Using a $1.25 million grant, Wonderspace, Grant County’s only indoor play space, will be expanding its offerings to the community this year.
In December, Wonderspace received the grant from the Lilly Foundation. Stephanie Freemyer, one of Wonderspace’s co-founders, said that the money will help Wonderspace grow and collaborate with other organizations and churches in the area.
“We’re focused on the physical, social, mental, and educational well-being of children in our community,” Freemyer said.
With the grant, she said her and her team plan to launch Wonderspace Blue, which will address children’s mental health.
This summer, six members of the Wonderspace team were able to visit the Dougy Center in Portland, Oregon. The team spent a week learning about peer support groups for children experiencing grief.
While the team prepares to expand into the community with new programs and eventually a permanent location, Wonderspace continues to host regular playdates. Playdates are Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., and on the first Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Families can come to College Wesleyan Church in Marion, check in, and explore the different play options Wonderspace has to offer.
“All of our equipment is loose parts,” Freemyer said. “That means there’s not a specific way to play with it. It requires a child’s imagination to come and bring meaning to the space. So like, the big plastic mounds, well, what is that? Until a child turns the floor into lava, and they’re jumping from piece to piece.”
Those big plastic mounds are part of Snug Play, one of several sets of play equipment Wonderspace uses. Others include Cardboard City, where kids and caregivers can build whatever they want out of cardboard, and “the big blue blocks,” which Freemyer said is a fan favorite.
Wonderspace greeter, Sara Turner, said she sees the impact Wonderspace has in Grant County.
“We have people driving from other counties because there’s nothing else available in other counties,” Turner said.
Elysia Gipson, a mother of six who recently brought her kids to Wonderspace for the first time, said, “We’re always looking for things to do that don’t cost much.”
Wonderspace play dates are free, so families have the flexibility to come and go as needed.
“If we came, and then it turned out it wasn’t a good day for us and we had to leave after like 10, 15 minutes, there’s, you know—no harm no foul,” Gipson said.