Photo: Toronto family finds nature in the city -- every day

Jode, Carol and Jasper enjoy some urban green time in Toronto's High Park. (Credit: Phillipa C Photography)

Throughout the Fall Family Challenge, we're profiling families across Canada who make time in nature a priority. Today we're in Canada's largest city, where Jode Roberts, his wife Carol, and their four-year-old son Jasper manage to spend tons of time in urban green spaces. (Full disclosure: Jode is a Foundation communications specialist and the project lead for the Homegrown National Park Project).

Sign up for our newsletter

DSF: How often do you get outside together?

We try to get outside together every day. It helps that we live in an area with lots of options for accessible green space. We chose our house because it's in a walkable neighbourhood; the grocery store, café, parks, schools, and subway are all just a few blocks away, which is great since we don't have a car.

DSF: What kinds of activities do you do outside?

Jasper is four and half years old, so we visit a lot of playgrounds, splash in puddles, roll down hills and fly kites. We also like to explore Toronto's ravines, which are particularly unique green spaces because when you're in them, the entire city fades away.

Outside of the city, we spend time canoeing and camping. I grew up on Georgian Bay, so this was a big a part of my youth. Jasper was getting portaged by the time he was a year old. Now he has to carry his own stuff.

DSF: Why is time outside important to you?

Nature helps restore balance in our lives, giving us space to think and be creative. It recharges our batteries. For Jasper, it's important because he needs space to run and explore after hours spent indoors at school and in front of screens.

DSF: How do you make time outside a priority? Any tips for other families?

We make outside time a priority through conscious lifestyle choices. We've put down roots in a walkable community. We walk, ride bikes and take transit to get most places instead of spending time in a car.

I'd advise other families to invest in some wildlife guides and apps to learn about nature around them. Also, every family member needs good set of raingear. There's nothing more joyous than splashing through a puddle with your whole family.

DSF: Any favourite outdoor traditions?

Since Jasper was born we've gradually been stockpiling interesting looking stones and rocks from places we visit. Wherever we go, we head to beaches and other local rock hotspots and spend hours finding just the right stones to add to our collection. They make great decorations in our backyard garden and are a reminder of the fun places we've been.

October 7, 2013

Read more

Post a comment


Oct 07, 2013
10:06 AM

Every weekday for the last 26 years our group of seven women have walked the same route along the Ottawa river at 6:30am. Sometimes two of us show up, sometimes all of us manage to get there but all of us treasure this time for the many benefits it brings. We started when our youngest children started kindergarten and we have provided support to one another through family tragedies, accomplishments,career changes and marriages ( perhaps significantly, no divorces). Most of all though we breath in the natural world for an hour and allow that balm to carry us into our busy days. People often ask why we put up with the boredom of the same route. There is no boredom. Nature, no matter how familiar, changes every day and the two artists in our group draw our attention to the minutae, the new mushroom, the play of light on the water, and sadly the gradual devastation of the ash trees that line our route. I truly believe that all our lives would be so diminished if it were not for this daily foray into the world that sustains us. They say that the best route to happiness is gratitude, and all of us are grateful for this restorative dose of nature in our day.

Oct 07, 2013
8:51 AM

I’m loving this series! Children have become nature deprived. These examples are proof that some parents are taking this issue serious and making important choices that will stay with their kids forever. I visit Toronto several times a year and remember places where we would hike as a family. Toronto is a very green city with so many options. I just discovered the area around The Brick Works and in the midst of an hot August afternoon, it felt like the jungle! I agree with your guests today about getting guides and apps to learn about the world around them. Take Cicadas for example….I learned so much about them this summer just by being curious of how they make such an amazing sound. Keep up the good work re: play!

The David Suzuki Foundation does not necessarily endorse the comments or views posted within this forum. All contributors acknowledge DSF's right to remove product/service endorsements and refuse publication of comments deemed to be offensive or that contravene our operating principles as a charitable organization. Please note that all comments are pre-moderated. Privacy Policy »