Category Archives: Urban Escapes

Tips on Creating Inspirational Spaces for Kids

treehouse

It always seems that a good part of every weekend is spent working on some home improvement project. Either we’re replacing the leaky kitchen sink, fixing the upstairs toilet that keeps running, or the usual sort of stuff like cleaning the gutters and raking the yard. Sometimes we guys get lucky and can work on something we actually want to work on, like a mancave or setting up a home office the exact way we want. Another project that is worth the time and effort, that is also fun, is making something for the kids.

1. The Tween Cave

As much as we try and deny it, our kids are growing up. The happy little twerp that was glued to your leg is now a moody teen who wants to be left alone in his room. Why not make him a dream room he will love? Ideally, the best place is a basement or an attic. It gives the budding adult a greater sense of privacy, while allowing you to still keep an eye on him.

The key here is to let them have a major say in how the room looks. If they want everything painted black and dark purple, like their favorite band (or whatever sort of music they like) then let them paint the room that color. It will show them that you value their thoughts and ideas. Did I mention that they also have to help? Working on their own room like that will give them a greater appreciation for what they built.

Remember, it’s during these years that a teen will be tempted to do things like drinking or drugs. If they have a cool place where they feel in control, that along with your guidance, make all the difference in what choices they make.

2. A Tree House or Fort

The treehouse has been a staple for boys and girls of all ages for a long time. This is one of those things that has gotten better over the years, because there are more options than ever. If a yard doesn’t have big enough trees to build a treehouse, you can build a fort. Pirate ships and rockets are also an option.

There are tons of YouTube videos that can give dads a step by step guide to build whatever they want. If you aren’t gifted in the carpentry arts, there are kits you can buy. These are relatively easy to assemble, but still give the dad an excuse to bust out the tools and let the kids watch while he builds something. Failing that, there are even professional treehouse and fort builders who will do all the work, but where’s the fun in that?

3. The Classic Playroom

The best thing about a regular playroom is that it can be used all year long, regardless of the weather. There is also a lot of flexibility in what can be done. No matter what the kids are into, building the perfect playroom is a cinch. It can be a rough and tumble superhero lair, or the ballroom in a castle.

Decorating the playroom is easier than most people expect. The main thing is to keep it fun and fitting with the chosen theme. Having custom chairs with the most creative upholstery fabric is a great way to bring a playroom together, and spark a child’s imagination. To them, you aren’t building a playroom. You’re building them a magical place all their own.

Conclusion
The list of things a dad can do is nearly endless. The project can be indoor or outdoor, and depending on the age of your kids, the scope and tone can go from princess in pink to rock stars in black leather. If there is enough of an age difference, you might have to do more than one project. Like that’s a bad thing. Use these few ideas to get you started. Take them, run with them, and make them your own.

camping in Ontario

Outdoor Adventure Show Is Made For Kids

Fresh back from the 2016 Outdoor Adventure Show in Toronto, I can report the attraction was designed with young families in mind and it really is a great place for Heads-Up Dads to spend Saturday with the kids.  It’s cost effective too. Adults pay $14, and children age eleven and under get in free.

There’s no sandbox, bumper cars or bouncy gyms here, and no food courts either, but the whole show is something of a play zone with every vendor offering up something cool for young people. The three-day exhibition has a wide array of adventure options for all age groups right there on the trade show floor.  Many booths have interactive games for 8-12 year olds, mostly puzzle challenges; smart dealers know they need to tie up young family members so they can talk shop with parents.

Here are some of the more interesting ‘youth engagement’ strategies I witnessed,

The Adventure Convention Organizers Included Activities for Young People

tradeshow passport for prizesThe show’s organizers had young families in mind when they created the Outdoor Adventurers Passport wherein kids can collect stamps (paw prints) from vendors for prizes at the end of the journey.  A completed passport could be turned in for both short term rewards and a chance of winning a much bigger prize later. The true benefit is for vendors of course as this tactic effortlessly draws in families with young children; this passport is an ice breaker with an easy greeting ritual and friendly exchange that makes it real easy to talk afterwards.

Everywhere I looked there were young people getting their adventure on; they were climbing rock walls, and in one corner of the show kids were zip lining between platforms overhead.  In this respect young people acquired a different perspective on the event than their parents.

