June 2014 Update: We’re excited to announce that Play Garden Founder Maren Anderson has just been named one of Charleston, SC’s 50 Most Progressive by CHARLIE Magazine! Read all about it here.

A Q&A With Play Garden’s Founder

Maren got the idea for a creative, drop-in learning center when she struggled to find a safe and stimulating play space for her toddler. Here, she talks about her inspiration and life experiences.

What inspired you to create Play Garden?

Maren Anderson, Play Garden founderI discovered a large need when trying to find a safe, stimulating, secure, and nourishing environment for my son unless it was at his Godmomma’s house. And she already has 3 kiddos! I saw an opportunity to combine my three greatest passions—education, the environment and holistic health—and help fellow parents in the process.

Why “Play Garden”?

Kids learn best through play, and the name “Play Garden” encapsulates what our learning center is all about: a community space where parents can feel confident taking their kids, and where kids get excited about learning.

What’s something parents may not know about you?

I think a lot of the parents are familiar with my educational background: I have a B.A. in Sociology and Spanish and a Master’s in Education. But they may not know I was also the person who opened Charleston’s first Fair Trade shop, Global Awakening Market. Or that I have a degree in Holistic Health. And that I once left most of my material possessions behind to work on an organic farm in Costa Rica, where a typical day involved harvesting bananas, lighting candles for electricity and bareback horse riding over hills to use the phone or hopefully find a block of ice.

Where else have you traveled?

Where do I start? I’ve been very lucky to have so many wonderfully enriching life adventures. Some of the highlights include:

  • Moving to Anchorage, Alaska to enjoy every bit of sunlight for a life changing summer
  • Taking inspiration from Jack Kerouac to join two earth-loving college friends on a trip out West to hit as many National Parks and campgrounds as humanly possible
  • Spending a semester in Granada, Spain
  • Exploring the beauties of Europe and the diversity of hostels with an incredible and inspirational best friend
  • Sharing an oceanfront Folly Beach duplex with eight women and many more travelers
  • Renovating a small cottage-style home in James Island, South Carolina
  • Teaching Pilates and writing a book in Costa Rica while hanging in the hammocks under the morning calls of the Howler Monkeys in the mango tree above the casita
  • Getting to know passionate farmers behind the food supply in Santa Cruz, California—where chanterelle mushrooms, golden beets, and local lettuces had my mouth drooling and my dedication to unprocessed, local, organic, real food reignited

It all led me back to my routes in Charleston, South Carolina. I’m grateful to have experienced so many travels, especially now that I can apply all I’ve learned about other cultures and ways of life to Play Garden’s learning activities.

What’s been your most rewarding experience?

My greatest blessing, by far, is my little boy, Tristan, who is now three years old.