Candy Making Gather Style



One of my favorite movies as a child was the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with the hilariously odd Gene Wilder. In tribute to the role the book by Roald Dahl and the movie had in my own life (encouraging imagination, laughter, kindness and gratitude), this week in Art Adventures we made lollipops inspired by the incredible, edible imagination room in Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

Gene Wilder, no offense Johnny, will always be the real Mr. Willy Wonka to me.



1. We started by cutting circles out of heavy weight, white paper. I love Strathmore’s mixed media paper as its subtle surface texture and weight stands up to some serious painting, gluing and embellishing.



Art buffets are wonderfully inviting for makers of all ages.



At Gather and anytime I am making art, I like to set up of a buffet of art materials; an art feast that feels bountiful, organized, colorful and inviting. This buffet also included a box lid to house the inevitable glitter messes that are about to ensue.

2. Decorate your circles in whatever way you chose. I like to demonstrate mark making first, laying a foundation of color(s) and then embellishing with all sorts of things.




How about markers and colorful rice? or fabric scraps? The possibilities are endless, but there must be glitter, right? That big, flaky iridescent glitter gives every piece that sugary, sweet confections feel.


3. Hot glue a colorful paper straw of your choice to your creation and voila, an amazing lollipop! “If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it…” I hope the song is stuck in your head now too.


For our even younger artists, I started with a sturdier, double-sided base. The popsicle stick variety is easier for small hands to navigate and making it double-sided allowed for more art making and planning if using glue on either side.


4. Ask your little ones about the flavor of their lollipop. Invite storytelling by asking questions that lead to creative thinking. Who would like a lollipop like this? How would the “lion doctor” get a “chocolate mousse, blueberry cake” lollipop? The ideas and stories that kids making art come up with can be incredible. I think it is our job to give them space and inspiration to create fantastic realities as that ability to think big, think different, think outside of what currently is, is what will help them solve problems as they grow.


IMG_5023.JPGThe fun didn’t stop with lollipop making. This collection of amazing swirls at the play dough station came to life too. Over the course of the afternoon they were cookies, candies, treats for baby dolls and hammerhead sharks. I never stop being amazed how setting the stage for creativity allows magic to happen for the maker and those who discover what is made.

“We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams” ~Roald Dahl.  Thank you Gene Wilder for encouraging us to laugh and to dream.




When I say summer, you say camp!

During our summer hours, Gather hosts themed weeks of summer camp in the afternoon, and we’ve had such a blast so far! From a camp dedicated to music and art with Angela and Jocelyn to learning about all things Brazil & Ninja with Yoli , a professional yoga instructor, and even cooking classes with Chef Mamata, we’ve all learned so much and can’t wait to continue the excitement of creative camps throughout the summer. A typical day of summer camp starts off with a healthy snack and the ever so famous “Hello Song”. Then our planned activity based specifically on the week’s theme begins. Below are some of my favorite highlights of our summer camp so far!

Screen Shot 2016-07-30 at 1.39.31 PM

Week 1: Music Makers

During Music Makers, the kiddos got to create a lively mural on a giant piece of paper with paint and pastels of all colors while we listened to classical music. Next a scale was drawn onto the paper and the campers had the chance to compose original scores with music notes they could stick on the scale. Once that task was complete, Jocelyn, a music expert, sang the composition that the kids created. I thought this was such a creative project that the kids and parents seemed to love as well!


Week 2: Brazilian Celebration!

Screen Shot 2016-07-30 at 1.40.25 PM

Brazilian Celebration was all about exploring Brazilian culture through children’s books, dance, music, and elaborate costumes. My absolute favorite part of this week’s camp was seeing the kids dressed in their Brazilian headpieces and jewelry that they created themselves. They were all so colorful and unique. I also loved seeing how excited the kids were when they got to “travel” to Brazil by crawling through a rainbow tunnel. At the end of the week, the kids donned their costumes for a mini parade. It was wonderful to see how proud they were of their Brazil inspired creations.


Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 2.46.02 PM

Week 3: Kitchen Garden

This was definitely a yummy week, filled with lots of homemade snacks for the kiddos and their tall assistant. Taught by Chef Mamata, the kids learned all about different types of healthy and fresh foods from apples to kale and don’t worry, we didn’t leave out homemade mini pizzas. Each day, Chef Mamata taught the kids how to create a healthy but delicious snack that they could enjoy! Some of my favorite, and tastiest, snacks the kiddos created were apple turtles with chive eyes, and green grapes as the head, arms, feet, and tail. Not only did I think this project was super creative, but the kids learned all about the different types of apples and got to determine whether they were more of a granny smith or honey crisp person. I also loved the fruit pizza and smoothie project. The fruit pizza was definitely the sweetest with a sugar cookie “crust”, marshmallow fluff “sauce”,  and delicious fruit toppings. But the children seemed to love the kale & fruit smoothies just as much! They learned about all the different types of kale and got to try greens from Chef’s garden. I learned that a great way to get your little ones to eat their veggies is through curiosity.


Week 4: Ninja camp Screen Shot 2016-07-30 at 2.07.42 PM.png

The kiddos had a blast at this exciting camp taught by Yoli and learned the secrets and skills of being a Ninja! One of my favorite parts of this camp was seeing the kids decorate their special Ninja belt as they incorporated their own personal style into their creations. I also loved exploring Sumi-e, Japanese watercolor painting. With all the excitement of camp, it was awesome to see the kids relax and let their brush stroke the paper. The kids were so proud of their painting, and parents even got a chance to dabble as well!




Screen Shot 2016-07-30 at 2.19.24 PM

Week 5: Flour Power!

A spoonful of “flour” definitely helps make yummy pastries. During this camp, Chef Mamata and the kiddos made delicious recipes that they could take home and bake. From Chef’s favorite birthday brownies to chocolate chip cookies all the way to giant pretzels, this camp never failed to create a sweet afternoon! The kids got to practice combining ingredients, measuring and even cracking eggs. Using sensory play, the kids had a blast using their little hands to create delicious snacks!


Camps coming up: 

Festivals of India with Yoli: August 1st-5th

I Heart Art: Be Green, Be Creative with Angela: August 8th-15th

Zookeepers: Tales, Teamwork & Tactile Art with Allison: August 15th-19th

All of Gather’s creative camps are from 3:45PM-5PM Monday through Friday. Please visit summer-camp or give us a call 847-859-2312 for more information on our summer camps or to register!

xoxo- Aubrey

Welcome Aubrey

Greetings Gather:

Hi there! My name is Aubrey and I recently joined the Gather team and will be working there during the summer months. For me, art has always been a part of the plan and creativity was a trait that I seemed to show starting at a young age. Instead of playing soccer or basketball, I would spend hours creating little improvised plays in my family room or coloring every possible ounce of paper that caught my eye, sometimes even my parents business files…oops. So it’s easy to sayIMG_1771 I’ve always had a passion for creativity. When I was younger and people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would confidently say something along the lines of an actress, singer, artist, and yes, I didn’t leave out princess. Fifteen years later and my answer is very similar, minus the princess part but I mean I wouldn’t be opposed to a tiara.  I want to take a creative path. Instead of sitting behind a desk, I want to be in front of it. Meeting new people, forming connections, and embracing the creative side in everything. I am an incoming sophomore at the University of Dayton studying Communications Management with a concentration in special events, yup it’s a bit of a mouthful, but it is a lot of fun. My absolute favorite thing about studying communications is that you learn to always be 110% engaged in everything you do, which makes you appreciate so many more things in life. You also learn the significance of each and every conversation and connection you make. Before working at Gather, I was a counselor at a sleep away camp, an assistant director for the Winnetka Children’s Theatre, and a babysitter, as you can probably tell, I’ve always loved working with kids. Although I truly loved all of my previous jobs, I knew that this summer I wanted to expand my passion for creativity, communications, and event planning. I am a huge believer in fate, and fortune cookies, so when my fortune said something about an opportunity coming my way, I was on the lookout.  A few months ago when I was walking on Davis Street with my mom, we found ourselves in front Gather. I peeked into those glass windows, saw all of the amazing and colorful artwork, and I was hooked. I joined the Gather team towards the end of May and I have absolutely loved every single second of my time at Gather so far. I am beyond thankful for everything Gather has taught me in the few weeks that I have been working here from running a smooth birthday party to using creativity to turn pretty much anything into art. When I see kids paint something for the first time or play with their favorite toy, a smile never fails to take over my face. I am so happy that I will be at Gather for the summer months and I can’t wait to meet more of you. From drop-in art and play to birthday parties to our summer camp, Gather is always the highlight of my day and has truly amazed me in so many ways! Thank you all more being so welcoming and I cannot wait to create more #GatherMemories.


