Two-year-old Rhiannon is part of the Sprouts Classroom, where children aged one to five learn through self-guided play (Photo Credit: Victoria Caruso).
There’s a new addition to The Shoppes at East Wind, an arts and sensory play lab where kids of all ages are encouraged to make a mess.
Founded by Brittany Ady, Danielle Rivera and Tara Kochanskyj, A Bloom Approach is a space where children can take responsibility for their learning through self-guided play in a safe, sensory stimulating environment.
“It’s very important that kids just play,” Ady explained. “Especially in early childhood education, that’s the developmentally appropriate method of teaching—that’s how their minds work.”
The play lab operates under the Bloom Approach, a curriculum created by the founders of the field, combining elements of the Montessori method of hands-on learning and Reggio Emilia approach, centered on learning around children’s natural interests. Instead of handing out worksheets or following a strict lesson plan, themed activities are arranged around the room for children to explore and learn at their own pace.
“We don’t pressure them to work,” Ady explained. “We give them tools and they work with those tools. They can paint their feet and we encourage them if that’s what they feel they have to do at the moment.”
A Bloom Approach kicked off in January with mom and me classes and playgroups that ended at their sister company, Bloom Learning Center, in Riverhead and Moriches.
“We realized we were selling out every week, so we’re needed,” said Ady, who first noticed the empty, yellow hut that had become the new arts and sensory play labs. “[The Shoppes] This is where it should be – this is where kids go to have fun and be free, and it looked just like this.”
The new space opened in early September – so new that there are no signs yet on its showcase. Inside, there are a variety of ways to play, including mom and me classes, learning and play classes, playgroups, birthday parties, pop-up camps, and date nights. From mermaid spa parties for toddlers to art classes for tweens, the space is constantly changing to meet the needs of children and the families who use it.
Unlike traditional, brightly colored playrooms, the lab is decorated with earthy tones and different textures so children can learn in a space that mimics the world around them. Intricate sensory boxes around the room are filled with materials such as leaves and wood to provide children with an opportunity to interact with the natural world and nurture their individual curiosity.
“Kids don’t necessarily know what they’re learning, but they socialize, compare and contrast, and strengthen their fine motor skills,” Ady said.
For Catherine Owns, a parent in the Wading River community, the lab served as a safe space for her two-and-a-half-year-old son with multiple food allergies to explore and socialize with other children.
“This center is very unique and a very positive contribution to society,” he said.
“My daughter is obsessed with it,” added Jensen Conklin, a parent who helped with the lab and brought her daughter with her.
“Your kids’ brains are working all the time,” she said. “There is structure, but a structure that children can understand.”
For more information on activity programs and A Bloom Approach, visit abloomapproach.com.