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Holiday Road: Carolina Lights Gleam Bright for the Fifth Consecutive Year

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Have you visited Carolina Lights at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds? We did! And, we have all the information and parent tips to make your trip to Carolina Lights spectacular.

When the lights go down in the city, and the sun sets over Williams-Brice Stadium, the Carolina Lights at the South Carolina Fairgrounds illuminate the evening sky from December 8 – 24, 2023.

The 5th annual Carolina Lights, a drive-through holiday light spectacular, is located at Lexington Medical Center Fair Park at the South Carolina Fairgrounds. This unforgettable show boasts over 100 individual LED light displays. With a combination of displays of both novelty and tradition, there’s something to satisfy even the biggest Scrooge!

Tickets for Carolina Lights

You can purchase tickets in advance for Carolina Lights on the South Carolina State Fair website, or you can pay cash or card at the gate. These advance purchase tickets may be used anytime between December 8 – 24, 2023. 

Special Day Promotional Tickets

Active and Retired Military Day

On Wednesday, December 13, all active and retired military (with proper military identification) will be able to purchase tickets for 50% off at the gate

First Responder Day

On Tuesday, December 19, all first responders may purchase tickets for 50% off at the gate.

Carolina Lights at the SC State Fairgrounds

When is Carolina Lights?

Enjoy the light show anytime between December 8 – 24, 2024. Carolina Lights is open Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM. And Fridays and Saturdays, from 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM. Closed on all Mondays.

How Do You Get to Carolina Lights?

You may enter Carolina Lights at 901 George Rogers Blvd, Columbia, SC 29201. Please use Gate 6 of the South Carolina Fairgrounds.

Tips for Carolina Lights

  • Tune into FM Radio Station 88.9 for holiday music to sync with the lights.
  • Once you enter the fairgrounds, kindly turn off your headlights.
  • Stay in your vehicle at all times.
  • Restrooms are available halfway through the park. Look for signs for directions.
  • Cookies, milk, water, Pepsi products and even dog biscuits are available for purchase halfway through the light show. Follow signs to the designated lane.
  • Request a re-entry pass at the exit gate if you wish to re-enter the light show free of charge.
Carolina Lights at the SC State Fairgrounds

My Family’s Carolina Lights Experience

Opening night of Carolina Lights, my family turns into Gate 6 at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds. Upon entering, there are two lanes for check-in, and a designated person handing out maps at each post. We are greeted immediately and promptly handed a map of the lights and a holiday activity book for my two-year-old daughter. The gentleman then directs us ahead to the two mini houses, where each car pays with either cash or card. Again, there are still two lanes, in order to move things along swiftly.

Pay and On Your Way

My family is greeted by Kathy, the woman collecting money. She politely directs us ahead, giving us the option to turn off our headlights and tune into the FM Radio Station, 88.9. The radio station is playing holiday music of both new and old, and magically synchronized with the lights within the drive-through. Once you pay, the drive-through turns into a single-file lane only. 

Not a Bad Seat in the House

Light displays line each side of the road, so no matter where you’re sitting in your car, front, back, infant car seat or third-row, you’re not going to miss a thing! 

The light show begins with a giant gold-lit “Carolina Lights” archway, complete with a Carolina crescent moon and blue Palmetto tree to the left and right of the arch. 

Holiday Hits of New and Old

As we weave in and out of the light show, we turn the radio station up so we can hear the carefully coordinated holiday music align with the dancing lights. My daughter is thrilled when “Let it Go,” from the Frozen soundtrack, is part of the show. From that song, to country, to both classic and current holiday hits, there’s a song to melt just about anyone’s holiday heart. 

Carolina Lights dancer lights

A Display for Everyone

We see every type of display as we make our way down the drive of blanketed lights. From flamingos, to dinosaurs, a carousel horse and an impressive array of characters from the Twelve Days of Christmas, my family was wide-eyed and in awe the entire ride. 

Cookie Break

Midway through, there’s an option to go stay in one lane and continue driving throughout the light show, or stop for a cookies and milk in another lane. This year, they’ve even added an option to purchase dog cookies for $2, should you decide to bring your family pet along for the ride!

After you’ve been handed your snacks, in a drive-through style fashion, you simply follow the signs back to the light show route. 

12 Days of Christmas at Carolina Lights

Holiday Lights Come to an End

As we make our rounds, the “ooohs and ahhhs” never stop. Everyone in the car points out their favorite display at one point or another. We make our way toward the end of the route, a beautiful archway with the words “Joy to the World” shine above us. Next, the words “Happy Hanukkah” and a menorah line the left side of the driveway and not far ahead a manger scene complete with wise men and animals close out the Carolina Lights.

Or Do They?

If you should choose, your night doesn’t have to end after your first tour through. Just request a re-entry pass and view the lights again on the same night.

Carolina Lights
1200 Rosewood Drive
Columbia, SC 29201

Holiday lights and Christmas lights: Columbia, SC

Find more amazing lights in Columbia, SC!

Here’s the Kidding Around Guide to Holiday Lights in Columbia, SC

Endless Offerings at Horse Crossing Farm

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Horse Crossing Farm, the “family-owned mini farm nestled beside the railroad tracks within the town limits of Lexington, SC,” has something for everyone. There are offerings for farm lovers, enthusiasts, and beginners alike. Whether you’re looking for the ultimate farm experience or riding lessons for your little one, you’re bound to find something that is perfect for you and your friends and/or family!

Direct message Horse Crossing Farm on their Facebook page regarding gift cards for any of the farm experiences below!

Horse Crossing Farm

Animal Meet-and-Greets

These private farm tours are perfect for visitors who want the complete farm experience. Guests can view and experience an up-close and personal visit with each farm animal. Meet-and-greet sessions are with the following animals: Horses, goats, sheep, alpacas, potbelly pig, miniature horse, miniature mule, hedgehogs, chickens, ducks, turkeys, peacocks, guineas, raccoon, guinea pig and bunnies. Visitors are able to pet the animals, learn how to brush the horses and feed them treats. Children may enjoy a horse-lead ride and can play in the small animal petting pen. 

Who: Anyone
When: Schedule privately
Cost: $70 per session – 1 hour (For 1 to 2 children)
*Additional children are $10 each

Birthday Parties 

These are two-hour birthday party sessions with use of the farm facilities. Candid photography is also included with this package. Children will learn how to brush the horses, feed them treats, visit all the animals in the petting zoo, play in the small animal petting pen and experience a horse ride.

Who: Anyone 
Capacity: 8 children (*Additional children allowed for an extra fee)
When: Call or message for availability (*We do not host birthday parties on Sunday)
Cost: $350 – 2 hours ($50 deposit to hold the date)

Playing with goats at Horse Crossing Farm

Check out more birthday parties in Columbia in our Kidding Around Guide to Columbia Birthday Party Venues.

Farm Camp 

This camp includes instruction on full horse care, horse riding and farm animal care. Included each day, is water games, yard games, crafts, and photography.

Who: Ages 6 – 12 years
When: 8:00 am – 12:00 pm (Morning Camp) or 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm (Afternoon Camp)
Cost: $250/per child

Field Trips 

Students are able to meet and learn about all the farm animals, pet them, feed them treats, and enjoy a horse lead ride during these special field trips. We teach as much about the animals as we can during these sessions! Farm owner is a former teacher with 8 years of experience in public education.

When: 9:00 am – 11:00 am (Tuesday, Thursday or Friday only)
Cost: $10 to $15/per child (Adults are free)

Horse Riding Lessons

These lessons involve complete equine instruction. These offerings include: Groundwork, brushing, tacking-up, riding, proper tack care and proper handling of a horse on and off the ground. ONLY WESTERN lessons are offered at this time. 

Who: Ages 4+ (No prior horse experience required)
When: Monday, Tuesdays, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday
Cost: $40 per lesson – 1 hour (Semi-private lesson)


Horse Riding Lessons – Tiny Trots

These are equine exposure lessons/sessions for younger children, aged 18 months to 3 years. Children must be able to sit up on a saddle unassisted. Most students will ride our miniature horse, but some may be tall enough to ride a standard-sized horse. Lessons also include brush time and treat time for the horse. These 30 minute lessons are once, every other week. 

