If you’ve experienced one of the many offerings at Bubbles Academy, or follow the instructors on social media, you’ve been exposed the sunshine they seem to radiate. Everyone is so upbeat! In my opinion, it’s all due to owner Natalie Monterastelli’s contagious energy. Positive attracts positive- and it shows through every bit of Bubbles Academy’s space and classes. Natalie jumped on the virtual offerings early on when Chicago was issued a stay at home order in March. This May Bubbles Academy is introducing the option of monthly unlimited virtual classes. As families needs shift with our current situation of closures, they will continue to evolve in their offerings. You’re only as strong as your leader, and the Bubbles team is proving to be a big, bright rainbow through this crazy storm!
Your daughter, Mira, makes a cameo here and there on the Bubbles Academy videos & I love it! How old is she? She must love being involved in all of the fun!
Aww thanks so much! Mira is 5 and is currently finishing up her last year of preschool at Bubbles Academy. She’s been coming to work with me since she was 5 weeks old, so kindergarten is going to be a big change!
Spending this time with her has been a highlight of this challenging period. I love watching her light up when she gets to share in singing, dancing and dramatic play. Every morning, the first thing she says is, “Mama! What shows are we gonna do for the kids today??” Haha I think a kindergarten talk show may be on her list of aspirations.
What’s your favorite thing about living in Chicago?
I love Chicago so much! The vibrant arts, culture and theatre community is what brought me here and that along with the wonderful people, small businesses, lakefront and opportunities for children makes this a lifelong home for us.
Chicago has such an array of diverse Neighborhoods, which is your favorite to explore?
We love Lincoln Park, and our business started there in 2003. In 2016, we moved Bubbles Academy and our family to Bucktown and fell in love with this neighborhood as well! We enjoy the beautiful, tree-lined streets, local businesses and restaurants, the 606, Holstein Park, and the Bucktown Library.
Pre-quarantine days, we loved exploring all the different neighborhoods! Some favorite spots are: The Logan Square Farmers Market, gallery & mural-hopping in Pilsen or a day at the beach and shops in Edgewater & Andersonville.
What are your favorite restaurants and local businesses to shop?
So many local favs! Here are a few:
Restaurants: The Bristol, Izakaya Mita, Antico, Etta, The Royal Grocer, Antique Taco
Local Shops for gifts and go-tos: Volumes Bookcafe, Virtu, One Strange Bird, Festive Collective, Building Blocks Toy Store, Monica + Andy, Joy & Chaos
What are your go-to’s when you need some “me time”?
A workout at Shred415 (in their studios or now virtually) is my go to for one hour of time to just be in the moment, challenge my body and clear my head for the day.
I love to read but haven’t had the time or attention span to read like I used to before my daughter was born, so I listen to audiobooks, and libro.fm is my go-to for supporting local bookstores and “reading.”
I also really enjoy writing songs, stories, painting and any sort of creative project I can do on my own or with Mira.
Tell us about Bubbles Academy, how did you get started? Are you finding your groove with the new virtual way of life?
Bubbles Academy is a whole child arts and development center designed to support families with children ages 0-5 with classes, events and full and half day preschool.
I started off working at Bubbles Academy as a part-time teaching and birthday party assistant in 2007, moved away from Chicago for a few years, came back to Bubbles in 2012 and ended up taking over ownership of the business in 2016!
I always tell my team members that story because you just never know where your passion, ideas and hard work may take you! I am a big believer in helping people find their niche and encouraging them to do more of what is their unique contribution to the world — and when I get to pay them for that passion, amazing!
I have a master’s degree in Educational Theatre from New York University, and a Whole Child approach to education through arts-integration is our guide for all we do at Bubbles Academy. We have been able to quickly pivot our high-touch approach to providing virtual classes during this time. In person, hands-on interaction will always be the heart of how we teach, but we are finding joy and inspiration in connecting with families in a virtual way as well! We have been able to meet new families in different states and countries and reconnect with Bubbles Academy families who moved away. That has been a silver lining in this crisis.
You can find our virtual classes offered 6 days per week at bubblesacademy.com/virtualclasses. All funds raised from the classes and virtual birthday parties goes directly to supporting our wonderful teaching team!
You always seem to have a smile on your face! Where do you find your inspiration to keep creating and stay positive?
Thank you for that view! 🙂
Like most of us, I’m exhausted, I’m struggling, I’m heartbroken. But I also know how fortunate I am to be healthy, surrounded by people I love, and pursuing my passion each day. That counts for so much and so I smile and do my best to share silliness, resources and a positive outlook.
The encouraging thing is that a positive view of the world can be cultivated at any age and is a gift we can provide our children. As a child, I experienced difficulty and at various points in my life. I lost my father to cancer when I was 7 years old. My mom’s ability to express her sadness and share with me how she was feeling, coping, and eventually recovering — while continuing to provide stable care for me — provided a map for me to navigate challenging times with a clear head and positive outlook. Even if I don’t feel positive in any given moment, I maintain hope that positive outcomes are possible.
Understandably, we often try to shield our children and loved ones from difficult times, but those can also be the times that shape them and help them develop resilience and a positive view of the world.
How do you juggle your business with mom life?
In this stage of life (and certainly during this time of working full time and momming full time), my business and mom life coincide considerably. I feel so lucky that every aspect of my business is built to support Mira at this time in her life and my colleagues and coworkers have been an invaluable village for us. I’m hoping that as she gets older and the business continues to mature, I’ll be able to draw a more clear delineation between work and family time. And for now, I’ll celebrate the fact that she loves being at Bubbles Academy and throws a tantrum whenever we need to leave.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten from another mom?
Early on, Lindsay Pinchuk, founder of Bump Club and Beyond encouraged me to ask for help and accept help – parenting is not easy and you don’t have to go it alone!
What’s the best advice you would give to another Chicago mom?
The advice I have to give is based on a combination of science and flexibility. The science of child development and what is going on in our child’s growing brains and bodies are major keys to navigating the day to day. It can help to approach children’s behavior with empathy versus frustration, and approach unknowns with curiosity versus anxiety. Allow flexibility for yourself and your child as you navigate a beautiful and challenging period. You’re their best mom in the world, just as you are. Progress over perfection any day. 😉
*Bubbles Academy is now offering virtual monthly memberships! Unlimited virtual classes that you simply add to your line up!