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 more than 650 locations in 33 countries around the world, engaging in open play and classes designed to build cognitive and motor skills. As parents participate in their children's development, their kids learn to paint, play music, and interact socially outside of their preschool knitting circles.
A student of Native American, Peruvian, and Siberian shaman traditions, Rhonda Day-Kooy spreads her passion for medicinal plants through the green products, classes, and events offered at Blue Feather. Some of Day-Kooy's customers come to the botanical boutique for aromatherapy certification, and others stop in to purchase eco-friendly skincare products by Babo Botanicals and whimsically flammable wares from Flying Wish Paper. In the Healing Hut, Rhonda and her therapists lead spiritual therapies, including guided meditation, chakra balancing, and foot-based reflexology treatments.
Professional photographer LaDonna Raeh Robinson aims her camera at anything that can attractively flatten into a photo—and has done so since she was 8 years old. After a diversion led Robinson into the field of computer science, she rediscovered her natural talent for capturing unique and memorable images by taking photos for her company, which snowballed into bigger projects and eventually her own business. Today Robinson poses her subjects in the studio for professional portraits, wedding photos, or kids' shoots.
From within a home-based studio in Hyde Park, the experienced shutterbugs at Forty Dollar Photography capture stylish, unique images of clients. Their services range from professional headshots to family or pet portraits, all of which can be speedily processed through their in-house print studio. The photographers also travel to clients’ location of choice to shoot weddings, engagements, and other special occasions.
Taking an all-inclusive approach to music instruction, American Music Institute offers group and private lessons for all ages, experience levels, and styles of music. College-educated teachers lead lessons for voice as well as instruments ranging from guitar and percussion to violin, oboe, and flute. Group classes are available for popular instruments—such as beginning violin and guitar—as well as music theory. Private lessons, meanwhile, provide weekly one-on-one instruction at the institute or in students' homes.
Designed by art educators and art therapists, Magical Minds' bright, cheerful studio fosters creativity and visual thinking via process-driven art experiences. Children aged 4–7 can take a whirlwind tour of the palette-populated countryside with Magical Creations, a class that teaches basic painting, drawing, and sculpture skills ($105 value). More developed doodlers aged 7 and older can try their hands at creating comic book characters and inventing new onomatopoeias, such as glarf, in Comic Book Drawing (a $120 value). Kids aged 4 and older can steep their minds in artistry from around the globe without submitting their finger-paints to body scans in Art Around the World ($105 value). Click here to see the complete list of class options. No matter which class your wee one chooses, he or she will engage a variety of visual and sensory stations while boosting hand-eye coordination and confidence.