Like most good ideas, Gymboree Play & Music didn't begin in a business meeting—it began out of necessity. In 1976, Joan Barnes, a California mom, found herself frustrated with the lack of spaces where she could take her kids for safe and age-appropriate play time. Knowing that other parents were undoubtedly feeling the same frustration, she took matters into her own hands and founded Gymboree Play & Music. She consulted experts to design a curriculum of activities to foster the development of children’s cognitive, physical, and social skills through structured play. She hired a nationally renowned playground designer Jay Beckwith to design the proprietary play equipment at her centers. And her staff began conducting entertaining classes covering subjects ranging from music to sports to impart valuable lessons of imagination and physical activity to developing minds. As their children learned and socialized, parents also found benefit in meeting and befriending other moms and dads in their local area. More than 30 years later, her vision has proved to be a success: more than 712 child-centered franchises now spread over 42 countries, bringing confidence and creativity to thousands of youngsters in several continents and to one in the center of the earth.
STEP Preschool's teachers don't just shape kids cognitively—they also develop them physically. That's because the state-licensed preschool employs multitalented staffers who lead clinics in soccer, T-ball, gymnastics, and other sports to help refine the motor skills and kinesthetic learning of children aged 2–5. Physical education boasts as integral a role in the curriculum as reading and writing, math, technology, and other academic areas that prepare kids for kindergarten and a tenure-track professorship.
At Connecticut Cycle Center, indoor spinning classes or triathlon training with coach Kelli Montgomery beckon students to wheel in their own bikes and affix them to cycling apparatuses. Both classes and training sessions emulate outdoor adventures thanks to ErgVideo and CompuTrainer systems, which mimic famous routes on TV screens. Virtual Tour de France inclines or Spanish plains challenge cyclists to push their endurance to the brink as they mingle with peers. Classes, like the art of hanging out in an operating laundry machine, range from beginner base spins to high-power interval training. Feedback after each session charts your ascent to fitness. High-quality Apex bikes are available for rental and can be taken to nearby roads for an alfresco adventure.
In the late 1970s career educators Eileen and Raymond Huntington opened the first Huntington Learning Center in Oradell, New Jersey. Their goal was to take an individualized approach to education, adjusting instructional tactics according to each student's set of needs. Their success in helping K–12 students prepare for exams and improve grades and study skills quickly spawned franchises across New York and New Jersey.
Today, the certified Huntington tutoring staff utilizes testing and rubrics for assessing each child's skills, academic needs, and potential for growth. The teachers even note the student's behavior in different testing and academic situations to craft a methodology sensitive to each child's learning style. Teachers also adhere to the company's code of ethics that stresses professionalism and confidentiality and encourages pupils to improve their grades honestly through dedicated study rather than shortcuts.
At Kids U, upbeat instructors camouflage learning as playtime. They invite youngsters and parents into a kid-size gym that jump starts imagination with vibrant colors and a multitiered PlayQuad. The 17-foot playground spans 2,000 square feet of indoor space, where children explore tunnels and soar in swings. At classes, teachers inject freestyle play with structure while still allowing for creativity. The small, laid-back sessions cover subjects that range from gymnastics to cooking and building with LEGOs, all while interweaving themes such as teamwork and motor skills. The instructors pioneer similar subjects in three-hour day camps, molded around the Summer Olympics. Kids U's parties combine the fun center's two signature styles of recreation—freestyle fun in the PlayQuad and ordered activities—according to chosen themes, which, like concepts kicked around for the White House Correspondents' dinner, include Rock Star and Pajama Party.
The instructors at FasTracKids nurture kids' growing minds and active imaginations with a slew of classes designed to help to them learn via engaging, hands-on activities and interactive classroom time. The Signature Program introduces small groups of kids aged 2–7 to 12 subject areas, including biology, communications, mathematics, and economics. They explore subjects through projects and experiments: for example, they might learn about static electricity by rubbing a balloon on carpeting and sticking it to their hair, and then, later at home, to the family dog's fur for hours of entertainment.
FasTracKids also offers a range of subject-specific classes for kids aged 2–12, including FasTrack Math, which helps tykes to master 'rithmetic with individualized study programs tailored to their strengths and weaknesses. During Lego Robotics sessions, kids operate an easy-to-use programming interface to make robo toys play soccer, drive, or softly whisper words of encouragement to the lonely, less-played-with toys.
Outfitted with a wide range of indoor and outdoor play areas, Furry Friends Daycare & Boarding takes animals of all shapes and sizes into its care. Cat accommodations include an indoor room for exercise and prowling, whereas dogs are treated to an outdoor dog run. Other services include dog grooming, nail trimming, and boarding for rabbits, ferrets, and other small animals.