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The exhausted parent’s guide to the election

Kathryn Hayward | posted Tuesday, Oct 6th, 2015

Your partner has to work late—again. You’ve managed to cobble together a reasonable facsimile of dinner, but the babyis crying in her high chair, your preschooler is feeding his broccoli to the dog and there’s a knock on the door. It’s one of your local candidates. Who has time to talk or read the pamphlets? Fear not: Here’s a crash course on the key issues so you can cram in time for voting day on October 19.

Childcare_Aiden-gallery

Child care

Child care has emerged as one of the main talking points in the election, as the parties have taken fairly different stances on this issue that’s near and dear to the 3.8 million families with children in Canada. Quality daycare is expensive—in Toronto, for instance, full-time infant care can run upwards of $1,600 per child a month. The NDP have thrown down the gauntlet with their $15-a-day plan.

CONSERVATIVES: Earlier this year, the Conservatives expanded the Universal Child Care Benefit. It now pays $160 per month for each child under the age of six and $60 per month for kids ages six to 17 (this money is taxable). They increased the Child Care Expenses Deduction under the Income Tax Act by $1,000. They have no plans for a national child care program (they say they don’t want to tell you how to spend your money).

LIBERALS: They would replace the Universal Child Care Benefit with a new Canada Child Tax Benefit that would give more money to families whose combined income is less than $150,000 (for example, a two-parent household with two kids and an income of $90,000 would receive $490 tax-free a month). While they have no explicit plans for a national child care program, they have proposed a 10-year, $20-billion social infrastructure fund that would include funding for daycare. There’s also a proposal to make parental leaves more flexible, allowing longer leaves (up to 18 months) at a lower pay level.

NDP: The New Democrats promise to create or maintain one million daycare spaces over the next eight years. The fees would be capped at $15 a day (so daycare would cost less than $350 a month). The plan would cost $1.9 billion, to be shared 60/40 between Ottawa and the provinces and territories. “Lots of parents would like affordable, accessible quality child care, and the lack of it means that women are often stuck making very tough decisions about their careers,” Thomas Mulcair told Today’s Parent. They would keep the Universal Child Care Benefit to help parents who don’t use daycare.

GREEN PARTY: They propose the creation of a universal child care program. The program would encourage incorporating child care at workplaces by adding a tax break for employers who offer daycare spaces. “Certainly, there is a lot of good empirical data that workplace productivity increases dramatically and quality time goes up when child care is in the same place where you go to work,” Green Party leader Elizabeth May told Today’s Parent. They support transferring more money to the provinces to increase the number of child care spaces available for at least 70 percent of children ages six and younger. They would also cancel the Universal Child Care Benefit.

Money_Ava

ECONOMY

What’s the best way to make the economy grow: government spending or tax cuts? The Liberals are taking a different tack from the Conservatives and NDP. One thing is certain: Money talks. The economy has been one of the most fiercely debated points in the campaign.

CONSERVATIVES: Their platform is largely about balancing the budget, and they’re bullish about the economy—if we stay the course. As Stephen Harper told Today’s Parent, “If we stay on the path that we’re on, there’s really not going to be a better place in the world to be than Canada for economic opportunity for young people.” They would keep current tax credits, like children’s fitness and public transit, and have promised to pass a “tax lock” law that prohibits increases to federal income tax, sales tax and discretionary payroll taxes for the next four years. Their income-splitting policy allows a higher-earning spouse to transfer up to $50,000 of income to the lower-earning spouse, which can net a tax credit worth up to $2,000. They’ve pledged enhancements to registered education savings plans, which would double the federal grant for low- and middle-income families.

LIBERALS: The party wants to ease the burden of the middle class. They plan to place “more money in the pockets of parents who need it every month, with a tax break that we are going to pay for by having the wealthiest pay a little more in taxes,” Justin Trudeau told Today’s Parent. Specifically, they would lower the tax rate on income between $44,700 and $89,401 by 1.5 percent to 20.5 percent and raise it for individuals earning more than $200,000. They’re also willing to go into a deficit to help boost the economy by investing in infrastructure programs. They plan to eliminate income splitting—they say it favours two-parent households and disproportionately helps people who don’t need help nearly as much as others do.

