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Although DUMBO offers its youngest residents acres of parkland and other outdoor attractions to enjoy, there are slim pickings when it comes to indoor play spaces. In these oppressively hot summer months especially, local parents are rejoicing with the recent opening of Recess Dumbo – a play space for children ages 6 months to 6 years that offers drop-in play sessions.
On a recent sticky and humid day, a few friends and I decided to meet at Recess to let our preschool-aged kids give it a test drive. What was formerly the home of a high-end children’s clothing boutique has been transformed into a – dare I say – tranquil space that is fun without being overly stimulating to the senses. The light-filled space, with its minimalist aesthetic, original wooden beams and exposed brick walls, lends the feeling of hanging out in a cool Dumbo loft – albeit one that has slides, a multitude of bean bags, and a fireman’s pole.
Check-in was easy. We simply had to fill out a waiver, pay the $30 drop-in fee ($20 per additional child), and take off our shoes. One of our friends has a membership there, so her daughter was already well acquainted with the lay of the land. My son, who is slow to warm to new environments, took me by the hand to explore the climbing wall. The equipment is mostly wooden and custom made for the space, and seems to aim to inspire children to think creatively with their bodies.
The climbing wall is daunting at first glance. I showed my son where to put his arms and legs on the netting so that he wouldn’t fall. At the pinnacle, he discovered one of the many satisfying hidden surprises that make this space so unique – a bell to ring, to signal one’s ascent to the top. At first, I thought there should be more notches on the wall to help less-skilled climbers, but after a few more tries, my son was racing to the top like an old pro. And this is what I ended up liking most about the play structures there: they do not pander to children. Many play spaces are padded to the point of ridiculousness in their attempt to ensure no one ever falls or fails, even, at figuring out how to navigate a piece of equipment. But the structures at Recess remind me more of the simple, straightforward playgrounds of my youth, before everything was coated in foam.
Among the various structures, there is a lovely, little-elevated nook with a magnetic wall that kids can reach if they climb a netted rope; or, if they are stealthy enough, they might find the hidden ladder underneath the lofted area, that leads to the nook as well.
There’s also a large rubber tire with multicolored bars protruding from it, that kids can cling to as they bounce around the outside of the tire.
For quieter moments, there is a little nook with books, magnets, and puzzles by one of the beautiful windows, as well as a toy area filled with interesting and unique toys.
A smaller play structure, complete with a miniature slide, stairs, and a captain’s wheel, is perfect for infants and toddlers.
The space is parent-friendly, too. There are a few small tables and chairs outside of the space so parents can chat, eat outside food, or do work while their kids play under the supervision of the friendly and helpful playroom staff. A little snack station offers complimentary iced lemon water and a bowl of animal crackers or pretzels to munch on. For parents of the diaper-wearing set, there are two very clean diaper-changing stations.
The cost of drop-in covers play for the whole day, so you can take a break and explore the many kid-friendly places just steps away, such as the Jacques Torres ice cream shop (where we took a post-playtime snack break), Jane’s Carousel, PowerHouse Bookstore, and the Pirate Ship Park. The space also offers birthday party packages and enrichment classes such as Movement, Capoeira, Art, and Chess. Visit the official Recess Dumbo website for more details, including hours and price of membership.
Photographs courtesy of Lindsey Victoria Photography.