Having spent much of my childhood on a small farm in the Macedon Ranges of Victoria, I am very aware that my own children are not connected to nature in the same way I was as a child. There was no skyscrapers to take away from the views of the mountains; I could hear the birdsong throughout the day; and, my brothers and I regularly built cubby houses from the branches that had fallen from the eucalyptus around our property. Thankfully places like the new Ian Potter Children’s Garden in Centennial Park Sydney are reconnecting city kids with nature.
The Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden
The Ian Potter Foundation donated 1.5 million dollars towards the state of the art, nature play space which has been named the Ian Potter Children’s WILD PLAY Garden. Hearing this you may be curious about the Ian Potter Foundation and what they do. Straight from their website they identify themselves as an Australian philanthropic foundation that supports and promotes excellence and innovation. It was established by Sir Ian Potter back in 1964. He bequeathed half of his fortune to the foundation on his death. Impressive, right?
The vision of the Ian Potter Foundation is to “encourag(e) excellence and enabl(e) innovation to facilitate positive social change, and develop Australia’s creativity and capacity as a nation”.
The initial concept of the garden began way back in 2012. Community consultation occurred throughout 2013 and in 2015 the final designs went on public exhibit. The Ian Potter Children’s Garden ended up taking 13 months to construct with the remaining costs of the garden build funded through philanthropic funding and sponsorship via the Centennial Parklands Foundation.
Exploring the Ian Potter Children’s Garden
The Ian Potter Children’s Garden is located off Grand Drive in Centennial Park. It is adjacent to the existing Education Precinct and well sign posted so you can’t miss it when you drive around the circuit of the parklands.
The garden itself covers 6,000 m2 and boasts over 12,000 plants. Sunshine visited with the crew from Families Magazine and made a dash for the 7-metre high treehouse, the first ever in Centennial Park. The bamboo forest was also a hit with it’s incredible woven tunnels and dense bamboo which made it a great spot for a game of hide and seek.
Whilst we had no spare clothes so avoided the Artesian water play area, we did note that it was very popular with those who had the foresight to come prepared. Whilst the area isn’t as large as some water parks it does feature 11 water jets and mist machines which are a real hoot. Your kids won’t want to miss the 10-metre long tunnel in the ‘Mounds and Meadows’ area which is also quite fun.
The Ian Potter Children’s garden has the ability to immerse kids in nature and lead them to organically climb, run, jump and get dirty. Without even realising it, kids will find themselves balancing, leaping between rocks, climbing and weaving. It happens naturally, there’s no clearly defined routine that the children need to follow. It just happens.
A while ago Sunshine and her cousins learned how to build bush shelters from scratch. I was excited to see that there was a space to do this within the garden. Although there were no instructions and no prompts to get building, I noted that again kids were doing this organically. This was so exciting to see.
In fact, I was quite impressed with the garden itself. It’s recommended for toddlers through to twelve year olds which I think might be just right. Older kids will need to go with peers to really immerse themselves in the garden I think (it has so many places to hide). The garden is also fenced and gated which is reassuring for those with younger kids.
Oe word of warning, kids are supposed to get dirty here. There is no soft fall or concreted sections. Your kids will walk on dirt, land on dirt from the slide, and crawl in the dirt through some of the bamboo tunnels. I think it’s a given that clean clothes will become dirty, so plan in advance by dressing your kids accordingly so they’re not worried about staining what they’re wearing.
The Ian Potter Children’s Garden is FREE to visit.
Opening hours: The Garden is open from 10.00 am – 5.00 pm daily
Location: Entry to the Garden is from Grand Drive, in Centennial Park. Click here to download map