NDP: Mulcair has said that the first NDP budget will be a balanced budget. They have promised to lower taxes for small businesses and raise corporate tax rates. As for income splitting, they would scrap it, choosing to invest that money in middle-class families instead.

GREEN PARTY: To address poverty and a widening income gap, the party would implement a Guaranteed Livable Income. They would replace several social security programs to establish a minimum income. In terms of the budget, May says, “It’s preferable, of course, to live within your means, but we are not ideologically wedded to always balancing the budget.” The party would also eliminate income splitting, reduce taxes for small businesses and raise the corporate tax rate. They also pledge to create a national pharmacare program and cover dental costs for low-income youth.

SafePlay_Beatrice

Crime

Overall police-reported crime has been falling for more than 20 years. In fact, in 2013, Statistics Canada reported that the country had experienced the lowest crime rate since 1969. It doesn’t mean, however, that we feel safer.

CONSERVATIVES: Over the years, the party has maintained a tough-on-crime approach. Firmly against the decriminalization of marijuana, they’ve pledged $4.5 million to crack down on grow ops and promised to launch a hotline for parents concerned about their kids using drugs. Their signature legislation, the controversial Bill C-51, which passed in June, increases the powers of the police and CSIS to conduct expanded surveillance, share information between different agencies and arrest without a warrant for suspected terrorist activities.

LIBERALS: The party supports mandatory minimum sentences for serious and violent offences. They are in favour of legalizing and regulating marijuana (arguing regulation makes it harder for kids to access it and takes profits away from organized crime). The party supported Bill C-51 but plans to implement greater oversight of security agencies.

NDP: The party has pledged to hire 2,500 more police officers across the country. They’ve called for an increase in restorative justice. As well, they’d strengthen rules for sentencing dangerous offenders. On the pot issue, they call for decriminalization but not full legalization.

GREEN PARTY: In their platform, the Greens argue it’s time to legalize the adult use of marijuana. In addition, they call for increased funding to safe-injection sites, treatment facilities and addict rehabilitation. They would like greater oversight of agencies involved in counterterrorism measures.

HealthyPlanet_Oliver

Environment

Canada has an abysmal record on the environment. In a recent report that compared 61 countries on their climate policies, renewable energy and efforts to combat greenhouse gas emissions, we ranked very, very low—just ahead of Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia.

CONSERVATIVES: This spring, the party pledged to ambitiously cut emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 (it’s a bold promise given that we haven’t been able to meet previous targets). They are strongly in favour of building gas pipelines to get oil from the tar sands to refineries and port. As well, they’d like to promote angling and hunting tourism and would work to improve the habitats of key species harvested by hunters and trappers.

LIBERALS: Trudeau has said he’ll work with the provinces to develop a national framework for putting a price on carbon. The party promises to invest $200 million to support innovation and clean technology in forestry, fisheries, mining, energy and agriculture. They will increase protected marine and coastal areas by 10 percent over the next five years, and they promise to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. The party opposes the Northern Gateway pipeline but supports the Keystone XL pipeline.

NDP: The party plans to eliminate subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and create a cap-and-trade system, which would put a market price on carbon (they wouldn’t, however, impose a system on provinces that already have a carbon strategy). They’d reinvest any money generated into green energy. While they support the Energy East pipeline from the oil sands to eastern Canada, the party opposes the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines. Mulcair has also vowed to strengthen laws to protect our lakes and rivers.

GREEN PARTY: The party wants to halt the use of fossil fuels by mid-century, including a rapid phase-out of coal-fired plants. They oppose all pipeline plans and would make all carbon fuels subject to a carbon fee. “If we approach addressing the climate problem aggressively, that’s a way to stimulate the economy and avoid a recession,” May toldToday’s Parent.

Read more:
Today’s Parent interviews Prime Minister Stephen Harper>
Today’s Parent interviews Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau>
Today’s Parent interviews NDP leader Thomas Mulcair>

Today’s Parent interviews Green Party leader Elizabeth May>

8 lunch recipes for kids who hate sandwiches

Today's Parent | posted Thursday, Sep 24th, 2015

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Have a kid who has an aversion to anything with bread (and wraps too)? Pack up one of these yummy recipes for her school lunch.

