Melbourne is loaded with things for kids to do. Every second corner in every suburb seems to have a playground and at least a patch of green space. Skateparks are growing more common, and community sporting facilities such as tennis and basketball courts, as well as cricket and football pitches can be found in almost every neighbourhood.
Almost all schools in Melbourne have sports teams and other extracurricular activities, either organised by them or run in conjunction with other groups. These cover everything from language classes to drama, photography to chess, skiing, surfing, or sculpture. This varies from school to school, but will be readily available from the school administrator or Enrolment Liaison.
For huge parklands where the kids and dogs can run around, head to the Carlton Gardens, the Botanical Gardens (South Yarra), the Fitzroy Gardens and Alexandra Gardens (on the river in the city).
SWIM AND GYM
Melbourne City Baths
420 Swanston Street, Melbourne, VIC – (03) 9663 5888
The Melbourne City Baths are an inexpensive and entertaining way to spend a few hours. A swim will cost you a $5.30 ($2.50 for children), and if you want to hit the gym, occasional sessions cost $19.50.
The Baths also offer frequent swim lessons for little ones. Making sure your child can swim (you will be living on a massive island, surrounded on all sides by water, after all) offers them a chance to develop their skills in a social environment, and you with peace of mind. For information on Aquatic Education see http://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/melbournecitybaths/aquaticed/Pages/Aquaticedchildren.aspx
Saint Kilda Sea Baths
10-18 Jacka Boulevard, St. Kilda, VIC – (03) 9593 8228
Another great option for keeping the kiddies entertained and active is the Sea Baths in St. Kilda. This heated indoor pool is filled with salt water (from the sea!). Some claim the seawater contains natural elements to alleviate your ailments. Others say swimming in a pool full of sea water is just unique and fun. There’s also a well appointed gym here if you want to blast your abs while the kids splash around. More expensive than the City Baths, but also higher quality (Unisex aromatherapy steam rooms anyone?).
If you prefer your children to get involved in more structured activities, there are literally hundreds of sports clubs for all ages. Most popular sports are Soccer (Football for the Europeans), Cricket, Netball, Basketball, Hockey and Football (as in Aussie Rules*). The following is a list of the most popular kids programs by sport.
Middle Park Football Club (in Albert Park) is centrally located and offer age appropriate Soccer programs for kids. http://www.mpfc.com.au/ssf
Cricket Australia’s In2 Cricket Program can help you locate cricket clubs with open enrolment for kids. http://cricket.com.au/in2cricket
Malvern Netball Club is well known for its netball programs for kids. http://www.malvernnetballclub.com.au/
Australian Football League sponsored Aus Kick program designed to get kids into the game and developing skills from an early age. Teams from this program regularly have an opportunity during the season to play on the field during half time of a Pro AFL match. http://www2.aflauskick.com.au/
*Australian Rules Football is unique to Australia, and Melbourne in particular (having originated there). A blend of a traditional aboriginal balls game and Gaelic Rules football, it involves plenty of running, long on-the-fly kicks and tackling, sure to keep adults entertained and children fit and fast.
Long-standing clubs The Girl Guides of Australia and Australian Scouts (formerly for boys, now mixed) offer camps, games, weekly meetings, cute uniforms and development of important life skills (such as survival, team work, and self sufficiency) for your little ones. Scouts and Guides are a relaxed and supportive way for kids to make friends and have a great deal of fun.
ACTIVITIES – OUTDOOR
The Active Melbourne program run by the Melbourne City Council is a family-friendly series of clubs and activities designed to get an increasingly sedentary Australian population moving. Although Melburnians are mostly an active lot, this program is a great way to try new recreational activities like cycling, rowing and Tai Chi, make new friends, and spend time with your family.
The same website offers a search facility that will give you a complete list of all recreational activities for kids run by the City of Melbourne. Everything from Pilates to Karate to Skate Parks or a simple workout is detailed here: http://mcms.melbourne.vic.gov.au/ParksAndRecreation/SportsAndRecreation/SportsAndRecreationDirectory/ActivitySearch.htm
If your children are interested in the slightly more unusual, try enrolling them in Trapeze for Beginners or General Circus Skills classes run by Circus Oz (an iconic Melbourne animal-free circus company). These 6 – 8 week courses are huge amounts of fun and perfect for a more adventurous kid. http://www.circusoz.com/classes
ACTIVITIES – INDOOR
Your local library can be a goldmine of information about activities in your local area. They also have plenty of fun and interesting things for children aged 2 – 10 to do during the school holidays. Book workshops, story sessions and sculpture afternoons are among the typical offerings. All libraries in Melbourne are divided into districts. To find out which library district you belong to (or your closest library) use the Victorian Government’s library locator. http://libraries.vic.gov.au/librarylocator/
Great one-off or limited events can be found on noticeboards like Activities 4 Kids and will often let you know about special deals for families. http://www.activities4kids.com.au/cms/details.asp?NewsID=81