A free kids activity area with crafts, art & slides
NGA Play is a free children's area at the National Gallery of Australia, inspired by the Versailles: Treasures from the Palace exhibition. This colourful activity zone is located near the entrance to the gallery, which was previously utilised by the gallery gift shop. The glamour and luxury of the Versailles: Treasures from the Palace exhibition is located upstairs, however some of the French opulence has been incorporated into this area with replica chandeliers, ornate mirrors, grand statues and gold covered accessories. As kids explore each activity they are learning about the people who lived in this French period, including king and queen Louis XIV and Marie-Antoinette and workers such as the Court Gilder, Gardener, Weaver and Jeweller.
NGA Play has two large rooms for kids to get "hands on" with craft activities and take home a handmade gold crown, paper wig, tissue paper flower or piece of artwork. A particularly colourful attraction that catches the eye of every child as they walk in however, is not one - but two slides!
As you walk down into the play area, the first room has a wide range of activities to choose from. As well as the two slides, there is drawing, paper craft activities, paper flower making, topiary block stacking, ipads and more.There are also wigged character cut-outs from the era, so kids can put their head through and pose for a photo for Mum or Dad. As our family walked around, we were welcomed by one of the many friendly staff members walking around, giving out stickers for the craft activities and explaining what was on offer. We were told that NGA Play is designed to change every six months and relate the major exhibitions held each year. It is currently open daily between 10am - 5pm, 7 days a week, with the Versailles exhibition finishing April 17th, 2017.
After exploring the main room, kids can then move into the second room and admire this beautiful "ballroom" with high ceilings, gold tiles, mirrors on the walls and a feeling of grandeur all around. The NGA have certainly put some creative energy into this children's area, with plenty of extra details to capture the kids imagination. There are three craft stations set up in this second room with paper craft and gold paper gilding, as well as a tapestry loom for kids to thread the yarn through and practice this traditional artform. Everything in this room is pretend pure opulence, down to the plastic, but crystal-looking stools at the main table.
Throughout the Summer school holidays there are a host of activities relating to the Versailles exhibition for kids. Tales of the Palace is a free Storytime that will be held in this NGA Play space, with entertaining stories relating to this period in French history. There will also be school holiday programs for children over 7 to enjoy over the remainder of the holidays, lasting between one hour or all day - see here for the NGA calendar.
On our visit, our daughter (aged 5) was the perfect age for the craft activities, however all ages will enjoy the creativity and range of things to do. Despite walking out with a gold crown on her head, a curly paper wig in her hand and reams of paper with her drawings - what was our daughters favourite activity?
"The slides of course", she replied - the least French activity of them all!