Adventure Kids Playcare
October 31, 2012
by Amy Alipio
White Flint Plaza
5268-A Nicholson Lane
North Bethesda, MD 20895
Photos courtesy of Adventure Kids Playcare
We hadn't made a reservation but it wasn't a problem getting in. Reservations are suggested during high-traffic times such as Friday and Saturday evenings and school holidays. To enter the reception area, we needed to be buzzed in. As a first-time visitor, I then had to fill out an extensive registration form that asked details on each child's allergies, medications, and whether the child was potty-trained (they do change diapers). If someone other than the child's parents will be doing pickup, that person's name has to be on the registration form. There was also a health form that asked for the name of my kids' doctor and a standard Maryland State Department of Education Health History form.
Once registered, the kids got a white sticker label on their backs with their first name and age. To enter the play area, visitors once again are buzzed in. A sign on the door reads: "All parents must be escorted from this point on." (The space has 16 security cameras.) Cubbies for shoes and coats were on the left. My six-year-old daughter couldn't wait to be let in, but my three-year-old son was more reluctant to enter alone, so I was allowed to accompany him until he warmed up. Which didn't take long at all. As soon as he spotted the cool two-story climbing structure - with its stairs, netting, ropes, and enclosed slide - he held back for only a minute before running over and dismissing mama from his mind entirely. My daughter started in on an art project, supervised by a staffer, making and decorating picture frames made of popsicle sticks.
There's also a basketball court, two playhouses (one a firehouse, the other a "city market"), and a small Lego table with two chairs. Madagascar 2 was playing on a HD flatscreen TV in the movie area, which is dotted with bean bag chairs to sit on. A computer area has three computers. Four screens hang on a circular track from the ceiling for Xbox and Wii games. Non-electronic games include puzzles, bingo, Operation, dominoes, and more. A dedicated toddler area for two- and three-year-olds includes a wooden train track set, a kitchen playset, soft climbing shapes, books, dress-up clothes, and lots of toys such as dolls, blocks, cars, and a xylophone. The whole place was clean and still had that new gleam to it.
Three staff were on hand for the 11 kids there, including the staffer at the front desk. They all seemed to do a good job of engaging the kids. When one little girl approached the air hockey table alone, a staffer showed up to play with her. I was told that for two- and three-year-olds, there's usually one staffer for every six kids. For older kids, the ratio is one staffer for every eight kids. Most staff are CPR certified, and go through federal and state background checks.
My six-year-old sat down at a computer, all of which have a parental block on them so kids can only access websites like Disney and Barbie. But this activity might be geared more to older kids who know their way more easily around a computer and the Internet. She browsed around online for only a few minutes before getting a bit frustrated and went to do something else.
Snack times are posted, but it didn't seem to be a problem either if you just go to the kitchen area, as my kids did, and ask for a snack. They had a choice of Goldfish or Cheerios, but they also got offered a fresh chocolate chip cookie baked in the inhouse convection oven. (Guess which they chose.) I also spied a popcorn machine. You can also bring your own (peanut-free) snacks and meals. They provide meals at set times for $5. For breakfast they offer yogurt and waffles. Lunch/dinner choices include things like mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, and turkey cheese rolls, as well as apple sauce and carrots.
Bathrooms have kid-sized toilets in two stalls without doors and a regular sized toilet in a stall with a door. A sign on the bathroom door reads, "Only one child allowed inside at a time" - for privacy but also to avoid kids playing in there.
I had only meant to stay for an hour but my kids were having so much fun I let them play longer. You pay on checkout, and this is when I discovered another difference between Adventure Kids and other indoor play spaces. While a place like Be With Me Playseum charges a flat fee, Adventure Kids charges by the hour and per kid. Charges are prorated to the minute. My total bill was $51.72: $31.47 for my three-year-old for 118 minutes plus $20.25 for my six-year-old for 135 minutes, both paying the nonmember rates (see below for pricing), since we hadn't paid the annual family registration fee of $50. (First time visitors aren't required to pay the registration fee.) The bill seemed hefty compared to a Port Discovery or a Pump It Up outing, but seems comparable to what I would have paid a babysitter for that time period - and of course, at those other indoor playspaces, I would have had to stay with the kids.
This is a fun, trustworthy option for drop-in childcare but can be pricey if you have multiple kids.
Hours and Prices
- Adventure Kids Playcare is for kids 2 to 12. It is open Monday to Thursday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday 8 a.m. to midnight. Saturday 9 a.m. to midnight. Sunday it is open for birthday parties only. Reservations are recommended for school holidays and important occasions, especially Friday and Saturday nights.
- $14 per hour for 2-3 year olds. $12 per hour for kids 4 and up. $7 per hour for each additional sibling 4 and up. These are the member rates. Non members pay $2 more per hour. There is a $50 annual family registration. I was told you don't have to register as a member, but it's strongly recommended since only members can make reservations, plus you get the cheaper member rate.
- Meals are $5 per child. Breakfast is 8 to 9 a.m. Lunch is 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dinner is 5:30 to 7 p.m. Snacks (water/juice and crackers) are free and served at 10 a.m., 3 p.m., and 8 p.m.
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