More Than Words
On days when your own playroom seems uninspiring, head to a Discovery Room at the Gaithersburg, Germantown, Marilyn J. Praisner (Burtonsville) or Quince Orchard branches of Montgomery County Public Libraries. Stocked with toys, books, games and puzzles, each private room has slightly different equipment, but it’s all designed for kids, from babies to 8-year-olds, to learn through play. One-hour reservations can be made online up to a month in advance, but walk-ins are welcome if the rooms aren’t being used. Book a room and invite some friends; up to eight kids can play at once.
various branches, montgomerycountymd.gov/library
Jam in Your Jammies
The Kids Pajama Jam Party series at AMP by Strathmore features award-winning bands and songwriters such as Lisa Loeb and Dan Zanes playing original music that the whole family can enjoy. The venue provides space near the stage where kids can dance, see instruments up close and engage with the performers. A kid-friendly menu features items such as chicken nuggets and mac and cheese, and the bar is open for grown-ups who want to enjoy a beer while the little music fans play. Shows are typically held on Sundays and start late in the afternoon—early enough to wrap up before bedtime, although pajamas are welcome. Upcoming concerts include a March performance by Justin Roberts, a two-time Grammy nominee known for his clever and poignant songwriting. Tickets are $12; free ticket required for ages 1 and younger.
11810 Grand Park Ave., North Bethesda; 301-581-5100; ampbystrathmore.com
The Great Indoors
At the nature-inspired Badlands in Rockville, kids can scale a mountain, play on a turf field and explore a faux forest. The 30,000-square-foot facility opened last June, offering plenty of space for unstructured play as well as activities geared toward science, technology and engineering. There’s a tool workshop, Lego trough, sandbox, and a screening room with comfy beanbag chairs. A café offers snacks, along with coffee and a fully stocked bar for parents. Seasonal exhibits have featured live butterflies and a Cessna airplane. This year, look for more classes, after-school and camp programs, enhanced safety features, and an improved area for nursing moms. General admission for two hours of play is $20 for kids 3 and up; $12.50 for kids under 3. Monthly memberships, group rates and party packages are available.
5200 Randolph Road, Rockville; 301-618-0009; badlandsplayspace.com
If you have a little one who loves to climb and bounce, BusyBees in Chevy Chase is the place to go. Everything in the bright indoor play space is soft, squishy and padded, and open play—without classes or instructors—is the idea. Colorful balloons float in two chambers of a play structure that features an inflatable area for jumping, sliding and climbing. There are big foam building blocks and multiple spinning and moving fixtures on which kids can climb and ride. Children must be under 48 inches to play, making BusyBees a safe place for wobbly toddlers. Parents and caregivers get perks, too, with free coffee, tea and Wi-Fi available. Admission is $18 for one child; $15 each for siblings. BusyBees also offers birthday party packages, with nearly a dozen themes to choose from.
11 Wisconsin Circle, Chevy Chase; 240-396-6466; busybeesplay.com