Affordable play dates
Camas-Washougal Indoor Play Park
Hours of operation: Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The first two visits are free.
Where: Harvest Community Church, 2436 N.W. Astor St., Camas
Fees: Flat rate of $65 for one semester and $110 for a full play park year. Children must be 5 and younger. The first semester runs from mid September to the end of January, and the second semester runs until June 30.
Responsibilities: All members are required to help with play park duties twice a month and at least one play park party per year.
Play dates can be expensive. By the time a trip to a kid-friendly coffee joint or play area is complete, it can end up draining the wallet, not to mention the gas tank. However, for parents with small children not yet in school, play dates can also be lifelines to adult conversation and entertainment for the little ones.
Thankfully, local parents have an affordable option close to home: The Camas-Washougal Indoor Play Park. For approximately $12 per month, parents can bring their children up to four days a week to play with a variety of toys, including a big play structure. Packing food and beverages from home is not only allowed, it is encouraged with small, kid friendly benches and tables.
The play park is operated at Harvest Community Church in Camas, and is open from September to June from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
For Joy Corse of Camas, it has been a fun place for her 2-year-old twins, Ellison and Camryn.
“There are so many nice things about this,” she said. “The main thing is I have a place to take my girls that is clean and affordable. You can come here up to four days a week and when it’s raining out, what else is there to do?”
Corse said the girls look forward to their time at play park.
“They love it here,” she said. “I’ve checked out a lot of activities, and but haven’t found anything that’s $3 a week. It’s a great place to bring your kids, and super clean and organized.”
Melany Nelsen, the group registrar, has been involved in play parks for seven years, since her oldest son was 1.
“This gives moms and dads a chance to get out and make connections with other parents,” she said. “You can use it as a sounding board for behavior issues, potty training and other developmental things. It’s nice because it provides playtime for kids and adult time for parents.”
Nelsen said a frequent comment she hears from parents is that the play park has “big, fun toys that they don’t have the room to store at home.”
“The kids have access to them, but parents don’t have to find a spot for them,” she said. “Another comment I hear is that it’s nice that we are indoors so they have a place to take their kids during the winter. And once you pay, you can come as much as you want.”
Nelsen said her favorite part about play park is the connections she’s made.
“You make lifelong friends,” she said. “I met ladies I still stay in contact with. And my boys have made connections, too. If you’re not sure, the first two times are free. We love visitors so come talk to the moms and see what it’s all about. Dads are welcome, too.”
Pam Maas is the play park business manager. She has been involved in play park since her oldest child, now 7, was 2 years old.
“I really like that it is convenient,” she said. “They have all of these toys that my children don’t have. You pay a flat rate and then enjoy it was much as you want. It’s a great way to meet other parents, and my oldest is still friends with some of these kids. The benefit definitely outweighs the investment. Depending on what option you sign up for, it’s $3 or $4 per week. The toys are clean and people are comfortable with their children playing here.”