Huron Playschool Cooperative

Let's Play Outside!

Our Park

It's May and the weather is beautiful, and while we make a point of playing outside at playschool all year round (and in all kinds of weather too), there is special delight in the returning of spring, sunshine, and the leaves on the trees. We're so lucky that Huron-Washington Park is our park too—such a fantastic place to play. Which makes us think of how blessed we are to have so many incredible green spaces here in Toronto, in the Annex and even further afield. And here are a few of our favourites that are definitely worth a trip. 

1) Jean Silbelius Square: Recently renovated, the new park features an amazing climbing structure for big kids, an enclosed play space for the little ones, and a tap that runs and runs to create the mother of all mud puddles. (Between Kendall and Brunswick Avenues, at Wells Street)

2) Vermont Square: Home of the amazing pirate ship play structure, lots of swings, and a splash pad to cool down with on hot summer days. (Palmerston Avenue, just south of Vermont Avenue).

3) Margaret Fairley Playground: Small neighbourhood park with a whole lot going on, including cool climbing structure, a splash pad, and great big wooden armchairs. (Brunswick Avenue south of Ulster Street)

4) Trinity Bellwoods: The place to be a sunny day! Featuring a great playground, splashpad, lots of grass for picnics, and good places to fetch grub for said picnics on streets Dundas and Queen. (South of Dundas, between Gore Vale Avenue and Shaw Street)

5) Christie Pits: Everything happens here! New playground is coming soon, plus there is a splashpad and four swimming pools which means the whole family can cool down when the weather is hot. Nicely located near Baskin Robbins too on the corner of Christie and Bloor. 

6) Dufferin Grove: Highlights include the sandpit with construction-grade shovels and so much space to build and play, plus climbers, a splash pad, and a cafe that's open daily. This park is a city treasure. (Located across from the Dufferin Mall)

7) High Park: A whole world in the city! Great for garden enthuasists, people who like to roll down hills (just watch for goose poo), see ducks, geese and swans on Grenadier Pond, have lunch at the cafe, visit the zoo, walk in the woods, and play at the incredible Jamie Bell playground. (At High Park Station, south of Bloor Street, just west of Keele)

8) Riverdale Farm: This place is pure magic. In spring, you can catch all the baby animals coming into the world—lambs, goats and piggies, oh my! And then take a walk down the hill to the duck pond and try to believe you're actually in the middle of a city at all. (Winchester Street, 3 blocks east of Parliament Street)

9) Corktown Common: Brand new park on a flood plain. It's worth the trip to get stunning shots of your kids frolicking in the totally cool splashpad with the city skyline as a backdrop. Being a downtown kid has never been so good. (South of King Street, at Bayview Avenue and Mill Street)

10) Oriole Park: A great new playground with a really fun splashpad, all kinds of perfect design touches, and the whole thing is super accessible to children who use wheelchairs and have other disabilities. It's the perfect ending to a walk or cycle along the Beltline Trail. (At Oriole Parkway and Chaplin Crescent, west of Davisville Station). 

11) Toronto Island: You've never had the perfect getaway so close at hand. The Centreville Amusement Park is totally fun, but for a lower key day, picnic on the Centre Island south side, play at the beach, on the splashpad, on the playground, and take a walk in the Franklin Garden. And then stroll along the boardwalk to Ward's Island for ice cream and a walk through the island's picturesque neighbourhood before catching the ferry home. All this, of course, is the recipe for a perfect day. 

Morning Program Fun

When the children in the morning program arrive at playschool every day, they spent the first hour engaging in free play, exploring the many parts of the classroom according to their own interests: drama, blocks and lego, trains, storybooks, balls and physical play, and so many other choices.

In addition to these, our teachers also prepare specially planned activities that the children are free to take part in, and this morning's choices were so overwhelmingly excellent and fun that I had to take a picture. 

Hoofprint PaintingActivity 1: Painting using the prints from toy animals and treads for toy cars and trucks.

Activity 2: The water table is never so popular as when it's time to wash the babies. 

