An ever in-progress guide to where you can entertain your baby or toddler for free. As I live just west of downtown Toronto, most of these sites are in that area. Let me know if there are any spots that I should add.
Last updated: September 2016
The Children’s Storefront, 826 Bloor St. W.
An Ontario Early Years Centres (OEYC), the Children’s Storefront is best known for its community kitchen, which offers a daily lunch at $5 for adults and $2.50 for kids. It starts at 11:30am. Potlucks, food-making workshops and other events are sometimes offered as well (and sometimes at a cost).
College-Montrose Children’s Place, 180 Shaw St. (bottom level of the Artscape Youngplace Building)
This OEYC gets a special mention because it’s the one I usually attend. It offers drop-in programming Tuesday-Saturday at various times. In addition to daily snacks and circle time, other activities like crafts are offered. Monthly calendars can be found here. Just a heads up, circle time can be busy so if you want to attend it, get there a bit early. Also, bring socks as shoes aren’t allowed in the playroom and bare feet are gross.
Jill and the Beanstock, 814 College St. (east of Ossington)
This baby health food store has a free play space in the back that’s open seven days a week. The store also hosts free events like music shows and clothing swaps and offers a Monday tea party.
Ontario Early Years Centres/Parenting and Family Literacy Centres, across Toronto
Times and services vary by location but all OEYCs/PAFLCs offer children six and under and their caregivers a safe place to play, learn and interact. The above link will take you straight to the centres found in Toronto. In the Trinity-Bellwoods neighborhood, centres can be found at Charles G Fraser Junior Public School (79 Manning Ave), Niagara Street Junior Public School (222 Niagara St), Alexander Muir/Gladstone Avenue Junior and Senior Public School (108 Gladstone Ave) and the aforementioned College-Montrose Children’s Place (180 Shaw St).
Red Fish Blue Fish Creative Cafe, 73 Harbord St.
Okay, this one isn’t exactly free as you need to buy something from the cafe to access the drop-in play space (or pay $6) but let’s be honest, you were going to buy that coffee anyway. The cafe also offers a variety of paid and free programming, including a free crafting space for older kids.
Sun Life Financial Museum + Arts Pass, across Toronto
This is a really cool program that I’m determined to check out one of these days. While the above link will take you to all the details, this program lets Toronto Public Library card holders check out such cultural institutions as the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Galley of Ontario and even the zoo for free (passes are limited and the popular ones go quickly).
Toronto Public Libraries, across Toronto
Our wonderful library system offers weekly story times as well as other special events. The above link will take you to a page where you can look up what’s happening at your local branch. In my neighbourhood, the College-Shaw library offers Baby Time at 10:30am on Mondays, followed by Toddler Time.
Trinity Community Recreation Centre, 155 Crawford St.
The rec centre is home to a warm water kiddie pool that offers free drop-in swims almost daily. Check the drop-in tab for exact times. In the fall and winter, one of the gyms opens up on Saturdays for kids to run wild in. I’m told this program will start up again the first weekend in October.
West Neighbourhood House, 248 Ossington Ave.
Drop by the indoor playground Tuesday-Friday from 9:30am to 1pm. Other activities, including crafts and music lessons, are also sometimes available.