Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Jammin at Old Town School

I'm a big fan of Old Town School's Wiggleworms, and decided to check out this past Sunday's Teddy Bear Hootenanny. This was a "pajama party rock show," featuring Old Town performers including Mia's past Wiggleworms instructor Rob Newhouse, who she loved.

We'd never been to a concert here and I had no idea what to expect. We ended up having a blast! The concert hall is small enough that every seat is a great seat. It's set up with benches, and there's also an upstairs balcony that we didn't have the chance to check out. The show was great, and most of the songs were in keeping with the Teddy Bear theme. Mia had danced and acted out all the Wiggleworms songs in her class, and I'd always believed that this was because she was familiar with the songs, from our CDs at home and from being in class. However, at this concert most of the songs were new to Mia, yet she still jumped and danced the entire time. She was enthralled! (measure of excitement: an unheard of 3 hour nap after the show)

This was a great show and a great venue. We got our will call tickets easily, got in and found seats with no problem, and exited without any kind of toddler stampede. We're planning to attend some of the other upcoming shows - they have some popular kids performers coming up like Justin Roberts and Ralph's World. You can get more information on their web site at http://www.oldtownschool.org. The concerts take place at the Lincoln Square location at 4544 N. Lincoln, Chicago.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tumble Time

This morning I took my little rocker Mia to something new - something that was NOT a music class! We went to Jump Ahead Academy at 2260 N. Clark St., a relatively new fitness center for kids that introduces them to gymnastics and a variety of athletic activities.

Unfortunately for us, Mia started the day earlier than normal and in a pretty grumpy mood. She wasn't her usual happy self, but she perked up when we first entered the place and was excited to check everything out.

Our class started in a room with various gymnastics stations. There were tumbling mats and apparatus like trampolines, a balance beam, a mini climbing wall and other padded pieces for jumping and climbing. Our instructor was Katy, one of the owners, and she was awesome. The class was mostly open play, with Katy providing one-on-one time to each child and also gathering them 'round for quick activities like races, trampoline jumping and balance beam walks. This was all new to Mia, and Katy explained the different options and let Mia try things out at her own pace.

Overall, it was a lot of fun... at least until we went into the next room to play with different sports equipment. That's when Mia entered meltdown phase, and our play time was done. After a good 5 minutes of this, Katy saved me with a lollipop for Mia, which was like a magic pill.

I'm deciding if this is a class that Mia will enjoy, since she still seems extremely interested in music and dance, but I would absolutely recommend it. It was a nice, clean facility with fun activities, and even if it's not for Mia right now, I can see us trying it again.

You can visit the web site here: www.jumpaheadacademy.com.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Thursday morning, we bundled up Mia and headed over to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. I’ve been wanting to take Mia there for quite some time, especially for some of the hands-on animal activities that take place a few times each month for kids her age. Unfortunately this was not a day when this activity was taking place, but I thought that she would enjoy the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven. Mia loves butterflies – at least in theory, based on her strong appreciation for pictures of butterflies, a stuffed butterfly she has, and her favorite butterfly barrette. I had been warned by another mom with a daughter the same age that it might be a bit intimidating for her, since the butterflies can fly right up into the little ones’ faces.

At any rate, when we arrived at the Museum we asked for suggestions on activities that a 20 month old might enjoy. We were told to try out the children’s Discovery Center on the first floor, which is a gated nature-themed play area for the younger kids.

So we headed into the museum, and the first thing we noticed – hard to miss – was an enormous, life-size (seemed larger than that to me) stuffed polar bear, taxidermy-style. Pretty impressive, and the other kids seemed enthralled, but Mia was terrified! I had her put her head down and make her look the other way as we walked past. The stuffed cougar, however, got her all excited and roaring.

The first room we went into had an exhibit with water tables that kids could interact with, but this was too advanced for Mia. We walked through the rest of the room, and came across lots of animals – the kinds you’d find out there in the wilds of Illinois. Again, much of this was lost on Mia, who would be much more entertained seeing farm animals as opposed to tarantulas, frogs and snakes. For older kids, it’s awesome. With no prompting or prior teaching from me, Mia uttered “Ew!” at the spindly bugs, animal skeletons and other not-so-cute items on display. It’s innate!

The play room for kids was much more Mia’s speed, with non-intimidating animals like a beaver atop a dam, a climbing area with a slide, and nooks and crannies for playing and exploring.

After spending some time in the play room we headed up to the Butterfly haven. It’s a very hot, humid room filled with greenery and flowers, and butterflies everywhere you look. There were not so many butterflies that you felt like you’d step on them or get hit in the face, yet there were enough that they seemed to be in every spot you looked. They were really beautiful, and while many were flying around, many were sitting still so you could get an incredible close up view. Mia was fascinated, and while she seemed a bit apprehensive, she was not scared at all. She moved her hands open and close, imitating the sitting butterflies’ wings opening and closing. She didn’t want to leave, and when we finally exited she kept saying “more more.”

We spent some time walking around the upstairs exhibits, and while activities were geared toward older kids, she enjoyed a few random things that we stumbled upon, like a giant turtle and a penguin’s iceberg that she could walk underneath.

Overall, I was really impressed with the museum and Mia had a great time, but I think she’ll get much more out of it when she’s a bit older. I still would like to take her back for some of the hands-on animal activities, so that she can get another chance to see the butterflies.