One minute they're cooking up a meal in the pretend kitchenette, the next they're putting out a blaze in the fictional fire station before taking on a rock climbing challenge. It's all possible at indoor preschool play centers with recreational spaces, mini cafes and sensory stations geared toward toddlers. Mindy Plasse, 31, of Little Neck, brings her 2-year-old daughter to six Long Island indoor play spaces. “I love to go to open play centers because I can really see the world through my daughter’s eyes and watch her light up with excitement with new friends, new toys and in new environments," she says.
Each play center offers something different from the next with a focus on imaginative play.
Kristy Kung, who owns Children’s Social Club in Rockville Centre, says such centers are ideal for grandparents and caregivers looking for new ways to engage during play. "They like that everything in the play space is at eye level so they can see where their children are at all times," Kung adds.
Here are highlights you’ll find in open play spaces for children aged 6 and younger. Open play hours vary.
Once Upon a Treetop
151 Dupont St., Plainview
Twelve preschool-sized rooms make up a city in this homey center that includes a firehouse, a police station, a campsite with barbecue, a vet’s office, a construction zone and a three-story climbing maze. Cost $20 walkers, $15 crawlers, $10 infants for two-hour session. More info 516-349-1140; onceuponatreetop.com. Reserve online; walk-ins welcome.
Sippy Cups Café
3890 Merrick Rd., Seaford
This open-concept center includes a wooden climber, two slides, indoor and outdoor kitchen/grocery playhouses, a train table and a mini cafe. Cost $24, $14.50 siblings and crawlers for two-hour session. More info 516-221-3814; sippycupscafe.com. Reservations required.
Liddle Bites Play Café
132 E. Park Ave., Long Beach
Play center/snack bar boasts a preschool-sized dollhouse with a pretend bedroom, living room and kitchen/ice cream shop. There are train and truck tables, cribs for dolls and a crawl-in rocket ship. Cost $12, $10 siblings for two-hour session. More info 516-442-3131; liddlebites.com. Reserve online; walk-ins welcome.
Oh My Goodness Kids
301 Main St., Port Washington; and 61 New Hyde Park Rd., Garden City
Winding slides, ball pits, a sensory clubhouse, swings and a plethora of wooden building toys fill this play center, which includes an organic cafe extending from the activity area. Cost $20 one-hour session. More info 516-636-5444 ext. 1 for Garden City, ext. 2 for Port Washington; ohmygoodnesskids.com. Reserve online; walk-ins welcome.
3309 Merrick Rd., Wantagh
Kids with all abilities can enjoy swings, hammocks, a sensory game wall, a mini rock wall with rope ladder, a soft foam pit and climbers. Cost $18, under 9 months free for a 90-minute session. More info 516-308-1462; sensorybeans.org. Reservations required.
Social Play Haus
200 Express St., Suite 100; Plainview
A cafe is combined with a loft-style play center featuring wooden play sets, slides, a kid-sized rock-climbing wall, a kitchen/garden/bake shop, STEM toys, children’s books and a baby nook with toys for infants. Cost $30 two-hour session ($15 for one hour). More info 516-200-6444; socialplayhaus.com. Reservations required.
Children’s Social Club
280 Sunrise Hwy, Rockville Centre
This center features two kitchen playhouses, a train table, craft area with puzzles, magnet boards, ball pit, mini rock-climbing wall, tire trampoline, an infant area with soft toys and a small cafe with packaged snacks and coffee. Cost $25; $20 second child, infants under 8 months free for 90-minute session. More info 516-544-4019; thechildrensocialclub.com. Reservations required.
Play à La Mode
254 Main St., East Setauket
Preschool toys for imaginative play join a make-believe town that features a salon, gym, school, market, fishing area and ice cream truck. Purchase prepackaged snacks in the cafe. Cost $28 walkers, $24 crawlers for 90-minute session. More info 631-364-2519; playalamode.com. Reservations required.
Little Bean House Café
260 Smithtown Blvd., Nesconset
Laptop-friendly tables with outlets give parents an opportunity to work, grab coffee from the in-house cafe and keep an eye on their children playing in two new playhouses. Kids can toot musical instruments, hop on slides, dress up with costumes or flop in ball pits. Cost $18.95, $15.95 siblings, $12.95 crawlers. More info 631-400-2013; littlebeanhousecafe.com. Reservations required.
A Latte Fun
570 E. Jericho Tpke., South Huntington
Parents can sip lattes in the cafe while they watch their kids try sensory games, huddle around a pretend farmhouse, bounce on a tire trampoline, ride a mini carousel or hug a rubber dinosaur. Cost $20, $16 siblings, $14 crawlers for a two-hour session. More info 631-944-3170; alattefunlongisland.com. Reserve online; walk-ins welcome.
The Nesting Place
95 Horseblock Rd., Yaphank
This “play lab” boasts plenty of comfy seating and complimentary tea/coffee, as kids check out two new playhouses, manipulate neon lights at a sensory light table and clamber on a climber. Cost $19, $10 additional child for 90-minute session. More info 631-318-3382; thenestingplaceli.com. Reservations required. Additional locations in Farmingdale and Merrick (no open play).
La La Land
158 E Main St., Babylon
This three-sectioned open play center features a preschool rock wall, monkey bar and slide area, an imagination section with a play cafe, vet center, car table and a “crawlers corner” with toys for infants. Cost $25, $17.50 sibling, $15 crawler for a 90-minute session; open play includes complimentary self-serve espresso bar plus a snack and drink for kids. More info 631-482-1619; playatlalaland.com. Reserve online; walk-ins welcome.