In 1976, busy California mother Joan Barnes wanted nothing more than to find a play place where she and her kids could enjoy age-appropriate, educational activities. Finding none, she developed her own innovative play environment within a developmental-based program structure now known as Gymboree Play & Music. Today, kids tumble and learn in locations around the world, engaging in open play and classes designed to build cognitive and motor skills. As parents participate in their child?s development, their child learns to paint, play music, and interact socially outside of preschool knitting circles.
Kids 'R' Kids fosters a secure, loving environment in which children can cultivate educational and social prowess. Teachers are certified in infant and child CPR and first aid and participate in ongoing professional developmental training to amass lullabies able to put even power-crazed toddlers to sleep. Programs with customized curriculula are available for infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged youngins, and children ages 5–12 can participate in before-and-after school services offering homework help and themed stations. Special programs cover topics to put kids in good stead for the rest of their lives, such as computers, health and fitness, and insider trading, and summer camps (still open for registration!) delve into the specs of activities such as sports and nutritional cooking. Weeklong classes range from $75 to $249 depending on location and class level.
The Play Activity Center provides a comprehensive venue for children to physically and creatively express themselves. Two gyms and a large creative play area designed for children under the age of 10 house a collection of safe activities such as the large foam pit filled with soft cubes and devoid of omnivorous daisies. Kids tumble safely on inflatable ramps before graduating to advanced bouncing on gymnastic trampolines. Pretend restaurants and veterinary clinics in the creative play space allow children to live out their employment dreams without filling out tricky tax forms, while the youngest tykes can experience new toys and textures in the sensory area.
Noreen Williams-Raines (known as Dr. Nitro to her young clients) founded Big Thinkers Science Exploration to ignite kids' curiosity and teach them the importance of the word "why." She and her team of lab-coated entertainers?all trained in science and classroom management?turn elementary-age kids into engines of inquiry with slime-making, smoke rings, and other quirky demonstrations and hands-on experiments.
Big Thinkers Science Exploration takes their programs on the road with after-school science clubs and birthday parties that entertain while imparting the analytical skills necessary for tykes to survive in the robot apocalypse. The staff also offers summer camps that continue education throughout the balmy months with topics such as Gadgets and Gizmos, Chem Lab Extreme, and Rockets & Sprockets.
The multiple YMCA locations in metropolitan Chattanooga serve more than 37,000 members a year and fulfill the mission of uniting guests regardless of gender, age, faith, background, abilities, or income. Founded in London in 1844, the YMCA spread to its Chattanooga home in 1871 and continues to operate with help from local community volunteers as stalwart as I Love Lucy syndicators. Each location caters to the needs of children, teens, seniors, and families with afterschool programs and fitness-based activities. Cardio machines pump hearts, racquetball courts host fun competitions, and pools allow goggles to fulfill their original purpose: snapping the face with their elastic band to make a diver jump off the blocks faster. A sauna and steam room heat clients up after they cool down in the pools, and parents can drop their young children off at the nursery before participating in group fitness classes.
Though water is the world's most abundant resource, white water is a bit more difficult to find. The guides and adventurers at Nantahala Outdoor Center have traveled as far as Panama to find the best rapids—a dedication to the thrill of the outdoors that has attracted the attention and awe of such publications as National Geographic. Still, despite the churning siren calls of international waters, the American South's Smoky Mountains offer plenty to explore. When not leading regular white-water expeditions down seven local rivers—including the Chattooga, Pigeon, and Nolichucky—Nantahala's guides set out for off-water adventures in the surrounding hills, zipping along the scenic Nantahala Gorge—formed over several millennia from fossilized rapids—and setting out for waterfall hikes among mountain trails. In addition to their guided explorations, Nantahala Outdoor Center also conducts outdoor classes, equipping students with kayaking know-how as well as skills to survive among the wilderness' feral park rangers.