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.
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.
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.
The Georgia Children's Museum invigorates young minds with a healthy dose of fun, interactive educational exhibits and events. Curious kids can embark on an international trip in the Passport to the World exhibit, in which younglings absorb different cultures by trying on Japanese kimonos, dropping beats on handmade African drums, and fencing with French baguettes. Wee ones learn through play at the Little Learners' Loft, which lets kids investigate a dinosaur’s world, discover the culture of Native Americans, and embrace their inner Shakespeare in a puppet show. Finally, precocious tots can take their newfound wealth of knowledge and share it with others in the WGCM Studios exhibit. Up-and-coming anchorpeople can deliver a news broadcast or forecast upcoming soda storms from cotton-candy clouds.
Under the same roof, children of all ages navigate a kaleidoscopic swirl of spinning palm trees, multicolored crawlspaces, and a foam factory that sends lightweight foam spheres careening into the festive atmosphere. This dizzying assortment of kinetic equipment engages children at every turn at Kids Planet, whether they're burrowing their way through an asymmetrical obstacle course, swishing down winding slides, hitching a ride on the balloon merry-go-round, or empathizing with a pet in the hamster wheel. Partitioned playrooms accommodate kids of all ages, including a room for children aged 1–3, and parents can keep themselves entertained while their kids are engaged in safe play by connecting to the free WiFi.