Indoor playground Wild and Free opens in Dillon with play areas inspired by nature
DILLON — An indoor children’s play area has opened in Dillon to encourage playtime year-round.
Owner Michelle Flickinger said her inspiration for the new business, Wild and Free, came from raising her two daughters in Summit County and the challenges that come with the long winters.
“I feel like there’s a lack of things to do indoors, especially for families with young kids, and so I didn’t really want a normal place with tons of plastic,” Flickinger said. “… I wanted it to be open-ended play where kids can use their imagination and get the chance to just do their thing while the parents get to hang out.”
Parents who bring in their kids must stay, but the kids can roam and play however they choose. The large, open space features play stations such as a campfire and a kitchen.
“Part of the fun of it is seeing what each kid does to the space,” Flickinger said. “Everyone has a different way of playing.”
To aid in the design process, Flickinger researched the Reggio Emilia approach to education for early learners. Flickinger wanted the space to allow for open-ended nature play involving loose parts that can be used as props for kids — such as sticks, boxes and animal figurines — to aid their imagination. Colorado-themed props are also incorporated, including a boat that sits in the center of the play area.
The play area also features a mural by Ashlie Weisel, of Frisco’s The Sunny Side Up Studio. The painting includes cartoon trees, flowers, mountains and other natural elements along with quotes. Weisel said she freehanded the mural, which she called an organic, in-the-moment process.
Weisel said she has brought her daughter to the play area and that she cannot wait to go back.
“The space that Michelle has created there, kind of going with the mural, it’s very free-flowing; it’s very organic play,” Weisel said. “… There’s no right or wrong.”
While the concept for Wild and Free came to fruition based on the confinements of winter, Flickinger said it can be used in the summer, as well, because not all parents have places where their children can play freely.
She said business has been slow so far this summer but that she hopes to see more families come in on days when the weather is bad.
The business opened July 1, and Flickinger said she initially is focused on getting the doors open to more families and sorting out the process of starting a new business. Eventually she wants to host more structured activities such as crafts and nature-based activities once fall sets in. The business also hosts birthday parties, and Flickinger hopes to collaborate with other local businesses to host events and classes.
While the building occupancy is 47, only 10 people can be in the space at a time under the current public health order. People ages 2 and older must wear a mask, hand sanitizer is used and symptom checks are conducted as families enter the facility. Flickinger said she spends much of her day cleaning the space after each group.
Wild and Free is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays at 761 Anemone Trail, Unit B, Dillon. Pricing for drop-in visits is $11 for children ages 2 and older, $9 for children ages 6 months to 2 years and free for children younger than 6 months. Adults can accompany their children for free, and punch passes are available. Due to the reduced capacity of the space, prospective visitors can call ahead to check on capacity at 720-256-5209.
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