Who: Ages 18 months – 3 years 
Cost: $25 per lesson – 30 minutes

Mobile Petting Zoos

Horse Crossing Farm goes on the road. Almost all the farm’s animals are available to travel. Perfect for schools, churches, daycares, festivals, etc, Horse Crossing Farm brings animals right to you!

Cost: Call or message for a quote (Price is based on the number of animals)

Old MacDonald Mommy and Me Musical Farm Class

This class offers music, reading and farm basics. The class includes a music and reading portion followed by a farm portion. Students learn about each farm animal musically as well as in person!

Who: Ages 18 months – 4 years
When: TBA

Horse Crossing Farm Old MacDonald Mommy and Me Musical Farm Class

Find out all about the fun Mommy & Me Class at Horse Crossing Farm in our review!

Old MacDonald Mommy & Me Musical Farm Class Review

Photography Sessions

These are farm-themed photography sessions with farm or seasonal decor and live animals (horses, alpacas, unicorn pony, miniature horse, standard horse and/or bunnies). Offerings include, but are not limited to the following: Fall, Halloween, Christmas, Spring, Easter, Back-to-School, proposals/engagement. Approximately 50 edited, color photos (as well as a black and white version of each photo) are included with unlimited access to the digital downloads. 

Cost: $75 per session – 20 minutes 

*Deposit required at booking (half the cost of the session); the remainder is due at time of the session

Horse Crossing Farm
210 Railroad Avenue, Lexington, SC 29072

Old MacDonald Had a Farm…a Musician…and a Petting Zoo

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Is there anything more magical and dreamy than singing nursery rhymes, reading children’s books and riding miniature horses all in one place? At Horse Crossing Farm’s Old MacDonald Mommy & Me Musical Farm Class, you’ll experience exactly this…and more. 

Brittany Matthews, farm owner, and Alaura Mouw, musician, both teach Old MacDonald Mommy & Me Musical Farm Class. It’s a monthly class series, which includes four classes per series. Each class is one-hour long and includes a music/reading session followed by a farm session.

This all-outdoor class takes place at Horse Crossing Farm at 210 Railroad Avenue, Lexington, SC 29072. 

Old MacDonald Mommy & Me Musical Farm Class

Find out lots more about Horse Crossing Farm and all the activities they offer from birthday parties to animal meet and greets, tours, and more!

What is Old MacDonald Mommy & Me Musical Farm Class?

Old MacDonald Mommy & Me Musical Farm Class is a combined class of music, reading, and farm animals. Each class is 60 minutes long, divided into 30-minute equal increments. Music and reading encompass the first half of class. Feeding, petting, and learning about different farm animals make up the second half of class.

Each class throughout the series focuses on 2 to 3 different animals per class. For instance, the participants may learn about pigs, rabbits, and hedgehogs in one class, and perhaps goats and chickens the following class. In the final class, all children have the opportunity to ride a miniature or full-grown horse.

The maximum capacity for the class is 20 children. The age range is 18 months to 4 years old. 

Farm class at Horse Crossing Farm

How Do You Register?

You can sign up for Old MacDonald Mommy & Me Musical Farm Class on Horse Crossing Farm’s Facebook page. When offering an upcoming class, Matthews will post that month’s class session dates and times, along with a direct link to sign up for the class. Additionally, you can use Facebook Messenger to message Horse Crossing Farm with all class inquiries.

How Much Does it Cost?

In a monthly class series, there are four classes for a total of $80. This price breaks down to $20 per child (with an accompanying adult), per class. However, you must purchase the entire series of classes in advance.

What Should You Bring?

Matthews recommends bringing a picnic blanket or beach towel to sit on during the music portion of the class. She also recommends bringing along bug spray, sunscreen, snacks, and water. 

What Should You Wear?

This farm may not be the best place to test out your latest runway western-wear fashions. Matthews recommends dressing “as comfortable as possible.” Closed-toe shoes are a must, according to her. She says, “If you’ve ever been around animals, then you’ll know why!”

Story at Old Macdonald had a farm class

Who are the Teachers?

The beauty of Old MacDonald Musical Farm Class is that you get not only one, but two teachers! Alaura Mouw and Brittany Matthews split the teaching duties equally during the class hour.

Music Teacher

Alaura Mouw teaches the music portion of Old MacDonald Mommy & Me Musical Farm Class. Though this isn’t her first rodeo, so to speak, she didn’t originally start out as the music teacher.

Parent Becomes the Teacher

Before Mouw even thought about teaching this particular class, she explains she was just like any other parent when she and her two-year-old son, Wesley, joined their first Old MacDonald class.

“I signed my child up for the first series back in May (when it was then being taught by a different instructor), after I saw it advertised in the ‘Young Moms of Lexington’ Facebook group,” she says.

Matthews says, “Alaura and her son attended our first series back in May. When our original teacher needed to step down, Alaura volunteered to be the next teacher!”

With a degree in choral music education under her belt, Mouw was the perfect candidate. She says in the past, she has taught beginner guitar lessons. And she’s been playing other various instruments her whole life, such as the flute, tuba, and percussion.

Relationship Building

So far, Mouw has taught two series of classes, in September and October respectively. She says her favorite part is forming relationships with the kids.

“It’s important to me that I learn their names as fast as I can so that they feel seen and valued in my classes. My favorite thing is seeing their big smiles when I greet them as they’re walking into the farm,” she says.

Mouw also likes how the vast age difference in classes keeps her on her toes as far as creativity.

“I love that these classes allow me to get creative and switch things up. Eighteen months to 4 years is quite a leap when you look at a child’s development, so I try to adjust my lessons based on the average age range of the kids in specific classes. I’m not held to a specific curriculum,” she states.

Come As You Are

What Mouw wants most is for the kids and guardians to have fun and just be themselves.

She says, “I want them to have space to be silly, to explore their likes and dislikes, and to become more confident through music and movement. As for their parents, I want them to see that I’m a regular, relatable person. I’m there to remind them that it’s okay to be messy and silly just like our kids can be!”

And as for the music? “It’s not about what you’re being taught about music, it’s about what the music is teaching you about yourself,” she muses.

Horse at Farm and Music Mommy and Me Class

Farm Teacher

Brittany Matthews, owner of Horse Crossing Farm, teaches the second part of Old MacDonald Mommy & Me Musical Farm Class. She has been teaching classes on the farm since May of this year, the first month she decided to begin the series.

From the Classroom to the Farm

Prior to a classroom on the farm, Matthews was a public school teacher for 7 years. 

“I taught Spanish and English as a second language. I loved my teaching career and will always have a passion for education. Sadly, I had to transition out of the classroom this past year due to health problems. Now I’m able to use my teaching skills in a new way on our farm and that brings me immense joy,” she says.

Playing with goats at Horse Crossing Farm

An Idea is Born

The idea behind Old MacDonald Mommy & Me classes actually originated from the first music teacher for the class, Matthews explains.

“I thought it was brilliant and decided to go for it! I had been contemplating Mommy and Me type sessions for a while, but I had never considered the music aspect! It has been a great combination! Music and farms have always been great together! Consider the songs “Old MacDonald” and “Bingo,” she says.

A Family Affair

Though she didn’t grow up on a farm, farming and animals is in Matthews’ blood.

“I did not grow up on a farm! I grew up right here in the suburbs of Lexington. My passion for farming stems from my grandfather, who owns a 400-acre beef cattle operation in Virginia. I loved to help him on his farm growing up,” she exclaims. 

A Special Gift

In fact, Matthews’ love of horses was first sparked thanks to a generous gift from her grandfather.

“He was the one who gifted me my first horse when I was 12 years old. After tragically losing that mare, my grandfather bought me Romeo,” Matthews says.

In Memoriam

Romeo unfortunately passed away, November 22, 2023. A major part of Matthews’ life for the past 17 years, she and Romeo celebrated many milestones. From engagement to marriage to pregnancies and birth, Romeo has been with Matthews through it all. She poignantly honors him with tearful words:

“Goodbye, my old friend. We had an amazing 17-year ride together through so many major life events. You have taught hundreds of kids how to ride a horse, and you were one of the main reasons I started our farm. Rest in peace, my dear Romeo. You’ve earned it.”


