We Play Loud Huntington Beach Review

What It is:

We Play Loud is an indoor playground. This review is for their newer location in Huntington Beach. There are a ton of things for kids to do including slides, a bounce house, a foam ball area, and soft play rides. There is also a toddler area that is only for kids under 3!

I have a review of the Lake Forest location HERE if you are interested in that location.

What We Did:

First we visited the toddler area. There was so much for C to do in there. Tunnels, 2 merry-go-rounds, a couple of slides, bouncing toys, and the water blob to name a few. C loved the taller slides since it is something that he can do on his own.

Half of the toddler area

The water blob seems to be a favorite of non-walkers. I had heard about this infamous blob from friends before going. I saw other kids sitting on it just in awe. C walked across it a few times and got a kick out of it, but it wasn’t his favorite thing. I know if he wasn’t as mobile it would have been his favorite though. He did learn he can jump on it thought and is pretty fond of that!

More toddler area!

There are 2 merry-go-rounds here. One is for smaller kids and goes really slowly. The other is larger, a little more challenging for kids to stay on (appropriate for their age and goes a little faster. C ignored the slower one and went straight for the bigger one. Not surprising since I have a little dare devil on my hands.

On the faster one!

Outside of the toddler area, there is a 2 story play area. Adults are not allowed on the second story except to go on the 4 person slide. C loved this slide so we ended up going up there with him a million times. The employees are pretty strict that adults cannot go anywhere other than the slide, so make sure you follow the directions!

Part of the “big kid” area

There are also several different large play rides. There are a couple of climbing things and little rides. I find that the Lake Forest location has more rides for the older kids than this one, but all the kids seem to have fun no matter what.

Fun little ride in the big kid area

There is also a foam ball area. This was a huge hit. There is a foam ball fountain, dumping baskets, and loading machines. The balls are super light so when they get dumped from above all the kids love it. Above the ball area, on the second story, are foam ball shooters so that you can shoot the balls back and forth. These are a little loud and kinda freak C out, but that doesn’t stop him from pressing the buttons.

Good:

  • Employees were constantly cleaning.
  • So many different things to do.
  • The toddler area at this location is so much bigger and has more things to do!
  • They have a small cafe if you get hungry or thirsty.

Not So Good:

  • Parking at this location is much more limited.

Cost:

$15 for one child and one adult. Every person after that (adult or kid) is $7. This is for 2 hours of play. You can purchase additional time in 2 hour chunks.

Our Verdict:

We obviously love We Play Loud. Both locations are great. Depending on our other plans for the day we will visit whichever location is more convenient. C loves that he can run around and play. We love that he can run around and get his crazies out!

Their Website:

http://www.weplayloud.com/

Frogg’s Bounce House Review

What It is:

Frogg’s Bounce House is an indoor inflatable play place. There are 6 or 7 inflatable bounce house type things, lots of push cars, an air hockey tables, an interactive video mat, and they had a kid’s movie playing in one area.

*I have no pictures from our trip here since we were here for such a short period of time.

What We Did:

So Frogg’s feels fairly small. The space they are in isn’t that large and it is pretty much wall to wall inflatables with a small walkway in between them. There is a marked toddler area with one inflatable labeled as for toddler use only.

We went in and C immediately wanted to play in the cars. So I pushed him around in one of those for about 5 minutes. There wasn’t a ton of room to do that and kids were constantly pushing past us while running around.

I wanted to go into the toddler area where they have some small trains/train tracks and little play sets, plus the toddler bounce house thing. But when I finally got C out of the car and into that area, there were kids that were about 7 in the toddler bounce house and they were being pretty rough. An employee kept walking by and looking at them but said and did nothing.

So we just started walking around. We ended up back near the tables. There was a mom with her, I’m guessing, 4 year old at a table. The kid had apparently collected all the toys he wanted to keep and had them sitting near the table. C was walking in the direction of the toys and the kid freaked out. I tried to redirect C as there was a push car that was abandoned back there. Apparently the kid did not want C near the car, pushed C out of the way, and jumped into it. All the while his mom, less than 2 feet away, didn’t even acknowledge the situation. So I’m trying to walk C away from the whole thing and maybe find something else to do when the kid comes up from behind us and pushes C over. C lost his mind so I decided that we were just going to go.

The employees at the front (which was all 3 of them since they were all gathered around talking) asked what happened and if he was okay. I told them that we were just going to go since he got pushed down and wasn’t going to calm down. They gave me my money back even though I told them it was fine. Then they told me that it was because I didn’t come early enough in the day. (It was around 11 AM.) If I would come around 9:30 (even though they open at 10) then we could come in without the bigger kids. They said that the rest of the day he is bound to not be able to play since it is all older kids.

This felt wrong to me. Don’t blame me for my kid getting shoved and not knowing that I should come before you open. If they have a specific time that they want to claim is for toddlers, they should post that and have that be something that they promote. I would happily go to that!

