In Kids & Family

This Sucks: Not enough indoor play spaces for kids

Face it, we all have things we love and hate about Milwaukee. But, complaining and focusing on the negative leads nowhere. So, in this column we highlight an issue that we think needs to be addressed, discussed and solved. Every "This Sucks" feature tells you why we think something sucks, offers commentary, opinions, solutions and, of course, gives you the chance to weigh in through our exclusive talkback feature.

What sucks: There aren't enough indoor play areas for kids, which are highly needed during the winter. Even worse, most of the open gym times that are available take place during the week, which doesn't accommodate most working parents, and few programs are in the city of Milwaukee.

Why it sucks: Everybody gets a little stir crazy during the winter months, especially kids. Unfortunately, there aren't many places to take a child to burn off steam -- especially over the weekend.

"Many of the music and movement classes, gymnastics clubs and swim clubs, and almost all of the Milwaukee Recreation Department's summer programs are during the day on weekdays. In a city where it seems most families are either two-income families or single-parent families, does this make sense?" asks Riverwest's Laura Williams.

Sure, there are always McDonald's Playlands, but often times they are overcrowded, questionably clean and in an environment selling unhealthy food. Considering the childhood obesity problem in this country, do you really want half-pint to super-size before he hits kindergarten?

Most shopping malls have play areas as well, but few are completely enclosed, making it very easy for little ones to wander off. Plus, like the McDonald's Playlands, the actual "play" is secondary to the experience of eating and/or shopping.

Swiss Turner's Gymnastics in West Allis, 2214 S. 116th St., has an open gym on Mondays from 12 to 1:30 p.m.; Wednesdays from 10 to 11:30 a.m.; and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Why don't they offer weekend gym time so the children of working parents can enjoy the facility?

"I honestly don't know," says Swiss Turners' Kate Vollmer.

Midwest Twisters of Hartland, 602 Industrial Ct., has open gym for preschoolers on Tuesday and Friday mornings, and Wednesday afternoons. The Twisters in Oak Creek, 600 E. Rawson Ave., offers Thursday and Friday mornings. Neither offers such programming on the weekends.

Gymboree Play & Music, N112 W15800 Mequon Rd. and 2205 N. Calhoun Rd., doesn't solve the problem either.

"Gymboree is outrageously expensive, and like everything else in this city, geared toward stay-at-home moms who can bring the kids in at 11 a.m. on weekday mornings," says Williams.

Unfortunately, there simply are not enough indoor playgrounds in Milwaukee. The few that exist are mostly in the suburban areas and lack weekend play time, which makes it difficult if not impossible for working parents to take their kids into a healthy, energetic environment.

What you can do to make it not suck: For starters, take matters into your own hands by organizing a rotating playgroup where families with large basements and play spaces host play groups in the winter, and those with smaller homes can return the favor by opening their backyards to the group in the summer.

But for real change, talk about the issue in a constructive way to generate a buzz. Bring it up with other parents, caregivers and employees of already-existing play centers and maybe -- just maybe -- if the idea got into the mind of the right entrepreneur, Milwaukee could someday have a slew of indoor playgrounds like those in larger U.S. cities.

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Talkbacks

OMCreader | Aug. 20, 2006 at 3:33 p.m. (report)

Alie said: Wildcard Gymnastics offers an open gym on Friday nights from 8:30 - 10:00 p.m. for kids of all ages. Parents can either come along or take the night off and head to a movie or dinner. Wildcard Gymnastics' Open Gym is only $5 per person and is conveniently located on 60th & Lloyd in Milwaukee. The coaches actually provide instruction and offer corrections to participants while maintaining a safe and fun atmosphere. Check it out!

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OMCreader | April 30, 2006 at 12:49 p.m. (report)

Christina said: Okay, everyone that has posted a comment about how they remember as a child that they played outside obviously haven't read the news as to how much gang violence there is in many areas of this state, as well as so many child predators that seem to be out there! I don't like my son just being outside all the time, what about while it's raining? Do you like cleaning up the mud that comes trampling into your homes? I don't. I remember plenty of different places that my parents took me to as a child that were indoors when the weather was too much to go outside and most of them have closed because they were poorly run. i am well aware that there are plenty of things that children can do and play outside however, I don't always trust that people in vehicles make a conscouis effot to watch out for children!

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OMCreader | April 28, 2006 at 3:27 p.m. (report)

Molly Daunen said: I liked the point of the article - not enough indoor places to take kids in Milwaukee - but the majority of married couples with preschool-age kids are *not* dual-income. Most "working" moms work part-time, split shifts with hubby, or work in a setting where they can still be with their kids, like providing family day-care. There is no huge number of couples who both work 45 hours a week and somehow also have the energy to do gymboree at 6:30 at night. This is a myth that drives me insane. "Everyone" does not send their kids to day care all week, so there actually is not too much demand for toddler-friendly activities during evenings. I am not against moms working, I just hate this myth that the SAHM is some imaginary creature who doesn't exist anymore. The majority of the 5-and-under set are cared for by their parents. All those polls count a woman who babysits for 3 hours a week a "working" mom.

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OMCreader | March 24, 2006 at 4:45 p.m. (report)

Nikki said: OK, some people seem to only hear/read what they want to. I'd love more affordable, indoor options for my daughter to explore. Indeed, it is possible to enjoy such things while actively participating!! No, not leaving my child there and having a smoke outside, and no, not bringing her there ALL the time. And, just because I'm interested in indoor activities doesn't mean I'm opposed to outdoor ones! Some of you people seem to only see things in black or white. How about thinking something through before posting a bunch of generalized crap!

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OMCreader | March 10, 2006 at 8:35 a.m. (report)

Alisha said: I agree, there can always be more places to take the kids to release energy, but, there are some options. Fun World in Brookfield is a much better option to McD's with mini golf, a ferris wheel, games and a huge slide/climbing maze. REI offers rock climbing to kids of all ages on Saturday morning FREE with a $15 annual membership, almost all the gymnastics places have open gym but most are during the week and don't forget about the "staples" that we in Milwaukee are fortunate to have - the zoo, Betty Brinn museum, MPM and on and on. Talk to other moms and you'll find great ideas!

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