by Jeanni Ritchie

“Go outside and use your imagination,” was the frequent response to cries of boredom in the 70s and 80s. We learned how to create entire worlds from sticks and rocks.

Today’s kids create worlds on tablets and other screens. While there’s some benefit (my grandchild can reset my phone faster than I can find the settings app), excessive screen time can negatively affect children’s brain development, focus, and attention.

But sending them outdoors isn’t the only option in Central Louisiana.

There are three indoor open-play venues in Alexandria designed to let your child’s imagination soar. The best part is, you can join the fun! Play therapy is my number one mental health tip for adults. We could all use a little less stress and a little more play!

One of the oldest and most dedicated organizations to the children of Central Louisiana is the T.R.E.E. House Museum. Stepping in to fill voids such as providing spaces for free foster and bio family visits, no-cost after school tutoring, and sensory integration rooms, the T.R.E.E. House works tirelessly to provide these services and meet the needs of our community.

Their efforts have resulted in incredible fun! A recent visit to a friend’s son’s birthday party had me shopping in the market and being served a delicious meal of chicken and oranges before climbing atop a giant pyramid of foam blocks. Kids freely play in the educational activity and play areas designed to foster inquiry, imagination, and learning.

A Parents Night Out is offered once a month and the fourth Friday of every month is FREE for everyone from 5-8 PM.

They are offering several summer camps for 2024 … Art Camp, Space Camp, Dinosaur Camp, Messy Science Camp, Wild West Camp, and Summer Fun Camp.

But the one I want to attend myself? Swift Popstar Camp! The July 16-19 camp is “all about pop culture and best friend bracelets.” Sign me up!

The T.R.E.E. House museum is located at 1403 3rd St, Alexandria. For more information call 318-619-9394 or email Website:

Right down the road at 1016 3rd St is a newer open-ended play place, Children’s Exploration Oasis.

Created to offer an engaging & Interactive play experience for parents to enjoy with their young children, the museum is set up for children from crawlers to age 10. Or people like me who are still 10 at heart. I had a blast!

With several different career and daily life play experiences, as well as interactive sensory exhibit, it was the best afternoon I’d had in a long time!

A summer punch card with special summer hours are available on their website,, and summer camps will be held for ages 3-7.

Barbie Camp (June 17-21), Frozen Camp (July 8-12), Fun on the Farm Camp (July 15-19), and Bluey Camp (July 22-26) all sound like so much fun that I wish I was young enough to attend!

Visit the website, call 318-623-1689 or email for more information. 

Daily play and monthly memberships are available at Light of Mine Playhouse Cafe, a home away from home, especially for the work-from-home crowd. Owners Christelle Carley and Eden Etienne thought of everything when they opened the open play community-centered venue.

With steady, free WiFi and a multitude of spaces for parents to sit while the kids freely play, this cafe is designed for parents and caregivers as much as it is for the children.

I met Judah Majors, 2, after he rode on toy cars and played with many sensory boards on the wall. He brought me a pair of gardening gloves to slide on his hands as I sat in front of the vet’s office next to the cafe.

There were also puzzles, musical instruments, a wooden sit and spin, slides, a train, and a tea party set.

With soft soothing music playing in the background, some parents worked while others visited. A baby area was separate for children to age 2 along with a private nursing room for mothers. Extra everything was available from wipes to diapers. How many times did we have to leave somewhere because we’d used the last diaper!

Hot food and cold drinks are available in the cafe and special events are held throughout the week.

Story Hour is every Tuesday at 10 AM & 3 PM, complete with crafts. It reminded me of my Preschool Storytime days as a Children’s Librarian. Music and Movement is every Thursday at 10 AM and 3 PM. All of the instruments reminded me of Music class in elementary school, a class that many children never experience anymore.

The nostalgia of old toys and classes brought back incredible memories for me and will undoubtedly be remembered by these children as well.

Light of Mine Playhouse Cafe is located at 6501 Coliseum Blvd, Suite 300. For more information, call 318-704-1110 or email

Jeanni Ritchie can be reached at

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