The thing is, children cost quite a bit.
Instead of buying another toy, wouldn't you rather save you pennies for something else? (a holiday perhaps?)
We have searched high and low, finding the best place to take your playgroup for FREE. So maybe you'll buy a nice warm coffee along the way, but the rest costs nil.
Do you remember how much fun is was to run about in a new garden when you were young? Or a simple outing was worthy of a 'Woo hoo!' and a click of the heels. Your kids don't require fancy things or expensive experiences. They just need you and a sense of adventure.
Melbourne has a tremendous amount on offer, you merely have to pack a lunch box and your imagination and away you go!
Tucked away behind the hustle and bustle of Nicholson Street is Ceres. This place is a treasure trove for children. The community environment park is jam-packed full of goodness. Ceres has a great atmosphere. Chooks peck around the farm as you explore.The food is grown fresh and available in their onsite grocer. You can roam through the gardens and nursery. All sorts of birds tweet and flutter overhead. It is hard to believe we are still in the city! There is a big sandpit and a quaint little café (for all parents needing that caffeine pick-me-up) and- would you know it- Merri Creek runs along the back with a stunning bike path that takes you right along the creek to all sorts of places (there are playgrounds to be found too!). Ceres is very family friendly. It is natural, providing you and your children with lots of freedom and solitude. Often all you can hear is birds and children playing, and maybe a distant lawn mower. Bliss!
Picnic in St Kilda
Pack your lunch and take a trip to the bay. Your playgroup can enjoy the St Kilda foreshore, with the colours of Luna Park in the background and the surrounding towns dotted around the coastline. The children can look for shells and run about on the sand and grassy parkland while seagulls frolic around. You can show the kids the city from a distance and explain the geography of surrounding towns. Are your kids early risers? For a real treat, arrive early and see the fairy penguins as they waddle their way up to their nesting area! Who would have thought? A penguin colony in Melbourne. Incredible. There is something truly magical and peaceful watching the penguins as they delicately walk along the sand. Rug up. It is definitely chilly before the sun comes up!
Visit Readings Kids
You don’t need to bring much, but you will need to bring your imagination. The Readings store on Lygon Street is a terrific place to plonk for a while. Natural light floods into the room. Children and adults alike will enjoy running their fingers along the bookshelves, admiring the colour and art. The children are provided with opportunities to recognise words they know and attempt new phrases. The staff are lovely and the space inviting. You will find an inexhaustible collection of fantastic children’s storybooks. Speaking of fantastic books, we have some wonderful local libraries and most host storytimes each week. Once you tire of the bookstore, Carlton Gardens is a hop, skip and a jump away- as is the museum! A short walk and you are there!
Melbourne Street Art
Imagination comes to life as you stroll the back alleyways and streets of Melbourne's CBD. Creativity blossoms as hundreds of unique artworks come to life on concrete walls and paint chipped doors. Who said you need a canvas to create a masterpiece? Any old blank space will do! The street art gives inner city Melbourne an attitude. A personality. A artistic vein. Pack a sketchbook and some pencils and head to the city to discover the many wondrous art works. The kids will be in awe. You can merely stroll the art laden alleyways, swapping stories and wonders, or plonk your playgroup down to draw some pictures of their own. The art around them will be sure to inspire!
City Circle Tram
Little legs sure can tire quickly. Jump on a tram and go on an adventure without having to venture far at all. Take your playgroup on a tour of this interesting city. From the harbour at Docklands, through the city streets, the tram will trundle along, allowing your playgroupers to see all that our city has to offer. You can jump off at your leisure and site see through the arcades, window shopping as you go.
Check out the tram route here: https://www.ptv.vic.gov.au/route/view/1112
Visit the Botanical Gardens
Here is a beautiful gem right in the middle of our city. The greenery! The flowers! The rolly-polly hills! It is easy to wander the glorious grounds of Melbourne’s Botanical Gardens for hours on end. Encourage the children to explore. Once a swampy area, the land was transformed over many years into the exquisite site we enjoy today. Together you can discover new plants and animals in the varied sections of the gardens. There is opportunity to stop and admire the amazing statues and read the interesting signs (the gardens were established in 1846 by Lieutenant Governor Charles La Trobe). Meander into the Sidney Myer Music Bowl and act out a play on the big stage. The Shrine of Remembrance is a stones throw away. The children can marvel at the grandeur of the building and you can teach them about the history of our city (or even better, learn about it as you go). This is a winner because it is enjoyable for both child and adult. There is a cafe in the middle of the gardens by a big and beautiful pond. The children can run about freely and admire the ducks. You can sip a coffee and watch on.
NGV/Ian Potter Gallery/ACMI
Visit the National Gallery of Victoria, the Ian Potter Centre and ACMI. There is always something on, and even if there are no exhibitions that tickle your fancy, the buildings are wonderful places to ramble through and around. It is wonderful lie on the floor and marvel at the stain coloured glass ceiling at the NGV. Federation Square is an architectural feat (whether you like it or otherwise) and ACMI is full of unexpected things.
Queen Vic Market/Rose Street Market
The Queen Victoria Market is an intriguing place to sight see. The iconic place has such variety. From the smelly fish market, to the colourful fresh produce aisles and the many stalls in-between, there is lots to keep you and your playgroup well and truly entertained for hours. The place has energy! Flowers, basketball guernseys, shoes, pottery, leather goods, buskers and banter. The market has it all!
Rose Street Market is a quaint boutique market, tucked away down a narrow side street in Fitzroy. Local artists gather here, sharing their work and toil. The handmade art pieces are of high quality. The standard is impressive and the type of work diverse. Delicate jewelry adorns white table cloths, alongside candles that waft aromas of jasmine, vanilla and lemongrass in the breeze. Cushions, terrariums, pottery, paintings and plants make the place look like a quirky museum. The card collections made by local illustrators are truly wonderful. Local artist Marianna Marx creates exquisite works which playgroup age children adore for their whimsy, imaginative scope and beauty (her work Flight Patterns appears below) . As much as this market is for the kids, it is especially for the adults who can admire the local treasures handcrafted here in Melbourne.
Article by Sinead Halliday