Who doesn't envy the child whose birthday falls in the summer? The warm weather offers a multitude of options for 'cool' birthday parties. But keep in mind that the key to success is to gear the party to your child's interests and always have contingency plans because in Toronto, even summer weather can be unpredictable.
Kids love water and the GTA abounds with splash pads, beaches and outdoor pools where you can have your birthday celebration.
The City of Toronto lists 40+ Splash Pads at: toronto.ca
Find one with a playground and a covered area for snacks and you have an instant party.
For a real outdoor beach party, you can't beat a day at one of our beautiful conservation areas. Reserve a picnic site with a shelter and enjoy sun, sand and swimming. Albion Hills and Heart Lake also offer watercraft rentals.
To scout out locations go to: trca.on.ca
Old fashioned backyard fun
What could be easier than a "fun in the sun" backyard bash featuring a wading pool, sprinklers and simple water games? Childcare provider, Ruth Archambault recommends: "Have your guests arrive in bathing suits ready for fun." ;
She also suggests some simple games to keep the kids happy and wet.
• Water Balloon Toss — Have water balloons ready, children form a circle and toss a water-filled balloon around until it pops.
• Ladle Race — Fill one bucket per team with water and place another empty one a distance away. Children scoop the water with the ladle and race to fill the empty bucket. The team with the most water is the winner.
• Water Limbo — How low can you go? Use the garden hose instead of a stick for a unique limbo game. Add some music and watch the kids get down.
Susan Jennings-Wood has held some great parties for her daughters ages 4 and 6. One of her favourites was a Luau Party. Each guest received a lei and a grass skirt. A sun piñata quickly became a shower of candy, and the kids decorated beach bags with spray paint using sun stencils.
If you need more "boy friendly" summer themes try a Survivor Challenge, a Backyard Campout or a Pirate's Treasure Hunt. ;
Keep the food simple by barbecuing or serving picnic-type foods such as finger sandwiches, chips and veggies with dip. Popsicles, ice cream and lemonade are always welcome on hot days.
The party must go on
In the true Canadian spirit, the party must go on — rain or shine. ;
To be safe, make sure that the location for your festivities has an enclosure or an indoor alternative. ;
Here are some places that fit the bill:
• If you want to be 100 percent sure that you won't get rained on, take your gathering to the indoor Wave Pool in Richmond Hill (905) 508-9283. Packages include a party room.
• Try Ontario Place where the kids can enjoy the water playground but still go inside for IMAX movies and snacks if need be. You can even rent the South Beach area with Olympic sized sand volleyball courts and open air tents. ontarioplace.com
This link includes info on the Today's Parent Play all day passport. Call (416) 314-9900 for automated info.
• Take the gang on a one-hour boat cruise of Toronto Harbour. Mariposa Cruises offers live narration, indoor and outside seating, washrooms and a cash bar for snacks. mariposacruises.com Call 416-203-0178 to book.
• For an even cheaper "boat cruise" take the ferry to Centre Island. Once on the island, be sure to visit the new Franklin Children's Garden — a free attraction where children can learn about plants and wetlands. Check out page 17 in our calendar for scheduled readings or performances. For more information call Access Toronto at 416-338-0338.
Veteran party-goer Patti Dolman points out that "outdoor parties in public places require smaller groups and more supervision. Toronto Island picnic parties need other parents accompanying but are great fun," she says. "There are huge shade trees and many picnic tables."
Around the GTA
"Hosting a children's birthday party at one of the many parks in Toronto can be a rewarding fun experience for all," says Brian Waterman, Recreation Coordinator for Earl Bales Community Centre. "Children can learn about the environment. Bring binoculars and magnifying glasses and let kids enjoy exploring nature at your doorstep."
He points out that many Toronto parks contain picnic sites with barbecues and fire pits that can be rented out for a nominal fee. Some have indoor facilities for rent as well. To get a permit for a picnic site or fire pit at one of Toronto's parks, call 416-392-8188.
This city abounds with great places to have warm-weather birthday parties. For the animal lover, Pucks Farm (pucksfarm.com) has birthday party packages that include hay rides and fruit picking. Riverdale Farm in Cabbagetown is a free place to take little ones for a simple picnic-type party. Older, more adventurous kids will enjoy Funstation Park, which offers birthday parties that feature go-karting and mini-golf. Go to funstationpark.com for details.
Cool, Casual and indoors
Indoor air-conditioned venues are fun for times when it is too hot to even think of going outside. Bowling alleys, movie theatres, and roller skating rinks offer birthday packages that include a party room and food options. At Famous Players, your can pick your own theme and food choices.
Back it up
If your heart is set on an outdoor party, then having a back-up plan is must in case of a dire weather report. It can be as simple as having some videos ready at home with microwave popcorn or planning some indoor games or crafts on hand just in case.
The come to you
The easiest parties are those where the party comes to you.
Whimz Live Animal programs offer interactive animal experience parties in your own home. Different animals are introduced one at a time and each guest has the opportunity to handle them. To book call: 416-656-7894.
If your little one has energy to burn, it's time to bring in the inflatables. Farco Entertainment specializes in delivering equipment and talent to parties. They rent carnival games, inflatable jumping bouncers and have a stable of clowns, musicians and magicians for hire. Go to farcoentertainment.com for details.
Children feel like superstars at "make your dreams come true" events.
Who doesn't love a pony ride? But to have a pony give all your friends rides at your house — well that would be the best party ever. Charlene Meecham of The Party Ponies provides exactly that experience. "My party package includes one pony for an hour, which is suitable for up to 12 kids," she says. The ponies are decorated and hand-walked. She has done thousands of parties and finds that at each one, "children and parents are in awe of the entire event."
A spa party makes girls feel like princesses, and summer is the time for them to show off a new look. Exhale Mobile Spa (exhalemobilespa.ca) brings the spa experience to your home. The party package includes manicures, pedicures and makeup application. If you're on a budget, why not hire some teenagers or get your friends involved and create your own in-home spa party.
Budding superstars will love the cool parties offered by Planet Dance Entertainment. Your home can be transformed into a night club with their All Ages Club Party, or if your kid likes to go retro they have a Disco Divas Package. Call 905-709-2411 for more information.
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