Outdoor Adventure Show rock wall climbing
Kids climbing up the rock wall – photo by Rob Campbell

A Spinning Wheel Mesmerizes Kids and Dispenses Coupons to Parents

SpintheWheel1There were a couple Crown & Anchor wheels which had been repurposed into spin-the-wheel games for coupons.  The one on the right was operated by Tourism Toronto and dispensed SUP vouchers, gift certificates, coloring books and there was almost always a crowd of youngsters in front of this rig.

But the real pedestrian crush occurred in the main aisle just inside the front door where it bottle-necked around the Flight Center and a hot deals travel agency. If you were shopping for discount airfare for your next family trip then this was probably a good place to be. Regarding the crowd I think what happened was the new people coming in the door came up against the folks who’d been around once already and everyone jammed up on Main St there in front of Xcitelife.

Xcitelife is a Marketplace for Unique Experiences for the Whole Family

People could not get down the center aisle without encountering a list of fun things to do at Xcitelife; the booth attendants wore black shirts with red X’s. This is the company motif and the X stands for experience and not extreme. Their charismatic greeters stood near their company flags drumming up excitement for their experience marketplace and they signed up many influential new users.

Xcitelife at the Outdoor Adventure Show

Xcitelife asked families to make a Bucket List; their software helps decision makers source travel solutions in the coming months and years. Check out Earth Girl and another great profile from the show is Martin,  The new members wrote their aspirations on red paper X’s which they pinned to a dream board. The board soon displayed the collective vacation fantasies of the entire show and it was from this arena that a prize winner was eventually selected.

Xcitelife-bucketList1
Paul’s own Bucket List – photo by Rob Campbell

“Everyone wants to live an Xciting life, but too often folks get stuck in the ordinary” says Paul Peic. “At Xcitelife we’ve made it our mission to transform lives through experiences.”

There was no food court, but there was protein available at the show.

D&D Meats from Alliston Ontario, venison sausages

Kids love cured meat! D & D Meats were among the only food vendors at the show. There were granola bars and trail mixes in the survival quadrant, but this booth was the only meat option.  This family-owned cured meat shop from Alliston Ontario had a wide corner all to themselves, and were doing a brisk business selling beef jerky, pepperoni, sausages and kielbasa.

All day long people streamed through the crowded event eddying about in open areas of the trade show floor and milling around the central water pool.  This aquatic attraction was also called the Demo Pool and frequently had young performers showing off their skills in the latest model kayaks.

The crowd also collected in front of three live theatres where experts shared stories and advice. This author came upon the Adventures in Paddling stage just as the float plane touched down on Rabbitkettle Lake on the Nahanni River and a flat water paddler unpacked stand-up paddle boards for the whole family.

Rapid Media Best Kayak Reviews 2016 Paddling Buyer’s Guide, also SUPs, Canoe Reviews.

Adventures in Paddling theatre was surrounded by the latest model SUPs or Stand Up Paddle Boards, canoes and kayaks for sale, and on the far side of the opening stood the Rapid Media booth with giant posters displaying their magazine titles.

Kayak buyers guide, rapid media
2016 Paddling Buyers Guide – photo by Rob Campbell

Elijah Liedtke pointed out the 2016 kayak reviews and then he gave me an insider link to the online kayak reviews, paddling buyer’s guide. which is free and considered one of the big secrets of the show.

Kayak1sharablemoment2Rapid Media had some all-ages engagement strategies at play, and in the age of shareable moments the magazine title cardboard cutouts were really busy, especially the ‘Wild Women’ Adventure Kayak magazine cutout seen at right.

Rapid Media has done well in the paddling space with four popular magazines, Adventure Kayak, Canoeroots, Kayak Angler, and Rapid the whitewater magazine. These publications are gorgeous print mags filled with real life travel stories, photos, videos and professional gear reviews from expert paddlers all over the world. At the show the editorial staff were selling half price annual subscriptions.

Each of the three live theatres was sponsored by one magazine or another, and besides the paddling magazine one was dedicated to scuba diving and another to hiking; and the land trekking theatre was sponsored by Outpost Magazine, which is all about getting geared up and making long distance journeys across vast scenic landscapes.

Outpost Magazine at Outdoor Adventure Show

History Exhibits Tell Stories at the Outdoor Adventure Show

Iroqoius Village tribal experience

First Nations storytellers enthralled kids by relating the Voyage of the Iroquois. The area attendants were dressed in native Canadian regalia, and the walls of their particular open attraction were filled with images taken by passengers inside the giant twelve person canoes. These pictures are from summer trips that spend two or three weeks paddling the historic trade routes of the Voyageurs!

