A first-of-it's kind, $7million children’s play space at the University of Wollongong will open to the public next week.
The Early Start Discovery Space is for kids aged under 12 and is based on the children’s museum concept popular in the United States.
It is staffed by early childhood and other workers, and includes 14 different interactive experiences, including the contraption-filled Galileo’s Study, The Cave – created to mimic the wonder of underground exploration – and Tummy Tour, where children imagine themselves as a piece of food and take a trip through an inflatable digestive system.
According to UOW, the space is the only dedicated children’s museum in Australia and the first in the world to be located on a university campus.
It is located inside the university’s new $44million Early Start Building and is the product of a $7 million donation by philanthropist Christopher Abbott, Director of the Abbott Foundation.
Early Start chief operating officer Michelle Kellaway said creators toured children’s museums in the United States as part of an extensive planning and development process.
‘‘The interactive experiences here have been designed to have maximum learning outcomes,’’ she said.
‘‘We know that through play, and playful experiences such as those in here, children are able to make sense of their world. They won’t see it as learning – they will just see it as a great, fun space. In our pilots, they are all devastated to leave.’’
The museum is a community engagement exercise for the university, with income from ticket and membership sales to be redirected back into the running costs.
Early childhood expert and UOW Professor of Early Start Marc de Rosnay said the concept ‘‘couldn’t be any more different’’ to indoor play centres, partly because parents were encouraged to take part in the experiences with their children.
‘‘Kids are curious. They don’t want to run around and just be physical, they want imagination, creativity – they also want to do that with their parents.
‘‘Children get great pleasure in learning from their parents, especially when parents do it in a spontaneous way – not behaving like teachers but like companions, co-conspirators and co-creators. This creates an environment where that can happen.’’
Entry costs $15 for children and $15 for parents for a one-off visit.
A year-long membership for two adults and two children costs $150. Some discounts apply.
The space will be open to the public from May 20. Visit earlystartdiscoveryspace.edu.au for further information.