Recently opened in October, this newcomer in the Hollywood district in Northeast Portland is a spacious indoor play area custom-designed for the developmental needs of children from birth through age 7. The brain-child of husband and wife team Chris and Jessica Wade, the Wiggle Room meets the increasing demand in Portland for easy-to-use indoor play environments that both kids and caregivers can appreciate. Here’s a first-hand peek into playtime at this great new neighborhood gem.
photo: Lyle Poulin
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Family-Owned and Family-Focused
Chris was at an impasse in his job. At his yearly review, when asked what would make him happier, Chris realized he just wanted to see his kids more. Like so many parents, a full-time job plus a Portland commute meant he mostly saw his boys on weekends. So during a date night conversation with Jessica, he mentioned he wanted to make a change.
“Well, I’ve had this idea for a while now…” Jessica responded, and that’s where the Wiggle Room began.
A pediatric occupational therapist, Jessica had spent years working with families and children. Meeting in living rooms and at schools, Jessica heard the same thing again and again: I just wish there were more places to take my kids that weren’t so overstimulating and loud. Looking around her own neighborhood, she saw a gap—and a lot of potential.
Within a few days, Chris had used his business sense and his MBA to draw up a business plan for a low-key play space for different ages and developmental needs that also catered to parents’ needs and interests. An opportunity to lease a medium-sized former laundromat in the neighborhood opened up soon after, and the rest followed quickly.
photo: Lyle Poulin
Fun for Kids, Easy for Caregivers
Located just a block from the Hollywood Library, the Wiggle Room is ideally situated between a great kids’ consignment shop (Just 4 Kids) and a toy store (Portland Pastimes). Walking into the space, you feel immediately at ease. Big windows on both sides let in natural light, while other lighting is kept soft. The main play area is a two-level structure enclosed by soft netting, capped off by a big green tube slide. Outside the play structure, which is geared toward kids ages 2 and up, there’s a smaller play area for crawlers and other kids, with a low enclosure wall and small toys. Finally, there’s a second play area through an open barn door where kids can take a break to work with play-dough, blocks, puzzles, and books.
The open floor plan means caregivers can easily see both of the main play areas. Bar seating divides the play area from the refreshment counter, which features a range of drinks and snacks along with a cluster of tables and chairs for families to use. You can bring your own food, order a Pizzicato pizza to be delivered at a discount, or take advantage of affordable healthy snacks. There are options like hard-boiled eggs and fruit bars for the kids, and a full-service beverage bar—including several local beers and cider on tap— for parents.
Both Chris and Jessica emphasize that they want this to be a gathering place for the community, and it’s clear they’ve put a lot of thought into creating a welcoming space.
photo: Lyle Poulin
Thoughtfully Designed to Meet Kids’ Needs
Drawing on her therapeutic background, Jessica designed the Wiggle Room to satisfy children’s needs for fine and gross motor development without the overwhelming sensory overload that a lot of indoor play areas present. This was important to the Wades both as a way to serve kids with sensory processing disorders as well as for caregivers who need a bit of a break from the constant noise, bright colors, and intense lighting of modern environments.
The Wades say they were going for a “park feel,” with plenty of neutrals and shades of green. They were also looking for a smaller space so that it wouldn’t get too busy and crowded. Working with Soft Play (an indoor play equipment business) to custom design the play structure, Jessica says she tried to maximize the space to provide as many different movement options as possible—opportunities to spin, bounce, crawl, and slide.
In addition to the tube slide, the structure features a climbing area with netting, stationary pogo jump, monkey bars, and a foam obstacle course. It’s like a playground structure, Jessica acknowledges, but softer, more complex, safer, and indoors. The smaller play area includes a small number of ride-on toys, foam blocks for tumbling and building, and a rotating sensory board that changes weekly. The separate break area provides space for what Jessica has observed children do naturally: after playing in the structure for some time, they move to the quieter area to read or work on fine motor skills for a while, then move back to the structure.
The result is a relaxed, inviting play area all families in the community can enjoy. Chris says they have been gratified to hear from parents of children on the autism spectrum who have come to play, making it a point to tell the Wades that their kids really liked the Wiggle Room. Parenting groups have started to meet here regularly, and both weekdays and weekends have been lively.
Now Chris and Jessica are at the Wiggle Room most days, and Chris has more time to spend with his sons Carter (18 months) and Owen (4). For their own family and for Portland families, it doesn’t get much better than this.
1925 NE 42nd Ave., Suite C
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-6 p.m; Sat. 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sun 9 a.m.-1 p.m.; Tues. closed.
Fee: All day: 1st Child $11; Siblings $8; Crawlers/Wobblers $5 (See website for Happy Hour prices); Plus $99 for 10-visit pass
Before you go
Make sure to bring socks, as the play area is shoe-free. (They do have some for sale if you forget.) To save time, print and sign the liability waiver before you arrive. Caregivers are responsible for monitoring their own children’s behavior while using the play area.
Have you visited the Wiggle Room? Let us know how you made a day of it in the comments below.