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Imagine That! Top Picks for Pretend Play Places For Kids in Southwest Michigan

by Julie S

 

Do you have children who want to wear their Wonder Woman costume or Astronaut costume every time you go to the store? Do you have princess tea parties or have little chefs constantly whipping you up souffles in their pretend kitchens? There are some great places in the Kalamazoo area and around to take you kids to engage their interests, let them have fun playing, and many where costumes are welcomed, even encouraged! We’ve compiled a list of nine pretend play spots to check out.

 

NEARBY PLACES TO PLAY

 

AIR ZOO  | 6151 Portage Rd., Portage

Perfect for little:

  • Pilots
  • Astronauts

There are plenty of opportunities to pretend play here: from being a pilot of airplanes and hot air balloons, to exploring space. On the left wall of the Air Zoo in the Main Exhibit Hall is a hot air balloon basket that you can climb inside, and after, kids can take a spin on the Montgolfier Balloon Race ride.

Perhaps your child wants to be a pilot? Some flight simulators are for older children and adults and they rotate a complete 360 degrees. Another one is designed for everyone, with gentle bumps and movements, and two movies that they rotate viewing. Head to the East Wing for two cockpits that kids can climb in and out of, or look for the nook with the parachute backpack that kids can put on and pretend to be jumping. If outer space is more their style, take them into the next room past the Main Exhibit Hall and let them climb aboard a satellite, sit on a stool and pretend to work in space, or look through a telescope and pretend to be an astronomer alongside Galileo.

 

BINDER PARK ZOO | 7400 Division Creek, Battle Creek

Perfect for little:

  • Safari lovers
  • Zookeepers

Have children interested in Africa? There is no better way to see African animals near Kalamazoo, and to pretend that you are actually in Africa, than at Binder Park Zoo. First, board a tram (or hike) to Wild Africa and let your journey begin in the African Village. Of course the main draw are the giraffes, zebras and other animals, but hidden throughout your walk are so many fun ways to play. You’ll find scattered throughout a desk, a heap of elephant tusks, an old, battered jeep, and kids are encouraged to keep their eyes peeled for poachers! The walk finishes through the forest with tons of questions for kids on basic survival, such as if they should stick their hand into an empty hole that’s hissing!

Binder Park also offers F.A.W.N. (First Adventures with Nature) camps where kids can get up close and personal with the animals, do crafts, and hear stories, and pretend to be zookeepers!

BURDICK’S FOR BREAKFAST (CHARACTER BREAKFASTS) | Radisson Plaza Hotel, 2nd Floor, Kalamazoo

Perfect for little:

  • Princesses
  • Superheroes

Burdick’s holds character breakfasts on a regular basis, where kids can not only meet their favorite princesses and superheroes, but are encouraged to dress up as them too while they enjoy breakfast! Click the link for a current schedule.


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THE HENDERSON CASTLE PRINCESS TEA PARTY  | 100 Monroe Street, Kalamazoo

Perfect for little:

  • Princesses and princes
  • Disney-lovers

The Henderson Castle hosts a Princess Tea Party, where the castle is transformed into a magical world full of Disney princesses, and Prince Charming. Children have tea & savories, story time, pictures, ballroom dancing and a tour of the castle. The Tea Party is generally held once a month on a select Sunday from 1:00 – 3:00 pm. Upcoming dates and ticket information are available online by following the link.

 

RELATED: FREE Indoor Play Areas

 

KALAMAZOO VALLEY MUSEUM | 230 N. Rose Street, Kalamazoo

Perfect for little:

  • Astronauts
  • Musicians
  • Early American History lovers
  • News/weather anchors
  • Ice cream/lemonade shop owners
  • Scientists

There are so many ways your child can play at this downtown museum, which has free admission (though donations are always appreciated)! The museum is currently undergoing renovations in the science area, but soon it will attract little scientists from all over the Kalamazoo area.

For little ones loving space, pay $3 to watch a show in their newly upgraded planetarium. Head over to a slice of early American history where they can pretend to work with coal, shop for food, or serve food at a giant dinner table with a screen in the middle that shows a pie being made! Let them try their hands at different guitars they can plug in and pretend to be on stage. Or keep going until you reach the diner/ice cream shop where kids can have fun making sandwiches and giant ice cream cones. Kids interested in journalism or weather forecasting, can have fun behind the desk of a news anchor, or pretend to give the weather forecast for the day, while someone else takes their turn at the news camera. Don’t forget the little lemonade stand tucked away too!

 

OLD DOG TAVERN (BENJAMMIN EDUCATIONAL MUSIC BREAKFAST)  | 402 E Kalamazoo Ave, Kalamazoo

Perfect for little:

  • Musicians and singers

Every Saturday morning from 10:00 am -11:00 am at Old Dog Tavern, BenJammin Educational Music takes the stage. Enjoy breakfast while kids are invited to come on stage to play instruments and sing along!

 

PORTAGE LIBRARY | 300 Library Lane, Portage

Perfect for little:

  • Kids who love playing house
  • Chefs
  • Future moms, dads and baby caretakers
  • Puppet masters
  • Drivers and transportation lovers

On the lower level of the Portage Library is the toddler/preschool play room. While filled with baby, toddler, and beautiful picture books, it’s also a great room for pretend play! There’s a huge rug with different cars, trucks and planes, and also a puppet theater for some dramatic fun. There is also kitchen and baby area for kids who love playing with dolls, and pretending to play some dinner. Make sure to check out the play area just to the left when you leave this room where the librarians rotate activities.  They’ve had shadow puppets, roller coaster sets to design, and tons of things to pretend you’re a scientist.

 

PRETEND PLAY PLACES WORTHY OF A DRIVE

 

CURIOUS KIDS’ MUSEUM | 415 Lake Blvd, St. Joseph

Perfect for little:

  • Veterinarians
  • Doctors
  • Farmers, market goers, and kids who love playing with food
  • Radio DJs
  • Sailors

This museum is in two different locations in St. Joseph, the original location and the Discovery Zone – located a few steps away from the main location. At the main location there are a ton of opportunities for pretend play: a veterinary center, a center for a Doctor or EMT, a recently updated orchard and farmer’s market, and so much more. Don’t forget to check out their traveling exhibitions too!

GRAND RAPIDS CHILDREN’S MUSEUM | 11 Sheldon Ave. NE, Grand Rapids

Perfect for little:

  • Mechanics
  • Bankers
  • Grocery owners/shoppers
  • Veterinarians
  • Doctors
  • Construction workers

The main level of this museum is perfect for learning through play! There’s a grocery store with carts, little cars and gas stations, a bank, a post office, and more. Kids can take care of animals or be a doctor or surgeon, the possibilities at this museum are endless. See our review of the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum.

 

Where do you take your kids for imaginary play? 

Julie S

Julie is stay-at-home mom who homeschools two beautiful rainbow girls, and a self-professed geek. She enjoys playing video and board games, writing, reading, tennis, traveling, and just about everything else. She never wants to stop learning and loves sharing what she's learned with Kzoo Kids readers.

 

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