Family-Friendly Summer Activities
Getting outside with your baby or toddler is great for the whole family. A bit of fresh air and exercise can help you and your child calm down, relax and refocus.
A hat, some sunscreen for babies over six months and a water bottle are necessities.
Sweet Summer Fun with Babies and Toddlers
Enjoy time together, forget about the dirty dishes and enjoy some of these experiences:
1. A walk around the block may be enough for your toddler, they often like to stop and pick up every stone or stick, as they explore their world. Outdoors our senses are stimulated; see the colourful flowers, look up at the clouds, hear the chattering squirrels, singing birds, the smell of blossoms, feel of the wind touch the rough bark on the tree.
2. A picnic in a park or your backyard may be a new experience. Talk about the ants, the feel of the grass, the blue sky; introduce new words, label the colours you see.
3. A visit to a stream or creek provides opportunities for watching the water flow, throwing sticks or stones in the water to see a splash, or dipping toes in the water. Keep your eyes open for frogs and minnows or turn over some rocks to see the crayfish.
4. Set up a tent in the backyard, babies can crawl in and play some peek-a-boo, toddlers may bring their favourite toys and play or listen to a story while enjoying a new experience.
5. Play with some water, fill up a container that they can dip, dump, and discover in! Add sponges, rocks, shells, and cups of different sizes. Toddlers might decide to add some grass or dirt.
Water invites all kinds of discoveries; bathing dolls or toys, add a paintbrush and paint with water, fill up a watering can and water plants, climbing in the bin, and splashing. With support and encouragement from parents, children learn to love being in nature.
Currently, programs are offered virtually but watch for the Summer Schedule coming soon.
Simple Summer Activities
Looking for critters in a pond or creek: For some ideas on pond studies and what you’ll find in ponds and creeks, watch the Hidden Life of Ponds with Jacob Rodenburg or Swamped with Nature Nancy. There are so many areas in and around Peterborough to take your net and container and take off your shoes and get looking: Jackson’s Creek, Warsaw Caves Conservation Area, Millbrook pond and trout ponds, the Back Dam in Warsaw, around the edges of Little Lake and Squirrel Creek. Imagine the Marsh Conservation Area, Miller’s Creek Conservation Area, Hope Mill Conservation Area, and any body of water excluding sandy beaches (you won’t find much life on pure sand).
But pure sand is great for swimming, so take the family to a beach: Selwyn Conservation Area, the beach area at Warsaw Caves Conservation Area, Lakefield Beach, Beavermead, Roger’s Cove, Jones Beach in Bridgenorth, Henry’s Gumming Beach in Curve Lake, Ennismore Waterfront Park, Douro Park, Sandy Lake Beach outside Buckhorn, Quarry Bay Beach on Stoney Lake off of Northey’s Bay Road, Kasshabog Lake Beach north of Havelock.
More into land activities?
Family hikes: Whether it’s a walk around the neighbourhood, a hike through Jackson Park, or further afield, like a hike to High Falls, nothing beats a walk in the woods with your family. Take a picnic (food is a great motivator for little ones on a hike) and walking shoes and away you go. Socks and shoes are helpful for stability but also because of the poison ivy and/or insects. Kawartha Land Trust has many areas with trails that are open to the public, from the Jeffrey Cowan property on Stoney Lake to the John Earle Chase Memorial Park on Pigeon Lake. Find maps and directions on the Kawartha Land Trust website
Become a citizen scientist this summer. Contribute to scientific data being gathered all over the world. It’s as easy as snapping a photo of anything from frogs, plants, insects, and posting them in apps like iNaturalist, eBird, Seek, Bumblebee Watch, Herps of Ontario (part of iNaturalist), Leafsnap. These citizen science apps, and contributing to research, have the added benefit of getting your family to observe what is around them, learning the names of these things, and learning more about them, which in turn will hopefully create a context for caring about these living things and taking care of them.
Create a Butterflyway: Seven steps to creating a Butterflyway from David Suzuki’s website
- Grow native wildflowers, Invest in a tree or shrub, Create a woodpile bug hotel, Leave sunny soil patches for bees,
- Provide a water source, Learn more about local bees and butterflies, Create a neighbourhood Butterflyway!
