By engaging children on their own level, the teachers at Kids R Kids childcare center and learning academy recognize their students for what they really are: developing brains trapped inside tiny, perfectly spherical heads. The programs hew to a philosophy of "Hug First, Then Teach," meaning they encourage a child's development on an emotional, intellectual, social, and physical level. Also essential to their teaching approach is family involvement—when new skills are introduced, the instructors make sure the parents know about the approach and aren't politically opposed to arithmetic.
They rely on their own curriculum, Brain Waves, which takes a neurologically based approach that combines educational lessons with good nutrition, regular sleep schedules, and secure relationships. Additionally, the Brain Waves curriculum helps develop brains with many forms of language (including sign language) and exposure to technology in a controlled environment.
The Total Jingle Bell Run & Walk spurs more than 5,000 antler-clad participants to swarm through downtown Houston in the name of charity, fitness, and celebration of the holiday season. Like Santa's reindeer before the sleigh got GPS, the event explores several different routes, including a 5-mile course for runners and a shorter, less intense 3-mile course for families. After everyone has crossed the finish line, awards honor the fleetest of foot in each age group, as well as individuals donning the best holiday-themed costumes. All proceeds raised by the race get poured into the YMCA's partner campaign, which provides scholarship money to those in need of academic aid.
When Joan Barnes founded Gymboree Play & Music in 1976, she envisioned a facility where parents and children could play together in a safe and age-appropriate environment. In the following decades, Gymboree Play & Music spread to more than 30 countries across the globe, helping youngsters from infants to 5 years old develop cognitive, physical, and social skills. The company's instructors lead classes such as Play & Learn, its flagship course, in which parents and kids move through a seven-level program filled with storytelling, play activities, and debates on the merits of sandwich crust. Talented staffers also prep youngsters for school and foster development in areas such as music, art, and sports. Throughout all classes, they make use of custom play equipment designed by acclaimed playground designer and seesaw-tamer Jay Beck.
All membership levels receive full membership benefits, including free child care, free parking, free towels, and no contracts.
At each of its 31 area locations, the YMCA of Greater Houston pursues a mission to bring health, wellness, and personal growth to communities. Kids leap into activities ranging from swim lessons and youth sports to a teen Youth & Government program that stirs up confidence and leadership abilities in students, preparing them for mudslinging student-council campaigns.
Zumba, ballroom dance, and Les Mills group exercise classes shake up adult workout routines, as complimentary childcare frees up parents to pursue fitness goals. Meanwhile, adult sport leagues such as basketball and racquetball result in friendly competition and hyper-literate team names inspired by obscure philosophers.
The instructors of Lobo Gymnastics build a positive foundation for little ones to grow athletically, socially, and emotionally during dance classes, gymnastics, and afterschool activities. Across the enormous, bi-level gym, little leapers clamber through obstacle courses, spring across trampolines and into pits full of foam blocks, dangle from a rope swing, and whoosh down a two-level slide that resembles a giant yellow curly fry. As children and their burning desire for trophies grow, they can enter more structured tumbling and dance classes or join a gymnastics team led by former Chinese Olympic team coach Jian Hua Xiao.
The brainchild of two passionate teachers, RoboCamp is dedicated to increasing the presence of math, science, and technical skills in contemporary education. To that end, RoboCamp participants meet each summer at five Texas locations to actively engage in hands-on activities rooted in each of those disciplines.
The activities are more than your run-of-the-mill science experiments, too. As educational activities, campers may craft LEGO replicas of national landmarks, stir up volcanic eruptions, or build edible experiments.