15 things to do with your kids before they’re 15

Parents interested in the outdoors and family camping have a short window of time before kids’ seasonal jobs and other interests can change family holiday time. Since this is a season of resolutions and the beginning of 2012 vacation planning, here’s a suggested list of 15 things to do with your kids before they turn 15!

1. Learn to camp

Learn to Camp sessions teach basic camping skills like how to pitch a tent, how to safely build a campfire, and how to cook on a camp stove. Families are welcome and almost all the equipment required is generously provided by Ontario Parks’ corporate partners.

2. Swim a northern Ontario lake
On a hot summer day, there’s nothing better than a cool northern Ontario lake for swimming. Ontario Parks’ Lifejacket Lending Program was established in 1997. Today, over 60 Ontario Parks across the province have lifejackets that families can borrow at no charge (refundable deposit). Find Ontario Parks with swimming here.

3. Learn to fish
Learn to fish at Ontario Parks thanks to Tackle Share. The program sponsored by Ontario Parks’ corporate sponsors, loans fishing rods and tackle to young families. Many kids catch their first fish at an Ontario Park.

4. Stay in a yurt
Kids groove on yurts. These semi-permanent, canvas-covered structures are mounted on a wooden deck above ground. They have electric or propane heat and lighting, two sets of bunk beds, tables and chair, and plywood floors. 76 yurts are in 11 Ontario Parks with more being added in 2012. Many are open year-round. Click here for more roofed accommodations.

5. Explore the night sky
Killarney Provincial Park has a new observatory with a powerful telescope to see the stars like never before.

6. Try dogsledding
Learn how to dog sled on designated dog sled trails in Ontario Parks. Algonquin Park has two designated dogsledding trails. Local outfitters teach you how to dogsled and cover the cost of the required park permit in their fees.

7. Skate through the woods at night
Every winter at MacGregor Provincial Park on Lake Huron, you can skate at night on a lit 400 metre path that snakes through the park. For a real winter adventure, combine skating with an overnight stay in one of the park’s heated yurts. And check out this fun video of the skate trail!

8. Go winter tubing
Arrowhead Provincial Park has a wickedly fun hill for tubing as this You Tube video suggests. Tubes are supplied free of charge with an Arrowhead day-use permit.

9. Try paddleboarding
The newest and hottest activity on water has arrived at Ontario Parks. Stand-up paddleboarding lessons were offered by an outfitter at Craigleith Provincial Park last summer. Watch for more outfitters to offer the same at other Ontario Parks in 2012.

10. Join a park wolf howl
Algonquin and Bonnechere host wolf howls every summer. In Algonquin, the wolf howls led by park staff run every Thursday night in August. Bonnechere’s Wolf Howl is also in August. Check Ontario Parks calendar of events.

11. Hike Lake Superior’s Coastal Hiking Trail
If you and your teens are already seasoned hikers, give them a real challenge and hike part or all of Lake Superior Provincial Park’s 65 km coastal trail. Backcountry campsites are located along the trail. 5-7 days duration required to complete the entire trail. Open May to October.

12. Stay in a park ranger cabin
The interior of Algonquin Park is dotted with ranger cabins, built in the early to mid-1900s. In the past, these were used by park rangers. Today, fourteen cabins are available for rent. Five are accessible by car. The rest can be reached in 1-2 days by canoe.

13. Paddle or kayak to your Ontario Parks camp site
Plan an interior camping trip. Over 75 Ontario Parks have canoe rentals and 43 offer kayak rentals. Outfitters across Ontario offer guided trips, if required. Nothing beats the sense of accomplishment that comes from an interior canoe or kayak camping trip complete with a portage or two.

14. Trick or treat
Halloween is a family tradition at many Ontario Parks on Lake Huron and Lake Erie. Camper families decorate their campsites and kids dress up and trick or treat. Halloween activities include learning more about creatures often associated with Halloween.

15. Play golf
Golf and camping at the same time? Yes, believe it or not, it is possible to play golf with your kids at Ontario Parks’ only golf course located at Turkey Point Provincial Park on Lake Erie. Adult and children’s golf clubs are available for rent and green fees are reasonable at the 9-hole course. This is just the beginning of a list. We’d love to hear your suggestions and hope you will add them to the comments below!