KidZone: children’s paradise, parents refuge |

KidZone: children’s paradise, parents refuge

Lindsey RhynardIsabel Gonzalez, age 16 months, peers through a tunnel at KidZone.

It’s every little kid’s fantasyland and every parent’s dream.

After more than a year of construction, the long-anticipated KidZone is finally up and running.

The 3,600-square-foot metallic dome, sandwiched between Sierra Mountain Middle School and Tahoe-Truckee High School, boasts a giant indoor play area and jungle gym, the Truckee branch of the Family Resource Center and the Sierra Nevada Children’s Museum

“It’s an incredible resource for our community. A lot of big cities have places like this, but not many small towns such as ours,” said Phebe Bell, member of the Children’s Collaborative, one of the center’s founding groups.

The idea for KidZone first emerged more than two years ago, when a group of local social service agencies and parents began looking for ways to utilize funding through tobacco tax dollars from Proposition 10 to benefit the community.

“After looking at what our community was doing to support the 0 to 5-year-old population, we realized that we really needed a play-place for the winter months,” said Barbara Wilkinson, executive director of the Sierra Nevada Children’s Museum.

“Especially after we discovered that our young children had below-average motor skills – largely because of the lack of exercise they receive in the winter, we knew that something had to be done.”

The center is also intended to be a resource for parents and caregivers.

“We hope to be where parents, as well as kids, can make new friends and relationships, and put an end to the isolation that often comes in winter time,” she said.

Wilkinson said the Family Resource Center and its two family advocates will also play a supporting role for parents by providing one-on-one assistance, translating services, health care information, parenting classes, a resource library and calendar of events in the area.

Construction of the $400,000 center was completed mainly by parents and community volunteers, who eagerly rolled up their sleeves and gave up their weekends to work on the project.

“KidZone is a total symbol of the spirit of this town,” Bell said. “So many people came together for this project, donating their time and money. Almost every local business donated to this project in some way. We want everyone to know how appreciative we are of their help.”

Even without any real publicity, Wilkinson said KidZone has been bustling with playground-goers since it officially opened its doors a few weeks ago.

“Prior to this, we’d have to drive our kids to Reno to play at the Hilton or somewhere like that,” she said. “Now, we have people driving up from Reno and Grass Valley and Auburn to use our facility.”

In addition to a giant jungle gym and infant play area, the center offers a variety of play stations including a computer-area, art project room, a stage – complete with costumes – a covered wagon exhibit and soon-to-be water-play area.

KidZone is currently open to the public Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Mondays and Tuesdays the center is open to groups only, by reservation, while on Sundays, the center can be reserved for birthday parties.

“Eventually, we’d like to have the center open a couple nights a week so parents who work during the day can come and spend some time with their children, however, we just don’t have the staffing at this point in time to do so,” Wilkinson said.

Admission to KidZone is $4 per person, per day, and children two and under are free. An annual membership pass is also available for $20 per family member. One pass may be shared by parents/caregivers.

“The membership really pays off if you plan on coming more than five times per year,” Wilkinson said. “We’ve also got a variety of payment options including layaway plans and scholarships, so there’s really no reason that someone wouldn’t be able to come to the center to play and learn.”

A ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of KidZone will be held on Tuesday, July 9, at 6:30 p.m. For more information, call 587-KIDS.

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