A STEM-Based Indoor Open Play Discovery Center Space, in the Heart of Palmer
Kayla Gillum visited various children’s museums in the Lower-48 and searched for the same in Alaska. When she realized there weren’t any that she was envisioning, she was inspired to offer this idea to the community through a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM-based) indoor play and discovery center.
Kayla had heard about resources through Alaska SBDC to gain knowledge about how to make her idea come to life. She met the Mat-Su Center Director and Business Advisor, Trisha Sims and shared “Trisha at SBDC was genuinely so helpful through the whole process of starting my business. She walked me through from the very beginning and offered insight into things I had not thought of before.”
Trisha Sims also reflected on her experience advising Tinker Time sharing, ”It’s been great working with Kayla. From our initial session, I have enjoyed Kayla’s passion to teach children STEM-based learning through real play. She has a genuine warm spirit and positive energy, as well as a dedication to teaching children science-based play. It’s apparent that her focus and drive will reflect positively to everyone who encounters Kayla and Tinker Time, LLC.”
On her experience with the Alaska SBDC, Kayla added, “I could never thank Trisha enough! The endless amount of resources that SBDC offers, started me off on the right path to owning my small business. I know Trisha and SBDC will always be available as a resource, if needed, and that is very comforting when starting a new business when there are so many questions and so much to learn.”
Tinker Time opened on February 3rd, 2023 and offers an indoor discovery center and children’s museum for kids. It is entirely open play so children 7 and under use their imaginations and learn through playing.
The kids are able to choose what they’d like to do and parents get to watch what their children naturally gravitate towards. Kayla added, “It’s really cool to see kids find their interests and give parents an idea of toys they’re interested in that maybe they haven’t tried before.”
Along with licensing questions, business plan and financial model assistance, Trish also shared some applicable grant sources. Kayla applied for an MTA Foundation Grant and Tinker Time was offered a generous grant to be able to purchase more STEM-based exhibits. This infusion of resources allows Kayla to rotate exhibits every six weeks, constantly introducing and swapping out toys to keep the experience fresh and exciting for the young adventurers.
The ever-changing exhibits bring a delightful variety of toys to captivate young minds and spark their curiosity. Kayla believes that her business is different from other indoor play areas because she is there and interactive with the kids and their families. Kayla is present to check in with families to make sure they’re having fun and understanding the exhibits.
She also loves to teach parents and kids about the exhibits and how to use them. “It would be far easier to have an open play room and let children have free-range, but the quality family time aspect is really, really important to me. There is no other indoor play area like this in the Mat-Su Valley, especially one that is educational based.”
After opening, Kayla has since expanded Tinker Time’s services to also offer private rentals for events and birthday parties. The parties can be customized and she is happy to bring out older toys and exhibits if still available. Kayla plans to add family craft activities and activities for older children and their parents or grandparents as well. In fact, this past weekend was the first such event with a fully booked ladies paint night.
Moreover, Tinker Time has gone beyond just providing a play space. They’ve set up a small retail area within the establishment where they sell educational toys, similar or even identical to the ones available for play. This enhances the experience for both the children and their parents, who can now bring a piece of the magic home with them.
Tinker Time is located at 809 S Chugach St Suite 3, Palmer, AK 99645. If you are interested in learning more about Tinker Time, want to learn more about hosting a party, or giving an experience, check out their website or make an open play reservation at: www.tinkertimealaska.com or follow the fun over on Facebook and Instagram.