HOT: Caulfield Park, Corner Hawthorn and Balaclava Roads, Caulfield North

Caulfield Park

Caulfield Park is regular hangout for many south-east Melbourne families as there’s so much to do there! There are three playgrounds as well as ponds with ducks and geese, sports ovals, a cricket ground, conservatory, croquet and bowls lawns, basketballs courts, tennis courts and an aviary.

The largest playground in Caulfield Park is the Eastern playground, accessed via Park Crescent and it’s suitable for older kids.

Caulfield Park

The highlight of the playground is a steep and thrilling slide resting on the soft fall mountain of moguls. At the bottom you’ll also find low wooden ramps, a large pyramid rope climbing frame, a climbing wall, monkey bars, basketball court and adults exercise equipment.

Caulfield Park

Toddlers with still enjoy the gentler slides, little ladders, the springers, shopfronts and music making equipment.

Caulfield Park

The playground is overlooked by large established trees, picnic tables and barbecues and a toilet block, meaning it caters well for all-day play.

Note that the playground is SO large that it can be hard to keep track of kids who like to want to run off in different directions. It is unfenced so you’ll need to keep your wits about you.

The two other playgrounds are better suited for toddlers. The Aviary Garden play area is accessed off Inkerman Road and it is shaded with soft fall flooring, picnic and barbecue facilities and toilets.

The Central-West play area is near the Croquet Club and is the smallest playground in Caulfield Park. It has barbecues and seats but toilet facilities are a bit further away.

All the playgrounds have ample off-street parking.

HOT Tips:

  • Suitable for toddlers;
  • Suitable for older kids;
  • Picnic tables and BBQ areas;
  • toilets;
  • Water tap; and
  • Free parking.

Caulfield Park, Corner Hawthorn and Balaclava Roads, Caulfield North

The HOT List: Top 12 Melbourne Writers Festival 2017 events for kids

melbourne writers festival

Every year the Melbourne Writer’s Festival delivers an exciting program for Melbourne, the City of Literature, and for our book-loving family.

In 2017 the childrens and teens events include workshops, performances and talks, all under $15.

PLUS come along to Harry Potter Day, a free all-ages celebration of 20 years of Harry Potter on Sunday 3 September at Federation Square. Dressing up is a must!

The program is now available so you can start planning your festival. Tickets are on sale to the general public from Friday 21 July 9am.

Here are some of my Melbourne Writers Festival picks for children:

1. Mapping Our Future City: Interactive Exhibition (Sat 26 Aug – Sun 3 Sep) – pop-up installation exploring the future of infrastructure, technology, arts, environment and lifestyles.

2. Illustrator in Residence (Sat 26 Aug, Sun 27 Aug, Fri 1 Sept, Sat 2 Sep, Sun 3 Sep) – see leading illustrators work live 12-3pm in Fed Square Atrium.

3. Creative Journalling (Sat 26 Aug) – hands-on workshop using art supplies and materials to make a creative art journal. For age 9-12 years $15.

4. Pitcha Making Fellas (Sun 27 Aug) – Hear how Pitcha Making Fellas made their book What’s in a Name?and work with them to create your own pictures. $15.

5. Hip-Hop (Sun 27 Aug) – Participants will write their own lines, play rhyme games and immerse themselves in fun and positive hip-hop culture. $15.

6. Live Game Dungeon Time (Sat 2 Sep) – kids will create a heroic version of themselves and tell an epic story of adventure. For 5-12 years. $15.

7. The Patchwork Bike (Sat 2 Sep) – Learn about recycling, upcycling and environmental waste with bestselling author Maxine Beneba Clarke’s first children’s book. Learn how to draw with illustrator Van T Rudd, who shares his work from the book. $15.

8. Harry Potter Day (Sun 3 Sep) – celebrating 20 years of Harry Potter with performances, the Sorting Hat, storytime and dressing up. Free.

9. Kyo Mclear and Shaun Tan (Sun 3 Sep) – Hear beloved children’s author Kyo Maclear (Virginia Wolf) and Australian legend Shaun Tan (The Singing Bones) share their storytelling process and how they inspire imagination in young readers. Free.

