Let’s pool some ideas on how we can keep our kids busy over the summer without costing an arm and a leg. I’ve got a few thoughts here like pool fencing, but please comment and share other ideas on how to prevent our kids from going stir-crazy this summer!


Rockway Garden, Kitchener

Rockway Garden, Kitchener

It’s not a huge garden but Rockway Gardens is charming with several ponds, fountains, and a hidden trail if you can find the secret path that leads to the upper level. There are free concerts in the summer, too. The kids and I have hunted tadpoles, cooled our feet in the fountains (probably a no-no), played I Spy, and climbed up to the hidden trail to sit in the shade.


Kids’ Hop is a free party time every Tuesday from 11 a.m. to noon with entertainers Eric Traplin or Peter Shaw.

Kids In the Kitchen is a free cooking class, one Saturday each month from 10 am to noon, on July 6, August 3 and September 14.


Perhaps geared more for older or creative kids, the Canadian Clay & Glass Gallery is a free art gallery. It’s small but has held some beautiful exhibits. It’s just downtown Waterloo (25 Caroline Street North) so after a visit to the gallery, you can wander the streets of Waterloo and play a game of I Spy.


Bring along your towels and suntan lotion for a splashing fun time at any of several local splash pads. Remember that they are unsupervised so you should keep a close eye on your kids. Eons ago when the kids were much younger, our favourite was the Doon Pioneer Park splash pad because we’d visit the library first, then hop outside to play in the sun. Melanie Wigg recommends the splash pad and playground at McLennan Park … which leads us to our next suggestion!

McLennan Park Splash PadMcLENNAN PARK

McLennan Park (converted landfill area formerly known as Mount Trashmore, Ottawa Street, Kitchener) has lots of different outdoor activities for young and old alike, including a play structure, splash pad, beach volleyball and basketball courts, BMX bike park and skatepark, walking trails, large park area with benches and a covered gazebo, and even a fenced-in leash-free dog park. There’ll even be a free presentation courtesy of the SPCA for kids who are going to be first-time pet owners soon, with lessons like safe and unsafe dog foods, the 10 steps to taking care of your first puppy, etc. While not free, our kids like the extra bonus of a Tim Horton’s just down the hill!


This 5.5 km trail is a great way to explore the KW area; it runs from Ottawa Street (Kitchener) and Erb Street (Waterloo), and links Waterloo Park and Victoria Park. You can walk it or bike it. Speaking of bicycles …


Westheights Church has its own Cycling Club with rides planned each Sunday of the summer, weather permitting. Family friendly and a great chance to make new friends, check out the website and join us any Sunday for a fun and free outdoor activity! All riders must complete a signed waiver, and participants under 18 must wear a helmet.


July 17 and Aug 14, 1-3 pm, 61 Kent Avenue, Kitchener. Kids can have fun and help make a difference in another child’s life! This is a wonderful hands-on opportunity for children (age 8 and up) and their parents to knot comforters and hear relief stories. Registration required by contacting Wendy Cotter by email wendyc@mennonitecc.on.ca or  by calling her at 519-745-8458,  xt. 248.


The City of Kitchener and Tim Horton’s partner up for free public swims on select days throughout the summer. Click here to find a complete list of times and locations.


Almost free outdoor music & movie at Waterloo Park. With a donation of a non-perishable food item, you can enjoy music and a movie under the stars on the following Thursdays: July 25, August 1, August 8, August 22. Bring along a non-perishable food item, chair or blanket. Music starts at 7:30 pm, and the movie begins at dusk.