Peekaboo Playroom to open in Oak Park

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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

Initiatives like the Early Childhood Collaboration have put Oak Park on a path that community leaders hope will bridge the minority student achievement gap. This Saturday, two educators will open a unique place, which they say is designed to help.

On June 1, Peekaboo Playroom opens at 206 S. Marion St., a location that recently created some early-childhood controversy. Co-owner and Oak Park resident Cindy Alvear is excited and eager to show how playtime and education can act in sync.

Peekaboo Playroom was designed by two mothers with teaching backgrounds who wanted new opportunities for children to interact and learn in a comfortable setting during the impressionable young age group of birth to 5. Alvear saw the limited opportunities kids have in town to "exercise their right to play" in a place close to home.

At Peekaboo, parents let their little ones roam while they relax in the space and meet other parents and caregivers. Alvear, who frequently drove to Chicago to find activities for her kids, realized a spot was needed where kids could interact with others outside the home.

Peekaboo doesn't allow parents or caregivers to leave children because it isn't a daycare, but it does allow them to come and go as they please throughout the day after paying a daily admission fee. Ten-week and monthly passes are also available.

Drawing inspiration from a small café in the city with a particularly nice children's area, the Oak Parker found this 2,000-square-foot space where to create a local haven for early-childhood activities.

"It's hard to find things to do every day [with kids]," she said. "I don't know how many children are actively playing. As an educator, I don't know if that's happening anymore."

For children who don't have play dates or structured playtimes, Alvear believes there are important social and emotional developmental chances being missed.

"Children go through a lot of emotions that they are not always able to express verbally. One way to express them is through play," she said. "As they play, a lot of emotions come out."

Children who aren't exposed to those pivotal interactions are less likely to be prepared for starting school, Alvear said. To her, Peekaboo Playroom is a stepping stone for young children before they enter the classroom.

Alvear and her business partner Ana Schreiner, said their own children provided inspiration for the playroom. Building on their teaching experiences and what they've learned from their own children, Peekaboo was designed around actives that kids can relate to.

For example, the space has five custom-built stations, including a firehouse, playhouse, a vet's office, garage and supermarket. The stations and décor reflect the architecture and design seen in Oak Park.

"We really want to be part of the community. We built them with that in mind." Alvear said. "It's all part of the Oak Park community."

The playhouse also will have an art area, space to practice motor skills, a sensory station and an infant area with age-appropriate toys. Most of the toys are made with natural materials and were well researched, Alvear said. Storytelling, music classes and Spanish classes will also be made available.

After joining the Early Childhood Collaboration in Oak Park, Alvear said she's in the process of reaching out to determine how Peekaboo Playhouse can serve that community-wide initiative. The Collaboration, funded by local school districts and the Village of Oak Park, has identified that many children are falling behind educationally during their young years.

Alvear thinks her playroom can change that.

"Our biggest mission is to bring the community together and focus on the art of play and the social and emotional skills of children," she said. "[The society focuses] so much on academics, we don't see the bridge between the social and emotional and academics.

"It empowers parents who are at home," she added. "As a parent, you are really your children's first teacher."

Peekaboo Playroom will be open from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on June 1. Opening day will feature music, balloons, cupcakes a photo booth and a surprise for each child. For more information, visit or call 708-848-4815.

Email: Twitter: @AnnaLothson

Reader Comments

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John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 11th, 2013 10:38 PM

Bridgett - Craig gave you boiler plate.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: June 11th, 2013 6:31 PM

Correction: The Village staff, according to Craig Failor, the Village planner, did not think this was the best location for a daycare, as it would not meet the intent for the Greater Downtown Master plan for the area based on land use.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: June 11th, 2013 11:05 AM

@Craig, It wasn't the village staff who stopped the daycare. They were for it, the planning commission was for it, and two Trustees voted for it. One Trustee wasn't present to vote, and the other four Trustees voted against it. So your question of accountability would be to those four Trustees (two of whom are still in office) who voted against it.

