I’ve been to the Ontario Science Centre countless times, but yesterday was by far the most special. It was the first time I took Elowyn. As a child I would go almost every year and remember how endless the exhibits seemed. I would discover something new each time I visited, something I wanted to learn more about. As a teen I was promoted to Science Center guide when I would go with my nieces and nephew. It was rewarding answering their questions and seeing their eyes light up when they were able to grasp a new concept. Then I worked as a camp counsellor and took large groups of 6-8 year old children to the Science Centre on field trips. The amount of times we would count those campers during field trips was crazy; I felt like I was constantly counting and there was always at least one camper we needed to find. But I became an expert in navigating through all of Toronto’s top attractions: finding the bathrooms in record time, the best spots to eat, and the priority sections to see first.
Even with all of my Science Centre experience, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Elowyn’s first visit. Would she enjoy it? Would she be over-whelmed by all of the noise and March Break crowds? Was it a mistake leaving the stroller behind and opting solely for the carrier? What about the IMAX movie, would she sit through it or cry and need to be taken out?
Pro Tip: Buy your tickets online to skip the line and to secure your spot in the IMAX film of your choosing. The best ones sell out by noon!
When I commute with public transit, like I did to the Science Centre, or when we’re hiking I always choose the carrier. Especially now that Elowyn is at an age that she wants to walk around and explore on her own, the stroller becomes a cart to lug around our stuff more so than a way to transport her around.
There are ample “stroller parking” stations in the Science Centre as well as elevators, but do note that you are unable to bring your stroller into the Kids Zone or onto any of the many escalators throughout the centre.
On the short bus ride to the Science Centre, Elowyn fell asleep in the carrier. I was glad to be able to move through the crowded exhibits easily, while she was asleep, because I had opted for the carrier. Fact the first about bringing a toddler to the Science Centre: toddlers nap, so you’ll likely have a chance to see some of the sections that you or older children are interested in that don’t have a specific area geared towards younger kids. For example in the “Human Edge” we learned about how larger ridges on bones are indicative of more muscle mass. Bones develop ridges where muscles are attached; the taller skeleton apparently had a more active lifestyle. #originalfitchick
Elowyn woke up when we were in the new “Castle Builder” Special Exhibit. She was instantly mesmerized, “oooh, wow!” and wanted to get out of the carrier “down”. In the castle builder exhibit there’s a toddler area with giant blocks and soft legos. Elowyn loved it! I was beaming, watching Elowyn in joyous disbelief at how many large blocks there were to build towers with, and taking pictures with my proud-parent smile on.
Next up was the Rain Forest exhibit, which hasn’t changed much in the last decade but why mess with a good thing. Elowyn found the turtle when we were crossing the bridge, “turdle, turdle!”. She was also interested in the blue frogs and was probably wondering why all of the frogs in her books are green when they come in all sorts of bright colours.
The best part of our adventure was our next stop: Kidspark! It’s an area for children 8 and under, with two large enclosed toddler areas. Elowyn has been to indoor playgrounds before but I’m usually close by her side the entire time (since some of the toys/equipment is for older children) but in this toddler area I waited outside the gates.
She was completely independent and I resisted the urge to run to her rescue when a little boy accidentally knocked her over (she was fine, no tears, got right back up).
I stood by admiring how well she was doing all on her own and how much she has grown over the last few months. She discovered that a wheel shaped foam pillow was capable of rolling and was fascinated, trying again and again to make it roll. Elowyn was also speaking to other kids (showing them a book she found) and was very interested in the aquarium.
The Kidspark had other areas that were very toddler friendly despite not being enclosed. The garden was a big hit where you could pick fruits and vegetables and add them to your basket or wheelbarrow. There was also a super-market where kids could shop or pretend they were the cashier and cash other children out.
The musical instrument section was popular but extremely loud; I couldn’t last long having barely slept the night before. #momlife
We avoided a large water-table because I didn’t want a soaking wet Elowyn on my hands, but maybe next time when she’s a little older. The older kids were loving the large castle play-center and the walk around in a circle as you watch a tornado form station. Something to look forward to!
There were large family washrooms in the Kidspark but to be honest I was dreading changing Elowyn’s diaper. I don’t do well in public washrooms; the strong smell makes me quite nauseous. So I was extremely pleased to discover that not only were the washrooms large, and immaculate, there was absolutely no smell! Thank goodness. We also used the Baby Care rooms later in the day and they were similarly in great condition and super quiet. A nice break from the March Break madness!
It had been a fun-filled day, but it was time to go line up for the IMAX Amazon Adventure movie.
Pro-tip: Arrive at least 30mins early to your show, to get a good spot in line, so you don’t end up having to sit too close to the screen (where it’s difficult to see the whole picture without craning your neck).
This was Elowyn’s first movie in a theatre and she loved it! The first half at least, before she fell asleep. She was hooked from the intro, pointing to the tunnel on the screen and saying “wow!” and then loved seeing all of the animals, yelling out the ones she recognized. The film documented Henry Bates’ journey through the Amazon, in the 1850s, and his discovery of mimicry that Darwin called the “beautiful proof” for natural selection. Mimicry is the phenomenon of animals adopting characteristics of other animals that give them an advantage against predators. I enjoyed it so much I would see it again!
I’m already looking forward to taking Elowyn back to the Science Centre. It’s going to be incredible seeing her understand more and more with every trip.
On her very first trip to the Science Centre Elowyn learned how to spin a wheel that was almost her size!
She successfully played with other children and worked together to build a tower out of giant blocks and legos. She was a pro gardener and figured out the concept all on her own; before I had a chance to show her anything she was already picking potatoes and adding them to her basket. She noticed the turtle before I did in the rainforest. And she pointed to the hot air balloon and said “ups” and “down” as the model floated up and slowly came back down.
I’m so proud of my little scientist. Final Verdict: Toddlers can definitely benefit from a trip to the Science Centre!
What Makes the Science Centre Child-Friendly?
- Free Admission for Children 2 and Under
- Stroller Parking, and Easy Access to Elevators
- Convenient large Loonie Lockers
- Stuff away those bulky winter jackets or packed lunches
- Clean, Non-smelly Family Washrooms
- Quiet Baby Care Rooms (perfect for nursing and changes)
- A Huge Kids Zone for Children 8 and Under!
- Two enclosed Toddler Areas
- Easy to find and helpful Staff Members
- Brown-Bag Lunch Spots and Restaurant Options
- IMAX films with Captivating Music and Animals
- Outdoor Family Nature Escape (opening Spring 2018)
Which Toronto attraction should I review next to see if it’s as toddler friendly as the Science Centre?