4,000-Square-Foot 'Sensory' Gym Offers Summer Camp For Preschoolers

By Heather Holland on March 13, 2013 8:07am 

GRAMERCY — This urban summer camp is taking preschoolers to new heights. 

A local pediatric therapy center is offering a camp for youngsters at the space's 4,000-square-foot “sensory” gym, featuring an indoor swing, rock-climbing wall and trapeze.

All of the equipment in the gym engages children’s senses in some way by introducing them to different things to touch, see and hear, said Shirael Pollack, owner and director of the therapy center at Watch Me Grow.

The trapeze, for instance, helps children improve their upper body strength and lets them move around so that they’ll be able to focus on a task later.

“They will have kids jumping up and down on trampolines or mats, learning how to balance and working out their legs. They’re really getting sensory input, but the kids have no idea that it’s going on," said Jill Collins, a Stuyvesant Town resident whose 3-year-old son attended a similar summer camp at Watch Me Grow last summer.

Watch Me Grow, a therapy center that doubles as a lofty play space on the second floor of 361 E. 19th St., is hosting a six-week summer camp program for children ages 3 to 5 in July, catering to children with delays and autism.

“[The camp is] really designed for children who need help making friends,” said Pollack, 32. “We offer physical and verbal support for children who might be shy, or might have a hard time sitting still or needs to be physically active.”

The application process involves a consultation between individual families and therapists to make sure the program is tailored to fit each child’s needs, Pollack explained.

“A lot of these children who have a hard time ignoring background noise and sitting down and focusing, have a hard time socializing as well. It’s hard for them to engage, make eye contact, and initiate and follow a conversation.

“A teacher from school might have told the parents that the child’s not really talking much or that he’s acting out,” Pollack said. “He’s not acting out; he’s just having a hard time.”

The camp is led by certified therapists, including specialists in speech, physical and occupational therapy, who will lead children through play that encourages them to focus on tasks and communicate with their peers.

“I told them what [my son's] needs were, and they took it into account and addressed them,” Collins said.

The gym includes large play equipment like a rock-climbing wall, a ball pit, an indoor swing, see-saw and a trapeze, but the children will still go on outings to local parks and run through sprinklers during the day, Pollack noted.

Another activity might be to take a field trip to Gracefully, a grocery near Stuy Town, to pick out ingredients to make a fruit salad, she added.

“[My son] loves the space," Collins said. "It's a huge room filled with toys!"

The summer camp runs from July 18 to Aug. 13, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Cost is $3,150, but families who apply by Mar. 15 will receive at $150 discount. For more information visit www.watchmegrownyc.com.

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