Although this blog’s mission is to explore public (ie. free) playgrounds in the city’s parks and public school grounds, there are times when you’ve got to pay up for the luxury of an indoor play session.
It’s surprising and frustrating that Toronto, despite having winters that can last up to half the year, doesn’t have many city-run indoor playgrounds. In fact, as of this writing, there is only one: Playground Paradise, up in Flemingdon Park.
Indoor playgrounds are a stay-at-home parent’s go-to cure for cabin fever during the winter months, but they can also be a great option on the hottest days of summer, if you don’t have air conditioning, or if you don’t feel like lathering up your children with a litre of sunscreen every day. None of the indoor playgrounds listed here are rated with the same rating criteria I use for outdoor playgrounds, but I offer them to you as suggestions for those days that are too hot, or too cold, for outdoor play.
Here are, in no particular order, my five favourite indoor playgrounds in Toronto:
Located in the Stockyards district just north of the Junction, this is one of the more expensive indoor play places in the city. But sometimes you really do get what you pay for. Features a huge, multi-level climber so extensive that you basically have to go in with your kid if you want to have any hope of keeping an eye on them. The ball pit is enormous; to a child it must feel infinite. There is also an arcade section, and a restaurant. It’s madness, but it’s great.
If Happy Kingdom proves that you get what you pay for, then Jump for Joy proves that good things come in small packages. The smallest indoor playground on this list, but also the friendliest, cleanest, and most lovingly maintained spot you’re likely to visit. It makes the most of its small size, managing to pack in a small climber, bouncy castle, and many areas for creative play.
There’s also an area in the back for infants, and a small kitchen with a phone-charging station. The owner, Irene, is one of the nicest humans you will ever meet; I particularly remember one visit when my son was having a tough time accepting that a fire truck he wanted to play with was being used by another kid. Before you could say “meltdown,” she had gone to the basement to get him another toy – a toy that belonged to her own son. I really cannot say enough about this place.
An east-end favourite, with a small but fun play space that is perfect for 4-and-unders. Wooden climbers, plenty of toys, and mini-trampolines that are heaven to a toddler who’s just mastered jumping. Sprouts also runs a daycare year-round, dance classes, drop-in toddler classes, and summer day camps. My son attended one of those day camps this year and loved every minute of it. This place has been a regular part of our life for almost 5 years now, and it will be a sad day when our youngest outgrows it.
The word “Extreme” might be pushing it a little, but this is a solid, mid-sized playground with a good climber, a bouncy castle, and plenty of toys to keep kids entertained. My son particularly likes the selection of Little Tikes push cars; he went through a phase of wanting to go here all the time, and would ride around on those things non-stop. I think it’s because he was so used to outdoor playgrounds, where the push cars seldom have more than one functioning wheel. Anyway, this is a nice spot with a good variety of play options.
Way out in the wilds of Downsview is a place that offers a unique combination: indoor playground and pottery studio. I love the idea of pairing of high and low-energy activities; this would make a good place for a kids’ birthday party if you’re looking for more than just a chaotic run-around.
Having said that, the playground itself is very impressive. Plenty of opportunities for jumping, building, and exploring. There is also a great toddler section, which is a big plus: in many indoor playgrounds, the toddler section is a bit under-equipped and feels like an afterthought, but here it’s extensive and engaging. On our visit, we didn’t have time to paint any pottery (incidentally, I think they missed a big opportunity to name this place “Play N Clay”) but perhaps we’ll get a chance next time.