Sasha enjoys the puppet portion of Kidville's Little Maestros class
As a blogger about activities for kids in the DC-metro, I make it my job to stay on top of the area’s best offerings for families to impart to readers. But every now and then something really awesome slips under my radar. (Busy mom of two under six — need I say more?) This was the case with Kidville, the child learning/development/entertainment center in Bethesda. It wasn’t that I hadn’t heard of Kidville before, I just wasn’t aware of what it was all about — nor how awesome it was — until I had an opportunity to check it out for myself.
I was invited to try out one of their classes with Sasha and take a tour of the facilities to learn more about the Kidville concept and their programs in Bethesda. And while the location isn’t exactly down the road from me, once there it’s quite convenient. It’s located on Bethesda Row, right across the street from Georgetown Cupcake (told you it was convenient), and there’s a garage on the same side of the block where you can easily park in metered spots. About 30 feet from there is where Kidville inhabits the lower level of the building, with access to it via both stairs and an elevator.
The Kidville Boutique
A delightful scene greeted us as we descended the stairs. It was then that I learned Kidville isn’t just about classes; it’s also a boutique and a salon. Clothes, toys, and other children’s items are organized neatly on racks and shelves along the walls. And in a corner of the lobby space are two cute airplane chairs, where children can get haircuts. And it’s all in a bright, cheerful, clean environment.
I took it in as we waited a minute to check in. The staff behind the counter were very pleasant as they greeted guests and helped get us started, explaining where to go for our class. We had opted for Little Maestros, a music session that received kudos from Nickelodeon’s Parents’ Pick and the New York Post at its NYC location. And, hey, if it’s tops in a city that is known for its gazillions of options for children’s classes, then it had to be something special.
From the moment we walk in, the class lived up to the hype. The theater room where the class is held isn’t huge, but it’s large enough for a small stage (which holds a band that provides the class music!), tables at the back for parents’ belongings and one on the side for class props. The class leaders welcomed us enthusiastically, noting Sasha’s name and inviting us to take a seat around the alphabet rug in the middle of the room. As soon as everyone was checked in, the class got started.
So, this wasn’t just a class. It was a concert, story time, puppet show, dance session, bubble fun, and even a rap show. All of these activities were incorporated into the session with lessons about shapes, colors, and letters, and bits that prompted movement and curiosity. It all progressed at a nice pace for the little participants. Each segment lasted a good few minutes, which gave the children time to get into it without losing their attention. And one of my favorite elements of the class was the leaders’ interaction with the kids — they knelt down to their level, looked them in the eye, sang to everyone individually (or held the puppets that did), and addressed them all by their names. I think this helped every child feel part of the group and encouraged them to participate. Sasha, along with most of the kids, had an absolute blast. And as far as I could tell, so did all the grown-ups. (I seriously had to hold back from getting up and doing a solo dance to their very impressive cover of Rapper’s Delight.)
When the 45-minute class was over, Kidville owner Anjali Varma gave us a tour of the rest of the space and a rundown of their programs. There’s the Big Muscle Gym with soft equipment, trampolines, balance beam, and more. There are also dance and art studios. And classes for ages up to age 6 are held in all of them.
Rappin' to the beat...
Classes run in seasonal sessions, which last about eight weeks. And you have to be signed up for a class to go; they don’t offer a drop-in option, aside from a first-time trial class. Class registration gets you the basic Silver membership to Kidville, which includes benefits like guest passes and discounts on birthday parties, boutique merchandise, and haircuts. You can also opt for other memberships with more benefits at higher rates. And they currently have a special offer for a lifetime of classes.
In case it’s not evident already, I’m a fan. But here’s the whole scoop: Kidville classes cost more than many others in the area. However, the facilities may just be the cutest and cleanest I’ve seen yet, plus you get some perks along with the classes. And after class, you can grab lunch at one of many eateries right on the block (Sweetgreen, Nando’s, Bethesda Bagels, and more) and stop by the cute toy store next door. And, of course, head across the street for a cupcake.
Want a chance to experience Kidville gratis? One lucky KFDC reader can win a three-class sampler! All you have to do is like Kidville on Facebook and/or follow them on Twitter, then come back and leave a comment here to let me know did. The winner will be drawn at random and announced by the end of the week. Good luck!
I’ve learned a thing or two in my nearly five1112 14 years of parenting and hanging out with my kids, and this is an important one: Know where to go for indoor play.
I’m not talking about museums or art centers, where kids have to contain their energy and use their minds more than their bodies (which is not necessarily a bad thing, just not the point here). I’m talking about places where they can be physical and active and, in some cases, literally bounce off the walls.
It’s essential for those days when the weather is not conducive to outdoor fun, the kids seem to have an exorbitant amount of energy to burn, and the house needs to stay clean for some important reason like guests coming to dinner or, you know, sanity.
