Skip to content

The Ian Potter Children's WILD PLAY Garden

The Ian Potter Children’s WILD PLAY Garden, in the heart of Centennial Park offers city kids and adults alike an opportunity to immerse themselves in an oasis of nature-play and adventure.

Open from 10.00 am – 5.00 pm daily, complete with a coffee van and amenities block, The Ian Potter Children’s WILD PLAY Garden is one of New South Wales' best nature-play destinations.

The Ian Potter Children’s WILD PLAY Garden is designed to cater for all ages and abilities in a dramatic landscape in which children are encouraged to run, jump, play, learn and discover the wild side of life. WILD PLAY allows children to get lost in the wonder of nature with dry creek beds, an artesian water play area, a bamboo forest, banksia tunnels, turtle mounds and Centennial Park’s first treehouse.

Visit the Ian Potter Children’s WILD PLAY Garden today!

Opening hours: 10.00 am - 5.00 pm daily (closed during August)

How to find WILD PLAY: The entrance is off Grand Drive, opposite the York Rd gates, in Centennial Park, entrance . Look out for the directional signs once you are in the Park or visit our maps to see how to get here.

Price: Free.

It is important to note that from time-to-time, operational changes in the Park may mean that we will need to temporarily close the WILD PLAY Garden. Keep an eye on the website for details.  WILD PLAY is closed every August for annual maintenance. 

Risk assessment for the Ian Potter Children's WILD PLAY Garden

For the documentation for your visit to Centennial Parklands, click for your Risk Assessment here.

The importance of this garden extends far beyond a place for children to play outdoors in a Park. This Garden will provide children opportunities to reconnect with nature at a time when many have rapidly decreasing access to nature and the outdoors.
Hon. Gabrielle Upton, Minister for Environment and Heritage

Research confirms kids go wild for WILD PLAY

Since opening in 2017, the Garden has been widely praised by design critics, in the media, by family bloggers and on social media. We wanted to know what really happens to children when they visit this play space, and how do parents feel about their children’s experience?

Centennial Parklands engaged with the Western Sydney University Centre for Education Research to find out. Results show that the nature play provided by the Garden benefits physical activity, social engagement, imagination and connection to nature.

Why will the WILD PLAY Garden not open until 10 am each morning?

The site contains a variety of beautiful native and exotic plantings which require regular care including mulching and watering, to ensure the Garden’s longevity. While our horticulturalists are busy tending to these plantings, a team will also conduct a routine maintenance check to ensure that the built structures within the Garden are in working order.

What age group is the play space suitable for?

The play space is suitable for children aged 2-12 to enjoy while under parental supervision.

Are parents required to watch their children?

Yes, parents are required to watch their children when in the Garden.

Does the Garden ever close?

Yes. It is important that the Garden has an annual break to allow our team to replant, rejuvenate and restore the space. The annual closure will occur every August in the winter season.

What are the key features of the Garden?

The Garden boasts a range of integrated and naturally occurring features inspired by the natural environment. It is designed to encourage social, physical, mental, ecological and emotional development in children. Features include: Artesian water play areas, dry creek beds, bamboo forest, banksia tunnels, turtle mounds, a tree house, a giant slide, tunnels, a dedicated ‘wild play’ area for nature-play lessons and building cubbies.

Will there be food and beverage services on site within the Garden?

Yes. The Bar Coco kiosk is located within the Garden, near the gathering circle and the Discovery Centre. Bar Coco will be selling coffees, cold drinks, water, gelato and food on site from 10 am to 5 pm, daily.

What should I bring with me to the Garden?

Hats, sunscreen, sports shoes, a change of clothes, swimmers and towels. Drinks and snacks in reusable plastic is always preferred. No glass.

Are there changerooms and toilet facilities?

There is an amenities block with direct access for the Garden with men’s and women’s toilet facilities for children and adults. These are locked up overnight in accordance with the playground opening and closing times.

Can the Garden be booked out for exclusive use?

No – at this stage, the Garden cannot be booked for exclusive use.
The Discovery Centre adjacent to the Garden (former Learning Centre) can be booked however, for family events and functions such as children’s parties.

Why is the Garden fenced within an open Park?

The Garden is free and will remain open and accessible seven days a week, between 10 am and 5 pm. During the early consultation phases it became apparent that a fenced space was desirable for adults and carers to best manage dependents. The Garden will also need to be closed for essential horticulture and maintenance services which may not be safe to conduct with children onsite.

As above – on occasions, the Garden may need to be temporarily closed.

Why will the Garden be closed for one month during the year?

The Garden is expected to be closed for around one month during the quieter winter period to allow for non-essential maintenance and the re-establishment of the plantings that form such a critical component of this living natural environment.

What are the maintenance procedures around the water play area?

The unique artesian water play area at the Garden has been designed with the following educational outcomes in mind:

  • Investigation of properties of materials and scientific principals such as pressure, cause and effect, floatation
  • Understanding of the hydrology of the Botany aquifer and an urban wetland through interactive play
  • Negotiation of uneven ground, balancing, moving through water developing resilience and gross and fine motor skills.

The system has been constructed with shallows and water jets fed with filtered tap water. An in-built alarm notifies of any changes in water quality.

Water is constantly filtered and correct PH balances maintained.

How will you guarantee the water quality and how often will it be cleaned?

Water is monitored regularly with in-built alarms to notify of any changes in water quality.