Craig from Oak Park  

Posted: June 11th, 2013 8:39 AM

I've been by this place a few times now and it's pretty empty. I hope for their sake things turn around, but who is accountable on the village staff say if it doesn't? Another vacant storefront on the Marion St. corridor should cause for some shake ups on that staff. They were the ones that fought against the daycare (which had a waiting list of families).

Wendy from Chicago  

Posted: June 2nd, 2013 11:34 PM

Looks like a fun place and can't wait to explore! Parks are fun but if it is too hot or rainy this will be a nice alternative. My kids and I love going on different adventures and trying out new places.

oh come on  

Posted: June 2nd, 2013 10:16 PM

We all know Oak Park has their favorites. Evidently these people know somebody. It's never fair in Oak Park.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: June 2nd, 2013 7:04 PM

The playroom didn't require any zoning variance. So it all got handled through the Village staff only, and it was a simpler (and faster) process. First, the daycare originally wanted space on Oak Park Ave., then switched its focus to this location on Marion. That delayed the process. In addition, the daycare would have required a zoning variance on Marion, which means that citizens commissions and the Village Board got involved, and that is a longer process.


Posted: June 2nd, 2013 1:04 PM

I am curious, how did this playroom get the space instantly, but not the daycare, that the village strung along for a year? Who knows who in the powers that be? Just asking.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: June 1st, 2013 6:23 PM

@Well, Oak Park has a lot of multi-family unit dwellers. Not everyone here has the space in their homes or has a yard and/or street that is condusive to what you are describing. Peekaboo is another option (not a replacement) of what Oak Park already offers. I'm happy for those with young children to have another indoor play area in addition to Wonder Works and one that is centrally located in the Village.


Posted: June 1st, 2013 4:20 PM

I think that's the beauty, Bridgett, of neighborhoods. Play outside with your neighbors, go to the park and meet families in your area. I personally wouldn't see a need for this. To each his own but for me, spending money for something I could do if I walk out my door to the sidewalk or to the park seems silly.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: June 1st, 2013 1:30 PM

Yes, parents can play with their kids in their own home. But sometimes, when you're with your young kids all day and all night, being around other adults while children play with each other is a pleasent alternative. (Caregivers will also most likely take advantage of this new business). And being indoors even during the summer when it can get unbearably hot, is a nice option, particularly for children this young. Good luck, Peekaboo!


Posted: June 1st, 2013 12:19 PM

Here's their mission statement: "Our mission is to provide a place where children are free to create, imagine, and dream in a safe and calm environment. Peekaboo Playroom is a place where parents can relax and take joy as their children play." ha ha, couldn't that be your home? Or a park? Gullible people!


Posted: June 1st, 2013 12:14 PM

A place to play? What? Are the parks and pool closed this summer? Can Oak Park parents not spend any time alone with their kids?

John from Chicago  

Posted: June 1st, 2013 8:20 AM

Looking forward to an interesting and safe place to play with the kids! We'll be at the Open House. Can't wait to explore!

Jane from Chicago  

Posted: June 1st, 2013 7:36 AM

As a grandparent, I am very excited about the new play space. It looks like a great place to play. See you at the open house!

Michelle Vanderlaan from Sugarcup Trading  

Posted: May 31st, 2013 2:09 PM

Welcome to the neighborhood! We know the parents and kids will love the experience. We wish you much success.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 30th, 2013 10:25 AM

I don't know Hedges' or Brewer's reasoning for voting against the daycare, but for both Pope and Johnson, the traffic was the issue--safety, and impact it would have on the neighborhood. The second article Anna posted below, from 11/13/2012, gives some detail/quotes from Johnson and Pope about that.

Anna Lothson from Wednesday Journal   

Posted: May 30th, 2013 10:16 AM

There was discussions about the board wanting retail, but from what I can recall, a major issue was the pick up and drop off aspect of the daycare that will not be at Peekaboo Playhouse because kids cannot be dropped off. Parents/caregivers join the kids at Peekaboo. Former Village President David Pope explains it in the second of the articles mentioned below.