Here are some places to keep in mind for those very occasions or any time your child could use some fun out of the sun. And, as always, please feel free to add any good ones I haven’t covered!
The St. James
The Super, Awesome, and Amazing (that’s what it’s called) 30,000 square foot activity center in the St. Jame sports complex is filled with all kinds of climbing structures, trampolines, and obstacle courses. Kids can don harnesses and clip onto wires to climb, rappel, and navigate walkways 20 feet above the ground. They can bounce, flip, and execute acrobatic moves. They can swing from bars and on large platforms and crawl through tunnels. Essentially, every element in the space is conducive to active fun, and there is something for kids from toddler to tween ages to enjoy. Admission is $15 Monday – Thursday before 3pm. After 3pm and on Friday & Saturday, they are $23/hour. CertifiKid has a deal on passes for $13-17.
Badlands Play Space
The brand new facility in Rockville, MD, is a one-stop shop for adventures that take place inside. Nature-inspired and full of interactive pursuits for children 2-13 years old, it’s a place where kids can exercise both their bodies and minds in a variety of ways. A mountain of faux boulders and “grassy” hillside are the centerpiece of the space with a green turf-covered floor. Kids can climb up rocks to the peak or ascend using ropes, then whiz down slides. They can run up slopes, then roll down them or slide through a tunnel. Little spelunkers can crawl through a cave and emerge on the opposite side. In another small play area on the other side, they can walk across a footbridge, hop among tree stumps, and balance on “fallen” tree branches. And when they tire of all the active fun, there are opportunities to tinker, get creative, explore exhibits, and even relax. Admission is $20/child and $12.50/toddler, $5/adult per day, and they offer memberships and monthly rates which make for big discounts! Hours are 9am – 6pm Tuesday through Sunday.
Flight Trampoline Park
The huge space resembles a skate park, with an industrial look of exposed pipes and cinder block walls sprayed with graffiti. But where you’d find ramps, rails, and concrete to facilitate skills and tricks, there are… yep, you guessed it, trampolines. Everywhere. There are small squares, longer rectangles, trampolines on inclines in dodge ball and basketball areas. You can jump onto them from platforms, and also from square to square. You can jump just to see how high you can go, do flips, land on your bum and bounce back to your feet, or jump-dance to the blaring pop music. Flight rates vary by time: $11 for 30 minutes, $15 for an hour, $25 for two hours. Kid Flights (jumpers 46″ and under, ages 0-6) are $10 for an hour, $17 for two hours. There is also an upstairs arcade if you want to do some gaming, and they offer party packages. You can purchase tickets and fill out waivers in advance online, which I recommend doing to avoid a wait in line and ensure you get the time slot you want.
PG Sports & Learning Complex
The Gymnastics Center at the PG Sports and Learning Complex is a Mecca of bouncy fun. Whether your child is a Mary Lou Retton in the making or just a kid who likes to jump, climb, tumble, and swing, this place has it covered. Soft mats, balance beams, trampolines, a rope swing and foam pit, and soft climbing apparatus will tire out even the most energized kids. Staff is on hand to help use equipment, but parents are expected to supervise. Walkers through age 12 are welcome to join open play sessions that take place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11:30am – 12:30pm, Fridays from 4:30pm – 5:30pm, and Saturdays from 1:30 – 2:30. Cost is $7/child. Gymnastics classes are also offered — find more info on the website. (Note: Hours might vary depending on the season, especially in summer. Be sure to call ahead to confirm Open Gym is on.)
This indoor rock climbing center in Laurel is all the rage lately. Themed walls offer extra incentive to get to get to the top. Scale Jack’s bean stalk, negotiate a spider web, conquer Mt. Rushmore, and experience peak fun on a variety of other climbing areas. Walk-ins are welcome, but booking climb time is recommended. Admission for climbers is $25/ages 6 and up, $12/ages 2-5, free for 2 and under (also free to spectate), and this gives you a few hours’ block to climb. A short orientation covering safety and belaying is offered. Parent supervision is required for all children 12 and under. Find a deal on admission here.
My Gym has over 10 locations in the DC-metro area. Like other children’s play gyms, they offer all the requisite equipment for some good tumbling and energy-burning play. Classes and programs are available for kids up to 12 years old, but their Free Play sessions would probably best be enjoyed by the younger set. Free Play is offered by age at different times depending on the location, so find a My Gym near you to check the schedule.
Dynamite Gymnastics Center
Adults can’t resist having a blast alongside their kids at Dynamite Gymnastics Center in Rockville (I know this firsthand from an awesome birthday party experience). The huge space filled with tumbling mats, trampolines, a rope swing, balance beam, launching ramps, and more equipment that entices little ones and grown ups alike to bounce around. Open play is offered several times throughout most days, but changes by month. Cost is $8/child, $12/adult for 50 minutes; $12/child, $17/adult for 90 minutes, 12-session passes are $75/50 minutes, $120/90 minutes. Note: Parents only need to pay for open gym if they plan to participate.
