Stay and Play!
Oaks ‘N Acorns: A Hangout for Parents and Kids
By Amanda Kirsten Grant
Located right between Coxwell and Woodbine subways stations and across from a park, Oaks ‘N Acorns Activity Centre is in a prime location for parents and children to gather together for fun and relaxation.
Owners Winnie and Nicole wanted to create a safe and fun environment where parents in the Danforth area could come together. Oaks ‘N Acorns offers 6–12 week long courses for children newborn to seven years old. Each course—be it dance, art workshops, or baking classes—is taught by a professional instructor. The space offers lots of sitting, so parents can hang out together and chat while their kids play at various work stations.
A special favourite of the girls is the puppets, some of them handmade by Nicole. Puppet shows are performed either by staff or the children themselves; everyone is encouraged to play together. For the younger ones, there are sing-along activities.
Oaks ‘N Acorns has two floors, and downstairs is where the dance classes are hosted. A large mirror covers the surface of one wall; in front children dance and play. A monitor allows the parents upstairs to keep an eye on the activities, or they can join in.
The Oaks ‘N Acorns space looks great now, but it wasn’t always this way. Winnie and Nicole say it’s hard getting a business like this started in the city. “Nothing like this has been available in the Danforth before, and it was a challenge,” says Nicole. It took months of hard work and planning before they could open their doors on the Danforth. With no business backgrounds they “had no idea the kind of work we were in for,” they say. “Thank goodness we had each other.”
They started renting the building last summer, but it wasn’t until this past January that Winnie and Nicole were able to open shop. The moment they received the keys to the building they had a sign in the door letting people know they would be coming. This helped them build up a Facebook fan page of 700 people before they had even opened.
The heart of their business is the community building. Nicole insists the reason the area needed something like Oaks ‘N Acorns is because being a parent can be a lonely thing: “If you choose to stay home, like I did, sometimes it’s hard. My friends don’t have kids and so I don’t see them as much. If you want to meet up for say, coffee, you can, but then the kids get bored. They’re little; they don’t want to be there.”
At Oaks ‘N Acorns, it’s easier. They have set up a small café-area inside, offering lattes and sandwiches. Parents who visit Oaks ‘N Acorns can feel like they’re just sitting back with a cup of coffee with friends, without having to worry when the kids will get bored and want to go.
Winnie and Nicole point out organized activities for children that they used to attend were held in church basements. Because of the location, sometimes kids would only get to play for an hour, and then they would have to leave. After activities at Oaks ‘N Acorns, parents don’t have to worry about that. Courses also only run at certain hours of the day, and so in the free time where there is not class running, Winnie and Nicole run drop-in play. Kids can stay and play with any of the toys, instead of everyone being rushed out the door.
Oaks ‘N Acorns will be open this Good Friday. And as the summer, approaches and you’re looking for somewhere to bring the kids, check out Oaks ‘N Acorns on the Danforth!
For a list of courses and Drop in times, visit their website at oaksnacorns.com