Business

SK moms’ newest enterprise specializes in ‘the kid thing’

Co-owner Carrie Kaptur works with 8-year-old Abbigayle Hicks at Imagination Station Enrichment Center in the High Pointe Shopping Center on Bethel Avenue. - Chris Chancellor/Staff Photo
Co-owner Carrie Kaptur works with 8-year-old Abbigayle Hicks at Imagination Station Enrichment Center in the High Pointe Shopping Center on Bethel Avenue.
— image credit: Chris Chancellor/Staff Photo

One has a degree in human services. The other is a former preschool teacher.

And together, they are the brains behind Imagination Station Enrichment Center, which opened June 18 in the High Pointe Shopping Center on Bethel Avenue.

Carrie Kaptur, 31, and Michelle Christerson, 34, both have preschool-aged children, and often would have to drive somewhere for them to play.

Christerson said the idea for an indoor play center stemmed from her former home on the East Coast.

“These kind of things are pretty much everywhere over there,” she said, adding that in comparison, this area lacks “even a facility for birthday parties. We thought Port Orchard needed a safe place for kids to play.”

That place is a 4,000-square-foot facility, more than half of which is a play floor for children from infants to 6 years old.

Among the offerings are a cedar play structure, dress-up/dramatic-play area, grocery store, magnet wall, train table and reading nook.

“We really wanted to incorporate a lot of imaginative play,” Christerson said. “Not just the normal sights and sounds of toys. It was a long thought process to set this up.”

But Christerson is quick to point out, “It’s not just dropping kids off here to play all day.”

Kaptur said parents must remain with their children for regular visits to the center, and are invited to relax in a lounge stocked with free coffee and Wi-Fi access.

She said parents can leave their children for some of the special programs that are provided, such as the early enrichment program and summer camp.

On the first and third Friday of every month, Imagination Station hosts a story time at 11 a.m., which is free for children whose parents have paid the daily fee, and on the second and fourth Friday of the month, the same hour is designated for crafts, which cost an additional $1 per child.

The facility’s 800-square-foot classroom will house an early enrichment program in the fall, as well as Mommy and Me and creative-music classes. And they plan to offer a date night the third Friday of every month for kids from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

They also run a summer camp, with a different weekly theme for ages two to six. And unlike many childcare programs, being toilet-trained is not a requirement.

“We wanted something that not only was fun, safe and relaxing for the kids to enjoy, but also for the parents to be able to kick back and let their kids play,” Kaptur said.

There is an emphasis on safety — Kaptur said that in order for a child to get out, they would have to pass their parents in the lounge — and cleanliness, with visitors both big and small are required to remove their shoes at the door to cut down on germs. Socks are required, and can be purchased if forgotten.

Working with children is nothing new to Christerson, who has a certificate in early childhood education and has taught preschool and run an in-home daycare. She switched to legal-messenger work — and then realized she missed “the kid thing.”

Kaptur, who served in the Army for eight years, has a bachelor’s of human services and does background and security investigations for the government.

Imagination Station is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with hours on the latter depending on birthday parties scheduled in the facility. They plan to extend their hours, though, in the fall, as the weather gets bad.

Daily rates are $7 for one child, and $5 for additional children; a military discount of a dollar off is offered. Summer camp is $60 a week for Monday through Thursday from 9:15 a.m to noon.

The early enrichment program is $135 for children aged 2-3, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and $215 for children 3-4, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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