10. Bruce Pascoe: Fog a Dox (Sun 3 Sep) – Bruce Pascoe discusses his Prime Minister’s Literary Award–winning young adult classic, Fog a Dox. Free.

11. Smart Stories ACMI Family Sundays (Sun 3 Sep) – Hear from award-winning children’s authors and take part in fun storytelling sessions.

12. Fiction Writing Workshop (Sun 3 Sep) – learn to write fiction with novelist and short-story writer Christopher Raja. $15.


Signal is hosting two days of free events for teens. The program includes podcasting tips, creative workshops and a chance to ask YA authors Danielle Binks, Melissa Keil and Angie Thomas about their work.

This year I am excited to be one of the Melbourne Writers Festival Digital Storytellers. I’ll be sharing my Festival adventures on the blog and social media alongside booktubers and bloggers Becca the Book Reviewer, Read Like Wildfire, Rebecca Gough and Lillytales.

The HOT List: Top 13 Places to go with Kids in Stockholm

stockholm with kids

Stockholm, Sweden’s capital city, doesn’t seem to top a lot of lists for what’s hot in family travel – but it should!

Every neighbourhood is different, the attractions are world-class (in an understated way, typical of the city itself), it’s very easy to get around and almost everyone speaks perfect English.

Plus there are few places that are more genuinely kid-friendly than Stockholm. You don’t have to especially seek out kid-friendly dining options here. Almost every restaurant has high chairs – generally a stack of IKEA Antilop classics, of course – and a kids’ menu. Staple foods include meatballs, potatoes, and hot dogs. And kids are simply accepted as part of life, so they’re welcome pretty much everywhere. In fact, your kids will have the astonishing freedom to make noise and generally be kid-like. Really.

With this in mind, here are some of the best places to go with kids in Stockholm.


1. Junibacken

Junibacken is part museum, part library, all fun. It’s dedicated to Astrid Lindgren – the beloved author of Pippi Longstocking – and Swedish and Scandinavian children’s literature in general.

Whether you’re acquainted with Pippi or not (yet), your kids will adore this place. You can ride Pippi’s horse, take a ride on the magical Story Train for a whirlwind introduction to Swedish classics for kids, have a delicious meal at the cafe, and look out over the water. And kids are happy to play for hours in the different exhibitions. Don’t miss it.

Junibacken, Galärvarvsvägen 8, 115 21 Stockholm, Sweden

2. Vasamuseet

Millions of people visit Vasamuseet each year – for good reason.

If you aren’t impressed by the Vasa, you should probably check your pulse. Vasa was built in 1628 as a grand warship that unfortunately sank on its maiden voyage. It lay in the harbour for 333 years until being raised in 1961. It is remarkably preserved and displayed. There are special exhibits aimed at children but the ship has a wow factor that needs no explanation.

Top tip: Buy your ticket in advance, particularly in summer when queues can be long. Vasamuseet is Stockholm‘s most popular attraction.

Vasamuseet, Galärvarvsvägen 14, 115 21 Stockholm, Sweden<

3. Gamla Stan

Gamla Stan is Stockholm‘s beautifully preserved old town. The narrow cobbled streets are romantic and delightful, as well as irresistible fun for kids. Spend an afternoon getting lost, climbing stairways to footbridges, taking in the views, and enjoying “fika” (something sweet to eat in the afternoon) for a truly Swedish experience.

4. Skansen

Skansen is an open-air museum and park that offers a beautiful insight into Swedish life and traditions. It’s perhaps best imagined as Sovereign Hill with animals – there are bears and moose, among others, as well as traditional buildings and craftspeople.

It’s not just for tourists either – local families all have memberships so they can visit year-round. You can easily spend most of a day here.

Skansen, Djurgårdsslätten 49-51, 115 21 Stockholm, Sweden

5. Kulturhuset Rum För Barn 

The House of Culture is a public library that features an entire floor for kids including art activities that don’t require bookings.

This is the place to be on a wet day in Stockholm – it can get busy but the traffic lights on the outside of the building tell you whether you’ll get in or not. Green light means you’re welcome, orange warns there could be a wait, and if there’s a red light you’re best to think of something else to do. Simple but effective, like most things in Sweden. Entry is free; there’s a small charge for the additional art activities.

