Meet a Mom — Founder of Toddler Time SD —
Even while raising four little ones of her own, Allyson has found a way to engage and entertain a community of other toddlers through the gift of discovery & play!
How many kids do you have, and what are their ages?
I have 4 daughters. They are 8 years old, 6 years old and 3-year-old identical twins!
Which area of North County/San Diego do you call home? How long have you lived here?
I call Bankers Hill home, central San Diego area.
What do you love about living in San Diego?
I was born and raised in San Diego and have always loved the beautiful weather, the down-to-earth people and the peace and quiet of having a beach always accessible.
What’s your favorite part of San Diego? Why?
My favorite Mom activity is getting coffee at The Henry in Coronado and then walking to the beach. I love that my kids can run free on the sand and that they can engage in creative free play with the sand and in the water. I also feel like the breeze just puts everyone in a better mood instantly!
What’s your favorite restaurant in San Diego?
My favorite restaurant is Mona Lisa Deli in Little Italy.
What’s your favorite item on the menu at Mona Lisa Deli?
#12 Smoked turkey, as it comes, with no modifications. Basically, their turkey sandwich is unparalleled!
What’s so good about the #12?
It is a thick deli roll, and the ingredients are so fresh. The sauce they put on it just drips down your arm. People claim it’s too big to finish in one sitting, but I respectfully disagree!
What’s your favorite store in San Diego?
My favorite place to shop is definitely Pigment. Between the plants, jewelry, knick-knacks and killer greeting-card collection, it can’t be beat!
What else do you love about Pigment?
I think Pigment has things for your home that bring you a spark of joy when you look at them. In a home filled with kids’ toys and clutter at times, the little plants or accessories I get from Pigment make ME happy as the Mom. I get joy from seeing them around my house, and it’s important to remember to make ourselves happy even in that small way.
“Once my kids all started in school, I put on my entrepreneurial hat and decided to start my own business.”
How did you come up with the idea for Toddler Time SD?
I’ve always loved toddlers. I think they are hilariously both predictable and unpredictable. I love watching them do silly things that surprise me. I’ve been thinking about this idea for a long time as someone who has spent their career in the nonprofit school enrichment industry. I’ve developed curriculum before and have spent the past 8 years doing all sorts of activities with my own kids.
Once my kids all started school, I put on my entrepreneurial hat and decided to start my own business. I love finding fun ways to teach toddlers without them even knowing it, and I’ve always felt that these kids’ classes could be more enjoyable for the parents, too. By providing coffee and playing grown-up music I hope to give the parents/guardians a space where they can take a moment of Zen, too.
Do you have partners or employees?
How long have you operated Toddler Time SD?
I have operated Toddler Time SD for just a few short months!
Where do you operate your classes/sessions?
Our classes are held on Tuesdays at NTC Liberty Station Park and on Thursdays at Ocean Air Recreation Center (adjacent to the park).
What do you love about your business?
I absolutely love bonding with toddlers and entertaining them while they’re also learning. To see a toddler mastering a new skill is so rewarding. I also love connecting with Moms and “keeping it real.” Motherhood is a tough gig. I love acknowledging the challenges and not pretending like any of us has it completely together. I want moms to enjoy every minute. It’s hard, and we need to share those challenges to help one another.
Besides attending your class, what are your tips for parents to stimulate their child’s natural curiosity?
I think finding ways to let your children play on their own more is the best thing. We tend to intervene so often because we’ve been taught to be involved and engaged, but sometimes just sitting back and watching is what our kids need the most. So, let go of that guilt and let them explore and play on their own.
I have three sons with varied interests. When they were younger it was hard to occupy them with a single activity.
What collective activities would you recommend to moms who want to keep their kids engaged in constructive ways although their interests may be different?
I totally agree that this is a very real challenge. I try to do art projects that my older girls can do independently so I am able to be more hands-on with my twins. I love doing painting on canvases and using painter’s tape to tape off a pattern. Then when the painting is dry you remove the painter’s tape and everyone ends up with a painting that they love despite their skill level.
Also, I love doing sensory play. I find that even my older girls are able to get engaged with kinetic sand if we incorporate the idea of baking into it. Then they “sell” their goods to us! Whereas my twins just mess around with the materials. I think giving an additional age-appropriate challenge with the same materials can elevate a “little kid” activity to something the older kids will enjoy as well.
