From the tiny chairs and low tables, to the gentle voice of owner Sharon Crnko and the shelves filled with simple art projects, everything at the Craft Caboose in downtown Kirkwood is just about right for the preschool crowd.
Crnko, a retired teacher and longtime Kirkwood resident, opened the kids craft studio last month to give families with small children a place to create art together without spending a lot of money or worrying about the cleanup.
“We’re just trying to create a happy environment,” she said.
Located in the former Gift Garden space at Argonne and Kirkwood Road, the Craft Caboose is filled with gobs of craft supplies just right for the youngest artists.
For a $5 studio fee, crafters can choose any number of inexpensive projects (ranging from $1 to $8), from beaded necklaces, to painted clay pots to sand art figurines. Crnko also offers birthday parties, as well as classes for children from 18 months to 6 years old that incorporate music and movement.
Alex Bernert, 4, of Shrewsbury, was sold on the Craft Caboose right away.
“We went to the and the door was open (here) and he just walked right in and he just fell in love with it,” said his mom, Agnes Bernert, as Alex chose a wooden butterfly then a wooden dinosaur to paint before moving on to a sand art project.
Crnko, who worked 22 years in early childhood special education for the Special School District, has stocked the studio with gobs of fun supplies and is always ready with ideas for projects as well as a helping hand.
Parents can sit back and watch as their little ones experiment with messy glue, glitter, buttons, pipe cleaners, washable paint and more. The projects can fill an hour or all afternoon.
“I hear it all the time: ‘This is so much fun because we don’t have to clean it up,”’ Crnko said. “My idea was to have a family event that’s affordable, where children can have success. There’s not any wrong way of doing things here.”
Crnko, 62, has gotten her whole family involved in the venture, including her husband and three grown children (son Adam Crnko is a third-grade teacher at Tillman Elementary.) Even Ted the dog spends time in the studio, which is open every day but Monday.
Crnko’s oldest grandchild, 5-year-old Averie, is chief tester. Most of the artwork displayed as examples around the studio are her’s.
“She’s not going to stop until she makes one of everything,” Crnko joked.
On Saturday, during downtown Kirkwood’s Festival of Food and Flowers, the Craft Caboose will offer face painting and a simple free craft.
Crnko hopes families will stop in and take a look around and want to return again and again.
Just like Alex — he’s planning to come back for his fourth visit this weekend, even if he hasn’t quite mastered the name of his new favorite place.
“He says, ‘Mommy, I want to go to the Craft Compoose,’” his mom said.