What do you get when you put about a dozen new mothers and their energetic babies into a space the size of a hair salon?
Mommy Power, of course.
Maria Sigourney, Jessica Alonso and Marie Clevering recently harnessed that very Mommy Power when they formed The Stomping Ground, a community and gathering space for children and their families.
The three women met less than a year ago at a different children's play space in Crown Heights. The space quickly became a safe haven for the new mommies-- a place where their little ones could have one big play date while the big ones traded tales on navigating the matrix of motherhood.
"We loved it," said Alonso, a photographer and student who moved to Brooklyn three years ago. "It was fun for the kids and such a wonderful place to meet other mothers who were going through the same thing you were going through."
But in October of last year, out of the blue and with very little explanation, the play space shut down.
Shocked and disappointed? Yes, they were. Defeated? They were not. Within a week Alonso, along with Sigourney, who worked in banking, and Clevering, a school teacher, mobilized. They decided to open a play space of their own.
Neither of them had the patent experience—nor the financial capital-- for starting a new business. But whoa is the person who underestimates the power of mommy.
In just four months since October, the trio has created a board, enrolled members, secured financial pledges, met with lawyers, surveyed spaces, campaigned husbands, neighbors, family and friends. And on Saturday, March 1, The Stomping Ground will open its doors!
The Stomping Ground is operating as a membership-based organization (sliding scale) that is 100 percent volunteer-run.
It will include baby and toddler climbing areas, tumbling mats, reading nook chairs and beanbags, a chalkboard wall, a magnetic wall, a sensory play area, a puppet theatre, a garden with playground equipment and even a rock-climbing wall!
The play space will feature a calendar of activities, including structured playgroups; yoga, breastfeeding and sing-a-long classes; and open hours for parents to drop in and meet each other with or without their tots.
However, it is not a daycare. So children must be accompanied by a parent or caretaker at all times.
"We don't want to exclude anyone, but this is not a babysitting space; no drop-offs at all," Clevering said. "Yeah, it's really a community space, a pack-in/pack out."
"Everyone is donating their time," said Alonso. "Right now, we'll let teachers who want to give classes donate to the space. We have someone who is working on a sweat equity program where you can come and work inside of the space for a reduced membership fee. And down the line, we see ourselves fundraising for a certain number of free memberships."
The ladies chose the space at 636 Classon — a former hair salon-- because it had a backyard garden and two rooms—a bonus for parents that might have more than one child and so can bring both of their young kids.
"Usually these type of spaces are for babies only, but we want everyone to be able to come," said Sigourney. "We want a bigger range of clients in terms of the kids. And since most parents like to take their kids outside during the summer time, we are going to put a lot of effort to make the backyard super-exciting, with a sandbox and sprinklers to make it the center-point of this summer."
Between the responsibilities of being caretaker, wife and working full-time jobs, life can get be challenging for mothers. But one area where they seem to have the magic touch is the ability to take a simple idea and nurture it from conception to life!
"I can't believe it; it's amazing. Just don't mess with the moms," said Alonso laughing. "We can make some amazing things happen when we need to."