NSM Review: Play & Learn at NUBO Chatswood!


NUBO is the latest innovative play centre to set up shop on the North Shore, and many mums have wondered exactly what lies behind the glass doors that sit at the top of Chatswood Chase! One NSM family went along for a play at NUBO to find out exactly how the centre works, and what it offers for families from near and far.


The word NUBO means ‘cloud’, and that’s exactly what the experience of walking through the doors of  NUBO Chatswood feels like. You step out of the hustle and bustle, crashing pans of the food court and neon lights of Chatswood Chase and into the cool, calm reception area at NUBO where smiling faces make you feel immediately at ease; then you take off your shoes and socks, put on the soft cotton slip-on socks provided by NUBO (they’re mandatory for health and safety), pass through the sliding glass doors, and suddenly you’re enveloped by white walls and organised fun with kids quietly playing in creative classes and the centre playroom.

Our family visited NUBO Chatswood during the week (although they are open on public holidays and weekends too), with our 6-month-old baby and an energetic toddler

NUBO means ‘cloud’, and visiting NUBO Chatswood feels like being enveloped in white clouds

 To start: Food and Drink at NUBO

We’d trekked into Chatswood from home without eating breakfast (rookie error!) so the kids (and mum) were tired and cranky, but the experienced staff were able to expertly navigate the family’s mood so that before long our daughter was happily sipping on a Babycino ($1) while mum had some incredible avocado, lemon and alfalfa with sourdough and a creamy, chocolatey mocha. The avocado was a generous half-avo, sliced and sprinkled with pepper, with a gorgeous fresh bunch of alfalfa on crunchy sourdough, while the coffee (a MUST for tired mums) was beautifully made by a barista who clearly knows their stuff!

The toddler, not to be outdone, then ordered up a Vegemite sandwich on wholemeal bread ($6.50) and a Nudie juice ($2.60), which sealed the deal for a greatly improved outlook! The cafe at NUBO is immediately inside the entrance, and you can choose parent or child-size tables to sit at and snack while watching the play going on in the areas around you. The menu really is outstanding in its range of healthier foods that still appeal to kids, such as sandwiches and fruit. The adult options include buckwheat banana bread, zucchini and kale pesto salad, beetroot roasted pumpkin and feta open sandwiches and creamy cauliflower and leek soup.

The cafe serves children’s and adult meals with a focus on fresh and healthy food

Our toddler tucking in to the delicious Babycino ($1)

The adult menu includes treats like spelt flour muffins and buckwheat banana bread

Don’t miss the coffees (from $4) at the on-site cafe

Workshops and Memberships

 

NUBO were at the centre of some questions when they first launched in Chatswood, because the North Shore model differs from Alexandria location. At Chatswood you could either sign for a Family membership after a your first trial visit or purchase a 5 or 10 pack of workshops to get a feel of the experience NUBO offers.

There are three types of play experiences: free play where children can freely use the space; facilitated play where an educator follows the child’s lead and uses teaching strategies to guide play and learning; and structured workshops that follow a step-by-step process. We tried them all on our day at NUBO.

What we tried: 

10:30am Parents and bubs workshop at NUBO Build Room  (30 mins)

At 10:30, a gentle tone went off to alert us a class was beginning in the Build room, a spacious area that also looked over the main play space. This class is designed for parents (or carers) to attend with their younger bubs, and in my class there was myself and my six-month-old son plus three other children (who were a little older, around one year old). A class like this is perfect if you sometimes feel a little ‘lost’ about how to entertain your baby, and you are looking for structured play and activities. The class is based on sound educational principles and started with simple singing played on a iPhone. The babies were encouraged to handle textured plastic dinosaur toys, then don smocks and paint the toys bright blue before washing them off in sudsy, soapy water. The class ended with egg-timer-turning and  gentle singing (“Twinkle Twinkle”) to re-settle the kids after the elements of exploration and messy play. We missed the beginning thanks to an urgent restroom run for the baby boy, but as the facilities are always high on a list of parent priorities, we can confirm there is generous space, kid-friendly basins at toddler height, and plenty of room to move.

NUBO has exceptionally open and bright play spaces to support imaginative and structured play

The bathrooms (important for parents to know!) are bright, with toddler-height equipment

11:15am Story time at NUBO tree house (30 mins)

This facilitated learning was our favourite activity! Held in the space’s most impressive feature, the amazing NUBO treehouse, the kids relished clambering up to the loft where they discovered scattered bean bags and two educators with a lap of story books, ready for a reading session. There were two stories, and the educators used the books as launch points for questions with the eager kids in what is an all-ages and stage session (everyone welcome!). For example, in a Spot book the kids identified the different animals pictured in each scene, from hippos to crocodiles. The enthusiasm of the group was catching and all the kids joined in with confidence! The best part though was the dramatic means of exit from the treehouse- via an enclosed, circular slide that delivered you back to the main space in a hugely fun fashion (even mum took a turn!)

