Two educators have opened a unique play place, which they say is
designed to help bridge the minority student achievement gap.
Peekaboo Playroom, 206 S. Marion St., was designed by two
mothers with teaching backgrounds who wanted new opportunities for
children to interact and learn in a comfortable setting during the
impressionable young age group of birth to 5.
At Peekaboo, parents let their little ones roam in the
2,000-square-foot space while they relax and meet other parents and
caregivers. Co-owner and Oak Park resident Cindy Alvear, who
frequently drove to Chicago to find activities for her kids,
realized a spot was needed where kids could interact with others
outside the home.
She is eager to show how playtime and education can act in
"It's hard to find things to do every day [with kids]," she
says. "I don't know how many children are actively playing. As an
educator, I don't know if that's happening anymore."
For children who don't have play dates or structured playtimes,
Alvear believes there are important social and emotional
developmental chances being missed.
"Children go through a lot of emotions that they are not always
able to express verbally. One way to express them is through play,"
she says. "As they play, a lot of emotions come out."
Children who aren't exposed to those pivotal interactions are
less likely to be prepared for starting school, Alvear says. To
her, Peekaboo Playroom is a stepping stone for young children
before they enter the classroom.
Alvear and her business partner Ana Schreiner say their own
children provided inspiration for the playroom. Building on their
teaching experiences and what they've learned from their own
children, Peekaboo was designed around activities kids can relate
There are five custom-built stations, including a firehouse,
playhouse, a vet's office, garage and supermarket. The stations and
décor reflect the architecture and design seen in Oak Park.
"We really want to be part of the community. We built them with
that in mind," Alvear says.
The play place will have an art area, space to practice motor
skills, a sensory station and an infant area with age-appropriate
toys. Most of the toys are made with natural materials, Alvear
says. Storytelling, music classes and Spanish classes will be made
After joining the Early Childhood Collaboration in Oak Park,
Alvear says she's reaching out to determine how Peekaboo Playhouse
can serve that community-wide initiative. The Collaboration, funded
by local school districts and the village of Oak Park, has said
many children are falling behind educationally during their young
Alvear thinks her playroom can change that.
"Our biggest mission is to bring the community together and
focus on the art of play and the social and emotional skills of
children," she says. "[The society focuses] so much on academics,
we don't see the bridge between the social and emotional and
"It empowers parents who are at home," she adds. "As a parent,
you are really your children's first teacher."
Peekaboo doesn't allow parents or caregivers to leave children
because it isn't a day care, but it does allow them to come and go
as they please throughout the day after paying a daily admission
fee. Ten-week and monthly passes are also available.
For more information, visit peekabooplayroom.com or call (708)
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