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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Gymboree Play And Music In Glen Ellyn

(Cross-posted from Slow Down, Gym Shoe!)

Type of place: Music, art and movement classes for infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

Location: Glen Ellyn and Geneva.

Cost: $65.00 per month

Secret: If you sign up for one class, you also can attend free classes at other times!

Appropriate ages: Infants through about age five.

Pufferfish and I have been going to Gymboree for a few weeks now. I started taking her there because I felt like she needed to be in some sort of weekly class to start getting used to the concept, because this coming fall she is hopefully going to start three-year-old preschool!

We first tried out the Play And Learn class,which is all about climbing around on the special mats and equipment while also following teacher directions and using imagination. For instance, the day we sampled it, the theme was camping, so the kids had to gather wood (balls) to make a fire, and go on a "hike" around the equipment, and stuff like that. I thought for sure I would sign Pufferfish up for that one, but I also decided to try out the Music class. I ended up loving that one! Well, I mean, I love the way Pufferfish interacts in that class. The kids get to play lots of musical instruments and do little kid dances and rhymes. He first time we went, Pufferfish was very shy and stuck to my leg, but I could still tell that she liked the songs and the musical instruments. And now, every time we go, she opens up a little more!

Its crazy because there are certain parts of the class that she always refuses to participate in. For instance, if we have to dance, she usually wants me to hold her and she doesn't want to dance. But then afterwards, we'll be at home and she'll start singing the songs and asking me to show her the dances! And there's one part of the class where the teacher talks about crescendo and decrescendo, and the kids have to play their bells or maracas soft soft soft louder LOUD LOUD LOUD!!! Every week, the teacher asks the kids if they remember what it is called. There is one little girl who sometimes says the word, but most of the other toddlers still don't, including Pufferfish. Anyway, today in the car on the way home Pufferfish suddenly started yelling, "Crescendo! Crescendo!" And when we got home we practiced doing a crescendo by poundiing on the kitchen table! I figure by the time Pufferfish gets to first grade, she'll be the only kid in the class who already knows what crescendo and decrescendo mean!

It is kind of hard to take pictures of Pufferfish in Gymboree because she is generally on top of me, but I manged to snap a few to show you.

The class usually starts and ends with the kids banging on this big drum!


One of Pufferfish's favorite times is when Miss Kim drags out the big box of musical instruments, and the kids get to choose whatever they want and just jam! Pufferfish looks a little somber here, because I had just been trying to explain to her that she had to back up a few steps in order for me to take a picture!


She also likes painting the walls to the rhythm of rock music!


Here she is, caught dancing in an unguarded moment!


She also loves it when the teacher reads (or, sings, rather) a story to the kids!


Towards the end, Miss Kim pulls out the bubbles and the kids get to catch them and pop them! They're weird bubbles because they don't pop right away when you touch them, so you can actually catch them and hold them!


At the very end, all the kids line up to get stamps on their hands,,,


... or wherever else they want them!


Another nice part of this class is that, afterwards, Pufferfish and the other kids can play for fifteen minutes or so in the play and learn part! Pufferfish definitely loves getting her energy out there!

Here is Pufferfish "surfing." One of the teachers complimented her on her sense of balance today!



As we were leaving, today, Pufferfish asked me at least three times, "Can we come back here next week?"And of course, I told her, YES!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cosley Zoo In Wheaton

Place: Cosley Zoo

Type of place: Small zoo featuring rescued animals.

Location: 1356 N. Gary Avenue, Wheaton

Cost: Free!

Secret: Starting in April, every day at 10 am you can help feed the ducks! ($1.00 buys a bag of special duck food.)

Appropriate ages: All ages, from infants to 200!

Cosley Zoo is an old favorite of mine, so I wanted to share it here in case some of you haven't discovered it yet. Originally known as Cosley Animal Farm because it was a simple park with a display of farm animals, Cosley is now a wildlife refuge as well as a zoo. Wild animals are able to find a home here when they have suffered injuries that they won't be able to recover from well enough to survive in the wild. There are also some animals, such as the new white-tailed deer, that are at Cosley because humans tried to make pets of them. Baby wild animals are cute and fun, but as they get older they become more difficult to care for... and by then they are too dependent on humans to survive in the wild.

Pufferfish observes the new white-tailed deer.

The animals that reside at this little zoo include horses, cows, sheep, goats, pigs, hedgehogs, a burro, llamas, coyotes, foxes, rabbits, raccoons, opossums, deer, and all sorts of ducks, birds, reptiles and amphibians.
There is also an actual antique railroad car for kids to play in. It used to be just an empty car, but kids were always climbing around on it like monkeys, so Cosley changed it into a little learning room with puzzles and other hands-on exhibits.

