Bellaboo's was developed with the understanding that children are active learners and possess a natural curiosity that requires direct sensory experience rather than conceptual generalization. The play of most young children centers around their incredible imaginations so any enabling learning environment needs to promote and support imaginative role-play with props and loose parts so children can develop their own play scripts, Self-guided play in a child-sized supermarket or construction zone, for example, provides areas for children not only to interact with others, but to participate in dramatic play that promotes intellectual growth. Bolder-climbing, dinosaur dig, pedal cart, music area, and hands-on garden are created outdoors in a way that stimulates the imagination.
The impetus for building Bellaboo's in 2008 was the Lake County, Indiana Parks and Recreation Department's self-assessment that our young learners were underserved and that a dynamic, exciting, fun, comfortable place for them to play and develop needed to be offered.
In 2015 Bellaboo's joined the Association of Children's Museums and sought out a university partner to help reorganize play as learning made visible to our guests. The first stop was input from our patrons. Purdue Northwest was awarded a "Service Engagement Grant" that allowed us to co-host a pair of "Listening to Communities" events to gather in formation on how to best serve our guests while strengthening our children's museum and university partnership. From it, we were able to gather needs of guests to unveil how we could best support families and children for learning.
Accessibility & Inclusion
Bellaboo's universal design was created by White Hutchinson Learning and Leisure Group and features developmentally-appropriate play activities both indoor and out. Everything from color palettes, room portals, entryways, the curve of the building, environmentally-friendly building materials, good quality and multi-cultural toys, multiple heights of play structures to accommodate short, tall and children who use wheelchairs, signage, safety; all these and more were closely evaluated and deliberately chosen for the award-winning design of Bellaboo's.
Bellaboo's serves as a place where all of these people made to feel welcome. Children from all different backgrounds are invited to play together, side by side. Universally designed and inclusive of and sensitive to all people no matter their origins, family type, economic barriers or educational barriers. Bellaboo's is a place for ALL people to come together through play.