COSI's little kidspace
From the first moment I saw it, I knew "little kidspace" at COSI was something special. That room clinched my decision to buy a membership at the science center.
My first child, now 6, was about 7 months old at the time. We still have a membership, and my two sons have spent many happy hours hammering in the construction zone, splashing at the water table and administering first aid in the doctor's office.
But it was only after talking with Maria Jirousek, COSI's director of early childhood education, that I realized how much the indoor playground had to offer.
She and her colleagues try to carve out play areas and activities for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and kindergarteners. They work to create a balance of areas where kids can play by themselves and spots for interaction with their caregivers.
Recently, after learning the area was a favorite among families with children with autism, COSI has started looking for more ways to accommodate children with special needs. Children with autism especially respond well to the dramatic-play area, construction area and the water area, which is being expanded this fall.
- The large play set that greets children as they enter little kidspace. This structure provides a great place for kids to climb, slide and explore. It makes the area a great destination when it's too rainy, cold or hot to go to an outside playground.
- The check-in area, a manned station that prevents kids from leaving the area without their caregiver.
- Room to run. The area is the largest exhibit at COSI and kids have plenty of safe space to roam.
- The restrooms. The room is equipped with a changing station, low potties for those with short legs and paper towels rather than scary air blowers. There's also a family bathroom.
- The nursing room. A quiet place provided for breast-feeding moms to feed and change their babies.
- The imaginative play areas. Children can whip up a meal in the pretend kitchen, consult X-rays in the doctor's office and drive an ambulance or helicopter.
- The balls. There are plenty of small plastic balls for kids to toss, collect, kick and roll. They can also race them or watch them float in the air above a gust of wind.
- The construction area, where kids can turn lights on and off, stack and knock down blocks and use toy tools.
- The cleaning policy. COSI routinely sanitizes toys that children are likely to stick in their mouth.
- The graduation ceremony. COSI works hard to keep the area a place for little ones and encourages families to follow the age policy by "graduating" children to a special room in the exhibit when they start first grade.
- Even members have to pay to park in the lot.
- Getting to the play area is a haul from the parking lot. You have to walk to the back of the lobby and take the elevator upstairs. (It's even farther if you park on the street to save money.)
- There's no microwave in the eating area located in little kidspace.