So you’ve settled into your new digs and enrolled your kids at a local school. But where do you go for fun? If you’re not quite ready to take on a day trip, play centers are a great way to indulge in structured, age-appropriate fun. Usually geared towards younger children, play centers come in a variety of shapes and sizes: Some feel more like community centers, while others are essentially a giant playground. Try them all out until you find your family’s favorite!
A-Z Kids 英伦世纪
Focus: Educational play
One of the few play centers located in Shunyi, A-Z Kids is all about hands-on fun. The center’s friendly learning environment includes an art corner, maze, and play supermarket. A-Z Kids offers several types of classes at RMB 150 per lesson: language (English, French, Spanish, and Russian), ballet, kung fu, and arts and crafts. The center rents out its facilities for a number of events, including birthday parties, parent gatherings, back to school parties, farewell parties, and more. Though classes are held in English, the reception staff itself has limited English proficiency.
RMB 100 per child (no time limit, good for five game tokens), RMB 50 for adults, free for kids under 12 months (Mon-Fri); RMB 120 per child, RMB 50 per adult, free for kids under 12 months (weekends). Daily 9.30am-6pm. Pinnacle Avenue, Liyuan Jie, Tianzhu, Shunyi District (8559 2883/6/9) www.a-zkids.cn 顺义区天竺镇丽苑街荣和广场
Beyou World 比如世界
Focus: Role play
This huge educational center gives children the chance to participate in role play through real-world job simulations. Young visitors can dress up and test their skills as a police officer, teacher, nurse, construction worker, doctor, and more. Beyou World even contains a simulation city, which the kids must manage themselves – provided they stick to the social rules, of course. Your child will have a range of settings to choose from, including a supermarket, post office, and hospital. The goal of Beyou World is to teach kids how society works and give them an idea of how they can succeed within it. Parents are able to monitor their children at all times and even join the fun. The staff speaks English.
RMB 200 (child), RMB 20 (adult, Tue-Fri), RMB 80 (adult, Sat-Sun and holidays). Tue-Fri 10am-7pm, Sat-Sun 10am-2.30pm, holidays 3.30-8pm. Bldg A-3F, China Career International Center, 39 Dongsihuan Zhonglu, Chaoyang District (8571 1199) www.beyou.cn 朝阳区东四环中路39号
EE City 蓝天城
Focus: Role play
Much like Beyou World, EE City focuses on job simulation for kids – but on a much bigger scale. This sprawling 18,600sqm mini-community offers hands-on learning experience about careers. Kids can dress up in the uniform of their choice; with 84 jobs in total, trying to wear them all will keep you busy for the better part of a day. There’s a bank, theater, TV studio, fire department, hospital, hotel, restaurant, airplane, submarine, and much, much more. To avoid disappointment on the weekends, book your tickets in advance.
RMB 150 for kids and teens, RMB 50 for adults (weekdays); RMB 200 for kids and teens, RMB 100 for adults (weekends), free for kids under 3 (if accompanied by an adult and another child over 3). Tue-Sun 10.30am-3pm, 4-8.30pm. 10/F, Joy City Chaoyang, 101 Chaoyang Beilu, Chaoyang District (8569 6688 Information, 5705 0707 Reservations) www.eecity.cn 朝阳区朝阳北路101大悦城10层
This light-filled center has two floors for safe and friendly family play. The emphasis is on self-directed fun. Kids are encouraged to use the ball pit, gym equipment, and crafts at their own pace. The Familier also offers classes in art, science, languages, and more. Parents with busy schedules can take advantage of the half-day drop-off service to leave their kids with the center’s professional staff. To maintain quality, the center keeps a child to educator ratio of 3 to 1. Another highlight is the family cafe, which has a healthy menu designed by nutritionist and beijingkids columnist Olivia Lee. The center has two locations: one in CBD and one at 798 Art District. (Note that, as of June 2012, The Familier’s Chaowai SOHO location is closed until further notice.)
RMB 70 (3 hours for one kid and one adult), RMB 100 (full day for one kid and one adult), half price for additional kids, free for kids under 12 months and one parent. 1) Daily 9am-8pm. Suite 0753, Tower A, Chaowai Soho, 6B Chaoyangmenwai Dajie, Chaoyang District (5869 2904) 朝阳区朝外大街乙6号朝外SohoA-0753; 2) D05 Zhong’er Jie, 798 Art District, Chaoyang District (5762 6017) 朝阳区798艺术区中二街D05
Family Box Educational and Recreational Center 家盒子
Focus: Educational play
Family Box is a British family center combining education and recreation. Children and their families have more than enough space to play in the 6,000sqm, three-storey building. Kids will enjoy the large scale climbing frame, Mickey Mouse play area, swimming pool (classes only), Sensory Room, Soft Island and Craft Room. They also run courses and activities based on the UK early years curriculum. Other facilities include party hosting, catering, coffee shop, and daycare facility.
RMB 2,500 (five-day access for two adults and one child, doesn’t include access to the pool). Bldg 4, 51 Wangjing Beilu, Chaoyang District (6478 6163) www.familyboxes.com.cn 朝阳区望京北路51号4号楼
This cavernous warehouse has been a favorite with Beijing families for nearly 16 years. Since undergoing a facelift one year ago, the play center is still going strong. Highlights include the massive jungle gym and ball pit. For an extra charge, kids can also enjoy video games, an inflatable climbing wall, a sand pit, and a fishing pool. There’s a line of stools near the play area for parents who want to watch their kids without joining the action, and private rooms can be rented for birthday parties. Fundazzle has few frills; the staff speaks limited English and the bathrooms leave much to be desired, but the center offers a cheap way to hide from the heat and wile away the afternoon.