Kids could indeed soak up a lot of history from the installations at the show, and at one exhibit in particular there was displayed stone axe heads, arrowheads and spear points from the Stone Age. At noon in the Survival Theatre on Saturday there was an expert from Parks Canada who was able to show crowds how the First Canadians could hunt and kill great beast with primitive weapons. One guy seen below actually assembled arrows and spears in front of a live audience.

collecting arrowheads from native Canadian settlements

Kids of all ages love the Toronto Adventure Show and the best part are experts like this guy who share first hand knowledge.  This is a family show that’s fit for outdoor adventurers of all ages – more information about the 2016 Outdoor Adventure Show on Toronto Guardian.

Fun time activities for kids in the Fall

Autumn is such a beautiful time of year.

Watching leaves change from green to gold, red, orange and brown seems so magical to young children.  The different colours and the shapes of the leaves can easily inspire creative art activities to enjoy with your child. Leaf rubbings are simple, and always fun to do for toddlers and preschoolers. They can be a lovely follow-up to an afternoon of looking at and playing in the leaves.

Go for a walk in the park. Bring along a paper bag and collect a variety of leaves – maple, oak, basswood, ash.  When you’re ready for some creative art, place a few leaves under a piece of newsprint. Then hold fall colour crayons on their sides and rub them over the top of the paper to reveal the textures and patterns on the leaves.  Children strengthen the small muscles in their fingers as they grasp and control the crayons.  They also learn the names of different colours and relate these to the seasonal changes they are observing.

If you want to connect your art activity to a wonderful reading experience, go to the library and sign out Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert.  Her beautiful, fall colour illustrations use leaves of different shapes to create familiar creatures like chickens, pumpkins, fish and butterflies.  You and your child will really love identifying these shapes and following Leaf Man on his adventure.  Use the leaves you collected to imitate the patterns in the book or to invent your own!

Until the next activity, enjoy autumn with your child and the imaginative places that your shared activities can take you.

8 Super Cool Summer Camp Ideas for Creative kids:

design camp for Kids at the DX in Toronto

Design Camp at the Design Exchange (Dx) in Toronto

Every year as parents we scramble to find interesting stuff to engage our kids with over the summer holidays. For the lucky ones, its the trek to the cottage, for others it is a week or two away from the heat of the city up North attending a luxe summer camp at Camp Ooochi Goochi in Cottage country. For the rest of us, who may be lucky to get a week or two away from the office, we have to find some good stuff for our kids to do so they can have some fun and unique experiences to help them learn, grow as individuals and maybe even make some new friends.

Here in Toronto, everywhere in Ontario, right across Canada, all over the United States, and in practically every major urban centre all over the developed world, there are a ton of great options out there. Everything from sailing, swimming, music camps, art camps, drama camps, dance camps, science camps, math camps (seriously—isn’t summer holidays supposed to be fun?) and even the YMCA offers summer day camps for that perfect mix of everything a kid could ever want to do in a week or two. It is important to get your kids engaged in a summer camp if you can swing it. It is an excellent opportunity to get off the couch, away from the computers and video games, out of the house, out of your hair and into something new. A wonderful time to learn a new skill, meet new friends, gain some independance and try something completely different than the every day routine throughout the school year.

I hope to showcase over the next few weeks a random sampling of some of the excellent options available to parents with kids of all ages. If you have not made plans yet, you might be running out of time, so you may want to get right on it before it is too late. Many camps sell out fast and you don’t want to be the Dumb Ass Dad that has to break it to your kids that they won’t be going to camp this year because you left it to the last possible minute and everything is sold out.

While summer camp conjures up traditional images of campfires, tents, arts and crafts, canoe trips and the like, today we are going to focus on some of the more unique urban adventures that many kids would really enjoy, if only their parents knew they were out there. With so many options here in this great city, it is difficult to choose just one, so I am going to focus on one super cool summer camp that my 6 year old daughter attended in Toronto last year. She and her girlfriends absolutely loved it. So much so that we are doing it again this year and want to share it with you. We think your kids would love it and so if you live and work in Toronto, and are looking for a great summer camp idea for your kids, be sure to check this one out.