Good:

  • Admission is relatively cheap.
  • You are allowed to bring in your own food to eat at the tables in the back.
  • Great for older kids that can look after themselves.

Not So Good:

  • Employees don’t enforce posted rules.
  • Not very much for toddlers to do.

Cost:

Kids under 18 months: free

18 months – 3: $8

4 and up: $12

I’m confused on the pricing, since I took C when he was just under 18 months and paid just $2 for me. There is a spot on their website that says that grandparents are always free and adults are free with paid child’s admission.

Our Verdict:

Not our favorite place. This seems way more appropriate for kids 4+. I hate that they even claim to have a toddler area since they don’t enforce it at all. I was not impressed by the staffs’ non-reaction to the pushing incident. I felt blamed for it and that was not okay. I also am not a huge fan of the fact that many of the parents don’t seem to watch their kids at least a little bit, but that isn’t the fault of Frogg’s. We will probably try again in a few years.

Their Website:

http://www.froggsbouncehouse.com/

We Play Loud Review

What It is:

We Play Loud is an indoor playground that is located in Lake Forest. At the time of this post they are working on opening one in Huntington Beach in early 2018. There are a ton of things for kids to do including slides, a bounce house, a foam ball area, and soft play rides. There is also a toddler area that is only for kids under 2!

What We Did:

We happened to go on a weekend when hardly anyone was there. It was mostly birthday party guests and a few other families. It was great! I have heard that isn’t normal and most times there are more people there. But that day we were there for almost 2 hours and there were only a few people in the toddler area and most of the time it was just us.

Toys and tunnels in the toddler area

We spent the majority of the time in the toddler area. There was so much for C to do in there. Tunnels, a merry-go-round, a slide, bouncing toys, a ball pit, and the water blob to name a few. Not surprisingly, C loved the ball pit.

Ball pit!

He eventually got out and went on the slide a few times. He ran around exploring everything. He was not really interested in the merry-go-round, but we finally just put him on it. Turns out, he really liked it. He seemed to always head back to it.

He loved it, I promise!

The water blob seems to be a favorite of non-walkers. I had heard about this infamous blob from friends before going. I saw other kids sitting on it just in awe. C walked across it a few times and got a kick out of it, but it wasn’t his favorite thing. I know if he wasn’t as mobile it would have been his favorite though.

The blob!

We spent about an hour in the toddler area all by ourselves. It was great. A few times there were some older kids that came in, but the employees were quick to get them out of there. Even with all that time there were a bunch of things that C didn’t explore yet. Most I think that he will like as he gets a few months older.

More toddler area

Since there weren’t many people there, we decided to head into the big kid area. There was a bounce house (like full size) that adults are allowed in. So I hopped in there (okay, more like crawled in) so that C could try it out. He was totally unsure of it. A really nice boy came in and was trying to show him what to do in there. It was really pretty cute.

There are also a bunch of different large play rides. There was a boat, a plane, and a few others that I’m not quite sure how to describe their shape. These were super popular during the parties. Especially the plane..

In the boat! And other toys in the background.

There is also a foam ball area. This was a huge hit. There is a foam ball fountain, dumping baskets, and loading machines. The balls are super light so when they get dumped from above all the kids love it. We helped a few adults load them up and let the little kids press the buttons to unload them. So it was fun for everyone! C liked to put balls into the ball fountain. It pushed the balls up using air which made C really confused. He had to keep putting them in once they came out.

Foam ball fountain.

Good:

  • Employees were constantly cleaning.
  • Employees made sure that the rules were being followed.
    • They had to kick a couple of older kids out of the toddler area.
  • So many different things to do.
  • They have a small cafe of vending machines if you get hungry or thirsty.

Not So Good:

  • I could see how it would be a little rough when there are more kids there.

Cost:

$15 for one child and one adult. Every person after that (adult or kid) is $7. This is for 2 hours of play. You can purchase additional time in 2 hour chunks.

Our Verdict:

C had a great time. It was somewhere that he could run around and climb things. Everything is pretty padded so we weren’t worried about him falling or running into things. It was a fantastic place for him to get out a ton of energy. He slept so good after we left! We will absolutely be back.

Their Website:

http://www.weplayloud.com/

Halloween Activities!

Looking for some Halloween fun? Here are some of the many activities happening around Orange County!

*Please note this is by no means an exhaustive list. It is just some of the larger events that I could find.

