Kids are born insatiably curious–full of wonder, questions, and delight. How do we keep that good stuff going? Enter Shannon Newby: artist, mom of two, and founder of Kid Lab, a nonprofit makerspace and community art collective nestled in downtown Raleigh’s Read With Me, a children’s book and art shop.
Kid Lab’s workshops and STEAM labs feed curious minds and engage all learning styles through playful prompts, rich resources, plentiful materials, and a beautifully prepared environment. No tests. No agenda. No expectations. Just kid-powered discovery through a community-powered nonprofit.
Let’s hear a bit more from Kid Lab’s “Master of Shenanigans,” Shannon Newby!
Shannon, what inspired you to start Kid Lab?
Shannon: Kid Lab started in an unlikely way…but one that might feel familiar to Raleigh Moms Blog readers. I was struggling through a tough season of postpartum anxiety after the traumatic birth of my first daughter. I felt isolated, as many new moms do, and was desperately trying to make it through each day on just a few hours of sleep. I remember nursing my daughter and wondering what the next season held for me – as a mama, an artist, an educator. And I figured there must be a lot of other moms out there in a similar season of needing community and inspiration and sometimes – truth be told – just a break. So it started small: I hosted playdates in my home, to connect with other caregivers, swap play ideas, and grow alongside each other. Soon, word spread and others wanted in. As my daughter grew, my energy and availability grew too. So I expanded from playdates to workshops, which then grew into Kid Lab!
What can Raleigh Moms Blog readers expect at a play lab, STEAM lab (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), or toymaking workshop?
Shannon: Each workshop is part play, part guided learning, and part art project. You and your kids will be welcomed into our lab, where the tables will be set for you with plentiful materials to inspire wonder and spark creativity. Once all the participants are there and everyone is introduced, the lead teaching artist will help you dig into the day’s theme through hands-on inquiry and play. October’s theme has been WEATHER. November’s is BIRDS. You and your kids can expect to laugh a lot, ask lots of questions, try something new, and leave with plenty of ideas to continue the fun at home. Watching families connect through shared wonder is just the best!
What’s one thing our readers might not know about Kid Lab?
Shannon: Many people don’t realize they can book a private session at the Lab! We get requests to host homeschool co-ops, playdate groups, school field trips, and birthday parties. When a group books a private session, we can tailor the experience to their needs. Our teaching artists have classroom experience and can design unique, hands-on projects that meet NC curriculum standards. Or they can plan some playful learning and tinkering around a theme–space, weather, fairy gardens, you name it.
What should families know about Kid Lab’s pay-what-you-can system?
Shannon: Kid Lab was founded on the idea that every kid needs access to a space where they can learn, play, and tinker with materials. We have suggested prices for our programs, but we don’t ever want money to be a barrier to playful learning! So many families donate a few extra dollars when they sign up for a workshop to “play-it-forward” and allow others to enjoy Kid Lab for free. Some families volunteer their time, like helping us with a craft table at a weekend festival, in exchange for a program or workshop.
Part of Kid Lab’s mission is to build community, and “playing-it-forward” is a kid-sized way Kid Labbers can love their neighbors.
Kid Lab has really grown this past year! What’s next?
Shannon: We’re tickled pink about our new downtown location! We hope to make 2020 a year of more local engagement and more fun partnerships with our downtown neighbors. We’re also expanding our programs and workshop schedule–keep your eyes peeled for that. There’s lots in store for Kid Lab in 2020…hope to see Raleigh Moms Blog readers in our lab for a year full of playful learning!
To learn more about Kid Lab, sign up for a workshop, or download free resources for play at home, visit www.kidlabraleigh.com.
Shannon Newby is an artist and founder of Kid Lab. Follow Kid Lab on Instagram and Facebook @kidlabraleigh, and sign up for their newsletter to get the first scoop on new workshops and public art events.