July 1, 1999
Peewees’ Play House
My 3-year-old pulls out a pot and takes the matzo ball mix down from the shelf -- he can reach it in this kitchen, built for people 3 feet and under. He throws in some plastic French fries and an eggplant and serves it to me at the Shabbat table. We've got the challah, the kiddush cup, a beautiful tablecloth, and on the mantle behind us, a set of brass candlesticks and, of course, the light-blue JNF pushke.
It seems that Dawn Farber thought of everything when she designed and stocked this new, two-story playhouse for Temple Isaiah's preschool.
"My focus is always setting the stage for kids, creating an environment that is so enticing and so stimulating, they can't help but get lost in it," says Farber, programming director for the preschool.
Downstairs, kids affix drawings of religious objects to the right holiday mat, work with the Hebrew and English letter magnets on the fridge, or just play house in the fully equipped Shabbat kitchen.
Upstairs, a wooden dinosaur skeleton puzzle, about the same size as a preschooler, greets newcomers. Every inch of the tiny room invites exploration and creativity -- an ocean scene equipped with Colorform-type stickers, a magnifying glass and a collection of real shells, kaleidoscopes and a build-your-own-bug kit, where the creatures can be stuck onto the real tree around which the house is built. Changeable wall panels convert the room into a storybook fun house, with a puppet theater and more Colorform characters and objects to plaster onto scenes from children's classics "Goodnight Moon" and "Where the Wild Things Are."
Farber came up with the idea for the playhouse, which is not open to the public, after visiting My Jewish Discovery Place with her class. She commissioned Shari Davis and Benny Ferdman of Creative Ways, who designed the acclaimed children's museum at the Westside Jewish Community Center, to carry out her concepts.
It was an expensive project -- $5,000 to build the structure, another $6,000 for the inside -- but Farber did some creative fund-raising with a generous preschool parent body. And judging from the children's response over the last few weeks, it was worth it, Farber says.
"This taps into the creativity and the imagination of a child, which is so natural for them at this stage," she says. "This can take them to the next level -- that learning is fun and exciting and interactive and experiential." -- Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Religion Editor