The TreeHouse is a popular spot with an amazing slide to the play area

11:30am Circuit World at NUBO Build room (30mins)

This workshop is part of NUBO’s STEM program (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and our session focused on construction. Led by an educator, this was one of the workshops that followed a step by step process to create a DreamCatcher from a paper plate and kitchen string, with ribbons and glitter to decorate. My toddler adored her creation (I think she actually swiped the educator’s one as well, since we ended up with two!). This session was very clear in its goal and would suit families looking to encourage process-based thinking, and who enjoy having a tangible result (a DreamCatcher) at the end of the workshop. This class was for slightly older children who are able to manipulate paper and string and held in a colourful Build room, decorated with artworks.

Participating in the Dream Catcher workshop

The session is a step-by-step guided workshop

Colourful creations adorn the walls of some NUBO rooms, adding a splash of colour

Sensory Room and Free Play Sessions

Outside of the workshops on offer, kids also have the chance to engage in some imaginative play or freewheeling games in the spacious main play area. There’s a fully-equipped Pretend Play village which has a shop complete with wooden props, and a child-sized house to play home with an ironing board and everything else you could want in a miniature kitchen, plus many more spaces to explore. We spent a lot of time here as my daughter adores real-world play (‘Shopkeepers’ is her fave) and found the setup to be a great launch pad for play without being gimmicky or plastic.

The Sensory room opens at regular intervals and is designed to engage the five senses- so it’s equipped with water play, textures, stools, and kinetic sand. A soundtrack plays for audio stimulation. On our day the room was dark and colours glowed to show the different areas; we had fun splashing bubbles and dunking plastic animals in a trough of water backlit with beautifuls blue. We buried animals in the sand and ran our hands through for texture, but overall we spent a shorter amount of time here as my toddler is still quite wary of new places and preferred the brighter-lit areas for play.

The free play space has walk-in homes and shops for role playing

What We Thought:

NUBO has definitely had its fair share of families questioning the cost (outlined below); and there is no doubt NUBO is not for everyone. It’s a very specific experience, aimed at families with similar values around innovative play, structured experiences and clear learning outcomes. However, it’s definitely a hugely progressive concept in a massively bright and airy space, in a central shopping district, with a multitude of activities and experiences on offer. Remember the NUBO socks are mandatory for health and safety and they’re on sale at reception for $2.50, or if you have your own to bring them with you.

My advice? Go along for your first visit, have a look around, and if you enjoy your experience, purchase a 5 or 10 pack of workshops on your way out so you can really get a feel for the holistic experience NUBO offers. Try out few interactive workshops with your kids, watch them exploring the free play area and enjoy a delicious feast in the cafe, and then you’ll get a feel for whether NUBO is right for you and your family.

After that, you may be tempted to enquire about NUBO’s Family Membership options and those benefits.

Oh, and make sure you order a coffee! They really are that good.

Play is encouraged in three different ways: Free play, facilitated and workshop style

What it Costs: The NUBO pay structure

When NUBO Chatswood launched, some were surprised to learn the North Shore location has a different fee setup to NUBO Alexandria. Instead of a casual play model like the Inner West version, the Chatswood venture operates as a Family Member’s Club. NUBO Chatswood, they say, aims more to develop in depth relationships with customers and create a NUBO community.

The first time you visit, you’re offered a casual rate; after that there are membership options.

There are also child-minding plans underway and will be available later in 2018.

First Visit rates:

Weekdays:

  • Children under 2 are $10/hr or $25 unlimited p/child
  • Children over 2 are $12.50/hr or $40 unlimited p/child

Weekends and Public Holidays:

  • Children under 2 are $12.50/hr or $37.50 unlimited p/child
  • Children over 2 are $15/hr or $50 unlimited p/child

For each child, one accompanying adult enters for free; any additional adults are $5/hour.

There’s free entry for one adult per visit and a bonus coffee or tea. They’re valid for 12 months.

Membership Models:

Workshop Memberships are available in two options:

  • 5 workshop passes are $80 ($16 p/workshop)
  • 10 workshop passes are $150 ($15 p/workshop)

After your first visit, you have an option to purchase 5 or 10 workshop passes (these passes actually ‘unlock’ the causal entry) which allows you to experience more NUBO workshops before deciding whether the membership pack is beneficial or not.

Included is a complimentary 30 minutes of play – before or after the workshop. There’s free entry for one adult per visit and a bonus coffee or tea. They’re valid for 12 months.

Essential Details

  • Address: Shop L213C, Chatswood Chase Mall, 345 Victoria Avenue, Chatswood, NSW 2067
  • Phone: (02) 9413 2049
  • Website: NUBO Chatswood
  • Contact:  [email protected]
  • Instagram account: @Nuboplay
  • Opening Hours:
    • Tuesday 9:30am – 5:30pm
    • Wednesday 9:30am – 5:30pm
    • Thursday 9:30am – 8:30pm
    • Friday 9:30am – 5:30pm
    • Saturday 9:00am – 5:00pm
    • Sunday 9:00am – 5:00pm


Disclaimer: Our reviewer was provided with a free visit for her family in return for her honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are her own and not influenced by the company or its affiliates in any way.


For more local attractions, browse our Out & About section.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *