At the new indoor family entertainment center in Ellicott City, 3-year-old Ashley Plattner carried a plastic periscope and a green ring that she had just won. She was the victor, but her father, Pete, was the one smiling.
"It's fun," said Pete Plattner, 33, of Wheaton, after rope-climbing and walking through plastic balls in the new Enchanted Forest's Family Fun Jungle. "I had a blast."
Ashley nodded in agreement.
Later on, Peter Ressler, 8, scored 170 points playing skee ball and won three purple tickets to redeem a prize. He, too, was having fun.
The Plattners and Peter are a few of the adults and children who have visited the new Fun Jungle at the Enchanted Forest Shopping Center, which opened July 15.
"We can't even keep up with the traffic," said Jeffrey S. Pechter, the fun jungle's co-owner and vice president of JHP Development, which purchased the 32-acre theme park three years ago for $4.5 million.
A week after the 8,200 square-foot Fun Jungle opened, Mr. Pechter said the staff had already booked 150 birthday parties.
The Fun Jungle features an obstacle course area, a video game showroom, prizes, a health-food snack bar, two party rooms, a story-telling spot, a gift shop and viewing areas where parents can watch their children play. There's a carousel outside.
Players of all ages can use redemption tickets they receive playing games to select prizes the same day or choose to get a certificate to get a prize another day. The process is like a "banking system," said director Kristen Eddins.
Admission is free, but once inside the entertainment center, parents and children pay for the individual games and events they choose to play. People pay between $1.95 and $4.95 to run an obstacle course-like event called the "jungle challenge" for up to an hour.
Parents and children who enter the 5-and-over jungle challenge or the 3-and-under ball bath (a circle filled with plastic balls that children wade through) must wear a color-coded security bracelet so staff can monitor their whereabouts. An alarm sounds if a child wanders away from the play center or if parents get separated from their children.
Mr. Pechter wouldn't say how much his company spent to build the Fun Jungle, or estimate its revenue.
The Fun Jungle is one of the largest non-competitive play settings in the nation, Mr. Pechter said. The only complaint expressed by a patron Tuesday afternoon was that the jungle challenge was not air-conditioned.
Ms. Eddins said patrons often compare the center to Chuck E Cheese's. But unlike that child-entertainment establishment, she said the Fun Jungle combines physical fitness and fun to offer "playrobics." For example, the jungle challenge features 18 physical activities, including rope swinging and tunnel crawling.
"It's an aerobic exercise," Ms. Eddins said, adding it allows children to use their cognitive thinking skills, too.
Sweating was what the jungle challenge made Jana Price, 31, do.
She and her two young children had taken the challenge Tuesday afternoon, swinging on ropes and crawling through tunnels.
"I'm pooped," she said, wearing a sweaty T-shirt. "It's great!"
Meanwhile, other children playing "wacky gator" tried to pound toy alligators popping out of holes with hammers before the gators popped down again. Other kids dove into the ball bath or punched video game buttons.
The Plattners, who were enjoying a family day together, said the $10.50 they spent at the center was worth the hour of fun they had and that they planned to return.
"It keeps [children] entertained," said Corinne Smith-Plattner, 37. There are a lot of activities they can do."
The opening of the Fun Jungle means that the opening of the entire theme park is progressing after three years of dormancy. The park will open next summer, Mr. Pechter said.