by KELLIE ABRAHAMSON
When it comes to kids, we live in a very hands-off world. At stores, museums and sometimes even in our own backyards, we encourage them to “look, but don’t touch.” At Jacksonville’s new play studio, Discovery House, children are given the chance to explore using all of their senses–even touch!
Discovery House is the brainchild of mother-daughter team Patti and Amanda Moody. Between them, the duo has over 40 years of experience working with children of all ages in various settings, making them the perfect pair to head-up the ambitious project.
We got our first peek at Discovery House during One Spark 2013, when the enrichment center took over a portion of the Schultz building for a weekend of hands-on activities, story times, live music and play. The project won over $800 at the festival. Since then, Discovery House has gone from an idea to a reality.
In April, the Moodys secured a building–an old auto repair garage, long ago repurposed into a daycare center–and began the arduous task of transforming the space into a fabulous play studio. Along the way the community pitched in by donating essentials, assisting with the remodeling, lending their expertise to make repairs and spreading the word. When Discovery House finally opened its doors to the public on June 15th, over 200 visitors came out to experience the fruits of all this labor and show their support.
Discovery House is comprised of various stations, designed to allow kids of all ages an opportunity to learn the way they do best–through play! An impressive art room makes up much of the left side of the facility. Decorated from floor to ceiling in a rainbow of bold colors, the space is fully stocked with every art supply imaginable. Visitors are encouraged to use them at will to make something new, whether it’s a painting of their family on paper or a sculpture of a robot using recycled materials.
To the right of the entrance you’ll find a massive room filled with toys and activities that encourage imaginative play–dress up clothes, a puppet theater, play kitchens, building blocks and even a pretend “beach,” complete with a real, vintage kayak. There’s also a corner especially for toddlers, so even the youngest of little explorers will have a place to play.
Beyond this main room is the science space, which is home to Buddy the Turtle and a fluffy bunny, whose name I woefully missed during our visit. Here you’ll also find science books for all ages and a zoo of animal toys and figurines.
The final room is home to the facility’s music space, which is made up of a wide variety of musical instruments, and a play station dubbed “Grandma’s Attic,” which lets kids get a hands-on look at some of the items that people used before iPhones and the internet.
Though there’s plenty for kids to do now, a second phase of construction is underway in the facility’s backyard. When complete, visitors can expect canopy-covered sandboxes, a community garden and pumpkin patch, chickens and more.
Discovery House is more than just free-play. Camps will be offered during school breaks, and summer sessions are currently underway. The “Be Kind to the Earth” session came to a close last month, but there’s still time to register your little camper for one of the facility’s other offerings: “M.A.D.D. (Music, Art, Drama, Dance)” will be held from July 8th to the 12th, “Palentology” will be from July 22nd to the 26th, and “Strolling Through Italy” is scheduled for August 5th to the 9th. More information on each of these camps can be found at www.discoveryhousejax.com/Summer-Camps.html.
When summer comes to a close, Discovery House will begin their enrichment classes. These hour-long sessions are a great way for kids to flex their creative muscles and to learn something new. Most of the classes will be held once a week for six weeks beginning in September. Offerings include Cooking, Yoga, Art, Tiny Tots, Theatre and Lego Club. Music classes, which will consist of private instruction in a variety of instruments, will also be available. Visit www.discoveryhousejax.com/Enrichment-Classes.html for more details.
In addition to the above, the facility is planning to lend a hand to parents by hosting “support groups” once a month to discuss parenting struggles and help find solutions. There will also be monthly Parent’s Night Out events, giving kids a safe place to play while the grown-ups enjoy some alone time. Date night, anyone?
Discovery House is located at 3602 Park Street in Avondale and is open Monday through Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm. Admission is $4 for adults and children ages 1 to 3, and $7 for kids ages 4 to 14. Admission includes unlimited play throughout the facility and use of the fully-stocked art room. If you love Discovery House you may consider purchasing a family membership, which gives you unlimited play anytime during business hours and discounts on party packages and Parent’s Night Out as well as a discount for any guests you decide to bring with you. The Annual Family Membership is $120. For more information, visit www.discoveryhousejax.com or call 388-0606.
by KELLIE ABRAHAMSON