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Happy Campers Setting up Camp in South Tampa
By Emily L. Hay Hinsdale
Music. Movement. Breathe. Community. Connection.
These are the words you’ll be thinking when you walk into Happy Campers, a new enrichment center and indoor play space for young children located at 3309 S. Dale Mabry.
Palma Ceia resident Monica Chandler and her long-time colleague and friend Jimmy Dingle opened Happy Campers Play & Music Garden on May 14th. “We saw the need in this area for an indoor play space that incorporates programming,” Chandler says.
Happy Campers welcomes children aged 0 to 5 with age-appropriate music classes, baby-and-me movement and indoor play classes, with more music and art classes scheduled to start in the fall. The newly-remodeled location includes a large indoor “camp site,” with a variety of play equipment to meet children’s needs and interests as they grow.
Pricing options are listed on the Happy Campers website.
Chandler knew the kind of business she wanted to offer as soon as the space became available, located within the same complex as her other business, the Martial Arts Advantage After School program. It’s the kind of space she would have loved for her own children (now in middle school) when they were babies… music, parent-and-baby movement classes, and air-conditioned play space! When she approached Dingle, a Tampa musician and owner of Jimmy D’s Music, Guitar Instruction and Performance, he too recognized how valuable this business could be.
“This area was underserved with music education for younger kids,” Dingle says.
“We really wanted something that was truly enrichment,” Chandler adds.
Chandler immediately enlisted her friend Lisa Wilson – “I knew I wanted an exercise component and immediately Lisa’s name popped into my head.” Wilson has been a certified yoga instructor in Tampa for over 15 years, with a special focus on prenatal and children’s yoga classes. Wilson
brings her expertise to Happy Campers with “Kangaroo Kharma,” yoga/movement classes for babies, crawlers, toddlers and their caregivers.
“It instills healthful, mindful habits from an early age. It’s important for the kids and caregivers to get out of the house and make some community connections,” Wilson says. Wilson’s classes involve stretching, repetition for the children, interval training for adults, and a focus on
breathing and centering.
Dingle brought in his friend, Marzena Coughlin, a teacher of 15 years with Hillsborough County Public Schools, with a background in music and music education – “She brings an integrity to the program.” Coughlin adapts her music classes to fit varied age groups, recognizing the developmental needs of each age, right down to the difference between tones a six-month-old ear can hear compared to that of a one-year-old. Dingle says exposing children to music at a young age can change the way their brains develop, but also provides an opportunity for caregivers and children to find new ways to connect.
The idea of community connection is where Happy Campers begins.
“For me, it’s a community space,” Dingle says. “The main goal is the bonding between parents and children, bringing people together.”
Palma Ceia Neighborhood Association
The Palma Ceia Neighborhood Association (PCNA) facilitates community inclusiveness, sustainability, awareness, investment, and involvement to promote a safe, vibrant neighborhood.