The Pickering Museum Village—an open-air museum located just outside of Toronto in Pickering, Ontario—offers a glimpse into the history of the Pickering area with an engaging family program that’ll both educate and entertain!
As parents, what we’ve learned about parenting in a pandemic is that you’re constantly looking for activities to make the days interesting and put the cries of boredom at bay. But with the pandemic bringing so much of our children’s programming to a halt for sixteen months and running, we’re all hungry for options that let us explore life beyond our homes and our neighbourhoods.
And so, enter the Pickering Museum Village and its creative methods of delivering its programming in a world whose rules are so different.
The Pickering Museum Village | Izzy and the Mystery at the Mill
Our first activity would be the driving detective adventure through the village called “Izzy and the Mystery at the Mill” ($20 per person), which relied on a worksheet, eleven stops and a pre-recorded soundtrack to help you navigate what life was like two hundred years ago in the Pickering area. Requiring things like listening skills to figure out whodunnit, math skills to figure out the conversion rate from chaldrons to bushels to pounds, and a keen observational eye to find the twenty-four sacks of grain they hit in the village, there’s plenty for young minds to do on this fifty-minute adventure. And after that, we’d tackle the History Detective Tour, which challenged those skills even more to see how much of the village’s history we could uncover.
The Pickering Museum Village | The History Detective Tour
The thing that makes PMV’s History Detective Tour different from other children’s programming of its kind ($60 for a group of up to nine people) is that children can choose the kind of tour they want to have, with plenty of hidden items, coded puzzles and riddles woven into the various buildings in the village.
We started our tour with Katrina Barker-Pyke, the Coordinator of Museum Operations, who took us to their 1830s log house to start off our journey.
The thing about the puzzles in the History Detective Tour is that they’re all meant to teach you something if you’re just willing to listen.
A hidden pineapple can teach you about it being a sign of welcome and how sea captains would put them on their gate posts to let people know what they were home. A candle’s design can teach you about how it’s called a courting candle and how fathers would decide on its length based on how much he wanted a suitor to marry his daughter. What the Pickering Museum Village wants to teach you is that history is everywhere—we just need to open ourselves up to noticing more than what’s in front of us today in order to get it.
So by that point, we’d seen history, heard history and did quite a bit to learn about history, too. But what the Pickering Museum Village wanted us to do is experience history, which we’d do through making our own ice cream.
The Pickering Museum Village | Ice Cream Like You’ve Never Had it Before!
“Yay! Time for ice cream,” yelled my kids as we made our way to the Church Drive Shed to the west, but there weren’t any Baskin-Robbins just handing it out back in the 1800s—their excitement turned to mild worry when they realised we had to make it ourselves ($15 per person).
But they needn’t worry—largely because they didn’t need to do any of the work—but more so because it wasn’t as complicated as we thought.
It just takes a lot of effort.
Armed with some ice cream mix, salt, and some bags full of ice, the objective was to bury the mix in the ice and shake the bags as hard as we could to make our French Vanilla ice cream.
For twenty minutes.
While I could go the distance thanks to wrestling over a hundred pounds of my progeny all too frequently, it gave me a new appreciation for the things we take for granted and how much work those who came before us had to put in for the simple things.
After seeing some of the other creations around me and shaking it a little extra just for good measure (and daddy bragging rights), Sarah and I gave the ice cream a try, and you know? It wasn’t half-bad! I heard rumours that the mix had whipping cream and vanilla extract in it, and it came out right. I mean… I’m not about to make it again—because grocery stores—but I appreciate that I could probably make it as an ice cream parlour owner if someone snatches me up in a Delorean in Back to the Future III.
Need something a little different? The Pickering Museum Village is worth checking out!
As a Mississauga native who moved to Toronto a decade ago, I know that the city doesn’t give the ‘burbs the props they’re due nearly often enough, and Pickering’s only about fifteen minutes away from downtown! And in a world where field trips are a thing of the past, we’re starved for educational experiences that help shape the world for our kids.
And that’s why you need somewhere like the Pickering Museum Village—somewhere that wants to pull you into another world and show you why the things they want to teach you matter. With its dedicated staff, skilled team of volunteers, and a bevvy of ways to engage with everything they have on-site, it’s the kind of place you’ll want to visit again and again.
You can find out more at the Pickering Museum Village website!
Disclaimer: My family was compensated and attended the Pickering Museum Village as media to cover its programming, but all experiences and opinions remain my own.