It's easy for people to feel isolated and lethargic during a Wisconsin winter, particularly if you're a parent at home with small kids. During the warmer months, a trip to the park or a walk around the neighborhood can really brighten spirits, but during the cold season, this is less possible.
Hence, over the past five years, the greater Milwaukee area has welcomed multiple indoor playgrounds, most of which are of the inflatable variety like Monkey Joe's in Waukesha, JumpZone in Franklin, Flabbergast in Sussex and Brookfield's Pump It Up.
There are also a few places for kids to blow off steam that aren't a collection of bouncy structures and more like an indoor playground or gymnastics space like The Big Backyard in New Berlin, Swiss Turners in West Allis and Just4Fun in Grafton.
However, none of these locations are in Milwaukee, and Bay View's Shannon Knapp hopes to change this. If Knapp's concept is approved for a special use permit by the Board of Zoning Appeals (BOZA) at the Feb. 21 meeting, she will open Up, Up and Play above The Down & Over Pub, 2535 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
"I am currently renovating the space in the hopes that everything goes through without a hitch. Power of positive thinking," says Knapp.
The vision for the space is to keep it very natural. Knapp has already found a woodworker who will build many play pieces using a non-toxic finish. There will also be bikes for indoor riding, climbers, parachutes and other imaginative play items.
"No noisy toys, no bells and whistles," says Knapp.
The play space is approximately 2,000 square feet and there is a smaller room that will be used for snacking and parent coffee or tea drinking as well as crafting and birthday parties.
"There will not be a cafe per se, but I will have organic packaged food available, as well as some type of coffee machine," she says.
The cost will be $5 for kids; babies under 1 and parents will be free. The space will be aimed at preschoolers but will feature activities for younger and older kids, too.
According to a recent study by Trust for America's Health, 13.1 percent of Wisconsin kids between the ages of 10 and 17 are considered obese. Staying active all year round, particularly in the winter months, is crucial to keeping kids at a healthy weight.
The timing of this new venture is ideal for Knapp. In October, she had her fifth child. Her four older children are all teenagers (19, 18, 14 and 13), so she found herself at a place in her life she had not been for more than a decade. Also, she had been providing in-home daycare for multiple children, and a few families moved away, leaving Knapp in search of a new career path.
"Having a new baby, I needed something that allowed me to stay with her," says Knapp. "I have taught preschool or run daycares on and off for the last 20 years. I have a ton to share and wanted the right outlet."
Knapp – who lived in New Orleans with her family for 10 years – is no fan of winter and knows how cold weather makes accessing the outdoors difficult for those who do not appreciate it.
"I hate Wisconsin winters and understand how stir crazy moms get," says Knapp.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.