The Washington Post ran my freelance article on indoor play and swim resources for families in the DC area today in the Weekend “With The Kids” section.

Nope, not excited at all. What, you think this is a big deal? Once I was the high school correspondent to the Imperial Valley Press, so the extreme fame of print journalism is old hat, really. Oh, and that blonde lady in pajamas you saw buying all the newspapers on Colesville Road and jumping up and down? I have no idea what you’re talking about.

But seriously, I am beyond honored and stoked that I was able to share some of the rich resources for kids in our area in this incredible paper. A couple of my photos made it in as well, including one of Tyler Jackson, the three year old boy pictured here with the twinkle in his eyes. He is one of three sons of supermom Kathy Jackson. I met Kathy and Tyler at the Family Room on Capitol Hill when researching this article, and then ran into her at Butler’s Orchard in Germantown having a fabulous time with all three of her guys a couple weeks later. She is also the one who told me about the Prince George’s County Sports and Learning Complex gymnasium and pool. Obviously, it is Kathy who should start a blog about activities for kids!

Thank you to Kathy and her family, Robert Pohl and his son, Ruby Styslinger and Tech Savvy Mama for allowing me to interview them for the article. I really appreciate it.

At Playtime, Explore the Great Indoors

By Jessica McFadden
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, May 9, 2008; WE25

Want to go for a swim when it’s raining? How about jumping, skipping and bouncing — enough to make the floors shake with no threat of neighbors asking you to keep it down? No problem.

Thanks to indoor play areas and pools, not only can your kids let off steam, they also get exercise (read: lower chance for obesity, better sleep, fewer tantrums and, therefore, a better day for mom and dad).

As Kathy Jackson, a Capitol Hill single mother of three boys ages 3, 4 and 8, says, “If I let the boys get their crazies out at home, the house wouldn’t be standing!”

Sure, the spring weather might seem perfect for outdoor activities, but just you wait: Torrential rains and the infamous Washington summer will be here soon.

Play Spaces
The Family Room

411 Eighth St. SE; 202-640-1865

In the heart of Capitol Hill, this indoor play area geared toward children through age 6 features a large climbing structure, a smorgasbord of toys for all ages, art supplies and a dress-up center for imaginative play. Regularly scheduled story, craft and music times are also offered throughout the day.

“We love it here,” says Robert Pohl, a Northeast Washington dad to almost-3-year-old Ian Herzog-Pohl. “We come whenever it is too hot or too cold to go to the park, and it really helped us out when our home was being remodeled and we needed a place to play.”

An all-day pass allows families to come in the morning, go home for naps or lunch and return later. The Friday night family movie parties are a cult favorite.

Open: Monday-Thursday 9 to 7, Friday-Saturday 9 to 8, Sundays noon to 6.

Cost: Free for adults and children younger than 1. All-day pass for first child ages 1 to 6 $10, siblings and children older than 6 $5. Monthly and family passes are available.

Open Gym at Barcroft Sports and Fitness Center

4200 S. Four Mile Run, Arlington; 703-228-0701

This large play space is full of toys and provides ample room for children to learn, run and make friends.

Open: Tuesdays and Thursdays 10 to noon.

Cost: Adults $3, free for children (chaperon required).

Open Gym at Lee District RECenter

6601 Telegraph Rd., Franconia; 703-922-9841

This Fairfax County recreation center hosts an open gym for children 5 and younger to play in a converted racquetball court full of structures conducive to crawling and climbing. It includes soft, geometric shapes; tunnels; a padded floor; and a ball pit. Only 16 children are allowed at one time, so call ahead to reserve a space.

Open: Monday-Friday 3:30 to 5:30, Saturday-Sunday 12:15 to 1:45.

Cost: $2.50 for every half-hour of play.

Explore and Moore Children’s Discovery Museum

12904 Occoquan Rd., Woodbridge; 703-492-2222

With a play space shuttle, kids’ climbing wall and sandbox, this interactive family play space has lots of opportunities for creative fun. Kids can primp in a beauty shop, save lives in a medical center and exercise their bodies and imaginations.

Open: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays noon to 6; Tuesdays and Thursdays 9 to 6; Saturdays 10 to 6, Sundays noon to 5.

Cost: Free for adults, age 2 and older $5, younger than 2 $2.50.


6570 Dobbin Rd., Columbia; 410-772-1540

PlayWiseKids houses a real, life-size fire engine and ambulance, a mini beach filled with sand, a kids’ grocery store and multiple climbing and building centers. Little performers can tap in the dance studio or put on a puppet show, and junior scientists can assemble human or dinosaur skeleton replicas.

