Wannabees: A Great School Holiday Activity

My little girl turned five in December. Being a first-time owner of a five-year-old, I turned to Google and typed in ‘best five-year-old birthday party ideas’, hoping for a magic answer. What I got was about 38,900,000 answers, to be perfectly precise, none of which seemed to be sufficiently magical.

Hmmmm, I thought, scanning through the first hundred or so. Fairy face-painting? No….done to death. Petting zoo? No….too much poop. A clown who makes balloon animals? No… that would violate the ‘no clowns of any description within 200 metres of my house’ rule.

After about an hour of blundering around the interweb, getting increasingly bewildered by my options (one of which was Elsa and Anna in their own refrigerated truck!) I came across Wannabees Family Play Town. And after about two minutes on their website, I was convinced that it was going to be perfect.

Need a #SchoolHolidays activity? Check out @WannabeesFamily Play Town Click To Tweet

What do you Wannabee?

Wannabees Family Play Town is a themed indoor play centre where children play at being grown-ups. It’s laid out as a child-sized city (complete with shops, offices and roads) where kids can experience for themselves what it’s like to be employed in one of a myriad of dream jobs.

They do this within the physical environment of that job, while wearing a job-appropriate uniform or clothing. At Wannabees, they can play at being fire fighters, police officers, doctors, shopkeepers, news readers, chefs, beauticians or one of many other roles in one of the Wannabees town buildings.

As a party venue, Wannabees is unique

Wannabees - a great school holiday activityNow there are no Ming Dynasty vases at my house, but nonetheless, when you consider the absolute devastation that can be wrought by 20 children under five, you quickly decide that a different venue (ANY different venue) is a most appealing idea. When you start trawling through your options, though, you realise that many of them operate on the premise of filling kids with junk food and lollies and then releasing them, Rambo-style, into a giant multi-storey climbing structure packed with other kids who are similarly sugar-fuelled, in the hope that they will burn it off without loss of limb (or indeed loss of child).

Wannabees is quite different to this. They advocate that children need more opportunities to boost their imagination and their confidence and that this can be achieved through a different sort of activity. They believe in the power of role play to achieve this, so at Wannabees children are encouraged to dress up and make up their own adventures.

By visiting each location in the town, children will assume a different persona and learn about what people do when they go to work in terms of interaction, teamwork and decision-making, and perhaps inspire them for role play at home, or their own careers later in life.

Why is role-play so important?

Role play is much more than just fun – it’s a learning experience. Role play engages a child’s emotions, cognition, language and motor skills, and creates synaptic connections within the brain. The more synapses a child develops, the smarter they’ll be.

Child psychologists believe that children who role play expand their understanding of themselves as well as other people, and improve their ability to communicate with peers and adults, evolving into more empathetic people. Role play also helps children to develop their leadership skills, it encourages problem solving, and it helps them to gain confidence as they learn more about the world around them, and establish their place in it.

Kids get to be what they want to be when they grow up NOW at @WannabeesFamily Play Town Click To Tweet

What happens at a Wannabees birthday party?

Wannabees - a great school holiday activityThe short answer is ‘pretty much anything you want’. The lovely staff members help you plan the party and select all your options beforehand.

Upon arrival, the small people are tagged with a wrist band to identify them as party attendees and the parents are shown to a reserved table in the cafe, which actually serves decent coffee. The kids are gathered up by their dedicated Wannabees party host, and taken to the green screen room to get them all excited, and record some footage of the group for posterity.

They’re then told all about the fun to be had at Wannabees and the birthday child is asked to select what they’d particularly like to experience. The party crew is then guided through a few of the scenarios by the host, who ensures that everyone plays nicely and gets a turn (and very importantly that the mummies and daddies get to have a coffee in peace instead of having to watch their children like hawks, as they bump around in the aforementioned tower of terror).

My Little Miss Five chose for them to be fire fighters, where they got to extinguish a fire with real water; police officers, when she was delighted to throw a pair of her shadier day care colleagues in jail; and then she took on the role of fashion stylist, dressing up her friends, after which they all got to parade their ensembles on a real stage and then do some disco dancing, complete with lights, mirror ball and sound system blaring out Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off’.

Phew! Time for a break.

Wannabees - a great school holiday activityAfter all that, it was lunch time so the little ones were shown to a private party room, where Miss Five got to sit on a throne-like seat at the head of a long table which accommodated 20 children easily.

There were many menu options to choose from while we were planning the party, so they tucked in to pizza (made fresh on the premises) and fruit to eat and juice or water to drink followed by birthday cake, which we had brought along with us, and which was served by the Wannabees staff members. At the same time, the parents were given some light refreshments while they mingled outside the party room.

After this, the whole birthday crew was allowed to have some free play time, which enabled them to explore some of the other environments, such as the construction site, the supermarket, the hospital, the restaurant and the nursery, or they could just grab a hold of one of the bikes, scooters or play cars and zip around on the ‘roads’ around the town.

You don’t have to be attending a party to go to Wannabees

Another great thing about Wannabees is that they’re open every day and have scheduled activities guided by their energetic staff members at intervals throughout the day. There are also activities for under-fives on weekday mornings.

Wannabees is set up in a warehouse which must be over 1,000 square metres in size, making it a great venue for letting off some steam when it’s raining, and its air-conditioned for the days when it’s too hot to play outside. It also has rock-climbing wall for older siblings and WiFi for mum and dad. Having said this, parents and carers are encouraged to join in the fun and play together with their kids, as it enhances the role-play experience with some real-world experience.

So what’s the verdict on Wannabees Family Play Town?

A resounding thumbs up from me. The premises were well-equipped, well-maintained and very clean. The staff were attentive, the food and the COFFEE were good (hallelujah!), and the kids had an absolute ball. It was the ideal party venue for a bunch of five year-olds, and it’s also a great place to take kids for some general fun, especially during the school holidays. Go have fun.

How to become a Wannabee

Visit wannabees.com.au for even more information on the activities offered at Wannabees and the pricing in place. For those parents desperate to survive the school holidays, Wannabees currently have a summer pass on sale to keep your kids entertained through 29 February 2016 – check it out here.

Of course, Wannabees is fun all year. With fun activities that engage your child’s imagination and teach them a thing or two along the way, it’s about as perfect as an activity can get. Plus: coffee, people!

If you would like more information on the packages available for birthday parties, please refer to the Wannabees Birthday Parties webpage.

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