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FOR KIDS : Take a Look and Please Touch : Youth: Treehouse Club lets children try out play equipment. It also holds concerts and workshops.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The name of the Treehouse Club Toy Store in the San Fernando Valley is derived not only from its line of treehouses, swing sets and gyms, but from its bucolic atmosphere.

A true feeling of being “up in the trees” is created partly by the pastoral view of the tree-lined Sherman Oaks hillsides, through the store’s second-story picture windows, and partly by the 20-foot-tall artificial tree with a giant redwood play structure that is at the center of the store.

This breezy feeling is further enhanced by the freedom given parents and kids to browse and use the play equipment, which occupies most of the store’s 2,500 square feet.

One Wednesday morning, a happy toddler was climbing into an open-air fort before embarking down its long slide. His mother was keeping an eye on him while pushing a younger sibling in a baby swing. Another child was pushing a 2 1/2-foot-wide ball resembling the Earth onto a trampoline.

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All the play structures are for sale. Owner Virginia Terman, who developed this toy store in 1987 while pregnant with her first child, believes parents should see the equipment rather than simply order from a catalogue.

Her idea of test-marketing is to observe what children find stimulating and challenging. Twice a month, morning workshops are held for children ages 3 to 6, on various themes such as birds, transportation, animals or recycling. The charge of $1 covers materials used.

Reservations are limited to 15 children so that the staff can work with each child.

Also twice a month, late-afternoon concerts are held, usually to an audience of about 100 youngsters, the maximum allowed by Fire Department regulations. Reservations are required. A $3 charge includes organic snacks.

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Here is a schedule of store events for October:

*Oct. 4: Crafts with recyclables will be offered at 11 a.m.

*Oct 10: Storyteller and singer Cortney Campbell will appear in a mini-concert at 4 p.m.

*Oct 18: Mask making for ages 3 and older begins at 11 a.m.

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*Oct. 24: At 4 p.m., Bob Harrison’s Creepy Creatures Concert will feature songs such as “Pumpkin Patch” from the album “Flights of Fantasy.”

*Oct. 31: There will be free treats for costumed kids.

“It is so much fun to watch these kids create and have such a good time doing it,” said sales assistant Kristina Killion, a student at UC Santa Barbara.

Terman said that in developing the store, “I wanted to focus on what was important to me as a child--planting things, playing with animals, wondering about the sky and creation--and pass that search for truth on to my child.”

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Plastic cars (“harmful to the environment”) and violent toys are verboten. Terman encourages noncompetitive play and learning with trucks and tractors, caterpillars that turn inside out to become butterflies, arts and crafts puzzles and science kits. Weather and nature field kits and candle-making kits are big sellers, as are the full-powered telescopes.

None of the redwood used in the store’s play equipment has been chemically treated. Terman explains: “Pressure-treated wood, the kind used for making most playground equipment, is generally treated with copper chromium arsenates or pentachlorophenol. No one has really studied the effects of exposure to these chemicals, so their safety to children must be questioned.”

The English garden sets also sold here are made of 100% heat-resistant steel.

A number of the store’s items are high-quality imports and somewhat expensive. There is a complete line of German Brio wooden building sets, as well the Playmobil line. There are rocking horses, an Indian tepee, 12 different kites from around the world, and the L.A. Zoo corner, with its colorful parrot shirts, fleece cowboy outfits, rain forest uniforms and straw hats. There is also an array of Indian headdresses.

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Treehouse Club is at 13317-21 Ventura Blvd. (corner Fulton Avenue) in Sherman Oaks. Open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Reservations and schedules of upcoming events are available at (818) 995-PLAY (7529) .

Sheridan is a Woodland Hills writer.


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