Any grandparent will tell you that one of the greatest pleasures of having grandchildren is seeing the world through their eyes. We are privileged to witness their joy of discovery, which in turn transports us back to our own childhoods, giving us the opportunity to re-discover our world through the unblemished perspective of a child. That is why providing experiences that stimulate and challenge our grandchildren is so enjoyable. And what better time of year to do that than in the summer months when the weather cooperates?
So here are a few of my favourite summer activities with my grandson—some are budget-friendly, requiring only time and effort, while others are more costly to be enjoyed once per season or annually.
Sidney Island boasts a marine park that provides wonderful forested walking trails as well as endless stretches of sand for beachcombing and water play. This marine park is accessed by booking a 20-minute water ferry from the Sidney pier. sidneyspitferry.com
There are a number of local farms on the Saanich Peninsula that encourage families to pick their own produce: Marsh Farm located on Wallace Drive in Saanichton is one example. Go first thing in the morning before it gets too hot and then stop by Dan’s Market on Oldfield Road to pick up a bite to eat, shop for fresh local meats, breads, and produce, and say hello to their resident goats, chickens, and rabbits. To find a farm in your area, visit bcfarmfresh.com.
Coombs Old Country Market
Famous for its goats grazing on the grassy roof—yes, on the roof!—Coombs Market also boasts homemade ice cream/gelato/sorbet, a specialty, and provides a wide variety of local and imported food, gifts, and toys. If you haven’t packed a lunch, you can dine at one of a number of eateries: a bistro, cantina, trattoria or pizzeria.
Famous for its miles of sandy beachfront and warm tidal waters, this beach is located between Parksville and Courtenay and is sure to provide hours of entertainment for children of all ages. A sand sculpture contest is held annually that draws world-class sculptors, and a newly renovated playground is right next door.
One of the simplest free activities for children of all ages is a scavenger hunt. The beauty of this activity is that it can be conducted anywhere—a forest walk, a beach, a marina, a park etc. You can put together your own list, or there are many to be found from a quick Google search. A treat or a prize for completion is always a big motivator!
BC Aviation Museum
This gem of a museum is located in Sidney and is dedicated to the local history of flight. The museum offers something of interest for children of all ages. Included in the entrance fee is access to two hangars that house reconstructed planes of all shapes, sizes, and eras. Knowledgeable volunteers provide information and share stories. Kids can practice landing a model WWII fighter plane on the deck of an aircraft carrier, or sit inside a mini-helicopter, or try their hand at a flight simulator.
Glass Beach/Sidney Pier
This small beach—named for the thousands of polished coloured glass chips that litter the sand—is located between Sidney’s wharf and its pier. Be prepared to spend an afternoon collecting these glass treasures, safe to handle thanks to the wave action has polished them smooth. The Sidney pier provides more entertainment—be sure to put one of the provided life jackets on your little one. Children delight in watching the crab traps being hauled up and measured, with the “keepers” deposited into large buckets of water.
There are a number of playgrounds with water features in the Greater Victoria area and the best thing about them is they are free. One of our favourites is at Carnarvon Rotary Water Park. A picnic lunch will complete the day.
This heritage dairy farm located north of Parksville provides self-guided tours at no cost. Children can learn about the milking process as well as cheese making. Meet farm animals such as calves, sheep and goats or purchase cheese, meat, eggs, coffee and other local products—including toys!—from the farm store.
These two connected lakes not only provide freshwater swimming, but each has its own playground and picnic areas. There is also a 10km walking/biking trail that circumnavigates both lakes providing an excellent opportunity for some exercise whether it be walking, jogging, or bike riding.