I am always looking out for new experiences, wherever I may find myself.
Published April 1st 2020
Who does your child want to be today?
Wannabees indoor play centres are a brilliant idea. Designed to resemble a child-sized city, they're full of little rooms set up to look like real businesses and offer kids a chance to play at being adults, mimicking the jobs they've seen adults do and dreaming of what they'll be when they grow up.
I visited the Hornsby location a month ago and was surprised at just how big and vibrant the 'city' was and how much effort had gone into creating all the different rooms. Kids can 'work' at a fire station, a supermarket, a vet, a post office, a hospital, a hair salon, a construction site and a restaurant. Down the back, there was even a television studio and radio station!
Captured here is the size of the Wannabees play centre. Behind the main room the town continues down a little street where there are more rooms. Bikes and trikes sit next to the stage, ready for kids to ride around the streets.
Attending with a two-year-old, I was relieved to find out that you get as long as you want inside and all the rooms are decked out with everything your child needs. Kids can spend hours posting letters at the post office, using bricks to build a house and cooking food at the restaurant. Many rooms have costumes, like a fireman's hat at the fire station or a tool belt and hard hat at the construction site.
Part of the hair salon. This room had hairdryers, mirrors, chairs and smocks. Everything but hairbrushes.
Most rooms are suitable for all ages (the best age for this place is 2 to 9 years old), but if you have a young kid who doesn't quite understand all the jobs or can't keep up with their older siblings, there is also a room specially designed for the youngest kids. On my visit, it was full of basic toys like books, instruments and soft play equipment but I was told it was about to get slide and swings too. If you've visited recently, let us know what it looks like now.
One of the rooms at Wannabees is designed to look like a construction site where a house is being built. Pictured here is the bathroom, complete with soft tiles and bricks that are designed for young kids.
I thought we were having the full Wannabees experience when we were in the vet saving a monkey, but then an announcement came over some speakers that Wannabees needed help putting out a fire. Apparently, there's a whole lot of staff-led activities too. In this case, all the kids in the play centre ran to the fire station, got dressed, climbed a ladder, slid down the pole and rushed to a house that was on fire. Here, real water comes out of hoses aimed at a room set behind a panel of glass, and kids can pretend to put out the glowing fire by aiming the hose at the glass until the light dies.
Inside the fire station, empty now that everyone's rushed out to put out the fire at grandma's house.
After the fire was put out, the staff-led special experiences weren't over either. Kids were then taken to the TV studio and everyone pretended to make a movie in front of a green screen (which always seemed to be running, so you can do it yourself too, dancing with a dance class, skiing or swimming away from sharks). There was also a radio station activity (we didn't join in) and a fashion parade on the stage in the middle of Wannabees.
The TV studio was probably the most impressive room. Kids can sit at the news desk and (if they can read) announce the news displayed on a teleprompter while watching themselves on the screen in front of them.
I think Wannabees is a great idea and if you're lucky enough to live near Hornsby, I recommend checking it out, just for something a bit different to do. Hornsby is one of only two locations, with the other being Frenchs Forest. If you want to read about that one, check out the reviews by WeekendNotes writers here and here.
Wannabees Hornsby can be booked for parties and it's even happy for you to drop your kids off for a while when you go shopping in Westfield (this option is only for kids over 4 years old). There's food inside and kids cannot go in or out without reception opening doors.
*At the time of writing this article, in early April 2020, Australia was experiencing its Covid-19 crisis. Wannabees was still open, though it had severely reduced its hours and could only be enjoyed on weekends. This situation may change, especially as government policies continue to change, so check the website before you go and use discretion when deciding to visit. Hopefully, everything will go back to normal eventually.