Pufferfish took this picture of a stuffed owl perched in the railroad car!"Pufferfish took this picture of a stuffed owl perched in the railroad car!

Cosley also has a gift shop, a concession stand, and a picnic area. As summer approaches, everyone should keep this place in mind as a fun way to spend a morning or an afternoon with the kids!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bells And Whistles Snackery in Glen Ellyn

Place: Bells And Whistles Snackery

Type of place: Restaurant/Cafe With A Play Area

Location: 405 North Main Street, Glen Ellyn, IL

Cost: Depends on what you buy! Go for a meal, a snack, or ice cream!

Secret: Check the calendar on their website for the days and times of special events, such as story/craft times (on a different day each week) and Kids Night Out nights.

Appropriate ages: Its perfect for toddlers and preschoolers, but older kids will enjoy it too because of the cool snacks and the video games in the game room!

When I heard about Bells And Whistles Snackery, I had to check it out! I'm always excited about anyplace where I can take the kids that involves the kids being amused while I relax and drink a soda!

My first impression when I walked in was that it looked very clean and fancy, and sort of old-fashioned, with shiny wooden floors and brick walls. But my second impression was that the people behind the counter weren't quite sure what they were doing. I just wanted to get a snack, so I told Pufferfish that she could have a cupcake, which I saw on the menu. However, after the cashier rang up the cupcakes and took my money, she asked me what kind of muffins I wanted. I told her I had ordered cupcakes, and she said they didn't have any cupcakes that day! They only had muffins! Luckily they had chocolate chip muffins, so I could convince Pufferfish that those were cupcakes!

The play area was very nice, but not spectacular. There was a train table and two chalkboard tables, a few riding toys, and two pizzaria-style video games. There was also a box of random toys like puzzles with missing pieces, books, etc. The novelty was mostly in the fact that kids could have something to play with instead of being trapped at the table while the grown-ups socialized.

However, the part that definitely did impress me was when one of the ladies who worked there (maybe the owner???) came out and announced that it was going to be story time. She read a few stories to the small group of children there, and she was a great story reader! (Pufferfish and I go to tons of story times, so I know a good one when I see one!) She paid attention to the kids' reactions to the story, asked them questions, and pointed things out to them. Afterwards, she presented a craft in which they made butterflies with popcorn wings. She taught them a little St. Patrick's Day jig, and then she even took them all behind the counter and gave them each a cup of Green River soda in honor of Saint Patrick's Day! The lady said that the Snackery does this type of thing once a week, but on a different day each week, so that kids who have other classes or activities on certain days of the week can still have a chance to attend the story time other weeks.

She also told me that on Friday and Saturday nights, they have a special event where, for ten dollars, kids geta hot dog, macaroni and cheese. an apple, a fountain drink or milk, a Mini Moo (small ice cream) and Popcorn, and they get to watch a movie. Parents of older kids can actually leave during this, and parents of younger kids or parents who just don't feel comfortable leaving can relax in a separate room and keep an eye on their kids on a video monitor. (A staff member at the Snackery will be supervising the children in person at all times.) That sounds like a pretty good deal, doesn't it?

The feeling that came through about the Snackery, in the end, was that the people who run it really care about their customers and want them to have a good time. They're not just in it to make money... they're in it to create a feeling of community for their customers and themselves. I love places like this, run by ordinary people who hatld an idea and ran with it! So, yes, I will definitely be going back to Bells And Whistles, and I suggest that you do too!

[caption id="attachment_19" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Pufferfish eats her "cupcake" muffin and colors in a coloring book!"]Pufferfish eats her "cupcake" muffin and colors in a coloring book![/caption]

[caption id="attachment_16" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Pufferfish in the play area at Bells And Whistles. "]Pufferfish in the play area at Bells And Whistles. [/caption]

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Kiddie Klub Lane

(Cross-posted from Slow Down, Gym Shoe)

Place: Kiddie Klub Lane

Type of place: Indoor Make-Believe Play

Location: 1300 S. Main St, Lombard, IL (kitty-corner from the Jewel, in the small plaza east of XSport and Hobby Lobby)

Cost: $8 per child. (Grown ups are free!)

Secret: If you arrange for your playgroup to come here, they offer discounted admission, and they will arrange an art project and a sing-along for your group! Michael will play the guitar and bring out musical instruments for the kids to play along!

