Ezra was able to capture and document one of our most recent dads group experiences in this guest blog entry:
On a recent Wednesday afternoon, my 11-month-old daughter Sara and I came down from Riverdale to the Upper East Side to attend a class called “Run, Wiggle, Paint & Giggle” with the NYC Dads Group at a posh children’s venue called Kidville. After changing my mind 10 times on the best way to travel there (do we take the express bus? Drive? Subway and walk across Central Park? Metro North to the subway? How will Sara’s nap schedule affect all this?) we arrived a few minutes early – phew (full disclosure: we drove and lucked into someone pulling out of a sweet parking spot. Very un-urban of us, I know).
Entering what looked like a modest building from the street, we were greeted by a scene I wasn’t prepared for – a bustling and fancy entrance area/cafeteria, with a slew of busy staff members all around us. I’m not sure what it reminded me of, but my initial thought was “Wow, a place like this catering exclusively to little kids could only exist in Manhattan, and maybe LA.” When we took the elevator up to our assigned classroom, my initial impression was confirmed – tons of classrooms and play areas, kids and parents/nannies moving around everywhere, it seemed like the little kids were on real programmed schedules, even though they were all still a few years away from elementary school.
Once our class got started, the dads and kids were greeted by enthusiastic staff, who really took it upon themselves to get down on the floor with the little ones, engage them in a friendly and upbeat manner, and learn all their names, even though we were only there for a one-off demonstration session. Our hour-long class zipped by, as the Kidville staff had us moving from one activity center to another, so if your kid wasn’t into something, no worries – it was only a few minutes until we moved on to something else. In addition to activities we have done before in other venues, such as sitting in a circle for music with a guitar, storytime, dancing, and fun with bubbles, there were also things that Sara was doing for the first time – such as making handprints in a book using an ink pad (a mother’s day present). My nervous expression must have given me away, as the staff soon appeared with wet wipes to get the ink off of the kids’ hands (but not before Sara could get her ink-filled hands on her face and clothing…).
Sara is often reserved and nervous the first time she is in a new situation, and this manifests itself by her being very clingy to her parents. As any other parent who has been in this situation would definitely understand, it was such a relief to see her engage with the staff and other kids and get into a few of the activities offered in this class. But for Sara and many of the other kids, I think the real treat of the day (and when they had the most fun and could really let themselves go) was when we were led from the classroom to one of Kidville’s kiddie gyms, for an hour of playtime in their kid-safe and exciting gym environment. The kids all had a blast playing with the various size balls, climbing all over the gym equipment, going on the padded trampoline, and generally creating a (controlled and supervised) ruckus.
What a great 2 hours we spent at Kidville, seeing the little ones be both challenged developmentally in the classroom setting, and then sharing in the controlled chaos of the gym. Though we don’t have a place like Kidville in our part of the city (and the cost could be prohibitive to some anyway), it was great to see that places like this exist and to be able to spend a few hours with the people of Kidville, and awesome that this venue reached out to partner with us so our Dads Group could experience it together!