Des Moines Parent Spotlight: Amanda Wiebers and Jenny Johnson of Joujou Des Moines
Joujou Des Moines is a play space that Des Moines metro parents and caregivers can really get behind. The Montessori-inspired play place, located at 906 42nd Street in Des Moines, is a space that serves kiddos from birth to age five, but really excels when it comes to little ones under two. Joujou features different play areas, ranging from Discovery, a dedicated space for infants, to
Critical Thinking, targeted toward enhancing gross motor skills.
Adults can purchase memberships to Joujou or pay a drop-in price for a day of unlimited play.
Des Moines Parent connected with Amanda and Jenny to learn more.
Give us a little background on yourselves.
Amanda: I’ve got two kiddos – a six- and a three-year-old. I live with my husband, and we’ve been in Des Moines for about nine years now. Prior to embarking on Joujou, I worked as the membership director for a country club over on the south side of town.
Jenny: I’m married with three kids. They’re 7, 6, and 3. I grew up in Des Moines, but I moved to Kansas City for about nine years. My first two children were born there, and we moved back to be closer to family. Prior to being a parent, I was a social worker, and prior to opening Joujou, I was a stay-at-home parent.
Amanda and I kind of come from different backgrounds from a work standpoint, so when we were making Joujou, we included working parents’ needs and then also stay-at-home parents’ needs.
Could you give us an overview of Joujou and why you started it?
Jenny: Having my first two children in Kansas City in a larger metro and being a stay-at-home parent, I needed to be out of the house with my two oldest kids, so we’d go do a lot of activities. I kind of had a schedule for what we’d do on Tuesdays or on Thursdays or Fridays. That’s how I kind of organized my week. And then coming back to Des Moines and having my third, I noticed that there were a lot of activities for my 3- and 4-year-old at the time, but there wasn’t really anything for my infant to do.
My infant stayed in a carrier for basically the first year of their life. When Amanda and I were thinking about okay, what are we missing here, we realized we’re missing space for under two and under ones, specifically.
We also wanted to create a network of support for families that are just new to being parents, because they don’t have those natural support systems in place. We’re hoping that creating Joujou, allows people who are in the same parenting stage to be able to connect with other parents in order to create a network of support.
It sounds like the space is almost as much for parents as it is for the kids.
Amanda: Yeah absolutely. Jenny kind of alluded to the fact that parent communities as a new mom are something really hard to come by. And when you spend at least 40 hours working and away from your kiddos, it’s kind of hard to figure out where your group is as a caregiver and as a parent.
Something that was really important for us here at Joujou was to offer hours on the weekend and offer an extended evening during the week, too, so that way you could bring your kids and they could enjoy time together with you.
I saw that you offer membership options, but can people also just drop in?
Amanda: You’re welcome just to come and use a day pass. Having raised five toddlers between us, we know you never know where your day’s going to take you. When you come in and play with us, if you just drop in for the day or if you have a membership, your price is good for the whole day. So, if you get here and your toddler just needs a break and you need to leave the
space, you can come back later in the day and not have to pay that additional fee.
What’s your favorite part of doing what you do at Joujou?
Jenny: It took me three kids to really lean into observation and just take a step back and watch
kids explore something for themselves. It’s just so interesting to watch a child work on these things that their bodies want to do.
Amanda: As we were developing this space and this concept, we did a lot of customer discovery about how this space would be used. That’s how Jenny and I met. We didn’t know each other prior to me kind of diving into this idea.
Having our doors open now and having families come in, it’s really awesome to be out and about in the community. We’ve had people stop us and say, ‘Oh, we were at Joujou last week, and you might not remember me, but we had such a great time.’ Obviously, it’s validating to know that it was needed, but I think knowing that we’re here to help so many families is something really special.
What’s your number one parenting tip?
Amanda: If you have a partner, have the same expectations for them as you have for yourself. That goes a bit to open communication, but don’t hold yourself to a higher standard than you would hold the other person.
Jenny: Make sure you’re truly watching your kid. I think there are things you think you should be doing and then there are things that you should actually be doing.
I don’t think kids misbehave on purpose. They’re not trying to ruffle your feathers – they’re having a hard time. And I think when you approach any situation that can be sticky with more curiosity, you can find an explanation as to why they’re behaving a certain way.
I think that empathy and curiosity are probably the best tools parents can have. But they’re so hard to access. It’s not natural to access empathy when you’re feeling stressed. But in doing so, you can say, ‘Oh, this person has been around for three years. They have way fewer skills than I do. I’m going to lean into my skills and I’m going to be the calm that they need in moments of stickiness.’