Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Watertown Indoor Playspace (A Mama Rant)

I seem to be ranting about a lot lately on the blog...these pregnancy hormones are getting me all fired up about something new every day (and they made me cry at last night's Gossip Girl for crying out loud!). Today's rant is about the state of Boston area indoor playspaces, with focus on the Watertown Indoor Playspace that I just visited for the first time.

In South Florida there is this fabulous place called Latte Fun. It is a fancy indoor playspace for kids, combined with a great coffee bar for the parents. The space is large and clean. There are things for the kids to climb on, ball pits, bouncy floors, slides, etc. And the cafe area has lovely couches and tasty food (from what I have heard.) I have walked by it many a times, even before I had kids, and thought, "damn, that is a great idea. Why didn't I think of that?"

Let's compare this to the Watertown Indoor Playspace...
The location is sketchy - in this big warehouse next to a place that sells cement blocks. You walk around the back of the building to enter. Outside you see the saddest swingset ever behind a busted gate. I was suspect right from the start.

You enter into this giant space (with so much potential) and are immediately in the eating/waiting area. Pay $10 to the kid at the gate (more on him later), take off your shoes (I refused to leave my bag up front for fear it would have been tampered with in the little kid-height cubbies), and enter the playspace.

Here is what the play area consists of:
- 2 blow up bouncy things (one a bouncy house, the other a maze type castle thing)
- a Step 2 mini climbing thing with a slide
- some mini ladder slide thing (circa 1970)
- a metal contraption that four kids can sit on and spin around (circa 1960)
- a shitload of crappy ride on toys, that look like they were purchased from a secondhand shop.

In the back there is a playspace for toddlers that consists of a ball pit (that while we were there was being used by rambunctious 7-ish year old boys), some busted kitchens, giant scary baby dolls that have been around the block, random toys strewn about, and a bin full of dress up clothes that I am sure have never been washed.

I paid $10 for this?

I wasn't going to leave right away, as I was meeting a friend, and wanted to give it a chance. Being school vacation week we should have avoided this place like the plague, but we stuck it out and let the kids run around. But they couldn't really run around because it was madness - AND they have this really annoying floor mat on the floor that has a ledge on it that kids were tripping over. The entire floor isn't covered in soft material (some of it is concrete if I remember correctly) just parts of it, and it is raised therefore it is easy to trip on.

M wasn't really feeling it because she is too young for the bouncy things (more like too unsteady on her feet on solid ground), and she was having a hard time navigating with the weird raised floor. She played in a car for a while, and with a busted old princess phone, but other than that and a couple times down the slide she wasn't really playing with anything.

We attempted to enter the bouncy maze, but as she was getting in and getting her balance she got blindsided by two 4ish year old boys who weren't paying attention to anything but themselves. You know who also wasn't paying attention? Their mothers...this place has a bunch of lawn furniture set up on the sides of the room so parents just sit there and play on their phones while their kids run rampant. Yes, there were some active parents like my friend and I, but the majority were sitting there on their butts while their crazy kids took over the place.

I feel like I am being so hard on this place, but they must make a freaking killing at $10 a pop, and their overhead must be little to nothing, as they aren't updating or cleaning the place as often as they should (did I mention the giant extension cord sticking out of the wall that M wanted to "jump the rope" with?)

There is so much potential for places like this!! Get rid of all the crappy toys that don't work. Get rid of the broken crap. Paint the walls, fix the floor and get some decent climbing equipment. Get some swings, get some slides, invest in some substantial things for the kids to play with like a jungle gym. Get rid of the vending machines with the candy and soda and get some decent healthy food for the kids to eat. Wipe down the freaking tables in the eating area!

If I had $50k lying around I would open up the playspace of all playspaces. Fun for both the parents and the kids, with toys that work and things that stimulate the kids brains. I would get rid of the chairs for the parents to sit in and make them pay attention to their kids! Ok, well I would have a few chairs...and I would be strict about the age limits in certain areas. 10 year olds should not be playing with the dress up clothes for toddlers. I would also have my staff be much more active. The only employee I saw was the kid at the cash register taking money, playing on a laptop and "watching" the security camera footage on the screen in front of him.

So needless to say, I will not be going back to this place in Watertown, and don't recommend you going either. There is a playspace out by me in West Roxbury that isn't a ton better, but the things they have there are much more fun for the kids to climb on, and they are strict about the age limit in the toddler area.

Anyone want to go in on my fabulous indoor playspace with me?? Investors??


  1. I have only been there once and in addition to everything you described I was also pissed off that my mom and sister, who had come along with us, had to pay $2 each to get in. Seriously?

  2. The thing is this . . . kids don't even NEED that much! And, for the city folk, all we need is SPACE TO PLAY. (Which we are all lacking with our limited square footage.)

    Knucklebones in Somerville is great. (Was trying to convince the owner that Southie desperately needs something like this.) Also, Coco Baby in the South End has a basement you can use for drop-in play. $5 per child. Perfect for a play date. But -- yes -- it would be great to have something with a little more SCALE.

    I will invest if we can build in South Boston!!

  3. More ideas: Together in Motion in Arlington, the Somerville Recreation Indoor Playspace. No lattes at either, but better sounding than the one you described!

  4. I've been wanting to do this since I had my son! Seriously! There's so much need for it around here. I recommend Together in Motion in Arlington also. It gets crowded by it's a space. If you want a meal where the kids are entertained, Full Moon in Cambridge is great (little train set/kitchen area). If I had the money I would have done it a long time ago!