If your significant other is a mom, what’s the best thing you can give her for Mother’s Day? Not jewelry, clothes or electronic devices – not even a handcrafted card.

The best thing that you can do for a young mom is to take those adorable munchkins off her hands. Just scoop them up and you – yes, you! – become caregiver for a day. To test this theory, I took my own kids, ages two and four, and was responsible for them for an entire Saturday.

My day with the kids began with a trip to the jewel that is the Royal Ontario Museum.

mikey_zoo.jpgThe key thing to remember when you visit the ROM with kids: Level 2. Why? Because that’s where the gallery of dinosaurs is, along with additional galleries of mammals and birds, plus a bat cave. We even stumbled upon a learning centre that allows kids to don goggles and pick up brushes to swipe away sand and uncover artifacts. It was educational, yes, but even more: it kept them immersed. And when kids are immersed they are not falling headlong down stairwells or tipping over Ming Dynasty vases. But the best part of the museum, from a kids point of view, has to be the dinosaurs. The James and Louise Temerty Galleries of the Age of Dinosaurs remain staggeringly beautiful, strange, sort of frightening, and truly awesome.

If that were not enough, though it most certainly is, the ROM currently features Water: The Exhibition – a fantastically hands-on experience, featuring live animals and multimedia displays, spotlighting the crucial role water plays on our planet. It runs until September 5, 2011.

dadatzoo.jpgAnother go-to destination for a day with the kids: the Toronto Zoo. In fact, the ROM and Zoo are a great one-two punch: for at the Zoo, the stuffed animals they saw earlier at the museum come spectacularly to life. A cynic might ask, “But is a yawning tiger really spectacular?” To which I would reply, “Damn right it is.”

In fact, observing animals in repose is endlessly fascinating. For instance, the baboons that we watched were grooming one another, eating, climbing around, and (it seemed to me at least) socializing. In other words, there was nothing overly demonstrative or dramatic about their behaviour, but the sheer naturalism drew me in – and the kids too. And because there are over 5,000 animals representing over 500 species, the diversity of animals far surpasses what anyone, let alone easily distractible children, could possibly assimilate in one day.

Of course the animals are the main draw here – the stately zebras, lumbering camels, etc. – but the great expanse and natural beauty of the zoo is its own reward. Consider this: the Toronto Zoo is 710 acres, making it one of the largest in the world, and that includes over 10 kilometres of walking trails. Do you know how tired little kids get when they walk up and down rolling hills and along winding wooded paths? Well, they get very, very tired – which means long naps later. Which is good. Aside from the amazing array of animals and the natural beauty of the setting, the view is also tailor-made for families and kids. You can rent strollers, wagons and lockers; there are camel and pony rides, gift shops, carousels, an ice cream stand and restaurants. It feels endless, and the hours fly by. A perfect place for a dad to uncage a couple of high-energy kids.




Granville Island is a cool little island in the middle of the city, how can you go wrong? Includes a Kids Market, an Adventure Zone, and a Water Park.


The Calgary Science Centre is, among other things, home to the Creative Kids Museum, “...a breakthrough play space concept conceived and designed by architect David Rockwell to encourage child-directed, unstructured free play, the kind of play that experts say is critical to a child’s intellectual, social, physical and emotional development.” Sounds good to us.


Hold on. Are you saying that you’re kids still don’t know what they want to be when they grow up? How outrageous. Perhaps they are due for a trip to Montreal’s Musee pour Enfants de Laval, a place where: “Through entertaining and educational workshops, little children and those not so little will discover a multitude of trades and professions.” C’mon kids – time to get cracking.


Atlantic Playland
is a free oasis of waterslides and bumper boats, and best of all it exists on the east coast, truly the most laid back place in all of Canada. Kids will love the ferrris wheel, the antique carousel – pretty much all the standard amenities in a beautiful setting.

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