Last week my kids and I let loose on the Niagara location of Cheeky Monkeys Playland. I don’t like playgrounds. As a child, I was taught never to climb too high, run too fast, or swing too vigorously because disaster could, and likely would happen at any moment. I’m not sure if I was naturally afraid of heights, or if it was a learned reaction to my mom’s nervousness about injury, but to this day I can’t climb to the top of the monkey bars, or a ladder for that matter, without feeling like I’m going to fall, or vomit, or both.
When you have kids, you’re faced with a choice – you either suck it up and act like you trust their ability to maneuver on safety-tested play equipment, or you project all of your fear onto them, turning them into that kid who is too scared to do anything fun. Every day I fight to let my kids explore, experience, and build confidence in their ability to move and be agile. Every day there are at least three real moments where I can foresee a hospital trip, but I persevere.
Indoor Play Spaces are a genius idea. It’s the perfect answer for when kids are filled with pent-up energy and it’s too crapola outside to let them burn it off. It’s spring and the weather is unpredictable and often wet, and so I imagine business booms for the indoor play space world at this time of year. Cheeky Monkeys has two locations – one in St. Catharines and one in Niagara Falls. We chose to hit the Niagara location because it’s bigger, and I was told that the equipment there would appeal more to my ten and eight year olds.
We picked 2:30pm on a Friday. We are home schooling this year since we’re new to the area, and I wanted the girls to have some time to get familiar with the place before the after-school crowd trickled in. The location was easy to get to from our Niagara-on-the-Lake address. The facility was pristine. They have a socks only policy, and even have socks available for sale if you forget to bring socks for you or the kiddos. There are plenty of spaces for shoes and coats, and even lockers available with complimentary locks in case you’re nervous about leaving your stuff unattended while you play.
There’s a snack area stocked well with nut-free snacks. In fact, the whole joint is guaranteed to be nut free. They have an epic selection of coffee, teas, and hot chocolate. I was so thankful for that caffeine jolt. Snacks range from the healthy to the not-so-healthy and there are full meals available for reasonable prices. You can even take advantage of their weeknight “cheap night” special which consists of admission for two adults and two children, one large pepperoni pizza, two pops and two juice boxes for $30 plus HST.
The kids had a blast. They split their time playing with their little brother (who is only 18 months old and who INSISTED on going on all the big-kid stuff, which was possible only because it wasn’t terribly busy while we were there), and playing on their own with the new friends that they made. Eventually the girls tired of baby-wrangling so daddy and myself were pressed into service too.
Imagine me climbing high up into the equipment, which is absolutely safe with lots of padding and nets, feeling my childhood fear creeping in as my toddler screeched with glee. I tried so hard to be cool and have fun, but I swear that little baby could smell my fear. He wanted nothing to do with me and kept crying for the big kids. I should mention that NONE of the kids there, all ranging in ages from 3-10, seemed remotely afraid of any of the equipment. From what I could tell they were all having a blast.
The slides were awesome, and the kids delighted in those. I was straight-up too afraid to even entertain the idea of one slide in particular that looked like a steep vertical drop from my grown up, stiff-jointed perspective. After Daddy got into the action, I was forced to face my fear, and with much cheering on from the little people, I tackled every slide in the place, including the orange behemoth. It was exhilarating, and terrifying, and I’m so glad there weren’t any adult witnesses. How lucky are we to be able to re-live our childhood thanks to the children in our lives?
I was inspired by one particularly awesome (and agile!) grandmother who was there with her wee granddaughter – she genuinely was having fun. Other patrons included a mom with a not-yet-crawling baby who seemed happy to have some comfy sofas to relax on while her older toddler let loose, and as we crept closer to 4:00, a few parents with their kids began to trickle in after school. None of my kids wanted to go home, which is always the mark of a good time.
I don’t have much by way of criticism for this place. Daddy wanted to take advantage of the free Wi-Fi to get some work done, and there are ample spaces to sit and work, but unfortunately no easily accessible power outlets.
A word of warning: it’s not an ideal space to just let your really little ones run without supervision because the staff aren’t responsible for monitoring the kids’ play that closely during regular business hours. I’m of the mind that really little ones shouldn’t be unsupervised anyway. Older kids who can be trusted to play safely and respect the smaller ones (who are mostly engaged by the toddler area) should be just fine though.
Cheeky Monkeys has lots on offer. They host semi-regular date nights where parents can drop off their kids for up to four hours to enjoy dinner, play, new friends, popcorn and a movie for only $20m with each sibling an additional $10. These nights are super popular, so you need to book in advance. It’s a great spot for birthday parties, but I’d say that 8 is probably the oldest age for kids to get the most out of the space. They offer class trips and pre-school visits, and this summer they are also offering a summer camp.
On a cool, wet April day our afternoon at Cheeky Monkeys was the answer to this tired mama’s prayers. Playing with the kids even boosted my energy, and they were all flushed and STARVING when we got home for dinner. They slept well that night, and I know our rainy day solution is only a few minutes and a few dollars away.