Local Mom Opens Chicago’s Only Bilingual Playroom in Logan Square

Kids can socialize and play in a creative, culturally relevant space at Luna y Cielo Play Cafe.

When Chicago mom Vanessa Avalos, a second-generation Mexican-American Chicagoan was younger, she never learned Spanish, mostly due to a lack of resources. As an adult, she immersed herself in the language in an effort to reclaim her culture.

Now, Avalos, who has two kids ages 5 and 11, is on a mission to ensure her children and other Latinx families learn their native language at an early age. The former vice president of Chicago Latina Moms is opening Luna y Cielo Play Cafe, a new bilingual Spanish playroom in Logan Square. Housed in the former Aubergine space at 3530 W Armitage Avenue, Luna y Cielo Play Cafe will offer imaginative open play for kids up to 6 years of age.

“A lot of these moms in the Latinx community are trying to navigate motherhood with others who look like us, talk like us and have had many of the same experiences, but there isn’t any support for those who want to raise bilingual kids outside of dual language programs,” says Avalos. “When I realized there was that need, I wanted to fill it.”

Avalos said that by the second generation, children usually only understand their native language, and third generation children that cannot speak the language lose an important connection to their culture. 

“I’m trying to change that by preserving our language and culture through play,” she says.

Avalos has been building a fanbase by providing families from all corners of Chicagoland with fun, educational events and culturally relevant play at seasonal pop-ups in Pilsen since 2020. While the pandemic definitely slowed down her plans to open a brick and mortar storefront, she said it also gave her time to pause and plan for the space. She launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $25,000 for the opening.

Photo credit: Luna y Cielo Play Cafe

When Avalos was sourcing products, she made sure to incorporate those that reflect Latinx culture — bilingual books, a dress up station with traditional clothing from countries including Ecuador, Mexico and Columbia, and a kitchen outfitted with Spanish tile and food. They’ll also have an engineering station and a small gift shop, called a Mercadito, with products made by local Latinx vendors. 

“As a Latino parent, it is hard for us to see ourselves in other spaces,” Avalos says. “I set out to make Luna y Cielo a space that Latinos can feel comfortable and celebrated. Plus, it’s a place where kids can be creative, social and interact with others who look like them.”

The colorful play space will also offer Spanish language classes for children and adults as well as family storytimes and birthday parties. In the next few months, they’ll add cooking classes, book clubs and a full service café serving pastries and coffee. 

“Our Spanish classes are for all ages and levels — parents and adults included,” says Avalos. “We understand that every family has different journeys of being in this country. And whatever generation you are, you deserve to reclaim your culture and language.”

Luna y Cielo Play is slated to open before the end of the month. To find updates and classes from Luna y Cielo Play, visit their Facebook page.


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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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