Bellaboo’s a place for kids to play, learn, and relax

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Published on June 30, 2010 with No Comments

For those who can remember, being a small child is a fun, enjoyable time full of new experiences, laughter and joy. But, along with all the playtime and new friends there inevitably comes a time when playtime is inappropriate, the toys are unsuitable for toddlers and young kids. Now imagine a place completely dedicated to kid’s freedom, learning, fun and relaxation. A place where kids are encouraged to freely roam, play, explore, investigate and manipulate their surroundings and everything in it. Welcome to Bellaboo’s Children’s Play & Discovery Center.
Located at the intersection of I-65 and 80/94 in Lake Station’s Three Rivers County Park, Bellaboo’s is a new type of play center, one which encourages children to roam freely with minimal guidance and structure. The idea is that children can learn by interacting and physically doing things rather than sitting around and having things shown to them. The newly built dual recreation and education center, was designed by White Hutchinson Learning & Leisure Group and offers a variety of activity rooms, each with a different theme and purpose designed to allow children to freely discover things for themselves, interact with other children and ultimately gain knowledge while playing.
Bellaboo’s recognizes that many children these days are over-stimulated and with that in mind, the center was designed as a calming, soothing and relaxing environment. There are lots of windows and sky lights to promote as much natural light as possible and the soft, pleasant color scheme creates a very pleasant environment. There is an adult café area located in the middle of the complex, which is very open and inviting. The café’s placement allows parents to relax while the children play in the various activity rooms. It has wi-fi internet access and a Panera Bread style restaurant, providing a variety of healthy and delicious food at a fair price.
As for the kids, the various rooms and themes are both educational and fun. Each room has a staff member present who is trained in children’s entertainment or education. In fact, during Bellaboo’s hiring process, they actually brought children in to monitor applicant’s interactions with children. Kara Mackey, general manager of Bellaboo’s said they focused on hiring lots of retired pre-school teachers, children’s entertainers, mothers, and grand parents, anyone who loves and interacts well with children. There are children’s chefs, musicians, singers, storytellers, puppetters and many other fun grown ups for the kids to enjoy, said Mackey.
“We hired people that love kids,” Mackey said. “We put heavy emphasis on making sure our employees are family oriented and are good with the kids.”
Because Bellaboo’s caters to kids ages 10 and under, it offers a variety of rooms for kids to play in. There is a children’s self-face painting area, an indoor jungle gym complete with climbing area, slides and a ball pit, a train room, water room, construction room; a pretend village with pizza parlor, grocery store and play house, a children’s arts and cooking area and a padded room dedicated to toddlers and infants. Except for the adult café area, all the rooms are built to child-sized scale. Chairs and stools are smaller, tools and tables are tiny, the entire environment is built with children in mind.
Bellaboo’s has taken a variety of safety and sanitation measures to ensure kids well-being is top priority. For starters, no adults are allowed without children in Bellaboo’s and, upon entering the facility, parents and kids are given matching wrist bands to make sure the kids leave with the right adults. Sanitation and cleanliness are also a very high priority at Bellaboo’s. According to Mackey, it is their number one priority. People are constantly cleaning all the time. The toys being played with are kept track of and immediately cleaned when the child is through with them by dishwasher, nothing is cleaned by hand. Even the plastic balls in the children’s play pit are cleaned each night.
“We are very precautionary. We do not allow children who are visibly sick into the facility,” Mackey said. “In our opinion, safety is sanitation.”
Bellaboo’s is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Prices vary from by age, for details call (219) 963-2070 or visit them online at
Bellaboos is now open Mondays. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday (through Labor Day) through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

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