Healing Animals

After a childhood tragedy, Matthews found solace in animals. 

“After losing my baby brother as a young child, I turned to animals to keep me company as an only child. My love for them has only grown throughout the years. Animals have been a constant in my life for as long as I can remember,” she says. 

“Fast forward a few years, and here I am today, gratefully living the farm life! My amazing husband does not share my passion for animals or farming, and yet he graciously supports my dream every step of the way! He is truly a gem, and this farm would not be possible without him. My passion is sharing my love for animals and farming with the next generation,” Matthews concludes.

Playing Favorites

When asked her favorite thing about the Old MacDonald class, she says, “My favorite part is giving the attendees the initial tour, and watching their surprise and joy when they first realize how many animals we have and secondly, the awesome and unique variety of animals that we have!”

And speaking of favorites, Matthews says that while horses will always have her heart, she has a few other beloved animals.

She says, “Horses are the reason I started this farm in the first place! But I also love our alpacas and llamas!

When I ask if there’s a consensus on the class favorite animal, Matthews response may surprise you!

“Hilariously, the favorite always seems to be our barn cats and their kittens!,” she says.

Class at Horse Crossing Farm

The Reward

Matthews says what she wants kids and their guardians to take away from Old MacDonald Mommy & Me Musical Farm class is an appreciation.

“I want kids to appreciate farming, agriculture and how much animals have to offer them! I want guardians to learn how they can incorporate music into their children’s education, no matter how young they are! 

She says the biggest reward she receives from doing this class is hearing I love hearing positive feedback from parents and guardians! They tell me how much their kids love the class, how their kids now want to be farmers, and how they talk by name about specific animals on our farm!

My Class Experience

I love the sweet juxtaposition of children’s music and a farm. There’s just something so innocent and enchanting about entering the farm while being greeted and simultaneously serenaded by children’s songs. Try being surrounded by farm animals as you spread your blanket across the grass and unpack your child’s morning snack. Did I mention the sweet gray kittens roaming freely, tenderly approaching your blanket? This was my first class experience at Old MacDonald Mommy & Me Musical Farm Class. 

I first learned about this class from a friend, who also happens to be a mother of a child in my daughter’s preschool class. While scrolling through social media, I saw the most adorable photos of my friend’s daughter riding a miniature horse wearing the cutest little helmet. I immediately had to know where this was, what this class was and most importantly, where do I sign up?

Welcome to Horse Crossing Farm

My first day, I pull into designated parking area at Horse Crossing Farm, and my 2-year-old daughter, Elle, and I are promptly greeted by Matthews at the gate with a clipboard for a casual check-in and brief meet and greet. Upon entering the gate, melodies of some familiar children’s songs played in the background nearby. 

Entering Music Territory

As we make our way in the direction of some other families with sprawled blankets in a semicircle on the ground, we are greeted warmly with Mouw softly strumming a guitar, as she asks for our names. Moux stands with a backdrop of various instruments behind her, her blanket too sprawled, accompanied by two baskets filled with various children’s books. After everyone slowly straggles in, joining the semicircle sea of multicolored blankets, Mouw begins the opening song:

“Hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, hello;

Hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, hello;

He-llo Elle, He-llo Colton, He-llo Charlotte.”

As everyone’s name is called, we then talk about what animals we’re going to be learning about this day. On this particular day, we are learning about rabbits, hedgehogs and pigs. Mouw passes out small maracas to each child to shake to the beat of the song. We sing “Hop Little Bunny, Hop, Hop, Hop.” 

Elle, being a fan of YouTube sensation, Ms. Rachel, Preschool for Littles, smiles and “hops” along, as she recognizes the familiar song. Fun fact, Mouw incorporates several Ms. Rachel tunes throughout the course of the series of classes

Mouw also passes out brightly jewel-colored scarves for to each of the children to sway along to the melody of the songs. This is Elle’s favorite part as she’s able to freely sway along with her red scarf. Although, I don’t know if Elle is more enamored with the red scarf or the little gray kitten that casually strolls onto our pink blanket trying to steal a bite of a cheese stick.

“Ee I Ee I O”

We conclude the music portion of class with an appropriate song choice, “Old MacDonald’s Farm.” This is certainly a class favorite, as all the kids sing along. We sing this childhood classic in every class!

Reading Time

After completing the music, Mouw reads a book about hedgehogs, as this is one of the animals we will be learning about in the second part of class today. Each week, the book ties in a farm animal that we will be concentrating on that day.

Matthews steps in after we wrap up reading time, reintroducing herself to everyone as the the owner of the farm. She then gives a tour of the entire farm, acquainting everyone with the whole farm of animals. 

Farm 101

Today, however, we’re focusing on the Rusty, the pig, several rabbits and finally, a hedgehog. Matthews gives all the children an opportunity to pet Rusty through the fence. Elle is weary but intrigued with Rusty. She gives him a minimal little pat on the head.

Animals at Old Macdonald Had A Farm Music and Farm Class

Matthews places the rabbits in separate, makeshift pens, giving all the children opportunities to meet and pet all the rabbits. Elle is more comfortable with the rabbits, and immediately wants to get into the pen when it’s her turn. She squeals with laughter as she bends down and the rabbits hop away. She chases them around the pen smiling and laughing yelling, “they’re running away!”

Matthews lastly introduces the hedgehog. Some children go over to pet him. Elle is afraid of his “spikes,” so she decides to stare at him from afar. She’s too smitten with the rabbits to tear herself away anyhow. After the hedgehog meeting, this completes the first session of Old MacDonald Mommy & Me Music Class.

Mom Review: Old MacDonald Mommy & Me Musical Farm Class

Every night before class, I ask Elle, “Where are we going tomorrow?” Her response is always the same, and always with the same enthusiasm, “Farm class! Yay!” 

It’s not that she doesn’t enjoy preschool or any of her other extracurricular classes. She does. But Old MacDonald brings a sort of lightness, a different experience for Elle each week.

She looks forward singing songs she knows and loves, and she loves meeting and learning about new animals. Outside of books, Elle has never even seen some of these animals. Sure, she’s been to the zoo, but this is different. This is intimate, this is up-close and personal. She looks forward to these special moments with these animals, who have now become her friends. 

Old Macdonald Farm and Music Class

And I do too. I can’t describe the feeling I get seeing the farm through my daughter’s eyes. It’s nothing short of enchanting. Not to mention, they didn’t offer “farm” classes in my hometown when I was growing up haha. So, the reality is, not only does Elle have the fortune of this unique experience, but so do I. And fortunate we are, as this is a class neither of us will soon forget. But hopefully, we will return in the spring for a whole new adventure to revisit all of our new animal friends and even meet some new ones. In late November, Horse Crossing Farm welcomed a baby calf, Cowboy, to the farm family!

What: Old MacDonald Mommy & Me Musical Farm Class
Where: 210 Railroad Avenue, Lexington, SC 29072
When: TBD

Horse Crossing Farm

There’s more love at Horse Crossing Farm!

Check out the Endless Offerings at Horse Crossing Farm.

Check out more classes for kids!
Here’s the Kidding Around Columbia Guide to Classes & Activities

Tinkering Around: Tinkergarten in Columbia, SC

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Does your child enjoy exploring the outdoors? Is he or she a nature-lover with a fondness of dirt, mud and rocks? Is your child naturally curious about how things work? Are you looking for something new and exciting for you and your child to do outside? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then Tinkergarten is the place for you!

Tinkergarten class in Columbia, SC

Tinkergarten, taught by Elizabeth McKenna, offers two 45-minute weekly classes on Thursdays and Fridays, from 10:30 -11:15 am. Each class has a maximum capacity of 10 students, aged 1 – 5 years old.

Tinkergarten offers 10 weeks of classes, as well as a bonus/makeup week. This outdoor class is located at 302 Senate Street, Columbia, SC, at Senate End’s Campus (across from the Girl Scout building).

What is Tinkergarten?

Tinkergarten is a nature-based, educational class with outdoor play at its core. Tinkergarten creatively delivers meaningful lessons and focused skills, cleverly disguised as playtime for young children.