Aliso Viejo

  • October 30
    • Pre-Halloween Bounce Party
      • 5:30-8:30 PM
      • $15 per person presale. $20 at the door.
      • Wear a costume and hunt for treats while bouncing and sliding around. A goody bag for each child, crafts, and more. Food available for an additional cost.
      • Scooter’s Jungle (25 Journey, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656)
      • https://scootersjungle.com/location/aliso-viejo/open-play-calendar/MQ==/aliso-viejo (Click on the Family FUN Event on the calendar for information and presale ticket info.)
  • October 31

Anaheim

  • Now – October 31
    • Pumpkin City’s Pumpkin Farm
      • Monday-Thursday: 11 AM – 8:30 PM. Friday-Sunday: 10 AM – 10 PM
      • Free entry, but some activities have an additional cost.
      • Pumpkins, rides, games, food, and a petting zoo.
        • This is a satellite location of the Laguna Hills Pumpkin City so not all attractions are available.
      • 2190 E. Lincoln, Anaheim, CA 92806
      • http://pumpkincity.com/

    October 28

Brea

  • Now – October 31
    • Enchanted Country

Corona Del Mar

Dana Point

Fullerton

  • October 21
    • Halloween Time at the Museum
      • 9 AM – 12 PM
      • Free but it is a fundraising event so donations are appreciated.
      • Trick-or-treating spots, games, coloring, and photo opportunities.
      • Fullerton Train Museum (200 E Santa Fe Ave, Fullerton, CA 92832)
      • http://www.fullertontrainmuseum.org/

Huntington Beach

Irvine

  • Now – October 31
    • Johnson Brothers Pumpkin Patch
      • 9 AM – 9 PM
      • Entry is free, but some activities have an additional cost.
      • Pumpkins, rides, bounce houses, and more.
      • Johnson Brothers (15500 Jeffrey Rd and Irvine Center Dr, Irvine, CA 92618)
      • http://www.johnsonbros.net/halloween.html
    • Tanaka Farms Pumpkin Patch
      • 9 AM – 6 PM
      • Entry $3. Under 2 is free.
      • Wagon rides (additional cost), pumpkin patch, petting zoo (additional cost), and corn maze. Weekends have other activities including games and rides for an additional cost.
      • Check their website on the weekends for updates. They have been very crowded and post updates about parking and entry before opening.
      • Tanaka Farms (5380 3/4 University Dr, Irvine, CA 92612)
      • http://www.tanakafarms.com/

Laguna Hills

  • Now – October 31
    • Pumpkin City’s Pumpkin Farm
      • Monday-Thursday: 11 AM – 8:30 PM. Friday-Sunday: 10 AM – 10 PM
      • Free entry, but some activities have an additional cost.
      • Pumpkins, rides, games, food, and a petting zoo.
      • Laguna Hills Mall (24203 Avenida de la Carlota, Laguna Hills, CA 92653)
      • http://pumpkincity.com/

Newport Beach

Orange

  • Now – October 31
    • Irvine Park Railroad
      • As of this posting, they are reopen after the fires.
      • Weekdays 10 AM -5 PM. Weekends 8 AM – 6 PM
      • Entrance fee: weekdays $3, weekends $5
      • Train rides, hay rides, bounce house, games, hay maze, and a haunted house.
        • Some activities have an additional cost.
      • Irvine Park Railroad (1 Irvine Park Rd, Orange, CA 92869)
      • http://www.irvineparkrailroad.com/events/pumpkin-patch/

Placentia

  • Now – October 31
    • Pumpkin Patch
      • Monday – Thursday: 2-9PM. Friday: 2-10 PM. Saturday: 10 AM – 10 PM. Sunday: 10 AM – 8 PM
      • Free entry, but activities have an additional cost.
      • Petting zoo, giant inflatables, mini tractor rides, face painting, and more.
      • 300 E. Yorba Linda Blvd, Placentia, CA 92870
      • http://www.the-pumpkin-patch.com/home.html

Rancho Santa Margarita

  • Now – October 31
    • Pumpkin City’s Pumpkin Farm
      • Monday-Thursday: 11 AM – 8:30 PM. Friday-Sunday: 10 AM – 10 PM
      • Free entry, but some activities have an additional cost.
      • Pumpkins, rides, games, food, and a petting zoo.
        • This is a satellite location of the Laguna Hills Pumpkin City so not all attractions are available.
      • Santa Margarita Parkway and El Paseo, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688
      • http://pumpkincity.com/

San Clemente

San Juan Capistrano

  • Now – October 30 (or until they run out of pumpkin! Make sure to check their website for info)
    • Mountain Pines Christmas Tree Farm
      • Monday – Thursday: 1-7PM. Friday: 1-8 PM. Saturday: 10 AM – 8 PM. Sunday: 10 AM – 7 PM
      • Free entry, but some activities have an additional cost.
      • Inflatables, pumpkins, and some days have petting zoo, pony rides, and face painting (weekends.)
      • Mountain Pines Christmas Tree Farm (29932 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675)
      • http://www.mountainpinesoc.com/attractions.html
  • Now – October 31
    • Zoomars Pumpkinpalooza
      • 9 AM – 5 PM
      • Adults $10 and Children $8
      • Pumpkins, hay maze, corn box, petting zoo, train rides (additional charge), and gold panning (additional charge.)
      • Zoomars Petting Zoo (31791 Los Rios St, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675)
      • http://www.zoomars.com/

