Alyssa Ramirez plays with her daughter Jaxi Ramirez at Toddler Town in Ontario. The indoor playground opened this week. (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)
ONTARIO – Crystal Shearer dreamed of opening an indoor playground since she went to one herself with her two children.
Now Shearer is bringing the experience to local parents with her new business, Toddler Town in Ontario.
“We wanted to create a place where parents could come that would be safe, out of the elements and affordable,” said Shearer, the owner/operator along with her husband, Josh.
Toddler Town had its soft opening Friday, Oct. 25. The business is now open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The location at 475 S. Oregon St. previously housed Ernie’s Electric, a motor repair shop. But now the garage doors have been covered with colorful posters and a jungle gym sits in the center of the play area. Behind it, two ball pits sit side by side and a rainbow-colored array of other toys are arranged. Tucked into a corner is a play kitchen and a chest full of costumes.
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The space is designed so that parents can come in and play with their kids or sit at indoor picnic tables to meet and catch up with other parents while watching their little ones.
The cost is $9 for every child 3 to 6 years old. For 1 to 3-year-olds, the price goes down to $8. Parents and children under 1 get in free.
Before entering the play zone, parents sign a waiver acknowledging responsibility for their child.
The space is broken up into two spaces. One space up front features foam floors and is designed for younger children.
At the front desk, the business will sell snacks and drinks such as juice boxes and bottled water, but Shearer said customers are welcome to bring their own snacks as well.
And in case kids are having so much fun that they don’t want to leave, Toddler Town has a little trick to make it easier: kids get to pick out a free prize when it’s time to go.
“It’s a place where kids can come in and be kids and play and where parents can come in and meet other parents,” said Shearer, who previously spent 11 years as a math teacher.
Toddler Town will also rent out the space on Saturdays for birthday parties. Two slots are currently available, from 10 a.m. to noon and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Shearer said it’s an ideal spot for play dates.
“You don’t have to clean up afterwards,” she joked.
They’re striving to be as technology-free as possible, Shearer added, to emphasize play and interaction among children. The only tech in the space is a television up front for movies.
“We wanted it to be a place where kids can come here and see other kids,” Shearer said.
Shearer said the response online has been positive. Word of the business has spread rapidly on Facebook and she’s gotten many messages from curious parents.
Tuesday night before Toddler Town’s soft opening last week, Shearer sat on the floor painting farm animals on the wall. The business has been a family affair, she said, with Shearer’s kids, husband and parents chipping in to get the place into shape.
“Our plan down the road is to expand,” Shearer said. “Right now it’s just us. Once we get more employees and train people we’ll be able to expand.”
Have a news tip? Reporter Yadira Lopez: firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-473-3377
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