Each season and semester, the class centers around 1 of 8 core focus skills. The 8 Tinkergarten Focus Skills are as follows:

  • Problem-Solving
  • Empathy
  • Communication
  • Focus
  • Persistence
  • Creativity
  • Sensory
  • Wellness
Tinkergarten water play

How do you Register?

Tinkergarten offers several different registration options. Located on the Tempo Music and Arts website, Tinkergarten is under the Tempo’s umbrella of class options. Tempo offers both a semester membership, as well as an “a la carte,” aka a pay-as-you-go option. See our Kidding Around review of Tempo Music & Arts.

All classes follow the University of South Carolina school schedule. The semester option is a discounted rate of $150. The semester selection locks you in for 10 class sessions, as well as an extra makeup class. The “a la carte” alternative is $30 per class. A la carte allows you to pay as you go and attend as many or as few classes as you choose.

Who is the Teacher?

Elizabeth McKenna is the instructor for Tinkergarten. McKenna received her undergraduate degree from Clemson University in Communication Studies in 2009. She went on to receive her MAT in Early Childhood Education at from College of Charleston in May 2012.

McKenna then began her kindergarten teaching career in Columbia, SC at Forest Lake Elementary from 2012 – 2020.

“I’ve only ever taught kindergarten, and I really love that age group. I knew working with little ones was my passion,” she declares.

Tinkergarten class in Columbia, SC

From Kindergarten to Tinkergarten

For McKenna, Tinkergarten was somewhat of a natural progression from previously teaching in a formal setting. Her path to Tinkergarten happened rather organically, simply as a result of being a restless parent during a pandemic.

Upon searching for an outlet and opportunities in the midst of COVID, McKenna says she stumbled upon Tinkergarten.

“My sister had done some Tinkergarten classes as a parent with her kids, and told me they had some virtual options. So I signed up my daughter, and we loved it. She ate it up,” McKenna recalls enthusiastically.

While McKenna’s Tinkergarten journey began in the parent role initially, the former early childhood educator soon found herself wondering if there were any in-person Tinkergarten opportunities in the Columbia area.

“At that point, I looked into what exactly it entailed. How do you get started? How do you apply? I looked to see if Columbia had any in-person options at the time, and they did not. And I felt like this would be a good time to step into that, ” she explains.

McKenna goes on to say, “I applied and interviewed, and I got hired in the spring of last year. I trained and then started leading classes in the summer of 2022.”

Fun at Tinkergarten class in Columbia, SC

A Perfect Marriage

For McKenna, Tinkergarten is the perfect marriage of her teaching background and her love of the outdoors.

“I’ve always loved spending time outdoors. To get to do it in a community with others, while infusing creative arts and play, is a dream!” she beams.

She goes on to say that having the parents and caregivers present during Tinkergarten classes is a new, but exciting dynamic for her, because as a traditional classroom teacher, you don’t have that.

“It’s a fun way to almost better connect with the kids, because you have the person who knows the child best right there in front of you. And it’s really an easier way to get to connect with the kids,” she claims.

She says another added bonus is that families get to know one another as well!

McKenna emphasizes that what drew her to Tinkergarten was the outdoors.

“The goal with Tinkergarten is to get families outside and surrounding yourself in nature as much as you can,” she says.

And the kicker is, it’s all already there for you.

“With Tinkergarten, we have this great classroom that you can literally just walk outside to. We can take advantage of that, and get kids outside and foster all of these skills, like wellness and problem-solving and sensory needs. And those are just the ones that I’ve taught so far,” McKenna marvels.

This fall, the class focus is Wellness.

My Class Experience: Our Morning at Tinkergarten

I discovered Tinkergarten like any other mom likely searching for some new activities for their toddler…in a Facebook mom group. Elizabeth McKenna had responded to a post inviting people to check out a class she was teaching (then at Guignard Park), called Tinkergarten. I was immediately intrigued. My daughter, Elle, being a nature-lover at heart, I felt like this would be something really special.

Before enrolling, I knew that Tinkergarten wouldn’t just be a one-and-done experience for us, so I decided to register my daughter for the full Fall 2023 semester.

The 1 of 8 focus for this particular semester, is “Wellness.”

No First Day Nerves

The first Tinkergarten class, I feel an air of excitement, not the usual first-day nerves I typically feel in new class situations. 

Here’s how it went:

We come prepared with a quilt in-tow and a water bottle for each of us, thanks to the welcome newsletter McKenna sent prior to the first class.

Elle and I are immediately greeted by McKenna at the check-in table where we promptly sign in and wash our hands, as part of the class arrival ritual. We then find a cozy spot on the sprawling green lawn next to some fellow “explorers” (aka the children) and their accompanying “guide” (aka parent or guardian). 

Opening Song

We begin the class in an opening circle with a song where each “explorer” is greeted by name. 

McKenna melodically sings the welcome song:

“Hello Elle…Hello Charlotte…Hello Leo.

I’m glad you’re here today!”

After some words of welcome and a brief description of what we will be doing throughout this class and the rest of the semester, McKenna then sings the Tinkergarten song:

“Sparrow, sparrow time to fly, 

Through the meadow through the sky.

Sparrow sparrow time to fly,

Come to Tinkergarten.”

McKenna carefully weaves American Sign Language (ASL) in and out of the songs and a lesson for the day, and Elle even recognizes the ASL signs for “play” and “thank you,” mimicking the signs back.

Each week, Tinkergarten follows a “Body, Mind & Heart” map. This particular map is specifically curated for the Wellness focus. There are different maps that correlate with the other 7 “Focuses.”

On this particular day, the explorers and guides are participating in the lesson “Hello, Earth!”

Tinkergarten kids in Columbia, SC


During each class throughout the semester, the “classroom” is divided into areas where the “explorers” and their “guides” are encouraged to partake in different activities and experiments. 

On this first day, I observe what appears to be different “stations,” if you will, scattered in different areas of the grassy lawn. The first object I notice is a large blue tarp. Sprawled across the green grass, on top of the tarp, lies a muffin tray and various other-sized cake pans filled with mud. At another station there’s a water table with rocks, and another station nearby with small tin bucket pails, rocks and clear, squirt water bottles.

Tinkergarten class in Columbia, SC

Guided Play

Tinkergarten is very-much child-led, meaning the “explorers” are able to choose where they want to go and in whatever order or disorder they choose. Guided play is at the heart of Tinkergarten.

In our particular class, some kids make a beeline for the water table (clearly a class favorite), while some wander to the mud station or sheepishly wait for their “guide” to choose a location for them. Some children even meander up the nearby stairs. 

Elle timidly selects the rocks and pail station first. Being a rock lover, she really enjoys cleaning the rocks with the squirt bottle and then collects her freshly-washed rocks in her “just-her-size” bucket.

We slowly wander to each station, exploring what each one has to offer. As Elle continues her journey exploring, her initial shyness slowly melts away. She’s in her element for sure! I believe her favorite part of the day is just splashing in the water table while holding her new rocks!

Tinkergarten class in Columbia, SC

Back to the Nest

As the 45-minute mark nears, McKenna calls out to all the explorers and guides to enjoy another couple minutes of wherever they are, and then to find their way back to their “nests” (aka each person’s blanket or towel). 

McKenna begins to sing, what I like to refer to it as, the Tinkergarten anthem:

“Sparrow, sparrow time to fly, 

Through the meadow through the sky.

Sparrow sparrow time to fly,

Come to Tinkergarten.”

Explorers and guides flap their arms, mimicking flying back to all our prospective nests. We close class with a thank you to the Native American Indian Tribes that were once upon the very land we are seated on, and then McKenna sings a goodbye song similar to the welcome opener:

“Thank you, Leo…Thank you, Charlotte…Thank you, Elle.

I’m glad you came to play!”

What a happy surprise at how quickly the class time went by! Elle and I both waive goodbye and leave with big smiles. Proof of a morning well spent? Elle is fast asleep in her car seat before we even arrived home.

Mom Review: Tinkergarten

Rain or shine (quite literally), we make our way to this special class each and every week. One class, when it was raining particularly hard, instead of canceling class, McKenna opted to relocate to a different, covered location. What I love about this particular day, is how much this speaks to the adaptability of this class as a whole. How, by design, it’s about teaching life skills and how to handle life’s little uncertainties, such as the weather or even toddlers’ moods and natural curiosities.

