Location: 11149 W. 95th Street (about 95th and Quivira), Overland Park, Kansas
I am a big fan of the play area inside Oak Park Mall. It’s got a heavily-padded floor, open spaces, a bench for parents to sit on, and toys made out of what I would call a “firm foam,” so they don’t have any hard edges. Sometimes the kids can get a little rowdy, but all in all, it’s a nice, safe place to let Peanut run around. There isn’t a gate, however, so you do have to be wary of your kiddo making a run for the carousel, as Peanut tried to do several times.
At the back of the play area, a circus mirror and a flippy-toy are mounted in the wall. Peanut–and almost every other baby/toddler I’ve seen in the play area–loves the flip toy. It’s actually a matching game where the tiles flip, but most of the kids just love to flip the flippers. They make a great noise, and they’re easily manipulated by even the youngest mobile kids. When I’m here, I tend to perch right by the toy, since Peanut tends to hang out by it so much. Even kids who don’t see well might love this thing, simply for the noise it makes when all of the tiles are spinning.
Right next to the kids’ play area is a two-story Victorian carousel. It’s bright, lights up and spins–and is an instant kid magnet. Peanut kept trying to run out of the play area to get to it–we definitely got our exercise on this visit! The carousel, of course, is not free. It’s currently $2 for one token, $5 for three or $10 for 6. Each ride costs a token, but a parent gets in free with a kid that’s under 41″ tall (the height of the fence), so Peanut and I were able to ride for just $2. He likes the top floor best, and the animals up there have safety belts on their poles so I can strap him to the bear, seal or horse he happens to pick that day. It does make me dizzy to be up there, so you might try the lower floor if you’re nausea-prone.
Efrit and I are fond enough of this play area that we’ve actually made special trips just to let Peanut play there, especially when it’s cold or nasty outside. It’s a good area to let little ones burn off energy, and it’s a great oasis to stop at if you’ve got some shopping to do. It’s also open enough, and safety-conscious enough, that I think vision-impaired or blind kids would be ok playing there, too.