14-month son motivation behind new kids play center

Parents in Carson Valley have a new place to take their young children thanks to the ingenuity of Chichester residents Amanda and D'Art Johnson.

"We were really motivated by Logan," Amanda Johnson said Monday morning. "My husband and I wanted to get into our own business, and this seemed like the perfect venue to start."

Logan is the couple's 14-month-old son. On Monday, with smiles and giggles, he gave tacit approval of his parent's new business, Urban Jungle, located in the Mountain View Professional Center in downtown Gardnerville.

For children 6 and under, the 1,600-square-foot indoor play center houses a ball pit, inflatable bounce house, magnet boards and an art room. In one corner, there are lounge chairs and magazines for parents. In fact, there's a special room for parents with a coffee maker and bulletin board.

"I love bringing my son to work with me," Amanda Johnson said, "doing stuff that's beneficial to him."

Johnson has lived in Gardnerville her entire life. Her parents are Peter and Linda Beekhof, who own the Mountain View building. A 2002 graduate of Douglas High School, Johnson earned a degree in human development and family studies from the University of Nevada, Reno. She worked as a preschool teacher in college and later as a prevention coordinator for the Partnership of Community Resources.

Life changed, though, when she and her husband, also a Douglas High graduate, had Logan.

"I stayed home for a year, and I started getting antsy for a project," Johnson said.

Visiting family in Sacramento, the young parents took Logan to some indoor play centers in the city. At home in Gardnerville, however, they couldn't find a similar destination.

"There are some up at Tahoe, but it's a 45-minute drive, and we know we're not going to be able to get up there in the winter," she said.

Thus opportunity presented itself. It took four weeks of family members pitching in, ripping down walls and painting everything in bright, playful colors for the idea to become a reality.

Urban Jungle's official grand opening was Nov. 13, during which the new business hosted 42 children, Johnson reported. Now, she said the center averages about five kids a day, though she'd like to see that number increase two-fold.

"That's been with minimal advertising and a lot of word-of-mouth," she said.

The center also offers birthday parties, and Melissa & Doug and P'kolino toys. In the future, Johnson envisions on-site classes ranging from informational sessions with parents to art and music classes for children.

"It's already surpassed my expectations," she said. "Hopefully, it will only go up from here."

Located at 1528 Highway 395, Suite 130, Urban Jungle's business hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, call 783-7228 or visit www.urbanjunglekids.com.


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