Two-year-old Rhiannon is part of the Sprouts class, where children ages one to five learn through self-guided play (Photo Credit: Victoria Caruso).
There’s a new addition to The Shoppes at East Wind — an art 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 charge of their learning through self-directed play in a safe, sensory-stimulating environment.
“It’s so important for kids to just play,” Ady explained. “Especially in early childhood education, that’s the developmentally appropriate way to teach — that’s how their brains work.”
The play workshop works within the Bloom Approach — a curriculum created by the site’s founders that combines elements of the Montessori method of hands-on learning and the Reggio Emilia approach, which centers learning around children’s natural interests. Instead of handing out worksheets or following a strict lesson plan, themed activities are organized around the room for children to explore and learn at their own pace.
“We don’t put pressure on them to operate,” Andy explained. “We give them tools and they run with those tools. They might paint their leg and we encourage them if that’s what they feel they need to do at the time.”
A Bloom Approach launched in January with sold-out mommy-and-me classes and playgroups from their sister company, Bloom Learning Center, in Riverhead and Moriches.
“We realized we were selling out week after week, so there must be a need,” said Andy, who first spotted the empty, yellow cottage that has become their new art and sensory play lab. “[The Shoppes] it’s where it’s supposed to be — it’s where kids go to have fun and be free, and it just seemed like a perfect fit.”
The new space opened in early September — so recent that there’s still no sign in its window. Inside, there are a variety of ways to play, including mommy and me classes, learn-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 shape to meet the needs of the children and families who use it.
Unlike traditional brightly colored playrooms, the lab is decorated with earth tones and different textures so children can learn in a space that mimics the world around them. Intricate sensory bins around the room are filled with materials such as leaves and wood to provide children with opportunities to interact with the natural world and feed their individual curiosity.
“Kids don’t necessarily know they’re learning, but they’re socializing, comparing and contrasting, and strengthening their fine motor skills,” Ady explained.
For Catherine Owns, a parent in the Wading River community, the lab has served as a safe space for her two-and-a-half-year-old son, who has multiple food allergies, to explore and socialize with other children.
“This center is so unique and such a positive addition to the community,” he said.
“My daughter is obsessed with it,” added Jensen Conklin, a parent who helps out at the lab and brings her daughter with her.
“Your kids’ brains are constantly going,” she said. “There is structure, but it’s a structure that kids can understand.”
For schedules of activities and more information about A Bloom Approach, you can visit abloomapproach.com.