To see, sense and explore with children can be an arduous task. They can become overwhelmed and easily frustrated with museums and attractions at any age. Melbourne is extremely accessible and welcomes children. In turn, my kids have welcomed the city into their vernacular.
The Melbourne Museum: a lot of everything
This place has it all. Aside from the fabulous regular exhibits of dinosaurs, animals, planets, Melbourne and Aboriginal history, it has a large children’s area. There are reading areas, coloring tables, mini-exhibits, building blocks of all sorts, puzzles and an outdoor area for running around. I was thoroughly impressed. That says a lot because I’m not easily impressed by museums.
Australian Centre of the Moving Image (ACMI): sensory overload
My 4 year old, Claire, and I stumbled into ACMI’s entrance looking for a break from the sun. We were ushered into a dark exhibit filled with tv screens, mirrors and flashing lights.
Where do we begin? Wii Mario Cart on a big screen? Awesome. I quickly taught Claire how to “drive” the controller (after I figured it out a few minutes earlier.) Moments later she drove herself over the finish line. There we were, dueling Wii Mario Cart, me and my 4 year old, in the basement of Federation Square.
The exhibits were a lot to handle for Claire. She became frustrated more than once, scared twice, and overwhelmed the entire time. However, she can’t wait to visit Uncle Johnny and drive princess toadstool to the checkered flag… or escape a hot day in the CBD again.
Scienceworks: hands on
Need activity? Go to Scienceworks. While the under 8 area included a construction zone, diner/cafe, mini Melbourne made of legos, and tv weather station, the main area contained exhibits geared toward older visitors but work for any age. A large outdoor space provided picnic tables and 2 playgrounds. It was perfect for my kids’ standard brown bag lunch.
We raced each other on a mini track, snowboarded down a virtual ski slope, threw the footy, interacted with moving dinosaurs (although slightly scary at first) and built a brick wall with the help of pulleys and wheelbarrows. My kids loved it.
Werribee Open Range Zoo: safari and more
The third zoo in Victoria Zoo’s triple threat, after the Melbourne Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary, is a typical zoo experience combined with a bus safari. The gorillas were a bit far, the lions lazy (as usual), but the bus ride felt as if we could have been in Africa.
I noticed the details. I noticed the stylized signage and continued safari theme within the zoo. We also couldn’t help but notice the children’s activities between exhibits. From mini obstacle courses through the bush, to a dance party stage and water play fountains with realistically placed exit holes, extra care was taken for children’s enjoyment.
The best part about our outings is that the above activities were mostly free for children with minimal entrance for adults. Melbourne children’s guides are available at tourist information centers with further discounts and ideas. With so many options, what’s not to like? I recommend going slowly with repeat visits.
The kids have taken Melbourne by storm. A storm where many unhappy moments are outshined by the brightest ones, learning to see, sense and explore.