by Stanley Thomas
Finding the time to chauffeur little Emily to her music lessons is burden enough without having to sit in the car or a waiting room until she’s done. Recognizing that parents want to make good use of their time, a growing number of Delaware Valley activity providers are scheduling classes for adults to coincide with kids’ lessons.
The YMCAs are old hands at scheduling adult and kids’ activities at the same time. “We do it that way because the YMCA is a family-focused organization. We try to make it convenient for both individuals and people who come to the YMCA as a family unit,” says Omoiye Kinney, vice president of communication for the YMCA of Philadelphia and Vicinity.
Kinney says group exercise classes are particularly popular among moms waiting for kids to take aquatics, karate, ballet, dance, gymnastics, cooking or arts lessons at the Y’s many branches. “Each branch schedules according to whether they have more people coming in the morning, late afternoon or evening,” she says. “It’s dictated by member usage.”
Area YMCAs also offer free babysitting for parents focused on their own lessons, and offer several parent-child activities such as swim lessons and family time in the pool. Several branches offer exercise programs in which tweens or teens can work out alongside a parent, as well as tween and teen nights.
Built Into the Plan
When husband and wife team Ron and Katie Opher mapped out plans for The Center on Central, a creative arts and wellness center in Paoli, PA that opened in July, they kept parent needs in mind.
“I used to sit in my car for two hours on Saturdays reading a magazine,” says Katie Opher, whose background as a special needs music teacher led her to include classes for kids with disabilities along with classes for typical kids and parents. “It’s nice for everbody’s interests to be met,” she says. “It saves gas, saves running around, and offers creative outlets and different
When the Center’s fall classes begin this month, a late afternoon time period might include a kids’ pottery class, pilates for adults and music therapy to build social skills for children with special needs. The center also offers the Young Rembrandts and adult art programs, and dance, music and yoga classes.
Katie Opher notes that siblings of children with special needs sometimes get left out of the equation. “So often, families with special needs spend a lot of energy taking their child to therapy and activities, so it’s nice for the parent and typical sibling to have their own activities instead of sitting around playing Gameboy.”
Lessons and Shared Activities
At the Delaware Arts Conservatory in Bear, DE, “we offer a number of classes for adults to take while their kids are in class,” says owner-instructor Tracy Friswell-Jacobs. “We offer adult jazz, tap and ballet, as well as adult art classes.” Pilates, yoga, art, drawing, photography and jewelry-making are other adult options.
Another choice for adults who want to make use of their chauffeuring time is to take a private lesson during junior’s class. “Some parents even share a lesson with their child, which works well if they’re learning together at around the same level,” says Friswell-Jacobs.
All Fired Up, a pottery center in Collingswood, NJ, goes so far as to schedule weekly Family Days and “2 for Onederful” days in which a parent and child can paint pottery together at a reduced fee. Not much instruction is involved; the pottery is pre-fired, so a mom and child can enjoy creatively decorating objects of their choice, then picking up the glazed, finished product in a few days.
All Fired Up does offer some classes and workshops, along with story times to keep kids engaged while parents create pottery. “We’re very much designed for parents and children,” says manager Kimberly O’Brien. Not surprising, considering that she runs All Fired Up with her mother, Pam.
Other Parent-Child Options
Rather than schedule separate, coinciding classes for adults and kids, the Wayne Art Center in Wayne, PA, offers several classes that parents and children can take together. “Most of our adult classes are three hours, so it works better to offer classes for parents and kids together,” explains executive director Nancy Campbell.
For example, the Center offers Two for Art, in which a parent or guardian accompanies a child to a morning of art centered on a theme. Kids, who must be at least age 2, explore painting, clay, collage, printing, pastels and chalk. Another parent-child class, Art Together, features stories and games along with arts and crafts exploration.
A popular option for toddlers is Mommy and Me classes, offered for 2-year-olds and older by many providers. At Jazz Unlimited, a studio of dance arts in Marlton, NJ, director Carol Slobotkin says “our Mommy and Me classes for 2-year-olds and their parents are really popular.” These classes can also set the stage for introductory kids’ dance classes, which begin at age 3.
Marlyn Abramson’s New Dance Workshops, located in Lansdale, Spring House, Harleysville and Jamison, PA, offer a Dance with Me class for moms and their 2- or 3-year-olds. The class features a sampling of ballet, tap and gym activities.
Abramson says “adults who have danced before and enjoy it” sometimes join her teen dance classes. Such experienced adults, she says, “are confident and not feeling silly. They want to dance and just missed it. It works really, really well.” She adds that her studios offer “a really large discount if more than one person from a family participates.”
Stanley Thomas is a local freelance writer.