Smiles spread quickly among small children pounding on a toy piano, playing dress-up in pretend firefighter outfits and whizzing around a tiny town on little cars.
Mothers and grandmothers keep their eyes on their children while unwinding on couches and chairs in the air-conditioned, indoor playground called Giggles in Chandler, on North Alma School Road slightly south of Elliot Road.
The business features old-fashioned wooden play equipment, including jungle gyms, a pretend house, a “treehouse” and slides, as well as kid-friendly, small vehicles, make-believe stoves, baby dolls, a stage with a toy piano, a child’s drum and microphone, an area with faux firefighter and chef clothes and hats and a trampoline.
Open to kids 9 months to 6 years old who are accompanied by adults, it offers a kitchen with a microwave and free coffee, private nursing room and diaper-changing rooms and an enclosed area reserved for birthday parties.
Sanghee Lee and his wife, June, own the indoor playground, but Sanghee spends most of the time operating it while June stays home to take care of their daughters, Addison, 7, and Kylie, 4.
They owned the same type of business, called Hippity Hop, in Corona, California, for three years before selling it and moving to Chandler.
Sanghee said he wanted to start an indoor playground because when his daughters were 1 and 3, there was “no place to go with them.”
“Whenever I see the kids, I love their smile,” said Sanghee, who also designed the playground for children to get exercise, use their imagination and play with other children and not just sit in front of video games.
“My daughter asked me to make a treehouse. I made it,” he said, adding he designed and built it with his wife’s help. “I love to build with wood,” he explained.
Young children run around the soft, rubber-like surface in the mini-city as they dart in and out of play areas. They steer miniature cars on a gray, hard street created in between the play equipment and trampoline.
Adults said they liked the clean business with cedar wood equipment. Sanghee said he likes it because it “smells good.” At its busiest, Giggles can host 75 to 80 children at a time.
Recently, Nikki Brady of Mesa sat on a couch doing a craft project as she watched her daughter Georgia, 4, run all over the playground.
At one point, she got up and played with Georgia as the young girl tried on a simulated firefighter’s vest and plastic helmet and then a pretend chef’s hat and jacket. Georgia grabbed fake food inside a playhouse and put it in a wood stand with shelves to simulate market sales.
“I like it,” Brady said. “She’s got kids to play with. (Georgia’s) loving it. I like this because I can see her and see everywhere she is. Her favorite thing is the dress-up. I like the variety. She loves the music. She hasn’t once asked to play with my phone so that’s a good thing.”
She said the price, $10 a day for unlimited play, was reasonable. Customers also can buy a monthly membership with unlimited visits for $49 per month.
People can rent the party room for $199 for up to 10 children to play for two hours in one day. It costs $10 per additional child after the first 10 kids for the party rentals. Customers can bring their own food and decorations for those gatherings.
Kathy Holmes of Gilbert and Linda Woodyard, who was visiting from Michigan, took their twin granddaughters, Ava and Adalynn Holmes, 3, to play at Giggles.
The twins slid down slides, hung in hammocks, played dress-up and moved around quickly engaging in other activities.
“It’s really cute,” Kathy said. “The kids never wanna go home. We brought their lunch. They love it. They’re active.”
The grandmothers said they liked that they could take the girls to play inside because of the scorching outdoor temperatures.
Sanghee said the community and fellow business owners have been really supportive.
Originally from Korea, he moved to California to attend college. He did not finish, instead working such jobs as a warehouse manufacturer for a company that made jeans. The lower cost of living in Chandler, as compared to California ,prompted him and his family to move here.
“Right here is perfect,” Sanghee said. “I love that Chandler is a developing city. People are so nice.”
He said he also likes that street traffic is relatively light around Giggles and there are many shopping centers in the city.