Fun4Kids Festival: the perfect antidote to the Winter School Holidays. Fun really is the best description of this massive 2.5 acre indoor village featuring 80 live performances and 17 different activity zones!
Words and photography by Fun4Kids Festival veteran Sally T. Ridden and her mini reviewer Dex
When: 10am – 5pm, for a week during the winter school holidays, the July 2016 dates yet to be announced
Where: Corner Liebig & Timor Streets, WARRNAMBOOL
Cost: there are a variety of options but tickets start at $32.50 (and you can buy family tickets, one day, four day and seven day passes)
Ok I know it’s hard to imagine something being “the best” but this kids event seriously proves itself time and time again. The Fun4Kids Festival, a week long festival, is held annually during the mid year school holidays in Warrnambool. About a three hour drive from Melbourne along the Great Ocean Road this event really is Australia’s BEST children’s festival. For our third year in a row (my son is 3.5yrs old) we were enthralled and entertained with the incredible array of kid’s activities throughout 17 amazing activity zones.
The event itself is so well organised you seriously need to sit down all together to pre-plan with the festival guide and the site map, armed with plenty of time, stationary and a clear strategy of prioritising to plot & plan the kids (and your own) daily adventure, at the age appropriate pace, during the scheduled activities. It’s sensory overload, it’s interactive, it imagination, it’s wow factor, under cover and in one massive 2.5 acre indoor village location. Phew!
In 2013 we attended because Elmo’s World Tour was guest appearing in Telstra’s Festival Hall – the main performance stage and hub of all the action. At that time Dex was a 1.5yrs old who lived and breathed Elmo, we were hooked on what was available, even for that age group/attention span. 2014 saw us back again for Erth’s Dinosaur, which is all my son roared and breathed as a 2.5yrs old.
Kids and families flock to Warrnambool in July (alongside the migrating whales who are presently birthing, you may be lucky to chance a sighting!). Families I spoke with had kids who returned each year with a younger sibling or entourage of children and always found new exciting activities that suited a range of ages and interests. If you are travelling en masse it might work best to frequently split up and arrange to regroup to ensure you can attended the activities most suited for your kids, with the events suiting children aged 2-12 years.
This year we were on a single day pass (I highly recommend a multi-day pass to be able to enjoy the event offerings fully without feeling over-whelmed or rushed). With one entry fee providing access to all the the festival has to offer. With so many scheduled performances in both Festival Hall and Festival Theatre plus the diverse zones offering multiple workshops – there was simply no way we could report on everything, so here are our personal “adventure” highlights.
Fairbrother Build It woodworking zone was by far the stand out, partnering with the noisiest racket possible. One word – Awesome! Kids could select, design and create from diverse DIY Kit options complete with relatively simple graphic instructions, then armour themselves with hammer and nails to bang, build and assemble with the assistance of some very brave volunteer aids who risked many a thumb, nail and eye. With the addition of some create and make spare parts we then splash paint decorated his custom wooden creation in an adjoining room and were advised to come back later to collect his “monster truck”.
Next highlight on the agenda was Kids Kitchen – already a mini-chef Dex needed no introduction to the world of food and was most excited to be making mini Dessert Pizza with 60 others! We raced up the building ramps, washed our hands and put on our aprons in preparation of our session commencement time. Fresh portioned ingredients and utensils were pre-laid on the rows of benches with large screens for clear visual demonstration. As expected there was lots of creative mess, sampling, tasting rolling and I highly recommend family/parental participation, as it really is fun together. Again at the end we were advised to come back in 30 mins to collect a cooked colourful pizza.
Circus Capers was a come-and-go open circus space and could have been a festival in itself with so much on offer and for every level. We tried the basics of hula hooping as well as some of the circus crafts on offer – self decorating our own hoop which was sadly left behind as I simply had no way of carrying along with all the craft items we had created and collected. We also tried plate spinning or, in my sons case, plate throwing and juggling balls (aka dropping).
For the animal lovers Nature Glenelg Bug World had Dex happily fossicking in swampy mini ponds discovering predators, bugs and frogs and Emmanuel College Farm Yard offered magic moment with kids having hands on live experiences with nature’s feathered and fur little creatures.
Last but not least to note was Inflatable World where we had quite a few laughs whilst exerting energy together in this zone. Everyone gets their shoes off and EVERYTHING is jumping – a jousting pit, big slides, a cliff jump, even basketball.
My top 7 tips to surviving Fun4Kids Festival:-
- Dress everyone in layers (cold & windy outside then warm inside)
- Have some sanitizing lotion & wet wipes on hand
- Bring along extra carry bag(s) for all the arts & craft goodies you will be carrying on their behalf!
- It’s absolutely fabulous that you can BYO food & snack packs, so pack lots to get you through the whole day. There is of course the usual takeaway fast food event variety available for purchase
- Enjoy and participate with your child – so many fun workshops & many require supervision (age appropriate)
- Prepare for some disappointment, queues, masses of people, little people, prams and just too much to experience all in one day
- Make sure your kid is not scared of the scare-crows – they are the one’s allocated to help find lost children!
I cannot wait for next year and neither can my son. We still pull out the bits and bobs we’ve made at each festival for play times and each has it’s own fabulous story time adventure. Maybe soon they will recreated the event and have a sister event in Melbourne. Total kudos to the team, it deserves its title and may the event continue to reign.