Melissa Kossler Dutton

Kyle Miller chose to open his kid-oriented businesses in Hilliard - also where he lives - because he likes the additional connection that community brings.

"It's the best decision I ever made - to open a business in my own community. I like being a person who's known in the neighborhood," said the former teacher and current owner of Tutoring Club, a tutoring service for children, and Tinker, a "maker space" where young people can explore everything from agriculture and sewing to robotics and circuitry.

Tinker visitors design things, solve problems and use equipment like 3D printers and video cameras. Children can visit the space for one-time workshops, summer camps and parents' night out events. Tinker also offers themed birthday parties and programs for preschoolers. Projects are designed to be open ended so kids can use their own creativity.

"I designed it after how I used to teach in the classroom. I tried to be very hands on," Miller said.

Tinker, which opened in November, joins a growing number of Hilliard businesses catering to kids and families.

Ruby and Kent Skipper opened Little Skipper's Play Café a year earlier. The play café marries Ruby Skipper's background in education and her husband's restaurant experience.

"It's a nice blending of our passions," said Ruby Skipper, a retired Hilliard City Schools teacher.

Little Skipper's, which sells drinks and lunch items, also offers music classes, craft projects and birthday parties. Skipper enjoys seeing her former students coming to the play café with their own children. "It makes me feel old, but it's nice," she said.

Skipper said the community seems to be eager for businesses that cater to children and families. "Families are looking for places to go and things to do," she said.

Hilliard offers numerous opportunities for families to play together.

Locals enjoy bowling and dining at Ten Pin Alley, a bowling alley known for hosting parties and special events. Children can explore their artistic side at Elements Art Studios, which hosts painting classes, camps and birthday parties. The studio, which is under new ownership, will host a grand reopening from 10 a.m. to noon on April 25.

Aquatic Adventures Ohio offers swim and scuba lessons and also can be rented for pool parties. The Movie Tavern is a fun place to enjoy a movie and a meal under one roof.

Kids will enjoy shopping at Packrat Comics, a family-owned comic book store that sells collectibles, T-shirts and other fun stuff, and United Art & Education, which sells toys and art supplies.

Hilliard also is home to Katelyn's Kloset Adapted Toy Lending Library. Operated by the nonprofit Katelyn's Krusade, the Toy Library lends developmental and sensory play things and toys that have been adapted for children with special needs. The library is located in the Easter Seals Central and Southeast Ohio headquarters.

Hungry visitors will want to check out some of the locally owned eateries for meals and snacks. Lil Donut Factory, known for its apple fritters and Long Johns, regularly sells out of its made-from-scratch baked goods. The Little Ice Cream Shoppe makes kid-friendly flavors like Hot Cocoa with Marshmallow. Locals rave about the ribs and beef at Cate's Steak & Barbecue, which offers a kids-eat-free special on Wednesday.