Water is constantly filtered and correct PH balances maintained.

Why isn’t there any shade over the water play area?

The Garden features a variety of play spaces with non-shaded areas and areas of ample shade beneath tree canopies. All sections are compliant with no obligation for sun protection over water play required.

Why are there no bubblers or drinking fountains for children?

Bubblers are not included in the original design – but based on feedback we may include some in the future.

Why aren’t there any ropes/handrails on the bridge that leads to the treehouse? (i.e. risk taking)

All of the aspects of the tree house, including the platforms, slide and both bridges have been certified by a respected body.  The bridge without hand rails is fully compliant. With a low drop, it is a great example of the way manageable challenges, beneficial risks and adventure can be added to an outdoor nature play area to encourage children to test their limitations and boundaries for growth and development.

The bridge requires children to contemplate their crossing, slowing their movements, changing their physicality to correct their balance and cheering on peers to cross with encouragement.

Is the Grand Drive horse track crossing safe?

Centennial Parklands hosts almost 31 million visits each year.  For more than a century, people and horses have shared the park. Chicanes and fencing are in place on the advice of safety experts and have been built to the same standards and design as elsewhere in the Parklands.

Is there CCTV in the Garden?

Yes.  Safety is priority for Parklands management. We operate a safety enhancement model that includes a suite of tools such as community education, behaviour change, regulation, communication and enforcement. It is proven that a combination of strategies is required to manage visitor behaviour, in particular the correct use of roadways – a matter that is continuously raised.

The number of children participating in our education programs has grown from under 5,000 to 30,000. With the opening of this Garden coupled with the enhancements to the Education Precinct, we expect these numbers to reach 100,000.

The presence of CCTV is an effective preventative safety strategy and a proven tool for resolving criminal behaviour and false allegations. The safety of children and transparency of behaviour is an absolute priority.

Public consultation was undertaken in early 2017 in relation to the installation of CCTV at certain locations across the Parklands, including the WILD PLAY Garden, with several submissions received. Key matters raised included, the impact on the natural environment and the need to ensure child safety.

CCTV has been in place in the Royal Botanic Garden and Domain for many years, with similar low-impact infrastructure being used within the Parklands.

Will there be Ranger patrols of the Garden?

Yes, Ranger patrol routes have been updated to incorporate the Garden.

Is the Garden certified?

Yes, the Garden has received certification from Play DMC.

What is nature-play?

Nature-play is intrinsically motivated, child-centered and comes from the innate desire in children to engage with their immediate environment on their own terms.

It involves children immersing themselves in an outdoor organic environment to develop physical literacy, engage imagination, to stimulate creative expression leading towards positive social, emotional, ecological and cognitive development.

In a world where the ‘helicopter parent’ so often prevails, nature play is about giving children a ‘hummingbird’ experience. Rather than hovering over play interaction and managing it, nature-play encourages children to develop and learn for themselves, alongside other children, where adults are nearby to provide peace of mind but not to place their own fears or structure on the play behaviours.

Why is this space important?

This state-of-the-art, purpose-built space has been developed with a range of features and formats to allow children to engage in the act of nature play.

Not to be confused with a ‘playground’ where a structure is placed onto a space to engage children in physical movement – it is a ‘play space’ or an ‘play ecosystem’ by design. It incorporates elements from the natural environment in a way that encourages boundary-testing, self-expression, critical thinking, engagement with nature and practice of the other fundamental principles of the school of nature-play. It also features a ‘gathering circle’ which will be dedicated to more led-natural learning experiences for schools, community groups and out-of-hours school care organisations.

Is there any other place space like this in NSW?

No. The Ian Potter Children’s WILD PLAY Garden is the first state-of-the-art, purpose built space for nature play in NSW and it is one of few in the country.

What educational outcomes will the Garden provide children?

This incredible new play space will assist children in developing:

Critical thinking – the skill of actively conceptualising, applying, analyzing, synthesising, and/or evaluating information gathered through observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication before making a decision or judgement.

Spatial awareness – the ability to be aware of oneself in space; an organised knowledge of objects in relation to oneself in that given space.

Creative learning – a way of learning that encourages creative and innovative problem solving.

Positive social and emotional development – critical to early childhood development this is about the way people learn social and emotional skills, across their lives: healthy social development allows us to form positive relationships with family, friends, teachers, and others.

Developing ecological consciousness – identified as a holistic and reflexive process of consciously understanding the world, and oneself as a multi-dimensional human being within it. This is largely about understanding the role humans play within their natural environment and the impact one can have on the environment.

Physical literacy – the mastery of fundamental movement and gross and fine motor skills that permit a child to read their environment and make appropriate decisions, allowing them to move confidently and with control in a wide range of physical activity situations.

What are the main benefits of WILD PLAY and Nature-Play?

The educational benefits of this play space will be like no other in Sydney or NSW. Each of the dedicated natural spaces including artesian water play, creek beds, bamboo forests and outdoor classrooms, are all designed to inspire and encourage children to increase their:

  • Critical thinking
  • Spatial awareness
  • Creative learning
  • Positive social and emotional development, and Develop ecological consciousness.

Have the benefits of the Garden been researched?

Yes, Centennial Parklands engaged with Western Sydney University to research what really happens when children visit the Garden. The research found that the nature play provided by the Garden benefits physical activity, social engagement, imagination and connection to nature. Read more about the Garden's benefits here.