The Art of Play is an indoor play space in Billings for families to bring their kids five and under to interact with other kids, play, and even enroll in preschool.
The business reopened in early January in a new location at 1002 10th St. W. suite 4 under new ownership, at a time when many businesses were still hurting from the effects of the pandemic.
"I was really nervous. Honestly, I was terrified when we first got back to opening up in January. I wasn't sure how it was going to get received by the public," Ashley Butcher, owner of Art of Play, said Monday afternoon.
Butcher was a volunteer at the business under the previous owners. The business had shut down last March at the start of the pandemic.
Butcher said that although she didn't know for sure if the reopening would be well received by the community, she decided to "take a leap of faith."
"I've got three boys and if I'm a mom who is really needing stuff for my kids to do, then I am sure that other people are feeling the same way," Butcher said.
Since the reopening, Butcher said that depending on the day, the play space will see multiple families.
Along with a play space, the facility sells coffee and snacks from the full coffee bar.
Butcher said the snack and coffee bar is convenient for parents if they forget their kid's snacks at home or if they just want a cup of coffee while they sit and watch their kids play.
"I think its just a good way to help everyone relax," said Butcher.
On top of offering coffee, snacks and ways for kids to get their energy out during the day, The Art of Play also has a preschool.
Nicki Lund, who has been teaching for 30 years in Billings, is teaching the Montessori-based preschool.
"She came in and has been helping me build our preschool. We were both just really amped up and excited about pre-school. Education is obviously something that has been really important to her because she has been teaching for 30 years and mainly the three through five age group. For my family, education has always been something that is really important to us. So, we just wanted to really build on that," Butcher said.
Butcher said that with the preschool, she and Lund wanted to add new options to the community for early learning on top of what was already available.
Butcher said that soon, The Art of Play will have book readings for the kids every Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
The Art of Play is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Every day the facility will be closed for 30 minutes from 12:45 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. to allow time to sanitize the space and re-organize the toys for the next families and their little ones.