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Organic diapers, stroller detailing, and no phones allowed: inside an exclusive $5K/year club for kids

The Wonder is an exclusive new kids’ play space in Manhattan, with backing from Rebecca Minkoff and Marissa Mayer.

People who spend their days working at a chic coworking space like WeWork or The Wing and workout at a members-only gym like Equinox or OrangeTheory may be intrigued by a new play space called The Wonder that opens its doors this Sunday.

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For an annual subscription of $4,800 a year–yes, that’s the cost of college tuition in some states–a family gains access to a theatrically designed space in Tribeca, New York, that offers classes to children, from newborns to tweens. No cell phones are allowed in most parts of the space. There’s a fully stocked changing room full of organic diapers and all-natural baby lotion from organic brand Evereden. For parents, the bathroom is stocked with high-end beauty products from the nontoxic brand Beautycounter. There’s even a stroller detailing station where experts will suck up cookie crumbs from your child’s buggy using a Dyson vacuum cleaner.

The Wonder has $2 million in seed funding from angel investors including Rebecca Minkoff, Marissa Mayer, and Red Sea Ventures, and it is the brainchild of two moms: Sarah Robinson, who previously founded a fertility startup, and Noria Morales, who led collaborations and influencer marketing at Target. When the two of them met up, they often commented on how little innovation there had been in kids’ enrichment activities since they themselves were children. “We were still doing the parachute,” Robinson says. (This is a game where toddlers hold the sides of a large piece of airy fabric and watch it go up and down in the air.) “We wanted to come up with more creative options for kids.”

[Photo: courtesy The Wonder]

At The Wonder, classes and activities will be off the beaten track. For instance, there will be classes on things that kids obsess over, including dinosaurs, unicorns, and trains. For kids who are really into insects, there will be a visiting bug zoo. There will also be workshops led by kids: An 11-year-old girl named Ella will teach a class about slime and a 9-year-old boy named Ender will teach a class about a spinning top called a Beyblade. There will be a lot of artist-inspired classes, too, including a Frida Kahlo crown-making class and a pin-the-ear-on-Van Gogh game. “We organized our programming through the lens of art and culture,” says Morales. “We hope to partner with other important cultural hubs in New York, like the Met and the Museum of Science, so that families don’t have to go all over the city. They can just come here.”

Morales says that the space was designed to be enjoyable for the whole family. For instance, there is a parents-only lounge with telephone booths and a communal work table. There’s a 1,500-square-foot space with wraparound stadium seating for parents and children to have unstructured play. And the theme of the space will change every season. There is currently a rocket in the center, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. There’s also a cafe on site that has a menu for kids (like hard-boiled eggs dyed blue to look like dinosaur eggs) and adults (like booze). Parents can go into classes with their children, but if they choose not to, they can sit at the cafe and get some work done.

[Photo: courtesy The Wonder]

The Wonder costs $400 a month, but asks families to commit to an annual subscription to encourage people to get to know each other over a longer period of time. “This is not a daycare,” says Morales. “This is a space where families can create a sense of community with other people. We envision scenarios like nannies bringing kids to The Wonder during the day, then parents meeting their kids there after work, grabbing a bite to eat, doing a class, then getting home by 7:30 p.m. for bedtime.” (In other words, families would need to budget $4,800 on top of the money they are already spending on nannies and daycare.)

Of course, given the price point of The Wonder, this space is likely to be a community for wealthy people who have a lot of disposable income to spend on enrichment activities for their children. Robinson and Morales acknowledge that the fee is steep, but they also suggest that many parents spend a lot of money on kids’ classes and activities. For the annual subscription, a family can have access to all those activities for free.

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For the average family, though, this will seem like a high-end, members-only club, much like the many others that have popped up all over cities for adults, including Soho House and Spring Place. It also plays into a culture of intensive parenting among educated parents, who are willing to pour a lot of time and money into the project of raising their children. Many wealthy parents are fixated on ensuring that their children have the best possible chance to succeed in life, especially given the fact that for the first time in history, children are just as likely as not to be less prosperous than their parents. The Wonder provides a solution for parents who want to immerse their children in educational and enriching activities–but it comes at a cost.

The Wonder opens to the public Sunday, May 12, Mother’s Day. The founders hope to expand the concept to cities elsewhere in the country.

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About the author

Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D., is a staff writer at Fast Company. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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