5 ways to beat back-to-school anxiety

Today's Parent | posted Tuesday, Sep 8th, 2015

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10 healthy school lunch ideas

Today's Parent | posted Tuesday, Aug 25th, 2015

Snack

This lunch combines two of kids’ loves: waffles and bacon for one surprising sandwich. When packing, place pieces of waxed paper or foil between all layers to keep them fresh and wrap sandwich in parchment. Pack mayo separately in its own mini squirt bottle. Before eating, remove waxed paper or foil and squirt mayo onto waffle.

Get the recipe: BLT Waffle-Wich> 

Bet you didn’t know how easy it is to make your own fruit leather. With only four simple ingredients, this one is more nutritious and super fun to pack.

Get the recipe: Blueberry-Apple Fruit Leather>

For more healthy school lunch ideas click here.

Teacher confessions: 5 things parents should never do

Today's Parent | posted Monday, Aug 24th, 2015

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When my kid started Junior kindergarten last year, it took me weeks (OK, months) to send in a family photo for his teacher to hang in his cubby. For some reason, I just couldn’t get it together to print off a picture from my smartphone. Turns out I’m one of those moms: the friendly type who wants her child’s teacher to like her, but who actually makes the job difficult by neglecting to meet a simple request.

Read more: School lunches: Fun printable meal planner>

I’m not alone either: There are hordes of parents out there who inadvertently annoy their children’s teachers. Some are borderline neurotic, obsessing over which type of glue stick will get their little one into Harvard, while others are a bit too lax, sending their kid to school in flip-flops on gym day. While we all have the best of intentions, here are five ways to avoid aggravating your child’s teacher and get off on the right foot this school year.

1. Save the socializing

We all want to connect with our child’s teacher, but guess what? She doesn’t need a new BFF. Don’t take it personally—you are indeed warm and fabulous—but she has a job to do and that job is to teach your kid. Even just a friendly, “How was your weekend?” first thing Monday morning can throw off the entire day’s schedule.

“When parents socialize with me during drop-off, it’s transition time and one of the most difficult periods of the day—often I’ll have 15 kids waiting for my attention,” says Jennifer Sullivan,* a teacher at a Toronto school. “There are some moms I really love, but I don’t have time to schmooze. Remember: Everything with us is ruled by bells and minutes.”

Read more: What to do when you don’t like your child’s teacher>

Sullivan once had a parent volunteer in the classroom who insisted on debriefing after each visit. “I let her know how much I appreciate that she comes in every week, but that I have 25 kids waiting for me. When she didn’t get the hint, I finally had to say, ‘Why don’t you stick around and talk to me at lunch or let’s connect another time,’” says Sullivan. Ultimately, she ended up avoiding this parent altogether. “I’d either rush by or say, ‘Hey, I’m just going to get some photocopies done.’ It’s uncomfortable.”

That’s not to say you can’t be friendly with your child’s teacher. By all means, say hello, share a smile. But know your boundaries. You’re working together to give your child the best possible educational experience, not to tag each other on Facebook.

2. Abide by the rules (yes, you!)

Turns out there are many grown-ups out there who don’t believe the rules apply to them (and we wonder where our kidsget it from). Natasha Sweeny* teaches grade four at a school that has a “kiss ’n’ ride” system to help with traffic flow during drop-off. She can still recall the time a parent stopped in a no-parking zone. “She insisted she had the right to stop there and went ballistic, calling the teacher on duty every name in the book in front of students and parents,” she says. “We had to get the police involved to make it clear that parents need to follow the rules.” Remember, you’re not the exception. That means no parking in the staff lot on those days you’re running late and have a super-important meeting to get to (this happened once at my kids’ school and a teacher was forced to park on the street and then got towed).

