Just in time for the winter temp dip, a unique playspace has debuted in Alexandria, Va. Much more than a few mats on the floor, Scramble focuses on physical and cognitive play for babies and kids up to age 10. Here’s why your little one (and you) won’t want to leave this imagination incubator.

Photo: Roxanne Armstrong

Across the Pond
The brainchild of a stay-at-home dad of three kids, Scramble was inspired by a family visit to an indoor play place on the outskirts of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. It was different in that it had play areas that were active and boisterous, plus areas that were quiet and contemplative. A lot of research and discussions later, and Scramble was born.

Photo: Scramble

Changing the Way the DMV Plays
Scramble’s focus is on unstructured play: physical play (on specially designed equipment) and cognitive play. In unstructured play, kids (not grown-ups) choose what to do and how to do it, they negotiate the rules and agree how the play will proceed. It may take a couple of visits for families to become familiar with the idea of just playing freely, but once the creativity starts flowing, it’s hard to make it stop. In this no-screens zone, the slide and Egyptian tomb, which rewards exploration and provides countless opportunities for different types of play, have proven super popular parts of the equipment.

Photo: Ayren Jackson-Cannady

Work Up an Appetite 
When tummies start to growl, you’re in luck. If you live close by you can sneak home for lunch and a nap, and then return for additional afternoon play (with the same entrance!). There’s an on-site cafe that offers coffee, tea and healthy snack and treat options. There are also plans to offer a more extensive menu with lunch and dinner noshes, so stay tuned.

 Photo: Scramble

Take a Time Out
For a brief break from the action, a reading and relaxation area has Usborne books for all ages to read.  These books were started by an Englishman, Peter Usborne, in the 70s.  He believed that more children would pick up and read non-fiction books if they were made more attractive and if children could play with them.  Scramble is setting up a bookstore and will soon have the largest selection of Usborne Books in the DMV, if not the East Coast.

Have you visited Scramble yet? Tell us about your experience in the comments below. 

–Ayren Jackson-Cannady