Tell us about the class and its structure. What is sensory play?
Sensory play is when kids are able to use materials to engage their senses, primarily touch, smell, and sight. I think the whole point of sensory play is to let children use their instincts and imagination to guide their own play.
There are no wrong ways to use materials. Even dumping an entire container on the floor is totally fine because the child obviously had a curiosity about what would happen to the materials if tipped over. It’s freeing when you let them control this type of play because you really see how their minds work.
“Sensory play is when kids are able to use materials to engage their senses, primarily touch, smell, and sight.”
When and where are your two activity locations?
We offer classes on Tuesdays at NTC Liberty Station Park and on Thursdays at Ocean Air Park in North County.
How do the two locations differ, or are they the same?
The classes at the locations are the same. We just offer the two locations for convenience based on where everyone lives!
Do you offer the same types of activities at both locations?
What is the cost to participate?
The cost is $100 for 4 sessions that usually run over the course of the calendar month. Each month has its own theme for the sensory play and other activities.
What are the most popular sensory activities among the Littles and the Biggies?
The most popular sensory activities tend to involve playing with water in some way and playing with cloud dough. It is also quite popular to pack and unpack boxes. This sounds mundane, but toddlers can do this for such a long time! If a box has a variety of items of different shapes and sizes they will spend an eternity taking out each object, examining it, and then putting it back into the same box when they’re done.
Have you considered offering your activity sessions in a party setting—like a birthday party activity event? Currently, that is not in the plans. What I love about these Toddler Time SD classes is that it is also a community for the parents. I always felt a bit unseen at kids classes and want the parents to be able to connect and enjoy this time with their kids as well. So the multi-week format is really our best approach.
What’s important for new parents to know about how toddlers play?
Toddlers play in a way that is totally uncomfortable for adults sometimes. They destroy. They dump. They make messes. It’s really important for us to take a backseat to this kind of play. It reinforces our toddlers’ independence and gives them a sense of authority over their own play.
It’s hard to sit back and just watch. But in the safe outdoor space of this class (and with no concerns about the mess), parents need to let their kids take the reins and just observe. It’s really amazing to watch them. It’s freeing not to feel the need to intervene in or correct their play.
“My favorite restaurant is Mona Lisa Deli in Little Italy.”
What do you encourage parents to do while their kids are involved in the class activity?
There is always coffee for the parents, so if their kids are totally engaged they can take a moment for themselves while watching their kids. We do encourage parents to stay alongside their kids for the most part and watch and help them if needed. But for parts of this class the toddlers should be totally content playing on their own and even with the other kids.
What life lessons have your toddlers (your children or your class participants) taught you?
I think toddlers give us a reminder that being carefree and impulsive can sometimes be a great thing. We get so buttoned up as adults. We stick so closely to our routines that it’s great to be reminded that sometimes the moments that provide the most joy are the ones where we deviate from our routines and lean into these intense moments of fun.
Do you have any hobbies? If so, tell us about it/them!
I have 4 children, so my hobbies are limited, but I’m working on it! Recently, I took an art class to learn more about abstract acrylic painting. I thoroughly enjoyed that experience and have continued painting on my own. I also enjoy working out because it helps relieve a lot of the daily stress that accumulates for me and helps my patience with my kids!!
How do you juggle work (a business) and motherhood?
I have always thrived with a lot on my plate, so for me this is the ultimate challenge! It has been a test of time management to get everything for the business done while my kids are in school, but I think I am overall a happier person when I am working.
I love that my girls get to see their Mom as a professional role model. I always want them to know that they can do whatever they set their minds to. It’s good for them to see me working hard on something other than getting them snacks [haha]!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten from another mom?
I don’t think I’ve received any advice that was revolutionary, I have more found support and solace in the fact that motherhood is an incredibly tough gig and no matter how it looks on the outside we all struggle with the same issues and can help each other through them. I believe being surrounded by other Moms that “keep it real” is the best advice. Those women will help you through your toughest times and also celebrate all the joyous moments you will have.
How can our North County moms find out more about the classes? What’s the easiest way to sign up?
We have a sign-up link on the website at www.toddlertimesd.com
Photography by Charie Juaneza
Maria Felicia Kelley interviewed Allyson Burakoff
for the second TNCMs’ Meet-a-Mom series!