Apr 21, 2018

The Staycation Life #3: The Early Start Discovery Space, University of Wollongong.

Today's instalment of the Staycation Life files sees us take the train to North Wollongong, avail ourselves of the free shuttle bus to the University of Wollongong before making our way to The Early Start Discovery Space on campus.  Along the way, I relived my own undergrad days as I bumbled my way through reading the campus map, accidentally on purpose found the uni refectory first (it's even got its own IGA!!) before conceding defeat and asking at the guild shop for directions to the discovery space.

We are so lucky to have a place like the Early Start Discovery Space in our city.  The aim of the centre is to provide children up to the age of 10 with hands on learning experiences in a space that encourages them to be independent and curious learners as well as to share this with the other children around them.  It's unique in that the facility is on a university campus.  Being funded by the university and the Abbott Foundation, I appreciated how free of 'subliminal advertising' the centre was.  

Entry is $15 per adult and child with babies under 12 months granted free admission.  There are plenty of free lockers, places to park prams as well as a whole bank of children's toilets as well as baby rooms and adult washrooms.  The on site cafe has a counter which opens out into an enclosed play space where you can take your order to eat or else to unpack a lunch you may have brought with you.  An overhead system as well as monitors around the centre advise of upcoming free group activities you can join throughout the day.  Most activities are under cover but there is an archeological dig and the playground, sound and blackboard area that are located outdoors, again in enclosed and secure spaces.

There are 14 experiences in total and we barely scratched the surface on our first visit. 

The under twos crawl and explore area.

Some areas are more conducive to younger children playing with their parents while most seemed to cater for the five and above crowd.  Interestingly, the children all seemed to find their own niche in each experience with the older children quite happy to accomodate the younger ones and their slightly selfish, rules be gone kind of approach.

Our first stop was the marketplace.

Master SSG hit the ground running and didn't once slow down his pace through our entire visit.  The real cash register and working bar codes had his attention for the better part of an hour.

I was sent to fill various pre-printed shopping lists in my trolley (there's even a life like trolley bay area to park them) which he rang up on the register.

He was also very diligent in restocking the shelves after we'd finished.

The ship in its shipyard was next. 

You can operate the crane from the second level and haul bags of goods underneath.

These are the trolleys you can use if you more pedantic about manual handling safety.

We didn't have the patience to put either of our names up in lights.

But there was something satisfying about placing the coloured rods into the slots and watching them light up.

Aside from the prescribed activities at each station, fact sheets outlined ways you could extend the learning experience at home with your child.

Full points for including this tooth brushing model!

Master SSG politely declined to get dressed up as a donut at the next station.

Preferring to explore the human digestive system dressed as it.  Yes, there is a bottom at the other end...  And the stomach somewhere in the middle opens out like a tent and it even has cushions inside.  Music festival frivolity has nothing on this.

We took a short break for lunch and tried the on site cafe.  Again, it was the little things.  Sweet potato fries served with the nuggets and freshly squeezed juice instead of the tetra packed version you might get elsewhere.

The weather was perfect for a play outside too.  Master SSG went across that log backwards....

He's never met a water feature he hasn't wanted to get a bit hands on with and this one was good value because he could redirect the circuit as he pleased.

One of the activities that took place during our visit was an interactive play and puppet show.

The staff are all so lovely and also engaged so well with the children.  There was lots of audience participation requiring them to read, listen and look hard for clues on the stage.

There was also time for them to play with the puppets themselves after the show.

There was still so much we didn't get to see and do this visit.  Master SSG had so much fun he wants to take the train here again next week to pick up where he left off.

Have you been to The Early Start Discovery Space?  


  1. That looks like so much fun! I've seen similar things on a smaller scale here - we have the state library that has different themes, last one we went to was construction themes with all the books, activities, toys, etc around that. Something like this would be even more fun! You are indeed very lucky to have it in Sydney :)

  2. This place looks amazing, and I've never even heard of it! Planning a visit next week now, thank you!


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