Toronto Parks & Rec Hunger Games / Program Registration: Are You Ready to Do Battle?
It’s the most tense/wonderful time of the year: Registration for Toronto Parks and Recreation Spring & Summer programs. Gather round and keep this button close, as experienced user Jess Whyte whispers her Parks & Rec secrets to you:
If you want to get your kid into a city-run summer camp or swimming/painting/dance lessons, you’ll soon be getting up before the sun to stand in line, click refresh on your computer incessantly, or hit redial on your phone a hundred times.
When it’s all done, you’ll feel incredibly lucky you got your kid into maybe 2 out of the 3 programs you wanted. Is there a better way? No. It’s a savage system designed to weed out the weak. You can, however, better your chances by being prepared.
1. Know your registration date
Find the registration date for your district, mark it on your calendar and set a reminder and/or the alarm on your phone for 6:30 a.m. that morning. Do it now. No, like, right now. Registration begins at 7:00 a.m. on the following days:
- Etobicoke/York District – Saturday, March 2
- Scarborough District – Sunday, March 3
- North York District – Tuesday, March 5
- Toronto/East York District – Wednesday, March 6
Did you do it? Okay, now set a calendar alert for two or three days beforehand to remind yourself to sit down and prepare for the big day. You do not want to be flipping through the “Fun” Guide or trying to use the overloaded, insanely slow website to find your program codes at 6:55 a.m. on the big day.
2. Know your “Family number” and “Client number”
THIS IS IMPORTANT. If you don’t know what I’m talking about when I say “know your family number and client number,” you need to call 416.338.4386 (before 4:30 p.m. on a weekday) and get one of those numbers for each of your family members *before* the big day. You can also get one at most community centres.
I keep my family’s numbers on a small piece of paper that lives on the fridge, but it’s also archived in my email with an easily searchable subject line — I think it’s “Do Not Lose this #$%#$! Toronto Parks & Rec Family Codes Registration Info.”
3. Know your “Program codes”
Every single program, camp or art lesson that you can sign up for has what’s called a program code. You can look these up on the website as you go, but your registration morning will go much smoother and much, much faster if you have them ready beforehand. It’s usually seven digits and it is listed alongside the program in the printed FUN Guide or you can find it in the online program listings here.
I like to write out a hard copy list of all the programs I’m (hopefully) registering for along with their codes and day/time info. I also keep a copy of this list in my email or Google Drive. The night before R-Day, I put this list along with my FUN Guide and a good book next to my computer.
4. Know your priorities
I order my registration list by priority. For example, it’s critical for me that my kid gets into the morning preschool at the community centre closest to our home. This is more important than swimming lessons or Crafty Creations on Tuesdays at 3 p.m., so I make sure that once I get into the system, I register for preschool first.
Now, say you don’t get into that Wednesday night soccer league you wanted. Then what? No soccer? Or are you willing to maybe accept Tuesday night’s league as a consolation prize? You are? Okay then, what’s the code for Tuesday night? Can you find it before the other eight parents who are also shut out of Wednesday do?
That’s why my hard copy list includes a B-list: it’s sort of an “if not A, then B will have to do even though it’s a slightly earlier, more annoying time” kind of thing. Do I sound crazy to you yet? I want you to know that a few rounds of registration day did this to me. I didn’t used to be like this. I used to be cool.
5. Know your attack mode
This is personal preference. I know people who swear by lining up in the cold and registering in person. They’re probably right, but that is not going to happen for me. [Jess is having a baby any day now — Ed ]
I usually try the two-pronged approach – website and phone. I’ve actually never gotten through on the phone — though some of my best friends have — but I might give the redial button a rest this year.
As for the website, there have been registration days where I got into the site right at 7 a.m. by clicking the refresh button at precisely the right moment. There have also been days where I missed the millisecond 7 a.m. window and hit refresh for the next 90 minutes. I don’t know the secret, really — just ready your Jedi powers.
To register in person, you need to find the closest registration point for you. There is a list right here. The same page has a link to the Online Registration page and the number for phone registration:
Oh, just write that down right now.
Good luck. You’ll need it.
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p.s. avoiding FUN online disaster
One more thing — and they’ve put in on the front of their online “FUN” guide so I know you’ve already seen it — but just in case:
“If, while using Toronto FUN Online, there is no activity for a period of five minutes your session will be terminated. You will need to LOG-on again to return to Toronto FUN Online. Do not use the back and forward buttons in your browser as this may result in the termination of your internet registration session, and you will need to hit the LCBO today for an extra — I mean, you will be required to re-log [re-LOG?] on. [ON?]” You’ve been warned. Ok?
p.p.s. fee subsidies
Let’s say your family of three has a before-tax income of less than $35,657 — did you know that you qualify for an annual credit of $455 per child and $212 per adult to put toward Toronto recreation programs? That’s a lot of swim classes.
For more info on the Welcome Policy (subsidy) for lower-income Toronto residents go here or call the application line at 416.338.2000
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Jess Whyte is a Toronto parent who likes milkshakes, city-run programs and Twitter. She once crossed the Malian border at night in a taxi where the “headlight” was a flashlight she held out the window, but finds registration more stressful.