Read more: How to get the teacher you want>

Similarly, Sweeny is surprised by the number of parents who completely dismiss the school’s safety policies. She says doors remained locked during the day and visitors need to buzz in, then sign in and get a badge from the office before they’re allowed in the hallways. “It’s a clear rule for a really good reason. But there are always parents—often they’re on the board or volunteers with a sense of entitlement—who sneak in behind students, then stand outside the classroom waiting to give their child a forgotten lunch. It’s ridiculous! Even I have to be buzzed in every day.”

3. Stop sniping about summer

Do not tell your child’s teacher, “Must be nice to have had the summer off!” Instead, try something like “I hope you’re refreshed and ready for 10 months of go, go, go!” Yes, we all work hard at our jobs and we’d all love some downtime during the summer months. But, please, keep the passive-aggressive comments to yourself, and remember that teaching is a profession like few others. “I don’t work in an office,” says Sullivan, “I can’t take five minutes to breathe when I have a splitting headache. I don’t get to go to my own kids’ school concerts or even answer the phone when their school nurse calls. My priority is keeping your kids safe.” Not to mention that a lot of teachers spend their summers upgrading their credentials or planning coursework. In other words, be happy your child’s teacher is coming back re-energized and ready to focus on the year ahead.

4. Take a chill pill

While it’s good to be prepared for the school year, don’t stress over the little things. Kindergarten teacher Olivia Davidson* says there are always one or two parents who are overly anxious about their child starting school. Before the start of the year, she sends parents a list of supplies to buy. One mother responded with a slew of urgent emails bordering on the neurotic: “I’m at the drugstore. There are lots of different sizes of glue. Which one exactly do you want? Big or small? I’m so nervous, what if I get the wrong one?”

“She bombarded me with emails—and this was in August!” says Davidson. “I’m a mother myself, and so I get it, but this woman showed up with three different types of glue.”

Read more: Preschool: Teaching proper pencil grip>

5. Don’t be a slacker

On the other end of the spectrum are the overly lax parents who make teachers’ jobs harder because they can’t be bothered to send in forms or basic writing utensils. My own kids’ principal told me that she has parents of anaphylactic children who don’t even send in an extra EpiPen like they ask for (just a matter of life or death, no big deal). Davidson asks each new kindergartener to come to school with an extra set of clothes in a labeled zip-top bag in case they have an accident or get wet during recess. “Parents think their kids won’t have an accident, but it’s very common in kindergarten,” says Davidson. “We’ll send them home in stuff from the lost and found bin, then parents will freak that they’re not in their own clothes!’”

Last year, of the 11 children in her class, four had still not sent in sunscreen by May, as requested (because of allergies, Davidson says she’s not allowed to apply sunscreen on a child unless it’s labelled with their name). “One kid got burnt while playing outside during recess—I felt like the worst teacher, but there was really nothing I could do,” she recalls. “Everyone’s busy, I get that. However, take two minutes, get some sunscreen, write your kid’s name on it and and shove it into her bag.”

Read more: Kindergarten: How to handle first day jitters>

Of course, this last comment made me realize there are really no excuses when it comes to basic tasks, such as sending in gym clothes or—ahem—a family photo. And after volunteering at my child’s end-of-year class trip in June, which meant helping to supervise 22 rambunctious five-year-olds, I was reminded of how hard teachers work day in and day out. The least we can do is follow some simple rules to ease the load.

Other pet peeves:

* Parents who freak out over class placement. Not everybody can get the teacher they think they want. You might be surprised: Another teacher might bring something unexpected to the table.

* Deciding that the best time to discuss major issues is during drop-off instead of setting up a meeting.

* Families who show up late to school because they think punctuality isn’t important, especially in kindergarten or when first period is physical education.

* names have been changed

The version of this article appeared in our September 2014 issue with the headline “Teacher Tell-All,” p. 53.

15 ways to save money on just about everything

Today's Parent | posted Tuesday, Aug 11th, 2015

Cheap

Cassie Howard, the mastermind behind one of Canada’s top frugal-living websites, MrsJanuary.com, wasn’t alwaysmoney savvy. In 2006 she was actually drowning in credit card bills.

“I was 18 years old and in terrible debt and decided to start couponing—and blogging to share my money-saving experiences,” says Howard, a Vaughan, Ont., mom of two. “It wasn’t until after eliminating my debt that I realized I actually enjoyed saving money.”

