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Gymnastics

Gymboree Play & Music

1501 Sloat Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94132

Foam tunnels. The 10 Little Bubbles Song. Slides and ladders. Building blocks. Puppets and parachutes. These are a few of Gymboree's kids' favorite things. Parents get to let their kids roam within grabbing distance, and talk to other adults. Kids aged 5 and under get to wear themselves out with all the toys and activities, and also learn some pre-school socialization skills along with the activities: song and dance, art and multimedia, sports and team-building. Age-appropriate classes greatly vary, since they're based on child development stages and include more as the kids grow. Most of the available classes are Play and Learn. Toddlers can build some early Sudoku solving abilities by going through patterns and sequences, or language development in a level 5 class. School skills add on some science and group cooperation concepts, which can be a real advantage when the kids are old enough to go to school. Art classes go beyond just finger painting and songs; there may be clay, there may be murals. Prepare to hang Gymboree art on the fridge, or display it on curio cabinets. There have been some negative reviews about parents not watching their children properly, which is outlined in the membership agreement under 'within a hug's reach'. There are available teachers, but parental involvement is necessary. At the same time, the kids will be intrigued by the mixture of consistency and variety, since classes and themes are changed every few weeks. Parents may be reassured that if they move across states or cities, there are many Gymborees to be accessed. This location is great, with a Lucky Supermarket and a Chipotle nearby. There shouldn't be any trouble with finding last-minute snacks or lunch if you've forgotten the goldfish crackers and dried apples. There's a current promotion on the Gymboree website for a first month's membership ($59) without a new members' fee, with a free class added on. Also, some parents have found Groupon deals that make the low cost even better. All in all, Gymboree is an affordable and clean place to go to get the young kids out of the rain, out of the house, and with other kids to work out their energy.

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House of Air

926 Old Mason St.
San Francisco, CA 94129

Just hearing the words “Trampoline Park” and “Bounce House” may make your kids start – literally – bouncing off the walls. Why not dress them up in Lycra and bring them to the House of Air so they can get all that energy out without damaging the house? This isn't just one of those places with one trampoline and one bounce house, and a bunch of bored kids asking when they can go home. First, you have to find the right place in Presidio near Crissy Field Avenue, and NOT get distracted by going to Mason and California street (GPS can get confused). Second, you don't want to show up on a weekend without a reservation, because even though it's not a black tie affair and people can jump barefooted, most weekends and holidays fill up fast. You've got to plan ahead to take advantage of the Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year extended jump times. Third, as an adult, don't get confused and try to take over the tots' trampoline park and dodgeball – you have your own grown-up area. If you're over 16, you can even schedule an 'air conditioning' workout session or a training class after 7 on weeknights, and find out all those muscles that the gym doesn't get to. If you're an early bird type, try the 8 am Saturday class. Those in skiing and snowboarding training can perfect their moves on Wednesdays. The GoPro cameras can be rented. For $4 or $12, you can come home with an SD card with all of your cool moves ready to be laughed at by posterity. (If not, try the private sessions.) If you're dying to be part of the team, Tuesdays from 7 to 9 pm are the Trampoline Dodgeball League championships. It costs $800 for a team of 8. For $12.50 per week per person, it's almost guaranteed that you'll attend more often than if you paid for a gym membership. If your office needs a little more air and a lot fewer board meetings, think about getting a team together for corporate bonding. Alternatively, come as a group and get challenged by birthday kids.