Santa Ana

  • October 21-22
    • Boo at the Zoo
      • 5:30 – 8 PM
      • Zoo admission. General (13+): $10-12 and children (3-12): $7-9
      • Halloween family festival, trick or treating, decorations, nocturnal animal presentations, and train rides.
      • Santa Ana Zoo (1801 E Chestnut Ave, Santa Ana, CA 92701)
      • http://www.santaanazoo.org/
  • October 28-29
    • Boo at the Zoo
      • 5:30 – 8 PM
      • Zoo admission. General (13+): $10-12 and children (3-12): $7-9
      • Halloween family festival, trick or treating, decorations, nocturnal animal presentations, and train rides.
      • Santa Ana Zoo (1801 E Chestnut Ave, Santa Ana, CA 92701)
      • http://www.santaanazoo.org/

Westminster

  • Now – October 31
    • Frosty’s Forest and Pumpkin Patch
      • Monday – Thursday: 3-9PM. Friday: 12-10 PM. Saturday: 10 AM – 10 PM. Sunday: 10 AM – 9 PM
      • Free entry, but activities have an additional cost.
      • Rides, pumpkins, and festival games.
      • Westminster Mall (1025 Westminster Mall, Westminster, CA 92683) It is around the backside of the mall.
      • http://thepumpkinfactory.com/pumpkin-patch-westminster-mall-home/
  • October 31
    • Halloween Boo Bash
      • 4:30-7:30 PM
      • Free
      • Mall wide trick-or-treating and carnival games (Macy’s Court.)
        • Note that only kids 2-12 can receive candy and participate in games.
        • There are a ton of costume rules on the website-make sure to read them!
      • Westminster Mall (1025 Westminster Mall, Westminster, CA 92683)
      • https://westminstermall.com/events-news/event/halloween-boo-bash

Yorba Linda

  • Now – October 31
    • Frosty’s Forest and Pumpkin Patch
      • Monday – Thursday: 4-9PM. Friday: 3-10 PM. Saturday: 10 AM – 10 PM. Sunday: 10 AM – 9 PM
      • Free entry, but activities have an additional cost.
      • Lots of giant inflatables, pumpkins, and festival games.
      • Frosty’s Forest and Pumpkin Patch (17145 Bastanchury Rd, Yorba Linda, CA 92886)
      • http://www.frostysforest.com/FallFestivalYorbaLinda

Moms OC Mommy and Me Review

What It is:

This is a Mommy and Me class that works on developmental skills for your little one as well as empowering mothers. Their website says, “Learn activities to stimulate your baby’s mental and physical development. Mothers and babies come together in a fun and creative group environment.”

There are different classes for different age groups. The 3 age groups offered are 3-5 months, 6-11 months, and 12-17 months. The classes are offered in Spanish, English, and Vietnamese.

We were a part of the 6-11 month class. The class is about an hour long and lasts for about 8 weeks.

What We Did:.

At the beginning (before class really starts) there are a ton of balls out on the mat for the kids to play with. C loved this time once he started to crawl (he started crawling about halfway through our sessions.) We were always there super early so he got to crawl around and play with the balls before anyone else got there.

The setup and C playing with all the balls.

Once class started we would talk about something that happened in the past week. Ms. Gaby, the instructor, would ask what was something fun we did, something challenging, or something we found stressful. Sometimes you just need to celebrate the small victories or get something off your chest. I found this time extremely helpful, mainly because Ms. Gaby is so understanding and has fantastic advice.

We then sang a few songs and do some baby sign language. I don’t think I ever sang the wheels on the bus to C before but now he really loves it! Then out came musical instruments and more songs. C loves the instruments. We have played with them at Gymboree and we have a couple at home so he is pretty familiar with them and loves to shake them.

After cleaning up all the balls and the instruments is snack time. When I first heard there would be a snack time I thought it was kind of silly. I mean the class is only an hour long. But it was actually amazing. C never failed to get hungry and grumpy in the middle of class. Plus it was also a snack time for the moms too!

Snack time goodness

Then it was time for the activity of the day. We did so many fun activities that were all geared toward development! We played with bowls so the kids could learn to put things in and out as well as bang on them. The next week we put feathers in the bowls and did an art project with them. One week it was Cheerios so that they could eat them and do a project with them. And then it was tissue paper. Every week was gearing up to paint. We did painting twice. Once was just to let them mush around in it and once was hand and footprints. I have so many cute little art projects that we made together. Plus C was introduced to things I would have never thought about! Feathers?! Not something I have around the house for him to play with!

Finger painting!
A few of our projects

Good:

  • The toys were fun to play with.
  • The activities were great and perfect for their ages.
  • Everything had a purpose to introduce them to different things.
  • Ms. Gaby!

