One of the best investments you can make for your family is a museum membership. Particularly if you travel a lot, you can often get reciprocal member benefits at museums out of state. In the past we’ve bought memberships to Questacon and the Melbourne Museum and reaped the benefits here in Sydney.
Perhaps our most oft-used membership though, is for the University of Wollongong’s Early Start Discovery Space.The name is a bit of a mouthful, so my kids usually refer to it as “Wollongong Museum”. Though, museum isn’t quite the right word for it. It’s more of a giant play space. Not the kind with ballpits and slides and chaos that haunt my nightmares. The kind that is incredibly well thought out, engages the senses and imagination, and holds awesome, creative events.
Which is what brought us there yesterday – the celebration of the centre’s 4th “birthday” with a weekend full of super-hero themed activities.
Like many of the children in attendance, my son came dressed in full super hero regalia, but there were also loads of opportunities for dress-ups and to create your own masks.
There was a mask parade, super hero “training sessions” (aka an opportunity to work on gross motor skills), a super hero story time…
My kids loved doing the “super slime” workshop, however as I’ve learned first-hand, slime can be a lot harder to make than it looks. I don’t think we had our ingredients in quite the right proportions in the end.
My favourite part of the day was a workshop run by illustrator Marcelo Baez. It was one of those simple, but brilliant activities. Prior to the workshops, large pieces of paper were covered with water-colour paint splodges (that were now dry). Then the kids were given textas and the task of turning the splodges into creatures – whatever their heart desired.
For whatever reason, Luella (who’s nearly 7) couldn’t get enough of this activity. She must have made a couple dozen creatures, ranging from aliens to ghost bats, to a dog karate. I loved seeing the moment where inspiration would strike her.
Sometimes she’d just start drawing shapes and it wasn’t until she got to the end that she knew what a creature was going to be – like the six-armed bear with six eyes. What’s especially great is that this is an activity that’s super easy to replicate at home – and you can be sure we will!
It was a pretty crowded, busy day. One of the things I like most about this space is their beautiful outdoor garden. When the noise gets a bit overwhelming inside you can come outside for a bit of tranquility and nature play.
There’s heaps to do even when there aren’t special events on – a lego room, a market/cafe/kitchen dramatic play area, and outdoor treasure hunt sandpit, trains, boats, puzzles, games, and more. We’ve been coming since Niko was still crawling and never gotten bored.
In fact, the first time we ever came was for Luella’s 4th birthday, which I’ll never forget because at lunch, she stood up on the bench and suddenly announced “Everyone, I have something to say! This is the best birthday EVER!”
It certainly was! And I suppose we came full circle celebrating the Early Start Discovery Space’s 4th Birthday.