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Heather Hays: Kids Will be Kids

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New Orleans has absolutely perfect weather for outdoor activities … for about two weeks out of the year. The rest of the time, the weather is either too hot, too muggy or too wet for playgrounds.
HeatherHaysREGFortunately, thanks to Heather Hays, parents of young children can rely on the Palm Tree Playground, located on the I-10 Service Road in Metairie. This safe, clean and fun indoor play place is suitable for children ages 6 months up to age 7.

Heather and her husband Eric, who is in the film industry, have two young daughters, and Eric’s job meant they had to travel a great deal. Some of their time spent on the road included places like Portland, Oregon, where the weather was not always favorable. That’s when Hays discovered indoor playgrounds where both she and her oldest daughter could exercise and socialize together.

“We were on the road so much with two young kids, so we would go to indoor playgrounds everywhere,” Heather says. “We really just loved them!”

When the couple moved to New Orleans, Heather identified a niche in the market that needed to be filled, and she and Eric opened Palm Tree Playground in Dec. 2012. From her experience with other indoor playgrounds, Heather knew she wanted to design a space where every item facilitates exercise — all while providing a fun and dynamic environment for children. For the equipment, Hays chose to use Soft Play, an industry leader in safety and design, which encourages whole body engagement.

“Kids love to play, and their active bodies need a space where they can climb, slide, jump, run, imagine and laugh out loud,” Heather says. “I wanted to create a safe, clean environment that is exciting for kids and also relaxing for parents.” Hence Palm Tree Playground’s beach theme.

Palm Tree Playground’s 7,500-square-foot facility has more than 3,000 square feet of play space downstairs and three party rooms upstairs, including a Frozen-themed room and a superhero room. The toddler area includes a playhouse, rainbow climber, shape pit, small slide, giant caterpillar tunnel, and other climbing obstacles and toys designed for children ages 3 and younger. The Big Kid Area is a large structure designed for children ages 3 to 7, featuring two intertwining spiral slides, climbing area, obstacle course and ball-shoot arena.

“The whole space is inspired by the way children play,” Heather says. “Our toddler area features small play equipment designed for this younger age group, and we even have a few items that are perfect for curious babies who are learning to crawl.”

Palm Tree Playground offers walk-in play Monday through Friday; special crafts for kids during holidays and special occasions; and also hosts classes, kids camps and even Mommy & Me classes with local childcare specialists. On weekends, Palm Tree Playground is reserved for parties, and Heather says she is typically booked solid in the fall through the holiday season with birthday parties. “We have so many one-year-old birthday parties,” she says. “Those are my favorite! It’s amazing to see how big people will go for a first birthday! I am always surprised by how much family comes to each party, it’s so wonderful!”

For a two-hour party, Palm Tree Playground provides two large pizzas from Reginelli’s Pizzeria, two 2-liter sodas, juice and ice cream for the kids, plus paper products and invitation inserts. They can also decorate one of their three party rooms based on your party’s theme.

For walk-in play, the cost is $8.70 for children ages 4 and older, and $6.50 for children ages 6 months through 3 years. Palm Tree Playground also offers unlimited monthly membership passes for walk-in play, starting at $35 per child, with discounts for multiple children. Parents are free. palmtreeplayground.com