Free shit to do with your toddler in Montreal

Are you a broke parent? Know some broke parents? Here’s some free shit to do with your toddlers in the city.

Photo by drewzuckerman via Flickr

If you have a toddler, you have probably discovered by now that there are terrible places to spend time with them: coffee shops, china shops, restaurants with white tablecloths, historic walking tours and toy stores.

There are also many activities designed for children that will milk you for every penny that you have, like fairs, apple orchards, snow villages etc. First they charge admission, and then the first thing you encounter on walking through the gates is a train ride. These rides are seldom free. And then there’s the greasy, overpriced food — your children will want you to buy them a corn dog and some fries, sandwiches you packed for them be damned.

Even if you go on the train ride and buy a corn dog, your toddler will probably still throw an epic tantrum, and you’ll have to go home after being out for half an hour. You will be miserable, your toddler will be miserable and you will be down at least 20 bucks.

Here are some things that you can do with your toddlers for free so that you can have tired and overstimulated children without the cost.

1. Find out what is happening at your local public library. If you don’t have a library card yet, get one — the library’s a great place to hang out in air conditioning on a hot day, and also when it’s cold out and you and your children just want to get out of the house. La Grande Bibliothèque at Berri-UQAM has a beautiful children’s room in the basement, and there is also a children’s library at Atwater.

Let your kids choose any books, CDs or DVDs they please. Librarians want children to fall in love with the library early on, so many of them even organize activities for preschoolers. Check your local library’s website or ask a librarian to find out when the next story hour is or if there’s anything else happening.

2. Let them watch some bulldozers. If your child is a Bob the Builder fan, he or she will probably love to see some real construction equipment in action. Sit at a safe distance from a construction site with them and let them watch the trucks. There are numerous places in Montreal where this is possible. They’ll provide you with minutes of good, clean entertainment for your wee bairns.

3. Take them to a protest. This activity may make some parents nervous, but you will probably be safe if you go to a protest that many other families are attending — the demonstrations on the 22nd of every month are a pretty good bet. Give your kids some pots and pans and whistles, and let them go to town. They’ll be joining in with the protest chants in no time. Maybe they’ll even get to hug Anarchopanda. The best part is that nobody will get mad at you if your toddlers are throwing tantrums because nobody will be able to hear them.

4. Festivals, festivals, festivals. Keep an eye open for free activities at festivals. It’s probably not a good idea to take your toddlers to a play at the Fringe Fest, but there’s always the Fireworks Competition. You can also bring them to free outdoor shows at the Jazz Festival; take them out of the stroller and boogie with them while they’re still too young to be embarrassed by your groovy dance moves. If they get antsy and grumpy, you can just leave without being upset about wasting money on a ticket.

5. The park: not just a place where you can get drunk. Taking your kids to the park seems like such an obvious thing to do that I almost didn’t include it. There is, of course, playground equipment and ample space for children to run around in. There are also many other things happening at the park; some, like Jarry Park, have free swimming pools (check to see if your local park has a baby pool). There are theatre troupes that go from park to park putting on shows for children. There are people walking dogs, and there are ducks. Bring a kite and pack a picnic (don’t forget the wine!) and have a fun and relaxing time. ■

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