The Wehmeier Portraits studio has a warm, family feel to it. And that’s no surprise, given that Rob Wehmeier and his wife Elise run the place. Inside, there is a living room with a leather couch, a baby-changing area, and a selection of beverages and snacks—amenities all designed to make families feel at home on the day of their portrait session. As parents themselves, Rob and Elise understand how short youngsters’ attention spans can be, so they encourage kids to play while they set up the studio. Clients return to the leather couches five–seven days after their session to view projections of their photos.
Rob has been a professional photographer since 1991, and he has knack for arranging subjects into poses, whether it’s directing a large family into a unified group or guiding a solo high-school senior into the shape of a diploma. The Wehmeiers' studio allows for some flexibility, too; it has one whitewashed wall, another wall for patterned backdrops, and a third wall for colored panels. Occasionally, the Wehmeiers haul their camera gear away from the homey studio to photograph weddings and on-location events.
Pump It Up's two indoor inflatable arenas bounce socked striplings high off the ground with a plethora of kid-friendly bounce pads. Trained, amiable staffers supervise fun-filled visits where parents can leap around with their kids through gargantuan, air-filled bounce houses, skip down air-filled slides, and slither like snakes covered in bacon grease through an air-filled obstacle course. Attendees can also focus their free play for special events, such as custom birthday parties and themed, private team parties. These themed soirees immerse children in a schedule of interactive activities befitting a pirate or a superhero while melting off youthful energy faster than ice cubes thrown into a running DVD player. Both giant arenas are climate controlled and maintained according to rigorous guidelines enforced by the well-trained staff and local police. Supplementing its thorough rule enforcement with expert installation and anchoring, Pump It Up holds itself to strict safety standards.
A scuba resource for more than 35 years, Scuba Emporium gives customers the opportunity to learn to dive in a safe environment and under the wetsuited wing of a PADI-certified instructor. A two-hour course in a pool (or pool-like conditions) gives clients a firm introductory handshake with the world of underwater breathing while also providing a unique weightless feeling similar to ballooning on an empty stomach or playing double-dutch on the moon. Participating in the intro scuba class does not automatically certify students to take to the ocean, but if instructor and pupil opt to practice the basic skills used in the PADI Open Water Diver course, that training can potentially be credited toward future certification.
The Center has welcomed kids onto its farm since 1936. It probably wasn't as much of a novelty back then, when Illinois was home to more than 220,000 farms and the U.S. government issued everyone a farmer's hat at birth. But that number has decreased steadily with each decade, dropping to just 76,000 by 2010, per the USDA. Which means that today, The Children's Farm at The Center gives kids and their families something increasingly special: the chance to experience life on an independent rural farm. Here, chickens lay eggs, goats give milk, and horses eat hay harvested right on the farm. The staff also leads tours of these grounds and explains how each animal fits into farm life. They even let kids pet some of the livestock before finishing up tours with a hayride.
For a completely immersive experience, The Children's Farm hosts summer camps for ages 3–17. During each camp session, campers live on the farm for days or weeks at a time, spending their days riding horses and caring for the animals.
Rather than just grabbing your W-2s and doing your taxes for you–though they do that too–the enrolled agents at Tax Accountants, Inc. arm their clients with the tools they need to understand the complicated world of taxes. In an effort to help their pupils help themselves, the IRS-licensed enrolled agents host seminars on topics including new tax laws and settling tax debt, pointing students to research tools that can help them prevent unwanted surprises.
Since opening its doors in 1998, Language Stars has introduced more than 30,000 children to foreign languages with small-group classes and full-immersion activities. Through a selective process, Language Stars recruits ambitious teachers from more than 20 countries who share a common goal of revolutionizing how and when American children learn foreign languages. Parents and Tots Classes are available for children between 1–3 years old, and Kids Only classes are available for children 3–5, 5–8 and 8–10 years old. Absorbent little minds soak up Spanish, Mandarin, French, German, or Arabic with the help of their FunImmersion approach, learning naturally through games, songs, activities and art projects to help kids finally understand their foreign-exchange imaginary friends.