There is something so timeless, so infinitely present about the sense of magic and wonder in a child’s eyes.
Albert Einstien once said “if you want your children to be brilliant, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be geniuses read them more fairy tales.”
With all due respect, I’d add to that sage advice, the need to introduce them to a sense of wonder through nature and play, art, music and dance, as well as a whole lot of love.
Twirl does all of this and more! I featured Twirl early on in taoStyle’s infancy, but thought it high time for another visit, and what better time than now, during this Season of Magic, when Twirl really goes to town creating a Winter Wonderland in its already wonderful environs.
Twirl describes itself as “a play and discovery space for families to explore together with inspirational playgrounds, water/sand play, hands-on exhibits, free classes & activities.”
That’s the short of it. There is so much more to this magical space right in town, that was founded in 2007 as a for-profit play space and toy store, by five mothers who wanted somewhere for their own young children to play and learn.
As their children grew, so did their desire to provide even more inspirational play and learning opportunities for kids in Taos. In order to expand programming efforts, seek revenues beyond traditional sources, and partner with like-minded organizations, Twirl successfully transitioned to a Non-Profit in 2014.
One of those mothers is Nikki Ross. Originally from Manchester, England and married to an American, Nikki is still very much at the forefront of Twirl. The day I visited, she and her main cohorts (incredibly gifted artist, Anais Rumfelt, who will be profiled on the blog early in the New Year, and the fabulous Nina Silfverberg, whom you have already met here), were holed up in their cosy office space next door to the upstairs playroom/studio at Twirl’s headquarters in the little alley off Taos Plaza.
I’d last seen Anais and Nina together in action at Twirl’s Motion Play at The Paseo earlier this Fall, where they engaged children’s participation in an interactive painting process. Today there was no paint spinning or dripping, and the women were all in front of their computers; co-pilots seated in the cockpit of this collective operation.
Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanza were all falling together on the calendar this year, as if to give us an extra dose of comfort and joy after the doozy of an Election cycle we’d just survived. Nikki and her brood were headed across the pond to visit her dad and family on Boxing Day (that’s the day after Christmas to all of you reading Stateside), and the Holidays were just a week away, with lots still to be done.
The ladies at Twirl were in the midst of their busiest season, juggling creative programs with ongoing outreach into the schools, along with managing the flagship playground, play spaces and toy shop. Because let us not forget, that all these activities aside, Twirl is also the best place in Taos to find the perfect gifts for all of the children in your life.
Inside the whimsical space that houses Twirl (read about it here), is a child’s fantasy of a toy shop come true. Twirl may not carry a huge array of books (“That’s not really our focus,” Nikki told me), but the magical vibe encompasses the entire shopping experience. It is as if one has walked into Fairy (Tale) Land.
My kids and I have all been loyal patrons of Twirl’s since it opened. My daughter Angelica’s daughters have spent hundreds of hours there, playing in the amazing playground (which is outfitted with some of the most creative and interactive climbing and exploratory play systems I’ve seen anywhere), taking dance classes (as tiny ballerinas) with Amber in the upstairs play space/studio, or shopping.
Shopping for their birthdays and for friends, for Christmas and Hanukkah and every occasion that demanded a gift in between. Twirl has been the go-to place for children’s presents in our family for over a decade.
I looked after my daughter Angelica’s kids on Wednesdays from when they were quite little until they started school. It’s an experience I treasure, as a grandmother who has had the good fortune to be involved in my grandchildren’s lives.
After grabbing an Americano at the World Cup (a necessary energy supplement when watching toddlers and small children once past the age of 50), I’d take them directly to Twirl’s playground to wear them out before allowing them to choose something (very small) in the shop.
We’d go home for lunch and if I was lucky, a nap (and a Fairy Tale) before their mom or dad picked them up, and then the following week we’d reenact the ritual.
To this day, I have no idea how I survived my own children’s time in Taos as toddlers without Twirl! It was short-lived because we soon returned to NYC where the parks provided plenty of playgrounds, but here in Taos, before Twirl, there was nothing much to do with kids.
Especially if you were a visitor with small children.
Twirl certainly changed all that and if you are planning a trip here during the Holiday Season, the courtyard is a-glow with Festive beauty, including a CreativiTree decorated by the community, and a great big open Heart arbor – the theme this year is Love. There are sugar plums (and pears) and other gorgeous decorations that recall traditional Nordic Christmases with hand-made ornaments made from straws and lots of gorgeous greenery.
As I got ready to leave, armed with the information I needed for this post, Nikki reminded me that “through the Holidays there’s the ongoing Twirl Aglow Scavenger Hunt in the courtyard with little prizes and surprises, including a red stone heart given to each participant.”
Nina escorted me down the Dragon staircase, through the toy shop and courtyard, into the street to a temporary space next door, where a class of kids from one of the local schools, were visiting on a field trip to learn felting. Puffy clouds of dyed wool were on the long tables where the children sat, along with cookie cutters they were using to shape their felt.
The teacher told a story about a couple of wanderers who had wrapped wool (from a sheep’s coat) around their feet to protect them from the cold as they tramped through fields and forests. When they got to their destination, the combination of sweaty feet and long hours on them, had turned the puffy bits of wool into felt socks. “This is what we are doing now,” she explained as she demonstrated the process.
As we left Nina said, “I think the story was originally about St. Christopher, but we are all-inclusive here, and don’t focus on religion.” The mission is rather to support the growth and potential of children through community-wide opportunities to gather, learn, create and play. Nina, with her formidable experience in Theater as an award-winning Costume Designer, has been largely responsible together with Kendra Peralta, (Twirl’s School Programs Manager), for these opportunities for play and learning through community collaborations with in-school, and after-school programs, as well as partnerships with informal learning organizations, including the aforementioned Paseo.
Twirl has been voted Best Place for Kids to Have Fun in Taos for the past seven years. In 2014, they received national recognition when CNN named Twirl one of the top fifteen best spots for kids in the US.
“Our vision is a community that recognizes, celebrates and cultivates its greatest asset, its children,” said Nikki while we spoke earlier, summing up what Twirl’s truly about. Our children are after all, our future, and Twirl contributes so much to our community that one of the ways we can offer continued support and express our gratitude for what they do, is by purchasing gifts for our kids and grandkids from their toy shop.
When they were younger, I loved choosing gifts for my grandchildren from the huge array of choices available; from games and puzzles that are perfect for engaging the entire family during the Holiday Season, to battery operated gizmos, face paint, art supplies and so much more.
Laura (who’s been here the longest) or perhaps Kiki – all the cool girls work at Twirl – would disappear with my little pile and return them beautifully gift-wrapped and personalised for each child. The kids would see the familiar wrapping on the presents, and their eyes would light up.
I chose gift certificates for my growing grandkids this year. Ages 10, 11 and 13, I think they prefer making their own decisions regarding games and amusements, but I know they’ll all find something that inspires their sense of wonder at Twirl.
To learn more about Twirl and what they do for our community, please visit their site linked below this post. And if you’re in town for the Holidays with small children, definitely pick up something hot to warm your hands on, before taking them to Twirl’s magical playground. You’ll be there for a while!
It’s my birthday week. I’m celebrating and I’m taking the week off.
Wishing you all a Blessed and Safe Holiday, with plenty of Magic and Wonder wherever you are!
I’ll be back next Monday.
All images thanks to Twirl’s terrific trio, from left; Nina, Anais and Nikki (in the shot with Santa).