Appropriate ages: Toddlers and preschoolers. (Pufferfish, who is almost 3, loves it! Little Bear loves it too, but she's almost 7, and is usually one of the biggest and oldest kids there.)

Pufferfish and I tried out a new place that just opened in Lombard, called Kiddie Klub Lane. We spent the whole day inside yesterday, and the day before that we only went to the library, so I felt like we needed something special to brighten our week! This place, Kiddie Klub Lane, is owned by a couple with four kids of their own. They wanted to create a fun place for toddlers and preschoolers. The little village of playhouse structures (which, by the way, were built by the same company who built the backyard playhouses for Jon And Kate) are the perfect sizes for little munchkins! Pufferfish absolutely loved this place! She didn't want to leave!

The people who own it are really cool, and they are full of plans for their new business, including adding lights to the insides of the playhouses, having art and music days, and running a mom and toddler playgroup. They are open to suggestions, too, so it sort of feels like, if you go there now, you're sort of on the cusp of something great!

I took a few pictures of Pufferfish while we were there. Wanna see? Sure you do!

Me: "Look, Pufferfish, a puppet show!"

Pufferfish: "Where's the remote?"


Pufferfish is off to fight a fire!


Pufferfish loved this huge dalmation! (We dressed him in the firefighter's outfit!)


Pufferfish fixes a meal in the diner!


Pufferfish plays with the cash register at the general store.


Pufferfish takes a ride in her pink cadillac!


This is not a sponsored post in any way... but I really do appreciate a family that has found a way to start their own business doing something they truly enjoy, while also spreading joy to other families! They are living the dream. So make sure you check this place out! (You can see their website here!)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Events For the Week of March 14

Every weekend I will post a list of local events, many of them free or very cheap, happening around DuPage. Be sure to check in here each weekend when planning the week ahead! For library events, I scour websites of all the DuPage libraries. It would be impossible to list every single story time and event, so I look for special events that are open to anyone, with or without a library card from that library. You should always look at the website for your town's library to find events open to you! (For some reason I couldn't find anything happening on Tuesday! I guess Tuesday is a sort of boring day!)

Enjoy your week!

Monday: Bensenville Library's Drop-In Story Time for kids 3-5. 10 am. No registration or library card needed.

Meet Curious George! Barnes and Nobles in Geneva, 3:30 pm.

Tuesday: Story Time at Pottery Barn Kids, in Oakbrook Center Mall, at 11 am.

Wednesday: Addison Library's The All Doctor Seuss Show. (You need an Addison library card to attend.) 7:00 pm to 7:45 pm.

Barnes And Noble in Oakbrook Terrace, St. Patrick's Day story time, 11 am.

Barnes and Noble in Bolingbrook, St. Patrick's Day story time, 10:30 am.

Thursday: Story time at Land Of Nod, in Oakbrook Center Mall, at 11 am

North Aurora Messenger Library's Mr. Freeze Demonstration (a science show for kids ages 7-13.) You won't need a library card but you have to sign up here. 3:30 pm.

Warrenville Library's Lit Chick Book Club for girls 9-12 years old, with a female adult. You don't need a library card but you'll have to .sign up! 6:30 pm.

Friday: Bensenville Library's Drop-In Story Time for kids 3-5. 10 am. No registration or library card needed
sign up here.

Stratford Square Mall's Family Fun Night! Every month you'll do something new. This week is a free onsite karate class! 6 pm to 8 pm.

Cosley Zoo's Animal Of The Year Party! Free! 6 pm to 8 pm.

Elgin Public Museum's Grossology Family Science Night! Go around to different stations and participate in gross projects! You won't need to register, but there is a fee of $2 per person. 6 pm to 8 pm.

Saturday: Winfield Library's "Donuts With Dad"... Kids under eight can look at books and eat donuts with their dad (or someone else, of course!) No library card or registration required. 0:30 am.

Villa Park Library's Marvelous Mornings, a story-song-and-craft program for children and parents. (Probably ideal for preschoolers!) No registration or library card needed. 10 am.

Story time at Borders in Wheaton, 11 am.

Make a T-shirt at any Michaels craft store (Bloomingdale, Downers Grove, Hillside and Willowbrook) from 1 pm to 3 pm. Just pay $2,50 for the shirt!

Story Time at Borders In Oakbrook, 2 pm.

Franklin Park Library's Wii Games (For kids 8 and up.) Bring games and share them! The library will provide snacks. I don't think you need a library card, but you do need to sign up here. 3:00 pm

Sunday. Elmhurst Historical Museum's's Youth Baseball Day! See a special baseball exhibit and enter a raffle.
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