When his twin sons, Ty and Micah, were little, Shawn Stockman, member of the Grammy Award-winning group Boyz II Men, played with them the way many dads play with their kids. “When Shawn would get home from being on tour,” says his wife, Sharhonda, “Micah would count off their usual game of chase: 1, 2, 3! Shawn would run around the house, calling out ‘Scootz and Gootz!’”
That funny phrase from their sons’ early years (the boys are now 15) has now been adapted as the name of Shawn and Sharhonda’s indoor playground Scootie Gootz, which opened in January in El Camino Shopping Center in Woodland Hills. The Stockmans also have an 8-year-old daughter, Brooklyn. “Our children all attended schools in the area and we already had relationships with elementary, middle and now high schools as well,” says Shawn.
Lockhurst Drive School, an inclusive elementary campus, is one of the schools the children attended and the family organized talent shows and did other volunteer work there. Scootie Gootz is meant to be an expansion of that work, offering a sensory-friendly experience for children of all abilities. “The special-needs programs here in Woodland Hills are amazing, and it made sense for Scootie Gootz to be a part of this community,” says Sharhonda.
The play space is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.-Sat. and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends, when they also host birthday parties. During the weekly inclusive playdate, Sensory Thursdays, children ages 2-9 with disabilities receive a $4 discount during open play. Sensory Thursdays offers more than a price break. “Our theme with Sensory Thursdays is kids that play together, stay together,” says Sharhonda. “When we were raising Micah, we were concerned about how kids perceived him. They didn’t know how to interact with him and they would stop and stare instead of coming up to him to make a friend.”
The inclusive dates, Shawn explains, are meant to be a haven for parents and their kids. “You have a place now. You don’t have to be fearful of bringing your child somewhere where they’ll feel ostracized or be stared at,” he says. “At Scootie Gootz, you have a staff that has a child on the spectrum and you can kick your feet up and not worry about the stares. It’s a new way to play.” The sentiment is displayed on the Scootie Gootz walls, where a mural by Bay Area artist Amos Maldonado shows kids of all abilities happily playing together.
With a nod to his performing background, Shawn hosts music master classes for ages 8-18 at the facility on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The first six-week course began in March, with a focus on vocal ability, stage presence and the self-discipline required to perform. “Everything that I’ve learned, I’m teaching these children,” he says. There are plans to add dance and yoga classes as well. Learn more at scootiegootz.com.