Pack your bags — you’re going to Africa. No plane ticket? No problem. You’ll find a piece of things right here in East Dundee, less than an hour from downtown Chicago. The C.A.K.E Village, an African cultural center and play space, is a hidden gem worth knowing. It offers a mix of open play, live music, art classes and community events that are as joyful as a drum circle on a summer’s night.

cake-village-perforomance

photo: courtesy of The C.A.K.E. Village

What It Is
C.A.K.E. stands for Culture of Africa for Kids Everywhere. The heart of the space is a mini play village complete with a stage where kids can play traditional instruments and try on dress-up clothes. But each corner of the 3,000-square-foot oasis — which is open to the public every weekday — sends little ones on an exciting exploration of African language, customs, etiquette, and visual and performing arts.

It was started by local mom Lande Sanusi, who was born in Chicago and raised in Nigeria. Lande returned to Chicago as an adult and felt compelled to share African culture with the community. Her vibrant creation, where you can do everything from paint to dance to cook side-by-side with your child, is something to treasure.

The C.A.K.E Village

photo: TK Photography

Awesome Activities
Lande has pooled a diverse group of African artists to provide enrichment classes for toddlers up through adults. Many of them happen in the performing arts room, where you can pick up a drum and tap out rhythms or be lead in authentic dances. Nearby, in the visual arts room, you can witness how a manual weaving machine works, create pottery, or explore stamps and embossing tools. (Parents, come back after dark on select nights for wine-and-paint programs.) And don’t forget to drop by the lounge and kitchen, where Lande guides kids in preparing meals and snacks native to African culture.

The C.A.K.E Village

photo: TK Photography

The Play Village
One of the biggest draws to C.A.K.E. is the actual village. It’s the largest room and is a pretend-play paradise, targeted at kids up to six years old. Bounce from section to section, each of which represent an activity or vendor found in an African market or village. Lande mixes things up here often, adding new elements, so you might see something different each time you visit. The centerpiece of the village is a king’s castle and stage, where kids can dress up and let their imaginations soar. Additionally, there’s a fruit and vegetable market, a stand and grill for cooking, work benches and a large hut.

The C.A.K.E Village

photo: TK Photography

Summer Camp, Playdates & Parties
If you haven’t signed up for summer camp yet, it’s not too late to join one here. Throughout summer, there are Nigerian, Ethiopian and African Art camps that take young explorers (ages 6-14) on a journey of art, food and language. If you want a more personal feel for things, you can schedule private time in the space for your play group or birthday party. And if an adventure into African culture appeals to your school or community organization, most of C.A.K.E.’s offerings can be booked for outreach programs and private parties.

Now get out there and explore! You’ll find The C.A.K.E. Village at …

611 E. Main St.
East Dundee, Il
224-699-9968
Online: thecakevillage.com
Open Mon., Wed. & Fri., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Tues. & Thurs., 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Admission for open play (offered weekdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.) is $7/child. Socks are required.

Who’s up for a trip to The C.A.K.E. Village? Let us know what you think of this spot in the Comments!

— Tiana Kubik