Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine Business Review June 2009.
By Kristin Ranuio
It’s a great time to be a kid in Napa. Designed to help little ones love learning, Scientopia is open at 1785 Tanen Street, Suite B. Figuring two hours would be enough, a friend and I took four children, ages nine months though five years old. Three hours later the ones that could talk were begging us not to make them leave. Another mother, upon learning the time, realized she had been there over four hours. Obviously, the kids thought the discovery center was a big hit. When I tucked my two into bed that night, they asked when we could go back again.
Soon, for certain. There was so much to do that they didn’t see half of it, even during their three hour funfest. What they did do was have a blast.
First, we all took off our shoes, cubbies are provided, and checked out the Wee Wonders area for ages three and under. The baby was instantly drawn to the bright, colorful balls and the older kids were all over the tumbling mats and slides. On the wall hung a “yuck bucket” where toys are put for later disinfecting by the staff after finding their way in to kids’ mouths. An open doorway leads to the Reading Room, with comfortable couches and books offering a quiet place for kids or for moms who want to nurse.
Next, we headed into the large main room in the back. There was a quick blur of the backs of the kids’ heads as they zoomed by us, eager for more fun. The girls headed straight to a castle that looked like it was designed to ignite the imagination and climbed right in. My two year old son, who is obsessed with all things locomotive, made a beeline for the large train table, which is painted with Napa landmarks and kid friendly businesses and locales.
After a brief tour of the room, which is filled with activities for “up to age twelve”, my friend and I settled into chairs in the eating area. We had a great view of the space and, frankly, the kids had zero interest in us.
A stand filled with beautiful, realistic toy fruit is next to shelves with toy meats and eggs. A couple of pint-sized grocery carts add to the shopping experience. There are tables set up for arts and crafts, with aprons supplied for when things get messy. Large builder-boards fill the center of the room, offering kids the chance to make life-sized projects. The day we were there, there was a house built that was large enough for the kids to play in.
In the back of the room is a large space filled with colorful, soft, recycled tire rubber pieces kids can dig around in. A back corner is filled with experiments aimed at older kids. A popular draw is the Bernoulli, based on the Bernoulli principle, where kids put lightweight things on top of a traffic cone and then flip a switch, resulting in volcano like explosions. Every time they shrieked with delight.
We practically had to drag the kids to the eating area for a brown-bag lunch. My son, whose usual mantra is “I hungry” wasn’t even interested in his PB&J. He gobbled it down then asked if he could go back and play. Quick as a wink, he was gone.
After some more fun inside, we moved to the play space out front. There was a boat to climb around on, water tables filled with bubble solution, a picnic table and raised planters filled with gardens for kids to water and explore. The attentive staff filled watering cans for the kids and made huge bubbles the kids caught with butterfly nets. Employee, Adrienne Burris, took clear delight in her job. “I get paid to be a kid all day,” she says with a smile.
Our kids were reluctant to leave after the garden, but a promise to return and checkout the things as they had missed, like the puppet theater, music center, pulleys, and windmills seemed to ease the pain.
Owners Marcy and Jonathan Deeds have created a space aimed to delight and inspire. The seven dollar entrance fee, waived for a second adult and children under age one, is good all day, giving parents the freedom to come and go. There is a party room, and special packages and programs available. Scientopia Discovery Center is open Tuesday through Friday 9:30 – 5:30, and weekends 9:30 – 3. For more information call 707-2559-1559, or go to http://www.scientopiadiscoverycenter.com. Be prepared for happy kids!