Denman W18 Masthead 2

Canberra with kids under $10: Part II

Renee Bogatko

Our This Week in the Can and Weekend Edits are usually packed to the brim with things to do with the whole family.

However, sometimes family activities can really add up with the cost of tickets, food on the go, entry fees and parking meaning some places are out of reach for families.

Sometimes budget considerations really impact on your choice of family fun, so we decided to round up some wallet friendly options for play time that will have your little ones (and you) jumping with cost-effective joy.

If you missed Part One catch up here!

Yarralumla Play Station


Train. That’s the only word I need to say to get my daughter sold on this next destination! Yarralumla Play Station is home to the Weston Park Miniature Railway, Lake Walter Mini Golf, and the Petite Park Petting Zoo.

The Railway has been around since 1973, and it’s now better than ever! Passengers can hop on Bluebell (who looks just like Thomas), and take about an eight minute journey around the grounds, passing the heritage carriages, going through the original Tunnel, on to the forest where the Petite Park animals are grazing, past the miniature golfers, and across the creek. My daughter loves hearing the “toot toot” and pointing out all the fun things we spot along the way. Bluebell usually departs every half an hour, with a single ticket going for just $5. A twin ticket is $9, and if 7 or more tickets are purchased by the same person, it’s just $4 each! This is a pretty good deal, especially when you consider all the other fun activities there are to do there.

The Play Station is surrounded by the Weston Park peninsula, which has a range of kid’s play equipment, BBQ areas, bike and horse trails and a beach area by the lake. The play equipment was a big hit with Claire, so much so, we experienced a very vocal tantrum complete with the stamping of the feet when it was time to leave. There’s a sandpit, slide, climbing nets, swings, and a water area with a bridge that has musical instruments the kids can play while they cross it.

Lake Walter Mini Golf is another fun activity, which features miniature iconic Canberra buildings along the two courses. And of course there’s the Petite Petting Park, which is home to some adorable furry friends, including Pepper the pony, Poppy the lamb, and their newest addition, a miniature Galloway steer named Herb.

After all that playing and exploring, mum needs a coffee! The child friendly Station Stop Café sells a range of food and drinks, including locally made gelato which really hits the spot, especially in these warmer months.

Lake views, a train, mini golf, petting park, play equipment, gelato, what more could you ask for? The kids will love Yarralumla Play Station, and love you for taking them there. 

Yarralumla Play Station | 9 Pescott Ln, Yarralumla | For opening times for specific activities, see the website:

Paint and Play

paint and play

Imagine somewhere you can take your littlies that’s fun, outdoors, and free. Yep – it does exist! And no, I’m not talking about the local park.

Paint and Play is a free outdoor playgroup operating during school terms at several locations around Canberra on weekday mornings. North and south siders are looked after with sessions in Ainslie, Dunlop, Florey, Griffith, Kambah, Lyons, Narrabundah, Ngunnawal and Weston. Community organisations set up a range of activity stations (which vary from place to place) including painting, bubbles, books, puppets, musical instruments, play dough, puzzles, craft, songs, and more! Paint and Play caters for babies to five year olds, with the activity stations catering to different age groups and interests.

My daughter likes the bubbles and painting the best. There’s easels set up and smocks for the kids to wear. Some of the Paint and Play’s even set up a clothes line arrangement so the paintings can be hung out to dry while the littlies get amongst the other activities. And let’s be honest, many of us parents prefer the mess to be made somewhere else. At Paint and Play, the kids can get as messy as they like. I still have some of the paintings Claire made; they’re proudly displayed at home!

Paint and Play is also a great chance to build connections and networks, as the parents/carers can chat with other adults, and the kids can interact with other children. There’s also a real sense of community at Paint and Play. The volunteers who run the sessions are super friendly and are always on hand to help out.

The sessions run during school terms, weather permitting. Make sure you rug up in the cooler months, wear a hat and sunscreen in warm weather, and pack some snacks, because I can assure you, your kids will want to stay a while!

