Play parks hosted by local community centers remain the best deal for entertaining young kids indoors during Seattle's wet winters. But parents willing to...
Play parks hosted by local community centers remain the best deal for entertaining young kids indoors during Seattle’s wet winters. But parents willing to spend a few more dollars can add several new activities to their rainy-day repertoire for preschoolers.
Here are our reviews of play areas — some filled with inflatable toys, some with gymnastics equipment and others with staff keeping an eye on tots.
Pump It Up
Walking into Kirkland’s Pump It Up, many parents’ first thought will be, “Hey, why didn’t they have this when I was a kid?!” Fortunately, parents are welcome to climb and bounce along with kids on the 12,000-square-foot facility’s eight inflatable toys, which include 20-foot slides, obstacle courses and bounce houses.
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Indeed, parents of toddlers should wear socks and trail little ones or risk them being run over by excited and therefore oblivious preschoolers. (Adults must supervise; no drop-offs.)
Pump It Up primarily hosts birthday parties but offers four weekday drop-in sessions, which each run an hour and 15 minutes. That doesn’t sound long, but most kids will be exhausted after nonstop running from toy to toy, climbing up walls and, of course, jumping and jumping. (All the stuff you won’t let them do at home on rainy days.)
If you go
Child’s Play Cafe
10235 Main St., Bellevue, childsplaycafe.com or 425-453-6151. 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday (last entry 2 p.m.) Cost: $6.75/first hour, $3.75/each additional half-hour. Food: $3.50 lattes to $11.95 salads and sandwiches. Age: 5 and younger. Reservations recommended.
Seattle Gymnastics Academy, 12535 26th Ave. N.E., Seattle, www.seattlegymnastics.com or 206-362-7447. Drop-in indoor play, 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Monday-Friday. Ages 1-5. $6/child. Parent must sign waiver. Closed some holiday periods.
GYMagine Gymnastics, 3616 South Road #B3, Mukilteo, www.geocities.com/gymagine or 425-513-8700. Drop-in preschool playtime, 9:15-10 a.m. Fridays. Ages 1-4. $12/child.
Lil’ Kickers Fun Zone
Arena Sports Magnuson, 7400 Sandpoint Way N.E., 206-985-8990 and Arena Sports Redmond, 9040 Willows Road, Redmond, www.arenasports.net or 425-885-4881. Magnuson Park hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays. Redmond hours: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday. Call ahead to verify. Cost: $5 to $7/child, free for parents.
Pump It Up
11605 N.E. 116th St., Kirkland, www.pumpitupparty.com/kirkland.html or 425-820-2297. Drop-in hours: 9-10:15 a.m. or 10:30-11:45 a.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Age: 5 and younger. Cost: $6, $4/siblings, free for parents. Socks mandatory.
1124 Harrison St., Seattle, www.gourbanmonkeys.com or 206-262-9282. Open gym hours are 12:30 to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday (until 6 p.m. Tuesdays). Age 6 and younger. $10 drop-in fee per family for nonmembers (annual membership is $199). Baby-sitting (reservations required) is available for $7/child.
On a recent day, the approximately three dozen kids spread out over eight toys in two rooms, so there weren’t any lines or waits (holiday periods are more crowded).
The music choices leaned more to tweens (Example: Britney Spears’ “… Baby One More Time”) than the “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” set. The kids weren’t really listening over their own noise, but it seemed an odd match.
The inflatable toys aren’t something you can find free (à la fast-food restaurant play areas), so it’s a fun $6 treat. Owners expect to open a facility in Lynnwood by March, followed by one in Bellevue.
Lil’ Kickers Fun Zone (Arena Sports Magnuson)
With only three inflatable toys, Arena Sports’ Fun Zone is a smaller version of Pump It Up, but its hours are more accessible, and it’s open to school-age kids. The listed price is $7 for nonmembers, and that’s pushing it in terms of value. The $5 member price — it seems to depend on who is staffing the office as to which fee is charged — is more reasonable for what’s available. (Membership costs $38 a year.)
At Magnuson (there’s also a Fun Zone at the Redmond facility), kids can jump on a bounce house, obstacle course and double slide. Located in a warehouse, it’s dry but chilly; wear a sweatshirt. With open hours, it’s hit-and-miss how crowded the place will be; visitors might have it all to themselves. If kids have energy and the weather cooperates, Magnuson Park offers a great playground nearby.
Child’s Play Cafe
This supervised play space in Bellevue costs $6.75 an hour and, if you allow $3.50 for a latte, you can have a $10 child-free hour for chatting with friends.
Given that $6 is the going rate for many kid attractions — which parents have to supervise — it’s possible to view this as baby-sitting for 75 cents an hour, plus a latte.
Moms (or dads, though none were around on a recent visit) can send kids into toy-filled areas to play with friendly staff members while parents hang out nearby, drinking coffee or reading the large stash of magazines.
The cafe is not licensed child care, so parents can’t leave the premises. The service seems especially popular with moms of toddlers. One of the two walled play areas is designated for the under-3 crowd, the other for kids up to age 5. (Older children are welcome to eat in the cafe but can’t go into the play areas.)
The cafe is spendy but caters to its audience, offering a well-stocked bathroom full of diapers and Band-Aids, free chocolate-chip cookies with drink orders and a $3.95 toddler platter with fishy crackers and fruit cut into bite-size pieces.
Most moms opted for coffee in big mugs (given the cafe setting, it would be awkward not to order something). Lunches are $11.95.
Seattle Gymnastics Academy
For an hour every weekday, the Seattle Gymnastics Academy opens its gym for drop-in play. Kids can bounce on a trampoline, walk across balance beams, twirl on a rope swing and somersault down wedge mats.
The two big attractions, though, are the tumble track, a long narrow trampoline kids can run along, and the foam pit. Youngsters can jump, slide or swing into the pit filled with soft foam squares.
Parents must stay with children but aren’t allowed on the equipment. Note: Accompanying friends need a waiver signed by a parent.
Urban Monkeys’ $10 fee seems steep for a play gym stocked with standard toys such as fabric tunnels, bouncy balls, jump ropes and some dress-up clothes. (They vary offerings each day.) But it covers the whole family for unlimited time during its all-afternoon open gym.
The new facility, which offers music and activity classes, is geared to members who can drop in for free (after paying the $199 annual membership) or parents who reserve baby-sitting in advance and spring for a facial, massage or manicure at the on-site spa ($15-$65).
Stephanie Dunnewind: firstname.lastname@example.org