In 1976, Joan Barnes—a California mom frustrated with the lack of spaces where she could take her kids for safe and age-appropriate play time—took matters into her own hands and founded Gymboree Play and Music. In the decades since Gymboree’s founding, Joan’s vision of a safe place where youngsters could build confidence and creativity has come to fruition and spread to 30 countries around the globe. Staffed by attentive and expertly trained instructors, each Gymboree outpost adheres to a curriculum of activities designed by experts to foster the development of children's cognitive, physical, and social skills through structured play and close readings of Goodnight Moon. The staffers also conduct entertaining classes for parents, newborns, and children under 1 year that cover subjects ranging from music to sports, imparting valuable lessons of imagination and physical activity to developing minds. To further set apart her business, Barnes employed nationally renowned playground designer Jay Beckwith to design the proprietary play equipment at her centers.
Surrounded by the hiking trails, woodlands, and glistening lakes of Millstone Township, Cornerstone Music Studios provides private lessons in more than a dozen instruments, including piano, guitar, saxophone, and voice. Its faculty of like-minded and talented instructors helps create a community-oriented environment, giving students limitless support as they explore new artistic avenues. Monthly and annual recitals also boost students’ confidence, and prepare them to play live in front of a crowd of stuffed animals with sewn-on frowns.
My Gym, which currently has more than 200 international locations, began more than 20 years ago as a structured place for children to safely play, acquire new skills, and romp off a sugar buzz. All classes are organized according to age level?starting as young as 6 months?and designed to incorporate the latest physiological and psychological research. Tiny Tykes gets babies moving with help from their parents, Mighty Mites teaches toddlers self-reliance and beginning sports skills, and Champions, a class for kids aged 6 to 9, emphasizes the importance of using teamwork to master more complex sports skills and achieve group goals such as building a human pyramid to reach the cookie jar. My Gym's energetic instructors are experts at using music, dance, and gymnastics to build youngsters' strength and self-esteem while stimulating their giggle-plexes. The noncompetitive environment fosters creativity, and hands-on activities boost children's learning retention and fun quotient.
If a subject is art-related, chances are you can learn about it at Around the Corner Art Center. With a slate of teachers who specialize in working with specific age groups and art mediums, students can learn how to sketch or sew, hone their brush strokes, and construct mixed-media pieces. With all these disciplines under one roof, there is a class for everyone from children to college art students to adults. The staff's love of art even extends to the birthday parties they host, with artistic themes that may include recreating a famous painting or learning how to draw cartoons, anime, and manga.
It?s always nice to have talented friends. For more than 20 years, photographer Jeff Tureaud has been his friends? go-to person for capturing special events, and his growing reputation led him to start his own studio in 2007. Since then, the award-winning photographer has accommodated clients with wedding coverage, on-location portraits, in-studio appointments, and outdoor shoots on his acre of gardens.
Jeff?s individual and group sessions yield upward of 50 images, which he retouches in Photoshop, previews for patrons, and dispenses as digital images all on the same day as the shoot. In addition to capturing new memories, Jeff restores older ones with photo repairs, digitization services, and DVD slideshows that set up to 150 pictures to each customer?s favorite pop song or whale call.
The shelves at Color Me Mine?s studio teem with whimsical bisque-ceramic pieces?pony and princess figurines, piggy banks, and kitchen items?each stark white and waiting for the brush strokes of a budding artist. That artist might be a birthday boy at a party with up to 25 of his friends, or a grown-up unwinding at a girls' night out. No previous experience is required, as the studio staff dispenses plenty of painting tips, stencils, and artistic inspiration. Afterwards, the staff will fire the resulting pieces, which can then be used as d?cor or dinnerware thanks to Color Me Mine's lead-free, food-safe, paints. In addition to open painting and private parties, the studio hosts after-school enrichment programs, field trips, camps, or scout-troop events.