During the time I've been a nanny- almost a decade- I've seen just about everything that goes in, on, or around a child- and most places in, on or around which a child can play.
I've carted kids to lessons, playdates and child "friendly" locales in the dead of winter and the sloshiest of springs, knowing full well there's only so many blanket tents and PBS reruns one can tolerate.
In some of these locales I've spent the entire time in fear; for the child's safety, for the strep virus he's licked off a toy, and for my brain cells. (Seriously. An hour and a half of structured play for an 18 month old? Time...ticks...by...) And sometimes, when you have to wake the kiddo to make a class for which you've already pre-paid, it can equal an overtired, pricey, dirty, boring mess.
And that's no fun.
The antidote to that is Fantasy Kingdom, an indoor playplace conveniently located in the bustling North/Clybourn area of Chicago.
This space is so great for kiddos ranging from six months to six years (although some of my older charges have dug it, too). And truly, I've been hanging out here for years. My most active dude has sprinted off his excess energy before naptime. My shyest boy has made friends. My independent-minded gal has done her own thing- thankyouverymuch- storming a castle, dressed like a firefighter.
They have a police station, firehouse, cottage, and grocery store, not to mention a humongous castle with interior stairs (yep, been up there- didn't even get stuck) plus a gallery of costumes.
And there are toys- lots of them. Superbly clean toys. Like- I've seen people wipe and spray things down. (And there's sanitizer and wipes and tissues and and and....) The music is always good, too. That's huge for me. Music in play areas is SO important. And so often lame.
The vehicles for ridin' are pretty rad as well- though, sadly, I cannot fit in those. But that frees them up for the kids I've brought. Which I suppose is the whole point.
One of the BEST parts is the sectioned-off play area for Little Littles. Yes! You no longer have to choose between letting big kids have fun and a non-smooshed infant! The toys in there are pretty spiffy, too, and the Bigs and Littles can see each other over the separating wall. If they want to. But they'll be pretty busy.
Okay, I lied- the real best part is the free coffee.
Or maybe it's the fact that my admission is free with a kiddo. Unless it's a drop-off locale or unless I get a really sweet craft project of my own, nothing is more irksome than having to pay to be there with the kids.
There's also a separate area for lunch or snacks or coffee or whatever you purchase. (They have lots of goodies for sale.) With a fridge. And a microwave. And- more wipes. The neato part about this area is that you're still mere feet away from the main play area. Meaning everyone doesn't have to take off their costumes just because I want a juicebox.
They have all sorts of membership and admission packages- including day rates- and additional sibs under the age of one are free. And the multi-pass cards do not expire. (I really enjoy non-stressy memberships. A lot.)
Birthday parties are a big deal here, and they have all sorts of packages and ways to make the day super easy. I've been to multiple events at Fantasy Kingdom. Three words: Well. Oiled. Machine.
Still feeling the need to educate and artsify your child? They have projects and storytelling and activities with local artists. And you can attend when you like, let your kid sleep in when you don't, and no one looks at you like you've squandered the equivalent of college tuition for a twice-weekly dance class.
And now that my darlin' Bitsy is extremely active- and, let's be honest, the 8 month hibernation known as Chicago Winter is imminent- I'm going to need a regular place to run around. (With her, I mean. I'm gonna bring Nora.)
Just imagine- parking in the attached garage, waltzing in to have coffee with a pal, enjoying a clean, bright, friendly environment, letting your little one dream and dance and run wild...and then scooping her up for naptime that you didn't have to reschedule...
...Bring on the bad weather.