In a small, unassuming business park in Irvine, Ca, lies a bit of a hidden gem for the younger kiddos in your life. We got a chance to hang out with our partner, Pretend City this past weekend, and WOW. The proprietors of this Non-profit establishment have taken a largish warehouse and completely transformed it into a pretend tiny town!
Complete with everything from a pint-sized marina to a miniature farm attached to a market that teaches the little ones about farm-to-table meals, Pretend City is a veritable smorgasbord of educational activity.
We started in the tiny library, full of kids books and puppets, along with a little checkout desk and book drop. Baby Wagon loves her books, so we spent a good deal of time there, before moving on. Just outside, there’s a tiny street with a crosswalk and of course, buttons to push to make the little person pop up to cross.
Following the little street through the town, you’ll pass a small market, fire and police station, complete with dress-up gear, a construction site, health offices, and everything one expects to find in a kid-sized town. In the back, there’s a marina and beach, with a water play area (and raincoats), where you can fish, and learn how currents work, and a sand play area, along with toys to make sand castles, or creatures, whichever you prefer.
We spent a lot of time at the marina, playing in the water and went back more than a few times. The kids really enjoyed getting wet. Next to the marina were the health offices, dental and doctor. There was a place to take pretend x-rays, as well as a massive set of teeth to brush, set up just like a real doctor and dentist office, the kids doing the exam.
From there, we moved onto the amphitheater and stage and played on the soundboard for a bit. Non-stop music was playing, and backstage even had instruments and a dress-up area so the kids could put on a show!
A miniature home sat across the street, with a tiny bbq out front, BW took to that immediately.
From there, head past the “Real” Cafe to the construction site, where kids are invited to build with pipes, cones, tool sets, logs, and anything else you could think of.
After working hard at the construction site, BW decided to do some farming. We headed across the little street to see how farm-to-table meals worked. We dug in the pretend dirt, picked pretend strawberries and checked out the (real live) chicks that are housed on site.
This might have been her favorite thing to see. We spent a lot of time on the farm. From there, there’s a market entrance, with a time clock so kids can see what it’s like for grown-ups to punch a clock, and beyond that, shop in a market.
Pretend city started out as a resource for families with children on the autistic scale and is now a full-fledged interactive town for kids of all ages. Even us parents got in on the fun reading books and pushing buttons. I really look forward to coming back and seeing how the visits change as BW gets older.
Watch for Part 2 of this post to see what resources are available to parents and schools!