As the father of a 2-year old, Tim Alley found himself running around to playdates scattered throughout the Bay Area, scooting to toddler-friendly lessons in art, gymnastics, and dance. While he loved the programming, he wished that he and his daughter weren't confined to such a tight schedule. So, he turned to his brother-in-law, Tom Limbert, head teacher at a local preschool, and they began to work on their own children's studio at Studio Grow—a supplementary preschool atmosphere with a focus on unstructured learning where children can play throughout the day. True to its name, Studio Grow now welcomes tots at three area studios. Though programs and amenities vary by location, kids might frolic through a color-splashed dance room, construct crafty masterpieces from watercolors, play-doh, and crayons in an art room, or plunge into ball pits. At all three locations, kids can tinker in a room filled with puzzles, toy trucks, dress-up clothes, and lego building sets. in a slide-filled run room. Instructors stay on hand throughout each romp, ready to lead Berkeley guests through sing-alongs or immerse Concord’s small listeners in story time. Teachers may also balloon a giant primary-colored parachute over the playroom for kids to scurry under and use to shield themselves from sudden broccoli storms. Though staffers emphasize unstructured play, they also lead summer camps for children up to aged 6 with guided romps through the studio; as well as Friday-night babysitting sessions, where kids of all ages can play sans parents until 10 p.m.
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Armed with an army of innovative and certified shutterbugs, Olan Mills Portrait Studio provides families with high-quality portraits, continuing a mission that was established more than 75 years ago by founder Olan Mills Sr. Skilled in the art of capturing infants, children, families, and bunny-ears-giving ghost orbs on film, Olan Mills’s experienced smile snappers will take a series of poses amid a variety of backgrounds and lighting options. The studio is equipped with a selection of props—including numbers for birthdays, toys, and boxes—and patrons may bring their own photo-enlivening items from home. The resulting photos find their way to prints in natural color, black and white, or sepia tones; they can also be immortalized in the studio's signature Old Masters style, a canvas brushed with highlights to recreate look of an oil painting. Like the gentlemanly mariners of ages past with their full schedule of sea-battles, the photographers welcome appointments, but do not require them.
When she was just 8 years old, Kari donned a clown suit and drew laughs from the guests at her sister's birthday party?she knew then that she'd found her calling. A childhood of putting on magic shows turned into a career playing cartoon characters on a Disney cruise ship.
Today, she oversees Kari's Magic Parties, where she and her staff take on the roles of more than 60 different characters from familiar fairy tales, adventures, and science textbooks. As the party's honored guests, they paint bright colors on faces, lead sing-alongs, and play party games. Kari can also arrange for a bounce house for added fun or a photographer to document the celebration.
As 10-pound balls zip down the slick wooden lanes, packs of wild pins quiver like a mailman at the dog pound. True to the alley's name, a mural depicting a desert hangs above the pin decks at Diablo Valley Bowl, where the myriad glossy surfaces seem to stretch on forever as they reflect colorful disco lights during daytime cosmic-bowling hours. Away from the hardwood, an Oakland Raiders sign overlooks the sports lounge, where patrons quell their thirst with more than a dozen draft beers while playing darts or watching games on the 50-inch TV.