Activity 3: And cutting the grass....with scissors! 

Don't you want to pull up a tiny chair and play too? 

"It takes an imperfect mother to raise a child well."

Happy Mother's Day"What I like about Winnicott’s picture of the good enough mother is that she is a three-dimensional human being. She is a mother under pressure and strain. She is full of ambivalence about being a mother. She is both selfless and self-interested. She turns toward her child and turns away from him. She is capable of great dedication yet she is also prone to resentment. Winnicott even dares to say that the good enough mother loves her child but also has room to hate him. She is not boundless. She is real.

Real mothers are the best kind of mothers (and the only kind!). It takes an imperfect mother to raise a child well. You see, children need to learn about life through real experiences. They need to learn to deal with disappointments and frustrations. They need to overcome their greed and their wish to be the center of the universe. They need to learn to respect the needs and limitations of other people, including their mothers. And they need to learn to do things for themselves."

from Jennifer Kundst, "In Search of the Perfect Mother" at Psychology Today

(Thanks to Playschool parent Ingrid for suggesting the work of Donald Winnacott and the good-enough mother as a great idea for a blog post)

Cooking Class With Two Purple Figs

Mahy Zidan is an amazing woman, the force behind the delicious food blog Two Purple Figs and most recently of the cracker empire "Oh My Yummies" (which is not just a clever name). And tonight she donated her time and talents to a Huron Playschool Fundraiser, enabling playschool parents to get together in a superfun atmosphere and learn her tips for cooking a fantastic meal. On the menu was a cauliflower soup, sweet potato gratin with butterfly chicken, and an apple tart for dessert. Many thanks to Mahy for all her energy and generosity, and to our beloved Tracey who took care of childcare back at playschool so that the rest of us could enjoy a definitely "adult" evening. A delicious time was had by all. 

Apple pie before it went into the oven. I'd looked at pies from both sides now, but Mahy taught me that I really don't know pastry at all. I can't wait to put her frozen butter trick into action.

Who ever imagined the wonders of butterfly chicken? All the wonders of a roast in just 35 minutes! 

And yes, dessert was as delicious as you'd expect. With homemade caramel sauce and everything

I had meant to get a picture of all of us around the table enjoying these gastronomic delights and also incredible company...but I was too busy eating. So you're just going to have to imagine all our happy faces. 


Science Learning


I love this photo of the children in the morning program from last Friday. Here they are working together to create their own explosions, learning what happens when you pour vinegar onto baking soda—and no matter how many times it happens, it never ceases to be amazing. It's always nice to be reminded that the world is full of wonders.

The Benefits of Cooperative Preschools

Looking for daycare, childcare or preschools here in Toronto's Annex neighbourhood? There are plenty of reasons to consider choosing a cooperative program likes ours. Here are a few: 

1) Lower fees: ultimately this point matters least, but on a day-to-day basis it makes a huge difference for families. Cooperative duties enable Huron Playschool to keep fees significantly lower than they are for other preschools and daycares. 

2) Educational involvement: Families are able to play important roles in their children's early education, lending their skills and abilities to enhance our programming, and also being able to be witness to the day-to-day happenings (aka miracles) of seeing children learn and grow in a place that belongs to them. The kids love it too—they look forward to their family's co-op days.

3) Community ties: Getting to know your children's classmates and their families is an incredible opportunity, and our families do an amazing job of coming together for each other in times of need. Throughout its more than 45-year history, countless friendships have been forged between playschool parents which are an imporant part of our school's legacy. 

4) Education and skills development: Cooperative involvement provides parents with many opportunities to use and develop their skills and experience, whether it's on our board, in our administration, and in the classroom too. Further, many of us come away from our playschool years knowing we're better parents because of all we learned watching our amazing teachers in action.

