Medina site offers indoor playground, educational activities

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 September 2020 at 3:12 pm

AJ’s Play Date expects to be a draw in the region

Photos by Tom Rivers: Adam and Kerry Papaj are pictured with their sons, Aiden (11) and Arik (7). The family opened AJ’s Play Date on Aug. 24 at 627 West Ave., at a former women’s gym across from Lee-Whedon Memorial Library.

MEDINA – A Medina family has opened a new business that caters to children who love to play.

AJ’s Play Date opens at time when many youth programs have been shut down or curtailed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Adam and Kerry Papaj have transformed a site for a former women’s gym into a one-of-kind playground with other activities that get kids ages 2 to 12 jumping, climbing, building and exploring.

There is lots to do at AJ’s Play Date, which opened Aug. 24 in Medina.

Kerry Papaj, a speech pathologist the past 26 years at Lyndonville Central School, designed the playground and the space at AJ’s. There is a trampoline in the center of the playground, and swings, stairs, a spiky spinner, a webbed bridge, tunnels and other obstacles for gross and sensory motor play.

The Papajs also set up a double train table, two doll houses and pretend play center with a kitchen, laundry, grocery store and ice cream/bake shop.

Arik Papaj climbs up the enclosed stairs that are part of the playground.

Mrs. Papaj said the playground has been well received by all children in the past two weeks. The family created the space to be friendly with children on the autism spectrum who have sensory processing issues. AJ’s has activities for gross motor play, such as jumping and running.

There are also many activities for sensory motor play – touch, smell, taste, movement, balance, sight and hearing – and fine motor play for skills such as writing, pushing Lego blocks together and opening and closing latches.

If kids need a break from the main play room, they can try the calming room with a lighted cube and translucent Legos.

Kerry Papaj, a speech pathologist at Lyndonville Central School, designed the playground to help children on the autism spectrum who may have sensory processing issues. She is shown on the trampoline.

AJ’s is named for Adam and sons Aiden and Arik, whose first and middle initials are all AJ. The family had been considering the indoor playground center for the past three years. They were aiming to open on March 1, but Covid-19 delayed the project. They weren’t able to receive the playground equipment until July.

AJ’s is currently limiting the site to less than 25 percent of its capacity or no more than 25 children at a time.

The Papajs offer the space for two hours and preregistration is required. Then AJ’s closes for an hour to allow for a deep cleaning.

It is open seven days a week, Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., for four two-hour sessions, and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. for two two-hour play times.

A boy ventures down the web walk in the playground.

Kerry and Adam are both very involved in youth sports programs in the Medina area. Mrs. Papaj was a volleyball and softball coach at Lyndonville. She is president of the LOYAL youth soccer organization in Medina, Lyndonville and Roy-Hart.

Mr. Papaj is a Medina school bus driver. He will open the business at 9 a.m. after doing his morning bus runs. He coaches his son’s U12 baseball team.

The family wanted an indoor play area in Medina. They said there are few options for indoor playgrounds in the region, especially those that are sensitive to children with sensory processing issues.

They see AJ’s as complimenting a growing business scene in Medina that is drawing visitors from outside the community.

Adam and Kerry Papaj teamed with Hank Brummer to offer Challenge Island.

The Papajs also teamed with Hank Brummer of Newfane to offer Challenge Island, a STEAM program with activities for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math.

Challenge Island uses space in a  room next to the playground. That room will also have a concessions stand. Challenge Island uses many household products or supplies that are used to solve engineering problems.

Brummer also offers the Challenge Island at the Niagara Shores Campground in Olcott. The program offers hands-on learning using household items such as paper toll rolls to demonstrate momentum, energy and other scientific principles.

“It’s getting kids active,” Brummer said. “It’s getting them away from computers and getting them socializing.”

Aidan Papaj rides the bolster swing. The playground is sanitized after every group uses it. It takes a solid hour to wipe down and spray all the equipment.

AJ’s hopes to give home-schooling families or kids doing schoolwork remotely a chance to get out and play and do other educational activities.

The site also is available for birthday parties.

For more information, click here.

The calming room has a lighted cube for kids looking for a break from the action in the main room.

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