Kulturhuset Rum För Barn, SERGELS TORG 7, 111 57 Stockholm, Sweden


6. Chokladkoppen

Chokladkoppen has apparently the best hot chocolate in Stockholm and overlooks sunny Stortoget, the oldest square in Stockholm. A big sugar hit to start the day.

Chokladkoppen, Stortorget 18, 111 29 Stockholm, Sweden

7. Caravan selling stromming

A recommendation from a Stockholm local for an authentic Stockholm dish – herring, potato, coleslaw and knackerbrot.

8. Bakfickan

Bakfickan is the small counter restaurant in the beautiful Opera House. The food is great quality and cheap, and comes from the same kitchens as the grander, more expensive Opera House Dining Room.

You sit around the small wooden bar and get served all the bread you can eat plus traditional Swedish food – I order Swedish meatballs, delicious with lingonberries.

Note it only seats 28 guests so visit in non-peak hours. In the summertime, open air seating is also available facing Jakobs Torg and the grand park Kungsträdgården.

Bakfickan, Operakällaren, Karl XII:S torg, Box 16090, 103 22 Stockholm

9. Sundbergs Konditori

Sundbergs Konditori in Gamla Stan is the oldest konditori in town with pale green and gilded walls. There is always a long line, but the blueberry and raspberry tart is worth the wait and a nice way to soak in the sumptious surroundings.

Sundbergs Konditori, Järntorget 83, 111 29 Stockholm, Sweden

10. Ostermalms Saluhall

Ostermalms Saluhall is apparently one of the top 10 markets in the world. It is housed in a beautifully vaulted building and full of lunchtime crowds sitting down to more herring.

Ostermalms Saluhall, Östermalmstorg, 114 42 Stockholm, Sweden


11. Kallika

A cute toy shop which sells lots of fun things like pirate swords, moose toys and dangling spider mobiles. I fall in love with their miniature kitchen items and buy an adorable little wooden breadbox which fits about three slices of bread.

Kallika, Sandsborgsvägen 44, 122 33 Enskede, Sweden

12. Nordiska Kompaniet

Nordiska Kompaniet is the Stockholm Selfridges and fabulous for one-stop shopping. It contains capsule areas for Design House Stockholm , Bookbinders , a large bookstore and food hall.

Nordiska Kompaniet, Hamngatan 18-20, 111 47 Stockholm, Sweden

13. DesignTorget

My favourite store, full of unique Swedish design. Older kids will love the funky interesting gadgets, such as the items I put in my shopping bag: battery-charging appliance scoop, stools which fold up to the size of a large book, screw on tubes which turn a plastic water bottle into a watering can, silicon food-loops and sporks – spoon, fork and knife in one. I bought these 10 years ago and still have and use them all!

DesignTorget, various locations

HOT tips for travelling in Stockholm with kids:

  • The underground train system, or Metro, is easy to use and kids under seven don’t need a ticket. You can buy tickets for a set period of time; for stays of more than three days you can buy a card to top up.
  • Stockholm also has good tram and bus networks, as well as ferries, but make sure you have your ticket before you get on board. You can buy tickets at stations or newsagents.
  • Speaking of ferries, these are a great way to get a look at Stockholm from the water without paying for a tour. The ferry from Slussen to Djurgården can be useful for getting to Junibacken and Vasamuseet.
  • There are korv (hot dog) vendors on almost every street – these are a cheap, kid-friendly option for a lunch that doesn’t cost the earth.
  • Many restaurants offer a lunch buffet – these are usually great value and on top of food, they typically include coffee, tea, bread and a biscuit. Ask if there’s a discount for kids – they often pay half-price.
  • Airbnb is a great way to book accommodation in Stockholm when travelling with kids. If you’re watching your budget it’s great to have a kitchen so you can eat breakfast at home and prepare some dinners if your kids go to bed early.
  • As in many cities you can buy a card that includes discounted or free entry to many attractions as well as some public transport.

Guest writer Erika Jonsson has travelled to Stockholm numerous times, including three trips with her two kids.

What’s On – Friday 14 July to Thursday 20 July

whats on in melbourne

Last weekend of the school holidays then it’s back to the books! Here’s all the fun happening in Melbourne for families this week. Have a great week!