Design Camp is a real gem that is conveniently located right downtown. Hosted by the Design Exchange, the facility is situated at the base of the TD Financial towers on the ground floor of the old Toronto Stock Exchange. If you work in the downtown core, and even if you don’t, they make it really easy for you to pick up and drop off the kids right out front without even having to get out of the car which is a big plus in the morning when you are battling traffic to get to work on time.

design camp for Kids at the DX in Toronto

Projects at Design Camp are very hands-on and creative

Design Camp at the DX in Toronto is an amazing summer camp experience available to kids between the ages of 6 and 14. If you are lucky enough to live in Toronto and commute  to work every day downtown, this might be just right for you. There are at least 8 or 10 different camps held here every summer and each camp is offered at one or two separate time slots—you should be able to find at least one designed to fit your kid’s interest and your summer holiday schedule.

All projects are very hands-on and creative, using top quality materials. Each camp session generally goes on one field trip to a local design studio or other related site and will also be visited here at the DX by a guest speaker (dependent on scheduling).  These are both great opportunities for campers to meet real working designers and ask them questions. This list is by no means complete. There are more offered than I have listed here including Jewellery Design, Creatures and Comics and a bunch of other unique and original summer camp ideas all based around kids and design. If you are interested in seeing the complete list, as well as time and dates each of these are available, check out the DX Summer Camp website for further details.

Rock Star – ages 7 to 9 SOLD OUT!
Young designers will learn how to create band t-shirts, album covers and rock star accessories for their ultra-hip, fictitious music group, as well as film rock star interviews for DX TV.  We will also have a chance to meet a cool local designer and talk about design careers in the music industry. It sounds like a lot of fun, and I am really sorry that I missed this one for my kids this year. They would have loved it. It is now sold out.I am telling you this now so you can bookmark to remind yourself to get in early and pay for next year so you don’t miss it.

Fashion Basics – ages 10 to 12
The basics of illustration, patterns, and stitching will be covered in this camp, through hands-on projects that will include an a-line skirt, fashion tote, and a host of accessories.  An opportunity to meet a local designer and visit a working studio will also be included in this exciting week.

Retro Cool – ages 10 to 12
This blast-from-the-past design camp will look at some iconic pieces from yesterday as inspiration for super cool designs today!  Projects include terrariums, groovy lamps, old-school radios and much more!

Fashion TV – ages 10 to 12
This exciting week will focus on fashion for TV and film, including costumes and red-carpet glamour.  Participants will design and construct a garment inspired by their favorite TV personality and create a short segment for DX Fashion TV.

Superstructures – ages 8 to 10
From buildings to bridges and boats, participants will learn what it takes to design these amazing structures while building and testing their own models.  Campers will meet a Superstructure designer and visit some local marvels for inspiration.

Dine Design – ages 7 to 9
In today’s world of celebrity chefs, restaurant design is big business.  Young designers will create their own mock-bistro, from the graphics on the menu to the décor and layout of the space.  A visit to a local restaurant and a chat with the designer will round out the week.

Costume Design – ages 12 to 14
Working with the Drama + Design camp, participants will be the official wardrobe designers and work directly with the Canadian Stage crew and the cast to develop costume designs and then see them through construction and onto the stage.  We will meet with a visiting costume designer to hear about careers in this exciting field.

Drama + Design – ages 7 to 14
In partnership with The Canadian Stage Company, participants in this one-week camp will develop a performance, from staging to costumes, props, sets and makeup.  All enrolled campers will be treated to a performance on the Wednesday evening of the camp, for themselves and their parents to attend the Canadian Stage TD Dream in High Park, including a backstage tour.  Participants will perform their masterpiece for family and friends on Friday July 8th.

Design Camp at the DX in toronto

Learn something new, meet new friends and have a great time!

Where is the Design Exchange located?
The DX is located in the historic former Toronto Stock Exchange building at 234 Bay Street.  The building is situated on the west side of Bay Street, between King and Wellington.

When does Camp start?
Summer camps run for one week commencing July 4, 2011 and running right through until August 26, 2011. Please check the calendar for specific dates for each program.

What are the hours for Design Camp?
Camp activities run from 9.00 am to 4.00 pm each day. They offer complimentary before-care beginning at 8.30 am and After-care from 4.00 pm to 5.30 pm each day.  After-care is an additional $10.00 per day.

Who are the Design Camp instructors?
The Design Exchange hires post-secondary students studying design, who have at least 2 years experience teaching and working with children, who are CPR and First Aid certified and who have passed a criminal record check.  In addition, they also recruit student volunteers that have a passion for design, have experience working with children and have First Aid training to support the day to day delivery of the programs throughout the summer.

