Ten Playgrounds in One Day

March 25, 2021 at 7:16 pm (Uncategorized)

Yes, I’m a teensy bit manic depressive. Some days I barely move. Other days I’m ON for hours and hours and I act like nothing hurts and nothing is hard.

This was one of those days, back in 2015 when Lizzie was three and Tim was just one year old. Overwhelmed with life and with all I couldn’t do with my children, I decided to throw common sense out the window and have an ADVENTURE. This is how it went:

  1. 1. Point Hut, Gordon. We arrived around 7:00am, ran across the playground, climbed the tower, and ran back to the car. The top floor of the tower is tilted.

This is the tower. As you can see, we started when it was still dark.

2. George Gregan at Canberra Hospital. At this point my adorable social butterfly was saying, “I want some kids here.” (I recommend GG because it’s super awesome, but also because it’s quiet.)

We always make sure to take some jumps off the crocodile. Oh! I forgot to mention that at this point it was six degrees outside.

3. Cotter Reserve Playground (just after the second bridge) although we barely touched the playground. She’s in swimmers and a towel jacket.

…and water shoes. My crocs went really well, but I refused to go deeper than (her) knees.

4. Arboretum Playground. I promised Louisette there’d be kids there, and I was right. She made two completely unrelated friends in the 40 or so minutes we were there – just enough time to go down all the slides a few times, then promise her a surprise at the next one. (I had of course a series of useful rewards planned out for the day; it was a test of her endurance as much as mine.)

At every playground, I asked, “Did you like this one or the last one best?” She always said emphatically, “This one!” until just after Questacon, and then said, “Questacon” for the last two. Then I attempted to get a definitive answer this evening and she was back to insisting that every playground we mentioned was her favourite. (PS You can see mountains in the background of this photo.)

5. (Somewhat easier for the pre-schooler hand to shape than 3 or 4.) The National Gallery Sculpture Garden, cunningly timed for. . .

The 12:30 fog sculpture. We sat beside the water waiting (I told her something surprising would happen at 12:30 because of a machine) and then hissssss, and suddenly fog rose from the ground before us. She was suitably impressed, and when the wall of white sent Evil Magician-style clouds right at us – blocking out the world – she stepped back. It was really eerie! After a bit we walked through it – cold and subtly wet – to the car.

6. Boundless! Directly across the lake (timed so we’d hear the Carillon play, although the Sculpture Garden would have done just as well). Those are water cannons. . . and swimmers.

Being there at lunchtime there was a single school group on their way out and then it was emptier than I’ve ever seen it. Louisette practised jumping on and off the merry-go-round, which was definitely something we need for the future – it goes seriously fast.

7. A water dragon (and two turtles not visible here) at Questacon’s Waterways exhibit. We also saw caged lightning and the earthquake centre – but deliberately avoided Mini-Q this time! Mum’s catch-cry was “Quickety-Quick!”

All kids love being able to manipulate large objects (including TJ), so this has always been a favourite. Plus I like photos of round things.

8. Commonwealth Park Castle. I had her crown in the car and forgot it! Ah well. She was reluctant to leave, but I promised a sleep in the car plus Nanny and TJ at the next one.

New umbrella 🙂 You can see the castle down the path. (Other people call it the mouse house.) I love taking photos and having picnics here, but it involves a lot of crawling and very little visibility. (The crawling tends to tire kids out fast too – unless of course they make a friend. We had it to ourselves today, or it would have been very difficult to move on.)

9. Yerrabi Pond Adventure Playground. She’d had enough of taking photos with her hands in difficult number positions (I’m surprised she lasted as long as she did – changing locations is exhausting, but surprisingly helpful for preventing melt-downs – especially when there are snacks in the car.) I’d decided en route to save TJ for last, but Louisette didn’t mind because I still had one deux ex machine up my sleeve. . .

A bubble gun! It’s operated by blowing in the end and cost the princely sum of $4. (And she even modelled the crown I forgot at the caslte.)

10. John Knight Park Snake Playground. Poor Louisette is trying so hard to follow directions (as my mum holds tiger TJ steady on her lap) – ten fingers, and her face, and the snake at the top right.

Looking down from the top of the snake tower on TJ and my mum. After that we fed some extremely enthusiastic birds and then went home! 

I love my special Lizzie time, and I love a good adventure.


Total cost: About $10 in parking (Arboretum, Sculpture Garden and Questacon – which can work with one ticket); Two days physical recovery if I don’t exercise (Thursday and Friday are writing days, so that works). We have Questacon membership so that was “free”.


Total time: A bit under 12 hours.


Worth it for me? When I can do something that is difficult but within my range of ability – and I know it’s something I do better than most – that has a value that can’t be measured. Even if/when it’s a manic episode. It generally only happens a few times a year, which is not enough.


Worth it for Louisette? She likes adventures, but would usually rather spend a day with a friend (although her ability to play nicely breaks down noticeably after an hour or two). We got to know each other better (I love how much fun it is to just talk to her these days), and I definitely feel that Boundless is the biz for the not-that-healthy parent of a moderately-sensible preschooler (although the shade and the seats were very far apart at noon). We went to several places that we wouldn’t normally attempt without Chris, and that was rewarding for Louisette, plus of course she’s once again the star of a unique family story. Although everything was her favourite sooner or later, I think paddling in the Cotter River was the most special, and the surprise fog and/or Questacon were the most immediately absorbing.

In summary:

  1. Point Hut Playground, Gordon. Cool tower; otherwise it’s only included here to be nice to South-siders.
  2. George Gregan Memorial playground. AWESOME and so photogenic, but inside a hospital so there’s a risk of infection maybe—and the parking is awful.
  3. Cotter Reserve Playground. If you’re going there, check the water quality here and keep an eye out for brown snakes. And of course water shoes are a good idea, but/and those underwater rocks are super slippery.
  4. Arboretum Playground. Super awesome and stunning views across Canberra but the main part involves a long and scary trek through large tubes and pods, followed by a pretty intense slide… if your kid needs reassurance, you’ll have to work hard to get them out.
  5. Sculpture Garden. Not technically a playground, but super cool, especially when the mist is on. And within hearing of the National Carillion.
  6. Boundless. Disability-friendly (including toilets) but parking isn’t great. Also near the Carillion (closer, actually; you can walk across the bridge to its island).
  7. Questacon. Expensive (and currently you need to book in advance) but really cool and educational. There’s a gallery especially for littlies called “Mini-Q” which is only open to those 6 and under and their families. Even when there’s not a pandemic on, you need to book for Mini Q as numbers are limited and it’s super popular.
  8. Commonwealth Park playground/mouse house. Very pretty, very hard on the knees. A fair walk from the nearest car park.
  9. Yerrabi Pond Adventure Playground. Lots to do.
  10. John Knight Park. Everyone who’s grown up in Canberra loves the snake playground, but it’s one of three playgrounds next to each other, and the waterfall, ponds, and lake are pretty (assuming your kid isn’t the kind to immediately hurl themself into the nearest body of water).

I reckon we’ll try to arrange to visit these ones with our refugee mentees, because they’re interesting to adults as well as kids.

Cotter Reserve Playground, for the nature.

Arboretum Playground for the views, and for the Bonsai Garden Exhibit.

Sculpture Garden. It’s part of the National Art Gallery so OF COURSE we’re taking our artist friend! We’ll try and time it to enjoy both the mist sculpture and the Carillion’s bells across the water.

John Knight Park. Including a BBQ, probably.

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