…An indoor play area NOT part of a fast food restaurant.
I’ve noticed a trend in blog posts, Facebook status updates and conversations during these long winter months. That topic? How to keep from going crazy couped up inside when it’s too cold to play outside. Fast food has not been an acceptable option for me when it comes to feeding my girls. Even as recent as last month I turned down a lunch invite to McDonald’s because I didn’t want to buy that food for my girls. But, one late nap and a very wired three year old had me singing a very different tune.
When trying to find ways for Sammi to get some physical play when she woke up from a nap at 6 pm I was in a bit of a dilemma. How on earth was I supposed to get her tired enough to go to bed when it was already dark and it was very cold and snowy? I finally caved and we went to Old McDonald’s(as she calls it) so she could climb, slide and crawl to her heart’s content. Since that fateful day, we have gone to McDonald’s four or five more times. It kills me! I just want a place to play without the obligation to purchase food.
Another option is the play areas at the mall. We’re fortunate enough that the malls that are close to us all have pretty fun play areas. They provide opportunities for climbing and sliding and, as an added bonus, a bit of imaginative play. But the closest mall to us is 45 minutes away, not exactly a viable option for an evening outing. And not all malls have play areas. I was shocked when a mall in Utah removed its wonderful play area because of lack of funding to maintain it. Seriously?
So, I propose a community indoor play area that is not associated with food, that is not associated shopping, that is just a place focused on play. I want it to be on neutral ground where any family would feel comfortable using the indoor play area. Just as they would to play at the city park.
maryanne @ mama smiles says
What a fantastic idea! We could sure use one in Massachusetts – our winters last months and months.
There are a couple of indoor play areas, but the cheapest one I know of is in a sketchy area and charges $7/kid to play. Way out of our budget for a couple hours of fun.
I’ve done the McDonald’s play area, but just ordered milk and apple slices for the kids. They’re still supporting the franchise, but at least they’re eating healthily.
Erin in Tn says
I’ve wondered about that very play area. Was your younger daughter able to play there or is it too big for her? What’s the ick factor? Is it marginally clean!?
I’ve taken advantage of our McDonald’s PlayPlace w/o buying anything for the kids – just buy a small coffee for yourself (free refills) and you qualify as a paying customer. It’s a fun playdate with other moms who have small children, too, as the moms can have a coffee date while the little ones play!
I want one in my community too! There actually are a few churches w/ indoor playgrounds, but not one super close. I wish there were more! We visit our mall playground pretty often in the winter.
Also, when I told my 2 year old we were going to mcdonalds not too long ago, he just looked really confused and said ‘E I E I O?’ 🙂 Made me kind of proud that he had no idea what mcdonalds was.
@Maryanne: The cost is what gets me! I want everyone, even those who can’t afford $7/hour or milk and apples from McD’s to be able to enjoy an indoor play area during the winter months. I’m glad, though, that McD’s has added healthier options to their menu.
@Erin: I’m not much of a germaphobe so it’s clean enough for me 🙂 Elli at 17 months could climb up the stairs. She’d make her way through the whole thing as long as one of us was up there with her. I was amazed at how much she improved in what she could do in the time of that one visit. Now every time we go she can do so much more. It almost makes me feel bad that I didn’t take Sammi when she was so young.
@Ashley: I like that idea. The kids are usually so excited to play that they aren’t interested in eating!
I agree with you. We need indoor places to play.
@Kelly: I was proud of Sammi, too, for not knowing what McDonald’s was. Too bad that’s changed now 🙁 I hadn’t thought of checking out churches for indoor play areas. I’ve sen several around us with outdoor areas, but I don’t know if any of them indoor play spaces.
I’m in a similar situation. I’m not into fast food and it’s not something that I want as a mainstay in our diet and the closest indoor mall play area is 30 miles away. I’d love somewhere for Jess to play indoors during the hot summer months here (since winter is when we do our playing outside).
My girls call it the same thing. There is a mom’s club here that spent several years fundraising money to put a playground in the mall. It is the only other alternative to McD’s here.
Amber – I loved this entry. I’ve spent all day thinking about what I would want. I think at this point a good community center would be awesome – with a cheap workout facility and fun classes from cooking to gardening to quilting and whatnot. It’s a lot to ask, but it would be so nice.
We have a place in town that my daughter calls “The Bouncy House.” It’s really called Parties R Us, and their main focus is a venue for throwing large kid parties indoors. But the main attraction is the 8 large bouncy house toys to play on. You pay for a 2 hour chunk of time and bounce away on bouncy slides, bouncy houses, and bouncy obstacle courses. It has been a godsend this winter with an active toddler and subzero temps.
Now, if they would allow an hour of ‘drop off time’ when all the mommies and daddies could go in the other room and do yoga, that would be extra awesome!!
I would love to have more “Mommy and Me” type classes available to the public. We take a yoga class once a week, but I would love to do more. Our community center and adult ed is awesome – I just need to find child care in order to take advantage of any of it.
A Magical Childhood says
I’ve wanted one in our area for years. We’re in Minnesota and it’s so cold for so much of the year we really need a fun place to let the kids run and play. We’re in a little town but the McDonalds a half hour away replaced their play area with just a slide and video games. Ugh. When they had a ball pit it always smelled terribly bad, though, so I guess they figured this was easier.
I’ve read about lots of free community play places in Europe and would love to see indoor play areas as common as parks over here. They could set up coffee stands and such to bring in a little income.
Just found your blog and love it, BTW!
I don’t think $7/hr is that much for a play place. We also have a church with a huge indoor playplace…tubes/slides/indoor picnic area. It’s their community outreach program. There is NO CHARGE, has great hours and all they ask is that you clean up after yourselves. It’s never busy.
I would suggest looking into Gymboree classes as they are very physical but they only go up to age 5 http://www.gymboreeclasses.com/index.jsp AND they are pricey…but very educational. They also allow open “gym” hours to come play after hours.
Another thing to look into would be something through the Parks and Recreation Department. Ours offers tumbling classes starting at 18 months. Again, pricey, but I don’t expect anything good for free.
A lot of high schools offer open swim hours at their pools for cheap, as well as having open hours for walking on indoor tracks. That would be good run around space and usually there are basket ball courts too.
There is also another local church that offers a winter basketball program for kids which is great for the slightly older bunch.
There is a “bouncy” place nearby too. It’s not a restaurant, but does have a “fast food like” counter with pizza and junk, but that’s not the focus. http://www.monkeyjoes.com/ It’s also meant for a birthday party venue, but they have toddler bouncy areas which are great for even little crawlers.
The other thing I would say to check out is local swim lessons but again, expensive. We paid $80 for 6 lessons that were 45 minutes long. They were very good though and they did water games/songs as well as swimming and safety skills.
@ strwberryjoy: Thanks for your suggestions! Sounds like you live in a well populated area. I neglected to mention we live in a very rural community. The only place for swimming lessons is at an outdoor pool up a mountain so it’s only good for two months in the summer. There are absolutely no community classes for little ones like tumbling and there are no companies within a 30 minute drive that offer any space for free play except the McDonald’s I mentioned in my post.
I think that what you’ve suggested is an ideal i would love to see in every community. But our community is considered quite poor and so I feel a great place to start is with a community provided indoor play area because for many of the moms I know, $7/hr is not even a remote possibility. For them it’s a choice between dinner and play. Obviously they choose dinner. But I’d like to find a solution to provide them with both. I think communities have done a good job of getting parks established with swings, playgrounds and open fields for sports. Now I’d like to see them take it one step further and create an indoor structure to help out in the winter for those of us who live in cold winter climates or the summer for those who live in hot summer climates.