Questions??
Please refer to the Design Exchange DX FAQ website for more information or contact the camp director, Katie Weber at 416.216.2138 or katie[at]dx.org. She’s lovely and amazing and she is only too happy to help.

Do you have any amazing Summer Camp experiences or recommendations you would like to share with us?

Post a comment or get in touch!

Springtime Photography Challenges on Lenzr

Shiny Metal surfaces, best cottage moments and more photo contest with Lenzr in CanadaSpringtime Photography Fun

Looking for some more activities to share with your kids? Remember the benefits of photography are more available now that cameras are inexpensive, indeed disposable.

Photography challenges are good for developing a ‘technical creativity’, and they’re also a great form of self expression. Take photos of your kids or better yet let them have the camera and give them the opportunity to pick the subjects and make digital documents. Give them specific goals as outlined by this month’s four Lenzr photo contests, and stand back to properly coach their success.

Self expression is crucial for healthy emotional development. Here are four excellent Lenzr photo contests that might help you get started for your days of photography with your kids. If you aren’t skilled in photography, don’t worry, this is a perfect chance to learn with your child. Relax, learning is better and easier when it’s made to be fun.

Weather the Storm

Weather The Storm photo contest is a great chance to get meteorological with your camera and child. It doesn’t have to be stormy skies, it can be a single shocking cloud on the horizon, or a steamy scene by the lake, or a threatening sunset.A best cottage moments from a Muskoka cottage in Ontario Canada Use filters and photo editing because that’s allowed on Lenzr. Take the digital camera outside your house and experiment in capturing these stormy skies. Remember on Lenzr you can submit the photos free – get your child to help you to write a little story behind the photo. This will enhance the imagination of the craft. The prize is a Sony Cyber-shot digital camera your child may enjoy courtesy of a Toronto commercial flat roofing company.

Wakeboarding on Lake Muskoka, from Muskoka cottage onlineBest Cottage Moments

This Best Cottage Moments photo challenge is a celebration of your best moments at the cottage. Your whole family can star in this one – for many people the cottage is special because the memories that have nothing to do with school. You can incorporate a different type of learning fun outdoors. The contest winner is offered a valuable prize of a Sony digital camera with lots of amazing features thanks to a Muskoka cottage for sale online. Its an unusual sponsor, but a great prize and good popular theme – someone is going to win.

The cottage owner has left a few of his own magic moments on his blog, and one in particular I will share here is from 2009 when himself and friends went wakeboarding on Lake Muskoka. The post chronicles this niche water sport in considerable detail.

What’s in The Fridge?

Do you ever find your kids in the kitchen opening and closing the fridge door constantly? I once heard about a transparent fridge. Or one with a simple Plexiglas door; the idea would be to have a fridge with a transparent door so anyone could just look inside without actually opening the device – would save energy.  We still haven’t seen that on the market yet, but more likely there could be one with a flat screen which would show the contents of the fridge at the touch of a button.  A printable coupone sponsored Lenzr canada photo contest April and May 2011 Anyhow please take advantage of this with this photo contest called What’s In Your Fridge. Get creative with your camera and use your imagination to create the best photo image of what’s in your fridge and you have the chance to fill some bellies with good nutritious food (or any food you choose) for a while. The contest prize is $500 worth of groceries thanks to sponsor’s printable coupons which of course you do NOT have to use or even acknowledge but you might want to check out that site. We all know it’s not easy to feed your kids these days. If your teenagers can help you share coupons you can all work up a great rewards system that will actually make it worth your while.

Shiny Metal Surfaces
Lenzr photo contest April and May for Shiny metal surfaces thanks to metal panels company
Grown-ups and children of all ages will warm to this photo challenge.  Small children love the lure of the shiny metal surfaces. It makes you wonder what it is they find so appealing? where’s the mystery? But there is something that catches our eyes… Well, you can all work together on this Shiny Metal Surfaces photo contest. Don’t forget to upload your photos for free and you and your child could win an amazing Sony Camera with lots of options to add to your camera collection thanks to the metal panels company that likes photography too. The camera would make a good birthday gift – it has a motion detector on it so you can leave it in your storage locker and set it to record anyone who breaks the envelope of the frame – you can watch later as they steal all of your shiny metal surfaces.