Today she has a full-time gig blogging about deals and smart spending tricks, making her money through advertisements on her site and by writing sponsored posts. Over the past eight years, Howard and her husband have purchased a house, a new vehicle and enjoy annual family vacations.

“A lot of people think being frugal means you don’t spend money, but it’s about being wise with your money and using your resources to get the most bang for your buck,” says Howard.

Couponing and price matching at the grocery store are nothing new, but there are many lesser-known strategies to help trim the fat from your family’s budget.

1. Pay attention to sale cycles
Knowing when things go on sale over the course of the year will help you stock up when items are at their lowest prices. You just need to be aware of sale cycles. Bedding and linens typically go on sale in January. Find the best deals on frozen food in March and on cleaning supplies, paint and cookware in April. Pick up discounted party supplies and bottled water in May and craft supplies in July. August is known to see sales on large appliances, while October features deals on denim, toys and games. (For a detailed list, visit MrsJanuary.com.) And if you’re a frequent Amazon.cashopper, free price-watching sites like Camelcamelcamel will alert you to Amazon’s price drops via email or Twitter.

2. Create a stockpile, but don’t get crazy
You probably don’t need 50 bottles of laundry detergent, but always having a backup on hand will save you from dashing to the store for a full-price replacement when you run out. As you notice sales, replenish your stock.

3. DIY cleaners
Homemade detergents and cleaning products don’t contain harsh chemicals and are much more cost effective. Dartmouth, NS, resident Kelly Warren makes her own cleansers and detergents. “Vinegar, baking soda, washing soda, Borax and Castile soap are a lot cheaper than store-bought items and clean just as well,” she says.

4. Use cash-back services
Cash-back incentives are a great way to earn money on things you would buy anyway. “Checkout 51” is a Canadian app that issues rebates. Each week, the app sends out new offers and, if you buy those items, credits your account when you submit photos of your receipts. For example, an offer might be to save 50 cents on tomatoes, or $2 on two boxes of cereal. Once you’ve earned $20 in rebates, a cheque will be issued to the address you registered.

If online shopping is more your bag, Ebates.ca is your golden ticket. After creating a free account, visit Ebates and type in the online store where you’d like to shop. You’ll then be redirected and shop as usual, but you’ll earn a percentage of your purchase back. It’s an easy way to line your pocket and cheques are mailed out every three months.

Sign up for newsletters from your favourite sites to receive promo codes and deals. But beware; it’s a slippery slope when discount offers bombard your inbox. Stay strong, and only buy what you really need.

5. Get free stuff
It’s not always a gimmick—free stuff is totally within your grasp! And you don’t have to spend your days filling out surveys hoping to get samples; use store reward programs to earn points, then cash them in for things you need.

“Learn how to earn the maximum amount of points for the least amount of money,” says Howard. “I love the Optimum points program at Shoppers; it’s changed my life as a parent. When my kids were little I’d always get diapers for about 10 cents or less per diaper with manufacturer coupons and points. A lot of the time, you will find sale items are cheaper than at other stores, especially if you take into account the amount of points you receive on extra points days,” she says.

New on the Optimum scene? Here’s how it works: Whenever you buy something at Shoppers Drug Mart, you earn points by scanning your Optimum card. Some items have bonus points and some days you can earn up to 20 times the points. Shoppers’s newsletters have tailored deals and alert you to their Spend Your Points events, which happen several times per year. Points are redeemable in increments of $10, $30, $60, $85 and $170. If you’re saving for a big-ticket item, it’s best to redeem your points during the Spend Your Points events when points are worth more than face value.

PC Plus is another card that can be used at all of the President’s Choice banner stores, like No Frills, Loblaws and Real Canadian Superstore, to earn points that you can spend to buy groceries or anything in the store, including clothing and gift cards. Every time you scan your card, the system logs your items, then caters deals to those types of products. Load your offers each Friday and watch your points add up. PC points are redeemable in 20,000 increments or $20.

