When It's Too Hot or Too Wet But the Kids Need to Run FREE
It's raining outside. Or it's so hot you could fry an egg (or an overactive toddler) on an outdoor playground slide. You're trapped inside: your toddler is driving you nuts and your preschooler is swinging from the light fittings, desperate to have a run around.
Pack the nappy bag and strap the kids in the car: here are three FREE indoor playgrounds to take the kids to. They have all the essentials: undercover parking, a playground and parents' room with nappy change facilities.
By far the best of the bunch, Knox City has an entire kid precinct on level 2 at the eastern end of the centre (near the Ozone cinema and restaurant area).
Fenced in fun for preschoolers
The playground itself is fully fenced with a child-proof gate and has couches close by for adults to rest on while still keeping an eye on the kids. There are plenty of activities for all ages up to 6 years with sections to climb on, imagine in and play music at.
Be careful with older kids, though, as there are a couple of points where they can get a leg up and escape over the top of the fence (as my 3-and-a-half-year old did when we visited).
Toy piano/escape route for older kids (one foot on the keys, the other over the fence)
The parents' room is spacious and close by with its own fenced mini play area for older kids to pass the time securely while you change nappies and feed infants.
Warning: You will be tempted to spend money at the great kids shops near the playground
Make sure you don't venture too far into the surrounding shops if you want your outing to stay free, as there's at least half a dozen great kids shops, including Babyco, Pumpkin Patch, Cotton On Kids, Shoes n Sox (where they'll fit and measure the kids individually), Little Tackers and Ollie's Place. Though you might want to pop into Riot Art n Craft for some inexpensive rainy day supplies on the way home.
If you're into sailing the seven seas, come to Pirate Play World on the lower level of Eastland (outside Australia Post).
Arrrrrrr.... A pirate-ship shaped playground for miniature scallywags.
This one is also great, with plenty of climbing to be done, but is more for the 3-plus age group, with just a few things for the littlies to have a go at. It's not fenced, so be prepared to chase your runaway toddler in and out of the post office a few times.
Fun for miniature scallywags in training.
The location is not brilliant, with the closest parents' room and pram-friendly travelator or lift a fair hike away.
There is, however, plenty of undercover parking and often free shows and activities for kids at the Main Stage, just around the corner, especially during school holidays.
Croydon Central has all the essentials without the mega shop issues of long walks and multiple expensive temptations. Their Kidz Fun Zone playground is located in a vacant shop opposite the parents' room and close to the undercover car park.
The playground is small but adequate and I'd recommend it for any age up to about 4 years. It's not fenced but it is fairly contained and there isn't anywhere too far that the kids can run to. There are also couches for parents to sit on and supervise while reading a magazine (limited selection provided) and sipping a takeaway coffee from one of the Centre's cafes.
There is also one in the Homemaker Centre, in the same building as Ikea Springvale. It's on the top floor and it's close to the toilets, baby change/feeding facilities and a café that also has a play area in the back of it. Plenty of under cover parking. There's a good one at Stockland The Pines in Doncaster too. The good thing about these 2 is that they're all on one level so you don't have to go climbing if they get stuck.