For many parents, registering for City of Toronto programs is one of the most adrenaline-inducing experiences. Since the majority of registrations are processed on the first day and 70 per cent within the first hour, you can’t help but to feel the pressure as the clock strikes 7 am on your district’s sign up day.

But with so many dance, art, music, sport and camp options so close to home and at relatively affordable prices (if not free), the painful period (minutes if you’re lucky) dedicated to signing up is worth it. First-timers, don’t let this frighten you – with your beginners’ luck, you’ll be laughing at the rest of us as we redial and redial and redial.

Newbie or not, here are some tips to help prepare for the race to register. (No guaranteed wins of course.)

Get family and client numbers: Do this BEFORE registration day. It can happen any time of year and it’s free. Every family member needs a client number. Call 416.338.4386 or speak with staff at your local city community centre.

Choose programs and back-ups: The City of Toronto is divided up into four districts – Etobicoke/York, Scarborough, North York, Toronto/East York – each with its separate sign up day. Browse your district’s FUN GUIDE (hard copy or online) and compile a list of first-pick program codes plus a list of back-ups.

If you browse online, do it BEFORE midnight the night before. During peak registration days, the system is shut down from 12 am to 7 am. (The system is not available from 4 am to 7 am daily.) This may be the only time I promote printed copies. (The online pdf – click on “Full Program Guide” – it’s the same as the hard copy.) You can pick up a Toronto Fun Guide at City Hall, civic centres, community centres and libraries.

Ways to register:

  • Online.
  • By phone: Touch Tone Registration (TTR) at 416-338-0000.
  • By phone: Operator assisted 416-338-4386 to register through a customer service representative.
  • In person: Register in person at select locations.

On the day of, start before 7 am: Remember when you were buying concert tickets? Same thing, minutes before registration opens (usually 7 am), start clicking and phoning. Keep on refreshing and keep on redialing.

When to focus on phoning: Children must be of age as of the start of the program to register online and through touch tone phone. If you have a child who is turning a required age during a session, you’ll need a staff person to override age requirements. So call ahead of time if you have any concerns.

Free: There are 39 community centres (16 new ones this fall) that offer free registered and drop-in programs. There is financial assistance available for low income families part of the Welcome Policy.

Always free: This is new. All leisure indoor and outdoor skating and swimming times are free.

Wait-list: If you don’t get into your preferred program, put yourself on the waitlist. If you can’t attend a program you registered for, call 416.338.4386. Here is the policy should you wish to withdrawal.