Countdown to the 2018 High Park Harvest Festival!

Only four more sleeps until the High Park Harvest Festival begins! There’s plenty of fun to be had at the Children’s Garden and around the corner with our neighbours at Colborne Lodge Museum. The festivities run from 11 am to 5 pm with our free harvest lunch starting at 12:30 pm (while it lasts!).

Entrance to the Harvest Festival and the activities at the Children’s Garden are all free. Families can check out the Junkestra where kids can get creative and play with recycled musical creations. They can also make their own recycled instruments to take home.

An All-Ages Tea Party is also happening at the Festival with our Longtime Children’s Garden Friends Garden Jane (Jane planted the seeds that became our Children’s Eco Programs) and Emma, Founder of Blooming Caravan (and past Expansion Specialist, helping us spread our programs throughout the City)! This special program features tea play, mud pies, compost tea making, and make-and-take mini flower bouquets. Plus you’ll get to enjoy the book nook with garden stories for everyone! Come sip a cup of afternoon tea and take part in inter-generational activities for kids, grandparents, and everyone in between to enjoy together.

Live Green will be onsite to answer all your City related green/environmental questions with fun activities for the kids. There are also plenty of other fun crafts and activities throughout the Garden for everyone to enjoy!

It’s also our 20th Anniversary this year so there will be some celebratory cake available for everyone to enjoy! 

Down at Colborne Lodge everyone’s Harvest Festival favourites will be on site – artisans, local food, community organizations, museum friends, music, dance, pumpkin carving, apple bobbing – and of course our famous roast potatoes and apple cider. Some activity fees apply.

We’ll also be participating in the Ontario Natural Building Coalition’s Home Tour. People will be onsite to talk about the amazing eco-friendly aspects of our straw bale Children’s Teaching Kitchen.

 So much to see and do! We hope you’ll all join us on Sunday for all the fun!

High Park Harvest Fest Sunday, Sept. 30th!

How is it already the last day of camp!?! We’ve had a great summer with all of our young Eco Campers and are now looking forward to our Fall Programs. Registration starts Wednesday, September 12, 2018 at 7 am (note a different date than the usual)! Click here for more details.

The other fun fall activity we’re looking forward to is the High Park Harvest Festival! It’s happening Sunday, September 30, 2018 from 11 am to 5 pm. That’s right we said September 30th. That’s our second different date than usual! Thanksgiving falls on the first Sunday in October this year and we figured everyone might be a bit too busy to join us if we stuck with tradition.

It’s also the Children’s Eco Programs 20th Anniversary. We’ll have our usual Free Harvest Lunch (while it lasts!) for Harvest Fest but we’ll also have some fun birthday celebrations and of course a little Birthday Cake!

We can’t wait to see everyone at Harvest Fest!

Doors Open 2018 Birthday Party!

Join us for a little birthday celebration during Doors Open 2018! There will be birthday cake (while it lasts!), fun activities for the whole family and tours of our straw bale Children’s Teaching Kitchen.

We’re open Saturday, May 26th and Sunday May 27th from 10 am to 5 pm. You can check out the truth window in the Kitchen to see how straw bale buildings are built. Learn all about the sustainable features found in the Kitchen and check out the Solar Panels on the south roof. The Kitchen also features a green roof, radiant heating and fibreglass windows.

Don’t forget to visit our friends around the corner too! Colborne Lodge Museum is also participating in this years Doors Open Event. Check out their hours and information by clicking here.

It’s Our Birthday! CEP Turns 20!

TL;DR – We’ve provided thousands of fun and informative environmental education programs over the past 20 years and we hope to provide thousands more over the next 20!

A one year pilot program … turned into 20 years of garden and nature fun!

It’s our Birthday! For the past 20 years we have been honoured to share our love of nature, organic gardening and healthy cooking with children and youth from across the City. Together we have planted veggies, explored High Park and made some very tasty Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake.

As with many of the City of Toronto’s test projects, the High Park Children’s Garden started out as a one year pilot program. Back in 1997 the area just north of the Colborne Lodge Museum included a picnic shelter, parking lot and washrooms. It was quite isolated and our Museum friends around the corner were very much alone. In an effort to make the area safer and encourage people to visit the south end of the park, the City decided that a Children’s Garden with hands-on gardening programs would be the perfect solution … at least for a year.

So in the spring of 1998 holes were cut out of the asphalt in the parking lot, raised beds were made with old wood from an east end boardwalk and a fence was built and painted in what the Parks Branch considers a “classic” neon green colour. Seen from above those garden beds spelled out ABC with a few extra beds tucked in between to give us maximum growing space.

