With all the cold weather last week, we have been eagerly awaiting a sunny opportunity to visit the new playground at the site of the old Royal Children’s hospital. This $5.5 million park is the final stage of the Royal Children’s Hospital build. It incorporates over 1100 trees, and 17,500 plants and native grasses. We set off on Sunday with a picnic to check it out. My son was so excited about it when we arrived that he couldn’t contain his delight, and the hungry kid was willing to forgo his favourite ‘avo toast’ in order to get to the water play area sooner. Begrudgingly, he stuffed his toast into his mouth and ran in the direction of the sprinklers as quick as he could.
The park is divided into seven zones to reflect the Wurundjeri Seasons. There are arid dry zones with rocks, hardy plantings and kangaroo tracks, a ‘forest’ to climb and scramble over and numerous water zones. A favourite of our toddler was the water pumps, wet sandpit and sluice gate. In this zone, kids are encouraged to work together to keep the water flowing. They pump the water, watch it tumble over a wooden canal and channel it around rocks. The sluice gate released the water into the wet play sand pit, to the great delight of those below. When we were there, there were many happy kids constructing sand bridges and tunnels to allow the water to travel further. It was so lovely to see kids working together to channel the water and it made a refreshing change to the usual ‘waiting for my turn on the slide’ routine.
Parents of toddlers take note, this playground is built to extend child’s play and there is an element of risk involved. There are rocks to scramble over and not all bridges have safety netting to stop wobbly tots from wandering off the side. However, our 20-month-old crawled and climbed over the rocks with great glee, and isn’t that just what kids should be doing? It is refreshing in a risk-adverse culture to see a playground that allows kids to test their own boundaries and work out things for themselves.
This park truly has something for kids of all ages. Big kids will love rock climbing up to the slides, the rope nets and the climbing forest. Little ones were drawn to the water, sand pit and the fountains, where squeals of delight could be heard. The range of surfaces encourages kids to climb and explore their environment.
At the end of our day when we bundled our tired, soggy, happy son into his car seat, he said, ‘wader-park’. I think this is about to become his new favourite word.
Bring plenty of water, sunscreen and coverings to protect your kids. While there are impressive plantings, they are all very young and, therefore, do not offer much shade.
Make sure you bring bathers and a towel. (We evidently forgot, which is why you see our son rocking it out in a soggy nappy and his ‘going to grandma’s good shirt’.)
At the end of your day, make sure you climb the grassy hill for some spectacular views of the city and the parkland. With a BBQ, easy access from Melbourne’s west, and ample space to roam and play, this playground is quickly becoming a well-loved spot for play dates and parties.
Where: Royal Park, Flemington Road (City side of The Royal Children’s Hospital)