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Posts Tagged ‘play centre’

I’ve always had this kind of building dread for the parties that lie in my future due to the Rocket. Teach and I are not 24 Hour Party People, or, let’s face it, Twice A Year Party People; we tend to celebrate our birthdays with dumplings and a movie. I love people, but I am still a socially awkward penguin who gets nerves before any type of catchup with more than two people, afraid that I’ll say something dorky, or look like a dweeb, or other emotions I should have left behind in primary school. So we’re not good at parties; I don’t know what I’m going to do when the Rocket is old enough to make demands about places and friends, apart from hope that we’re rich enough by next year to pay for a party planner to make some kind of Pirate Astronaut Butterfly Lion Extravaganza. And then there’s attending all these parties; how much do you spend on a present? Does the kid wear a foofy frock? Will all the other mums sit around smoking and judging me on the colour of the Rocket’s hair ties? AM I RIDICULOUS?

The answer to that last question is, always, yes. We were invited to a party for one of the Rocket’s little friends – I’ll call her Curly on account of her amazing hair – and it was a) fun, b) full of normal people, and c) totally something I grabbed the leaflet for on our way out. We went to Lollipops in Forest Hill, a giant, shiny-new play centre that I’d only peeped in at after going to the movies, and which had seemed enormous and terrifying. But we received our invitation, dressed in our nicest climbing outfits (have you tried to climb in a party frock? It does NOT work), and away we went.

It cost us nothing as we were there for Curly’s party, but usual entry fees on a school day run at around $9 for a two-year-old and $3.50, I think, for an accompanying parent. There was a party room set aside specially, with bright colours, cute little chairs, and a special elaborate throne chair for the birthday kid. We kicked off our shoes (and by the way, it’s both a requirement and a good idea that everyone wears socks – they sell them for $3 if you forget them) and dove into the toddler area. Basically everything in Lollipop’s is squishy, so there were some oversized squishy blocks, a squishy castle that led to a slide, a ball-pit underneath, and assorted children to squeal excitedly at. It held her attention for a solid fifteen minutes until she decided to scurry over to the part for the older kids opposite and watch her other friend June go down the super terrifying giant slide with her mother. While I stared in terror, June’s mother told me it wasn’t as bad as it looked, and then led us on an adventure up to the top. And eep! Such fun. I don’t know what I thought was underneath all those foam beams and slides (snakes? spikes?) but it’s just a cleverly built, boxy, multi-level maze of different things to climb and do. Another ball-pit here (the Rocket lives for ball-pits), a few spinny poles there, some clambery ladders, a wheel to spin, stuff to jump over, ropes to climb, swinging bags, stairs, parts to squeeze through – then suddenly BAM, you’re at the top of the slide, and the Rocket’s saying “no slide! no slide!” and you’re all, “It’ll be fine, let’s hold hands,” and then you go down together and as soon as you reach the bottom she yells, “MORE SLIDE!” and runs immediately back into it all.

Over the other side, there’s a spider maze for older kids only; behind that, there’s a noisy and fun part drowning in foam balls, with a variety of air machines which means you can watch the balls float, send them up a pipe to fall into a trough, shoot them out of a cannon, or fire them from some guns up high. I wish I’d taken pictures, but I was too busy enjoying myself.

There’s a huge cafe area for exhausted guardians, with tons of snacks for young and old (veg-capabilities not checked out, but the parties cater for allergies if necessary so you never know.) The party was catered by the centre, and there were a bunch of sandwiches, chips, muffins, fruit, and crackers. (You can pick the healthy option, which Curly’s mother did, or the one that gets you party pies and cocktail franks.) There was water, and Curly’s mother baked some super little chocolate cupcakes and all the children sang and smiled and ate and smeared food everywhere. It was grand. (And, for anyone interested, runs at around $170+for eight kids, and around $15 for any additional kid: more info here.) The Rocket wept when I asked her to eat some rockmelon, but June’s very lovely big sister Belle gave her a hug and kiss to make her feel better, and I felt a thousand times better in turn.

