The Ultimate List of Activities to do in Christchurch with a preschooler

Every so often I try and Google different places I can go where both I and my toddler will have a fun time. There just doesn’t seem to be an easily accessible, comprehensive list of activities in Christchurch that you can do with a preschooler! If you’ve finally found this ultimate list then you probably have been Googling endlessly too.

Well, here for my own sanity I have collated all the cafés, parks and fun places and activities you can do in Christchurch as a resident. Of course, if you’re just visiting you can go to some of these places too.

I’ve divided them up into cafés and parks, and indoor activities, where you can go anytime, regular activities that meet every week, council run activities, church based activities and Plunket activities. Scroll down to read the list or read some of the clarifications and disclaimers that come first. Enjoy!

Little clarifications and disclaimers

If you think a group has been missed feel free to email me at kimismith @ kiwistylemum.com. Note I haven’t been compensated to advertise any of these groups or venues and others I will have left off because of the feeling that those groups are already at capacity and wouldn’t cope with a flood of people visiting them. Of course I may have gotten the wrong vibe, so do get in touch if you know of any other places!

Also, with the 100s, perhaps even 1,000s, of places to visit and explore in Christchurch there’s no way I’ve discovered them all! As I’ve been researching this I’ve found out about so many cool things and I’ll endeavour to visit some of these places in future, so I can give better descriptions of them. I live closer to Cashmere than New Brighton or Belfast, which will naturally be reflected in this list.

Activities to do in Christchurch with a preschooler - Kiwistylemum.com Girl on a swing
The search is over!
Photo credit: Annie Spratt

This is not intended to be a review, just a list with a bit of a description of the different places you can go that are preschool friendly. Of course, some places are great for older kids too!

Because I have a dog I have made a note of whether dogs are allowed there or not. As most dog owners in Christchurch know though, the general rule of thumb is that dogs are welcome in outdoor spaces, but not indoors and not near playgrounds.

Another website I know that has information on activities in Christchurch is the former Pockets of Awesome, which is now called Christchurch NZ.

And the lists should be in alphabetical order. Prices are the minimumish you have to pay (like, buy a cup of coffee to spend time in a café).

Cafés and Parks in Christchurch

Adventure Park Christchurch

Lovely woodland area. Café has a small children’s area. There’s also a trampoline and a little area for little people to ride their balance bikes on (has a few ramps etc). Could potentially be a lot of fun for older kids too. Map.
Age: walking – 5+
Dogs: Unsure, probably not
Price: Free outside/Cup of Coffee in café

Arion Farm Education Park

This Farm Park opened with the intention of bringing peace to families who had been hit by the earthquakes. I have yet to go myself. They offer pony rides to under 6 year olds. How cool is that?
Age: All Ages
Dogs: I’m guessing no.
Price: $12.50

The Beach

Both New Brighton and Sumner beaches are lovely. If you fancy an escape further away you could also go to Taylor’s Mistake or Woodend beach.
Age: All Ages
Dogs: Restrictions in certain areas during certain times
Price: Free

Botanical gardens

Which everyone knows about, so I won’t mention anything else about it, other than it has the Ilex café, if you’re craving food or drink.
Age: All Ages
Dogs: Not in the Botanical gardens, but they can go in Hagley Park.
Price: Free

Bunnings (indoor playground)

The one at Tower Junction has a small playground that’s enclosed with a café next to it. Double check your local branch to see if they do too and see what workshops they’re offering (perhaps for older kids).
Their website also has DIY craft ideas for kids.
Age: walking – 5+ (technically they say their playgrounds are for 4-12, but I’ve not had a problem letting my toddler play in there yet)
Dogs: Rumour has it they maybe can come inside? Or be in the trolley? I’m not going to test that though.
Price: Free

Canterbury Agricultural Park and Ngā Puna Wai

This is a great place for young ones to experience nature. There is a stream and some sheltered bush places to explore. If you’re lucky you may see a wild rabbit! There are sheep there too, so if you bring your dog make sure they don’t chase them.
Age: All Ages (all terrain pram would be a good idea)
Dogs: YES! On a lead in certain places.
Price: Free

Coffee Culture

All Coffee Cultures that I’ve visited have something available for children (books, toys etc). However the one at Riccarton actually has an enclosed space for children (which I can’t remember the others having).
Age: All Ages
Dogs: Outside only
Price: Cup of Coffee

Kawa café (outdoor playground)

A sweet, small café in Halswell that specialises in organic food. They have a cute outdoor playground.
Age: walking – 5+
Dogs: outside and I assume on a lead
Price: Cup of Coffee

Malls (indoor playground)

So, Westfield Riccarton has a small playground that’s mostly enclosed upstairs. South City Mall apparently also has a playground, but I have yet to investigate. Other malls may have playgrounds (Barrington Mall doesn’t, Bush Inn had one digger, but that’s it), but I’m not really a mall goer, so will keep my eyes out. Feel free to email me if you know of any good places!
Age: All Ages
Dogs: No
Price: Free

McDonalds (indoor playground)

