Early Start Discovery Space Wollongong: Engaging Fun for Kids and Adults
By: Megan Gibson, ellaslist explorer
Nov 20, 2018
Tucked away at the back of the University of Wollongong’s main campus is the Early Start Discovery Space. The bright mural that lines the entry just hints of the delights to explore inside.
Nothing has been forgotten to make this an engaging and entertaining space especially for children; from the kid-sized bathroom, the room full of Lego, the quiet reading nook and the room full of musical instruments, nothing is off limits – kids are encouraged to touch and explore, bringing their adults along for the ride.
Kid Sized Fun For Everyone
My three children, ages 3, 6 and 8 had a ball – we spent over 5 hours checking out every nook and cranny. They loved the Market Place full of mini trolleys, food to buy, cash registers, money and shopping lists. Mum got spoilt as I sat in the Critter Café and was handed a menu by a miniature waiter before being served imaginatively flavoured “pizza sandwiches”.
Then it’s on to the construction zone with scaled-down hard hats, tool belts and hi-vis vests. There is carpeting to lay, conveyor belts to wind, wheelbarrows to push and walls to build and paint. Best of all, there are working spirit levels, tape measures and other tools for the kids to get their hands on – all the stuff mum and dad normally tell them not to touch.
The older kids particularly enjoyed a trip through the inflatable digestive system, making repeat visits and laughing about farts! Smaller children will love crawlers cove – a beach themed play area with lots of tactile experiences. There is also a ship to explore and a short cave system where bravery (and torches) are required.
The kids took turns digging for dinosaur bones and were encouraged to make some noise by a huge outdoor collection of drums. The coolest thing about the Discovery Space is that kids are encouraged to really get in and explore, instead of telling them “no” and “don’t touch” they really enjoyed being able to climb and experiment and make noise. And let’s not forget that parents are encouraged to get in and play alongside their kids.
By this time the kids are ready for some food, so we took a trip to the garden. The outside space is beautifully designed, relaxing for the adults but with splash pools, water channels, musical instruments, places to hide, water painting, and trees to climb – the perfect spot for lunch from the onsite café.
Singing Time, Story Time and Play Time
There are lots of activities held every day, often themed and run by enthusiastic staff. There are multiple story time sessions in the book nook as well as craft sessions and recycled art. Additional activities allow children to explore amazing resources while focusing on recycling, music, movement, art and more. There are also monthly themes and this November happened to be Music Month.
There are lots of cosy alcoves and quiet corners full of toys, puppet shows, fish tanks, educational games systems, magnetic building blocks, puzzles, musical instruments, dress ups, and more. There are three separate collections of building materials to encourage you to get creative. The Lego room alone is most children’s version of heaven!
We really love this place, it is small enough to see everything, inexpensive, friendly and kids of all ages will find something to delight them.
My Top Tips
- On weekends, during the mornings the centre was full of younger children (pre-school aged), they tend to head home around lunch time and the centre quietens for a little and then during the afternoon there were more primary school aged children around. Make sure to plan your visit around your children’s most alert times.
- There are free lockers and pram parking. Lock your bag up and prepare to participate with the kids.
- There is a fabulous café on site, but you can bring in your own food and there is a fabulous garden play space for the kids to explore while you eat – there is water play in the garden, so a change of clothes could be a good idea.
- Parking on weekends is free and plentiful, if you visit during the week it can be a bit tricky. If you have 3 people (including children) in your car you qualify for free carpooling parking.
- If you have younger children, its best to have one adult per child so they can explore at their own leisure. The space isn’t massive and is very secure, but children might want to explore in different directions.
- Check out their membership deals, visit and if you love it, they will credit the cost of that visit towards a season pass. There is even a summer pass that gives you 4 weeks of unlimited access – perfect for the holidays.
Where: The University of Wollongong Campus (head for parking area P4)
Cost: $15 per person (under 12 months are free) with various concessions available.
When: Tuesday to Sunday 9am - 4pm
Ages: Suited to children from birth to 10 years
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