New Reggio-Inspired Playroom Opens in Highwood

Giggles Play offers kids a calm space where they can use their imagination, interact and play.

Typically, walking into a children’s space can be sensory overload. Between the noise, bright colors, toys and littles running around, it can be overwhelming and overstimulating for both kids and parents.

Jess Ortega, a former nanny and preschool teacher realized that these conditions aren’t always ideal for children to thrive. That’s why she opened Giggles, a Reggio-inspired play space that is designed to foster independence and creativity in an accessible, natural and calming environment.

Photo credit: Giggle Play

Located in downtown Highwood at 328 Green Bay Road, Giggles boasts thoughtfully designed play areas for kids ages 0 to 6.  There, infants, toddlers and young children (and even their older siblings) can engage in gross motor play, STEAM exploration, pretend play and more.

“When kids enter the space, we want to encourage them to stay regulated and to find different areas to play where they aren’t feeling overstimulated or don’t know where to start,” Ortega says. “We have a dedicated space for children of every age to use their imagination, interact and play.”

Reggio-inspired spaces have grown in popularity in recent years. Reggio Emilia principles, adopted by many preschools and early learning centers, encourage independent play, interaction with stimulating materials and curiosity about the world. 

Photo credit: Giggle Play

At Giggles, kiddos will especially love the climbing triangle, pretend kitchen, reading corner, Duplo table and impressive collection of blocks.

Not offered at Giggles? An abundance of adult seating, which Ortega says was intentional by design.“We wanted to give parents the option to get down on the level of their kids,” Ortega says, noting that Giggles is not like other play spaces with coffee shops and separate areas for grown ups. “Parents are often consumed with emails and phone calls, and by putting them with their kids in our center, we hope to help them have meaningful, hands-on parent-child connections while they are here.”

Giggles has partnered with the Highwood Library to offer weekly story times. Ortega says her fall plans include bringing in partners to host yoga, arts & crafts and movement classes, as well as starting special clubs, like an outdoor adventures group.

Giggles offers drop-in play ($18/child for the day with re-entry privileges), 10-pack passes ($162/child) and monthly memberships ($65/child). Sibling discounts are also offered. Additionally, Giggles private birthday parties on the weekends (parties start at $500).

Tips for playing at Giggles

  • Bring nut-free snacks and a drink. Giggles does not have food or drink for purchase.
  • Allow plenty of time for street parking, especially during the evenings.
  • Consider taking the Metra – the station is just across the street from Giggles.
  • Consider an annual family membership to get the most bang for your buck and receive the most perks.

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Lori Orlinsky
Lori Orlinsky
Lori Orlinsky is an award-winning journalist and bestselling children's book author. She is the mom of three little ladies who keep her on her toes.


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