By Denise Bacon

The reopening of the parks has been a boon for people of all ages. The sudden shutdown of playgrounds and all public recreation spaces in March due to COVID-19 caught everyone off guard. Suddenly, people were finding themselves cooped up at home and basically quarantined without really being mentally or emotionally prepared.

After almost five months, the parks were finally reopened on July 31 as Toronto entered Phase 3 of the province’s reopening plan. They quickly became a place to gather with friends in open and safe environments. It was a welcome change from being home. Playgrounds became that forbidden fruit that was suddenly safe to eat and children of all ages came to enjoy.

Esme, Kelsey, Aimee, Ashhad and Daniel enjoy being able to hang out in Wanita Park again. Kelsey and Aimee aren’t social distancing because they share a social bubble

Daniel said he didn’t do too much during the earlier part of the shutdown. The teenager spent time at home listening to music and doing online school work. Now that parks are open, “it’s chill,” said Daniel, who was having a great time with his friends at the park.

Kelsey said, “Being at the park gives me a sense of freedom and a change of scenery, especially after being home for so long during the pandemic. We get a lot of physical activity from playing spikeball! It’s a 10 out of 10 for being with my friends!”

“Being quarantined for a long time affected mental health in a bad way,” said Esme. “Coming out to the park with my good friends in a way

Katerina, 10 months

Mary is a proud grandma to Katerina and she brings her to the park whenever Mom and Dad visit. She is thrilled that the parks are now open for all the little ones. There is so much joy in seeing and hearing the laughter of children at Wanita Park again!

Madison, 6
Ritson, 3

Madison and Ritson just couldn’t get enough of the playground! This was their first time out since the park barriers were removed as part of the Stage 3 reopening in Toronto. “I love the swings best,” said Madison. She proudly explained, “I pushed my legs back and forth, back and forth all by myself! It was so much fun.”

Their mom, Kimberley, had been keeping the kids busy at home with water fun in the backyard and online school for Madison until June. Regular visits to grandparents also kept the children busy in recent weeks. Now, playing in the park around the corner will be a regular outing.