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State of Play, a Family’s Dream

How art, creativity, and emotions are making learning fun!

Located in Bozeman’s Cannery District, there’s a place where kids and grownups get to play, make art, and be themselves. A place with a glow-in-the-dark galaxy, a play fort that looks like it was sent here from Mars, an art studio where painting on the walls is encouraged, and various nooks for reading, learning, and playing hide and seek in. 

Welcome to "State of Play"! Built with curiosity, creativity, and community in mind, this modern play space is part children’s museum, part preschool, and part parent resource. 

But this isn’t your typical, overwhelming, questionably clean play space where parents want to exit as soon as they enter and the kids leave overstimulated and uninspired.  "State of Play" co-founders, Kama Werner and Katie Dolen, set out to redefine what a public space for families looks and feels like- one that parents want to be a part of as much as the kids.   So how did they do it? 

"State of Play" opened during a time when community and connection felt more important in a world eking out of a pandemic. “Once our doors opened, it was clear how much people wanted to gather in a clean, inviting space rooted in play, joy, and acceptance,” co-founder Werner says. 

This space was so engaging for families with young children, older siblings would come in on days off from school and feel left out, wanting to experience the space themselves. While families loved a place where they could go with their children, there was also a need for drop-off programming for children.

So in the summer of 2022, "State of Play" began their first drop-off art camp for children up to age 10, where kids could spend 3 days of the week making art inspired by artists from all over the world. The camp’s success led the founders to embark on their next venture: a preschool, a step they always knew could be in the cards for them, they just didn’t know when. 

“The play space is just the first step in inviting our Valley to reimagine early childhood spaces and educational programming. Children thrive in environments that are suited to their interests and developmental stages, and we wanted to begin the conversation of merging education with intentionality and design ” Werner declares. 

“Whether it’s the preschool, our afterschool program, or our drop-in open play, our programming values creative expression and social and emotional development as much as academic learning,” Dolen, co-founder and early childhood educator, states. 

Is it a Montessori school or program? “We are Reggio-inspired and play-based instead of Montessori. A Reggio curriculum is fluid and organic. The curriculum emerges from the interests of children. In the Reggio Emilia approach the environment is viewed as a place that is welcoming, authentic, aesthetically pleasing, and filled with purposeful materials,” Dolen says. She goes on to say, “The layout of the environment promotes relationships, communication, collaboration, and exploration through play. Materials are thoughtfully added to the environment to promote creativity, thinking and problem-solving skills, questions, experimentation, and open-ended play.”

So how can your family participate in what "State of Play" has to offer? Part of the week, families can enjoy the space together during open play. Beginning this fall, State of Play will hold its 2nd year of preschool. They will also offer their Art School program, held after school from 4-5 pm (available for children ages 3-10). And they even have a twice-a-month drop-off date night to give parents a night off. No matter when you visit, you can count on interacting with a variety of play and art stations that frequently change depending on the children’s interests and developmental age ranges. Head over to their website to view their entire schedule for the fall. 

A place with a glow-in-the-dark galaxy, a play fort that looks like it was sent here from Mars, an art studio where painting on the walls is encouraged, and nooks for reading and playing hide and seek in.