It’s truly a very special place, where Elle can be her complete and total self. She can freely roam, exploring flowers or rocks without fear of being corrected or reprimanded. We will happily return to this extraordinary class until our semester is over. Then, without missing a beat, I will be returning for a new chapter, a new season and semester to learn and explore a new Focus Skill and meet new friends!

Dirt play at Tinkergarten in Columbia, SC

Tinkergarten Anywhere

Interested in participating in Tinkergarten, but can’t find a class that fits your schedule? Fortunately, there’s Tinkergarten Anywhere. This is a great option for parents that love the outdoor classroom concept, but require more flexibility in their schedules. Found on the Tinkergarten website under the “For Families” heading, Tinkergarten Anywhere is a self-paced, parent-led home option. For $9 a month, you receive the following:

  • “Expert-designed weekly video lessons to spark playful learning for 2-8 year olds.”
  • “Develop an essential skill each season.”
  • “Ready-to-go activities and printable resources keep kids engaged.”
  • “ ‘Why & How’ content helps you to support your child.”
  • “Photo scrapbook & an iron-on badge to celebrate progress each season.”

What: Tinkergarten
Where: 302 Senate Street, Columbia, SC 29201

When: 10:30 – 11:15 am Thursday and Friday

New Kidz on the Block: An Innovative New Therapy Clinic For Neurodiverse Children

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Mighty Kidz Services (MKS) is a brand-new therapy center and school specializing in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and speech therapy. It is a trauma-informed preschool prep program for neurodiverse children ages 2 to 5 years old.

At MKS, each child is given 1:1 instruction by a behavior technician and is supervised by a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). Individual ABA therapy sessions are also available outside of the preschool prep program.

ABA therapy can be provided at home, in the community, in school, and clinic-based.

The ABA Afterschool Program is available for neurodiverse children who attend school during the day.

Might Kidz Services


Mighty Kidz Services is the only one of its kind in South Carolina.

Lindsay Schmelzel, a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), and previous Qualified Autism Service Practitioner-Supervisor (QASP-S), is the sole owner of Mighty Kidz Services LLC. Schmelzel’s vision was to create a trauma-informed preschool prep program to help families and children transition into an educational setting without difficulties, and that’s exactly what she did!

This preschool prep program and afterschool Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program is deliberately designed to be unlike any other in our area.

ABA is “medically necessary therapy” for children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), according to Schmelzel. Children, typically at 5 years old, transition from preschool to a kindergarten school setting, whether it’s private, public, or homeschool. Therefore, this program is necessary prep in order to “empower, educate, and enhance” the children’s current skill sets to reach success.

Schmelzel expands, “We work one-on-one with each child, but we also incorporate social opportunities with small groups and large groups of peers. Essentially, we are familiarizing the learner with what a traditional school setting is going to look like.”

Might Kidz Services classroom space

ABA Day Program

Mighty Kidz Services’ ABA Day Program opened August of this year. This neurodiverse day program is for 2 to 5 year olds, and is open from 7:30 am until 3:30 pm.

During the day school, students receive the following therapies:

  • Preschool Life Skills Program
  • Individual ABA Therapy
  • Social Skills Group Therapy

This preschool preparatory program currently houses a total of 12 children and 12 teachers. In other words, it boasts an impressive 1:1 student-to-teacher ratio.

Afterschool Program

In addition to the day program, Mighty Kidz also offers an afterschool program from 3:30 pm until 5:30 pm. The afterschool program, however, is open to school-age kids aged 4 and older.

Mighty Kidz Services’ afterschool program has a slightly different focus than its day program counterpart. For instance, these focuses help benefit and support kids already in a school setting.

According to the Mighty Kidz website, some of these focuses include the following:

  • “Building social interactions and relationship building skills.”
  • “Empowering self-advocacy skills and learning how to navigate life challenges.”
  • “Educating learneres through enhancing academic and communication and soft skills through individual behavioral programs and group instruction with peers similar in age and developmental level.”


Schmelzel specifies that, “All of our ABA therapy programs are designed for any child diagnosed with autism, or any child that has a perceived diagnosis of autism.”

In order to qualify for ABA therapy programming, your child must have a medical diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and/or be receiving BabyNet services, and also have a completed failed STAT (Screening Tool for Autism in Toddlers and Young Children) test conducted by an Early Interventionist.

There are no age restrictions in order to receive ABA therapy services at Mighty Kidz.

All ABA therapy programs are covered by insurance, whether it’s Medicaid or private insurance-based. MKS follows insurance requirements based on the individual’s policy.

Currently, there is a waitlist for the preschool prep and after-school ABA therapy programs.

Room at Mighty Kidz

Teaching Practices

Schmelzel explains that MKS teaching practices are very “trauma-informed.” All services are designed to target increasing the “learner’s choice.” And all programming is child-led and focused on building rapport.

“No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship. We do this by determining what makes a learner ‘happy, relaxed and engaged.’ This is what we call HRE!,” says Schmelzel.

“At Mighty Kidz, we teach through happy experiences; we do not teach through tears. We don’t wait out behaviors or engage in old techniques of ABA, such as extinction and ignoring behaviors,” Schmelzel emphasizes.


The clinic bears in mind each student’s needs, as well as each student’s family’s needs. Each treatment plan is created from an initial assessment, where the analyst completes a parent interview and learner observation.

A curricular assessment is also performed. This assesses where current skills are, what skills need to be enhanced or taught, and what ineffective behaviors need to be replaced with behaviors that still meet the same function.

Treatment Plan

A behavior treatment plan is created from these particular assessments and individualized to each learner and their family’s needs.

Schmelzel stresses, “We really listen; we value what the family and child says or does. We take into account how they experience their life, and we look at ways on how to effectively improve their lives. MKS accepts all feedback from family, caregivers, as well as teachers and other therapists.”

Learner’s Input

Program goals have each learner’s input. For learners who are studying how to advocate for themselves, this is extremely valuable.

For instance, Schmelzel says, “Asking our older learners questions like, ‘What do you want to do?’ What do you want to be able to improve on in these next couple of weeks? How can we help you become successful? What goals do you want to set for yourself?’ ” are all important steps in the learner’s individual programs.

“We really work on self-improvement and empowering our learners how to self-advocate. Whether the child is vocal or non-vocal, there is a program goal on how to stop aversive events from occurring, how to request for help, and how to request for space,” she adds.

Other program goals include health and safety, productivity, social relationships, and community awareness. ABA therapy is effective for all domains of life.

Mighty Kidz Staff


Schmelzel asserts, “Mighty Kidz Services is big on collaboration. Rapport-building is not only for the learner, but also for the family. By building rapport with all that are involved in the learner’s life, we are able to build a trusting and transparent relationship. We ensure that everyone is on the same page as to how to ‘empower, educate, and enhance’ each individual learner!”

“We want to make sure that each individual program goal we create has that feedback from the parents, and even the child,” she adds.

Open to Anyone

“Fun fact, ABA therapy is not just for children diagnosed with ASD! However, it is the only
therapy where a medical diagnosis of ASD is required,” says Schmelzel.

Mighty Kidz Services offers a private pay services option based on Medicaid rates. This option is available should your child not have a medical diagnosis of ASD, yet would benefit from individualized instruction and smaller groups.

Speech Therapist

Soon Mighty Kidz will add speech therapy as one of it’s many offerings. Beginning in September, a speech therapist will be available to those on the waiting list.

Schmelzel exclaims, “MKS was just approved with SC Medicaid to accept Speech Therapy Services as a multi-specialty group provider!”

“We already have several kids currently on our waitlist for a speech therapist,” she says.

Unfortunately, for many children and families in need of speech therapy, one of the biggest hurdles is the wait and waitlists. 

“For some of our kiddos that are in our ABA preschool program, they had already been on waitlist for about a year for speech therapy,” Schmelzel explains.

Coming Soon: Occupational Therapist 

Although Mighty Kidz Services does not currently house an occupational therapist (OT), they hope to have one in-house in the near future. 

“It is one of my goals to create connections in Columbia with the OT community and find a really strong trauma-informed OT that practices similar to the visions of Mighty Kidz Services,” says Schmelzel.

