Toboga offers active family fun indoors

Entertainment centers provide a place for running and jumping in any weather

Too many activities for children these days aren't active at all — computer games, videos and even rides like carousels stress sitting in one place rather than exercise.

Children's play centers in the Czech Republic operating under the Toboga brand name seek to change that by offering a place for safe, active fun for the whole family.

Tomáš Valášek, the man behind the four Toboga locations including one in Prague, saw a gap on the Czech market after seeing some fun centers in Germany. He decided to create something similar.

Toboga has a simple pricing structure. There are no hidden costs or extras. Parents and children get plastic wrist bands so they can come and go during the day. They can go and shop or have lunch and come back for example. There is no fee to re-enter, and no hidden costs save for a symbolic fee to use electric cars so everyone can have a chance. There is also a restaurant in the play center for those who don't want to go out again once they get there.

The Prague center, located near the Zličín metro stop at the Avion Shopping Park, opened in May. He opened his first center in Zlín in 2008 and later added two more in Brno and Hradec Králové. All of the centers are operated by family members.

The center stresses active fun and sports. There are no computer games, no video screens, no vending machines and no gambling machines with mechanical arms that grab for plush toys. “I let my children help in developing the idea. I watched to see what they were most interested in playing on,” Valášek said. The center's attractions also are not passive. There are no carousels or rides where one simply sits.

Instead, there are slides and places to climb and jump and run, and to play. Parents can participate as well on 90 percent of the attractions, if they wish, Valášek said. There are no pools or water attractions; all of the activities are indoors, and all of them are made to high standards by companies based in Europe.

Slides are the most popular. “But the kids love all the attractions. They never get bored and run from one thing to another,” Valášek said. The attractions also help teach children to make friends in the real world and to share activities together.

There are things for all ages, beginning with a dragon-based bouncy castle and small slides for toddlers, going up to larger slides, obstacle courses and a rock climbing wall. There are also some table games like air hockey and foosball.

The center is for year-round fun in all types of weather. While parents come with kids in the summer and weekends, during the school year there are school trips as well. There are also special programs on some days with competitions.

The center also has rooms for birthday parties and can provide cakes, food and beverages. The cakes can be delivered by a costumed mascot called Monkey Bongo, who can also join the kids for some ativities. Face painting and other extras can be ordered.

Each of the party rooms has a special design theme, so parents can chose. Room designs include UFO, octopus and vampire. There are also numerous food options ranging from pancakes and ice cream or candy and popcorn to more healthy ones with fresh fruit or chicken cutlets. The birthday parties are very popular among expats and their children, more so than among Czechs.

The whimsical graffiti-style murals throughout the center including in the birthday rooms are by Czech artist Rudolf Brančovský. Valášek said he likes the designs by a local artist and is not interested in trying to license images of cartoon characters or becoming part of an existing entertainment franchise. The Brančovský images give his places a unique identity.

The fun isn't only for kids. One day a month Toboga is open for older students and adults to have fun. On one night each month, the center is open overnight with a special program, so parents can leave the kids there until the morning and have a night out on their own.

For now there are no plans to expand beyond the four existing parks, Valášek said. He would rather concentrate on maintaining quality and keeping Toboga as a family-run firm.

Toboga Fantasy Prague

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