By Emily Glory Peters
Dream big, children. It’s both sound counsel and part of the name for Dream Big Children’s Center, a beautiful indoor playground in Old Town Monrovia. Hidden behind Pinkberry and headed up by founder Cristina Cordeiro, the center has become a popular spot for kids’ parties—but serves a bigger purpose.
“I wanted Dream Big to be a child’s imaginary play land where they can dress up and express themselves creatively—where families can escape the world of technology and screens and have quality time together,” explains Cordeiro. That quality time extends to the big kids, too. “As a parent it’s also hard to find mom friends, so it was important for me to create a clean, safe space where parents can come together, support each other and relax knowing their kids were in a good place.”
At the center, kids and their pals can move through ten different play spaces, each with different themes. Kids can play cafe at a farmers’ market, build a giant train track, battle it out at air hockey and more. Want the whole space? It’s yours for private parties, which can be as simple as you bringing in your own food/supplies or having every detail fully managed by the Dream Big team— “all you have to do is show up,” Cordeiro says.
Her vision for Dream Big was also shaped by Cordeiro’s heart for children with special needs. As a both a mom and behavioral therapist, she grieved the lack of inclusivity when it came to play for her clients.
“People are becoming more aware of autism and special needs than ever before, but we still have a long way to go. There are more places that are providing autism sensory friendly events such as movie days or venues that open early, but I think that there needs to be more inclusivity where people with autism are included, rather than given their own special but separate time,” Cordeiro remarks.
To bridge that gap, Dream Big Children’s Center includes ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy in their services to boost kids’ social and communication skills. The center’s Little Star program is especially unique.
“Little Star is the only inclusive ABA center-based program in the area for children with autism—and it’s unique because it’s set in our fun play environment where kids can work on critical skills with other children while having the support of their ABA therapist,” says Cordeiro. Designed for kids under five, the program is also Medi-Cal funded.
“So there’s little to no cost for families,” she explains.
Now having expanded her center to a second location in Ontario (with plans for more), Cordeiro is taking her commitment to inclusive fun seriously—but remembers that the little triumphs are the real dream-come-true.
“We have a little boy who started coming to Dream Big when we first opened who couldn’t say any words and had no way to communicate other than crying—now he’s able to communicate through short sentences and play with other children at his preschool,” she says. “I love coming into work and seeing what the kids are up to. I love seeing parents connecting and finding their tribe. It never gets old to see these smiling faces.”
Dream Big Children’s Center is located at 612 S. Myrtle Avenue, Suite 100 in Monrovia with a second location in Ontario. To learn more, contact the Dream Big team at www.dreambigchildren.com | (626) 775-7888 | firstname.lastname@example.org and follow along on Facebook @dreambigchildren and Instagram @dreambigchildrenscenter.