Time to Explore at Hobbitland

| April 14, 2009 | 6 Comments

hobbitland1By Kristen Holub

There is a new indoor playground in Chicago, and it is setting itself apart! Hobbitland is a clean, open playplace which opened this March (2009) On Western Ave just South of North Ave.  The area has been needing something like Hobbitland for a while now and I’m especially excited that I’ll be able to walk there as the weather warms up!

When we first walked into Hobbitland on a rainy April morning, my son was off and running toward the toys before I could even grab him and take off his rainboots! The staff gave me an understanding smile and led him back to me so I could get him out of his wet jacket and boots, since like at most other indoor play areas, socks are the required footwear.

What is unlike most other places, is the natural light that seems to flood the space…and then you start to notice the lack of primary-colored plastic toys.  Co-owners Anna and Sophie have made a concerted effort to fill the space with wooden and eco-friendly toys that are made in the USA.  Since Anna is a photographer and artist and Sophie was an art teacher, there are fun murals expanding on the walls and fun open art times for the kids. They also wanted to create areas that encourage imagination and creative play, and the different play zones reflect that.

The space has a train table (which my son gravitated to immediately), a really great little kitchen setup, a reading area, a cool, wide slide, an arts & crafts area complete with a big blackboard and 2 longs tables that doubles as a snack or lunch spot, a couch for parents to chill, and a nice confined play area for the younger set who are not yet walking. when I walked past the kitchen, one little girl was serving something from the stove to another little girl waiting at the table, and I was impressed she was using a kitchen mitt to carry the “hot” pot! Sophie informed me as we walked by that they had just added a set of cups, bowls and plates to the kitchen made by the company Green Toys. It’s one of the only plastic sets in the place, but is made from recycled milk bottles and is made in the USA. As many of we mothers know, eco-friendly toys, especially those not made in places like China can be on the pricey side. So Anna and Sophie have decided to slowly add and introduce them to the playspace, as this keeps the initial costs down and helps them keep the toy collections fresh and in good condition.

The toy condition is another thing that impressed me. Granted, they have only been open for about 6 weeks, but I have seen other places shortly after opening, and Hobbitland stands out for its clean and well-maintained toys and spaces. The place feels homey, not sterile, but maybe more like the home of someone who has time to clean more than the average stay at home mom! The bathroom as also neat and clean, and was complete with a stocked changing table and a cute geometric motif hand-painted on the walls. The owners clean all of the toys daily, and take home all blankets, pillows and plush home each night for laundering. Nice to know since we all know that germs are the only thing that toddlers and pre-schoolers are more than happy to share!

One more thing that I liked about Hobbitland in particular was the way the owners offer open involvement in a few activities each day. It is up to you or your child if they want to participate, but Hobbitland has daily storytime and craft time which the owners lead themselves. They also offer a structured music class with Susan Salidor, an award-winning children’s music composer/performer. Susan’s classes run with a minimum of 8 children are signed up, and run about $15/class over an 8 week period. Later this year Sophie and Anna are planing to add structured Art Classes for kids 6 and up, in addition to the music classes, so keep your eyes open!

Prices for play at Hobbitland are comparable to other indoor play places in the city. The first child is $12 and the next are $8 each, and this price covers their admission for the whole day (and babies under 1 are always free). Spring and Summer Camps run in morning and afternoon time slots of 4 hours/session and cost $30/session, and parties start at $350. But Hobbitland also offers a membership program starting at $72 for unlimited monthly visits or a Stamp Card starting at $100 for 11 visits. The Stamp Card does not expire, and I’m considering taking advantage of one of these offers after my baby is born this summer so there’s always a clean, fun place nearby for grandma to bring my little guy!  The Hobbitland owners are also experienced caregivers, so they also offer a Friday/Saturday Night Out from 6pm – 9pm for only $30! That sounds pretty good to me these days too, and since my son cried when we had to leave last time, I think he’d have no problem waving goodbye to his dad and I while we head out to have a date!

Hobbitland is offering an exclusive discount to Chicagonista’s subscribers! Get 10% off when you buy a monthly membership or stamp card by mentioning this Chicagonista article.

1504 N Western Ave. Chicago

This is an Original Chicagonista article.

Kristen Holub Artist and business owner turned stay-at-home-mom. Kristen is expecting her 2nd child but will always be found running around town with her son, and doing her best to keep the household eco-friendly and under control while still jotting down and sharing great finds to share in Chicagonista.

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About the Author ()

Kristen Holub, mother of 2 and creator of EcoActivista.com, is an artist and business owner turned stay-at-home mom. She makes conscious and mindful decisions to keep the household eco-friendly and shares tip and tricks for others to do the same. She can always be found running around town with her kids, as she jots down and shares their great finds in the city.

Comments (6)

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  1. admin says:

    Great article as usual Kristen! I have to seriously check this place out.


  2. Betty says:

    Awsome article!I already visited Hobbitland and it is a great place,my kids loves it,very cool,fresh and friendly playroom.I recommend that place!!

  3. Sue says:

    I was there a couple weeks ago and what I experienced is nothing like what you experienced. Perhaps you were treated with ‘kid gloves’ when you were there but to be honest, I didn’t think the place was all that clean. It’s way too small and my daughter slipped on the wooden floor. I was not comfortable with the front door being locked all the time [what if there was a fire!!!]. It just seems as if these two well-meaning women just opened the place with much forethought.

  4. Kristen says:

    While I may have been given special treatment on the day that I came to interview the owners of Hobbitland (I was not charged for my son’s visit that day), I called them while I was on my way over, so they could not have done much in way of preparation before my arrival. I’d visited several times previous to that time, and during those sessions I’d never said that I write for Chicagonista or was looking at them for a possible article. I based my opinions and viewpoints on all of these experiences, and still feel that overall it is a great place to take my son to play. I like that it is small so that I can keep an eye on my 2yo without having to run all over (keep in mind I’m now 9 mo pregnant!), and I like the homey feel. Up to and including my last visit (about a month ago) I still thought it was very clean, so we may just have differing ideals in that department. I’m sorry Hobbitland did not live up to your expectations after reading my article. Maybe give it one more chance sometime down the road and see if you have an experience closer to mine next time?

  5. bucktownmama says:

    We go regularly and this place is terrific! It is very clean and they are always looking for ways to improve or to offer more children-centered activities. I really hope they get the support from the community needed to thrive and grow! We need more local places like this!

  6. It is great to see children having fun. There should be more places like this for them. Sounds great.

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