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 Moms Around  the World: Toronto, Canada

  Tips for planning visits with young children from a local mom in the know

 

  In this feature: Great Places to Go   Getting Around   Dining with Kids   Practical Tips   New Parents

 


Toronto has several parks, playgrounds, and water parks for children.

Today we’re trotting across the globe to meet a mom in Canada’s biggest city: Toronto, Ontario. With around 49% of its residents having been born in other countries, Toronto is considered one of the world’s most international and diverse cities. Sound like an exciting place to raise a family? Given that it’s got one of the lowest crime rates of all North American cities, it’s sure to be exciting in a good way.

To find out more about what life is like in Toronto with small kids, I got the scoop from local mom Lesley Cherry. Lesley is the mother of a 4-year-old boy and co-founder of Canada’s first baby gear rental agency, Wee Travel (which now serves visitors to Victoria and Vancouver as well: www.weetravel.ca). Lesley also shared her tips on visiting Toronto with young children.

Q: Have you always lived in Toronto? And is it really as cosmopolitan as it sounds?
 
Lesley: I grew up in Vancouver, B.C. and have lived in Toronto for 7 years. The two cities are vastly different – Vancouver being laid back, while Toronto is all go-go-go.
 
I'm still not used to Toronto weather. There are basically two seasons here: summer and winter. Summer is hot and humid, and the winter is LONG and COLD and SNOWY. My first year here I was shocked to find that spring literally lasted 3 days–then it was summer!
 
The one thing that Toronto is known for is its culture. It’s a great place for movies, plays, galleries, and wonderful restaurants. 
 
Q: Where are your favorite places to go with your son in Toronto?

Lesley: Toronto has an amazing zoo. The Toronto Zoo is huge and literally has every animal you can imagine from sharks to elephants. This is not a zoo with animals in tiny cages – they have vast areas to roam around in. In the summer the zoo has an incredible water park for the kids. It’s huge, has water spouting up from all sorts of places, and is really something special.

One great thing about Toronto is there are a number of playground parks in every neighbourhood, and there are also quite a few water parks as well.

Another great thing to do in the summer is visit Centre Island. Centre Island is just a 5-minute ferry ride from downtown Toronto. It’s 600 acres of parkland that has a beach, an amusement park and bike riding trails. You can’t drive there – you can only access it by ferry.

Q: Sounds great, but what do you do in bad weather? Toronto can get pretty cold, I’m guessing.

Lesley: The bad weather really doesn’t keep us inside. It does get very cold in the winter, but then we bundle up, find a hill, and go tobogganing. And if it rains – well I love the rain as I’m from Vancouver.  But for those who don’t like the cold or rain, Toronto has a great science centre, the Ontario Science Centre, with a wonderful kids area designed specifically for kids under 8. There is also the Royal Ontario Museum, which has a variety of ever changing exhibits, many geared towards kids. 

Q: Are mothers allowed a “maternity leave” by the government or private businesses? And do you think it’s more common for new mothers to work or to stay home these days?  
 
Lesley: By law, mothers – or fathers – are allowed to take a one year maternity leave. While they don’t get full pay, their employers must keep their jobs for them. Most mothers do take a year if they can afford to do so, and there are lots of mom and tot programs throughout the city that enable moms to meet other moms. After my son was born, I realized I wanted to work from home, so, along with my sister who lives in Vancouver, I started Wee Travel.

Q: What is the breastfeeding “climate” like in Toronto? Is it common to see moms breastfeeding in public? Do you have and advice for nursing mothers visiting the city?
 
Lesley: Toronto is pretty liberal when it comes to breastfeeding, Many mothers feed in public, although most cover themselves up while doing so. It is uncommon to see a mother nursing with her breast exposed.

Q: Is Toronto’s public transportation a good option for parents visiting with babies and young children? What should they know before using it?

Lesley: Toronto has a great subway system, as well as buses, and streetcars.  Not all subway stops have escalators, so in some cases a stroller would need to be carried up or down a number of stairs. Larger strollers would be difficult to get on and off streetcars. Not all tourist destinations, the zoo for example, can be easily reached by public transport, so it’s probably best rent a car for certain things. 

Q: Are taxis a viable option for parents needing to get around Toronto with babies and small kids? Or is it more practical—and reasonable for them to take the subway or rent a car?
 
Lesley: Taxis are abundant in Toronto. By law, a child is not required to be in a car seat in a taxi. However, and this is particularly true at the airport, many cab drivers will not take you if you don’t have a car seat with you. Toronto is a large city, so the need to rent a car versus taking the subway would really depend on where you were staying and what you wanted to do. 

Q: For regular passenger vehicles, what are the car seat laws in Toronto—and Ontario for that matter? 

Lesley: The booster seat laws differ from province to province, but in Ontario a child can start using a seatbelt alone once any one of the following criteria is met:  the child turns eight years old; the child weighs 36 kg (80 lbs); or the child is 145 cm (4 feet 9 inches) tall. Canadian law requires using a rear-facing car seat until the baby is at least 9 kilograms (20 lbs.); a child can ride facing forward when they are over 9 kg (20 lbs.), and a child needs to remain in a forward facing car seat until they are 40 lbs. 

Q: What kinds of restaurants and other places to eat do you recommend parents visit—or avoid—with babies and young children? 

Lesley: Every type of food from around the world can be found in Toronto, and children are generally welcome everywhere. Here are some kid-friendly restaurants from across the city

Q: Where should parents look to find baby supplies like diapers, baby food, and baby medicines? 
 
Lesley: Shoppers Drug Mart is a great place to get diapers, baby food, medicine, etcetera, and they are located throughout the city. These items are also generally found in grocery stores like Metro, Fortinos, and Sobeys which also have multiple locations throughout the city. 

Q: Do you have any other advice for parents visiting Toronto?
 
Lesley: The nicest time to visit Toronto is in the fall. The leaves turn absolutely gorgeous colours and the weather is warm. In May and June, the weather is nice but not too hot. July and August are generally very hot and humid. And winter, well… it lasts from Nov-April!
 
Also, here are some good resources for kid-friendly Toronto:  Best things to do with kids in Toronto and Child-friendly travel and tourist resources.

Thanks for sharing your Mom’s-eye view of Toronto and photos with us, Lesley (part of photo Friday at DeliciousBaby.com). I hope I can join you for a playdate at Centre Island sometime in the near future. And thanks to photographers Ilker Ender, Steve Harris, and Richard Eriksson for their Toronto photos included in this feature. To see more photos of Toronto, check out the slideshow below. 

Can you guess where we're headed next? From Toronto, you'd catch a 14-hour flight with Air Canada (including a 2-hour layover at Sao Paulo) to catch up with our next mom. Click here to find out if you're right.

Shelly Rivoli is the author of the award-winning guide Travels with Baby: The Ultimate Guide for Planning Trips with Babies, Toddlers, and Preschool-Age Children.

Related articles (see complete list of Moms Around the World):
Moms around the world: Cairns, Australia
Moms around the world: Rio de Janeiro
Before booking an overseas flight with your baby, read this
U.S. passports back in style: How to get one for your child

Browse all Moms Around the World features

 

Copyright (c) 2009 - 2015 Shelly Rivoli, author of Travels with Baby. All rights reserved.

Adapted from an earlier article by Shelly Rivoli that appeared in the national edition of Examiner.com.

 

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