Parents have a love-hate relationship with this franchise. Some have McCafés, so you don’t have to miss out on a nice coffee when you go there. Some locations don’t have a playground, so it may pay to double check beforehand.
Age: walking – 5+
Dogs: No
Price: Small fries/Cup of Coffee

Oderings

I don’t know if their café actually has a preschoolers area, I’ve just heard rumours of Oderings having a trampoline area, which is why I’ve included it here.
Age: Unsure
Dogs: Probably not
Price: Cup of Coffee

Orana Wildlife Park

A wildlife park that specialises in safari animals (as well as others). This means it needs to be big, which is suitable for older kids. There is a larger playground, with (from memory) a flying fox. You can feed some animals.
Age: All Ages (but toddlers won’t be able to walk the whole way)
Dogs: I wish, but no.
Price: $36.50 with annual passes available

Outdoor playgrounds

Turns out there are 294 playgrounds in Christchurch (740+ parks in total!). Some will be small, some will not be enclosed and some will be attached to soccer fields and the like. Personally, I like the Cashmere Valley Reserve for being completely fenced in, but unfortunately no dogs are allowed there.

Because there are so many the Christchurch City Council have put together their Top 10 Christchurch Playgrounds, which include the Botanical Gardens and the Margaret Mahy Playground.

Age: All Ages
Dogs: Not within 1m of a playground
Price: Free

Outdoor pools (summer only)

Christchurch has a few outdoor summer pools: Norman Kirk Memorial Pool in Lyttleton, Te Hāpua Halswell Summer Pool in… Halswell, Templeton Summer Pool in… Templeton (we’re original with names aren’t we?) and Waltham Summer Pool in Sydenham… on Waltham street. All of these have toddler pools or paddling pools.

In addition to these we also have eight Paddling Pools all over the city (including one in Woodend). Of the paddling pools I’ve visited they’re all free anytime in summer.

Age: 6 months – 5+
Dogs: No
Price: Free (between 9am – 3pm during school terms with a preschooler)

Raeward Fresh café (outdoor playground)

This vegetable shop has a café at it’s airport branch. I have yet to go, but have heard good things about it.
Age: All Ages
Dogs: Unsure
Price: Cup of Coffee

The Red Zone

So, Christchurch had some earthquakes, which made a lot of houses towards the East of our city uninhabitable. They have all been removed, leaving large areas of land that you could go and explore. There are also some untended fruit trees, which you could take a few fruit from in season (I think rotting fruit at the base of the tree is bad for it, but I couldn’t find any evidence to back this up).
I mention this area with hesitation, as it has very bad memories for some people (imagine losing your family home), so if you do want to go there be very respectful. Don’t leave rubbish (there are no bins). There are some walkways around the Avon river and some areas have been fenced off.

Age: All Ages (all terrain pram would be a good idea)
Dogs: Yes!
Price: Show respect (Free)

Willowbank

A wildlife park that in general is better for younger kids. Lots of shade and free ranging animals. Has ponds and streams and a lovely café. Specialises in birds and smaller exotic animals. You can feed some animals.
Age: All Ages (great pram walkways)
Dogs: Haha… No.
Price: $32.50 with annual passes available

Indoor activities in Christchurch (any time)

Canterbury Museum

They have a space set aside for kids, called Kids Discovery Room. I have had a look recently and very much got the impression that this is a great place to go for walking kids, but the older they are, the more they’ll get out of it. Free parking at the Botanical gardens.
Age: walking – 5+
Price: $2 per person for 3+ (under is free)

Chipmunks

Have yet to go myself. Their website says they cater for 0 – 11 year olds with separate spaces for under 2s, under 5s and 5 – 11 year olds. They have a branch in Papanui and Wigram.
Age: 0 – 5+ (11 years old)
Price: $10.90-13.90

Clip and Climb

Clip and Climb do say they cater for preschoolers. This may be a cool activity to do with 4 – 5 year olds. They do run a preschool session on Thursdays.
Age: Unsure, but probably 3 – 5+
Price: $10 – 12

Flip Out (Trampoline Park)

This trampoline park is based in Bromley and says it caters for preschoolers. I only discovered it through looking up places and so have yet to go myself.
Age: crawling – 5+
Price: $8+

Flips and Tumbles

This is a gymnastics facility, one based in Wigram, the other in Rolleston. They have casual sessions as well as classes.
Age: 1 – 5+
Price: about $10

Imagination Station

Think of vats filled with Lego and you get the Imagination Station. They have Duplo too for younger kids and are based in Tūranga.
Age: 1 – 5+
Price: Free/Gold Coin Donation

Inflatable world

I have yet to visit inflatable world, but it sounds like a massive bouncy castle. They have an under 5s area.
Age: walking – 5+
Price: $16

Christchurch City Libraries

I wouldn’t be surprised if we had the best community libraries in the world. They are spaces that make you feel comfortable, warm and knowledgable, as you peruse the 1,000s of books they have on offer. Tūranga is amazing and the city encourages people to use public transport to get there, as there’s very limited paid parking nearby.
The closest free parking is about a 10 minute walk away.
I mean… This is not a review… Just a description… They have regular activities too, which you can read about below.
Age: All Ages
Price: Free

