After running a daycare for 10 years and coming home at night to raise her own three children, Tiffani Wilson realized that sometimes parents need a night out. To meet this need Tiffani opened Just Kidding Around, offering parents the flexibility to drop off their kids aged 18 months–12 years for hourly stretches with no long-term commitment, contract, or promises to bring back their leftovers for the staff. Visitors are greeted by a DCFS-, first-aid-, and CPR-certified staff at the pristine, socks-only play area that combines a classroom, indoor playground, and kid-sized lounge. While under the care of Tiffani and her crew, kids take part in age-appropriate learning activities, such as studying math, science, phonics, and art, with plenty of time left over for educational games and video games. Additionally, healthy snacks are provided by Quality Catering for Kids for $5 per meal.
Kidtown USA came from the minds of educators and recreation specialists who created a program licensed by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. Each location’s activity stations cater not only to entertaining kids, but also helping them develop skills for creative self-expression and social engagement. Kids explore the indoor play area, which consists of climbing structures—including a pirate ship and a train—before watching puppets act out classic kids’ tales such as Uncle Vanya Goes to the Zoo at Storytime Theater. Make Believe City’s open air and small, miniature rooms emulate imaginative settings such as a firehouse, veterinarian's office, or construction zone. Elsewhere at The Diner, red-and-chrome furniture and a classic checkerboard floor sets the stage for cooking lessons or snack time.
After years of research and exercise, Dr. John Spencer Ellis felt he'd hit upon a premium fitness formula for producing athletes. Inviting Kelli Calabrese, a master trainer, to help him develop a curriculum, the two pooled their exercise knowledge—which amounted to 45 years of industry experience and 35 fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle certifications. From this wealth of training and education, they created Intense Mixed Performance Accelerated Cross Training, or IMPACT Fitness Boot Camp.
Their formula requires that each workout begin with a sports-conditioning-style dynamic warm-up, before proceeding into speed, agility, and quickness training, which allows patrons to more effectively chase cars down the highway. They then challenge students with full-body-strength conditioning, which focuses on all the muscles versus only the muscle group you want to train, and a high-intensity session of cardio training. Though the formula always remains the same, the exercises vary from session to session. One day, patrons might heave medicine balls and sprints, the next, they might jump rope and stretch TRX bands.
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.
Every year, 826CHI publishes at least one book that draws from the collective imaginations of about 4,000 students from more than 150 Chicago public schools, spotlighting material crafted in a variety of creative-writing sessions. The best stories from 826CHI’s most recent writing programs and workshops will be compiled in the forthcoming 826CHI Compendium Vol. 3, a professionally published book that will be distributed to the student-authors and their families and sold to the public at the Boring Store on North Milwaukee Avenue. Each book costs about $5 to publish, and proceeds from book sales will help to fund and promote 826CHI’s programming, with the goal of engaging even more children in the art of writing.