Lenzr photo contests are all about the art of photography and encouraging the creativity and fun for photographers of all skill levels. Enjoy the moments with your child and share in photography experience. Give them skills and opportunities to use their imagination and gain self confidence through their self expression. Take pleasure and pride in the creative process and give positive guidance when you can. The contests are taking place now. Sit with your child and look at the other photos to get some ideas. The contest voting begins May 15th 2011, so mark your calendar. Then the voting ends May 25th 2011. Set your schedule. The top ten voted photos will advance to judges and the prize winners will be announced June 1st 2011. Take some creative risks, enjoy the experience with your child, and grow along the way.

Bookmark and Share

Sustainable Family Fun in Toronto: The Evergreen Brickworks

Brickworks_DV107, originally uploaded by HeadsUp_Dad.

The weatherman was not so sure about how the day was going to unfold, but this gang of boys and one girl was not to be dissuaded by the weather map’s ambiguity.

It was Saturday afterall, and the weekend warrior’s eco-adventure awaits. Another opportunity to seek out a deeper connection to the world we live in, in a spectacular natural environment. Today, we were heading out to hike, climb, walk, scramble up, slide down and get as dirty as we could in pursuit of fun and frolic in the urban Jungle. Destination: The Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto via the Don Valley Ravine.

The Don Valley Brick Works Park is awe-inspiring: a haven for wildlife and naturalists alike, it is at the heart of Toronto’s ravines. Opened in 1996, the park is managed by Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation. The Don Valley Brick Works Park is worth a visit in any season.

Here is how the day unfolded…

Brickworks_DV27

Evergreen Brick Works is a community environmental centre that inspires and equips visitors to live, work and play more sustainably.

Free and open to everyone, Don Valley Brick Works Park is the back garden to the revitalized industrial pad that is now Evergreen Brick Works. Spend an afternoon with your kids, bring your dog and a few friends. There is room for everyone. It feels more like a walk in the country.

Brickworks_DV65

From 1889 to the 1980s the Don Valley Brick Works was one of Canada’s pre-eminent brickyards. At its peak more than 43 million bricks a year were manufactured for use in the construction of homes and buildings across Canada. Many of Toronto’s most prominent buildings were made from Don Valley brick – Massey Hall and Old City Hall are two examples.

Brickworks_DV67

Brickworks_DV47

On Taking Risks…
When I see a pack of 3 and 4 years old boys and girls eagerly climbing over tree roots, walking through riverbeds, over stumps, under fallen trees, scrambling up and down steep inclines, it gives me a sense of gratitude. To know that my boys are taking on these small challenges head on with such enthusiasm tells me that they are going to do ok in life. These same photos may however cause some parents to stir uncomfortably in their seats. Isn’t that too risky? They are only four years old. Couldn’t they get hurt?

Risk is part of life.

We encounter it every day. We can avoid it entirely or we can learn how to manage it. Children need to learn about risk in moderated ways: One of the best ways to help children learn about risk is to teach them how to deal with difficult and tricky situations by allowing them to experience them in controlled conditions. How can kids, who are part of nature themselves, come to be fully aware and alive if they are not allowed to engage complicated situations and challenges outdoors? Everyone of those tree stumps, river beds, steep inclines and dirty bum adventures sliding down the big hill is an opportunity for your child to encounter, experience and manage risk for himself in a relatively safe, controlled and supervised natural environment. Your kids will emerge stronger, more capable and more confident with each new obstacle and a will to go on to the next one with renewed enthusiasm.

Brickworks_DV69

Ravines

Evergreen Brick Works is situated in the heart of Toronto’s ravine network. Citizens and government agencies have been working to protect the city’s ravines from development since the late 1960s. Toronto’s network of ravines is much loved by city residents – for viewing nature, for hiking and biking. Author Robert Fulford once said “the ravines are to Toronto what canals are to Venice, hills are to San Francisco and the Thames is to London. They are the heart of the City’s emotional geography, and understanding Toronto requires an understanding of the ravines.” Evergreen Brick Works features programming related to and connected with the exploration of Toronto’s ravines.

Brickworks_DV78

Brickworks_DV79

Brickworks_DV86

Watershed

The Don River Watershed is 38 km in length and 360 square km in area. While you were walking through here, you would not know that over 800,000 people live near here in and around the Don Valley – it is Canada’s most urban watershed. Citizen groups and government agencies have been working to “bring back the Don” since the late 1980s. Through Evergreen Brick Works, Evergreen is proud to be a contributor to the restoration of the Don.

