Explorer’s Playgroup, North Sydney

The littelest and I headed off to the North Sydney Playgroup to discover what fun could be had. We found the answer to be lots! When I showed her brother the photos (rookie mistake because he got super jealous) he demanded we show him this ‘new fun place’. 
Located in the North Sydney Civic Centre the address online all point to 220 Miller Street but I’m not sure that’s a exact address. Below is a map of where to find the Civic Centre but it is a large area which isn’t where you want to park if you are driving. 

  
Your best bet is to actually aim for the Ridge Street Car park as the second level of the car park takes you straight onto a level walkway directly to the Civic Centre (the pic below is taken of the car park from the inside of the playground and where you would walk to get to where you need to be. 

However we had a few issues with the car park which I will get to later. 

  
Ridge Street Car Park is situate at James Place, North Sydney and is well signposted so you won’t get lost. As above, if you have a pram you want to park on the second level if you can if you’re pram-free you can walk up the steps from the bottom level if you come out the entry and turn right walking to the back of the carpark you will find where you need to be. 

If you park somewhere random and you don’t know where to go aim for the big lawn outside the Civic Centre or the Stanton Library and you will see where to go because of the moms all heading in that direction. 

The cost is $5 per baby under 18 months and $10 for kids 18 months plus. You can pay on a play by play basis and don’t need to pay for 5 or 10 visits at a time like you have to at Crows Nest Playgroup. 

There is a big outdoor area which is that soft spring stuff except for a small patch which is sandy as its a ‘natural’ play space with logs, timber planks and rocks for climbing on or over. 

  
  

the natural play area
  

Outside is generally a ‘free-for-all’ play area where you can play with whatever you want or do whatever it is you’re keen on. There is a lovely cubby house, a deck with foam blocks, climbing frames with ropes and slides, lots of little cars and trucks, a giant sandpit and a smaller play set for littlies with slides, a tunnel to crawl through and a swing bridge. 

  

play set / climbing frame for bigger kids
 
 
the smaller play set
 

Additionally there is a painting set up where the kids can show off their painting skills. Thankfully the littlest didn’t see this otherwise we would have both been covered in paint. 

  
Inside there are different rooms to explore – there is a baby soft play area, a play-doh station and a themed room which changes (I think it may be weekly) when we went it was themed as a grocery store. 

  
What is quiet nice is that there are also group activities which you can participated in, or ignore, depending on your child’s interests at that exact time – there is singing / dancing and later in the morning story time. As littlest had never explored this fun place before she was far to busy trying to throw herself down the slide to be involved in such activities. 

The playgroup session runs from 10am to 12:30 on Mondays to Thursday’s during school term. The website can be accessed by clicking here.

The website for the playgroup states “Parking: Discounted parking for Playgroup users is available in the Ridge Street car park. Simply bring your token from the car park and swipe it when you register for each session” but this was a bit of an issue for me and the moms I went with who parked there. The normal cost (not discounted) for 2.5 hours would be $14.10 – I still don’t know what the discounted rate would be – but it appears there is a problem with the validation system at the playgroup and it has historically not worked. This meant that we were stuck in the parking with a man shouting at us through the payment machine, not ideal when you’ve got an exhausted little one. 

I don’t know many moms who can get by without some sustenance ūüôā So we were sure to check this out. There are a few cafes nearby where you can grab a coffee and muffin to keep you going through the session or to enjoy afterwards on the lawns outside the Centre. 

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Crows Nest TAFE Playgroup

Crows Nest TAFE Playgroup is THE playgroup to take your child to – Monday’s to Thursday’s. It’s so good it’s almost impossible to find information on because it doesn’t need to be publicized at all for it to have tremendous support. I heard about it by way of mouth and then tried to track down info, tried to phone a number I found and got zilch so this is for all of you who have heard about this place over the rainbow that has pots of gold (just kidding, no gold, just tons of stuff you don’t have to think up and then clean up).

The payoff for the playgroup is that you have to consent to your child being observed by the teachers in training. You may get asked a question or two or you may have a future teacher sit and play with your child, which in my case meant I had five minutes to think.
The playgroup starts at 10am and finishes at noon but it is very relaxed and you can come and go as you please. You pre-purchase attendances but it’ll be worth your while, just look at the pictures below.

The playgroup is situated at the TAFE Crows Nest Campus, 149 West Street. You enter through the main building where there are posters to the place to buy your pre-purchased tickets.
The facility is awesome – it has an inside and outside area with different play stations set up. It has almost everything you can imagine, just a few examples:

– painting

– musical instruments

– reading area

– puzzle table

– swing set

– sandpits with a water pump


  
Inside there are also areas which are set up for babies with soft toys and couches for moms.

There are students on hand to watch over your kids if you are darting between two play areas or running with a child to the bathroom. Speaking of which, there is a big bathroom inside which has changing mats for babies and there are little toilets for the toddlers.
Parking in the streets surrounding TAFE is a nightmare so we park in the Holtermann Street Car Park on the corner of Holtermann and Zig Zag lane. The car park is free for 2 hours and then approximately $5 for every hour thereafter. The car park I’m talking about is the one that backs onto the Crows Nest Community Centre. But, even with this parking it gets full quickly – come 9:40 you have to park a number of levels up. The walk from Holtermann Car Park to TAFE is about 5 minutes so not so bad and it’s pram friendly the whole way.

[QUICK SIDEBAR: If you’re parking here note that the only meter is on the 2nd floor so pay there before going to get your car otherwise you’ll be stuck with nowhere to stop to pay. ]

There are some restrictions on food and drink – no hot beverages allowed inside the playgroup grounds (inside or outside) and we were prevented from the children eating inside but on this last visit I couldn’t wrestle the biscuit out of my baby’s hand and that didn’t seem to be a problem.

While it is well shaded, it is still hot and there are plenty of sunny spots so make sure to pack a hat.