Open: Monday-Friday 9:30 to 5, Saturdays 9:30 to 7, Sundays 11:30 to 6.

Cost: Adults and age 11 and older $4, ages 2 to 10 $9.95, toddlers 12 to 23 months $6.95, free for age 11 months and younger.

Takoma Community Center Pool

300 Van Buren St. NW; 202-576-9284

The Takoma Community Center Pool is one of the most-family friendly public indoor swim centers in the District. Spray fountains and a large shallow play area will delight children.

Open: Monday-Friday 10 to 9, Saturdays 10 to 4. Closed Sundays.

Cost: Free to D.C. residents. Nonresidents: adults $7, ages 6 to 17 $4, children younger than 6 $3.

Spring Hill RECenter Indoor Pool

1239 Spring Hill Rd., McLean; 703-827-0989

The Spring Hill pool has a shallow splash pool with a beach entry for kids and their chaperons. Water toys and play features such as a large multi-person raft and slide are available for strong swimmers.

Open: Open for children to play Monday-Friday noon to 4, Saturdays and Sundays 2 to 4.

Cost: Fairfax County residents: adults $6.85, ages 5 to 18 $5.50, age 4 and younger free with paying adult. Nonresidents: adults $9.15, age 4 and younger free with paying adult.

Claude Moore Recreation Center and Pool

46105 Loudoun Park Lane, Sterling; 571-258-3600

With free teen evening parties for middle and high school students, a rock-climbing wall and an indoor water park open daily, the Claude Moore Recreation Center is a teen paradise. Young kids will love the children’s pool with spray features and pint-size slides.

Open: Monday-Friday 9 to 8:45, Saturday-Sunday 11 to 7:45.

Cost: Loudoun County residents: adults $5.50, age 15 and younger and age 60 and older $3.75. Nonresidents: adults $8.25, age 15 and younger and age 60 and older $5.75.

Prince George’s Sports & Learning Complex Leisure Pool

8001 Sheriff Rd., Landover; 301-583-2400

The Prince George‘s Sports & Learning Complex is a twofer. Its gymnastic workshops offer a safe environment for kids as old as 14. “After a day here, my boys are in an exercise-induced coma,” says Jackson, the Capitol Hill mom. “They are so worn out from playing and using their motor skills. We go whenever we can.”

The complex also has a huge indoor pool with fountains, water slides and a lazy river. It is suitable for children of all ages accompanied by a parent or caregiver.

Open: Leisure Pool: Open this month on Sundays 11 to 5, Mondays 11 to 5:30, Tuesday-Thursday 3 to 5:30, Fridays 11 to 7, Saturdays 11 to 7:30; open June through August on Sundays 11 to 5, Monday-Thursday 11 to 5:30, Fridays 11 to 7, Saturdays 11 to 7:30. Call for information on gymnastics workshops.

Cost: Drop-in swim rates: County residents pay $5 for adults, $4 for children 12 and younger and seniors; nonresidents pay $1 more per day pass. Residents who live within 1.5 miles of the complex pay $1 less per day pass. Gymnastics workshops: Free for adults, children $6 (chaperon required).

Germantown Indoor Swim Center

18000 Central Park Cir., Boyds; 240-777-6830

Water slides for all ages are just one of the features of this 60,000-square-foot swimming facility. Young children have slides of their own, as well as water umbrellas, tumble buckets and other interactive features. Older children will enjoy the 200-foot slides that twist and turn.

Open: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 3:30 to 5:30; Saturdays 2 to 4 and 5 to 7; Sunday 1 to 3 and 4 to 6.

Cost: Montgomery County residents: adults $6, age 17 and younger $4, age 55 and older $4.50. Nonresidents: adults $7.50, age 17 and younger and age 55 and older $6.50. Annual passes available.

Olney Swim Center

16605 Georgia Ave., Olney; 301-570-1210

At the Olney Swim Center, the leisure pool is shallow and ideal for young children to safely cruise and explore. A toddler slide, water umbrella “mushroom” and other interactive fun will enchant new swimmers. Parents will like the frequent open swim sessions.

Open: Monday-Thursday 11:30 to 2:30 and 3:30 to 5:30; Fridays 11:30 to 2:30, 3:30 to 5:30 and 7 to 9; Saturdays 2 to 4 and 5 to 7; Sundays 12 to 2 and 3 to 5.

Cost: Montgomery County residents: adults $6, age 17 and younger $4, age 55 and older $4.50. Nonresidents: adults $7.50, age 17 and younger and age 55 and older $6.50. Annual passes available.