RMB 35 for two hours (kids); free for adults (Mon-Fri), RMB 15 for adults (Sat-Sun). Mon-Fri 9am-5.30pm, Sat-Sun and holidays 9am-7pm. 14 Gongti Nanlu, Chaoyang District (6593 6208) 朝阳区工体南路14号
Gymboree Beijing 金宝贝
Gymboree is an international chain with locations in 30 countries. This play center focuses on music, with an emphasis on parent participation, free play, and art education. The music classes get kids to play instruments, sing songs and practice basic vocabulary in English. After class, participants are welcome to play on the gym equipment installed in each classroom. The most popular class is The Gymboree Play and Learn, a seven-level, age-appropriate program designed to support your child’s growth at his or her own individual pace. Gymboree also holds birthday parties; just pick a theme and the staff will create a personalized private party. All classes are held in English and children must be accompanied by an adult. However, the reception staff speaks limited English so you may need to seek out an instructor for help.
RMB 280 per class. 1) Daily 9am-6pm. Guanghua SOHO, 7/F, Bldg 3, 22 Guanghua Lu, Chaoyang District (5900 6186) 朝阳区光华路22号光华路SOHO 3单元7层; 2) Daily 9am-6pm. 2/F, Bldg E, Wangjing International Commercial Center, 9 Wangjing Lu, Chaoyang District, Chaoyang District (5166 0516) www.gymboree.com.cn 朝阳区望京街9号望京国际商业中心E座2层01
KindyROO International Early Childhood Development 菁童启育咨询中心
Focus: Developing skills
Catering more to Chinese parents, KindyROO offers music and dance classes to foster spatial awareness, balance, and coordination.
Parent participation is a vital aspect of KindyROO classes, with the aim of teaching parents how their toddler’s brain develops. In addition, parents are encouraged to follow a home-based therapy program with their kids. The center’s programs include BabyROO (6 weeks and up), Kindy GymbaROO (toddlers), and classes for kids up to age 5. Each program includes evening information sessions for parents, an initial parent interview, and a child assessment. Based on the interview, a personalized program will be developed for both parent and child. The friendly staff speaks decent English and the facilities are clean – albeit smaller than some international play centers in Beijing. Program prices are available upon application.
Wed-Sun 9am-5pm. 10/F, Bldg 18, West Area, Jianwai SOHO, Chaoyang District (5869 8002/3, 800 810 0052) www.kindyroo.com
The Magic Bean House 豆豆家科技馆
Focus: Educational play
The Magic Bean House bills itself as the first American-designed children’s museum in Beijing. There are eight different play areas for kids to explore: Tale of the Magic Bean, Toddler Land, Green Foods, World of Water, Bricks and Blocks, Car Services, Experimental Hall, and the Art Gallery. Each area encourages children to think creatively and independently of parents. Kids will relish the opportunity to role play as ancient kings, browse a variety of Chinese and English picture books, and attend regular storytelling sessions (in both Chinese and English) in the Art Gallery. The facilities are safe, clean, and shoe-free (all visitors are required to put disposable nylon booties over their footwear). The staff is friendly and speaks English. Discounts are available for purchases of 10 visits or more.
RMB 30 (adults), RMB 120 (kids 2-8), RMB 60 (kids 6-24 months), free (0-6 months). Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat-Sun 9am-8pm (closed every last Tue of the month for maintenance). 7 Chaoyang Gongyuan Xilu, Chaoyang District (400 888 0722) www.magicbeanhouse.com
My Gym Early Childhood Development Center 美吉姆国际儿童教育中心
Focus: Physical activity
My Gym is a chain with locations in 25 countries. They offer structured and age-appropriate weekly classes that combine music, dance, games, gymnastics, and sports. The goal is for kids to have fun as they develop strength, balance, coordination, agility, and flexibility while developing social skills, confidence, and self-esteem. Parents are encouraged to get involved with parent participation classes. The staff speaks English and the low student/teacher ratio means kids enjoy individual attention. For older kids (ages 8-13), My Gym has a program that combines a cardio workout with strength and flexibility exercises. Birthday party packages are available, as well as camp programs with rotating themes.
Prices vary according to class (average RMB 3,000/12 classes). Mon-Sun 8am-8pm. 15/F, Bldg 1, Blue Castle International Center, 3 Xidawang Lu, Chaoyang District (6582 0092/72) www.my-gym.com 朝阳区西大望路蓝堡国际中心1座15层
The New City Center
Focus: Community classes
The New City Center is a community center in Wangjing with classes and a cafe with a closed-in playroom that includes a ball pit and slide. There are programs for all ages, including Mommy and Me classes, phonics, math, art, language, and more. Or simply drop in for a coffee and let the kids run wild in the playroom. The cafe has free Wi-Fi access and admission to the playroom is included in food or drink purchases of RMB 30 or more. The playroom can be rented for birthday parties; a 170-seat conference room is also available. The staff speaks English.
Prices vary from RMB 80-120/class (discounts available for purchases of 10 classes or more). Mon-Sat 9am-5pm. 112 Lize Xiyuan, Guangshun Beidajie, Wangjing, Chaoyang District (6475 1066, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.thenewcitycenter.com 朝阳区望京广顺北大街丽泽西园112号