Monday, April 16, 2012

Toddler Play Areas

On Saturday, we decided to take Oliver to Little Monkey Bizness after leaving my parents' house. Little Monkey Bizness is a great bizness idea. It has a large area for kids to run, play, climb, and go down slides. The play area is gated in, so if you have an independent kid, you can sit in one of the tables outside the play area and just watch. There's a little cafe so you can order a cup of coffee.

We've been a few times now. Each time, I've loved the concept but have been a little put off by the staff. The first time we went, the girl behind the counter (you know, the one who makes the drinks) had lost her voice and was clearly quite sick. The next time we went, it was for a party at the Parker location. The staff wouldn't help me find the party we were there for, wouldn't show me where to put our things when I asked, and then later kicked my son out of one play area because another party had apparently paid for private use of it.

This time, we went, and we found the staff all eating pizza behind the counter. Yup, they were eating while making people their coffee. Seriously? I made a mental note not to order any food or drink. Anyway, we they sent us away because, apparently, Saturday afternoons are reserved for private parties. I was so proud of Oliver when we left. He didn't cry or throw a fit, even after he'd seen all the other kids running and playing.

We jumped back into the car and announced that we would go to Treehouse Discovery. Treehouse Discovery is a little more expensive than Monkey Business, but most of the play equipment and toys are "natural" and made out of wood. It has a much, much cleaner feel and isn't too "busy" like a lot of kid places are. I love the relaxed environment there. I told Andrew that it would be one of my favorite places to go except for one thing: the owner, who is always there, is a little bizarre. I mean, she's really nice. She's almost
too nice. To pay to get in takes about 20 minutes because she just enjoys talking so much. When we finally do get in, she walks around and talks with me. That would be great, except she doesn't let me get away to, say, help my son on the equipment or take him to the bathroom. She discusses a lot of her personal life, health history, and even business decisions. She's actually demonstrated to me before how she uses the children's equipment for exercise when there aren't any customers around. If she wasn't so nice, and if I was more assertive, I'd tell her, "Hey, you have a great place here, but you kind of ruin it by hovering over all your customers."

Anyway, we decided to set out for Treehouse Discovery. As Andrew drove, I looked up their number and called, only to find out they're closed on Saturdays. Gah! At this point, we had to take Oliver somewhere. He was being so good and patient! It was too cold to go to the park, so we decided to take him to the free play area at the mall. We hadn't been there in months. The last time, Oliver had embarrassed me by having a sudden coughing fit, followed by spitting a loogie on the floor. It repulsed some other parents who left.

We got to the mall, and Oliver was calling it the "treehouse," since that was where we'd told him we were going. Oh my goodness, the play area was filled with huge kids playing tag, climbing on the equipment, and leaping off of it. Mind you, it's only supposed to be for kids 42 inches or shorter. I decided to just not worry and let Oliver run around. Easier said than done. Every time one of the 10-12 year olds leapt off a slide or bridge, I cringed. It was very stressful for me, but I tried to laugh at myself for being over-protective. Oliver had another huge coughing fit. I wonder if the cleaning products they use bother him or something. I wanted to stand up and announce to all the other parents that I swear he's not sick. Then, I remembered that none of those parents seemed to care what their kids were doing anyway. After about 10 minutes, I bribed Oliver into leaving with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich from Panera.

This morning was pretty chilly. I wanted to get out of the house. Jo's been teething (I think), and being cooped up with a fussy baby is no fun! I thought about heading back to the mall but just didn't want to deal with it again. I thought about taking the kids to Starbucks, but I wanted Oliver to run around. So, I decided to try the McDonald's at Kipling and Belleview. Yes, me! McDonald's. I'd taken Oliver there once before when we met up with Shawna and Owen. Oliver was too small at the time to climb on stuff. My mother-in-law has taken him a couple of times and has said he liked it. So, I gave it a go.

Wow! We had such a good time! We got there, and I ordered an egg and cheese breakfast sandwich and a cup for water for both Oliver and me. The woman behind the counter carried our tray to the table for us because I had Jo in my arms. I didn't ask; she just offered. There were only two kids playing, although a few more arrived while we were there. The moms of the kids were fairly involved, and they made sure their kids were always following the rules and not knocking over the smaller kids. I felt comfortable letting Oliver climb and play, watching from our table with Jo, getting up only to help him when he needed it. It was such a positive experience! I decided that, when the weather is bad, it's totally worth the $6, maybe as much as once a week, to come to let Oliver get a little play time and socialization with other kids.

So, there it is. I never thought that I would be someone to give a recommendation for McDonald's, but I most definitely am. I guess it's no wonder families tend to go so much!

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