Dylan Ray still has 17 years remaining until he can legally obtain his commercial driver’s license, but luckily the 4-year-old is content driving trucks his own size.
“My favorite toy is a cement truck,” the pre-K student answered before deciding to end the interview early. “I want to go play in the sand now.”
Kids Dig is Dylan’s new favorite hotspot. The indoor play area is an 825-square-foot sandbox filled with 40 tons of sand and dozens of toy trucks, located north of Southwest Plaza Mall. It’s a hands-on environment for kids ages 3 to 10 to learn about the construction trade. The play area had its grand opening Saturday, and of course, Dylan was among the kids in attendance.
Dylan lives with his mother, Jenn Ray, in an apartment in Littleton that doesn’t have a backyard.
“The second we left we were already planning our next visit,” said Jenn, who had visited Kids Dig two days in a row. “He wouldn’t leave unless he could come back.”
Dylan, who wants to be a firefighter when he grows up, is on the autism spectrum, and his mother said that physical play such as that provided at Kids Dig is what Dylan’s body craves.
“Carrying stuff and sand play just works really well for what his body needs,” she said. “He really needs all this heavy work.”
Jenn first noted Dylan’s love for getting dirty when they visited family on the East Coast a couple of weeks ago.
“We were at the beach, and it was really hard getting him to leave,” she said.
But Kids Dig offers more than a fun play environment for kids to be physically active, it also provides learning opportunities important to kids’ development such as learning how to follow rules, what they mean and why they’re important, along with learning how to share the toys.
“All these tools are brilliant because they require coordination and thought process,” Jenn said. “And they show the kids cause-and-effect, so even as a mom it’s really cool watching their little brains working and figuring all the equipment out. … It’s so great to watch them develop socially in places like this.”
The business is among the first of its kind in the state and one of just a few in the country, according to a news release.
Owner Garry Wolff said he got his idea, which he decided to make a reality in December, from “all the apartments and condos that you see all over the place.”
“That’s what I think when I drive by now: Where are these kids playing?”
Wolff spent several years building houses himself after working for a builder when he was in high school.
“They’re at that age, 3 to 10 years old, where (they) might start developing what they might want to do,” Wolff said. He also commented on kids’ lack of exposure to trades such as construction due to budget cuts in schools. Plus, physical and social interaction is important to the parents who frequent Kids Dig.
“It’s different playing an application construction game and actually touching something and interacting with it,” said Dianne Wolff, co-owner of Kids Dig.
Jennifer Meister of Thornton made the trek with her son Charlie, who turns 4 in February, after hearing about Kids Dig on social media. Jennifer and Charlie said they’re always looking for something to do indoors that doesn’t involve jumping on trampolines or a play area inside a fast-food restaurant.
“This is just a great idea; there’s just nothing like this anywhere,” Jennifer said. “Anything to keep him interested and he’s not sitting in front of the TV or his tablet.”
“When it gets cold and the weather’s bad, they can just come here and the kids can still have fun and still be in an outdoor-ish environment,” Dianne said. “If your child likes adventure, they’ll like Kids Dig.”