6. Buy nothing new
A fun money-saving challenge is to shop exclusively second-hand for pretty much everything, from your clothing to your kitchenware. Thrift stores like Value Village, Talize and Once Upon a Child are brimming with practical finds, like cooldecor and household items, toys and barely used brand-name clothing, including big-ticket items like snowsuits. If you have time to search, shelves are lined with heavily discounted books for kids and adults. Not your thing to sift through thrift shops? Go online to check out local mom-swap groups, Kijiji and Craigslist for gently used kids’ items.

Of course, there are deals to be had at big-box stores, too. If you do buy new, wait for end-of-season clearance sales and buy for next year. Also snoop around for guarantees. Walmart and Sears promise replacements if your child wears out their gear—boots, shoes, clothes, coats—before growing out of them.

7. Make things
If you have the time and patience, homemade anything will stretch your dollar. Why spend six dollars on a store-bought greeting card when your kids can make one (and it will be much more appreciated by the recipient). Have your childrencraft trinkets (look to Pinterest for swoon-worthy DIY inspiration) for relatives to combine a fun activity with a birthday gift. Michaels craft store is a great place to stock up on supplies, with their standard 40 percent off one item deal, and sometimes up to 30 percent off your whole purchase (check Michaels.com for offers). You might also be surprised at the array of crafting goodies at your local dollar store.

8. Family fun on the cheap
Schlepping the fam for a day of fun can get pricey. But in many regions, the local library is more than just a great resource for renting movies and borrowing books—some even offer passes for local attractions. In Toronto, a member with a valid library card can obtain a free family pass (two adults and up to five children) for attractions like the Royal Ontario Museum and the Toronto Zoo. Doled out on Saturday mornings, some branches offer passes on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have draws. Similarly, the Hamilton Public Library in Ontario offers a museum pass that can be checked out. Other libraries offer kids’ book clubs, play groups and lessons. Call your branch to see what it has to offer beyond storytime. Howard also suggests following attractions on Facebook. “They often have promotions to save you money.”

9. Adjust thermostat settings 
We all know that an unexpected household expense can creep up like a stealthy ninja and, if you’re just making ends meet on a good month, even something small can throw you into debt. To make more wiggle room in your budget, shave some money off your monthly bills by using a thermostat with a timer that will lower the heat or AC while you’re out of the house or asleep, and try setting your regular temperature a degree or two warmer or cooler than usual, depending on the season. Be sure to change your heating and AC filters regularly. A dusty filter makes for a less effective system and can ultimately shorten its lifespan.

10. Avoid phantom energy use
Unplug items like the toaster, coffee maker and device chargers when not in use—do a nightly sweep of your house to make sure you’ve unplugged or turned off any unnecessary lights, electronics and ceiling fans. If you’re going away for a few days, you could even unplug your stove and hot water tank (but not in the winter, or your pipes will freeze!). Little one afraid of the dark? Rather than leave an energy-sucking lamp on, try an energy-efficient nightlight that turns itself off.

11. Double-check your meter readings
Make sure you’re not being overcharged on your bills. Utility workers are human, so mistakes happen. If your meter reading is less than your bill reflects, call and have it rectified.

12. Repair seals and cracks
Drafty windows and doors can lead you to crank up the heat, but you can easily fill cracks or repair seals yourself with supplies and a little instruction from the staff at the hardware store. Or try making your own draft blocker by sewing a thin piece of fabric the length of your door into a tube shape and filling with kitty litter or sand. You’ll be amazed at how well it blocks under-door drafts.

13. Embrace bundling and ask for savings
When it comes to things like your phone, Internet and cable, bundling options or using family plans to share minutes are good money-saving strategies. Even calling to ask if better deals are available can lead to surprising savings (this is also true with your banking options and fees). Check your services and cancel any that you don’t use, such as voicemail, caller ID, call waiting or add-ons through text. You can even call your credit card company and ask if they can lower your interest rate. Often times they’ll oblige.

14. Couponing: The struggle is real
Coupons are often for sugar-filled processed foods; saving money on produce can be tougher. After becoming a vegan, Howard struggled with couponing. “A lot of vegan- and vegetarian-friendly companies don’t advertise. But I found that if you call and ask, the companies will send you coupons,” she says. And what about those coupons you won’t use? Leave them on store shelves. Chances are someone will benefit from them.