“Everybody has a creative potential and from the moment you can express this creative potential, you can start changing the world.” -Paulo Coelho



See you later, alligator!

Dear Gather families and friends,

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the state of the world that we live in… There’s been a lot of violence, injustice, and hate surrounding us. It is difficult for me to reconcile the existence of such hatred with the positivity, love, and courage I witness each day from each one of you here at Gather. At times like these, I often feel helpless and voiceless – we cannot undo what has been done, as much as we might want to. However, on days like today, sitting at Gather with so many dear families who have become my friends, I am filled with a sense of hope and thankfulness. At the risk of sounding sappy, Gather has become my happy place in many ways – I find myself recharged and reconnected when I’m  here. I have all of you to thank for that. Many of you may not know how you affect those around you – but please know your love and effort each day does not go unappreciated. From you, I’ve learned to choose love and patience when faced with adversity. I’ve learned that it is ok to ask for help when you need it. I’ve learned that transitions can be difficult for everyone, tall or short. I’ve learned the importance of friendship and community. In what may seem like an endless struggle to balance nap time, play time, snack time, and tantrum time, please know you’ve all demonstrated exactly what we need to battle the ugliness in this world. I truly believe that we must continue to foster love, appreciation, patience, and humility in ourselves and our future generations if we want to see positive change.

I cannot believe my time here at Gather is coming to an end. When I first started working here over 2.5 years ago, I had no idea the journey that would unfold. At the time, I was fresh out of college, new to the area, and really unsure of what my next chapter would be. Looking back now, I feel so fortunate that I ended up at Gather. Thank you for letting me be a part of this vibrant and wonderful community. I also want to say a huge, HUGE, thank you to Angela – for all that she does, for her giant heart, and for being a constant inspiration to all those around her.

Today was my last day as the manager at Gather. It was a busy day filled with familiar faces and lots of coffee. I received so many hugs, well wishes, drawings, and kisses. Honestly, I cannot think of a better way to say goodbye (other than to not have to!) I will cherish all these memories and I have bottled up a little bit of Gather to bring with me wherever I go. Thank you, each of you, for being you!  See you later, Alligator! 🙂

singing, dancing, laughing, and having fun @ Gather! 

With love and gratitude,



Gather for Active Minds

This may be a bit silly, but since I started working at Gather (over 2.5 years ago!), I’ve totally changed my perspective on toys.  Before I dipped my toes in early childhood education, I always thought children loved toys that are “interactive” and “educational” – trains that make sound, teddy bears that speak, toys with screens, like tiny iPads made for little fingers…etc. While these toys are still great in many ways, I’ve learned that kiddos are incredibly imaginative, creative, smart, and capable of making their teddy bears talk and trains “choo” without batteries. Parents at Gather often tell me they think our space really encourages creative play. Personally, this is by far the best compliment I’ve ever received on behalf of Gather. I think this is a combination of the extensive art materials we offer and the toys we carefully select for our guests.

Dress up clothing for all ages help to promote imaginative play.

I recently came across this article written by Katie, a speech pathologist and mother of three, regarding choosing toys that encourage steady language and cognitive development in children. “Inactive” toys help children learn important skills like counting, interacting with others, and finding associations between seemingly different things. These are invaluable skills that I find myself using and improving everyday. As a caregiver, I love to play with inactive toys like tea sets and pretend walkie talkies (often any inanimate object that we can talk into) because it provides me with unique opportunities to connect with little ones and further understand what the world is like from their perspective. Play is often described as the “work” for children – one of their main means of learning about themselves and the world around them. (Check out this short and informative article by Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D to learn more) In my opinion, there is no better way to model for the wonderful children in my life than to make playing a priority… especially knowing they are learning about themselves and the world around them as they play.

Building blocks encourage hand eye coordination, creativity, pattern recognition, solitary and team work, and all around fun! 

Here at Gather, we offer a wide selection of “inactive” toys to play with, and we love to see families having fun and creating long lasting memories and learning opportunities together. We hope that our space will inspire you to unplug from your work, stresses, and responsibilities and play, create, and learn with the little ones in your life.

Put on a smock and paint, glue, draw, color, and create away! 

