A new art and sensory play lab opens at The Shoppes at East Wind

Two-year-old Rhiannon is part of the Sprouts classroom, where children ages one to five learn through self-directed 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.

A Bloom Approach, founded by Brittany Ady, Danielle Rivera, and Tara Kochanskyj, is a space where children can take charge of their own learning through self-directed play in a safe, sensory-stimulating environment.

“It’s so important for kids to play alone,” Ady explained. “Especially in early childhood education, that’s the right way to develop teaching—that’s how their minds work.”

The play lab operates under the Bloom Approach – a curriculum created by the founders of the space that combines elements of the Montessori method of hands-on learning and the Reggio Emilia approach, which focuses on learning around children’s natural interests. Instead of handing out worksheets or following a strict lesson plan, themed activities are created around the room for children to explore and learn at their own pace.

Co-founder Brittany Ady (left) playing with a child during one of A Bloom Approach’s Little Sprouts Art and Sensory Play Groups (Photo: Victoria Caruso).

“We don’t pressure them to operate,” Ady explained. “We give them tools, and they run with those tools. They can paint their own leg and we encourage them if that’s what they feel they need to do at that moment.”

A Bloom Approach began in January with mommy and me classes and playgroups run by their sister company, Bloom Learning Center, in Riverhead and Moriches.

“We realized we were selling week after week, so there must be a need for us,” said Ady, who first discovered the spare, yellow cottage that has become their new art and sensory play lab. “[The Shoppes] it’s where it was meant to be – it’s where kids go to have fun and be free, and it just seemed like the perfect fit.”

A Bloom Approach is located in a cozy cottage at The Shoppes at East Winds (Photo Credit: Victoria Caruso).

The new space opened in early September — so recent that it still doesn’t have a sign in its storefront. Inside, there are a variety of ways to play, including mommy and me classes, learn-and-play classes, playgroups, birthday parties, open camps, and date nights. From mermaid bath parties for toddlers to children’s painting classes, 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 in different tones and 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 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 associating, 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,” she said.

“My daughter is obsessed with it,” added Jensen Conklin, a parent who helps with the lab and brings her daughter along.

“Your kids’ brains are going all the time,” she said. “It has 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.

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