PLEASE NOTE: This post was written in 2012, and while it should still give you a good overview of the experience, it is also possible that it may contain some outdated information. Please check their website for the most current information, especially about things like hours, schedules and pricing. If you notice something in this post that needs to be updated, please feel free to leave a comment with the updated information, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to make the updates. Hey, it takes a village, right? 🙂
UPDATE (February 2013): Starting March 1, 2013 admission will be $7/child.
Since I began my quest for indoor play spaces this winter, I have received a lot of positive feedback about a place in Newington called TimberGyms, including a recommendation from one of our readers who recently took her daughter there and had a fabulous time. Needless to say, I was very exited to check it out. Just one problem. Because TimberGyms’ weekends are usually booked with private birthday parties, open to the public playtime is only during the week.
Now, as a stay-at-home mom, weekday events are not usually a problem for me. However, since our kids have gone fully mobile, Mandy and I have realized that it is increasingly difficult to scout outings solo. Turns out it is close to impossible to effectively supervise your child while also taking a bazillion pictures and asking a gazillion questions without at least one other pair of eyes (and preferably hands) to help keep things under control.
Fortunately, we both have very supportive husbands whom we can
drag along with us ask to join in the fun. (You’ve probably noticed those handsome fellas popping up in most of our posts.) Of course, the husbands also have jobs with less flexible work hours than our blogging lifestyle, so sometimes we have to draft request some outside backup.
So recently, when Boo’s Grandy asked if she could drive over from RI to visit for the day, I said: can you be here by 10:00 a.m.? So thanks, Mom, for being the official sponsor of this post about TimberGyms. 🙂
We happened to plan our visit during a school vacation week (oops), so I wanted to get there as close to the start of Open Play at 10:00 a.m. as we could to make sure we didn’t have to wait. TimberGyms is located just off the Berlin Turnpike in Newington. Look for this sign at the entrance to the parking lot.
Plenty of parking.
As I mentioned before, I had heard a lot about this place and seen a few pictures on their website, but I really had no idea what to expect when we walked in the door. Turns out, just like we discovered at Stay and Play, the humdrum exterior of this building in no way conveys the fabulous fun on the interior. First stop, the front desk to pay the $5 per child entry fee. Well, I stopped anyway. Boo made a beeline for the first swing set he saw. Thank goodness for Grandy.
TimberGyms’ business model is genius. They display all these fabulous jungle gyms and playhouses for the kids to explore, and they all happen to be for sale. If my backyard (and my bank account) had been bigger, we totally might have walked out of there the proud new owners of a pirate ship jungle gym. It was pretty awesome.
There are two separate play areas, one on each side of the front desk. Here’s a glimpse of what’s to your right as you enter, including several playhouses, play kitchens, wooden jungle gyms and a giant bounce house.
Don’t worry, with all these climbing apparatuses, the kids aren’t expected to go barefoot like they are at My Gym or The Bright Spot. Little feet need a bit more protection for this play place. (Boo is still pretty anti-shoes right now, and he did fine in his skidders, which actually offer great traction.) You’ll see these signs posted everywhere that indicate that shoes are to be worn at all times. However, they are not to be worn in the bounce house. A little confusing given the signage, I know. But I double-checked with the staff, and that is the case.
He was absolutely infatuated with this little plastic rollercoaster.
Moving on to the left side of the room, we found more wooden structures, including my beloved pirate ship, and unique playhouses.
Boo loved this little house. There were lots of windows to peer out and a door to open and shut. Boo looooves to open and shut things these days.
Oddly enough, the children decided to forgo the speedy slide and instead scooch themselves back down the ramp as if it were the slide. Kids. They do the darndest things.
Another great thing about TimberGyms is that you are…wait for it…allowed to bring in food! Hooray! That, as you know, is super news because kids like snacks, and kids will stay and play longer if they can have snacks. There are these handy kid-sized picnic tables that are perfect for the task.
At the back on the left side is also where you will find the restroom, which is oddly “wrapped” as if it were a present, complete with a bow. I’ll give them points for creativity, but oh the inappropriate metaphors we could come up with for that one, right?
There is a wall-mounted changing station inside, but the room is tiny. It would be a tight squeeze to get a stroller in there. Especially if you want to, you know, move around at all. I only bring this up because I witnessed a slightly harried mother of two trying to get herself, her baby, and her toddler into the restroom at the same time. The stroller did not make the cut. I’m still trying to figure out how she held onto the baby in there…
Now, on to the important stuff. The coffee. The website promised coffee for the adults and as you know, I cannot pass up a coffee. The coffee station is directly behind the front desk. There you will find two kinds of coffee: the free kind and the kind that costs a dollar. (No charge for cream and sugar.)
I did not sample the free coffee as I felt it was my duty as a blogger to test out the gourmet selection. You have to ask for the $1 coffee at the front desk. Then, a friendly staff member will rattle off a list of yummy flavors, get your selection, and disappear into the back to get a coffee pod for the machine that was described to me as a commercial duty single cup coffee maker much like a Keurig, only better. I chose blueberry. It was hot and delicious.
Meanwhile, under Grandy’s watchful eye, Boo was learning his way around a kitchen (the irony of this statement can only be fully appreciated if you’ve read the beginning of my Plan B post or met my mother).
TimberGyms also stocks a great selection of quality kid’s toys from Melissa & Doug.
After one more visit to Boo’s favorite playhouse, it was time to head home.
Tell us: Have you been to TimberGyms? What did you think of it?
94 Pane Road, Newington, CT
Get directions here:
Hours & Admission:
Open Play Hours: Monday-Friday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Extended until 6:00 p.m. if there are no birthday parties booked at 4:00 p.m.)
Click here for regular store hours.
Open Play Admission: $5 per child (no charge for adults); discount passes available. No charge for babies in strollers or infants who are still too young to play.
Hints & Tips:
- No drop-offs; parents or caregivers must supervise their children the whole time.
- Credit cards accepted for store purchases and open play admission.
- You can arrive at any time and stay as long as you want to (within the hours of operation, of course).
- Kids must wear shoes at TimberGyms.
- Dress your kids in clothes appropriate for climbing and sliding.
- There is plenty of room to bring a stroller into the play areas, and we saw many mommas pushing around their babies while also chasing after their toddlers.
- Several mommas we know like to have playdates at TimberGyms because it offers a wide range of activities for kids of different ages and abilities.
- You are welcome to bring in outside food and drink for you and the kiddos (no peanut foods allowed). Coffee is available for the adults (free or $1 depending on your selection), as well as soda and juice for 25 cents per cup.
- Open Play is first come, first served; the website cautions that there may be a short wait to enter during busy times like holidays and school vacations. However, we were there during school vacation week, and although it was pretty busy, we did not experience a wait.
- TimberGyms is also well-known for their great birthday parties.
- Need to pick up some groceries while you’re out? Head over to nearby Stew Leonard’s for a theatrical shopping experience the kids will adore.
Next week we’re sharing a very special milestone with Bruiser, plus Boo shows us what he’s learned at his latest library class.