The newest indoor play space on the Eastside is as much about supporting parents and guardians as it is about helping its youngest guests to foster imagination and curiosity about the world around them. Roo's World of Discovery, which recently opened in downtown Kirkland, is a Montessori-inspired play space that spotlights simple toys requiring kids to use their own imaginations.
Visitors are first greeted by a pleasant kids and baby boutique when entering through the front doors. Venture toward the back and you'll find an inviting living-room-like play area, complete with an irresistible Cedarworks climbing structure and slide and an array of mostly eco-friendly wooden toys including car ramps, a train table and a play kitchen. Floor-length mirrors cover one wall such that little ones can watch themselves as they bounce on a mini-trampoline or operate one of several toddler-sized cars. Three art stations adorn another chalkboard-lined wall where little artists can express themselves in a variety of mediums, including crayon, marker, and chalk.
“Roo’s World of Discovery creation was inspired by my 3-year old, who has developmental delays and sensory issues,” said owner Michelle Landwehr. “I created this space for families with children of all abilities to play in a peaceful environment and connect with others who are going through the same experiences.”
Sensory-friendliness, parent connections
Is it right for your kids? Roo's World is designed for children ages 0 to 5. When we were there, my 4-year-old and his friend were busy for over an hour with the workbench and kitchen set-up, but super-active older kids might need to move on sooner.
Children with special needs up to age 10 are also welcome during special sensory-friendly hours, which are currently available by reservation.
A special sensory-focused room is also available for children who may be overwhelmed by noise and lights when things get rowdy.
Living-room homey, and bring all the kids
Roo's World is especially appealing to families with more than one young child. Pricing is by the family instead of by child, and even if the older kid(s) get bored, the organization of the room really encourages interaction between parents, and interaction between the kids themselves — especially kids of different ages.
Grown-ups will appreciate the large, comfortable chairs and couches arranged so they can sit and chat, nurse comfortably or simply take a load off. You can easily keep tabs on your kids in the open play space; even the changing table is set up facing the play room such that parents can watch their older children mid-diaper change.
The homey design was deliberate, said Landwehr, who has taken her own child to a fair number of area indoor play spaces. While she appreciated the many options available on the Eastside, she thought other spaces lacked the opportunity and incentive for parents and guardians to better connect with other.
Landwehr and her staff make it a point to not only make regular rounds to ensure toys were stocked and clean but to chat with fellow grown-ups about all things child-related.
Classes from music to story time yoga
The goal of the space to be a supportive resource for parents extends to its event calendar, which boasts classes including music and movement for kids, breastfeeding support, prenatal meditation, and story time yoga.
There is also a daily circle time at 11 a.m., and regular themed play date times, including grandparents play time and play dates for parents with special-needs kids, some of which are helpfully scheduled over the weekend. Landwehr posts event and workshop updates on the Roo's World Facebook page as well.
If you go ...
Optimal age: As noted, Roo's World is a good fit for children ages 0 to 5. Children with special needs up to age 10 are also welcome during special sensory-focused hours, which are currently available by reservation.
Cost: A drop-in visit, which includes unlimited same-day access, is $20 per family, defined as whatever number of children are in the family and two parents. There are also a number of membership options. Classes and activities are included in daily pass and memberships.
Hours: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Fridays, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Closed Tuesdays.
Attire: Socks are required and are available for purchase. The facility has wood floors and rugs, but it's a good idea for little ones still learning to walk to have gripper socks to avoid slipping.
Food: There is a coffee and tea station against the back wall, an a small assortment of snacks available for purchase. Food is allowed in the play area, as long as it's nut-free.
Wifi: Free wireless Internet is available in downtown Kirkland, thanks to the city of Kirkland. Roo's World does not offer a separate wifi access. While the occasional phone use is necessary, Landwehr encourages parents to play with their children while at Roo's World.