The initial design of the garden included a sand box tucked into the B surrounded by a perennial herb garden and native wildflower gardens on the hillside to reflect the naturalisation projects happening throughout High Park. In an effort to help educate students and families about composting in their own backyard, a variety of compost bins were added beside the picnic shelter helping round out the gardening program with a little compost education and lots of talks about worms! Over the next 5 years new elements were added including a Fedge, a.k.a. Food Hedge along one section of that classic neon green fence with a xeriscape bed planted in the 15.24 cm (6 inches) of soil on the opposite side. The big square bed in the middle of the C was turned into a pollinator garden to attract more butterflies, bees and beneficial wee critters.

The spring of 1998 was a busy one for nature based programs with the City of Toronto. As the High Park Children’s Garden was under construction a program was also being developed to draw attention to the new Discovery Walk Trails throughout the City. It was called the Exploring Toronto Program and its staff would take groups of students and community members on guided hikes through our parks and ravines. The aim of the program was to educate people about the diverse urban wilderness we are so lucky to enjoy here in Toronto. This nature education program proved to be quite popular and students were able to learn about the plants and animals that have adapted to life in the big city.

During the summer of 2001 the two programs officially became one and were then known as the Children’s Garden and Exploring Toronto Programs (it shows you just how dedicated to the programs we were by the simple fact we kept spelling this out for over 15 years!). This was also the summer we first offered six full weeks of Eco Camp (after having run a one week Eco Camp “Pilot Program” the previous year).

Campers participated in gardening activities, hiking and trips to Centre Island. Since that year we’ve expanded Eco Camp to run for 8 weeks during the summer and have added a Sprouts Eco Camp Program for 4 and 5 year olds and a Youth Eco Camp Program for 10 to 14 year olds.

As the years passed and our programs continued to expand, we found ourselves cooking more and more with the fruits and veggies from the Garden. Throughout the years we’ve also cooked up plenty of free harvest lunches for the High Park Harvest Festival and many of our summertime events.

In order to cook all of the yummy food we had to lug practically an entire kitchen around to different Community Centres in big Rubbermaid tubs. The one with the food processor in it was always the heaviest! After serving up all of those tasty treats back at the Children’s Garden, clean-up was also quite the challenge. Especially considering the lack of hot water onsite! This meant we had to wash thousands of dishes  in water heated over a camp stove while using three of those same Rubbermaid tubs (wash, rinse, sanitize!) as sinks.

Finally after packing and unpacking a borrowed City van for the hundredth time the decision was made to build a Children’s Teaching Kitchen. It would replace and use the same footprint as the old picnic shelter at the Garden. Now of course we are quite the environmentally friendly program so just any old kitchen wouldn’t do. We felt the need to make sure we built a kitchen that was environmentally friendly too. After many years of planning, a few false starts and a strike one summer … The straw bale Children’s Teaching Kitchen was finally born! Construction started in the fall of 2011 and our beautiful Kitchen opened the summer of 2012. The building of Kitchenland is a vast and adventurous tale which you can read all about by clicking here. It’s well worth checking out for the photos alone!

Once the Kitchen was built and our cooking programs were finally underway we knew it was time for another little change. It was then that we brought all of our programs together under the title of Children’s Eco Programs … our program name finally fit on our business cards!

Over the past 20 years our programs have continued to grow. We’ve even helped other City Community and Recreation Centres to start their own garden and nature programs. Also in addition to our original school programs and summer Eco Camps we’ve added our Watch Me Grow Family Drop-In Program, a March Break Eco Camp, Cooking with Veggies classes, Edible Cosmetics Workshops, Guide and Scout Programs and of course our Birthday Party Programs. Birthday Parties are all the rage at the Garden these days and a fun outing for the whole family!

Strolling through the High Park Children’s Garden on a sunny spring day can provide little glimpses of life poking its head out of the soil once again. Sauntering through in summer will make you hungry with all the tasty potential the harvest has to offer. Ambling about in autumn will have you marvelling at the plants hardy enough to take on a bit of frost and still keep growing. Wandering along in winter is the perfect time to dream of what to plant in the garden again next spring! A trip to High Park and the Children’s Garden is worthwhile at any time of year.

We’ve enjoyed travelling through time and sharing these fun stories of our humble beginnings and we look forward to creating new stories over the next 20 years with you! In the meantime we’ll keep all the little hands in the soil, little feet on the trail and little tummies in the kitchen!

