When most parents think family vacation, they think beach, or theme park – maybe a bit of camping. But if you feel like you’re in a rut, it might be time to think a little differently.

This year, why not consider an arts vacation? If you’re like most families, you’ve got a fridge covered with paintings and a wall full of macaroni art. Children are naturally drawn to creative expression. Born artists – they sing on the street, dance in the living room, pull a crayon out at a moment’s notice… But few parents think of turning that inclination into a vacation.

Luminato, Toronto’s Festival of Arts and Creativity, is gearing up for summer. The festival runs June 6-15, 2008, and unlike many film fests or art exhibits, it’s got lots on offer specifically aimed at children. With over 90 events, many of them free, it’s a great way to give your kids a little taste of culture, while exploring one of North America’s coolest cities.

Here are a few of Luminato’s particularly family-friendly events:

Dan Zanes and Friends-- Described as "Woodstock for kids," this show will feature sea shanties, North American and West Indian folk music, fiddle tunes, the spirit of rock-and-roll, and soulful originals. Grammy Award-winning musician Dan Zanes and his band will present two concerts at the Music Hall, and he will host sing-a-longs and workshops as part of his weeklong residency!

Rocket and the Queen of Dreams-- Rocket is a little boy with a problem: he's afraid of monsters, but the monsters he's afraid of are in his dreams. Through a brilliant fusion of shadow theatre, puppetry and live performance, this world premiere, held at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People, takes us on a magical journey into the ethereal world we normally know only in our sleep. Inspired by actual children's dreams, this magical and empowering experience will delight, encourage and inspire young audiences.

Streetscape-- Various spots in Toronto becomes host to some of the best street artists, wall-painters and boundary-pushing multimedia creators, who will re-imagine the city's post-industrial waterfront, housing communities, and urban spaces in the midst of revitalization as monumental canvases. Large in scale, bold and beautiful in content, these transformed regions of Toronto will become an inspiring beacon for public creativity, as cutting-edge contemporary art bursts out of the galleries and onto the streets in a celebration of colour and light.

So let’s say you’re considering it. What do you need to know? First of all, for more details, click on www.luminato.com. For more info on Toronto itself, visit www.torontotourism.com

Then get ready with these tips:


Don’t forget to get your kids passports

Pack a few special items to take with you

  • A small backpack filled with sketch pads, markers, crayons, stickers, and a new disposable camera for each child gets kids excited to take part in art .

Read for inspiration

  • Many books help spark a child’s curiosity about art. Try Touch the Art by Julie Appel and 52 Great Art Projects by Lynn Gordon.

Point to art in every day life

  • Singing in the shower? Voice is an art. Dancing across the room? Dance is, too. Even sports have an artistic side. In fact, someone once choreographed a whole ballet based on Michael Jordan.

Cater to everyone in the family

  • Plan a mix of activities for both day and night.
  • Set expectations: discuss bed times, spending money, souvenirs, and other details in advance so there won’t be disagreements later .
  • Let the kids in on the planning. Ask them what they would like to see most.


Keep kids engagged

  • Allow children to role play and mimic – even in front of the artist.
  • Get a Toronto toilet map! They’re free.
  • Leave a day open so kids can plan something themselves.
  • Let each child pick one event for that day.
  • Don’t forget snacks, and pack comfortable shoes.
  • Perhaps most importantly: Don’t overdo it. Even the most die-hard of art lovers can wilt after a six-hour trek through a museum or an all-day symphony extravaganza. It’s okay not to see absolutely everything this time around.

Spark art discussions with your kids

Younger children (6-9):

  • What type of weather does this sculpture or painting remind you of?
  • Where do we see these colors on our street, our school, our home?
  • What kind of TV show or movie do you think you might hear this music in?

Older children (10-13):

  • What CD cover could this painting go on?
  • Which celebrities’ house would this piece of artwork look great in?
  • What country does this dance or music remind you of?