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5 playgrounds in Toronto that are way better than the usual sanitized safety zones | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey | #hacking | #aihp

Growing up in the 90s, I have vivid, incredible memories of spending my time climbing those great, old wooden Toronto playgrounds, monkey bars that felt 100 feet from the ground, and metal slides that sent me racing down without a care.

Fast forward to today, and I’m a mom and stepmom of four young and adventurous kids, and I’m grappling with the frustration of witnessing the transformation of those thrilling playgrounds into sanitized safety zones.

Before Toronto’s playgrounds evolved into glorified bubble balls, my childhood was a symphony of daring escapades. Over the past few decades, the essence of adventure has been stripped away, leaving my children’s development at stake and their playtime cut short.

Photo by Erin Horrocks-Pope.

During my childhood, an overwhelming near-stifling concern for child safety set in motion a wave of change, transforming playgrounds in the city and swapping out heart-pounding thrills for rubberized surfaces and gentle inclines.

I still remember as if it were yesterday the demolition and “revitalization” of two of my favourite childhood playgrounds, partially due to a call from local parents for safer structures after some playground-related injuries.

The intentions of these parents and the city were clear and reasonable: to minimize the risks of injuries and potential lawsuits that may follow.

However, as someone with young kids who love a challenge, I can full-heartedly admit I would prefer the old structures back that could provide my kids both the physical and cognitive challenges I know they need to succeed in their lives.

The well-intentioned push for safety has inadvertently led to stifling our children’s development and creativity. Our playgrounds, once arenas of adventure and self-discovery, have become tediously repetitive and sterile.

The result? Boredom sets in too quickly, and our visits to these playgrounds are reduced to mere rituals, lacking the magic and thrill that would have kept us parents occupied for hours once upon a time.

I want my children to get lost in their play. I want them to experience the exhilaration of taking risks, conquering their fears, and finding fleeting friendships through shared adventures.

After all, playgrounds are about more than just play — they’re backdrops that lay the foundation for the confidence, resilience, and problem-solving skills kids need to grow into well-rounded adults.

Here are some of the best playgrounds in Toronto that thrill both my kids and me, leaving us exhausted and ready for bed when we get home (as it should be).

Jamie Bell Adventure Playground

The Jamie Bell Adventure Playground in High Park (lovingly referred to as the “Castle Playground”) is an absolute treasure.

It’s like our kids’ wildest dreams brought to life. This iconic Toronto playground was ingeniously designed based on children’s drawings of their dream play area — and it shows.

Photo by Jeff Hitchcock via flickr.

With its multiple levels, twisting tunnels, exhilarating slides, and intricate climbing structures that provide physical challenges and encourage determination and problem-solving, it’s the ultimate haven for my little explorers.

I can’t help but smile as I watch them get lost in hours of imaginative play and boundless excitement on the playground and surrounding forest. 

Sharon, Lois & Bram Playground

The Sharon, Lois & Bram Playground in June Rowlands Park is a real treasure for our family of adventure-seeking kids. Named after the legendary musical trio from our own childhood, it’s a playground where creative play and thrilling challenges blend seamlessly.

What it may lack in size, it undoubtedly makes up for in creativity. The joyous musical theme, with instruments scattered throughout, sparks creativity and imagination.

best playgrounds in toronto

Photo by Erin Horrocks-Pope.

The climbing structures are perfect for satisfying my kids’ craving for physical and mental challenges, all while I enjoy their laughter. With the added bonuses of a splash pad, sandbox, and more, it’s a go-to family destination for fun and adventure in the city.

Allan Gardens Playground & Conservatory

Allan Gardens Park Playground and Conservatory is a true gem for my curious kids. One of Toronto’s newer playgrounds, this space offers an array of exhilarating features, from multiple climbing structures to an enthralling netted roundabout that can occupy my kids for hours on end.

But what truly makes our visits memorable is the botanical conservatory next door, a haven of natural wonder featuring six lush indoor greenhouses, each a different world of climates and exotic flora.

best playgrounds in toronto

Photo by Erin Horrocks-Pope.

We always start our visit at the turtle pond because the kids are obsessed with counting and studying the turtles. It’s a complete adventure package that combines the joy of play with the wonders of nature, making Allan Gardens one of our favourite places to spend a day.

Kew Gardens Playground

Kew Gardens Playground was the playground I grew up playing in, so it holds a special place in my heart. While it’s a bit of a sore spot for me due to changes over the years, it’s still a great place for the kids.

It offers creative and adventurous play with its castle-themed structure that hides passageways and kid-sized corridors, perfect for games of hide-and-seek. There are also smaller climbing sections, playhouses for imaginative play, and a wading pool to cool off in on hot days.

best playgrounds in toronto

Photo by Erin Horrocks-Pope.

The location is a bonus. In the heart of The Beaches, it’s near the beach (obviously) making it a perfect summer destination, and it has lots of cafes nearby for my fellow caffeine-obsessed parents.

St. James Park Playground

The St. James Park Playground is designed with a unique food market theme, seamlessly blending nature and natural materials to recreate the charm of a historic market while infusing playful food elements.

The standout features include food market stalls and oversized stacked wooden crates filled with giant fruits and vegetables, which make it feel like a whimsical culinary adventure.

best playgrounds in toronto

Photo via Friends of St. James Park.

But what truly sets it apart are the rubber mounds of chocolate, pistachio, and vanilla ice cream, which are delightfully bouncy, allowing children and even their adults to leap from one to the other.

And let’s not forget the vegetable-inspired fun — with asparagus sprouts to climb and carrot balance beams to conquer, it’s a playground that sparks creativity and offers many thrilling challenges.

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