grab Your Skates and Hit an Outdoor Ice Rink

Most outdoor skating rinks usually open in late November, weather permitting. Here are some favourite rinks in and around Toronto:

Harbourfront Natrel Rink (near Toronto’s lakefront)
In the summer it’s a canoeing pond. In the winter it’s an ice skating rink. Check out their live web cam hereSkating lessons are offered at the Natrel rink for children ages 3-17.

Brick Works Skating Trail (in Toronto’s East End)
Free skating and limited rentals. Skating lessons are offered here for kids four years and older.

Bronte Creek Provincial Park (in Oakville)
There are heated change rooms, a bonfire area and refreshments at the park’s store. You can also check out their play barn open year round for 1-10-year-olds.

Cedarena (in Markham)
Visit the beautiful Rouge Valley to warm up with hot chocolate and hot apple cider in the old clubhouse.

Colonel Samuel Smith Park (in Etobicoke)
The city’s only ice skating trail located next to the Power House Recreation Centre.

Celebration Square (in Mississauga)
One of the biggest rinks in the GTA. No change facilities or lockers.

Click for a full list of outdoor rinks in Toronto that are operated by the City. Another great resource is this unofficial guide to Toronto’s rinks.

Have a Good Old-Fashioned Snowball Fight

I’m not sure I’d get involved in a serious snowball fight personally. However, a friendly one with my kids when they’re older… why not?

You have to wait for the perfect type of snow: not too dry and not too wet. The type of snow that packs well. It goes without saying, but make sure there’s no ice or rocks in the snowballs when you’re making them as this will hurt when it hits the target!

For younger children, you might want to make a game out of throwing at a stationary target before progressing to a moving target. Not really a snowball fight, but you’re building skill!

If your kids are older and can throw well, set a rule to aim for the waist and down or wear helmets. Keep in mind that many public places ban snowball fights as they can result in injury. Snowball fights are meant to be fun and are not intended to hurt anyone, so make sure everyone is on the same page beforehand. Do agree on a “safe word” if someone gets hurt or wants to stop.

If you’re really serious, here are some tips:

  • Build a good reserve of snowballs beforehand so you don’t waste time making them.
  • Layers of clothing will give you more padding to protect against a hit, and wearing waterproof outer layers will keep you dry and warm longer. Make sure you have a good set of waterproof mittens or extras on-hand.
  • You should be able to dodge most snowballs unless they’re flying everywhere. Be quick on your feet!

Whatever you decide to do this winter, I hope you enjoy spending time with your kids and getting out and making the most of the season. We can’t make the cold go away, so we might as well make the best of it!

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