Play for All

Appears in the March 2024 issue.

A new inclusive indoor play space finds a home in south Naperville

Play equipment in We Rock the Spectrum

It was a real struggle for Plainfield couple Maureen and Brad Hatfield to take their kids out for a day of family fun. “We have two very different children, very close in age,” Maureen says. “My daughter is a bookworm, someone who can be easily overwhelmed by loud music and things of that nature; she likes a quiet Saturday. My son is Johnny Energy. He wants to go to the place with the strobe light and the trampoline.”

One rainy morning, the Hatfields made a serendipitous discovery. “It was miserable out, and we were all looking for something new to do,” Maureen says. Knowing her kiddos’ preferences—her daughter sensory-avoidant and her son sensory-seeking—she Googled “sensory-friendly indoor playground” and We Rock the Spectrum in Franklin Park popped up. They learned it was part of a national franchise, and after spending the day there, they were so enamored with the concept that they decided to open their own location in Naperville.

A child playing at We Rock the Spectrum

The Hatfields debuted their outpost in November, near Route 59 and 111th Street (5019 Ace Ln.). Daily admission for open play is $14 per child for two hours, with discounts for siblings ($12) and certain time frames (such as $10 for “toddler time” mornings). They also offer monthly memberships, discounted packages for multiple visits, birthday parties, and classes.

“Something for everyone” is definitely the theme here. “Usually you don’t go to the library and there’s a zipline, and you don’t go to the trampoline park and there’s a reading corner,” Maureen says. From the low-lit calming room with books and flexible seating to the trampoline and zipline with crash pad, kids have plenty of options. Not to mention the swings, climbing structures, and arts-and-crafts area.

A sitting area in We Rock the Spectrum
We Rock the Spectrum in Naperville

Maureen is a former special education teacher and administrator, and Brad has worked in data analytics. “We had very different backgrounds, but we both had the same interest in finding something that we could both contribute to,” Maureen says. Their passion for inclusive play spaces has grown in part out of their own experience advocating for their son, who has apraxia of speech and uses an augmentative and alternative communication device to communicate. “One of the things we worked on was getting communication boards put in at the playground of our son’s school so he could communicate at recess without his device,” Maureen says. “I believe play is a birthright; all kids should be able to play.”

Though the phrase “on the spectrum” has become shorthand for autism spectrum disorder, specifically, We Rock the Spectrum is about providing an inclusive play space for all children. “The therapeutic day schools and early intervention programs have been great about spreading the word about us, and the disability community has shown up in droves,” Maureen says. “What people might be wondering is: Can my typically developing kids have fun here? Can my child who has a disability’s sibling play here too? It’s for everyone, and we really do mean that. I promise your typically developing kid will have fun on the zipline, too.”


Photos: Tim Gough