Lego City Harbour Town


  • Finders Keepers Market (Fri 14 Jul – Sun 16 July) – design & art stalls from local designers to talented folk from all around Australia.
  • Bastille Day French Festival (Sat 15 Jul – Sun 16 Jul) – French food and wine, market stalls, entertainment.
  • Melbourne Museum (Fri 14 Jul – Sun 16 Jul) – exploring the world of Bugs. Make a bug, see a bug, be a bug, including Bug Lab exhibition.
  • National Geographic Photo Ark (Fri 14 Jul – 1 Oct) – exclusive photo exhibition is using the power of photography to inspire people to save animals before it’s too late.
  • Melbourne Magic Festival  (Fri 14 Jul – Sat 15 Jul) – see world class performances of magic in a theatrical environment.
  • The Wind in the Willows (Fri 14 Jul – Sat 15 Jul) – This is a charming, classic tale of adventure and discovery, in a brand new one-man adaptation starring Shaka Cook (Jasper Jones).
  • Diamond Valley Railway (Sun 16 Jul) – miniature railway and two adventure playgrounds. Full review. 



  • How to be a Rockstar (Fri 14 Jul – Sun 16 Jul) – Little legends of Melbourne come release your inner rock legend with air guitar, power poses and signature dance moves.
  • Loose Ends (Fri 14 Jul – Sun 16 Jul) – A wonderful and magical family show full of wacky thingamabobs. Tie up some ‘Loose Ends’ when this adventurous one-man show full of groovy gadgets, playful puppets and skilful clowning lands in St Kilda.


  • Lego Batman Experience Legoland (Fri 14 Jul – Sun 16 Jul) – photo ops with the scene-stealing star, a themed scavenger hunt and LEGO Batman™-inspired LEGO build activities.
  • Christmas in July at Luna Park (Fri 14 Jul – Sun 16 Jul) – Luna Park is decking the halls with Christmas jolly these winter school holidays – and everyone is invited!
  • Puss in Boots Malvern East (Fri 14 Jul – Sat 15 Jul) – Panto, traditional lemon drink and fairy bread!
  • Mornington Railway (Sun 16 Jul) – Climb aboard the Mornington Railway steam train for a fun-filled outing.
  • Djuki Mala (Tue 18 – 28 Jul) – Unique, infectious, high-energy and always exuberant, Djuki Mala fuse traditional Yolngu and contemporary pop culture, dance and storytelling to create work that is a marvel of timing, comedy and clowning with a hefty dose of heart and soul.




  • A Hero’s Guide to Saving the Planet (Fri 14 Jul – Sat 15 Jul) – environmental superhero story with bright colours, silly jokes and sight gags.
  • Wild Nights at Werribee Open Range (Fri 14 Jul – Sat 15 Jul) – Bring your torch and a sense of adventure to the Zoo! These winter school holidays, explore the Zoo as it comes to life after dark with thrilling fire shows, animal encounters, marshmallow toasting, the shadow puppet theatre and a secret garden to explore. Full review. 
  • Scienceworks (Fri 14 – Sun 16 Jul) – the Amazing Laser Maze and Museum of Tomorrow talk plus Lighttime, a collective of 11 Melbourne based artists who have created hypnotic and mesmerising works.
  • Winter Wonderlights Sovereign Hill (Fri 14 Jul – Sun 30 Jul) – Christmas in July with snow falls, carols and projections. Full review. 
  • Winter Wonderland Williamstown (Fri 14 Jul – Sun 16 Jul) – unlimited rides, entertainment and activities throughout the day.
  • Kiddyrock Family Jam (Sun 16 Jul) – instruments and props from our workshops, craft and creative play stations and a special performance by Ally Boom Boom and the Cool Bananas.
  • Footscray Finds (Sun 16 Jul) – monthly market of vintage stalls, boutique labels with food and coffee. Full review. 
  • Kensington Market (Sun 16 Jul) – Come to the monthly Kensington Market for a showcase of talented local artisans and crafters.
  • Altona Miniature Railway public day (Sun 16 Jul) – Every third Sunday of the month the Altona Miniature Railway is opened to members of the public and members take kids and adults on rides on the mini steam and diesel engines READ THE REVIEW.
  • Bulla Hill Railway (Sun 16 Jul) – ride the dinosaur trail on miniature steam and diesel engines every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month. FULL REVIEW.


