Sitting on an isolated strip on Western Avenue in Bucktown is a cheerful new addition to Chicago's assortment of indoor play spaces: Purple Monkey Playroom.
When owner Jessica Roubitchek noticed the lack of children's activities in her neighborhood, she decided to take matters into her own hands and create one for her nearly 2-year-old daughter.
And so Purple Monkey arrived in February, bringing with it a cheerful monkey mural decorating its bright yellow walls.
It's modestly filled with a variety of toys, ranging from a small slide, train table and kitchen for the toddlers, to a bouncy seat and activity mat for the diaper set.
A massive climbing toy will be arriving soon, Roubitchek promises.
The space is open and small, totaling about 1,500 square feet. A little kitchen in the back offers complimentary coffee and tea. A small area reserved for babies is sectioned off by a mini-wall to keep the older children at bay.
On the day we toured the space, we brought along 3-year-old Anya and 4-month-old Aria to give us their opinions.
Anya immediately raced over to the baby dolls, the baby carriage and to the kitchen. When she was done cooking for her babies, she played on the slide and then, after quickly surveying the rest of the toys, asked me for suggestions.
Aria did tummy time on the activity mat, moved on to the bouncy seat and finished her stay with the Bumbo.
And while Anya nearly cried when it was time to go, the play space lacked a few extras that I'd love to see if I'm spending upwards of $12 to play.
Little Beans Café and Fantasy Kingdom-both indoor play spaces in Chicago-have small play houses with rotating themes for the children to play inside. Explore and Much, Much More has massive built-in climbing toys, an air-laser-tag-like game and two floors packed with creative toys.
Purple Monkey, while fun, reminds me more of an oversized room filled with nearly the same toys I already have in my living room. It's a fabulous addition to the neighborhood, but if you're driving to a play space for the afternoon, your child may have more fun elsewhere.
Danielle Braff lives with her two daughters and husband in downtown Chicago.
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