I'm a freelance writer and primary school teacher living in SE Melbourne. I love finding adventures for myself, my husband and our four kids to enjoy. Come along! Heart my articles, subscribe to the fun, follow along on www.facebook.com/WNMelbourne
Published March 10th 2014
Take your wild animals to this jungle for a feed and play
Croc's Playcentre Moorabbin
At 2, 2, 4, and 6 years old, my kids really put a play place to the test. My interest in Croc's Playcentre Moorabbin started with my son's pending 6th birthday. He's a winter baby, so we had our eye out for something indoors. Lots of friends' parties and past kinder functions had been going on at other play centres in the area, so the timing of the opening of Croc's in Moorabin was impeccable. We booked our party and we were good to go. More on the party later; let's start with the facts:
Race track with several tricycles, coup cars, 'motorcycles', and scooters
5 themed party rooms (beach, princess, pirate, space, and circus)
As I've mentioned, I have 2.5 year-old twin boys, a 4.5 year-old girl, and a 6.5 year-old boy. They loved, loved, loved this play centre, and gave it an enthusiastic eleven out of ten, for the entire two hours we were there. Not a word of complaint, aside from a battle or two over the mini coup cars (of course there are several of the same car, but the twins want the same one. Sigh.
The bouncy castle in the dedicated toddler area was a win in my books. The twins also loved the giant inflatable jumping pillow in the main play area, but without walls, it made me nervous; with more kids around, it would have been a disaster waiting to happen. In fact, the 4 year-old son of a friend of mine broke his arm in an accident involving this very jumping pillow. Boo.
Another favourite feature in this play centre is something that is not present: screens. We've visited play centres that have computer game hubs and cartoons playing on big screen T.V.s mounted on the wall. I brought my kids here to be active and burn off some energy; they can have screen time at home, thank you!
It was fascinating to see two men in suits, with no kids, head in to the play centre as it opened at 9:30; they ordered coffee to go, and left. After I got my first sip of coffee, I could see why. It's so delicious that it draws in the corporate workers from around the area.
The drink menu boasts several different espresso based drinks (including a soy option), teas, juices, hot chocolate, nothing over $4; pretty decent. A milkshake will run you $4.50-$5.50 with banana as a flavour option added to the usual three.
$2.50 for a cheese stick? A buck and a half is highway robbery for a little cup of jelly, and I got robbed, times three cups, the day I was there. For my $4.50, I should have gone for the bowl of fries, which was enormous.
The "Kid Snacks" section of the menu is a fantastic idea, and allows for those distracted kids to get a bite to eat for a decent price: 4 chicken nuggets, 4 mini franks, mini pizza, mini pies, mini sausage rolls; all good value at $3.50 each.
Other menu items included the usual suspects: sandwiches and schnitzels, fish and chips, wedges, nachos, and dim sims ($6-$12). A special menu board included some healthier options such as fresh fruit ($1ea), kids' sandwiches ($3ea), aforementioned cheese sticks ($2.50ea) and various other items that may fluctuate in their availability.
While "vegetarian, gluten free and kosher options" were offered in writing, the gal at the counter couldn't really tell me what might be gluten free, "unless it's pre-packaged and you read it on the package." Hm, not that helpful. She did mention that special care was taken for parties if there were allergies noted for parties.
Overall, decent prices with plenty of choice.
Croc's Moorabbin offers 3 party options, starting at $169 for up to 8 children (at the time of publication). Dozens of options are available for extras, adult food platters, hot food options, and even a visit by Mr Croc himself!
My son's party in the 'circus' theme room, with a host dressed as a clown
With a bit of a miscommunication, we ended up with the circus theme room instead of the space theme room, but at least it wasn't the princess room.
Our party host greeted us, complete with clown costume, and was there assisting from the beginning to the end of the party.
I have been to a few parties at venues like this that certainly did not run as smoothly. I was thankful for my host, the timing of the food, drinks, and cake was at my beck and call, and I was impressed with the theme throughout the colourful room and extending to the costume of the host of each room.
My only complaint was actually the party beside us. The party rooms are quite small, with an "adult table" set up just outside of each room. The party beside us was hosting at least 20 kids, and, with no exaggeration, at least 25 adults/older teens. They sprawled over to our doorway and our adult table, blocking the kids from getting in and out. The staff were not that interested in making anybody uncomfortable, and they were definitely less interested in insisting these adults move than they were in me and my party having more space. The solution, I would suggest, is to clearly limit the number of kids and adults that are permitted in one party room, and have excess guests seated in the main dining area, or require the hiring of more than one room.
