A stay at home Mum who doesn't stay at home much; too many exciting things to be discovering in this city...
Published February 28th 2012
Fact: Kids love to press buttons, flip switches, turn dials, and lift the flaps. So we parents are very grateful that there is a place in Melbourne where they can do all this and more, without getting into trouble for doing it. And best of all – it's not going to cost anything (not for the kids anyway).
The Children's Gallery can be found on the ground floor of the Melbourne Museum and is made of up of three different spaces. As you enter The Gallery, the first area you come to is used for temporary exhibits. The last time I took my little one, the focus was on Native Australian wildlife. There was a vast array of cuddly wombats, echidnas, koalas, possums and kookaburras, waiting to be placed in and around a bush 'campsite', complete with tent, campfire, billy cans and a tree with hollow hideaways. My son got stuck into moving the animals about whilst I attempted to squeeze myself into a child-sized koala costume (sadly the two bits of Velcro didn't quite meet in the middle). There are puzzles and colouring activities in this section too, as well as books related to the current theme. On previous occasions I have seen it transformed into an archaeological dinosaur dig and a well stocked grocery store complete with shopping trolleys and tills.
The second indoor space is a permanent exhibit called '1, 2, 3, Grow' and is full of all sorts of goodies to arouse the kiddies' interest. There is a triangular crawl-through mirror which reflects your reflections (if that makes sense), a cave where you can build a stalagmite, construction tables for creating with bricks and blocks, live animals croaking away in their tanks and a whole host of other things to discover. You can see how many wombats you weigh (not for the faint-hearted), rearrange the animal magnets on the habitat wall and if you're really lucky; lose your kids through the mini tunnels that are dotted around. My two year old who generally has the attention span of a hyped-up Tasmanian Devil, spent a good 15 minutes just pressing the same button over and over again, to hear the sound made by a crocodile, which it turns out, is not snap after all.
Lastly there is an outdoor area where you can turf out your little darlings to burn off some energy. They can play with hoops, skipping ropes and stilts, climb on the wooden wombat or build a giant tower out of huge bricks.
Besides the designated Children's Gallery, there are other areas in the museum which are also great for the kids. Tucked away behind the cafe is an outdoor playground where some serious climbing and sliding should help to build up an appetite for lunch. The Science & Life Gallery is a definite favourite with my pre-schooler, due to the Bugs Alive exhibit which will definitely make your skin crawl. It also features the Dinosaur Walk which is always popular, with moving dinosaurs projected on the walls. The Forest Gallery is also worth a look. You can stumble through a dark, damp cave which takes you behind a waterfall and see some of the more elusive inhabitants of the rainforest including fish, frogs and a horrible, hairy, huntsman spider.
Melbourne Museum is open daily between 10am and 5pm. Entry to the museum is $10 for adults, but concessions and children are free. Special events are regularly held so look at the website to stay informed. The Children's Gallery easily has enough hands on activities to fill a morning or an afternoon and the great thing about it is - there's always something new to discover.