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Adrienne Krock, editor
Pinocchio's Workshop at the Grand Californian

Many of Downtown Disney's restaurants are ideal for adult evenings, and "local" parents like Kevin and myself can enjoy dinner and a movie at Downtown Disney while our friends take care of the child for the evening. A vacationing family never had such a luxury, until now. With the opening of the Grand Californian Hotel, Disneyland Resort finally hosts its own child care center, Pinocchio's Workshop (PW).

Pinocchio's Workshop at the Grand Californian

Tucked away in a corner of the Grand Californian Hotel, Pinocchio's Workshop provides child care in a group setting seven days a week from 5 p.m. to midnight. The center accepts children ages 5 to 12, "Just like our hours," says Drew Cohen, Grand Californian resident manager.

Pinocchio's Workshop adheres to California State Social Services requirements for child care centers. The maximum capacity for the center is 12 children, and the center maintains a minimum staff- to- child ratio of one to 12, although according to Mr. Cohen, an additional cast member is available when needed. Per California state standards, the staff is certified in CPR and must submit to fingerprint screening to check for past and current criminal activity.

Pinocchio's Workshop at the Grand Californian

When children arrive at Pinocchio's Workshop (above), they enter through a swing gate that is otherwise kept locked. As each family arrives, a cast member (CM) takes a photo of the children and their parents or legal guardians. Since only parents or legal guardians can register a child at the center, the CMs use these photos as a security measure to ensure that children only leave with those adults authorized to take them. Parents are given a pager before leaving for the evening, so that the PW staff can contact them for emergencies.

Pinocchio's Workshop at the Grand Californian

Children can store their belongings in a cubby near the front of the center (above left). This area opens up to the main play area where children can play at child- size tables. The environment of Pinocchio's Workshop is reminiscent of a classical European carpenter's workshop, and the carpeting is actually patterned to look like a hardwood floor! In this main area, children can participate in arts and crafts projects such as painting, coloring, and beading. Nearby bookshelves house board games, play dough, puzzles, books, and toys. CMs also engage children in storytelling.

Pinocchio's Workshop at the Grand Californian

The next room features three different electronic alternatives (above). First are three computers on which children can play age- appropriate software from Disney, and includes such children's titles as "Typing with Timon and Pumbaa," "Monopoly," "My Disney Kitchen," and "Tonka Space Station." Two TVs come equipped with Sony Playstations, with games such as "Little Mermaid II," "Mary Kate and Ashley Magical Mystery Mall," "Wheel of Fortune," "Nascar," "Emperor's New Groove," and of course, "Who Wants to be a Millionaire."

Pinocchio's Workshop at the Grand Californian

A "theater" with a giant screen TV (shown above) completes this area, where children can choose from several G-rated Disney DVD favorites such as A Goofy Movie, Robin Hood, Beauty and the Beast, Tarzan, and Three Caballeros, as well as the PG-rated Flubber.

Pinocchio's Workshop at the Grand Californian

A kitchen area (above) allows the Pinocchio's Workshop staff to prepare a snack of fresh fruit and yogurt for children. Parents of children staying over four hours are strongly encouraged to purchase an evening meal for an additional $5. Balanced meals are prepared to meet with social services guidelines. Children choose from five entrees: hot dog, hamburger, grilled cheese, chicken nuggets, or peanut butter and jelly. All are served with milk and vegetable sticks, usually carrots or celery.

Pinocchio's Workshop keeps late operating hours and some children may get sleepy. Cots are set up in quiet area behind the cubbies for children who want to nap. The cubbies are low so CMs can easily monitor this area while little ones rest.

Pinocchio's Workshop at the Grand Californian

Pinocchio's Workshop has its own restroom (shown above), themed appropriately for the center. The wallpaper in the restroom is fun; alphabet letters provide a charm appropriate for a child-centered environment while the pattern and color of the paper blend perfectly with the decor of the Grand Californian. The restroom has a slightly lowered toilet, although not too low, since it also accommodates children as old as 12.

Unfortunately the toilet flushes automatically; this seems to be the wave of Disneyland's future, even in child- oriented facilities such as Pinocchio's Workshop, and the Baby Care Center at Disney's California Adventure park.

This service is available only for on-property guests: Those staying at the Grand Californian can make reservations for Pinocchio's Workshop up to two months in advance, while guests staying at the Paradise Pier Hotel and Disneyland Hotel can make same- day reservations, pending space availability.

Pinocchio's Workshop at the Grand Californian

Pinocchio's Workshop charges $9 per hour per child with no minimum stay, and up to the full seven hours the center is open at night. A three- hour minimum fee will be charged for guests who fail to show up or cancel their reservations with less than 24 hours' notice.

All Disneyland Hotels offer baby- sitting services through an outside contractor for guests who prefer to have a private baby sitter in their room, or whose children are under 5.

Child care centers have been available at Walt Disney World in Orlando for many years, and it's great to finally see this service duplicated in Anaheim. If your child is within the 5- to- 12 age range, Pinocchio's Workshop should be a big hit. Mr. Cohen reports that some children are left to tears because they do not want to leave when their parents come to pick them up -- now that's guest satisfaction!


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Adrienne here.

Pinocchio's Workshop

All photographs in this column by Adrienne Krock

MORE ON CHILDCARE CENTERS:

Brian Bennett maintains a list of WDW's child care centers. Click here to find locations, phone numbers, hours of operation, and more information.

Grand Californian guests may make reservations for Pinocchio's Workshop by calling (714)-956-6755. Paradise Pier and Disneyland Hotel guests should plan to consult with their hotel concierge desks to check for availability and make same- day reservations.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adrienne gathered experience taking children to amusement parks when she worked as a day camp counselor and director. She was an elementary school teacher before she started her favorite job: being Matthew and Spencer's mom.

Adrienne, Matthew and Spencer visit Disneyland several times a month, usually with Daddy.

Besides Matthew and Spencer, Adrienne and her husband Kevin created and maintain the award-winning Happiest Potties on Earth here at MousePlanet.

You can contact Adrienne here.

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