Choo Choo! All aboard! Visitors are invited to embark on a journey at the lighted train tunnel entrance to the Pauline Gandel Children’s Gallery at Melbourne Museum.
As we entered, we were greeted by a striking red life-size train model of the Victorian Railway’s 1917 steam locomotive and the “Museum Station”. These serve as a welcoming visual entry point into the children’s gallery from the other exhibition areas, strategically located next to a cafe and pram parking corridor.
Colourful Play-based Learning Space
Conceptualised by the award-winning Museums Victoria Design Studio project team in consultation with children, parents, creatives and educators, the Pauline Gandel Children’s Gallery at Melbourne Museum is a colourful play-based learning space designed by and for young children – from babies to 5 years old.
The architectural layout of the Gallery reflects the perspectives of children and their adult caregivers.
Contrasting colours for children with poor vision and acoustic paneling to help deaf children feel comfortable in the space (guide dogs are also allowed inside) are coupled with activities designed for children across ages and learning abilities, including those on the autism spectrum.
Opened since December 2016, Pauline Gandel Children’s Gallery at Melbourne Museum features more than 2000 square metres of indoor and outdoor play spaces for babies and children. Children will enjoy immersive learning and wonderful play experiences. Cosy corners offer respite for tired caregivers to rest or read as their children can spend hours running around!
We visited a play area structured for babies with sensory offerings and for children with different activity stations, including digital colouring screens, interactive aural and lighted wall installations, shape-sorting challenges, and tactile structures to climb and explore. Besides cosy nooks for parents to settle in to read with their children with available storybooks, digital indigenous story-telling booths are located at various corners for children to view on their own as well.
Central to the indoor space is a solid massive multi-level net and crocheted structure for children to climb, cross over and swing to their heart’s content! Shaped like a giant treehouse, it is decorated with a pair of giraffe sculptures and is a magnet for older children above 5!
Another striking attraction is an amazing Camouflage Disco floor with a surrounding mirror wall, sparkly light projections and unique site-specific soundscapes created by three contemporary artists.
Framing the walls of the Gallery were interactive light installations and stuffed animal and insect exhibits that are illuminated by light triggers, along with ocean creature exhibits inside interactive floor installations that react to touch.
Outside, frog sculptures with water features decorate the garden space, symbolising the Australian indigenous Creation story of Tiddalik who drank all the water until he is made to laugh and sprayed water across the land.
There are also huge building blocks for aspiring architects to construct structure and a sandpit outside for little archeologists keen on a dinosaur dig.
Children also wish for their parents and older siblings to play more often with them. The magic of the Gallery is its attractive range of opportunities for meaningful and playful interactions among children and also with their families.
Be prepared to stay for hours!
Pauline Gandel Children’s Gallery At Melbourne Museum
Where: Children’s Gallery, Melbourne Museum, 11 Nicholson Street, Carlton, Victoria, 3053