*If there are any occupational therapists currently looking for a new direction, please reach out to Mighty Kidz Services here!


Mighty Kidz Services accepts insurance. Yes, you read that correctly. There are no out-of-pocket tuition costs if your insurance is accepted (see sidebar for a list of all accepted insurance). 

Schmelzel explains, “In our intake paperwork, I’m a very transparent person. Some companies don’t provide that private pay option until they request it. But, each child who completes our intake paperwork process has that information right there.”

She says, “I’m excited to say we accept Medicaid, where many other practices are limited to accepting Medicaid. Our private pay rates are Medicaid rates, which is the lowest paying insurance for our services.”

Mighty Kidz Building

Mighty Kidz Services Summer Camp

Despite the fact that Schmelzel was busy preparing the start of the MKS clinic and school over the summer, she also managed to host an inclusive summer camp this year!

This all-inclusive summer camp was held in June and July at Sesquicentennial State Park.

The MKS Summer Camp counselor staff was comprised of retired teachers and registered behavior technicians for neurotypical and neurodiverse children ages 3 and up.

Camp Sponsorship

Community sponsorships allowed some MKS campers to attend camp free of charge.

Scottie’s Café and Grill, a local Blythewood restaurant, generously sponsored one camper this summer. A military spouse/real estate agent, Taley Hunt Home Group, sponsored a whopping 10 military families to also attend the camp at no cost.

Schmelzel emphasizes, “It’s so important to connect with the community, building relationships with mom and pop restaurants, shops, and companies that want to also help out clinics and camps like MKS.”

Mighty Kidz hopes to host and expand the summer camp offerings again in 2024.

Mighty Kidz Services

A Dream Becomes Reality

Schmelzel muses, “It’s always been a dream of mine to open a small ABA preschool setting program and further create an umbrella for other services! In the educational world, unfortunately, there’s a void for formal schools for neurodiverse children.”

“Children either enter the school setting with ineffective behaviors and get suspended, or they get put into a program too early and regress,” she adds.

“By having a program that introduces the foundational skills with a smaller group size and individual instructor, ineffective behaviors are less likely to occur once the learner graduates from MKS and transitions to their next educational setting,” advises Schmelzel.

She shares, “I had this dream on paper for such a long time. And I’m just so grateful that it has come off the paper. The powerhouse that makes up MKS are rockstar behavior technicians and compassionate BCBAs that have extensive training in effective behavior-focused programs to include practical functional assessment and skill-based treatment, preschool life skills, toileting, feeding, sleeping, and parent-led programming.”

Future Goals

Mighty Kidz Services plans for expansion. Be on the lookout for new developments in the coming year!

Mighty Kidz
300 Rice Meadow Way, Suite 200, Columbia

Preschools and Daycare in Columbia, SC

If you’re looking for additional preschool options for your children, don’t miss the Kidding Around Preschool and Day Care Guide to Columbia, SC

Lasting Legacy: Locally-Owned Boutique Dresses Midlands Children for Over Three Decades

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Locally-owned children’s boutique, Southern Children, has been in business for over 34 years!

Southern Children first opened its doors February 20, 1989, and owner and operator, Susan Broom has been there every step of the way!

For 26 years, the store was located in Spring Valley Commons shopping center on Two Notch Road. However, eight years ago, Southern Children moved from its Two Notch Road location to the Forest Park Shopping Center in Forest Acres on Forest Drive.

Southern Children

Variety is Key

Southern Children offers a large selection of traditional and classic clothing and shoes for girls and boys. Broom says they pride themselves on their “value, selection and quality” of inventory. The store offers an extensive range of sizing ranging from preemies and infants to girl’s size 16 and boy’s sizes 12-14. 

Carrying popular children’s clothing brands such as Feltman Brothers, Florence Eiseman, PRODOH, Bailey Boys and Zuccini Kids, you’re sure to find something that fits everyone’s style and budget.

And don’t forget the shoes! Aside from their large assortment of children’s clothing, Southern Children also carries quite a variety of shoe brands. From Cienta, Keds, to L’Amour, Robeez and Sun-San shoe brands, you’re sure to not leave their store empty-handed!

To Market, To Market

Always looking to keep inventory trends current, Southern Children is consistently refreshing and revamping their store’s offerings. Broom says that they have new and special lines of clothing that are always sought after at the children’s fashion markets each season. 

Come SALE Away

To keep up with an ever-changing inventory, sales are a must to keep up with the store’s seasonal changes. Sales are offered on the Southern Children website, as well as in-store. 

“We have two, long rolling racks that are filled with marked-down inventory on a permanent basis, ” explains Broom.

The sale racks are currently marked at 50% off. And Broom reveals that merchandise is added to these sale racks frequently.

In addition to clothing sales, Southern Children also devotes a table just to marked-down shoes!

“We have a table filled with shoes that are 30% off on a permanent basis,” says Broom.

“Shoes are additionally reguarly added to the sale table. We bring in new styles and brands of shoes every season, while discounting others,” she adds.

Special Promotions

Southern Children loves to be extra! Extra-special promotions, that is. They offer everything from photography and silhouette profiles to character experiences. Broom states that in the past, they have been fortunate to have multiple photography offerings from various photographers and silhouette cuttings by Lena Bengtson.

She mentions they’ve also had character visits from Barney (the purple dinosaur), the Easter Bunny, and even the B106.7 radio station Bumble Bee mascot at their store. She says they have active plans to continue to do more special offerings in the future!

Happy Customer, Happy Store

Broom says what she loves most about owning a children’s boutique is “the friends and relationships.” 

 “We love building bonds with customers and our sales representatives.”

Needless to say, Broom notes that “customer service is a top priority.”

A Family Affair

Southern Children now has multiple generations as current shoppers. Broom shares that, “several of the store’s original customers are grandmothers now buying for their grandchildren.”  

“We often recognize some of the individuals who were once the children we clothed, now buying for their own children,” she declares.

A Dream Come True

Southern Children first began as a long-realized childhood dream of Susan Broom’s. She shares that she “has wanted to have a retail establishment since she was 12 years old when her mother would take her shopping in specialty stores.”

In order to make that dream a reality, however, Broom explains she worked for over nine years in various retail establishments to gain the necessary experience. She then decided to further her education in Fashion Merchandising. Ultimately earning two Bachelor of Arts degrees from Columbia College, in both Elementary Education and Religion, she was now ready to make her dream a reality.

She says her education was necessary in order to “learn and prevent failure as an entrepreneur.” And as they say, the rest is history!

The Future

Southern Children currently has a website, a Facebook page, and an Instagram account. They have also advertised in countless newspapers, magazines, and online publications, as well as on billboards and radio. But Broom is always looking ahead. She explains that the store is considering creating another website in the near future. Always growing, Broome adds that Southern Children has additionally hired more employees in 2023.

Having it All

When I asked what would she like people to take away from visiting Southern Children, Broom couldn’t choose just one thing. She says proudly, “We pride ourselves on customer service, building bonds and relationships with customers, an enjoyable and happy shopping experience for customers, the largest selection of children’s clothing, shoes, bonnets and hats, hairbows, socks and tights, jewelry, lovies, and stuffed animals in the state, as a children’s specialty boutique.” 

“Most importantly, we would like for customers to know we appreciate the opportunity to be of service to them and that they truly matter to the operation of Southern Children. We could not survive without their patronage, needless to say,” Broom says in closing.

Be sure to give Southern Children the opportunity, and shop locally in this well-known Columbia establishment for all your children’s clothing, shoes, and accessories!
Southern Children
4711-13 Forest Drive
Columbia, SC 29206

Shop for kids in Columbia, SC: Locally-owned children's shops

Love shopping local for kids?

Here are 6 Locally-owned Children’s Stores in Columbia, SC

Walk This Way: Tootsies, Columbia’s Only Locally-Owned Children’s Shoe Store

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Tootsies Children’s Shoes has been Columbia-community staple for over 30 years. First opening its doors in 1987, Tootsies has been specializing in fitting children for their first pair of shoes for generations.

