Pretend City

the map of Pretend City

We (meaning the kids I babysit and Bug and I) went to this really cool place called Pretend City yesterday. It’s in Irvine and relatively new. I think they even opened this month. It’s super popular, loud and crowded but I think that might be only because they’ve been written about a lot in the local media lately. It’s geared toward ages 2-5 so if you have a kid that age who is a non-napper, I’d recommend going in the afternoon and avoid the morning rush. It was crazytown in the morning. Crazy but fun though. We loved it.

off to the farm

Basically it’s a pretend city (hence the name) in big office warehouse type building. They’ve got a bank and a grocery store, a farm and a police station… library, etc etc etc. Everything is kid-sized of course and you can play. Pretty much it’s your pretend world with real props. Well, plastic ones of course. You can work on the farm and dig up plastic vegetables, pick plastic apples off the wall and then take them to the market.

picking fruit

I might have to use this idea in a mural someday.

Fisherman Bug

You can put on real rubber boots, a rain coat of sorts and a real fisherman’s hat and go fish in the marina. Bug loved the water works. Once you catch a fish with your net you can even wrap it up in brown paper. I loved that detail.

catching some... fish?

It’s all handled really well with minimal mess and fuss. I’m surprised that they can allow kids to get so hands on with so many props without chaos breaking out. I really hope this concept sticks.


Of course the water area was very popular.


What is cool about this little town is that kids can get a job so to speak or at least understand how jobs work. You can try on costumes, pretend to work and then punch your time card. They have little paper punch cards that they can stamp at various locations and then take to an ATM that dispenses real paper cash. That was a huge hit.


Of course nothing is super computerized or anything and you can rob the bank quite easily by sticking your punch card into the ATM over and over but that’s besides the point. Though I found it humorous that the seven-year-old boy I’m babysitting spent most of his time in the city swindling other little kids. Not that I think he’s going to grow up to be a con man or anything but I thought it was a bit funny that corruption breaks out no matter what the size of your population. And by size I mean, little kids.

checking out

After you get your hard-earned paper money you can go to the grocery store (sponsored by Ralphs, which I thought was cool. Go Ralphs!) and buy stuff! Bug LOVED this part. I think I have a little shopper on my hands. What I really liked about the grocery store area though was how the checkers (little girls in our case) took their job so seriously. There was no adult telling them what to do but they took each item and carefully scanned it. Then they hit a few keys and asked their little customer for whatever dollar amount they made up in their head. It was so real it was creepy. It really makes you realize how play is just preparation for the real world.

restaurant worker

There was also a restaurant to work in.

sound check

And a theatre. Bug took a liking to the sound controls. The music was preset in one minute tracks but you could push buttons and make funny sounds. That was cool.

figuring out how a toilet works

fixing things

The building and construction areas were great. I would have liked to explore them more and take more pictures but they were very very busy with boys, naturally. Let me tell you, it was challenging to take photos in this place without getting everyone and their cousin in the shot too. Not to mention the lighting was unnatural (fluorescent? sodium? both?) and I HATE to use my flash so most of my photos are blurry but I figured you’d forgive me. It’s a place that you really have to see to understand, so blogging with photos seemed important.

making sushi

We ended our visit in the art studio which made me happy of course. The kids made paper sushi. I thought that was ingenious. It’s basically a section of toilet paper roll wrapped in black construction paper, stuffed with tissue and then decorated with real rice and bits of colored paper. They looked remarkably real for paper and tissue.

cheesy is the new bershon

Then we posed in the funny shadow area. There were so many things to do. We missed a lot of them because we were hungry for lunch. I could seriously see burning several hours here–which is nice for us because we are in the middle of a heat wave and it is HOT HOT HOT at home when you don’t have air conditioning. Spending some time in this indoor city was a blissful relief for me. I don’t care how many kids I have to wade through.

So that’s that! I’d give this place a thumbs up. And this is NOT a paid review. My trip was sponsored by the mom of the kids I babysit but admission is $10 for anyone older than 12 months and military and seniors get discounts. We say, “Check check check it out!”

Long live the epic walk!

beautiful Orange County

We set out on an epic walk today. I’m sorry for using that word, epic. I read somewhere that somebody hates it when people use that word to describe things other than something something something but I can’t remember what the something something was or who said it or what irritated them about that word being misused so I’m going to use it anyway because I’m ignorant and it has a nice ring to it.


Bug had a bee in her bonnet about taffy and I only know of one place where you can get taffy (besides the grocery store of course but that’s boring or Old Town in San Diego which is a bit out of our way). That place that I know is Balboa Island. There is a candy store there that has barrels of the stuff. So we decided to walk there.

I don’t want to completely give away where we live (though it’s not that hard to figure out thanks to google and some bad choices I made several years ago) so I won’t say how far we walked to get to Balboa Island. But it was far. Far enough that it took up most of our day but it was the best day walking adventure we have ever had. It wasn’t really that far where we would need to pack water and a lunch but we dilly-dallied. Something Bug does very well.

Terrace Park

We discovered a new park that has fantastic play equipment. While Bug sea-sawed and swung on the swings, I day dreamed about all the birthday parties I could host there if only Bug’s birthday wasn’t in January. I might just have to throw her a half birthday party some year because summer birthdays are so much more fun than winter birthdays.

bay comber

When we finally pried ourselves away from our new favorite park and ambled over the bridge to Balboa Island, we found that there was a sand castle contest going on. Who knew! Not us. I really need to stay more updated on these things. We LOVE sand castle contests.

Balboa Island Sand Castle Contest

Balboa Island’s sand castle contest was just our speed too because the beach there is so narrow that the castles were pretty small and un-impressive. We could have entered this contest and beat the pants off them. Next year I might just have to do that. Also, unlike our local sand castle contest, this event is on a Saturday which means I might be able to enlist my family who can never make it to anything other than meeting (church) on Sunday. Pass it on, Mom!

bay castles

We walked around a good chunk of the island. Bug chose the water route and ducked under all the docks that moor boats along the water’s edge. She got a kick out of waking up all the ducks that sleep there in the shade during the heat of the day.

Walking around the island is so pleasant. There is a big walk way along the water and butting right up against it are all the tiny little Mc-mansions. Everyone is always out enjoying the day and many of them strike up a conversation with you if you are walking slow enough, which we always are. Bug made many friends today.

kid in a candy shop

Of course we got some taffy and then it was lunch time so I ate three tacos while Bug ate three bites. As you may have gathered, I’m not so swift on uptake when it comes to the no-treats-before-lunch-rule so I paid dearly for that one. And then I spoiled her even more by letting her get a frozen banana that Balboa Island is so famous for.

frozen banana from Balboa!

I was thinking that she might eat the banana and get some nourishment from that but I am an idiot because she ate all the chocolate and sprinkles off the banana and then decided she wasn’t hungry anymore! I should have known better. I would have eaten the mushy frozen banana but my teeth are sensitive and I don’t really like cold things. Yes, it’s true. I drink my water at room temperature and I don’t like ice cream that much.


Then we ambled back home just in time for Bug to fall dead asleep in her bed an hour late for her nap. Which was fine. We’re living summer hours here at La Casa de Ponnay. Bedtime is often pushed back an hour or more. I don’t really don’t care that much. Sometimes she even sleeps in when I let her stay up and then I don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn, which is really really nice.

It was a great day. I’m tired out from walking. Bug is tired out from playing. I don’t feel guilty for keeping her inside all day watching tv or stuck in the car while I run errands. It was a great Bug and Mom day. Long live the epic walk!