Before we left, I noticed that beyond the sea of high chairs in the cafe, there is a totally real pirate ship ride – one like you see at Luna Park, though obviously scaled down. So basically, we were there for about two hours, and still didn’t explore everything. It was fun for everyone, the birthday girl seemed very pleased with her day, there is basically no way your kid can injure themselves, and – best of all – there is no way for them to escape; when you go in, your kid gets a numbered wristband and you get a card with the same number, and you have to match up when you leave, so no one can run off with your kid. We even got a lollipop on the way out. So, thanks Curly’s mum – you held a party that succeeded in making the Rocket’s very first friend-party a triumph, and now I want to drag Teach back there and shoot him in the butt with some foam balls too.

pretty great picture from the Lollipops website, clearly taken before the children ruined everything with their squalor

Lollipops Playland

Level 3, Forest Hill Chase

Canterbury Road

Forest Hill

website

phone: 9878 1110

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This week my little Rocket turned two. I own two baby books with the purest white untouched pages you’ve seen, but I’ve documented her journey from our discovery of her as a sesame seed in my belly to now fairly well online and in a few journals scattered around my house when I needed something non-human to vent or emote onto. A decent amount of the day was spent looking at pictures of her as a tiny baldy baby and a bigger baldy baby and a tiny baldy toddler and then now, as a curly-haired decent-sized toddler-kid. Things were sometimes hard at the start. Sometimes they were boring. Sometimes – well, always – they were tiring. And now, at two, I cannot believe the magical little creature she’s become. Sometimes things are hard, like when she throws her food on the floor and then laughs like an tv-movie villain; sometimes things are boring, like when I have to push her in the swing for four million hours or watch the Space episode of Yo Gabba Gabba because she loves the Rocket Ride song so much; sometimes it is physically demanding but no longer am I tired from lack of sleep, except when I stay up too late watching and making fun of Machete Kills. But oh, she is so much fun, I can’t even tell you. She laughs, she jokes, she hides, she calls my name, she sits on my foot and hangs onto my leg as I haul her around the house giggling, she pours me pretend tea from her tea set, she climbs into her cardboard rocket and peeps out the window saying “hellooo!”, she races her Matchbox cars all over the house, she demands I read her books, she counts to ten without saying eight, she high fives everything she can, she swims, she laughs, she flies in with her arms wide for hugs, she dances, she draws, she picks terrible outfits from her clothes drawers, she hides behind poles that are some five-centimetres wide. She’s the best, even when she refuses to eat my elaborate meals and trashes my house and screeches in frustration when I can’t understand what she’s saying.

For her birthday we celebrated with our family on the weekend; snacks, balloons and hugs in the park. While I was at work the night before, Teach made her a cake, dyed the icing green, then drew train tracks on it with an chocolate pen from Coles. We’d bought her a birthday-themed Thomas the Tank Engine train: a Thomas covered in streamers with a cake on the back. Press the cake, it plays the TTTE theme song. Two candles, two sparklers, and a kiss on the cheek. She chased her cousins around and screamed with laughter.

On the day itself, I was at a bit of a loss in the morning, so I took her to Little Creatures in Balwyn. I hadn’t been back since she could walk, and she had great fun bullying some older kids into sitting where she told them, while they in turn stole toys off her and everyone shouted and cried. Still, such is life at a play centre, and she liked playing in the Duplo room and the house room the best, lugging her wonky-eyed baby doll in its baby carrier over to the Lego car and dropping it head-first into a pile of blocks.

After her nap, she woke up to a few lovely present deliveries from friends and family, which was lovely except you try shoehorning a kid away from her beloved new picnic set to go outside. My folks came over and we went on a fruitless expedition to Cocco Latte (closed for an emergency, but open today when I went back) and Acorn Nursery (closing earlier than I expected, so we slammed down our coffees, looked at the fountains and gave up on parks to head back.)

When Teach got home from work, we decided to go out for dinner, which, let’s face it, was more for us than for her. We went to Chadstone so we could hit up Wagamama – there was literally no one but us there at the start, which meant she was free to shout for a while, but she also got rice everywhere and upended her orange juice on the table, so, you know, good work at acting childish on your second birthday, I mean sheesh. Still, the waiters didn’t mind, my meal was delicious and while we forgot to order a free kids meal they threw in her juice on the house.

Appetites sated, we went to Timezone, because there are lots of bright lights and buttons to press. We got a $20 card and played any game she looked remotely interested in; some we didn’t even have to pay for, like the Dance Dance Revolution-type one where she got up on the platform and danced like crazy with the fun-loving people on screen. She boshed some crocodiles, rode a train, hit some lights, drove a car, went on a rat race, and then scored some bubbles and a miniature basketball with all our tickets. She had a blast; we were happy to see her so happy.