5) Flexibility: Our programs are not just for stay-at-home parents. No matter your family's situation, we can seek to find a way to make our cooperative structure work for all of us. We've got uncles, aunts and grandparents who do co-op shifts; families can pay a fee to have their shifts worked by someone in our network of caregivers. Younger siblings become a part of playschool by attending co-op shifts, and we're happy to have them. The benefits of co-op preschooling are enormous, and we want to make the opportunity available to as many as possible who'd like to pursue it. 

Where to Take Your Kids on Authors for Indies Day

Did you know that the second annual Authors for Indies Day is just around the corner, falling on Saturday April 30 at independent bookshops across the country? It's a day to celebrate indie bookstores, which tend to be the very best places in our communities, and some of your favourite authors will be coming out to be booksellers for a day and will happily talk you into buying some excellent books. A truly win-win-win situation. 

And guess what: it's a perfect day out with the kids. And because we are fortunate in Toronto to have an array of stellar indie bookshops across the city with fantastic children's book selections, you have so many shops to choose from. Perhaps venture close to home or to somewhere further afield—maybe its the perfect excuse to visit a new neighbourhood. You'll be promoting community connections, celebrating family literacy, and you'll even have time to get an ice cream cone. Could there be a better day?

And now, in no particular order, here are all the places you can go...

Book City

I'm still reeling from the loss of our Book City here in the Annex two years ago, but the good news is that we still have other locations in the city to choose from, including the Beaches, Bloor West Village and Yonge and St. Clair. Although I'm most partial to the Danforth location, whose kids' book selection is enormous and incredible. They've got lots of kids' authors in their Authors for Indies line-up too—check out the schedule here


Ella Minnow Books

Formerly on Queen Street East, Ella Minnow is now located at a larger location at Kingston Road and Victoria Park, which means you can still fit it into a trip to the Beaches. These people know their stuff, with all the best, latest and classics children's titles. Your children will think they're in book paradise. 


Type Books

Authors for Indies day corresponds with Type Books' 10th Anniversary celebrations. In a decade across the road from Queen Street West's Trinity Bellwoods Park (where you can follow up your bookshop visit with a picnic) they've expanded their store to include the most magical children's selection, complete with bunting and toadstools for sitting. 


Mabel's Fables

Another store of kids' book specialists! Mabel's Fables is two floors of magic (and there's even a cat!). Their selection includes quality books to excite kids of all ages, and their parents too. And afterwards, you can get some lunch on the neighbourhood's thriving retail strip (Mount Pleasant south of Eglinton). 


Bakka Phoenix Books

A little more local to us (on Harbord just west of Spadina), Bakka Phoenix is where you can plant the seeds of literary geekdom in your little ones. This is where my children discovered Zita the Space Girl, so it holds a special place in our hearts. They've got a science-fiction and fantasy focus with great graphic novels and picture books and an excellent informed staff. 



Parentbooks is just west of Bakka Phoenix (at Major Street on Harbord) and while they specialize in books on parenting, special needs and education, they've also got a beautiful selection of mainstream picture books (new and classics) and a perfect chair for a little person to curl up in. It's one of our favourite stops in the neighbourhood. 


Ben McNally Books

Petula Clark said it best when she said that you'll find a place for sure downtown and for me, that place is Ben McNally Books on Bay Street, a block south of Queen. Dont be intimidated about taking your children to a place with such gorgeous chandeliers: the kids' section is amazing and it's healthy for a child to believe she belongs in magnificent spaces. 


Little Island Comics

Part of Mirvish Village (on Bathurst south of Bloor) I sure do hope that Little Island stays local when they find their new location. But in the meantime, they're right here in the neighbourhood and they're a comics wonderland, also with a spectacular stock of graphics-focussed picture books. Get your kids into comics, both new-school and old—they're the perfect gateway to reading! 


Another Story Bookshop

I love the way Another Story (located on Roncesvalles Avene in the west end) so perfectly balances their social justice mandate with being an amazing neighbourhood bookshop...and the kids' section in the back is huge. They've got great kids authors appearing throughout the day; check the schedule on their website for details. 

Lot Full

Sometimes the stroller parking lot gets a little bit crowded...

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