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Jewish Community Center

3200 California St.
San Francisco, CA 94118

Most people know that the Jewish Community Center has a great gym, but there are more things to do there than just work out. Sure, the facility is clean and there are locker rooms, but the kids also have a place here. However, you may want to check the website before taking a trip there, because there are many days and times when some things are open and some are closed. The fitness center is often open when the front desk is closed, but on many holidays (i.e. Passover and Rosh Hashanah) when everything shuts down at sunset (6 pm). For another example, the second-floor kids' playground is open seasonally on the weekends, between the start of April and the end of August. The library is open at certain hours on Wednesday and Thursday, but there's also a pushcart that can be accessed on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. However, the Community Center also offers a vast range of programs. The fitness center hosts Pilates and yoga and swim classes. You can even get a spa treatment or massage if the muscles cramp up. The Arts & Ideas theatre hosts concerts and lectures, so you might hear Grease showtunes and the Maccabeats one week, and see cooking shows on hummus and falafel the next week. If the Monday clay and wine classes don't grab you, maybe a photography or driver safety class will. That's just a list of what's geared toward the adults. Your kids can fill in off days by signing up for camps during school breaks, attending an award-winning swimming school, molding clay or sculpting ceramics in art class, dancing through gym class, or combining all of those things by joining the afterschool program. If your older kids really want to stretch themselves, there's always chess club or language arts or cooking classes. The mixture of sports and arts should be enough to keep any family occupied, and if there are any gaps – there's always the Urban Gardening classes.

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Junior Gym

811 S B St.
San Mateo, CA 94401

Since Junior Gym is a family-run business, they know how important it is to have a blend of structure and variety – from the equipment and activities, to the music played during gym time. There are basketballs to dunk in the nets, trampolines for doing the splits, a balance beam, and a zip line – and the gym is padded for extra safety. Equipment is frequently rearranged so that kids don't get bored doing the same thing all the time. There's also a coffee bar with steaming lattes, so that parents don't get bored and lose focus. Classes are structured based on the children's ages, so that they will be engaged but not overwhelmed. For 45 minutes, toddlers and three-year-olds can attend classes with their parents. That means they'll learn to sing songs, do parachutes, go through an obstacle course, play with bubbles, learn some basic gymnastics skills, and get a hand stamp. From ages 3 to 8, kids can join hour-long non-competitive gymnastics classes, ballet, or sports skills. This is where they can learn to follow a lesson plan with the instructor, and socialize with their peers in classes broken up by age groups. Since kids also need unstructured time, members can come to the twice-daily Open Gym sessions during the week. Parents have commented on the cleanliness of the facility. A professional cleaning service takes care of the equipment and surfaces with non-toxic, earth-friendly disinfectant, while the staff does daily cleaning and spot checks on the doorknobs and bucket of 'tasted' toys. A number of reviewers have said that the owners are very accomodating about missed classes that can be made up on the honor system, and there's a personal feel here that's lacking in some of the chain activity centers geared toward children.

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Safari Run

341 N Amphlett Blvd.
San Mateo, CA 94401

Though the facility at Safari Run seems small, there are plenty of options: fitness classes, open play times, an arcade, and a jungle gym on the playground. Air hockey tables vie for attention along with a giant shoe next to a frog video game in the arcade. Skee ball and whack-a-mole are a good reminder that not everything fun comes on a computer screen. What really gets the kids good and tired is the climbing area with fearsome gorilla and toucan heads, and slides. Also, parents of small children will be glad to know that the younger kids have their own age-appropriate area, so there's less chance of them being run into by the bigger kids. The staff are very conscientious about cleaning, from the obstacle course to the bathrooms, and the drinking fountains feature filtered water – but there is no air conditioning. There are also some rules that have to be observed, such as parents monitoring their kids during Open Play times, which aren't open on the weekends except to reserved groups. Both parents and children are asked to wash their hands before and after play, which helps cut down on the ever-present germ factor. Shoes go in the cubby holes, and waivers need to be signed. However, everyone can still have plenty of fun within those boundaries. If parents and kids come with a group for longer than the hour-long slots at Open Play time, there are computer terminals, large screen monitors, and a lounge where the parents can relax and chat. If you think of it as a smaller version of Safari Jungle meant for kids under the age of 8, this will give a good overall picture. You can come for half an hour for $4, and just check it out.

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