Eco Camp Registration March 3rd, 2018 at 7 a.m.

It’s that time once again! Time to register for our fun filled, action packed, healthy eating but totally tastes good too, garden loving, nature crafting Eco Camp!

You can also sign up for our Children’s Cooking Programs, Edible Cosmetics Workshops and our Tuesday Spring Garden Programs (great for homeschool kids!). Below are the barcodes required for signing up and below that you’ll find our yearly Registration Preparation guide.

While our information here focuses mostly on our programs in High Park, the majority of the Registration Preparation information is transferable to all City of Toronto Recreation Programs. So good luck and get your coffee (or tea!) on for a successful 2018 Spring and Summer Registration session.

Click here to see our extended Call Centre hours so you can check in and find all your important Family Barcodes and PIN numbers!

Registration Preparation 2018

We’re creeping up on that time of year again! That rush of adrenaline, that setting the coffee machine for 6:45 am, that setting of 10 alarms to make sure you’re up in time, time of year again. That’s right 2018 Eco Camp Registration starts at 7 AM on Saturday, March 3rd. Of course it’s also the time to register for any spring or summer recreation programs that take place in Etobicoke/York with the City of Toronto 🙂

Remember registration is open to everyone across Toronto! We break our program registration down by location so our registration staff and computer systems can handle the number of people who want to sign up for all the fun.

So get those fingers ready to hit those redial/refresh buttons and register your campers for Eco Camp! You will also find our Caregiver and tot (4 to 5 years) and child (8 to 12 years) Cooking With Veggies Programs plus our Edible Cosmetics Workshops for 11-15 year olds open for registration on March 3rd.

For those of you wondering how the City of Toronto’s Recreation Program Registration process actually works here’s a little run-down:

  • Each district has it’s own registration start date. For Etobicoke/York it’s Saturday, March 3rd starting at 7 am (for other district dates click here). Anyone from across the city can register for a program in that district on the start date.
  • You have three options for registering for Rec/FUN Guide Programs. Click here for a description and instructions on how to register for City of Toronto Recreation Programs. For our programs we suggest using the phone (416-338-4FUN (4386) or touch-tone 416-338-0000) or going online in order to have the greatest chance at registering your camper.
  • Our available programming space (especially indoor space) is fairly small so our program size is quite limited. We would love to have hundreds of kids join us for Eco Camp each week but there’s only so much Garden to go around. Also note many other Community and Recreation Centres have issues with space and are unable to hold as many programs as they (and the community) would like.
  • If you do miss out on registering your camper for Eco Camp we also offer a free  Thursday morning drop-in program throughout July & Aug from 10 am to Noon. So please stop by for a fun filled morning of gardening, singing, nature crafts and games and experience a wee bit of what our programs are all about!

Now that you know the background info, here’s our yearly guide to registering for Summer Camp or any other popular city program. There are a few things you can do to make Registration Day a little easier for you! Here is a list of things to prepare for ahead of time:

  1. One of the most important tips we can give you is to fully register for all camps/programs first … then at a later time register for any extended care you might need. There will always be enough room in the Eco Camp (and any camp) Extended Care Program for every camper registered so you can sign up for it at any time.
  2. Start by finding your City of Toronto FUN Guide Registration Family and Client Numbers. If you can’t find them or you’ve never registered for a City of Toronto Recreation Program before please call 416-338-4FUN (4386) and a Customer Service Representative can help you (it’s important to do this ahead of time so you don’t waste time on Sat., Mar. 3rd!).
  3. Once you are set to register you can print out or write down the barcodes for each program you are interested in. See all of our barcodes in the links above. Keep all of your Client/Family numbers and Barcodes together in a safe (but not too “safe” 😀 ) place for registration day
  4. Bookmark the Program Registration Page where you can launch the Online Registration Site.
  5. Just before 7 am on Saturday morning (Mar. 3rd) dial into 416-338-0000 (for touch tone registration) or 416-338-4386 (actual human being) and launch the Online Registration Site. This way you can start hitting redial/refresh right at 7am. It will take a few tries … make sure to be awake enough to stop redialing/refreshing when you finally get in! (I’m guessing if you’re signing up for our Sprouts Camp you’re most likely awake at that time anyhow!).
  6. Once you’re in the system move quickly but not so fast you make mistakes. Also note that the Online Registration Site will timeout if you leave it alone for too long (and when I say too long … I’m talking less than 5 minutes).
  7. Please remember to mark on your calendar what weeks your camper is attending Eco Camp … we often have a number of last-minute cancellations and are unable to fill the spot even though our wait lists are quite long! 
  8. Once registered you will receive a Camper Information Package in the mail sometime late in April or early May. This package contains forms that need to be filled out and sent back before camp starts and a Parent Handbook to give you all the info you need to know about sending your Eco Camper to camp. Please fill out the forms and send them back by the date stated on the package!
  9. Please feel free to contact us at any time if you have questions 416-392-1329 or kidsgrow at toronto dot ca (spelled out to reduce spam).

