By Rachel Hickingbotham
With coronavirus restrictions easing, families can once again visit playgrounds.
But where should you go?
These are the top three playgrounds in Knox chosen by kids and parents alike.
Although there are many excellent playgrounds in the region, these were the favourites. They have good variety of fun and are large enough to entertain kids of all ages. From a parent’s perspective, these playgrounds also ticked all the boxes with seating, shade and toilet blocks.
They all have barbecues and picnic tables making them great spots for you to meet up with friends and family. Just pack your hats, water bottles and enjoy!
1. Marie Wallace Park & Kid’s ‘Traffic School’, Bayswater – aka ‘The Train Park’
Enter off Mountain Highway or park in King Street.
Marie Wallace Bayswater Park has been fondly known as the ‘Train Park’ for such a long time, it’s likely that very few people know its real name. It’s named after the decommissioned steam train engine that sits proudly undercover in the playground. Kids of all ages enjoy climbing on this beauty.
The Train Park is a large playground divided into a number of zones. The newest and most exciting section is the ‘Traffic School’, that is super popular for all kids from scootering age up to tweens. The Traffic School has divided roads, intersections, roundabouts, road markings, signage and even working traffic lights. The kids love the ‘petrol station’ where they can pretend to fill up and parents love the seating and ‘bike maintenance station’. The maintenance station is permanently set up with bike tools, an air compressor to pump tyres up as well as a rack to hold your bike for you while you tinker. Even if you only visit this part of the park your kids will be happy.
Once traffic school was done, our kids loved the dual rotating swings, the wooden fort to climb on and the huge climbing frame with ‘extra-smooth’ slide from the top. Little ones will enjoy the large rubber hippos, lounging wooden lizards and sandpit (which could do with a top-up of fresh sand). The only downsides were the fact the playground is so spread out so you may need to follow your smaller ones. Also, beware of the metal slides on hot days!
A bonus of the Train Park is that there is literally something for all ages, up to teenaged kids. After we thought we had discovered everything, we then stumbled across lots of fun climbing equipment including monkey bars, nets and a rock-climbing wall. All the climbing areas have ‘soft-fall’ rubberised safety flooring underneath, much to our surprise and relief. With everyone catered for, this is a great spot for a group gathering. You enter off Mountain Hwy and there is plenty of parking, a big oval to kick a footy plus a toilet block, undercover picnic tables, all next to the playground.
2. Rowville Community Centre Playground, Rowville
Enter via the Rowville Community Centre on Fulham Road
You could say that this playground is a bit of a hidden gem as it is tucked behind Rowville Community Centre. If you don’t go looking for it, you may not find it. You will need to drive into the Community Centre car park and head to the left-hand side of the building.
This playground has been a family favourite of ours for years and comes in at number two, even after a thorough review of the competitors in the Knox area. We could call this the ‘Fish Park’ as a memorable part of this playground is the beautifully constructed ‘fish shaped’ drinking tap covered in gorgeous mosaic tiles.
There are so many delightful elements to this playground with our firm family favourites being the two nest swings. If you don’t know what a nest swing is, picture a large round net on a swing frame (or google it). Multiple kids and parents can all pile onto these super fun swings and swing about lazily or go higher to test your adrenaline.
Smaller kids adore the maze of activity areas underneath the walkways above. Completely covered in ‘soft-fall’ rubberised safety flooring, these shaded areas have little benches to sit in and play with your little ones. As the playground has been set into a hillside, these areas are soft and slopey which makes it even more fun for crawlers, little runners and adventurous tweens. There are lots of nooks for hide-and-seek as well as intriguing ‘music stations’ where kids can make their own music (noises!) for fun.
From a parent perspective, the most exciting part of this already awesome playground is the new upgrades. The picnic tables are now under shelter and there is a brand new toilet block right at the front of the playground, complete with junior toilets. The only downside to this playground is that you will need to wander around to keep track of your little ones. The top section of the playground has a fun flying fox so if you wonder where your kids have disappeared to, walk up the side path and you’ll probably find them!
3. Wally Tew Reserve Playground, Ferntree Gully
Enter off Glenfern Road for best access or via the Ferntree Gully library off the Burwood Hwy.
This playground was fully transformed five years ago and still delights both parents and children. The design of this play space feels magical with all kinds of natural elements to represent it’s unique ‘Forest Floor’ theme. Our favourite part of this playground is the central tower structure that the kids call their ‘mushroom clubhouse’. Children can climb up the inside and sit in the top sheltered ‘cubby’, then can slide down the enclosed metal slide.
Another fun element is the shiny metal bug that can be climbed all over (watch out on hot days). The sandpit is also beautiful with lots of logs and seating nearby for parents as well as a big metal sit-on digger for little ones. Our kids love filling up water bottles and pouring it through the water-racer and watching it run all the way down.
As well as climbing, sliding and digging, kids and parents can run or stroll over the connected walkways or play hide-and-seek underneath in the shade. There are a number of ramps for easy access, wobbly bridges, ’speak & listen’ pipes as well as lots of other fun elements. Families will also love the huge nest swing, standard swings, toddler swing, Liberty swing and flying fox with disk seat.
From a parent’s perspective, the best part could be that the playground is fully fenced and not too huge to lose a child (for very long anyway!). There is a water tap, some shaded seating and picnic tables to enjoy a longer stay. Just outside the gates of the playground is the toilet block and the Ferntree Gully Library. The best parking for the playground is via Glenfern Rd, but if you are visiting the library as well you can park at the library (enter via Burwood Highway or Lyndale Court) and walk through to the playground.