New play space opens in Oak Park

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 sync.

“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 to.

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 available.

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 years.

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 academics.

“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 or call (708) 848-4815.

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