Not So Good:

  • Parking can be rough.
    • It is street parking only. So brush up on your parallel parking skills!
  • It takes awhile to get in.
    • I signed up for the waiting list before March and our class started in May.

Cost:

Free!

Our Verdict:

It was a lot of fun! Introducing them to new textures and objects is always great. I was also very impressed by Ms. Gaby. She gave great advice on all kinds of things and genuinely cares about the kids and moms. The support that I, as well as the other moms, received from her was priceless.

Our class started with almost 15 moms, but the last few classes were only 4 or 5. I really think that is (at least for my class) an underutilized resource. It was something fun for both C and I to do and we both learned a lot.

We will be signing up for the next class once C is the right age for sure!

Their Website:

http://www.momsorangecounty.org/programs/classes/

 

My Gym Review

What It is:

My Gym is a program that is built to help kids develop physically, emotionally, and cognitively. They use music, games, gymnastics, and other tools to help kids learn. It also helps kids learn that being active is fun.

What We Did:.

C is part of the Tiny Tykes group. Different locations seem to have different age cutoffs for groups, so I can only tell you that Tiny Tykes is the youngest group and seems to generally start around 6 months. Some locations and times combine 2 age groups. This was the case for us which put the class range from 6-22 months. I was pretty worried about this since there is a huge difference between a 6 month old and an almost 2 year old.

We got there pretty early. Like they weren’t even open yet early. They were nice enough to let us in and talked to us and C a bit. Once the music turns on everyone is allowed in to explore before class starts. We set C down and off he went. He is crawling like crazy so it is nice to give him a big open space to explore. They put out a bunch of balls for the kids to play with. Which C loves. He is ball crazy all of a sudden.

Then there was the hello and warmup. Everyone introduced their kids and then we did a bunch of warmup activities and “stretches.” Mostly to get them moving a bit and used to the routine for later classes. Some of these were pretty physical so make sure to go in comfy clothes that you don’t mind rolling around in.

Bouncing!

We were then released into free time. We put C on the trampoline they have and bounced him around. He loved it! He didn’t want to get off but other kids needed a turn. We explored the gym a bit more. There is a ton of equipment. Slides, trampoline, a ball pit (that is super clean by the way), zip line, hanging bar, climbing steps, and a bunch of mats. I’m sure there was more, but that is what I got out of it on the first go.

Ball pit

During this time the instructors set up some skills. The week we went it was a balance beam (like an inch off the ground) and rolls. The instructors are extremely hands on. They walked C across the balance beam and worked on rolls with him. I was actually really impressed that they did this because they know how to do these things right and safe due to the training they have. So they could teach us how to forward roll C the correct way!

Hanging bars. Probably gets used much more by older kids.

Once everyone had their turns, they set up swings and a little ride that they called a train. The swings were so cute! There were small individual swings and a log swing. The train ride was cute too. The kids could sit (or lay) on a foam block and ride around.

Swings!

Then came something I didn’t expect at all. Something called separation time. All the kids stay on the gym floor with the instructors and parents walk out into the little waiting area. There are a ton of toys out and the instructors are super hands on with the kids. Obviously if a child gets worked up, the parent is aloud back in to help, but it didn’t happen in our class. C did fine and was more confused about the plethora of toys that he could get his hands on!

When the parents came back in there was a game. That week the game was all the kids (and parents) sit in a long line. The instructors set up some big foam mats a way back from us and some scarves in between us and the mats. Then they pushed the mats over to blow the scarves at us. Most kids actually enjoyed it. Only one didn’t like it at all.

Trying out the slide.

One of the instructors did a small puppet show with an otter and otter baby that lasted about 30 seconds. It was a nice way to cool down and relax after all the excitement. Lastly, there was the goodbye. I don’t remember if there was a song or something, but it was really low key and laid back whatever we did.

Oh, and the age difference that I was worried about was not even a factor at all.

 

Good:

  • Super hands on instructors.
  • Separation time! So great to teach kids that it is okay to be without a parent for a bit.
  • All the equipment that they get to play on.
  • It wasn’t just songs. There was so much activity!

Not So Good:

  • There were a lot of kids in the class. Could just be because it was a Saturday class. I tend to like smaller classes.

Cost:

I think prices vary slightly by location. But most of them are pretty similar.

For most classes (not counting the special programs and the oldest kids), it is $80 every 4 weeks. There is also a one time enrollment fee that is heavily discounted if you sign up the same day as you first class.

Our Verdict:

We actually signed up for classes. I went into this just planning to do the free class to see what it was like so that I could let you guys know about it. I also thought that it would be super similar to Gymboree. Since Gymboree is closer to us, I figured that something so similar wouldn’t be worth the drive. But it was so good and so different that we signed up! My husband isn’t particularly thrilled about all the classes C is signed up for, but C likes it so he deals.

We really liked that it was more physical than Gymboree since it has so much equipment. We also liked that the teachers there help the kids with the skills. This is important to us so that C knows other people can teach him and help him with things. The separation time is fantastic too. These are all things that kids need and it is nice to have them all in one class!

