There’s a new addition at The Shoppes at East Wind — an art and sensory play lab where children of all ages are encouraged to make a mess.
A Bloom Approach, founded by Brittany Ady, Danielle Rivera, and Tara Kochanskyj, is a space where children can take charge of their learning through self-guided play in a safe, sensory-stimulating environment.
“It’s so important for children to just play,” explained Ady. “Especially in early childhood education, that’s the developmentally appropriate way of teaching — that’s how their mind works.”
The play lab operates under the Bloom Approach — a curriculum created by the space’s founders that combines elements of the hands-on learning Montessori method and the Reggio Emilia approach, which centers learning around childrens’ natural interests. Rather than handing out worksheets or following a strict lesson plan, themed activities are set up around the room for children to explore and learn at their own pace.
“We don’t put pressure on them to operate,” explained Ady. “We give them tools, and they run with those tools. They might paint their foot, and we encourage them to if that’s what they feel like they have to do at that moment.”
A Bloom Approach started in January with mommy-and-me classes and play groups that ran out of 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 for us,” said Ady, who first spotted the vacant, yellow cottage that has become their new art and sensory play lab. “[The Shoppes] is where it had to be — this is where children go to have fun and be free, and it just seemed like the perfect fit.”
The new space opened in early September — so recent that there’s still not a sign on its storefront yet. Inside, there’s a variety of ways to play, including mommy-and-me classes, learn and play classes, play groups, birthday parties, pop up camps, and drop off date nights. From mermaid spa parties for toddlers to paint classes for tweens, the space is constantly shape shifting to meet the needs of the children and families that use it.
Unlike traditional, brightly colored playrooms, the lab is decorated with earth tones and different textures so that children can learn in a space that mimics the world around them. Intricate sensory bins around the room are filled with materials like leaves and wood to provide children with opportunities to interact with the natural world and feed their individual curiosity.
“The children don’t necessarily know they’re learning, but they’re socializing, they’re comparing and contrasting, and they’re strengthening their fine motor skills,” explained Ady.
For Catherine Owens, 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,” she said.
“My daughter’s obsessed with it,” added Jensen Conklin, a parent who helps out with the lab and brings her daughter with her.
“Your kids’ brains are just going all the time,” she said. “There’s structure, but it’s a structure that kids can understand.”
For activity schedules and more information about A Bloom Approach, you can visit abloomapproach.com.