During half term we visited Chester Zoo to check out the newly opened PLAY! space featuring a range of different areas created by play experts and launched at the end of May. The Madagascar PLAY! space is a really active adventure play area designed to encourage children to explore and have fun.
New PLAY! area at Chester Zoo
We first arrived at the PLAY! space around lunch time – this wasn’t entirely intentional but just happened to be the point at which we stumbled across it whilst exploring the rest of the zoo. The Madagascar PLAY! Base Camp is conveniently situated near a couple of eateries and with plenty of outdoor spaces for picnics – and as such it was extremely busy at lunch time on a sunny day in the middle of half term! This is of course to be expected and didn’t really pose too much of a problem, we were still able to find a picnic table to eat our lunch (which we had bought on site after not really planning ahead and forgetting to take a picnic!) but it did mean that it was harder to keep an eye on all three children when they wanted to play in different spaces. After a short play we agreed that we would go and explore the rest of the zoo and then come back to the PLAY! Base Camp towards the end of the day for an ice cream and some time to play.
Make sure you take a towel and some spare clothes!
This turned out to be a good plan – the Madagascar PLAY! Base Camp was still busy but we felt there was room to breathe. We were able to let them explore more as it was easier to keep them in our line of view with less people around. The PLAY! space centres around the Lost Forest which, with its scramble nets and various climbing opportunities, was right up Ben’s street. To the side of the Lost Forest, we found the sandy beach with its shipwreck which Amy was really excited by. The sand was beautiful and clean (as you’d expect having only been open for a week or so). The girls loved being able to take their shoes off and feel the sand between their toes! And finally, we led them to the dry river bed which I must admit I had a love / hate relationship with! On a hot sunny day, it was a joy to see so many children splashing about and exploring the different pumps and dams, working together as a team to fill up different sections of the river bed and paddling around barefoot. Had the weather been colder I’d have been more bothered about the potential for wet clothes and miserable children! Visiting the PLAY! space on our way out of the zoo was a stroke of genius in this instance as it meant I wasn’t really bothered if they got soaked, I’d have just stripped them off when we got to the car. As it was, the flow of water through the river bed is fairly minimal – obviously if you sat down in it you’d get pretty wet but for the sake of splashing about a bit with your feet you’d struggle to get too soggy. That said, next time I will make sure I’ve got a towel and a change of clothes with me – just in case!
The Madagascar PLAY! Base Camp is a really great addition to Chester Zoo. If I’m honest my three would probably have been quite happy to play about at Base Camp for most of the day and took some coaxing to leave at home time (thank goodness for ice cream bribes . . . ) A visit to Chester Zoo isn’t a cheap day out – at around £100 for our family of five if we pre-book online – and for that price I want to see lots of animals, not watch the kids clamber around on a posh climbing frame! Next time we visit I will definitely save our visit to PLAY! Base Camp for the end of the day when they can play for as long as they like without me worrying that we need to get on and make sure we’ve seen everything before home time!
If you want to see footage from the PLAY! space and what else we got up to whilst we were at Chester Zoo then check out our video here:
*We were invited to visit Chester Zoo to try out the new Play! space free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*