The new sensory gym is aimed at children with different abilities

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Kalispell is widely seen as the mecca of opportunities to get active, but April Schottelkorb is looking to add activity options for a more diverse population.

Schottelkorb launched Rylee’s Play Place, a sensory gymnasium on Whitefish Stage Road, to create a space that caters to children with different abilities like her daughter Rylee. Schottelkorb took over the new business after she and her family struggled to find a place to play for her 11-year-old daughter, who has autism.

“I wanted a place for kids like her. For all children, ”said Schottelkorb.

Rylee and her 9-year-old sister Alia Johnson love to go to the playgrounds, but these aren’t always appealing to Rylee. Rylee prefers not to wear a coat or shoes, which can create problems, especially during the colder months. And her mom said her behavior often catches the eye of other kids who don’t understand Rylee’s differences.

“I wanted to create a place where it could be better accepted,” Schottelkorb explained.

This place is a new sensory gymnasium in Kalispell, where Rylee can play without his shoes or any judgment.

Rylee’s Play Place is a colorful and bustling menagerie of toys and play equipment inside an old garage. Rylee and other kids of all skill levels can book time slots to come tobogganing, swinging on the swings, or taking off on the indoor zipline. Schottelkorb has strived to include options for everyone at Rylee’s Play Place, from quiet corners with restless toys and a soothing heating blanket, to lighted tunnels under a climbing wall, to a giant foam pit in which daring children can jump off the top of the rock wall. As a nod to Rylee and the mellow, sparkling surroundings of his playground, shoes are not allowed in the property.

“I want to invite children with disabilities and different needs to come and play here,” Schottelkorb said. Fun Factory Sensory Gym, a national sensory gymnastics company, has helped Schottelkorb achieve this by setting up many main attractions, and Schottelkorb has outfitted the space with a few extra touches based on what his own kids love to do.

Johnson said she and her sister enjoy the trampoline and zipline the most, but choppy toys are also one of their favorite parts of Rylee’s Play Place.

The gymnasium is limited to five children at a time, accompanied by a parent and supervisors on site, so everyone has a chance to jump, swing or camp in the teepee. There is no age limit, as Schottelkorb wanted to ensure that Rylee’s Play Place is open to a range of developmental levels, but there is a weight limit for attractions such as the trampoline.

Rylee’s Play Place has two play slots each day of the week, and the space can also be used for parties or dates with a therapist. When not watching her daughters fly through the monkey bars, Schottelkorb works as a play therapist, so she sees Rylee’s Play Place as a vessel to help children communicate.

Rylee’s Play Place has only been open for a week, but in the future, Schottelkorb plans to expand into other spaces nearby to create even more opportunities for his daughters, their friends and children like them to take off your shoes and have fun.

To reserve a slot on Rylee’s Play Place, go to https://www.ryleesplayplace.com. The facility is located at 1322 Whitefish Stage in Kalispell.

Journalist Bret Anne Serbin can be reached at 406-758-4459 or [email protected]

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