For many parents, the school-year-calendar is the predominant consideration when planning just about anything. Also near the top of many parents’ minds is the Extra Curricular Calendar. Day programs; evening programs; team sports, individual sports, recreation, arts, and more.
Talk of registration, sign-up windows, and week-long blocks bubble as parents wait together or pass one another in school parking lots or in parent meet-ups.
“Are you guys doing the theatre camp?”
“Which weeks did you get for swimming lessons?”
“Are you all doing soccer again this year?”
Filling time with a diverse set of activities that spark growth and enjoyment; and the possibility that this next foray into something unknown will unlock some untold potentials are always an alluring prospect.
And just having blocks of time filled with good distractions or safe and positive activities are often welcomed by parents.
However, cost can be a tremendous barrier for some of these activities. Teams, art or dance classes, camps and other programming are not always affordable or realistic for everyone.
That’s why I thought I’d use my blog entry this month to pool together some options for parents to consider signing up/registering for, dropping into, or checking out.
Most of these resources are free, some are “low-cost”, and some offer discounts for families experiencing income barriers. I hope something on here sparks an idea for you!
I called around to some of Muskoka’s available resources and most popular attractions and enquired about free, or reduced-price options for families and individuals that are living with low-income or anyone else for that matter. I scoured town websites for offerings, and I googled some version of “free stuff to do in Muskoka” about 150 times. Here’s what I found:
EarlyON programming from the District of Muskoka. Described on the EarlyON site as:
Free, high-quality drop-in programs for families and children from birth to 6 years old. Children, parents and caregivers take part in a wide range of activities geared towards early child development in a fun and friendly environment. Our programs also provide parents with an opportunity to gather resources and information regarding child development and other programs and services available to young children and their families.
EarlyON programs are free of charge and are held at various times in community spaces in Severn Bridge, Port Severn, Barkway, Gravenhurst, Bala, Bracebridge, Baysville, Mactier, Port Carling, Utterson, Port Sydney, Dwight and Huntsville.
The Public Libraries of Muskoka might just offer the most robust combination of available programs, and cost efficiency. In fact, most of the programs, workshops and reading sessions listed on the Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, and Huntsville public libraries right now are free of charge.
The Gravenhurst Public Library advertises programs like the Dungeons and Dragons club, Tween Book Club, Boredom Busters Drop-In and other in-person and online workshops, clubs and programs. Their calendar for the summer will be up and active by early June.
The Bracebridge Public Library offers Parachute Club, Creator Club, as well as meet ups for Homeschool families and new parents.
The Huntsville Public Library offers an array of one-off workshops and reoccurring clubs and programs for young people. Crafting workshops, STEAM clubs, and story and reading programs for various age groups are available.
The program schedules for the Public Libraries are updated often and always active. Truly a great option for affordable drop-in and registration-required activities for children and teens.
Many of the towns and townships in Muskoka also offer discounted recreation access to community members living with low income.
The Town of Bracebridge Recreation Department describes their Recreation Leisure Access Program as “….a mechanism to support affordable access to recreational opportunities for residents and households living in low income.”
The pass offers up to 50% off of recreational programs for young people.
The Town of Huntsville Recreation Program offers a very similar option.
In Gravenhurst, the YMCA offers membership discounts through their financial assistance program.
YWCA Muskoka offers a wide range of school based, young adult and summer programming.
Girlz Unplugged, Girlz Choice, Boys Quest, Youth Co-Unite, and summer camps.
Muskoka offers a wealth of outdoor attractions and activities. There are great parks in every town and township, as well as Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve, and Arrowhead and Hardy Lake Provincial Parks.
There are also beautiful waterfalls, and beaches scattered all around the district. My family favours Kirby’s Beach, High Falls, and Bala Falls in particular. This website lists mostly free-outdoor activities in Muskoka
There are also the trail systems of Muskoka. This website offers a guide to trails in most of Muskoka Towns and Townships.
The Muskoka Nature Conservancy has a free offering called the Little Sprouts Program. Where through registration, families can enjoy outdoor meet-ups and nature activities.
This month it’s the Sugar Bush Taste and Talk.
This list of resources is certainly not a fix all for the barriers of access to quality and meaningful programming for children and youth. Some of these access points can even create more barriers through the application process.
Hopefully there’s something here that works for you and your family, and adds joy to your experience together.