Tootsies Children's Shoe Shop in Columbia, SC

They Have it All: Tootsies Columbia SC

If you’re looking for a place to get your toddler’s first “walkers,” or dress shoes for your school-aged child, Tootsies has you covered. In fact, they have an exceptionally large inventory, ranging from infants all the way up to youth sizes 6-7.

Tootsies, known for their wide range of sizes and a vast selection of brands, rivals any competitor. Carrying brands such as Stride Rite, Native, Footmates, L’Amour, Sperry, Birkenstock, and Hunter, there’s something for everyone!

A Shoe for Every Season

Tootsies isn’t just a shop for special occasions, however. Autumn Harper, Tootsies’ owner, insists, “You want kids playing in their shoes. They’re meant to be worn.”

Tootsies is a shoe store for every day and for every season…and every occasion in between. Whether it’s for a daily-wear sneaker, formal loafer, rain boot, cowboy boot, or a cozy pair of Uggs, their shoes are intended to be lived-in.

In a League of Their Own

Tootsies has its own special little niche, unlike other children’s stores, explains Harper. Exclusively dealing in shoes only (*with the exception of accessories like socks and hair ribbons) is what really sets it apart from every other children’s store. In fact, Tootsies is the only locally-owned children’s shoe store in Columbia!

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Located in the Shoppes of Forest Village, in the heart of Forest Acres, Tootsies is the neighbor everybody knows by name. 

“Everyone knows Tootsies…it’s always been around,” says Harper. 

Full-Circle: 30 Years of Tootsies

Being a part of the Columbia business community for over three decades, many of Tootsies’ customers are not only repeat customers but multi-generational, repeat customers. Mothers that once brought their children to Tootsies to be fitted for their first pair of Stride-Rites are now shopping for their grandchildren to be fitted for their first pair as well. 

“Our customers grow up with us,” says Harper. 

“The fun side of being in this business is the relationships and friendships you build. You see these little people grow up,” she muses. 


And some customers’ relationships are so strong that they continue despite a move across state, or even cross-country!

Harper says, “People move away, but they still call us about shoes!”

“We still have customers that call us from Seattle, Washington; California, and Texas just to name a few,” says Harper. 

On the Record

Tootsies keeps meticulous records of all your child’s shoe sizes, as well as all of your purchases. They keep track of your children’s foot growth, so you don’t have to! 

Buy More, Save More

A perk of purchasing shoes from Tootsies is earning points. Because ultimately, the more you spend, the more you save. 

Speaking of savings, Harper adds, “We have a 50% off section sale that’s ongoing.”

Harper also mentions that periodically, they do special occasion sales throughout the year. Check out Tootsies’ social media pages on Facebook and Instagram for the latest up-to-date information on the store’s most recent inventory, events, and sales!

The Future

Harper explains that “getting Tootsies’ online shop up and running, and utilizing that platform to gain more of a presence,” is their largest goal in expansion. She confirmed that the “online space,” (online stores) is, by far, their biggest competitor. 

And speaking of expansion, Tootsies notably opened their second location in Greenville over two years ago. Should you find yourself in the Greenville area, be sure to pay a visit to Tootsies at 1803 Augusta St. Greenville, SC 29605! 

That Legendary Slide

In close, Harper describes Tootsies as a “special place.”  

And if you’ve been to Tootsies and witnessed your child go down that “legendary” in-store slide while you’ve shopped, then, you too, know Tootsies is a special place indeed. Run, don’t walk to check out Tootsies!

4517 Forest Drive, Columbia

Shop for kids in Columbia, SC: Locally-owned children's shops

Looking for more locally-owned children’s shops?

Check out this list of 6 Fabulous Locally-Owned Shops for Children.

Locally Enchanted: Children’s Boutique Offers Classic Apparel to the Midlands

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Have you shopped at Enchanted Closet for children? The Enchanted Closet, Irmo’s locally-owned children’s clothing boutique, has been around since 2007. Conveniently located in the Murraywood Shopping Centre, it has been owned and operated by Allison Beck for over 17 years! 

Enchanted Closet in Columbia, SC

A Southern Classic: Enchanted Closet Irmo, SC

If you’re searching for traditional, classic, and smocked children’s wardrobe staples, look no further! Enchanted Closet carries both boy’s and girls’ clothing, in a large array of sizes. Additionally, the Enchanted Closet boasts baby gifts and any and all children’s accessories!

A Cut Above the Rest

Enchanted Closet is unlike other children’s clothing stores, especially the big box and chain stores. According to Beck, what sets Enchanted Closet apart is its “specialty and curated collection” of clothing and accessories.”  

“It’s different from anything you could expect to find in a big box store,” says Beck.

Carrying brands such as The Beaufort Bonnet Company, Posh Peanut, Trotter Street Kids, and Saltwater Boys Company in their store, you’re not likely to find all of these brands just anywhere, especially in a department store.

Unique In-Store Experiences

Something else that makes the Enchanted Closet unique, is its in-store experience offerings. Featuring momentous events such as artist Donna McMahon’s pastel portrait sessions and third-generation silhouette artist Clay Rice’s profile silhouettes, you’re sure to leave the store with an extraordinary keepsake…or two!

Additionally, each year the store offers traditional seasonal offerings like Santa Claus and Easter Bunny visits and photo sessions. And back-to-school photography sessions has also become new tradition!

Seasonal Sales

Savings, savings, savings! If you love sales, then you’re in luck, because Beck says her boutique offers special semi-annual sales in both the fall and spring! And periodically, a sidewalk sale will even pop-up! So keep your eyes and ears peeled so you don’t miss out on some incredible deals!

Steadfast Customers

Return customers are the heart of the business. The Enchanted Closet is fortunate to have an extremely loyal customer base that Beck says, she “couldn’t be more thankful for.”

“We couldn’t do what we do without the wonderful members of our community,” Beck confesses. “It has been so rewarding seeing the little ones grow up, and seeing them in their cute outfits from Enchanted Closet,” she gushes.

Mother Knows Best

When asked what she would like people to take away from visiting her store, Beck replies, “My mother instilled in me the importance of customer service at a young age and that has always stuck with me.”

“Everyone that comes through our door is greeted with a friendly hello and a smile,” declares Beck.

So next time you’re in the Irmo area, stop into small business, Enchanted Closet, and be prepared to be greeted with, not only a smile, but also a great selection of children’s clothing and accessories!

Shop for kids in Columbia, SC: Locally-owned children's shops

Looking for more locally-owned children’s shops?

Check out this list of 6 Fabulous Locally-Owned Shops for Children.

Locally-Owned Columbia, SC Children’s Stores Offer Convenience & Variety

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Ready to do a little shopping for kids in Columbia, SC? With a bevy of online shops at the stroke of our fingertips at anytime, anywhere, we sometimes need to be reminded that there are a variety of brick-and-mortar stores right in our own backyard and they go beyond typical department stores and shopping districts. Locally-owned shops offer variety and a personal touch.

In fact, Columbia is booming with a large variation of locally-owned children’s stores that will surely satisfy even the most fastidious shopper. From toys to shoes, to classic and even modern clothing, there’s something for everyone, and a little retail therapy…just around the corner.

Shop for kids in Columbia, SC: Locally-owned children's shops

Be Beep A Toy Shop 

Locally-owned and specialty toy store, Be Beep Toys, has been a Columbia staple since 1986. Offering brands like Lego, Playmobil, Tonies, and Jellycat, Be Beep has all your toy needs covered. Additionally, they conveniently offer complimentary gift wrapping, personal shopping, as well as call-ahead service!

4525 Forest Drive Columbia, SC 29206
Monday – Saturday 10 am – 6 pm, Sunday – Closed
Be Beep Toys Website

Be Beep Toy Store

Duck Duck Goose

Duck Duck Goose children’s boutique offers a wide variety of classic and hand-smocked clothing and accessories for boys and girls, as well as monogramming options and a gift registry. The store also offers free local deliveries for customers who live within a five-mile radius of the store!