HOT: Winter Wonderlights, Sovereign Hill, 3 Bradshaw Street, Ballarat

sovereign hill ballarat

The Sovereign Hill Winter Wonderlights are back for another year as part of the Ballarat’s Winter Festival from 1-30 July 2017. Expect a magical day out in olden day Ballarat with snowfalls, Christmas decorations and stunning light projections!

sovereign hill ballarat

sovereign hill ballarat

Sovereign Hill is one of Victoria’s most popular tourist destinations and a place to immerse yourself in the history of gold-rush era Ballarat of the 1850s.

sovereign hill ballarat

There’s so much to do there that we’ve never been able to see it all in over 3 visits!

sovereign hill ballarat

sovereign hill ballarat

Must-dos include panning for gold, the underground mine tour and of course the famous raspberry drops from the old-fashioned lolly shop. (Full review).

sovereign hill ballarat

During Winter Wonderlights the whole outdoor museum is festooned with Christmas decorations, with wreaths at every shop front, Christmas trees and the sounds of carolling along the main streets.

sovereign hill ballarat

It is a really magical atmosphere, especially when the snow falls.

sovereign hill ballarat

In addition to regular attractions and programming there is a Christmas-themed theatrical program and festive stalls.

sovereign hill ballarat

If you’re visiting Sovereign Hill for just one day and for the first time then it’s a good idea to plan your schedule so you don’t miss out on any of the special activities. As we have been to Sovereign Hill several times and it is VERY busy on our visit (school holidays weekend) we opt not to bother with any of the scheduled activities and just to wander where the crowds, kids and fairy lights take us.

sovereign hill ballarat

The unmissable highlight is when the Main Street lit up with a rainbow of moving projections by Electric Canvas, the team behind some of the stunning projections at White Night Melbourne.

sovereign hill ballarat

sovereign hill ballarat

We take up position at 5:45pm though, when Sovereign Hill’s Main Street is lit up by large-scale moving light projections under a flurry of fake snowfall.

sovereign hill ballarat

We admire the animations, chasing the images of the Gingerbread Man, until 6:15pm as we can’t push any further past the crowd going uphill.

sovereign hill ballarat

sovereign hill ballarat

sovereign hill ballarat

Remember to start your projection viewing from the top of Main Street and head down the hill towards the exit!

sovereign hill ballarat

sovereign hill ballaratsovereign hill ballarat

Winter Wonderlights is a magical experience for young and old and well worth a road trip to Ballarat. It is included in the standard Sovereign Hill entry fee, which allows visitors to enter on two consecutive days. We are there from 2:30pm-6:15pm but you can easily stay for longer.

Sovereign Hill’s Winter Wonderlights is part of Ballarat’s Winter Festival which runs from 1 July to 30 July. The festival includes ice skating, music, family-friendly shows and a potato festival!

Click here for more places to go with kids in Ballarat. 

HOT Tips:

  • Peak times are school holidays and weekends;
  • Parking is free on site, though on busy days you may have to park in the Gold Museum or down the hill;
  • Bring lots of snacks (a thermos, even better) as eateries get crowded, especially from 5pm. We eat dinner at 4:30pm at the Sovereign Hill cafe and it’s still very busy;
  • You can get the award-winning pies and sausages rolls from the Hope Bakery within the Sovereign Hill cafe, though without the Victorian-era atmosphere;
  • Book a sit-down dinner in advance at Charlie Napier Hotel;
  • You can get a pass out and have dinner elsewhere – The Forge Pizzeria is recommended (you’ll need to drive) and a reader also suggests the Japanese restaurant across the road from Sovereign Hill;
  • Most of Sovereign Hill’s attractions are outdoors so wear lots of warm gea                              r (waterproof coat, layers, gloves, scarf, hat). Ballarat experiences harsh winters and once the sun goes down it is really cold;
  • Gumboots are a good idea as the pathways get muddy. For some reason my kids always love walking in the ditches too!;
  • Bring a torch/glow sticks for added fun;
  • Projections start at 5:45pm though the fairy lights switch on a bit earlier;
  • The best position for when the projections start is to start at the top of Main Street and head down the hill, towards the exit. The momentum of the crowd means that you’ll be unable to push your way up the hill;
  • All the shops take EFTPOS (even for small amounts). There is an ATM at the entrance, Sovereign Hill cafe and the post office;
  • Sovereign Hill is a comfortable 90-minute drive from Melbourne along the Western Highway;
  • train and tour coach services which operate daily from Melbourne; and
  • If you buy an Entertainment Book you can get 25% off entry for 4 people, which almost makes up the cost of the book at $65 ($13 of which goes to charity incidentally).