Mega Air – Indoor Trampoline Park

I have yet to go, but their website says they have the Pre school only times on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Age: All Ages (they say on their website)
Price: $15

Christchurch City Pools

We have several indoor pools in Christchurch that are owned by the Council. They are Taiora QEII in New Brighton, Jellie Park in Burnside, Pioneer in Somerfield and Graham Condon in Papanui. Graham Condon is consistently the warmest pool, as they use the heat produced from the neighbouring shops and high school.
Age: 6 months – 5+
Price: Free (from 9am – 3pm during school term with a preschooler)

Regular weekly activities in Christchurch

Activities to do in Christchurch with a preschooler - Kiwistylemum.com
Have someone else supply you with toys regularly.
Photo credit: Jason Leung

Alliance Francaise de Christchurch

Alliance Francaise run some playgroups for 1 – 3 year olds (Friday and Saturday mornings) and 3 – 5 year olds (Wednesday afternoons). They also have a full emersion programme for 3 – 5 year olds, for which you can enrol for one or two sessions on Thursdays. These will teach your child a second language even if you can’t!
Age: 18m – 5+
Price: $140 for 10 weeks of playgroup, unsure for La Petite Ecole.

Halswell Trains (aka Canterbury Society of Model and Experimental Engineers)

There are miniature train rides in Christchurch! They have a Facebook page as well for more regular updates. From the looks of things they also have model boats that they let loose on the lakes on occasion.
Age: Unsure, perhaps 6 months? – 5+
When: Sundays at 1pm (subject to weather and volunteer capacity)
Price: $2

Play centre

I haven’t gotten involved in one, as I chose to put my child in a preschool instead. However Play centres are a much cheaper option for getting similar opportunities! They give you early childhood training too, which may appeal to mums wanting intellectual stimulation.
Age: 0 – 5
Price: On average $30 a term (depends on the centre)

Toy Libraries

Find one near you! We have just recently signed up and have loved the variety of toys that we can bring home. There are just so many benefits to belonging to a Toy Library.
Age: 0 – 5+
Price: I couldn’t find official pricing on their website, but my local one charged $95 for the year, which could be discounted to $45 if you were happy to help out once a term plus a $1 – $3 hire charge per toy. There is also a Special Needs Library with toys for hire with slightly different prices.

Council run activities in Christchurch

Baby times and Story times

Wā Pēpi and Wā Kōrero times are really lovely. They happen regularly all over the city, so there’s something on every day. Wā Pēpi (Baby times) is a time of singing nursery rhymes and hearing a short story told by one of the Library staff. This is great for parents who want to learn new songs for their children. They even have bilingual Wā Pēpi and Wā Kōrero times, so you can learn a bit of Māori, Chinese, Samoan or German (these are only at specific locations). The Wā Kōrero (I think) is a longer story told by one of the Librarians with some fun interaction in between.
Age: 0 – 5+
Price: Free
Times: Check out their calendar for your specific libraries times

Bubble times

New Zealand is surrounded by water. Therefore our country values teaching children water confidence. That’s the aim of Bubble times! They have casual drop in sessions at set times of the week (9am Sunday, Thursday, Friday) at different pools so you can take your preschooler to learn water confidence.
Age: 6 months – 5
Price: $4.20

Preschool Gymnastics

All the cool things you find out about when you visit the Council Website! They do Preschool Gymnastics! This is held at Pioneer Stadium on Fridays (for 2 – 3 year olds) and every week day (for 3 – 4 year olds).
Age: 2- 3 year olds and 3 – 4 year olds
Price: $76 for a 10 week term

The Southern Centre: multi-sensory experience

Again, you learn so much by checking out the Council Website! A Stuff article mentions this space is used by babies, so I assume it’s a good fit for preschoolers. Bookings are essential, hence putting it under Council run activities. Located at Pioneer.
Age: Unsure – 5+
Price: $7.60? I don’t know if they would charge for your preschooler.

Swimming lessons

3 – 5 year olds can get swimming lessons run by the Council. While it doesn’t say on their website, I would give the swimming pool a ring if you want to have a younger child start swimming lessons, as I know people who have started swimming lessons at 2 years old..
Age: 3 – 5+
Price: $12.80 per week

TumbleTimes

TumbleTimes are held at Cowles Stadium on Wednesdays and Fridays, Graham Condon on Tuesdays and Fridays and Pioneer every weekday. They set up lots of gymnastics equipment and let the kids have free play. The instructor does run an optional activity during this time (like a race).
Age: walking – 5+
Price: $4.20 (with concession cards available)

Church based activities in Christchurch

Coming soon! Turns out Christchurch has so much to offer, I figured I’d post this up and update this section once I had done a bit more research.

Plunket activities in Christchurch

So, Plunket have several groups that seem to meet regularly. There are parent groups (including a Dad’s group), parent education and of course play groups. I think friends of mine have begun their own music group, so it might pay to give your local Plunket centre or Community centre a ring to see if there’s anything on in your area.

I am so glad you found this list and have read all the way to the end! There are plans to create a map with all the different things you can do in Christchurch, so sign up to see when that comes out!