What started as a way to entertain her young children has evolved into a business for Jenny Phelan.
The Bluffton mother of two just wanted a few minutes every morning to enjoy a cup of tea before getting her day started.
“My kids are really busy,” Phelan said about her daughters, who are 4 years old and 18 months old. “It always helps to have something planned for them in the morning, especially when they wake up.”
A teacher with a Master’s degree in education and eight years teaching experience, Phelan wanted her children to do something educational rather than sit in front of a TV in the mornings. She began setting out Play-Doh, figurines and craft supplies on a table in the playroom, and the girls loved it.
“It’s been a real changer for us,” Phelan said. “The mornings go a lot smoother, and the kids love it. It’s amazing how much speech and vocabulary my oldest has learned.”
It was such a great solution for her own daughters that she thought other families would appreciate the idea. She decided to start a small business with this concept in mind.
In January, Phelan launched Learn Through Playing, which offers activity kits for children 18 months through elementary school age. The kits are available in a variety of themes, including pirates, insects and mermaids. A South Carolina kit includes local creatures, such as alligators, dolphins and turtles. An Around the World kit includes a passport with stickers, a globe, monument figurines and a pull-back airplane.
The kits are not only fun; they help children learn valuable life skills, such as how to calm themselves and how to focus. They encourage kids to use their imagination, practice fine motor skills, and develop early literacy and math skills.
Each kit includes a guide with suggested activities, which can support cognitive growth and problem-solving skills, develop and enhance memory, promote social interaction and support language development.
“As a teacher, I’ve always strived to make learning fun and make things enjoyable, hands on and interactive,” Phelan said.
Her daughters’ favorites are the sushi kit and the insect kit, as well as the mermaid and pirate kits.
So far, Phelan’s kits have been a great success. Through word of mouth and Phelan’s Instagram account, she has shipped kits to 16 different states.
“We have had excellent feedback from children, parents and caregivers on how engaging and fun the kits are, particularly during this unprecedented time in education,” Phelan said.
The kits can be purchased online, and Phelan hopes they will be available in local stores by the spring or summer.
Phelan would like to connect with therapy centers and schools that might be interested in the kits. She has already been in touch with The Sandbox Children’s Museum, and she plans to donate a kit to a fundraiser for the Lowcountry Autism Foundation.
Phelan hopes to partner with local naturalists to offer programs about South Carolina’s ecosystem while incorporating her South Carolina kits.
For more information on Learn Through Playing, visit learnthroughplayingkits.com, like Learn Through Playing on Facebook and follow @learnthroughplaying on Instagram.
Amy Coyne Bredeson of Bluffton is a freelance writer, a mother of two and a volunteer with the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.