With locations all over the country, Gymboree is a popular play spots for really little ones. Babies as young as mere months to kids aged 5 can enjoy a variety of activities that focus on different development skills and yield a good time. All Gymboree locations in the area offer Open Gym Time a few times a week, but with a catch — you have to be an enrolled member. So if you are a member or are interested in classes, check out schedules and rates for individual locations. You can take a free trial class to see if you want to sign up; information is available on the website. And for more info about the DC location, see this KFDC post.
Pump it Up
Take the kids to this bouncy nirvana, and you will be guaranteed cool parent status forever. Giant rooms filled wall-to-wall with interactive inflatables produce smiles and giggles like you’ve never seen or heard. Pump it Up is a well known birthday party venue, but they offer pop-in playtime during the week as well. Kids ages 2 and up (that includes the kid in all of us grown-ups) will love the slides, bounces areas, climbing walls, and obstacle courses (all soft and air-filled). There are several locations in Maryland, the closest to DC in Lanham, and one in Manassas, too. Check calendars on individual location websites for pop-in play times and prices, as they vary from place to place.
This Indoor Adventure Park dedicated to ages 5-105 calls itself a “gamechanger.” And with ninja courses, ropes courses, trampolines, climbing challenges, zip lines, and more under one soaring roof, guests are often in full agreement. There are three locations in Rockville, Herndon, and Potomac Mills, and hours vary by day, so be sure to check before you go. (Note: Hours are extended during breaks from school!) Admission starts at $21.50/1 hour.
The trampoline park with locations in Columbia, Gaithersburg, and Manassas beckons with bouncy fun for all ages. Jam-packed with trampolines, kids (and adults) can go boing with carefree zeal or bounce with a purpose. Jump and dunk basketballs, flip for fun, or play a game of bouncy dodgeball. Open jump times vary by location, and there are special session for little ones as well as fitness classes for adults, so be sure to check schedules before you go.
The children’s gym in Arlington offers play experiences for kids from just a few months to 9 years old. A variety of equipment, from soft mats and bouncy balls to small ladders and climbing ropes, challenges different ages and levels in a stimulating environment. Open Gym is offered at various times during the week, depending on the JW Tumbles location. See the website to find one near you, along with open gym times and rates.
Sport Bounce of Loudon
At the Ashburn, Va, indoor gym kids can bounce off the walls — inflated ones, anyway. Essentially, it’s a really large room practically stuffed with moon bounces, lofty air-filled slides, and other inflated means for kids to burn energy. There’s also a small ride-on train, a hurricane simulator, and a separate smaller room with soft toys and hoola hoops for little ones. Open Gym sessions are offered Monday through Friday, though times vary by day. Most are an hour and a half long, a perfect stretch to bounce off some energy. Admission is $10/ages 2 and up, $6/8-23 months. Children must be 18 months to use any of the inflatables.
SportRock Climbing Centers
Kids can reach new heights at facilities in Alexandria and Sterling. With open belay and open climb hours on weekends and weekdays, it’s a great way to stay active when the elements aren’t cooperating (or even when they are). Both locations offer thousands of feet of climbing space, that include 30-foot overhangs, a bouldering stalactite, and challenging scaling spaces (plus areas for beginners, too). SportRock also offers classes for those who want to take their climbing to the next level. Rates vary depending on what you want to do, so check the website for details.
The Barracks Row space is ideal for infants to children 5 years old to spend a couple of hours, according to a KFDC reader with kids those ages (see comments below… in fact, most of this comes from her, though I have been in there to check it out). They have a floating balloon; an small infant & toddler playground set with slide, maze, ladders to climb; a water table area, where kids can pull levers that spout water, plus cups to fill and pour out (and water shoes and smocks to help the kids stay dry). Another room has beautiful wooden & other toys for playing — moving cars, planes, pretend foods, and a little soft block area for infants. Admission is $20 per child, and they also offer a membership.
And a couple of recommendations from KFDC readers:
Chinquapin Park Recreation Center in Alexandria has a soft playroom designed for ages 5 and younger. It’s apparently loaded with soft toys and is a good place for playgroups to meet and children to play under adult supervision. Open 9am – half an hour before closing (check schedule, as times vary by day). Admission is $5 per half-hour.
Per a KFDC reader, the Alexandria Coliseum “has 3 bounce houses for bigger kids and a few smaller ones for your tiny kids. Best thing about the place, you buy a pass for the day so you can leave for lunch and come back — without paying again — for the afternoon.” Locations are in Woodbridge and Annandale, and most Open Jump sessions in their bouncy areas are in the afternoons on weekdays ($6), but all day on weekends ($9).