Anna Lothson from Wednesday Journal  

Posted: May 30th, 2013 10:12 AM

Here are the relevant articles to the previous daycare issue: and:,-a-Marion-St.-debate/

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 30th, 2013 8:50 AM

I did go through the tape of the actual meeting, but stopped close to the end. Although traffic was addressed, it seemed to be resolved as an issue. The main sticking point was this was not the type of business they were looking for in this area. They were looking for retail to support their expenditure of this multi-million dollar street scape.

Stephen M. Scott from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 30th, 2013 7:34 AM

All good points RE: traffic. But Bridgett, my understanding was that the Village's objections to Oak Leaf Academy were less about traffic and more about the fact that the Village very clearly wanted a retail tenant in that space. Based on the description of Peekaboo Playroom, I don't see how they are substantively different from Oak Leaf Academy in the "retail or not" discussion. I'm very excited to see this business open, but feel an explanation is needed with respect to the retail argument.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 11:59 PM

The diff. in traffic patterns is significant. W/ this, you park your car. W/ a daycare, you either double-park, or cars create a snake down the street and around the corner (though there's not a close corner) & the street narrows right there, as well as being an intersection. If a car is stopped in any way, it blocks southbound traffic and traffic to/from west Pleasant. W/ this,traffic is staggered. With a daycare, everyone picks up & drops off roughly at the same time.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 10:46 PM

Watching the video of the board meeting (over just reading the minutes and/or the news story) gives a lot more detail and context.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 10:40 PM

I just watched the portion of the board meeting from November 5, 2012 regarding the daycare that was denied. Section XVIII-Item F. If you click on it, it will fast-forward to that part of the agenda And here are the minutes. This item on the agenda starts at the bottom of page 4...

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 10:20 PM

According to their website, they will be offering parties.

Shaking my head once again from Oak park  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 9:23 PM

While I have/hold no ill will for the owners of this playroom, & I wish them all the best,I am a tad confused. How is a place where people are supposed to park & stay less traffic than a day care where people wil be sporadically dropping kids off? I'm also surprised that a day care which has steady income would be denied yet a place that survives solely on drop in income is allowed. Unless they are holding bday parties there's a lot of competition of places for a 0-4 yr child to play in OPRF

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 7:55 PM

Your right, that's its not a day care so children would not get dropped off but the parent will have to park their car now. Back to previous issue. How unfair is this to the previous daycare tenant who was forced out. Shame on the Village for orchestrating this unfair business practice.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 7:20 PM

Just an FYI, it's not a daycare. Children don't get dropped off.

Emily from Oak Park  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 4:45 PM

Best of luck with your venture!

Blue Stone Blunder  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 4:39 PM

It does look like the same space for which the daycare center was denied. I guess the village is writing off the idea of the million dollar blue stone sidewalks attracting retail. ( one tell the Feds as we apply for another grant.) But since parents must remain present, at least it wouldn't be plagued by the diurnal drop-off/pick-up traffic jams that a daycare center would.

bad timing   

Posted: May 29th, 2013 4:11 PM

Hope they have enough capital to fuel the next five months .... I wouldn't consider this until it gets cold out. Parks are free.

Stephen M. Scott from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 3:56 PM

Speedway is right; this is laughably ironic. @Phil: Regarding the controversy, please see

Preschool parent  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 12:31 PM

Bj, I had the same thought...but Wonder Works charges for adults so 1A, 2K would be $18 versus $20 for two kids at the new place it looks like. And they're priced about the same as Little Beans Cafe if you've ever taken your kids there in the city.

Bj Richards from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 11:35 AM

How is this different than Wonder Works, which is much more affordable for families?

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 8:50 AM

Is Peek-a-boo opening in the same space where another daycare was removed as not fitting in with the Marion st. business design. If so, nothing against Peek-a-boo, this is really unfair to the previous daycare and rather ironic.

Phil from Oak Park  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 8:46 AM

Nice idea, but I don't see what's so controversial about the location. The label "controversial" is mentioned several times, but the controversy is never identified. Can you fill me in?

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