Love the Brooklyn Children’s Museum but it’s a bit of a trek for you? Always in the market for a new play space for your babe or toddler? Live in DUMBO and just welcomed a new addition? Listen up!: Spark, a mini outpost of the Brooklyn Children’s Museum just opened at the very edge of Brooklyn Bridge Park, and it’s offering open play, classes, new parent meetups and more!
photo: Brooklyn Children’s Museum/Spark
A Lot in a Little Space
Located at the far northern tip of Brooklyn Bridge Park in the base of a residential building at 1 John Street in DUMBO, Spark has been in the works for over two years. A partnership between the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Brooklyn Bridge Park and Alloy, the building’s developer, the play and class space targeted to kids ages six and under, opened on October 15.
Measuring 1,800 square feet, Spark is tiny compared to its parent in Crown Heights, and its maximum capacity of 50 people reflects that. However, the annex is a direct extension of the museum, offering similar opportunities for inquiry-based play, designed and overseen by the same administrators and staff.
photo: Brooklyn Children’s Museum/Spark
Hands-on Fun For Ages Six and Under
While the space is small, its layout is extremely efficient while also making sure visitors have room to breathe. An area just off the entrance provides tiny tables and chairs for removing shoes, as well as cubbies for storing them — socks only here.
Just beyond that, visitors encounter an extra-wide carpeted corridor with a chalkboard wall on one side and a wall of drawers on the other. The space is filled with lots of opportunities for sensory play and exploration; in addition to bowls of natural items like seed pods or acorns, each drawer contains something the touch, feel, shake, etc. A small library of illustrated books — many NYC- and Brooklyn-themed — is offered for spontaneous story times.
The main space is equipped with several large tables, where kids work on art projects they can then take home. (We painted a decorated a mini pumpkin; others worked on paint dot creations.) Additionally, a large board serves as a space for ongoing collaborative murals and kids can hop on a drawing horse to work on a sketch solo. A wall of art supplies is stocked with colorful bits and an oh-so-important sink and wash area is on site too. (Note: the museum provides plastic smocks for messy activities.)
Spark also hosts an Imagination Playground, a set of blue foam blocks of all shapes and sizes which kids are encouraged to play with however they wish. And in a far corner, another free-form building opportunity can be found in a wall made up of individual “house” blocks, designed to be moved and stacked and rearranged by little builders.
Drop-in (But Register!)
There are many ways to take advantage of this new play space. Drop-in open play happens from 1 – 5 p.m. daily, however due to limited space, online advanced, no-fee registration is highly recommended. (Payment is made on site when you sign in.)
Play slots of one-hour in length are $15, with the timeframe “enforced” depending on capacity issues; similarly, it is possible to stop by without registering and get in, if room allows. (Expect more rigid parameters on busy days like the weekends.) Open play is facilitated by a museum staff member and a museum volunteer, although caregivers are responsible for their children and ideally, engaging with the environment and materials alongside their kids. Note: Spark will hold free admission hours on Thursdays from 1 – 6 p.m. and it is closed on Mondays.
Classes and Special Programming
Classes, designed for more targeted age groups happen throughout the week and are taught by professional teaching artists. Running over the course of 10 weeks, classes are $300 and include Storytime and Sensorys Lounge (12-36 months), Animal Adventures ( 24-36 months), Little Artists Afternoons ( 3 – 5 year olds) and Lavender Blues Music & Movement (12 – 36 months). Learn more about classes here.
A drop-in, new parent playdate is held at the space on Friday mornings from 9:30 – Noon ($15), and the museum’s special seasonal programming (i.e. “I am Thankful” in November, “Winter Wonderland” in December) will be extended to Spark activities and programming.
Spark by Brooklyn Children’s Museum
Tickets: $15 for open play slot; free for museum members
1 John St.
Have you checked out Spark? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!
— Mimi O’Connor