How to keep your kids busy this summer


Summer’s almost here, but the usual activities for kids – summer camp, playing in the park, hanging out at the recreation centre – are being put on pause during the pandemic. 

Thankfully, there’s lots for children to do besides play video games and binge-watch Netflix. They can learn improv comedy; create and perform a play; enjoy a story read by a drag queen or king; and learn some sex ed they probably wouldn’t get at their bricks-and-mortar school. 

Here are some things to occupy your kids’ attention. I’ll be adding to this as more activities get announced.

Second City online comedy camp 

If a young person you know wants to become the next Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy or Baroness Von Sketch creator, sign them up for a class at Second City, which trained all of the above comedy icons. Flexibility is the key. There’s everything from one- to five-day camps for kids aged 4 to 18. There are also four-week “escape” classes covering everything from acting and improv to stand-up and music. And the 90-minute drop-in sessions provide a fun, intense immersion in all aspects of comedy with kids from various time zones.

Ages: 4 to 18

When: through July (may be extended)

COC Opera Makers 

For the child who’s interested in arias and Ariana Grande, here’s a cool eight-week long tutorial series that covers the basics of the art form, from singing and composing to design, all in a clear, fun way. Lots of guest artists are taking part, and after the live-streamed lessons take part, they’ll be available on the COC’s website for future reference.

Ages: 7 to12

When: through July 8

Every Body Curious

Formerly called Sex-Ed School, the inclusive, sex-positive web series returns for a second season, covering such topics as gender expression, the penis, sexual health and the vulva. Even for older kids, the series – which streams on Shaftesbury Kids’ YouTube channel – is a great way to spark discussions and confront taboos with families. Check out the first season, which covers things like consent, orientation and online safety.

Ages: 9 to 12

When: Season two launches June 1

Puppet Time With ZacKey Lime!

Drag king extraordinaire ZacKey Lime and his puppets host a high-energy hour of reading, singing, crafts and show and tell, perfect for LGBTQ+ families and their little ones. Glad Day Bookshop hosts the Zoom show, and kids are encouraged to bring something for the show and tell portion at the end.

Ages: 10 and under 

When: Every Saturday at 1 pm

Roseneath Theatre

One of the country’s premiere children’s theatre companies offers a wide variety of summer camps for arts-minded kids. There are camps specializing in traditional subjects like dance and acting, of course, but there are also more outside-the-box themes like Dungeons & Dragons and, for those aged 13 and up, Drag Style (taught by Alyssa Brink).

Ages: 6 to 18 (depending on camp) 

When: Two or three days a week, through June 12 (so far)

Hamilton Conservatory of the Arts 

You don’t have to cross the Burlington Skyway to take advantage of all the online arts-related offerings this summer at the Hamilton Conservatory of the Arts, including theatres classes about monologues or songs, dance classes and a three-week youth theatre creation that ends with a performance streamed online. 

Ages: 4 to 18 

When: Through June (so far)

Mr. Kane’s Storytime

John Paul Kane is probably best known for his drag persona, Fay Slift. He’s also a teacher, and he has a lovely daily show on his YouTube channel in which he reads from a children’s book. He’s got a calm, soothing presence, and his readings are equally entertaining for kids and adults – witness the little dig at the Trinity Bellwoods Park millennials in a recent episode

Ages: 3 and up 

When: Weekdays at 2:30 pm

Bravo Academy 

One of the most refreshing surprises of Fringe 2019 was Drama 101, A New Musical, produced by Bravo Academy. That same company offers lots of summer camp activities this year, from a Virtual Summer Camp to Summer Teen or Youth Intensives (the teen program is directed by former NOW cover subject Jennifer Walls). If you know an aspiring Lin-Manuel Miranda or Britta and Anika Johnson, sign them up.

Ages: 7 to 19

When: Virtual Summer Camp June 29-July 31; Summer Teen/Youth programs August 10-September 4