Sovereign Hill’s Winter Wonderlights Christmas in July, Sovereign Hill, 3 Bradshaw Street, Ballarat  (03) 5337 1199

Saturday 1 July – Sunday 30 July

Open daily from 10am. The ‘Winter Wonderlights’ show starts each evening approx 5.45pm.

Adults $59.50

Children (5-15) $27

Family (2 adults up to 4 children) $150


HOT: Essendon Traffic School, Corner Albion and Lawson Streets, Essendon

Essendon Traffic School

Essendon Traffic School is a miniature city set out for children to practice riding their bikes and to learn road rules.

It’s open every Saturday morning and every day during school holidays. It’s a popular, low-cost way to spend a couple of hours.

Essendon Traffic School

The layout is very simple. There’s a 4-way intersection with traffic lights, one way streets, a roundabout and several pedestrian crossings so that kids can practice all road situations.

It takes a bit of practice (and reminding) for the kids to stay on the left side of the road and to stop when required, but otherwise the whole system runs fairly smoothly.

Essendon Traffic School

The petrol bowser is particularly popular!

Essendon Traffic School

You can BYO bike or borrow a bike and helmet for a small fee. Note no scooters or skateboards are allowed because scooters and skateboards are not allowed on roads in real life, of course.

Essendon Traffic School

When the kids tire of riding on the roads they can play in the sandpit…

Essendon Traffic School

…sit in the pretend trucks…

Essendon Traffic School

…or take a break inside the real W class tram.

You’re welcome to BYO food and drinks inside as there’s no coffee cart or other food/drink facilities on site. There’s a picnic shelter and free BBQs which you can use during public sessions – no bookings are taken.

The traffic school is next to Montgomery Park, which includes a small pirate-themed playground, and is a long walk/short drive to the cafes and shops on Buckley St and Albion St Essendon.

Essendon Traffic School can also be booked for private parties on Saturday afternoons from $193 for Moonee Valley residents. You can invite up to 30 children and BYO food for the picnic shelters and BBQs. There are toilets on site.

Essendon Traffic School is a great place to hang out with bike-riding kids. It’s fully fenced so if your kids are old enough you can just park yourself on a park bench and have a rest while they hoon around. We spend 2 hours there (each session is 2 hour maximum) and the kids don’t want to leave!

HOT Tips:

  • Suitable for kids aged two to ten years;
  • Children over the specified ages will be admitted as part of a family group but will not be able to ride;
  • wear closed toe shoes and appropriate clothing for riding when you visit (including a properly fitted helmet);
  • scooters and skateboards are not permitted,
  • Bicycles and helmets can be hired or BYO bikes and helmets;
  • Entry is on a first come, first serve basis with only 30 children permitted in each session;
  • If the weather forecast is for 36°C or above, or for heavy rain, the Traffic School will not open;
  • During school holidays Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning sessions are for children aged two-six years only, all other sessions are available to children aged between two and ten years;
  • facility is cashless, all payments for public sessions must be made by EFTPOS;
  • Free parking on street;
  • toilets, water taps, picnic shelters, BBQ facilities available. No bookings required;
  • site can be booked for private sessions at certain times;
  • next to Montgomery Park, which includes a small pirate-themed playground, and is a long walk/short drive to the cafes and shops on Buckley St and Albion St Essendon.

Essendon Traffic School, Corner Albion and Lawson Streets, Essendon

Public sessions are held every Saturday morning from 10am-12 noon, (except for public holiday long weekends)

School holidays daily  10am to 12pm and 1pm to 3pm.

Per child$8 per child
Family rate (3 or more participants from the same family)$7 per child


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