2800 Devine Street Columbia, SC 29205
Monday – Friday 10 am – 5:30 pm, Saturday 10 am – 3 pm, Sunday – Closed 

4525-C Forest Drive, Columbia, SC 29206
Monday – Friday 10 am – 5:30 pm, Saturday 10 am – 3 pm, Sunday – Closed
Duck Duck Goose Website

Enchanted Closet

Enchanted Closet children’s boutique has been an Irmo-area fixture for over 17 years! Specializing in classic southern and smocked children’s clothing, as well as baby gifts and accessories, it has everything you’re looking for. Enchanted Closet also features specialty events throughout the year, such as pastel portraits and silhouette profiles, as well as seasonal events with Santa and the Easter Bunny!

Want to learn more about Enchanted Closet?
Here’s our Kidding Around article all about Enchanted Closet.

7001 St. Andrews Road #A10 Irmo, SC 29212
Monday – Closed, Tuesday – Saturday 10:30 am – 5:30 pm, Sunday – Closed
*Website coming soon

Enchanted Closet in Columbia, SC

Marigold Modern Kids

Marigold Modern is a locally-owned children’s store that celebrates sustainable craftsmanship and clothing, offering both modern and traditional brands of clothing, toys, and accessories. If you’re looking for unique and one-of-a-kind pieces, Marigold Modern is your one-stop shop for all your clothing and gift-giving needs!

2732 Devine Street, Suite D Columbia, SC 29205
Monday – Friday 10 am – 5 pm, Saturday 10 am – 4 pm, Sunday – Closed
Modern Marigold Website

Modern Marigold Children's Shop

Southern Children

Southern Children clothing store has been dressing Columbia-area kids for over 34 years! Located in Forest Acres, Southern Children offers traditional clothing and shoes for both girls and boys. From preemies and infants all the way to girls and boys size 16, this locally-owned store has every stage of life covered with its large and highly-curated inventory.

See our article on Southern Children

4711 Forest Drive #13 Columbia, SC 29206
Monday – Friday 10 am – 5:30 pm, Saturday 10 am – 5 pm, Sunday – Closed 
Southern Children Website

Southern Children

Tootsies Children’s Shoes 

Tooties Children’s Shoes has been a permanent fixture in the Columbia community for over 30 years! Tootises has been fitting babies for their first pair of shoes for generations. Offering brands such as Stride Rite, Native, Footmates, L’Amour, Sperry, See Kai Run and Hunter, this store is the one-stop shop for all of your child’s shoe needs.

From walking shoes to sandals, to formal and athletic, Tootsies has your little one covered for all occasions!

Do you want to know more? We have a full Kidding Around article on Tootsies Children’s Shoes.

4517 Forest Drive Columbia, SC 29206
Monday – Saturday 10 am – 5 pm, Sunday – Closed
Tootsies Children’s Shoes Website

Tootsies Children's Shoes in Columbia, SC

Enjoy some local shopping, Columbia SC!

Where is your favorite store to visit when you’re shopping in Columbia, South Carolina for children?

South Carolina’s Only Human Milk Bank Donates to Babies in Need

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Are you a parent that is in search of breast milk for your child? Or are you a mother who has more breast milk than you know what to do with? You’re in luck, because there is a resource available for breast milk donors and recipients! We’re here to share everything you could possibly want to know about human milk banks, from qualifications to safety concerns and where exactly you can donate!

Donate and receive breast milk: Mother's Milk Bank of SC

What is a Milk Bank?

According to The Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) a “milk bank collects breast milk from mothers who have more than their babies need, then screens, pasteurizes, and tests it, and, finally, dispenses it to premature and fragile infants in need, either in hospitals or homes.” Milk banks can be either nonprofit or for-profit. 

What is the Human Milk Banking Association of North America?

The Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) accredits nonprofit milk banks throughout the United States and Canada, and sets universal guidelines for donated pasteurized breast milk. There are currently 31 HMBANA members. Their mission is to aid mothers in donating their extra breast milk for use. HMBANA sets universal donation guidelines to all 31 members in order to ensure the safety of all breast milk donated to recipients. “Together, we advocate for donor milk as a universal standard of care, regardless of ability to pay,” says HMBANA. 

South Carolina Milk Bank

The Mother’s Milk Bank of SC (MMBSC), based at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston, SC, is the state’s only human milk bank. MMBSC opened in 2015, and was developed by MUSC, South Carolina Neonatal Consortium, and South Carolina Birth Outcomes Initiative. It is one of HMBANA’s 31 nonprofit members. Their mission is to promote the health of South Carolina babies by providing access to safe, pasteurized donor human milk. 

The Mother’s Milk of South Carolina, provides a nonprofit service to South Carolina hospitals by providing donated breast milk to neonatal intensive care units (NICU) for premature babies as well as other babies in need. Babies are considered premature if they’re before 37 weeks of pregnancy. 

In addition to being premature, there are several other medical reasons that a doctor may prescribe donor milk to babies:

  • Failure to thrive on formula
  • Death or absence of mother
  • Failing immune systems
  • Insufficient lactation of mother or supplemental needs while a mother awaits her own breast milk supply during the first few weeks of the baby’s life
  • Adopted, foster, or surrogate babies whose families request breast milk
  • Illness or health risk from the biological mother preventing breastfeeding 

Lindsay Millonzi, MMBSC Milk Bank Program Manager says, “South Carolina breastfeeding mothers with surplus milk supply are invited to become donors to provide pasteurized milk to SC infants for whom mother’s milk supply is limited.”
According the American Academy of Pediatrics website, “Pasteurized human donor milk is recommended when a mother’s own milk is not available or sufficient. 

Anyone who’s interested in helping should go to Mother’s Milk of South Carolina website scmilkbank.org to complete their questionnaire. Once the information has been recorded, you are then able to select which service you’d like, choosing from donating, purchasing, volunteering or giving. 

There are three easy steps to becoming a donor:

  1. 10 to 15 minute phone screen
  2. Complete and return an informational packet (potential donor’s OBGYN must also complete the packet)
  3. Complete a free blood test at LabCorp

Not just anyone can be a donor, however. Due to safety and health concerns, Mother’s Milk follows strict HMBANA’s donor criteria guidelines.

You are ineligible to donate breast milk if any of the following apply to you:

  1. Smoke or use any tobacco products
  2. Use illegal drugs
  3. Drink more than two alcoholic drinks per day
  4. At risk for HIV 
  5. Have a positive blood test for HIV, HTLV, Hepatitis B or C, or Syphilis
  6. Received an organ or tissue transplant, or a blood transfusion in the last four months
  7. Were in the United Kingdom for more than three months between 1980 and 1996

Once approved after successfully completing the three-step screening, you are then able to donate your breast milk!

Breast Milk Safety

“All breast milk is expected to be stored in accordance with HMBANA guidelines,” says Millonzi.

These strict guidelines were developed with consultation with the Centers for Disease Control & Protection (CDC) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Breast milk can be frozen until it’s ready to be donated. All donors are expected to refrigerate or freeze milk within 30 minutes of pumping. Breast milk can be refrigerated for up to 96 hours. 

Can a mother donate milk as long as she’s producing milk? Yes, but there is a deadline. Milk must be pumped within the first year postpartum. Millonzi says, “We cannot accept milk donations that were pumped after your child’s first birthday.”

There’s no minimum or maximum threshold when it comes to how little or how much milk can be donated either. Millonzi says, “Every drop counts!”


Because it’s a nonprofit, Mother’s Milk cannot compensate donors monetarily. The organization does, however, provide breast milk storage bags free of charge.

Donation Deposit Sites: Breast Milk Bank Columbia, SC 

“Depot” sites were created statewide in order to make the donor milk drop-off more convenient for mothers to deposit milk. There are a total of 26 breast milk depot sites across the state. Chances are you have at least one in your area! See below to find a depot closest to you:

Prisma Health Baptist Hospital
1519 Marion Street
Columbia, SC 29201

Palmetto Health Baptist
Taylor & Marion Street
Columbia, SC 29220

Palmetto Richland
5 Richland Medical Park
Columbia, SC 29203

Prisma Health Richland Hospital
5 Richland Medical Park Drive
Columbia, SC 29203

Lexington County Cooperative Clemson Extension Service
605 West Main Street, Suite F
Lexington, SC 29072

Aiken County Cooperative Clemson Extension Service
1555 Richland Avenue East, Suite 500
Aiken, SC 29801

For more information please contact:

The Mother’s Milk of South Carolina