As a note, we still do go to Gymboree. C loves it and his friends there. And it is great for different things.

Their Website:

https://www.mygym.com/

Baby Steps through Pretend City Review

What It is:

Did you know that once a month Pretend City closes its doors to the masses and has a program just for those 0-18 months?

They do and it is called Baby Steps Through Pretend City! It is a time for adults and little ones to enjoy Pretend City without having to worry about bigger kids. They don’t even let older siblings in.

Each month has a different theme like starting different foods, celebrating mom, celebrating dad, parent self-care, and summertime.

What We Did:

After checking in, it is best to park your stroller if you have one. They have a stroller parking area and you can’t use your stroller around the rest of Pretend City. I bring in a stroller because it is a nice place to have a home base. I leave the diaper bag there and anything I collect can go back there.

There is a table near stroller parking that is for the developmental screening. It is totally optional, but spots fill up FAST so if you decide you want to do this. Sign up as you pass the table. Trust me! They have a questionnaire for different ages and they go through it with you and your baby to see how they are developing and if they are on track. They also give you ideas of things that you can do at home to help their development along. I found this really interesting as a first time mom that was not familiar with kids at all before C.

Then there is the art studio. Normally this is geared toward older kids, but not during Baby Steps. They move the table out of the way and have a large paper set up on the floor. Each time they have a different activity based on the theme. It is generally footprints for the smaller ones and some sort of finger painting for the older ones. I like doing the footprint once a month because I then have a cute print to show how C has grown. I have done the finger painting a few times and C is just starting to get the hang of it around 7 months. He still wants to eat it though. Which was fine when the theme was foods and the finger paint was actually food!

Crawling in the toddler area

Then we go around and play on all the different stuff! There is an infant area that is small and enclosed so that they can play in a calmer area. As well as a toddler area and is enclosed and has a bunch of squishy equipment to crawl through and on.

There is also a water area that is generally open to build boats and let them float through. I haven’t seen them really use this since the kids are all so little for this. But next to it is the “beach.” It is a little sandy area with sand toys that lets the kids learn about a different texture. Surprisingly it wiped off really easily, unlike the real beach.

The “beach”

On the other side is a Trader Joe’s grocery store that the kids that can walk really like to play in. There is also a little farm area where there are live chicks (totally enclosed so that they aren’t harmed.) C really likes to watch them. There is also fake trees that have spots where kids can “pick fruit” which is basically getting the fruit out of the holes in the branches of the tree. And there is a garden area. The dirt is made of recycled tires and I’ve noticed that the kids really like the texture and love to dig in it.

Checking out the “dirt”

There is also someone that comes from an early literacy program that gives out free kids books. C and I make a point to stop here to find something new to read. Even if you don’t want a book it is a nice break from the other activities.

Reading

There are talks that start about halfway through. You don’t have to go to these, but they can be helpful. I really like the self-care group. It made me think about things differently. Depending on the topic, they are broken up by age. The food theme one had different topics such as “When to start solids,” and “Favorite foods.”

At the end is a parade. They hand out scarfs to the kids and turn on music. Everyone walks around Pretend City (it is pretty much a circle) dancing and singing their way out. It is a nice way to end.

Good:

  • So many different things to try!
  • Helpful themes.
  • Gives you ideas of things to do at home.
  • Equipment and toys that are specific to places like Pretend City.

Not So Good:

  • It can get really packed.
  • If your baby isn’t quite mobile, or trying to be mobile, it can be harder to find things to do.
  • I wish that the talks were announced better so that you knew it was time. The loud speaker isn’t always that loud.

Cost:

Infants and Pretend City members are free.

$10 per adult if you register online before. $12 if you pay at the door.

Our Verdict:

I thought this was a nice activity. There are lots of different things there that C wouldn’t normally get to see or touch. The themes can be fun and the activities and resources are extremely helpful.

I went a few times before I decided to become a member because the price justified itself even if I go only during Baby Steps for the year. Plus it is a tax write off and a great nonprofit.

Their Website:

Information about the program: https://www.pretendcity.org/baby-steps/

The list of upcoming events for Baby Steps: https://www.pretendcity.org/events/category/infants/

South Coast Music Together Review

Photo from South Coast Music Together’s website

What It is:

South Coast Music Together is a music class that is for parents and their children. They believe that all children are musical and that music and movement help children grow.

The class was about 45 minutes.

What We Did:.

We tried a demo class that was free. They provide demo classes so that you can see what the class is like before signing up.

Side note: No pictures in the post because I was so busy with C (more about this later) that I really didn’t have time. I was trying to figure out how to take pictures the entire time. But I didn’t want to take pictures of other kids participating in the class because that is just weird.

