Dahlia is in that fun transitional stage between taking two naps and only taking one, so I’m trying to find morning activities to make sure her nap is late enough to last her the rest of the day. I decided that this morning would be a good time to try out the Fun Zone at the Family Enhancement Center.
Fun Zone is pretty much exactly what it sounds like — a room full of fun! They start out with a sing-along in a small room off the main room, then transition into free play. There is a large table where the older kids can do a craft activity — usually something with paper, ribbons, glitter and crayons. The room is made up of a number of smaller zones with toys grouped according to themes. There’s a tumbling area with mats and cushions, an area with kitchen toys and dolls, a section with dinosaur and other animal action figures, a corner full of trucks, a large table with a wooden train set and a smaller table with Duplo blocks. There is also a carpeted area with bookshelves and toys for babies, including a bouncy chair and a walker.
There are also rocking chairs that are great for nursing your child, as well as a snack room that has couches if you prefer to nurse somewhere a little more private. I know that with the number of kids and level of noise, Dahlia would have trouble concentrating on nursing in the main room.
That’s something to take into consideration — this is an intense play experience. Lots of kids, lots of running, lots of noise. I think there must have been about 20 kids at its peak, and Dahlia was towards the younger end at 15 months. We actually tried going once back when Dahlia was about 10 months and first starting to take steps, but it was a little overwhelming for her. OK, actually a LOT overwhelming. She got stepped on, kicked in the stomach, and punched in the face! So the Fun Zone will probably be most enjoyable for kids that are solid walkers and can stand up to a little bit of accidental roughhousing. I would say the oldest kids were probably pushing 4.
One thing I hadn’t known about the Fun Zone from my previous visit, since I had gone during the winter, was how extensive their outdoor playground is! There are slides, climbing walls, sliding poles, a track with tricycles and scooters, a mini-basketball court, and lots and lots of balls. When we were inside, Dahlia actually kept trying to make a break for it and sneak out the door so she could play on the slide some more. We were lucky enough to have Kat and Milena join us, and I think Milena enjoyed herself too.
The room is clean and well kept up — there is a bin for dirty toys and they get washed every night, which was a relief to me as a mother of a child that still likes to put stuff in her mouth. The atmosphere is very friendly. There is one woman who runs the room, and it seems like there are a number of families that come regularly and know each other, so there’s a real sense of camaraderie among the parents. All in all, I had a great experience and will be headed back very very soon.
Fun Zone is located at the Family Enhancement Center at 2120 Fordem Avenue in Madison. It runs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon. There is also a Fun Zone for Spanish-speaking families on Tuesday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon, and they run a similar program to Fun Zone called P.A.L. Zone at St. Martin’s Church in Cross Plains (2427 Church St.) on Thursday mornings from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. You can contact them by phone at 608-241-5150, or check out their website at www.familyenhancement.org.