Jillybeans: Educational Activities for Kids That Are Easy and Fun

Jillybeans provides in-home classes, playdates, and parties that highlight all the excitement of interacting with your little one and making educational activities easy, accessible, and most importantly, FUN! Sing, play, and explore various age-appropriate materials that help promote your little one’s development. I chatted with Jillybeans founder Jill Maybruch to get the scoop on Jillybean’s new classes and enrichment activities for little ones. 

Tell us about yourself. 

Hi, I’m Jill! I’ve worked as an early childhood educator for over ten years, both as a music and gym teacher for infants and toddlers and as a preschool teacher here in New York City. I think being a teacher was always my destiny, as my mom is one as well. I also have a background in theater. I’ve previously performed Off-Broadway, and I’ve done a lot of voiceover work for TV and radio commercials. I live on the Upper East Side with my husband, and I’m currently teaching at an Upper East Side preschool, as well as instructing classes, playdates, and playgroups for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers in a business I’ve created called Jillybeans! 

What sparked your vision for Jillybeans? 

It all started during a car ride with my husband, early on in our dating. I was going on and on very passionately about how important play is for children, and my dream of using my experience as a teacher to create in-home educational opportunities for families. And Matt said, “Well, why can’t you? Let’s do this!” So I started brainstorming what that programming might look like, and really aimed to create the classes and community I’d want to be a part of with my child if I were a parent. That was my mission when I launched Jillybeans in 2017. It has given me the opportunity to combine so many of the things I’m passionate about, from teaching and designing curriculum and activities for early childhood classes, to my love of performing and singing. As a child, I loved dramatic play! I think I was singing before I could talk. I often think about what I was like as a child when thinking about activities for Jillybeans. I want to make learning and play purposeful and fun.

We love your customized educational and enrichment classes and experiences. Tell everyone a little about them.

I teach baby classes for new parents and their babies, as well as playdates on an individual or group basis. My baby classes highlight all the fun and excitement of interacting with your little one and other parents and caretakers! I run programming for babies as young as 2 months, and the classes can really grow with them, as all of the activities and materials are meant to follow and support their development. For my customized playdates and playgroups, I bring age-appropriate activities (could be art, science and sensory explorations, cooking a kid-friendly snack, etc.) for the children to participate in that are tailored specifically to the child/children’s interests. Whether it be a class or a playgroup, with adults or without, I come to an apartment or communal space with all the props and supplies needed to make it happen! 

How does your being a teacher influence Jillybeans?

It influences me in so many ways! I think the main thing it’s shown me is that every child is incredibly unique, and that means that my approach to engaging a child can’t be “one size fits all.” I really strive to create opportunities that support each child’s individuality and learning style. It’s taught me to be patient and flexible. Additionally, after so many years working with young children, I’ve learned a lot about development and how to best support it, which informs all of the Jillybeans programming. 

You are uber creative in tailoring your teaching of fundamental skills in new and exciting ways based on each child’s interests. Tell us about some of your favorite lessons and activities.

Thanks! I did a really fun reading readiness activity and letter identification activity with a Frozen-obsessed little girl. The premise was that Elsa froze all the letters in the alphabet. I froze water mixed with food coloring in alphabet letter molds and just let her have at it! I did a Spiderman rescue activity for fine motor strengthening with a toddler where Spiderman needed his sidekick’s help to rescue other characters hidden in a sensory bin using his magic “spider tongs.” I’ve built entire cities out of cardboard boxes! I LOVE a good sensory activity, and sensory play is a huge part of what I do in Jillybeans. There are so many benefits to sensory play alone, but it’s also a create way to layer in and introduce other developmentally appropriate skills. If you give me a theme, I can create a unique sensory bin activity around it. I’ve done it all: outer space, rainbows, ice cream, under the sea, basketball, unicorns, construction! One of my favorite types of playdates is a sibling playdate. My sister is one of my closest friends, but we’re four years apart, an age difference that felt a lot bigger in our early years. I love being able to facilitate sibling play for other families by providing opportunities for siblings to bond, share, and work together collaboratively on projects and activities! 

What can kids and parents expect in a session/series of sessions?

Well, first and foremost, fun and creativity! Before any playdate session, I always ask parents some questions about the participating child/children’s interests. What books or characters do they love? What’s their favorite color? What is their play style like — does he/she love dramatic play or prefer constructive play, like building with blocks?  I also ask about any specific developmental goals or skills they’d like me to incorporate into our sessions. Perhaps a child is working on his/her social skills, like turn taking, or a grandparent is looking to bond by sharing a special experience with his/her grandchild. Perhaps a parent really wants to support their child’s Pre-K readiness skills, like holding scissors properly, or pre-reading skills, like letter identification. I’ll design the play setups to support and enrich those goals. 

What are your favorite things about working with children at Jillybeans?

I learn so much from them! Children see possibilities and opportunities everywhere. They are incredibly capable, even from a young age. I’m always amazed at how the activities I plan can evolve at the hands of a child, if I just allow the space for that to happen. They’re always making discoveries. Young children live in the here and now. We lose a lot of that ability as adults, and I love how present and “in the moment” this work allows me to be. Sometimes, at the end of the day, my face hurts from smiling so much!

Tell us about some of your exciting endeavors and your new Princess Party collaboration.

I’ve been so lucky to collaborate and run events with a lot of amazing partners in and around NYC, such as the Monica and Andy stores and The Playroom NYC. The princess party is a collaboration with The Playroom, where I’ll actually be teaching some classes on Thursdays this fall, and New York Princess Party. The event is for children 2-5 years old, and it includes princess-themed crafts and sensory activities, dessert decorating, and even meet and greets with some of your little one’s favorite princesses. All of our princess events have completely sold out, and I’m looking forward to many more in the future! If you’re a parent of a princess lover, you will NOT want to miss it! Stay tuned for additional events and exciting partnerships to come! 

Tell us how Jillybeans is different from other classes and activities?

I tailor so much of what I do to the interests and skills of the children I’m working with. Children are so much more likely to be engaged when the activities are built around their interests, and that is what Jillybeans is all about. The playdates I run are meant to be special and mindful, with all the explorations curated specifically for the participating children. For example, if we’re working on turn taking, I’ll focus on collaborative activities and projects. I think people often assume that putting young children in a room with toys is enough. I’ve taught young two’s for many years, and my students so often desperately want to engage with each other but don’t always know how. I not only create fun and educational play experiences, but I also help provide the social scaffolding to facilitate those interactions! 

What is the one thing everyone should know about Jillybeans?

I know I already mentioned this, but young children are so smart and so capable. They have so many ideas, and it’s amazing to watch what they’re able to create when given the opportunity! Jillybeans is all about supporting a child’s individuality and unique learning and play styles.  

If you’d like to learn more about Jillybeans, attend some of the upcoming classes or events at playspaces and stores around the city, or put together a private class or playdate of your own, please reach out to Jillybeans at jillybeansnyc.com, Instagram @jillybeansnyc, or Facebook,