Classes are held in dance studios, martial arts studios, and community centers throughout Orange County. Ours was in a dance studio. Since the space isn’t really intended for small children, they set up a large child gate in a circle. There are little rugs where each parent/child couple sits inside the circle.

Before class starts there is a drum in the center that the kids can play with. Since C can’t walk, we just sat and watched the other kids play with it. Once it is time for class to start the instructor comes in and talk/sings about the drum going away.

So the talk/singing things is hard to describe. The instructor didn’t talk at all. Everything was sort of done in a sing-song way but not everything is done in actual song. That was pretty odd to me.

There are a few welcome songs where you say hello to each child. Then there are songs where you clap, hit the floor, and use different parts of your body. Then there are maracas that come out. They are small and perfect for kid hands. C seemed to like the maracas. He shook them for awhile before he tried to eat them so I call that a win. After the maracas are collected, scarves are handed out. After a song or 2 with those and throwing them around there is a quick round of peek-a-boo.

Next there is a large tub of all different types of instruments that comes out. There was everything from tambourines, drums, shakers, and little rain sticks. We sang a song or 2 with the instruments. Once all of those instruments were collected, we were handed a part of a round stretchy band that went around the whole group. The kids walked in a circle holding on while singing a song. The instructor said that you didn’t have to do this part and could remain sitting. So since C didn’t care that I was holding on to this thing, I stayed sitting with him. Poor choice. If you go, stand up and hold your kid and walk in the circle. The kids kept running into me because we were the only ones sitting.

Since (most) everyone was standing there was a free dance where a song that was actually something that was played on the radio at one time was played. Everyone could just dance around as they wanted. I held C standing up and he just bounced. He liked it. I’m sure there was a goodbye song, but I honestly can’t remember it. C was starting to meltdown because he wanted to get out of my lap so I was more focused on that than anything else.

Good:

  • The kids really seemed to enjoy themselves. Even C was bouncing along at times.

Not So Good:

  • The floor was SOOO slippery. C likes to stand but he can’t walk yet so he was sliding around. There were a few kids that were walking around and kept sliding and falling.
  • The talk/singing. I don’t know, it kind of weirded me out. It didn’t bother the kids though.
  • Having to hold C on my lap the entire time. Other kids were jumping and dancing, but I couldn’t even set C down because it was such a hard floor.
  • So much of the class time was taken up passing out and collecting items. It took up so much time, especially because it was promoted to let the kids clean up all the instruments. (Which is totally a good thing, it just took a long time.)

Cost:

Cost varies depending on if you are doing the normal 10 week set of classes or the summer 8 week classes.

The 10 week classes are $230. There are some classes offered through different cities but with the curriculum fee it comes out to the same. The 8 week classes are $189.

Tuition also includes 2 CDs, access to their website, and a download code to download the songs.

There are discounts for siblings so if you have more than one child attending make sure to talk to them about that.

Our Verdict:

We won’t sign up for classes. We already have other activities and they include songs and singing. Plus their schedule and pricing just don’t work for us right now. Maybe we will reevaluate as C gets older since it seems like the class is better and more fun for kids that can walk, jump, and dance around. But as of right now, I don’t think we will go again.

A few tips if you want to sign up or try the demo class:

  • I would suggest not taking a kid before they can walk.
    • Unless your child is under 9 months and you sign up for the infant only class.
  • Have your kid wear shoes where they won’t be sliding.
  • Get up and walk around the circle. Don’t be like me. You don’t want little kids running into you.

Their Website:

http://www.southcoastmusictogether.com/index.html

***This website does autoplay music!

Aqua-tots Review

What It is:

Aqua-tots is a swim school. They have an indoor facility that is specifically for teaching children how to swim. The pool and the area around the pool are heated and kept at 90 degrees year round so that it is comfortable for children of all ages to learn. Parent and tot classes go from 4 months to 30 months. After that the child is in the pool without the parent. All classes are 30 minutes long.

Aqua-tots is located in Costa Mesa with a new location opening in Orange sometime summer 2017.

What We Did:.

Changing Area

The Location: In addition to the pool, Aqua-tots has lockers and a changing area that includes changing rooms and tables for the littler ones. They also provide hairdryers and some toiletries. What really surprised us is that they have mini dryers for swimsuits! They aren’t hot they just spin the suits and now you don’t have to worry about taking home dripping swimsuits!

Toiletries and hairdryers. And the lost and found.
Place to dry your swimsuit!

They also have a shop up front for drinks and snacks as well as some swimming gear. For those with older kids, and other kids, they have a small play area.

Play area

Class: C was in Level 1 since he that class is for kids 4 months to 1 year The first thing that happens is the Welcome Song. It is a song that welcomes the kids to class and the parent moves them around in the water a little bit.

The pool area

Each parent is given a toy, sort of like a bath toy, to have the kids play with. The parent throws the toy and moves the child towards it. There is a different toy that is dropped on the step in the pool to help them understand that the water isn’t solid.