Brickworks_DV94

Brickworks_DV58

Nature right in our own back yard
Many of us are blind to the nature that is all around us. We are a windshield generation. We see everything these days through the lens of a windshield. Time is so tight, and we are so busy that we rarely take the time to stop to smell the roses anymore. City dwellers often drive past it every day and never even know what is there just on the other side of the guard rail. We urbanites go about our daily routines and rituals barely aware that we live next door to the nature that is all around us.

Brickworks_DV33

Brickworks_DV45Just over there on the other side of the Guardrail

The Brickworks park in Toronto is a fine example. It is what exists just over the guardrail from the Don Valley Parkway as millions of commuters travel up and down it each and every day, with nary a moment thought about what exists down there. Well, as you can see, there is an awful lot to see and do. Stuff most people would not equate with the presence of a major commuter highway.

Brickworks_DV24

We are blind to what is just under our noses because we expect nature to be much wilder, and grander, farther away—a place we have to travel great distances to get to. Somewhere you can only go on summer vacation once a year.

To your children, the local ravine behind your subdivision or a mile away is its own special universe. So much to see, to do, to touch, sense and feel. Taking the time to walk through these areas, to stop, to notice and reflect on what you see around you—trees, plants, animals, streams, ponds and pools, rock formations and wildflowers can be very rewarding and highly restorative. Let yourself go, and give your kids the time to stop and listen. Just be. There is nothing more calming, more relaxing, more rejuventating. Feel the warm spring breeze, smell the freshness of the air, soak in the sunlight as it filters through a canopy of green, leafy treetops. Slow down. Pay attention and just breathe.

Brickworks_DV17

Brickworks_DV16

Brickworks_DV13

Schools can teach kids about trees, plants, wildlife, rivers, lakes, oceans and marine life in textbooks and encyclopedia’s. They provide education about geography, history and the environment, but it is personal connection to our natural environment that leads to an appreciation for the importance of and why we must sustain these spaces in our lives.

At HeadsUp Dad, we would like to encourage you to take time out this spring and summer to get outside, wander in the ravines, hike around your local park, drive out to the country and experience the healing powers of nature. Your kids just might (make that definitely will) come home dirty, with skinned knees and scraped elbows, but they will also most certainly have grown that much stronger, healthier and happier. They will come home glowing but tired, hungry and eager for a good home cooked meal and in the end a long, restorative night of deep sleep and endless dreams of adventure in the wild.

Brickworks_DV22

Brickworks_DV19

Follow the meandering paths up the North Slope and you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular view of the Toronto skyline. Your kids will want to slide all the way down on their butts squealing with delight every inch of the way.  At the bottom of the hill, there is a wetland area that offers a completely different experience. Walking along the boardwalks you are likely to spot a turtle or three sunning on a log and fish swimming in the ponds. Look for a great blue heron in the reeds, a family of ducks paddling along and songbirds too.

Brickworks12

Evergreen is proud to continue to protect and restore this important ecosystem. They can not do this important work alone. Why not consider rolling up your sleeves, diving in and helping out. You and your kids would have a great time and they would learn all kinds of wonderful things about plants and wildlife and the eco-system we all share. You could spend a morning tidying up the path and waterways, planting native species, caring for our plantings and removing invasives. 

No experience required, just a willingness to get your hands dirty and enjoy nature in the heart of the city. Their Garden Group meets twice a week.

Brickworks17

Brickworks_DV104

Brickworks_DV103

Brickworks_DV3

Brickworks_DV7

Heron and painted turtles in the Quarry Pond Water is central to the site. Evergreen Brick Works is adjacent to the lower Don River and within its watershed and floodplain. Mud Creek runs through the site and four ponds filter stormwater and provide habitat in the Don Valley Brick Works Park.

Brickworks_DV10

Brickworks_DV106

Plan to Visit

Evergreen Brick Works is open year-round. Summer activities start in May, and in September 2010 they will celebrate the grand opening with a suite of new features.

View on Google Maps

Location

550 Bayview Avenue, Toronto, Ontario
Located between the Prince Edward Viaduct (Bloor/Danforth) and Pottery Road, just north of the Bayview exit from the Don Valley Parkway. Please note there is no access to Bayview from Bloor Street.
Bus. Bike. Walk.

Leave your cars and cares behind. They have limited parking until construction wraps up this summer.