The B.U.G.s are the summary of the good, the bad, and the ugly; or, as the case may be, the Bad, the Ugly, the Good, because I like to end on a good note, and, GBU doesn't really spell anything.
The Age Range: The age range at Croc's Playcentre allows for up to 14 years old. While the manager assured me that it's rare to have kids that old playing there, I don't like the idea of a couple of big, rowdy teens bouncing my littlies off of the air pillow or running over their toes in a trike race around the place. An older cousin here or there, or a younger care-giver perhaps, but I'm more comfortable with an age limit of about 10 years old at a place like this.
The Temperature: For my recent visit, it was a warm morning, but we were there from about 9:30-11:30, not the hottest part of the day, and it was very, very warm in there. Sweating warm. I might not have been so hard on them for this point, except that there are large posters at the front door, messages on Facebook, and text messages distributed, all promising a "cool retreat" at Croc's. Not cool (enough).
The Cost: General entry: 10mos-2yrs: $9; 3yrs-5yrs: $11; 6yrs and over: $12.50. While adults are free (I greatly dislike the idea of adults having to pay to get in to play centres), bringing my family here on a weekend for a play would cost a whopping $52.50. Granted, I have 4 children, but that's the type of fee I'd expect to pay at the zoo or the aquarium (and is, in fact, close to both of those admission costs), not at an indoor playground. See the 'Good' bullet below for information on deals, memberships, and discounts that make visiting a little easier on the wallet if you plan ahead.
Some safety concerns with access to storage areas
The Ugly: Safety: As a parent, safety is my number one concern. As a play centre catering to ages 0-14 years, attention to detail on safety issues should be of paramount concern.
My main concern was an accessible area at the back of the play centre that was used for storage. There is a gated emergency exit door, and just beside it, an easily accessible area with stacked folding tables, chairs, and miscellaneous other storage items. Of course there is an expectation that parents are responsible for the supervision of their little darlings, 100% of the time, but I felt this area was an oversight by the play centre.
Secondly, though not quite as disconcerting, the party rooms. None of the party rooms were in use while I was there, but all were open, with stacked tables and chairs accessible for curious little climbers ("that's what we're here for, after all, right Mummy?") with coffeeing and chatting Mums ("that's what we're here for, right Mothers' Group friends?); it just all seemed like an accident waiting to happen.
Thirdly, some exposed outlets in the open play area that I felt could have easily been blocked with outlet guards.
The Brand: I love the name, strong theme, and brand of Croc's. Most of the other play places get jumbled in my memory as some mixture of Kids-Fun-Super-Duper-Big-Slide-Play-Space-Zone. The jungle theme throughout the centre is impossible to miss. They even have a "Croc's Den" room, where Mr Croc "sleeps" when he's not out for a birthday party. My four-year-old daughter was so enamoured with that thought.
The Size: The size of Croc's is perfect. There's enough space to get around other kids when it's busy, parent head room to rescue a toddler who is freaking because of a "loose sock" (not-kidding), and for most ages to keep from getting bored, even after a solid couple of hours.
The Coffee: The latte I had while I was there was amazing (and I'm a self-proclaimed coffee snob).
The Cleanliness: Second only to safety in my standards, and a close cousin, is cleanliness. Croc's Moorabbin gets the white-glove award for cleanliness. I did arrive when they opened, but some research on their Facebook page and other reviewer comments reveals that Croc's Moorabbin is known for being well kept and in good working order.
The Deals: Planning to spend a lot of time at Croc's Moorabbin could become cost prohibitive if you have more than about one kid, unless you take the time to check out the deals. First, join the Mr Croc's Club; free to join, free points for every dollar you spend at any Croc's location, and other "exclusive members' offers, discounts, birthday specials, and much more." You can also get 10% off weekday parties, discount entry for Mothers' Groups, discounts on weekdays ($1 off), and discounts with a 10x pass ($65, can be used in any combination of days/kids); and even a discount for twins; my kind of place!
Croc's Playcentre Moorabbin gets an 8/10 from this safety conscious Mum; quickly bumped up to a 9 with safety issues addressed. Call them up and book a party, or meet some friends there for a play as the air cools and the school holidays approach.
Great review. You haven't mentioned parking, unless I've missed it! Is there sufficient car spaces? I can't seem to locate this information anywhere on the Crocs website or on the world wide web. Thanks.