The year before, we’d had a little friend party at a park near work, where the Rocket had just learned how to stand up on her own. This year, we headed to the same park after work for an ice cream in the sun. We sat on the grass near another little girl who crawled excitedly over to see us. It turned out she’d just turned one, and to see her next to the Rocket was incredible – a year in a kid is such a long time. As the kids high-fived each other, the mother said, half-laughing, “Does it get easier?” and like I told her then, it really really does.

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Assuming I won’t be posting tomorrow because I’ll be too busy luxuriating in a bath with a hot chocolate as per my demands, Happy Mother’s Day to those of you who are mothers, to a human or a non-human animal or a plant or whatever makes you feel parental. I’m working tomorrow, so we have held my Mother’s Day today, which would be far more exciting had I not been struck down with a terrible cold that knocked me out at work yesterday and continued today. I feel a bit better now, but am missing out on my own family’s MD event lest I spread the cold further. I mean, I am a Giving Person, but they are probably not interested in the gifts of Boogers and Sweaty Fever.

My mothers’ group, as I’ve probably mentioned before, is made up of the most excellent women I could have lucked out on being thrown together with. I assumed they’d all be judgemental monsters, but they are NEITHER, just lovely normal people with lovely normal babies who are all adorable and I’m totally not biased. I couldn’t be happier to have landed on Planet Oh Jesus Christ What Is My Baby Doing with these people. On our first nurse-scheduled meeting at the community centre, I sat with the Rocket dressed in an adorable outfit that I had purchased for her especially to impress these strangers, and about thirty seconds before the nurse started talking the Rocket did a spectacularly enormous crap in her pants and I ran in a panic to change her. It had, thrillingly, gone all the way through her Very Special New Outfit, and then I had to change her into Very Boring Onesie that I had brought as a backup, and went back with my tail between my legs thinking how unstylish we now were. The nurse said as I returned, “You could have just changed her on the floor, you know!” but she did not understand my total fear of having these people think I changed my baby in some kind of incorrect way. ANYWAY, since then, I have lost all fear of anything with these ladies, and have learned from them and maybe taught them a thing or two (i.e. that they should all watch Yo Gabba Gabba) and I’ll stop talking or I’ll get sappy.

But what do you DO in a mothers’ group when your kids are old and wiggly? You cannot take them to cafes when there are nine adults and ten babies. We’ve gone to PlayDays centre in Doncaster but it is hot and full of three-year-olds who want to kill your children. But while wandering aimlessly around one day, I discovered another, smaller-scale play centre in Balwyn called Little Creatures, that has a temperate climate, no lingering smell of kids who have farted in the ball pit, and an excellent array of things to do. So we went as a group and: success!

One canny mother blowing bubbles to calm down the Rocket and her friend L after they had a screaming match over a plastic saw they both wanted. Which is pretty badass.

Little Creatures has a few different sections for kids to play in: there’s a wooden train set, a pink doll-filled room, a pretend supermarket, a little slide, a postal truck, a Duplo room, one full of bulding stuff (hammers, plastic saws etc), one with books and soft toys, and a dress-up room. There’s also a couple of tables and tiny chairs for drawing, and they hold parties if you want. So your kids can toddle around playing with whatever takes their fancy. And all that selection is the BEST. You can also get coffee, and little snacks, and it’s all very excellent. My tip is to go at lunchtime, when normal people are eating: it’s been empty the past two times we’ve gone and we’ve been able to have the place to ourselves.

It was a super serious feminist discussion about shoes and pans and teapots

It’s eight dollars per kid – two bucks more than Playdays but worth every penny. It’s not huge, but with enough space to crawl around (or walk if you are disposed to WHICH OH MY GOD THE ROCKET IS AS OF THIS WEEK) and a couple of comfy seats and a little cafe section at the front for when your kids are old enough to take care of themselves, it’s all very wonderful for those rainy days where you can’t go to the park and you’re too self-conscious about the state of your house to have anyone over (because let’s face it, while I am less anxious about my parenting abilities no one needs to know how infrequently I mop the kitchen floor. Because it’s BORING, you guys.)

Little Creatures

323 Whitehorse Rd

Balwyn

9077 2364

website

Not sure about the entry, but it’s flat inside and open plan, with areas divided by glass windows. There are a couple of toilets out the back – but I can’t remember if there were disabled ones. Sorry this is such a long post, both the Rocket and her dad are napping so I’m basically chatting to you instead of them.

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