I've visited the Children's Garden for play dates and parties about 15 times over the past few years. It's a well-intentioned place, but there are some safety concerns parents need to be aware of.
The place is relatively safe for kids 4/5 and up, but kids smaller than that need to be watched extremely closely. There have often been broken wood in swings, broken bars in welded play equipment and other unsafe items that have gone unfixed for months/years. Most notably a wooden slat in a swing had a foot-long jagged piece of wood sticking out of it for almost a year. After about six months the staff put a paper sign on it that said "don't use" but that doesn't help the toddlers running about with broken jagged wood at eye level. There is often splintered wood and rusty screws sticking out of play equipment where children climb, and some steel play items are top-heavy, tippy and dangerous if small kids tug on them. We have even had problems with our toddler going into a play stall and coming out covered in animal feces, and a staff not at all concerned about it. There is a play area full of garage-sale and donated dress up outfits, but it's very scary because its clear the items don't get cleaned and the racks are jammed with play clothing of unknown origin. Every decent mom I know forbids their child from playing in that area because it looks like a great way to catch lice. There have been issues with broken toys in the sandbox and rotten shoes on the wooden centipede in the play area. They also don't spray for insects, and the tire mountain and other play areas are often infested with ants that can bite. So pretty much every inch of space a small child is going to play in needs to be inspected before you let them use it. It's frustrating to bring your child somewhere and constantly have to tell them "no" because things are broken and unsafe.
Now that my child is 5 I don't worry that she'll do something gross like put on a hat left laying around or hurt herself climbing on splintered wood so we occasionally visit when we need a change of pace. It's not a peaceful place for a parent to take a toddler because you have to watch out for so many little dangerous things and continually remove children from unsafe situations. There are also a lot of regulars who bring their kids here and don't supervise them at all while moms sit together and chat. We frequently have problems with unsupervised kids taking toys away from my children, pushing them out of the way in lines, etc. It can also get uncomfortable when kids who are being ignored by their parents try to push in on my play with my own kids and don't respect boundaries.
Overall if you live in SRQ and need a place for an occasional play date this is ok if you know what you're in for, but it's not worth the hassle and safety issues for anyone on vacation or with limited time.
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