Phoenix Children’s Museum
For anyone wondering why we’re over in the U.S, each year we travel as a family and spend two to three months in Scottsdale (Arizona) so Greg can complete his warm weather training. It’s not really balmy enough to conduct good jumping practise outdoors in Milton Keynes so we up sticks and move our lives to the desert and then return so Greg can start competing.
It’s obviously not a holiday, despite the fact Milo and I have a tonne of fun in the sunshine, but Greg does have Sundays off along with a chosen week day so we try to make sure we do the touristy thing as a family and find new things to do each year.
We’d not visited the Phoenix Children’s Museum before but it had been recommended by friends (and the wonderful Mamalina who recently visited) so we decided to look in to it. Only half an hour’s drive away and plenty for Milo to get stuck in to judging by the write up on their website; we decided to give a whirl and I’m so glad we did.
The very first room is breathtaking. A huge climbing frame/tree house hybrid made from wire, wood, a bath tub with wings (yup) stretched right up to the ceiling and parents could take their children up flights of stairs to clamber through wooden barrels and wave to everyone below. There were CD’s dangling on one huge wall and a load of hanging art works lined the ceiling. Visually, it’s amazing. Very shabby chic.
Each area you visited had different themes; there was a room to build dens, one specifically for under threes (which was full of pods for babies to snooze in), a craft room, reading area, supermarket and kitchen. Despite the fact the place is (understandably) overrun each and every day, there was always something for everyone to get their hands on and you never felt as though you were standing around waiting for someone else’s child to finish before yours could have a turn. Corridors were lined with chairs so parents could sit and relax, musical instruments for children to play, a noodle forest (which I got lost in), whirly chairs and an area where you could ride trikes through a car wash. The craft room has a huge robot taking centre stage and children are handed a paint brush, apron plonked on them and told to get messy. Milo wasn’t totally sure; he kept looking at us waiting to hear ‘NO DONT PAINT THAT!’ but the whole room’s kitted out for mess to be made and it’s such a lovely idea. You can leave your artwork to dry on the racks and pick it up at the end of the day.
No hot drinks are served in the cafe (I presume for safety reasons) so there’s no caffeine boost for mums and dads but the food was like nothing no other soft play/child friendly place offers. Wholesome salads, genuinely decent snack boxes for kids and not a limp ham sandwich or greasy chips in sight. You know when you go to soft play and leave feeling like you’ve inhaled chip pan fat just breathing? There’s none of that. Everywhere was well looked after, clean and it didn’t feel stifling stimulation-wise; lots of the rooms were neutral colours and you could tell careful consideration had gone in to ensuring it wasn’t overwhelming for children of any age. Things were on offer but you weren’t bombarded.
A big deal needs to be made about the fact every area had a designated, cordoned off section for babies to play in which I thought was brilliant should you want your older children to run free but still need to entertain a little one and there was a cosy nursing area on the quiet book floor too. The rest rooms each had a low level toilet and sink which Milo loved and no adult’s granted entry without having a child with them. You could basically plonk yourself down in a corner, let your children run free and get them to come back as soon as they’re done for the day. Everywhere’s set up to make your children the centre of attention and it’s so nice to not be muttering ‘oh gosh please don’t touch that’ every three minutes.
Outside there’s a huuuuuge wormy slide, where children can crawl and run (with plenty of windows which proved to be handy when Milo became a bit alarmed and needed rescuing). There’s also a mini cactus maze and a few more tunnels/sand to explore. We spent around 3 and a half hours there in total but you could definitely drag it out longer; we were just quite simply quite exhausted and Milo was looking done for the day (although, despite napping briefly in the car, he was ready and raring to go again as soon as we got home. Greg and I were not).
As parents, we’re not really ones for diving in to kids’ days out; in all honesty we tend to head to more adult appropriate places and include Milo in the adventure. The whole soft play, theme park, *insert word here* ‘Land’ takes a real back seat because we don’t like the whole screamy noises, crowds, excessive spending and plastic tat but this was totally wonderful and 100% tolerable. It had a certain class about it and even though it was busy and there was of course noise, it was still a really fun place to spend the day and it’s left us with lots of nice memories. My thing is always to try and make sure Milo gets fresh air, gets some form of stimulation and gets some exercise, and this definitely had it all. There’s nothing quite like watching your toddler’s face light up with new experiences and there were plenty of those flying around. A lovely day indeed.