Noreen Williams-Raines (known as Dr. Nitro to her young clients) founded Big Thinkers Science Exploration to ignite kids' curiosity and teach them the importance of the word "why." She and her team of lab-coated entertainers—all trained in science and classroom management—turn elementary-age kids into engines of inquiry with slime-making, smoke rings, and other quirky demonstrations and hands-on experiments. Big Thinkers Science Exploration takes their programs on the road with after-school science clubs and birthday parties that entertain while imparting the analytical skills necessary for tykes to survive in the robot apocalypse. The staff also offers summer camps that continue education throughout the balmy months with topics such as Gadgets and Gizmos, Chem Lab Extreme, and Rockets & Sprockets.
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 locations around the world, engaging in open play and classes designed to build cognitive and motor skills. As parents participate in their child’s development, their child learns to paint, play music, and interact socially outside of preschool knitting circles.
The Play Activity Center provides a comprehensive venue for children to physically and creatively express themselves. Two gyms and a large creative play area designed for children under the age of 10 house a collection of safe activities such as the large foam pit filled with soft cubes and devoid of omnivorous daisies. Kids tumble safely on inflatable ramps before graduating to advanced bouncing on gymnastic trampolines. Pretend restaurants and veterinary clinics in the creative play space allow children to live out their employment dreams without filling out tricky tax forms, while the youngest tykes can experience new toys and textures in the sensory area.
Kids 'R' Kids fosters a secure, loving environment in which children can cultivate educational and social prowess. Teachers are certified in infant and child CPR and first aid and participate in ongoing professional developmental training to amass lullabies able to put even power-crazed toddlers to sleep. Programs with customized curriculula are available for infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged youngins, and children ages 5–12 can participate in before-and-after school services offering homework help and themed stations. Special programs cover topics to put kids in good stead for the rest of their lives, such as computers, health and fitness, and insider trading, and summer camps (still open for registration!) delve into the specs of activities such as sports and nutritional cooking. Weeklong classes range from $75 to $249 depending on location and class level.
Showcasing hands-on, interactive exhibits, the nonprofit Georgia Children’s Museum sparks an enthusiasm for learning in visitors between the ages of 2 and 12. Youngsters can design a newspaper page in the journalism exhibit, anchor a news broadcast in the TV studio, or curl up with a book in the hushed confines of the reading room. Meanwhile, in the internationally themed Passport to the World exhibit, tykes don authentic kimonos, beat handmade African drums, and discover how Magellan built the blimp that he used to circumnavigate the globe. The Smarty Pants Gift Shop stocks glass pendant necklaces and Magna Morphs toys, whose sets of animal parts can be reassembled into new, imaginary creatures. Above the store, in the Little Learners’ Loft, kids aged 2 to 5 enhance their make-believe skills with age-appropriate toys. Along with its permanent exhibits, Georgia Children’s Museum accommodates kids with events and weekly activities, including craft and story times.
Under the same roof, children of all ages navigate a kaleidoscopic swirl of spinning palm trees, multicolored crawlspaces, and a foam factory that sends lightweight foam spheres careening into the festive atmosphere. This dizzying assortment of kinetic equipment engages children at every turn at Kids Planet, whether they're burrowing their way through an asymmetrical obstacle course, swishing down winding slides, hitching a ride on the balloon merry-go-round, or empathizing with a pet in the hamster wheel. Partitioned playrooms accommodate kids of all ages, including a room for children aged 1–3, and parents can keep themselves entertained while their kids are engaged in safe play by connecting to the free WiFi.
Wagging Tails' experienced canine caretakers shower pooches with personalized attention and supervised playtime in a 4,500-square-foot paw paradise. The first visit begins with a tour and introduction to familiarize furry friends with the sights, sounds, and lingering Lassie smells of their new surroundings. Afterward, animals with up-to-date vaccinations and docile dispositions can play for up to 12 hours a day under the watch of attentive puppy sitters and observant webcams. Hounds can make friends, play, and socialize in this safe, loving environment, and take periodic naps if requested by their parent or guardian. During each visit, chaperones cosset each collared guest with custom quality time, which can include belly rubs, ear scratches, and moral support during never-ending games of Capture the Tail.