For parents with young children, Peacock Playtime provides a unique daytime service found nowhere else on the island.
For only $5 a day, parents and their kids (ages 6 months to 6 years) can spend as much time as they want in an environment that offers active play for children and an opportunity for their caregivers to have important contact with other adults.
The play center, which opened last month next to Rolling Bay’s Jiffy Mart, is the brainchild of Kelly Sparks and Sheila Kent – friends who decided last summer that Bainbridge had a definite need for such a business. Each of the women also offer a different set of skills required to make the project a reality.
Sparks, 37, is a vice president of finance for Nordstrom in Seattle. She’s also a mother of four young children (ages 4, 2 1/2 and 7-month-old twins) and is dividing her time between her family, job (three days a week) and the new business. It was her pre-opening task to provide research and a business plan, while Kent’s responsibilities included finding a location, renovating the space, obtaining the necessary permits and acquiring many of the toys and furnishings.
Kent, 61, who worked for years for a travel technology corporation before retiring to the island, decided earlier this year that she wanted to become directly involved with children and to also offer a resource center for parents – especially mothers. She ran the concept by Sparks in May and the two quickly started moving toward making Peacock Playtime a reality.
They did most of their “demographic study” on the weekends at Blackbird Bakery, Kent said with a smile. “We already knew the situation, but what we found were lots of toddlers and people desperate to be with others in like situations,” Kent said. “Island moms often feel isolated. I had those feelings of loneliness when I quit working.”
She believes that people here have a tendency to close down and not let others know how lonely they are feeling.
“We want a safe environ- ment for children, where they can have fun and be together. But we also want to provide a place for their caregivers to communicate as adults in the children’s environment. Essentially, a gathering place for families.”
The goal of reaching out to parents is still a work in a progress, but there’s no doubt they’ve succeeded in providing a wonderful space for the kids, including:
A sleeping area for infants;
A toddler area, featuring small-muscle toys and a padded climbing set for kids up to 2 years old;
An art table and easel that allows kids ages 2-6 to work on art projects;
A reading/hideout space that also can be used as a stage area for dramatic plays;
A large-muscle playground with slides and stairs;
Various other activities such as a kitchen, dress-up corner, a wooden train set, high-quality wooden toys and beads, legos, doctor’s kits, books and puzzles.
Other activities include French, German, Spanish and Japanese language events, parent/toddler yoga, music and art classes, and birthday parties.
“The kids have a lot of fun here,” Kent said. “It’s great for them to get together with their friends, and they have new toys to play with. It’s a pretty happy place when a lot of people are here.”
The cost was originally $10 per child with a caregiver present, but quickly was reduced to what they considered a more appropriate $5 fee for all day. They also offer a $20 punch card that is good for five visits, a $25 monthly membership per child and are anticipating eventually offering an annual membership for a still undecided amount.
And when Kent and Sparks get their Web site up and running in early December, Peacock Playtime will go into the drop-off, daycare business at a hourly rate of $8 per child. The ages will be the same, but parents obviously will not be required to remain with their children. The owners will also hire some employees to handle the increase in children.
Kent said she and Sparks have been in contact with some professional health care providers on the island who are interested in having Peacock Playtime be a gathering place for postpartum support. “We would be used sometimes as a resource by the health providers, who what to help establish better family communications, basically encouraging people to reach out for help,” she said. “They would use us as a meeting place.”
She said discussions are ongoing, but that facilitating healthy dialogue between the professionals and anyone in the community who can use their services is one of their goals.
“We want this place to be a community resource and we’ll do whatever we can to help out,” Kent said.