Dream Big Children’s Center just opened in Monrovia and this imaginative new play spot moves beyond the bounce house with multiple themed rooms, guided classes and a clean (yes!) and spacious common area that allows your littles to burn some energy, let their imaginations run wild or to find a quiet nook to take it easy in your company. Whether this fall is filled with unseasonable heat or some surprise sprinkles, if you’re looking for a new way to spend an indoors day, Dream Big is the answer to your dreams.

ricephoto: LeTania Kirkland Smith

A Big Dream Brought to Life
Dream Big was brought to life by Cristina Cordeiro, a mama of two who loves to dive into everything creative, imaginative and play-filled with her kids.  After trekking all over town (and often far from her home in the San Gabriel Valley) she decided it was time that she opened a play space of her own. After searching for the right space, Dream Big Children’s Center was born in the heart of Old Town Monrovia.

dreamphoto: LeTania Kirkland Smith

Simple and Inviting
Cordeiro’s interest goes beyond creating an easy space to bring your children for hours on end, where they can play without getting bored. She has worked closely with kids with autism for over 15 years and has served as the director of a behavioral therapy organization for the last five years. This experience combined with her new found life as a mama pushed her to create a space where all children—no matter their needs—can play together. The space is simply decorated with wood floors, exposed brick and simple white walls. This, she said, was intentional in order to create a space that would not be overly stimulating. “There is a real sense of calm,” says Cordeiro. Everyone can appreciate that. Never fear though, there is plenty of color in the space, yet sensitive littles won’t be overwhelmed by primary color overload.

artphoto: LeTania Kirkland Smith

Space for Everyone
Space is the key word here. Dream Big is over 4,000 square feet and has 8 themed play rooms. There is a common space complete with cushions for sitting, a stage for performing and a dress up rack to support several rounds of costumes changes. Toddler cars are parked throughout (with the cutest wooden gas pump for a fill-up) but you won’t feel as if you just stepped in the middle of a pee-wee racing derby.

trainphoto: LeTania Kirkland Smith

Themes ‘R Us
Be sure to visit every themed room. There’s a surprise around each corner and you might not know to keep exploring, because the semi enclosed rooms limits amplified noise even on the busiest of days. This was another consideration Cordeiro took when creating an inclusive space that would not be overwhelming for special needs kids. And it’s a detail that every parent can appreciate (and wish that hip restaurant designers were this thoughtful!).

Check out the “Hard Hat Area” complete with sand and dump trucks. Next door is a space inspired room with a new take on bouncing. Think inner tube with rails for safety, complete with colorful lights that gently glide across the slightly darkened room. There’s also tea time in the cafe/kitchen next door. For the older set, there is a make & build room filled with blocks (large and small) and other tinkering toys as well as a game room with air hockey and table tennis. The art room is a must stop for all ages, where you are encouraged to get messy (but there are aprons provided if you’d rather not). There is, of course, the obligatory train table room which never gets old (watch the big kids you though had aged out of Thomas spend quiet hours with the tracks) and a final space with a magnetized wall for endless Magna-Tile play. There is a little something for every kind of kiddo.

dance

photo: LeTania Kirkland Smith

Twist & Shout
Besides open play, Dream Big offers group classes Monday-Friday mornings for tots 5 & under. Classes are 20-30 minutes and are all followed by open play. Themes include story times, messy art classes and even a dance and movement class called “Toddler Twist,” which will get everyone moving. Check their website for the full schedule of group classes.

snack-roomphoto: LeTania Kirkland Smith

Bonus Rooms (AKA The Boring Stuff You Desperately Need)
It’s not all fun and games; the nitty gritty is spot on, too.  Kids gotta eat, kids gotta poop. Pretty much always. Near the gated entrance to the play space is a snack room, complete with table, chairs and water fountains to refill your water bottles. Just outside of the play space is also a cafe and boutique, in case it was a crazy morning and you forgot your food. There is a fair amount of light snacks and coffee (yes!) along with a microwave, if you want to heat up lunch or drinks. Finally, there is also a changing and nursing station in the back with a changing table and a comfy chair if you just need a break for your back during one of those frequent feedings.

common-spacephoto: LeTania Kirkland Smith

Party Time, Excellent!
Like most indoor play spaces, Dream Big also offers up its space for birthday parties on weekends and weekday evenings. Party packages range from simple to more elaborate set ups with food,  decorations and private rental of the space included. Check their website for more details.

cafephoto: LeTania Kirkland Smith

True to Their Roots
Because Cordeiro is committed to creating a welcoming space for everyone, in addition to the play space, Dream Big also offers autism services rooted in Applied Behavior Analysis incorporated with a naturalistic, play-based approach.  Services include assistance with diagnosis, funding, assessment and therapy, which aims to teach parents and kids alike to work together through the process. This is truly a safe space. All you need is some playfulness and a pair of socks.

socksphoto: LeTania Kirkland Smith

Admission is $10 for one child, $8 for additional siblings and $22 for a family with 3 or more kids.  If you live close by, you’ll want to look into play passes ($45 for 5 visits) and monthly memberships ($55 per child or $85/family).  Open play hours are Mon-Fri from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday from 9-11:30 a.m. and vary the rest of the weekend, due to parties.

Dream Big Children’s Center
612 S. Myrtle Ave #100
Monrovia
626-775-7888
Online: dreambigchildren.com

Do you have a favorite spot where you can bring kids of all ages for a whole day of creative play?  We’d love to hear about your hidden gem!

—LeTania Kirkland Smith