15. Save money with your phone
Read all about money-saving apps here.

A version of this article appeared in our March 2015 issue with the headline, “Living on the cheap”, p.49.

5 family-friendly water parks in Toronto and the GTA

Today's Parent | posted Tuesday, Jul 28th, 2015

Waterpark

1. Splash Works – Canada’s Wonderland

Located in one of the country’s best-known amusement parks, Splash Works will have you feeling as awestruck as Alice in (Canada’s) Wonderland. The thrills and rides are enough to keep families busy all day, but the water park is a great place to cool off in the afternoon. New in 2015 is the Typhoon, where sliders will get twirled and swirled until they drop through the gaping 18-foot funnel. The younger kids can float down the Lazy River with mom or dad. Or get a two-person tube and go for a gentle slide on the Splash Island Waterways. Tiny tots can splash around under the mushroom waterfall, located in the shallow kiddie pool. Or for some real splish-splashing fun, there’s the Splash Island Sprayground and the Pump House—complete with waterfalls, water jets and a gigantic bucket ready to drench swimmers. For the thrill seekers, check out the Black Hole (prepare for complete darkness) or pair up on the Barracuda Blaster. Super Soaker is great for daring groups wanting to get wet—you go through a dark, winding tunnel before getting soaked. If you just want to ride the waves, head over to White Water Bay, one of Canada’s largest wave pools. Splash Works has it all, including cabana rentals, great food and shopping.

Dive in:
9580 Jane Street, Vaughan
905-832-8131
canadaswonderland.com  

Waterpark22. Kidstown

This hidden gem in Scarborough is the perfect place to take the kiddies on a scorching-hot summer day. There are no crazy water slides here, but it’s still a barrel of fun for younger kids. Get ready to yell “Timber” as your little ones stand under the tipping bucket, waiting for it to fill with cool, refreshing water before tipping over. Kids can clamber up the jungle gym, which is full of spray shooters waiting to get them wet. Around the park you’ll also find a splash pad, squirting animals, a wading pool and spray rings. There’s also a water slide for your tots to swoosh down into shallow water. If you don’t want to join in on the wet fun, there are lots of benches around the park that serve as a good perch from which to watch your kids. When it’s time for lunch, lay out a blanket in the grassy picnic area and enjoy a nice sandwich and juice box. You can even host a birthday party at Kidstown. Oh, and did we mention it’s free?

Dive in:
3159 Birchmount Rd., Toronto
416-396-8325
toronto.ca

Waterpark33. Great Wolf Lodge

Who hasn’t heard of this amazing indoor/outdoor water park in Niagara Falls? About an hour-and-a-half drive from Toronto, this lodge is definitely worth the drive because your kids will be all tuckered out (and quiet!) on the way home. Now, where to begin in this fun zone? Start at Fort MacKenzie, a multi-level treehouse, where your little monkey can climb over the suspension bridges while trying not to get wet. At the end, kids can whoosh down the Beaver and Squirrel Falls slides, where a big bucket of water drops on them at the bottom. Toddlers will love Chipmunk Cove, a forest full of mini water slides. Your preschooler can practice balancing on the Frog Pond—an agility course where your little frog has to jump from lily pad to lily pad. But don’t worry—if she falls off, you’ll be right beside her in the water. This gigantic amusement centre is also home to the Canada Vortex, a slide with a huge drop, where you and a family member get shot into a cannon bowl and either drop forwards or backwards—it’s a surprise! Niagara Rapids Run is a water rollercoaster that features a 52-foot drop and will scare the screams right out of anyone. And if you’re looking for a raft ride, check out the Woolly Mammoth or the Grizzly Falls, Eagle Falls and Bobcat Falls. If the temperature drops, you can take a dip in the heated outdoor pool, Loon Lagoon. Great Wolf Lodge has your family covered for a splashing good time, no matter the weather.

Dive in:
3950 Victoria Avenue, Niagara Falls
1-800-605-9653 (reservations) OR direct line 905-354-4888
greatwolf.com

More on family-friendly parks here.

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