We’re incredibly fortunate that in Christchurch everything is, at most, a 30-minute drive from wherever you call home. We’re even more blessed that there is an abundance of cool and exciting things going on in our wee city that, with a little imagination, can involve the whole family, regardless of age or ability. Our weekend tradition has gained quite the following amongst our friends and family, all of whom have youngsters ranging in age from 5-months to 5-years.
The thing we love the most about our favourite family excursion is that when we follow this route it can last anywhere from 1 hour (a good tucker out activity before naptime) to all day (a great tucker out activity before bedtime)!
Margaret Mahy Family Park (Armagh Street, Central Christchurch)
The Margaret Mahy playground (pictured at top) is where our adventure starts and will eventually end. Located on Armagh Street and designed with the help of local children, Margaret Mahy Park is a gift from the angels and Luke’s ultimate happy place. There’s plenty of parking space, and navigating pushchairs is a breeze. While the playground isn’t fenced sufficiently to stop the kids from escaping, the park is set up in such a way that it isn’t hard to keep your eyes trained on your little Houdini as they run from one activity to the next. The kids will often spend hours hooning around the park, playing on the splash pad, damming the rivers and creating waterfalls, jumping on the trampolines or shooting down the slides. Cries of hunger can put a dampener on the most well-organised excursion, so pack a bag with some sausages, bread and tomato sauce and make use of the free BBQs at the park.
Mrs Higgins Oven Fresh Cookies (New Regent Street)
The promise of fluffies and oven fresh cookies are enough to lure the progeny from the excitement of the playground to our next stop, Mrs Higgins Oven Fresh Cookies on the quaint New Regent Street, a mere 260m walk from the playground. Fractious kids can generally be calmed by the prospect of spotting a wild but friendly bunny or perhaps a digger at work. A quick game of eye spy makes the short walk doable for even the littlest of legs.
We sit for 30 minutes or so, enjoying our warm treats and watching with excitement as the trams pass by while we plan the remainder of our afternoon. Those with kids who still enjoy an afternoon kip (I’m green with envy!) will break off and head back to the cars. The rest jump back into pushchairs and continue on.
Canterbury Museum/Botanical Gardens (Rolleston Ave, Central Christchurch)
On a not-so-nice day, the next stop on our walking tour is just over 1km away at the Canterbury Museum. Luke and his comrades routinely spend about an hour in the Discovery Room where, for a mere $2 per child, they get great pleasure in watching me squirm over the live tarantulas. They dig for fossils, check out the hundreds of pinned insects and butterflies, and play on the interactive floor.
Over summer, when the days are hot, we’ll meander into the Botanical Gardens behind the museum and chill amongst the roses and ferns, swim at the pool, or play and picnic on the lush grass near the playground there.
As the sun starts to dip and eyes begin to droop, we pack up and start the 20 minute walk back to Margaret Mahy and to our car. Rosy cheeks, lots of laughs and some quality family/friend time and we can tick off another successful day. Not only are we creating memories, we’re not breaking the budget to do so.
Georgie Hanafin is chief referee between her 3-year-old, Luke and her 33-year-old man-child (and high school sweetheart), Joe. They live in Linwood, Christchurch with their asthmatic cat, Dudley. Georgie fondly remembers a time when she could get lost in a good book and sleep past 9am. Now, she works full-time as an office manager and spends hours building lego towers for Luke to smash.
Image: Christchurch Libraries