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This summer, bring back the art of the fort

Summer vacation just started for my children.

Which makes me think of my own summer vacations several decades ago. My sisters and I would sleep in til 7:30 (only 10 minutes later than we grudgingly awoke on school days), eager to suck the marrow out of all the daylight. We’d get dressed and chomp down some Count Chocula, sailing out the screen door with our pigtails flying behind us.

We’d start playing with these, making as much merriment noise as we could to get the other neighborhood kids to come out and join us. Soon Gaylee and Pam, Tyler and Greg and assorted other grade-schoolers poured out of their houses and into the street. We’d play kickball and kick the can and explore the woods on the edges of our neighborhood. More days than not we’d do our absolute favorite activity, building forts.

We’d head into someone’s backyard, usually

Cherry Creek Shopping Center Clears the Table for a New Kids Play Area

Breakfast is no longer on the menu at Cherry Creek Shopping Center.

The giant eggs, waffles, fruit and bacon that made up the mall’s roly- poly kid zone are gone, soon to be replaced by a menagerie of familiar, larger-than-life characters.

The popular play area in the southeast corner of the mall’s lower level never had an official name, but youngsters and their parents gave the toddler-friendly playground their own names, like “The Breakfast” or “The Bacon Place.”

A cozy pit outside of Macy’s, “The Breakfast” moved into the mall in 1998. But now, without the happy noise of kids jumping on ottoman-size chunks of banana and sliding on bacon slices, the area is oddly quiet.

Suddenly the mall feels, well, all grown up.

But the businesslike calm is only temporary: “The Breakfast’s” replacement, officially called The Rocky Mountain Play Park, is slated to open Thursday.

“The former play park had been there for many years, and we’d been able to renovate it a couple times, but it was starting to age,” says Cherry Creek mall general manager Nick LeMasters. “We felt it was an opportunity to do something different and fun and exciting.”

He added that there’s been no decision about where the breakfast-food play equipment will end up, but it may be installed in another one of the malls operated by The Taubman Co., which owns Cherry Creek mall.

Sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, the new play area will feature Warner Bros. “Looney Tunes” characters. Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig and the gang will populate the indoor park, inviting little ones to expend some energy by clambering over them.

“It’ll be lot of climbing, a lot of sliding, a lot of crawling,” LeMasters says, “but in an environment that’s going to be quite a departure from the breakfast food.”

Beyond that, LeMasters is tight- lipped about the details of the new play area.

“It tells a story in a way (that) only Warner Bros. could help bring to life,” LeMasters says. “We think that the kids will be thrilled with what they see.”

Visitors to the shopping center this weekend will find the old breakfast play area to be little more than an undecorated open space. Even the carpet and benches are gone. “It’s a complete redo from top to bottom,” LeMasters says.

Like the breakfast foods, the new equipment is from Englewood’s Playtime Creations, which specializes in soft, foam- based pieces.

But that description serves as little consolation to the parents and tykes who grew to love “The Breakfast.”

Brooke Austin lets out a woeful “aw … sad,” when she hears the old mall play area is gone for good. The Denver-area mom has been taking her 2-year-old son, Freedom, to the Cherry Creek mall to play since he could walk. “He loved it!”

She adds that another mall closer to their home is never as fun for her son. “The Breakfast” helped make Cherry Creek one of his favorite destinations. “It was a nice little break for mommies that have to go shopping,” Austin says.

Twila Warner has four kids who she says were big fans of “The Breakfast.”

“I think the thing that they liked about it was they could play whatever they wanted,” she says. “It was great for all sorts of pretend games. … The playscape was really varied.

“If what they put in is varied in the same way,” Warner adds, “we’ll probably go more often. … I’ll have to wait and see.”

The grand opening of The Rocky Mountain Play Park at Cherry Creek Shopping Center begins at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. Representatives from Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, the shopping center and Warner Bros. will gather for an official ribbon-cutting ceremony. The park opens to the public at 10 a.m. Thursday.

Stay tuned for Julie’s review on this play area with oodles of pictures on Tuesday!

-Kathleen St. John

Mama Drama: Sibling Rivalry and Playtime Struggles

Dear Mama Drama,

I recently took my 6 and 8 year old daughters to a pumpkin carving contest. It is a wonderful family event that focuses more on community than competition, but the pumpkins are judged and there are winners. My 6 year old won and my 8 year old did not.  At first, the 8 year old was very supportive of her sister, but then she started crying. When we finally got to the root of the problem, she was upset that she had given her sister ideas and that her sister had won and she didn’t.

This sibling competition expresses itself frequently in negative ways in our family and I am unsure how to react or what to do about it.  Growing up most of my life as an only child, I really don’t understand and am not very sympathetic to sibling rivalry.

How can I encourage my children to be loving supportive sisters and discourage them from being self-centered and competitive?

~Seeking Harmony

Dear Seeking Harmony:

Sibling rivalry is a normal part of growing up with brothers and sisters, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have that harmony you are seeking.