A few months back, a friend who lives in the Melbourne area posted on Instagram that she brought her son to the Museum of Play and Art (MoPA) in Sandringham. We ended up meeting there for a play date on Boxing Day for both our kids, who are within 6 months of age of each other. MoPA is a big children’s museum that has two locations in the Melbourne area, in Sandringham and Geelong, and when you book your ticket, you pay for a session play period, usually 2-2.5 hours depending on the day. Unlike the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, though, there’s both structured and unstructured play. The museum is spaciously laid out with areas designated by both theme (science, math, reading, motion, etc.), and appropriate age range. I was shocked to see how modern and fun some of the areas were. The whole place was extremely colorful and eye-catching; I could totally see how parents would buy annual memberships to a place like this. They had actual mini buildings you could climb into and on top of, huge slides, bouncy areas, and even a real car that kids could paint (with supervision from their staff). For structured activities, such as painting, dance club, and arts & crafts, they not only had dedicated staff members get each child ready for the activity and supervise, but they would also provide children all the necessary tools needed to participate.
I think the biggest value in going to a place like this is that there’s both structured and unstructured play. The kids can learn and explore on their own, and also be taught to; some of the activities mimic what they would get in a school or daycare center. There are some parts that are meant for self exploration, as well as areas where it would be helpful for them to be guided along by a caretaker. Given we had only two hours, it definitely did not feel like enough to explore the whole place. But at least we always have next year to explore and have Kaia return (the appropriate age range for the museum is between 1-7 years).
I was also impressed by the food offerings and the price points at the cafe in the museum. They had properly brewed coffee (we enjoyed flat whites), a delicious, not-too-sweet chia seed pudding (which I ended up enjoying more than Pookster, who only took about two bites before deciding she was all done), and a very gourmet sausage roll, which had roughly cut beef mince along with a number of different veggies inside. And for the three items I got, it all came to just $12 USD. The only thing I thought was extremely marked up were the baby/toddler fruit/veggie pouches, which were probably about 5-7x what you’d see at a local Cole’s or Wooly’s.