By Danielle Galvin
There’s something truly magical about spending time with your child role-playing, in rough and tumble play or engaging with them in an activity or game they love.
But for many time-poor parents, there’s little time left in an average day to schedule in some time to just “play“.
Melbourne mum of three Melissa Blumenthal can relate.
After an overseas trip with her eldest child, now 13, she discovered one unique way of fostering those connections between parents and children by simple, old-school play time.
During her trip, she visited some incredible children’s museums with her daughter and it quickly dawned on her that there was nothing like it in Melbourne.
“I just thought it was wonderful. (It was an) educational learning experience as well as fun, and there was nothing at the time like that in Australia,” she explained.
“And my daughter was so engaged and I kept thinking, waiting, when is someone going to do something like this in Melbourne.
“At the end of the day children have limited opportunity engaging with purposeful play and our lives are just getting busier – especially with the explosion of technology and devices.
“As a mum I realised the lack of energy and time I had to play with my daughter, whilst working and juggling family and life. I could see around me everybody else is in the same boat.”
Fast forward to April 2019, Melissa opened Interaxcity Children’s Museum, a purpose-built mini city where kids can role play for 90 minute sessions with their parents or caregivers.
Based in Malvern, it has been a fantastic success.
It’s set in a 200 square metre space, with nine different exhibits where children can imagine and role play to their heart’s content.
In Melissa’s words, many of us over-schedule our children’s lives, filling up their weeks with activities and classes, ferrying them here and there.
All the while forgetting that the most important part of any child’s development is letting them just stop and be kids.
“There’s so many opportunities nowadays (for kids),” she said.
“Before you know it – there’s been no family time or time to just be kids.”
During a recent visit to Interaxcity Children’s Museum, an educator with more than three decades of experience summed it up well, telling Melissa the most important thing we can do for our children is play with them.
“Interaxcity Children’s Museum is a space where children of all abilities are welcome, inspired and can have fun without realising they are learning,” Melissa said.
“We invite children to be any community hero they like, depending on what they feel inspired by that day -a chef, a flight attendant, a doctor, a postie (and more) – the choice is theirs.
“Children can explore, discover and engage at their own pace.”
Since Interaxcity Children’s Museum opened, it has been non-stop for Melissa.
Many families visit Interaxcity from all over – Echuca, Mornington Peninsula, Ballarat.
It’s been a whirlwind, but the pure joy and happiness Melissa sees on the faces of the children, their parents, grandparents or caregivers each day makes it so worthwhile.
“The children are learning, the emotional connection going on between caregiver and child – it’s priceless to watch and see,” she said.
“The only tears we have is when children leave – and they love that time where their grandparent or parent has stopped to spend that 90 minutes playing.
“It’s really special.
“It’s been amazing, it’s a really special place to work.”