BY BARB BERGGOETZ
From jumping and swinging to zip lining and climbing, kids can unleash their energy at the locally owned indoor Kids Play Gym on Bloomington’s west side.
Kat Rader, who owns the gym with her husband, Andy, says the 4,500-square-foot facility isn’t just a fun place for kids ages 10 and younger to play. They say they designed the sensory-friendly, interactive, indoor space at 2010 S. Yost Ave. especially for children with disabilities, sensory disorders, and autism. But all kids are welcome.
“Neuro-typical kids and special-needs kids need to play together,” says Rader, who plans to create an outdoor play area in the future. “That’s why I wanted to have a facility that incorporates inclusion.”
The gym, which opened in May, offers adaptive and sensory play equipment, including cloth swings, sensory tables filled with materials like rice, and a sensory room with a 6-foot-tall lighted, color-changing bubble tube. There is also a ball pit, trampoline, airplane teeter-totter, zip line, jungle gym, climbing wall, custom busy boards, and an interactive water table.
Rader, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Ball State University and majored in counseling psychology, educational psychology, and social work, has managed group homes and a clinic for autistic children, and worked as a behavioral therapist. In all, she has 25 years’ experience working with children and 15 years’ experience working with people with developmental disabilities. She says children gain social, communication, and emotional skills while they play—through imitating peers, taking turns, and meeting people. Play also improves coordination, fine motor skills, balance, and confidence. “Play is essential learning for children,” she says.
The Raders moved here from Indianapolis in 2002, even though they didn’t have jobs, after visiting and falling in love with the vibe and the people here, she explains. The idea for the gym came about when she noticed a lack of recreational facilities for children with disabilities.
The gym is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. It offers party rental, parent break time, community newsletters, and parent resources. A one-time pass is $10, a full-day pass allowing child and parent to come and go is $15, and a monthly pass is $50.
For more information, visit kidsplaygym.com.