Lego bricks are the building blocks of most kid-friendly, collaborative projects at Bricks4Kidz—but they may also represent the foundation of tykes' minds. In step-by-step projects, kids work together to engineer prescribed structures and gizmos, learning to work together as teachers introduce concepts such as friction, gravity, torque, scale, and gears. The classes are tailored to certain age ranges, ensuring that children take on projects that are appropriate for their developmental skill set.
Hot yoga is—and should be—a challenge. Classes at Twisted Hot Yoga certainly are. Each takes place in a sweat-inducing studio and sometimes incorporates free weights, but the studio also brims with amenities that make each visit a pleasure. Frozen lavender-infused towels, for instance, soothe and refresh during savasana (the still, resting pose that concludes yoga sessions), and cork floors help prevent injury. Heating, humidifying, and ventilation systems are continually updated for a comfortable experience, and changing rooms give guests the privacy to swap their street clothes for traditional yoga tuxedos. And, for yoga neophytes and veterans alike, an onsite boutique proffers essentials, from mats to bags.
In Gymboree Play & Music's most popular class, Play & Learn, tots master skills such as cause and effect, problem solving, and good communication through games and play. The notion that learning should be fun for the under-five set permeates all of Gymboree's classes. From music and art to sports activities, most classes are calibrated for development at six-month age intervals. Mixed-age classes teach cooperation, as kids play movement games or perform songs on musical instruments. Older children take the school-skills class to learn skills that will help them in school and during conference calls with the president. All of this takes place in a well-padded indoor playground with tunnels, slides, and bridges designed by nationally renowned playground designer Jay Beckwith to withstand tiny bare feet and the wrath of resident trolls.
As conveyed through its name, Nomad Anglers stocks gear, equipment, and apparel for outdoors adventures both near and far. With a history that stretches back to 1989, the business has prepared anglers for all types of trips, and today, features such major brands as Orvis, Patagonia, and Simms. In addition to its wealth of products, Nomad also helps customers reel in education with fly-fishing classes, free seminars, and local fishing reports.
"When we teach—from babyhood—people to move well, they'll enjoy doing it, and they'll continue doing it." Such is the philosophy of Gymco president and co-founder Doreen Bolhuis, which she relayed to the New York Times in a 2010 video report. The importance of starting young kids on the road toward athleticism is something Bolhuis is passionate about, especially as a former elite-level gymnastics coach who's been teaching for more than 35 years. It's a concept she calls "physical literacy," and she's appeared on news outlets such as Today, CNN, and ABC News to discuss how young children's physical training and development is just as important as their mental growth. Along those lines, Bolhuis created the GymTrix line of DVDs to help parents develop babies' fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
And Bolhuis's enthusiasm for childhood fitness is apparent at Gymco, where her staff undergoes a four-step technical and philosophical certification protocol on sports development. She has transformed what began in 1980 as a few classes held in a barn behind a local retirement home into a 5-acre, 16,000-square-foot first location and a second, state-of-the-art facility on the north side of town.
When you walk into either site, you'll see kids scaling rock walls, doing back flips, and defying imaginary pirates as they walk the plank-like high beam, improving their physical skills in sports, gymnastics, and cheerleading classes. What aren't as obvious are the internal changes that begin to manifest, from improved self-confidence and perseverance to the gradual building of character. Fulfilling her start-them-early mission, Bolhuis also offers classes designed specifically for preschoolers and kindergartners.
Originally founded in 2007, Grand Rapids Bicycle Co. has changed hands to the Smith family, which kicked off its new business with some shiny new digs. While Eric the mechanic continues to build frames and mend careworn rides, Jason helps customers pick out their new bikes before tweaking them with professional bike fittings. In addition to carrying a variety of brands—such as Felt, Jamis, and Burley—Grand Rapids Bicycle Co. also hosts group rides and supports local cycling events. Peddlers can find out about the latest happenings by viewing the calendar instead of taking a muddy tire to a fortune teller.