A couple other things for your Registration morning checklist:

  1. Coffee, Tea or hot beverage of choice (for us non-morning folk … put everything out the night before so you can wake up just before 7 with caffeine available! For morning folk … please tell me your secret!  How do you do it!?)
  2. Calendar and/or Datebook – The first week of Camp in 2018 is July 3 to 6.
  3. Scrap paper, pen/pencil and/or printer for confirmation codes, etc.
  4. Don’t forget to write it down on the calendar, once registered!
  5. Having someone else around to cook you breakfast while you wait … certainly can’t hurt 😉

Good Luck Everyone and We Hope To See You At Camp This Summer!

In the Depths of a Magical Urban Forest …

You will find yourself stumbling upon a wondrous glade where an enchanted stronghold known as Kitchenland resides! Kitchenland is a wee corner of the High Park Kingdom. Here children learn how to grow veggies, cook healthy meals and treats, enjoy nature and have a little fun.

Have you ever wondered how the Children’s Eco Programs started here in High Park? How about the building of our amazing straw bale Teaching Kitchen? Here’s your chance to learn more about the Children’s Eco Programs through our fun and whimsical Kitchenland story. Enjoy!

Click here for the first chapter – From Caterpillar …

Introducing Our New Garden & Nature Weekday Programs

We’re introducing a fun, educational new program for our fall session. Garden and Nature and Around the Garden – with Caregiver are our two new weekday programs happening Tuesdays throughout the fall. 

To register for this program please go to the City of Toronto’s FUN Guide registration page.

For more information about the program check out our Garden & Nature Program Page.

Registration for our fall Garden & Nature Programs plus our fall Children’s Cooking Programs starts Saturday, Septmeber 9th, 2017 at 7 am. Get ready to hit those redial and refresh buttons!

FOUR MORE SLEEPS!!!

Only 4 more sleeps until Eco Camp Starts!!! Can you tell we’re Excited!?!?! Our Camp Counsellors have so many fun things in store for your campers they’ll be talking about Eco Camp all summer long. Here are a few tips and tricks to get you ready for Camp and to make Tuesday morning drop off go smooth and stress free.

First off there will be a couple more (quick and painless we promise!) forms for you to sign. These are permission forms for swimming, for the Junior & Youth offsite trip on Wednesday and the Sprouts trip to the splash pad on Thursday. If someone else is dropping off your camper we can sort this out over email. Please call Keely at 416-936-4983 if your child is not being dropped off by a parent or guardian or walking in by themselves. See below for more reminders for our Sprouts and Junior & Youth Campers. 

Sprouts (4-5 yrs):

  • Sprouts morning drop off location is right at the Children’s Garden in the South end of the Park. Don’t forget the road between Grenadier Restaurant and the Children’s Garden is a one-way road going south. If you have to drop off older campers at the picnic shelter near the pool plan your route accordingly! Click here for a map of High Park
  • Spouts need a swimsuit on Thursdays for their trip up to High Park’s fancy splash pad and wadding pool
  • Don’t forget sturdy hiking shoes or sneakers, a hat, sunscreen, a refillable water bottle, snacks and lunch
  • Click here for our Sprouts Eco Camp Parent Handbook

Junior (6-9 yrs) and Youth (10-14 yrs) Eco Campers:

  • We have swimming on Tuesday morning (also Thursday morning) so please make sure you pack a swimsuit and towel
  • Junior and Youth campers are dropped off towards the north end of the Park at the Picnic Shelter next to the pool and baseball diamonds (on the east side – the one-way northbound Colborne Lodge Drive side. Picnic shelter/area #15 on the map). Click here for a map of the park
  • Our older campers also do a lot of hiking so don’t forget sturdy hiking shoes or sneakers, hat, sunscreen, a refillable water bottle, snacks and lunch
  • Click here for the Junior & Youth Eco Camp Parent Handbook

Have yourselves a great long weekend and see you on Tuesday morning! ONLY FOUR MORE SLEEPS!