With Love,


Top Toys & How They Can Support Speech & Language Development (Part One)

12 Tips for Choosing Toys for Your Child

Further reading:

Gather for Mother’s Day 2016


As a child, I never stopped to think of my mom as a complete human – with a story of her own before my sisters and I even existed. To me, she was mom. A word that barely encompasses the myriad of emotions, responsibilities, thought, stress, and love that I am lucky enough to witness at Gather on a day to day basis as I watch interactions between Moms and their children.  I recently went home to Taiwan for a little over 2 weeks to visit family. During that time, I enjoyed doing mundane tasks with my Mom like grocery shopping and gardening. These are things that I rarely get to do with my Mom because we are separated by thousands of miles, busy schedules, and time zones.

zipping me up at my wedding

I started to think about how my relationship with my Mother has changed over the years. She is my oldest friend – the only person in the world who has known me since before I was even born! She has seen me through my terrible twos, my impossibly more terrible middle school years, my hormone surged high school days, college, she (and Dad) walked me down the aisle… in short – she’s watched me become who I am today. In all this time, I seldom stopped to thank her for all she’s silently done for me. Over the years, our relationship has changed in many simple and complex ways. For one, she no longer has to change my diapers… (you’re welcome, mom!). We also talk less frequently than before. My mother no longer makes important decisions for me, and I have learned to cherish her advice when making those decisions. Still, when we gather, there is an unmistakeable familiarity to being with my Mother, one that I’ve come to recognize as being “home.”

Angela with her 3 amazing daughters, creating something beautiful together!


Sometimes I am struck by the thought that my parents also had mothers, and my grandparents had mothers, and so on and so forth. It is incredible to think that we are a culmination of generations and generations of strong, nurturing, loving moms. Mother’s day, to me, is a time to honor all those who have taken the time to mother me and to Moms who are toiling through each day to mother the next generation. Thank you! Thank you moms, grand moms, step moms, and future moms for all that you do!


We LOVE our grandmas too! Thank you!


From all of us here at Gather: Happy Mother’s Day!

With love,


“What will your legacy be?”

I have been so grateful to enjoy the portrait of Dr. Margaret Burroughs by  Fernando Ramirez over the last several weeks. Fernando’s work has been showcased in our most recent exhibition at Gather alongside artworks by several other artists employed by Project Onward.


This particular portrait has a significant place in my mind and heart because I had the pleasure to meet Dr. Burroughs several years ago as part of my work at a transformational social enterprise called WomanCraft. Dr. Burroughs, among many things, was an artist, educator, activist, and one of the founders of the DuSable Museum, the first museum of African American history in the United States. It began in her living room in Chicago and has grown into the incredible organization it is today. When the artisans of WomanCraft and I had the honor to spend an hour with her, Dr. Burroughs was in her nineties and still teaching art within the prison system.  In other words, she was a powerhouse of energy, creativity, mission and an inspiration to many. After offering a talk about her life, she looked at each of us and asked, “What will your legacy be?”  This was not a moment you could take lightly. I remember being filled with excitement and fear for what might come out of my mouth when she got to me.

I said, “I want to run a community art studio. I want to create a space for people to be creative together, for people to make things but also build community together.”  Now I am sure “support” and “welcoming” also wove their way in there too. Immediately, I remember thinking how inarticulate I had been. She nodded. And I thought -I bet a lot of people say something flowery like that and I don’t know how, but I really hope this happens.

This was all years before my daughters were born. Years before I realized how much I wanted and needed community around parenting and support for becoming the kind of mother I hope to be. I have always loved making art with others and deeply appreciate creating opportunities for meaningful, engaged play through the creative arts. I think Dr. Burroughs’ question seeded my involvement with Gather in ways I could never have predicted. I am so thankful for this amazing opportunity to create a space for children and caregivers, families, and artists of all sorts to be creative together.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If you haven’t yet, please come in to see the amazing show by Project Onward artists featuring portraits of important individuals in honor of Black History month. The closing date is March 6th. Also, be sure to spend some time today or this week making something with your little ones – it could be a meal, a dance, a song, or a piece of art. I believe accessing our creativity is part of what makes us human. It is part of what rejuvenates our thinking. It is part of building significant connections with others. Encouraging creativity in our children can feed our spirits and can teach them resilience. This is why I believe creative play is critical work.

Working with a little artist on her masterpiece during Gather’s registered after school class: I Heart Art

Thank you Dr. Margaret Burroughs for pushing me to define what I needed to do with this one wild and precious life. Thank you to my children for never ceasing to inspire me. Thank you to the Gather community for creating a network of support for so many to feel welcome, creative and resilient.

Warmest wishes,