Unstructured free time: this is what summer is all about and it’s been proven that unstructured free time outdoors is very beneficial for child development and also for connecting to the environment.
Bring the family to a Provincial Park, they are free this summer Monday to Thursday for day use. Provincial Parks in our area are: Petroglyphs Provincial Park, Silent Lake Provincial Park, Emily Provincial Park, Balsam Lake Provincial Park, and further afield Presqu’il Provincial Park.
Get out after dark and stargaze. Several wonderful apps for identifying constellations are: Skyview, Google Sky, SkySafari, Star Tracker and to find out where the International Space Station is, there is even an app for that, called International Space Station.
Even more activities for kids 5+
2. Build a Fort
A cool place to beat the heat this summer is in the forest and Peterborough has plenty of them to explore. Jackson Park is the first one that comes to mind and is the perfect spot to build a fort. Let the children figure out what will make forts strong, waterproof, warm at night, and of course stylish. Please remember to ensure that the fort builders are aware of animal homes and not to cut live branches for their forts as we are sharing the land with so many creatures, big and small.
3. Get on your BIKE and ride!
The Great Trail (otherwise known as the TransCanada Trail) runs right through Peterborough and to the east and west. There are many sections of the trail that are on old rail trails allowing for easy biking adventures while minimizing exposure to motorized vehicles. You can bike all the way to Hastings and beyond on the trail, stopping for a picnic along the way. Or, if you want to go the other way, head west towards Omemee and discover the beautiful lands around the county. Visit https://tctrail.ca/ and see the section of the trail you want to discover.
4. Canoeing and Kayaking the Canal
A canoe trip doesn’t just have to be in the vast wilderness. Exploring the Peterborough area along the canal is a really fun and exciting way to spend a summer day. Whether you start in Little Lake or in Lakefield, you can travel along the canal and stop for a bite along the way, at a local café or the picnic you brought to eat at your favourite lock. If you don’t have your own boat or one to borrow, LiftLock Paddle Co has canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards with a PFD included. Explore the lock system or just paddle the lakes that make the Kawarthas a destination for many travelers.
5. Beach Volleyball
Bring a hat, some sunscreen and a beach ball (or volleyball of course) and enjoy the sand in your toes as you play a game of beach volleyball. There are 6 courts available for public use at Beavermead Park in Peterborough on a first come first serve basis. If they are already rented when you get there, there is an amazing playground, field space, and beach as some easy alternatives to your game. A visit to Ecology Park could also be a quick alternative but it is a worthwhile trip on its own.
6. The Perfect Solution to a Hot Summer’s Night
One of my favourite memories, when my kids were young, were the nights when we went “off script”. Instead of a regular bedtime routine, we planned a special evening on those hottest of hot summer evenings. Packing up a dinner picnic with some cool treats, we headed to a park with a splash pad. After dinner (instead of bath, book, bed) the kids would have fun in the splash pad, cooling them down after a hot day. At the park, we would change them into their PJs, read a book, and head home where they would be tucked into bed (likely negotiating for one more book before lights out). Such special memories.
There is lots of fun under the sun, but here is a wonderful activity from our Outdoor Activity Consultant, Kelly, King, that brings you out after dark for a late-night adventure.
Night Vision Journeys
Did you know? Red light helps to preserve our night vision because of the low frequency it has when it meets our eyes. At really low, or red light, conditions our eyes produce a chemical called rhodopsin which allows us to more easily see in the dark. From the last bright light, we see it can take about 20 to 40 minutes for our eyes to start producing rhodopsin. This means you’ll need to make sure you’re only using your red light and not looking at any bright lights like street lamps, cellphones, or watches for 20 to 40 minutes before you start seeing the benefits of your night vision flashlight!
What you’ll need:
Small piece of plastic (like saran wrap)
What to do:
1. Colour one side of the plastic with your red marker.
2. Cover the end of your flashlight with the red plastic and secure it with an elastic band.
3. Take your red light on your next night hike and note how much more you can see when you don’t have bright lights around you!