When I told our four year old daughter that I would like to write an article about the indoor play centres in Canberra, her face just lit up like Skyfire. With a handful of visits to Monkey Mania under her belt, she felt like she was quite the authority on what makes a great play centre and was excited to check out ones she hadn't been to before. As a mum, I also have my own opinions on what makes a fun play area for kids - and what makes them bearable for adults.
The websites of each indoor play centre claim to be the biggest and best in Canberra - so which one is the best?
These are the final rankings from Reviewer Miss Four, however every family is looking for something different in a play centre. Try them out yourself and see which one will be your families favourite - what will be your Top 3?
1/ MONKEY MANIA
Canberra Outlet Centre, Corner of Canberra Ave and Newcastle Street, Fyshwick (9km's south east of the CBD).
This indoor play centre is located at the Canberra Outlet Centre in Fyshwick and is a popular venue for children's birthday parties and all year around for fun play. This is the largest centre in Canberra and also one of the busiest - however due to its large size the kids aren't falling over each other when its busy. At the back of the play centre is the main highlight - a floor to ceiling netted play area with ramps, stairs, large triple slide, single slide, cannon shooting foam balls, ropes to swing off, ramps to climb up and down, climbing apparatus to figure out and a little sports area with balls to throw around.
For young children under 5 there is a full sized jumping castle to play on and an enclosed area for them to play in the ball pit, slide and soft play area. Accessible by a pool gate, it is a safe area for toddlers to play and explore. There are also half a dozen themed rooms for parties, a café and plenty of tables and chairs for the adults. Of course when there are several parties on at once, announcements over the loud speaker and kids screaming - it is a noisy place to visit. With such a large centre however, it is bearable for the couple of hours you are there. If your kids don't like noise or you have little ones, opening time is an ideal time to visit . See website here for more details.
* If you forget your children's socks, Cotton On Kids is a few doors down.
Rating by Miss Four: 5 stars for the variety of things to play on, huge slides, and largest centre in Canberra.
Mum's' rating: 5 stars for her enjoyment, imaginative themed rooms and large centre so the kids can spread out. I have even finished a free magazine from the stand while she has safely played and met new friends - bonus. An easy two hours can be spent here and a good nights sleep is guaranteed.
Monkey Mania with large slides and floor to ceiling play
2/ FLIP OUT TRAMPOLINE CENTRES
Two locations in Canberra - 30 Sawmill Circuit, Hume (16kms south of the CBD) and 4/45 Dacre St, Mitchell (9kms north of the CBD)
This indoor trampolining centre is located at Hume in the south and Mitchell in the north. As an indoor play centre for kids this is a lot of fun for all ages - adults included. It is a great way to for the kids to exercise, have fun, learn balance and it is something that adults and kids can do together in a safe environment - if we can keep up.
The premise for this business (according to their website) came from the owner & CEO Brent Grundy who was waiting for a kids party to finish and "looked around and noticed that 50% of the play centre was full of kids that were either too big or the event was half full of people with nothing to do but wait; and that the parents and guardians were extremely bored and drained from the noise". With this in mind, Flip Out was born - creating a place where the adults and kids of all ages can also get in there and jump together.
There are children's areas for kids under 7 to safely bounce as well as an all ages arena which has trampolines on the walls to bounce off and plenty of space to practice tricks or have bouncing races.
There are also individual higher bouncing mats to practice aerial tricks and also a foam pit to do flips into. With party tables and a café, this centre is has an open feel and the kids can run around safely. One hour of jumping is plenty for younger age groups. Call and ask about their current deals and what timeframe suits your family. Click here for websites for Hume and Mitchell.
* If you forget your children's socks, you can buy some Flip Out ones at the counter.
Miss Four rating: 5 stars for the sheer fun of the place and the hilarity of watching Mummy jumping.
Mum's rating: 5 stars as it is fun for me too, great exercise and it is something that we can enjoy together (until I run out of energy).
3/ LOLLYPOPS PLAYLAND
Majura Park Shopping Centre, Majura (8kms east of the CBD)
Lollypops Playland is a large centre located at Majura Park Shopping Centre near Canberra Airport. If your kids love planes, keep an eye out of the large windows for the occasional small plane rolling by. There is an under 3's area with little jumping mat, slide, ride on toys, trucks, ball pit to play in, cars to ride in and a Teacups ride. Unfortunately at the time that we visited they weren't operating the ride, which can be disappointing for younger kids after they have seen it, so keep this in mind when you go.
The highlight for older children is the large netted play area with ball pit, jumping castle, two inflatable slides, array of stairs and bridges to climb across and for the brave - large colourful slides to race down and an extra steep one to try. With a café and party rooms, this has all the ingredients of a fun play centre for all ages. See their website for prices - including weekday discounts.
If your forget your children's socks they have a small range at the counter or visit Baby's R Us or Big W a short walk away.
Rating by Miss Four: 5 stars - loved the large slides, inflatable slides and under 3's area (even though she was too old). She gave 5 stars to all of the Top 3 in this article as she couldn't decide which was best.
Rating by Mum: 4 stars - large centre, lots of tables and a wide variety of new and fun equipment for all ages to try out. I gave it 4 stars as the party rooms weren't themed like some of the other centres and the teacup ride not working was disappointing for the kids, however it is a great facility and an easy Top 3.
25 Kemble Court, Mitchell (8 km's north of the CBD)
As with all play centres, you just have to chance it to see how busy it is on weekends. We decided to meet up with friends at Kids City on a Saturday, however we picked a particularly busy day to visit. There were several parties on that day and combined with a cheap online discount voucher, the centre was absolutely heaving. It has a large netted area to climb and play on, a full sized jumping castle and triple slides to race down. There is a great area for toddlers and juniors to play and climb through tunnels and explore independently - this was another highlight for Miss Four. With themed party rooms and a café, it was packed full of fun for all age groups. See website for more details.
Kids City - older kids area. Junior area not shown. Source: Kids City website
Another great facility is Lets Play at Nicholls for more play centre fun with ball pit, slides and themed party rooms. Whichever centre you choose closest to you, your children will love every minute - each have similar features and guaranteed to entertain for an hour or a morning.
Although these centres aren't cheap to visit, especially if you have more than one child, there are often online deals or multipass tickets to make it more affordable. On hot scorcher Summer days and frosty winter mornings, it can be handy to visit one of these centres to get everyone out of the house and wear off some energy out of the weather.
If you are anything like me however, you will arrive there and have completely forgotten the golden rule..