Working on depth perception

Then it is time to have them learn to kick! They lay on their stomach on the parent’s shoulder and kick while the parent moves through the water. After that it is time to float on their backs. I have noticed a ton of kids hate this. But it does get easier. For whatever reason this is C’s favorite part.

Floating!

During this time the instructor works with each parent and child to do pass backs between the instructor and parent. Depending on how advanced your child is (and how brave you are as a parent!) you can have your child go underwater. After a few classes we now let C do that, but the instructors are always right there and will help you know when is the right time for your child. Whenever they are going to have any part of the child’s head get wet they do a 1-2-3 count so the child starts to learn to expect it.

They also work on teaching kids that safe places in the pool are the edges. Even in the youngest classes, they have the kids touch and grab onto the wall or climb (with parent help mostly) onto the edge. They also teach that if you need air to roll onto your back. There are several exercises that they do to reinforce these concepts. Near the end they get out a giant floating toy that the kids sit on. It is another way that they teach safe areas. They simulate the kids falling in and going back to the floating toy.

The very last thing in every class is the goodbye song. It is very similar to the welcome song. But it helps the kids know that class is ending and is more of a routine.

Good:

  • Classes are no larger than 4 students.
  • Sometimes you get a private lesson when other students cancel!
  • The facility is super clean.
  • Staff are friendly and know every student by name.
  • Safety is key here!

Not So Good:

  • Some of the “best” class times (at least for us) were full.

Cost:

The following is a cost breakdown from the Aqua-tots website. There are social media discounts and referral discounts. So make sure you ask about those!

Our Verdict:

Aqua-tots has been very good to us. We keep going because we know that it is incredibly important to know how to swim and we want C to be comfortable in the water. They know C and remember what he needs to work on. We like the system they use with milestones for each level. There are cards for each student that say what they need to work on and what they are doing well. Additionally, each instructor talks to the student’s parent(s) after class to let them know how it went.

Their Website:

https://www.aqua-tots.com/

Gymboree Play and Learn – Level 1

What It is:

Gymboree Play & Music offers many different classes for child development. They offer Play and Learn (exploring fun gym equipment, songs, and movement), Music Classes, Art Classes, and School Skills classes. Play and Learn classes are 45 minutes while the other classes vary in length.

What We Did:

C was in Gymboree Play and Learn Level 1. Each level does different things, but level 1 is geared towards babies birth to 6ish months.

Setup at Gymboree Play & Music

The Setup: The above picture was taken while the teacher was getting setup for level 1. The setup of the gym and the theme that they focus on change every 2 weeks. This helps keep things interesting and the kids learn new things. Level 1 takes place on the green circle. In the center of a circle is a mirror that gets covered for the first half of class.

Class: The first thing that happens is the Welcome Song. It is a song that welcomes the kids to class and is sung for every level. It helps them start the routine and it is parent interactive with kisses and tickles. Then there are songs to wake up the babies bodies. Things like “This Little Piggy” and other little baby tunes. This is how I learned that C goes nuts for “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” Then come introductions (which are very occasionally skipped if everyone has been before and know each other well) which include a question. Questions range from “How did you hear about Gymboree?” to “What is your the bedtime routine?” Nothing stressful I promise!

Then comes Tummy Time! The blanket over the mirror is removed and babies can look at themselves in the mirror, look at each other, or play with the balls that get brought out. This helps the babies get much stronger since it is something different than tummy time at home.

Tummy Time!

Depending on time, there are a few more songs and activities. A few toys get brought out like wave makers, rain sticks, stuff frogs, and scarves for peek-a-boo.

Classes always include bubble time. The teacher blows bubbles and the kids are mesmerized. I have seriously never seen something that can calm a room full of kids like these bubbles. Bubbles are followed by parachute time. The babies all lay on the green circle and parents hold the parachute over them. There are songs and movement of the parachute. This is either a love it or hate it time for the babies. C loves it, but it can scare some others.

The very last thing in every class is the Gymbo dance. (Oh I didn’t mention that Gymbo is the mascot and he is a clown.) The parents are giving little Gymbo hand puppets to do the Gymbo dance with. It’s pretty cute and the babies get into it.

Good:

  • It exposed C to a ton of new activities and babies.
  • It gave me ideas of things to do at home.
  • I met a ton of moms. Some of us now hang out outside of Gymboree too!
  • The teachers/staff are AMAZING!

Not So Good:

  • Classes can get FULL! There is a limit to the number of kids per class, but I haven’t been in a class that hit it. So it can get a little hectic with a ton of kids.

Cost:

Cost varies by location due to franchising. Our location is $79 per month for Play and Learn classes.

Our Verdict:

We love Gymboree! It helped C learn to do certain things better. (Tummy time was a nightmare before starting classes!) It gives me something to do other than just go for another walk around the neighborhood. Plus the teachers are fantastic!

Their Website:

http://www.gymboreeclasses.com/en/

 

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