A new Westwood business aims to encourage children to participate in dramatic play and build their social skills in a setting that simulates real-world situations.
The Big Playhouse, located at 316 Kinderkamack Road, has been busy renovating a former law office into an imaginative play world for children ages 2-6. They plan to hold a ribbon-cutting Saturday.
The goal is to provide a place for kids to play without technology or other distractions that can discourage the use of their imaginations, owner Lorraine Barratta said.
"It's really good, old-fashioned play,"Barratta said. "When I grew up, that's what we did."
The playhouse includes three main areas inspired by a series of children's books written by Barratta, who formerly owned a Goddard School. The areas include a barnyard from "Horsing Around in the Barnyard," a village from "A Day in Our Little Village" and a main street-style area from "Meet Me at Main."
Those three areas are divided into different stations like a mock cafe, grocery store, hair salon, barn puppet theater and various rooms of a home, all outfitted with child-sized furniture, costumes and tools. The different areas let kids play as different roles as they move from room to room.
There is also a party room which can accommodate 24 children.
Smiling characters from Barratta's books — who also represent a diverse mix of cultural and ethnic backgrounds — adorn the walls of The Big Playhouse. That falls into the whole idea of encouraging kids to deal with people different from themselves, Barratta said.
Once The Big Playhouse opens, they'll hold general play hours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and private parties will be available on Sundays. For more information, check out their website.