In February 2021, Tami Martin-Estabrooks was standing in her kitchen making playdough for the art sensory kits she regularly created for her daughters when she had an idea.
“I love to see their excitement when they open [the kits] and start playing with them,” she said. “Then I thought, ‘why don’t I make these for other kids as well, so that they can have that same excitement?’”
With that, Martin-Estabrooks launched My Imaginarium, a side hustle based out of New Hamburg that celebrates the joy of learning and imaginative play through art sensory kits. My Imaginarium offers families unique full-sized sensory art kits for $35 each. They have sold a variety of kits to date, including holiday, under the sea, dinosaur and bug themed kits. Each sensory kit includes a cookie cutter to match the theme, a paintable item, two crafts with instructions and homemade non-toxic playdough, along with other loose parts.
Martin-Estabrooks, a full-time teacher of 16 years and a mother of three daughters, knows a thing or two about sensory play. She includes curriculum connections if parents want to extend learning.
“Sensory play is really good for kids with anxiety. It builds problem solving skills and it allows for less screen time,” she said. “I think when you make learning fun… the kids have a connection with it more and it imprints on their memory.”
Martin-Estabrooks said the kits also provide parents with an opportunity to lead meaningful discussion with their children. Children will often open up and communicate more when they are playing.
Martin-Estabrooks said the open-ended play the kits can also spark educational interests in individual children.
“If they find themselves interested in, say, the animals in the under the sea one, well, then that can be a fun jumping off point for their learning. And maybe they go and learn about some of these animals now,” she said.
My Imaginarium has kept Martin-Estabrooks’ own family busy through the pandemic and even brought them closer together.
Her husband, Michael Estabrooks, connects with local businesses to see if they are interested in distributing the kits. The couple then packages the kits together, often having playdough-making date nights at home. Of course, their daughters Lila, Sophie and Edie all have an important role in the process too—they test the kits out.
With the exception of the curriculum ideas for parents and the instructions for the two crafts, the kits come with very little instruction or direction, which is intentional, according to Martin-Estabrooks.
“Ever since we’ve had our own kids, I just started following different Instagram accounts and following people on Pinterest, just with [ideas for] open-ended play…with less of a structure,” she said.
“That’s what I really promote with these kits too…I don’t give instructions so that the kids can be free to use their imaginations.”
In addition to the full-size kits, My Imaginarium is now selling smaller kits for $15 to make them more accessible to families at a second price point.
My Imaginarium is once again selling under the sea themed sensory art kits, and they are always looking for other businesses to connect with in the community.
Care Lucas is Executive Director of WLU Student Publications, and Publisher of TCE. You may have bumped into her at Steel Rails over the years, or in one of the Region’s many magical record stores where she regularly combs through stacks of vinyl. At home she spends time building puzzles with her son Atticus, cat Garfunkel and chinese crested dogs Star and Dookie.