Toronto for Family and Kids
If you are moving to Toronto with children or planning on kids then this city is by the best place in North America to raise them. We moved to Toronto about a year ago, with two kids under 4 years from the United States and noticed a lot of differences in attitudes, services and programs available for mothers, families and kids.
In Toronto children’s needs and welfare is given a high priority and services and resources are provided to give them every advantage. Some of the things we noticed and greatly appreciate are:
New moms get one year of paid maternity leave. As parents we understand how important that one year period is for the mom and child to bond. Free healthcare for the family. For children you can choose to either see a family doctor or a pediatrician. Sick Kids, the second-largest paediatric research hospital in the world is based in Toronto. Medical treatments at the hospital are covered by publicly funded health insurance. We’ve heard so many great stories of treatment children have received in dire situations and all of it for free.
Toronto like India or Singapore has lots of nannies available to take care of young ones and it’s common for everyone to use nannies. In addition to taking care of your child, nannies also do light household chores. Your child gets personalized care as against the option of day care. The city of Toronto provides numerous programs for infants and toddlers to stay occupied during weekdays. Drop In centers located in public school buildings are like indoor play areas for children under 6 years. Good quality toys, learning materials and structured activities provides for both learning and play.
Community centres located in every neighborhood provide reasonably priced or free activities for infants and kids - swimming, music, arts and crafts, karate, soccer, ballet, ice skating… you name it and they’ll have it. Awesome children’s park everywhere. No matter where you are in the city, you are never far from a children’s playground. Well thought out play structures and splash pools (to beat the heat in summer). There are about 6 to 7 playgrounds walking distance from our house with every playground offering something unique.
Splash pools deserve a special mention, they were such a great hit with our kids in the summer. These knee deep pools have supervisors on site to make sure kids have safe water play.
The Toronto Public Library is a great resource and you’ll often find a branch walking distance from your house. The library branches offer great programming for kids including storytime, LEGO play, puppetry and more. And they have great selection of children’s book and you can browse and books online. We’ve found every title we wanted - all the award winning books, new releases, classics. The hold option is great, any book that’s not available at our local branch will be fetched for you within a few days.
Unlike in the US, Toronto Public Schools offers two years of Kindergarten starting at the age of 4 years. The kindergarten program is modeled on the Montessori method with emphasis on learning through play. Additionally Toronto Schools offer French as a second language. You can enroll your child as early as Senior Kindergarten for the french immersion program.
Great sense of community. Though we are barely one year old in Toronto we already have tons of friends in our neighborhood. Through parks and the school we got to meet other parents. Our children have friends in the neighborhood and they often have impromptu play dates. Specially in the summer when the sun is out till late our children play outside till late in the park or in laneways with other children. We love this outdoor, minimal parent interference during play. For some reason this kind of free range outdoor play was missing or very limited in the US.
Another difference we’ve found moving here from California was how walkable the city was. We didn’t need strap our kids into a car for every little thing. All the kids stuff is within walking distance, contained within the neighborhood and so much less driving.
There are great places to explore outside the city. Niagara Falls, lavender farms, lakes, woods, camping and cottages are just few of so many things one can do. Via Rail is a great way to travel with kids to explore other cities. We’ve been to Montreal couple times by train and our kids loved the train experience
It is no wonder that Toronto was named the world’s 4th most livable city by the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2017 survey, which examined five categories - stability; healthcare; culture and environment; education; and infrastructure - in 140 cities.