Bay & Bee is a locally-owned small business, inspired by Montessori and Waldorf educational principles to create a stimulating eco-friendly play environment. Their unique play space nourishes community and focuses on child led play.
Monthly membership at Bay & Bee allows for unlimited and flexible play, so that you can stop by as your schedule allows to experience open play, classes and workshops. I’ve been a member since they opened back in March.
The first thing you notice when you walk in is the calming decor, soft blue walls and cork flooring. The first thing the kids notice is the CedarWorks play area in the center of the space. My four-year-old especially loves the highest point of this structure where he can get a good view of all the natural, wooden toys available for play. He also loves the train table and dress-up area.
My two-year-old is just as in love with the CedarWorks play area, but has the most fun at Story Time and Mommy & Me Yoga.
I sat down with Monica, co-owner of Bay & Bee to learn more about her vision and why she decided to open an indoor play space.
What inspired this?
When my now four-year-old was just a few months old, I really wanted to go do something with him and meet other moms. I tried the typical infant activities and kept thinking about how I would improve them to meet my needs.
What kind of changes did you want to make?
The biggest thing was that I wanted some place that I could go whenever my schedule allowed. Or more realistically when my son’s schedule allowed. I have never been big on waking him up mid nap to go somewhere, and when they are that little, naps are all over the place.
I also wanted some place impeccably clean, especially during the crawling phase when they are so low to the ground and putting things into their mouth is a major part of exploring their environment.
My educational background is a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Pennsylvania, so I think about colors effecting mood a lot. I just needed a place for children that was designed for adult comfort that stayed away from loud colors and characters.
And then I just wanted to meet other moms. Mom dating is hard! The activities I tried didn’t really lend themselves to meeting and making friends. I wish I had known about Jax Moms Blog back then.
You talk about Montessori and Waldorf educational influences, how did that come about?
Everything in the last 5 years revolves around my four-year-old. When he was 18-months-old we enrolled him in Montessori Tides School. I was blown away that the classroom environment was so peaceful. Even with 18+ children in a room, all of them behaved respectfully and calm. They were playing and learning so much. The classroom set up, activities available, the way the teachers spoke all created this amazing loving space.
They didn’t need plastic or battery operated toys, loud noises, bold graphics. An array of well-arranged fine motor skill activities in a peaceful setting and their behavior responded accordingly.
This is where I was introduced to the benefits of child led play and a yes environment that play a big role in Bay & Bee.
Zuzia, my amazing business partner’s daughter goes to Seaside Community Charter School. The program there is amazing as well. We tapped into her experience with those ideas of creative play and attention to detail.
Can you tell me more about child-led play?
Yes! How much spare time do you have? Maybe I can do a full blog post about this for you guys someday. Basically child-led play is allowing your child to make choices, what they want to play with and for how long. One of the benefits of Bay & Bee is that you can stay for however long you and your child are interested; we’ve had families stay for four hours because their children were so engaged!
Studies show that child-led play plays a crucial role in social and emotional confidence with long-term benefits.
We’ve made Bay & Bee a yes environment, which means that everything is safe, everything is in eyesight and available to play with. When you present an environment like that it reduces anxiety and stress in parents and children. You’ll feel confident; your kids will feel confident.
I wanted to create a calm play space that reflected Hunter’s classroom setting.
What kind of activities do you have in the play space?
We have 30+ fine motor skill toys arranged on the shelves, I love to buy toys, so I will rotate work in and out so there is generally something new to find every time you come.
In the center of the room we have a CedarWorks play set that was designed for this space.
A fantastic, locally made by Beachtown Woodshop, 26ft long train table, which currently features dinosaurs.
A Tegu wall! My favorite! They are magnetic wooden blocks that you can build on and off of the wall. I love this because my four-year-old and one-year-old both enjoy it and the company is fantastic.
Dress up area, we stayed away from characters and just have occupations and animals.
Farmer’s Market that is a source of fantastic food serving and tea parties.
Arts & Crafts table and wall.
Books! We have books. And many objects for infants to grasp and hang out on.
How does Bay & Bee work?
Everyone’s first visit is complimentary; you need to see if what we are doing is a good fit for your family. You can come play anytime, join a class or do both for your trial day.
Once you are a member you can come and go as you please. It’s pretty simple. We send out a newsletter, post our schedule on the website and facebook and you can pick the activities that appeal to you. There is no limit on how much you can come.
Why did you decide to require membership versus drop-in?
We get a ton of questions about this. There was a lot of consideration put into this but basically it boils down to the core values. We want to build a community and a membership lends itself to that.
We see it working and I get sappy! Parents and grandparents talking, exchanging numbers, meeting up, getting to know each other. Kids recognizing each other and making social connections. It’s fantastic.
A membership also keeps this place open and functioning. It guarantees that I can buy new activities and keep things as clean as possible.
It also lets us get to know our core crowd and tailor workshops to them. We LOVE getting to know you and your needs. One of the things Zuzia and I enjoy the most is finding the right people to teach classes and workshops that people ask for.
What age ranges do you cater to?
We are focused on the 0-5 demographic. Everything in the space is built to their height and accessibility from the train table height, farmers market, to the CedarWorks play structure.
The main membership is tied to the child under five years old, older siblings are welcome as long as they understand that the space is for the younger kids.
I noticed you have some after hours classes, can you tell me more?
Absolutely. We are open 9-4pm during the week and 9-1 on the weekends. During that time everything is included in your membership.
During the week we have partnered up with some local businesses to host their classes. Jax Prenatal Yoga taught by Michelle Bauer. She makes me want to get pregnant again just to take her class!
4th Trimester Fitness by Emily Wannenberg, she focuses on post partum recovery.
Jax Music Together moved here as well. It’s an amazing music program focused on developing communication skills.
Om with Mom yoga, which is a mommy and me yoga class taught by Jenna Orr. She is fantastic!!!! Highly recommend this drop in class.
And finally hypno birthing through Doulananda.
We have a lot going on.
Is there anything else you’d like people to know?
Sure! We host birthday parties on the weekends after hours. There is a 1:30-3 time slot and 4-5:30 on Saturdays and Sundays for private use. The birthday parties here have been amazing. They are custom tailored to each child’s theme and enjoyable for parents. I think it is the perfect party venue.
We also have a small shop up front. Super handy to stop in and get a baby shower gift or something for yourself. The products we carry are a mix of retailers that Zuzia and I have been using forever and local handmade stuff from work at home moms. Some of our favorite big brands are Lifefactory, Tula, Swaddle Designs, Naty Baby and local; Gingerbaby Designs, The Littlest Learners, and Olive Street. We love cute, eco friendly and useful.
Thank you so much to Monica for getting a lot of our readers questions answered! Bay & Bee is an amazing space and JMB is so happy to be a part of their journey. Be sure to check them out on Facebook to get the scoop on all the amazing events they have going on throughout the month!