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Published June 8th 2015
Fun For Toddlers, Without the Price Tag
Entertaining young children on a budget doesn't have to be difficult, with many major shopping centres around Melbourne offering free children's activity programs.
All of the activities below are completely FREE. (Although if you can leave a shopping centre without spending a cent then you have, more willpower than I do!) Several of the shopping centres also offer discounts and vouchers for families that attend the sessions.
In addition, most of them also contain an educational element, be it through storytimes, science workshops, craft activities and more.
Be aware that none of these programs provide free childcare. They all require the parent or carer to remain with your child during the activity. Most programs do not run during school holidays, but check individual shopping centre websites for details.
The following shopping centres provide free children's activity programs (listed alphabetically):
Broadmeadows Shopping Centre Every Thursday morning, Hume City Library presents Bilingual Storytime at Broadmeadows Shopping Centre in Melbourne's north. The session runs for one hour, and includes stories, songs, craft activities and more in English and a number of common community languages.
Chirnside Park Chirnside Park Shopping Centre runs monthly 'Play and Learn' sessions (PALs) in association with the Early Learning Centre at Chirnside Park Community Centre. The interactive program aims to encourage children's learning through play. It includes a different activity each month, including a Petting Zoo, Science Workshop, Puppet Show and more.
Fountain Gate Fountain Gate Shopping Centre in Narre Warren conducts regular Free Kids Mornings on Tuesdays. Ms Candy Sparkles runs workshops with a variety of art and craft activities for pre-schoolers.
Highpoint Shopping Centre runs weekly sessions known as The Colour Club on Mondays. The sessions are free and fully supervised, and include a variety of different activities including cooking classes, giant Lego construction, storytelling and more. Details of activities are available on the website for a few weeks in advance.
Knox Knox Shopping Centre presents Kids Mornings fortnightly on Tuesdays throughout the year. A different activity is conducted at each session, including Autumn Leaves Art Workshop, Churros Donut Workshop with San Churro, Bring Your Grandparents for Morning Tea and Storytime and more. There are also exclusive offers and a special gift when your child first joins Westfield Knox Kids Club.
Plenty Valley Weekly Free Kids Mornings are conducted every Tuesday at Plenty Valley Shopping Centre in Mill Park. There is a different activity each week, including Jetts Fitness Fit Kids, Giant Lego Construction Zone and Curious George Mask Workshop.
Southland Shopping Centre in Cheltenham recently introduced Kids Mornings every Wednesday. There is a different activity aimed at pre-schoolers each week, including Space Odyssey, Active Bodies Adventure and The Music Man. There are also a number of discounts and special offers available to parents who attend, for use on Wednesdays only.
Watergardens Town Centre
Watergardens runs a Monthly Mother's Group Brunch on the last Thursday of each month. The sessions include free storytime for the little ones thanks to Sydenham Library, and light refreshments for mums. It is a great place to meet other mums and babies from the local area.
There are limited spaces for these sessions, so registration online is essential.
Werribee Plaza, in conjunction with Early Childhood Educators, offers free weekly Playgroup sessions. Playtime in the Plaza is an opportunity for children and caregivers to enjoy activities together.
In addition, Pacific Kids is another free weekly program for kids at Werribee. It offers a different activity each week including Meet the Minions and Kids Yoga Classes.
Robinsons Bookshop, multiple locations
In addition, Robinsons Bookshop also holds weekly Children's Storytimes at four of their Melbourne stores. These sessions are designed for 3-4 year olds, and include a couple of stories and a fun activity. Parents must remain in the bookstore throughout the session.
Most other major shopping centres in Melbourne offer some children's activities at certain times of year and/or have free children's playgrounds. However, at the time of writing, none of them have a specific program of free activities. If you are aware of any, please add them to the comments below.