Paint and Play | Various locations | For more information on locations/times, call ACT Playgroups on 1800 171 882 or visit this website:


cocktington green

Cockington Green Gardens at Gold Creek Village is a wonderland for the littlies, and us big kids! It’s an experience that can’t be found anywhere else in Canberra, featuring a display of carefully crafted miniature buildings set within beautifully landscaped gardens. Around 30 countries are represented in the International Display, while the Original Display showcases architecture found in various parts of Great Britain. The fine detail of these miniature buildings really is amazing. The littlies also get a kick out of pushing the buttons that operate the miniature trains and windmills mixed in with the displays. The buildings are also surrounded by flowers of every colour of the rainbow; it looks like a mini Floriade!

There’s also lots of other things to see and do at Cockington Green. My daughter’s favourite part (and mine too) is the Miniature Steam Train ride, which travels around the International Display. Claire loves pointing out all the things she sees along the way, like the dinosaurs hidden among the trees, the alien spaceship, and the cartoon character statues. She also loves the playground, which includes swings, cubbies, and a wooden climbing set. It’s surrounded by shaded tables where families can enjoy a picnic lunch, or a bit of time out. Claire also loves checking out the fairy garden, which is like something out of a children’s fantasy book! Visitors can also enjoy a coffee and snack at the café, and pick out something special in the gift or plant shops.

SO much to see and do, sounds expensive right? Nope! I bought the 12 Month Multi Pass for $44, which entitles me to a year unlimited daytime entry, a train ride each visit, a 10% discount at the café and gift/plant shops, AND a 20% discount for accompanying guests. Claire is free – because she’s under 4. They’ve got a range of deals, but ours works out to be just 85 cents per week, or $3.67 a month! Can’t beat that.

Cockington Green | 11 Gold Creek Road Nicholls | Open every day from 9.30am-5pm | Check out their website for more information –

Mainly Music

mainly music

Mainly Music is probably the best value for money experience my daughter and I have had in Canberra so far. It’s a fun music group for parents or carers and their littlies, run by volunteers from local churches.

The classes usually begin with some puzzles and book reading, followed by dancing and songs with words on a big screen, morning tea for the adults and children, and then play time, all for just $5 each session! The program helps kids develop their language, imagination, fine and gross motor skills, as well as their literacy and numeracy skills.

The sessions also help build connections, as parents/carers get to interact with their young one, all participants can connect with others at the same stage in life, and the children really seem to connect to the music. Kids also learn how to follow instruction, and how to participate in a big group of people.

Claire and I started Mainly Music well over a year ago, and love it. Every time we go we feel so welcomed by the smiling volunteers and other families. Everyone is so friendly and inclusive. On the days where I’ve had to work or one of us has been sick and we’ve had to miss out, we’ve both been quite disappointed! Claire and I have also made some really special friendships through Mainly Music, and I’ve had some really good chats with other parents about parenting, and non-parenting related topics. That’s the beauty of these sessions, you get to interact with your child(ren) in a fun environment, as well as have some “adult time” while the kids play.

Mainly Music | Mainly Music runs classes in Calwell, Greenway, Queanbeyan, Reid, Dickson, Kaleen, Belconnen and Charnwood. Some locations have a waiting list to get in, whilst others you can just rock up on the day. To find out more about this wonderful program, including times etc, head to


Renee Bogatko

Renee is a Canberra girl born and raised and mum to a beautiful three year old girl, Claire. She studied Journalism at the University of Canberra, and has been working in print, TV and radio for the past eight years. She loves being a stay-at-home mum to her little girl but when she's not out and about with Claire, she's either reading the news at Canberra FM, cruising the streets in Black Thunder, taking a dance class, going to the gym, hanging out with friends or family or keeping on top of house duties. She also loves cooking, trying new restaurants, playing netball, and adult colouring in! More about the Author

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