On Thursday mornings my daughter and I escape to a place called Orange Dot where everything is bright and colourful. Where the instructors (see the two lovely ladies pictured above!) resemble Broadway performers with more enthusiasm than I can muster on even the best of days. Where books and toys and music and laughter take centre stage. For me, it's a saving grace. Because on Thursdays I swap my work-at-home-mom hat for my stay-at-home-mom hat—and have the daunting task of keeping my highly energetic and on-the-go toddler entertained for 8 whole hours (minus two for her nap when I sneak away to get some work done!). Though I work from my home office all other days of the week, Thursdays often prove to be the most stressful. Seriously, I’m more tired after managing my two-year-old for a day than I am managing my own business.
This year, when summer came to an end (and with it came the end of hours spent playing in the park), I decided I needed to enroll us in some kind of program that would entertain and stimulate my daughter while taking a bit of the pressure off me.
I feel so lucky to live in Toronto where I have access to so many amazing kids programs. I grew up in a small town and my mom had no choice but to do all the entertaining herself. I took to the Internet searching for mom and tot programs and was thrilled when I came across Orange Dot (an amazing prenatal and postnatal centre on Avenue Road near Lawrence) and realized that they offered the perfect class that was actually held on Thursday mornings. I had done a bit of work with Orange Dot some time before I became a mom, and had always meant to try one of their classes, but the timing had just never worked out.
The class we enrolled in is called Triple Dot Playschool and it's intended for kids aged 14 months to 5 years (though Willow seems to be one of the oldest in our class). The program includes singing, dancing, and storytelling all performed by professional (and hugely talented) children's theatre actors, plus arts and crafts programs, and a mini music/dance class (taught by a trained National Ballet School instructor with live piano accompaniment). Willow is enamored by the instructors, has learned all the songs and dance moves by heart, and doesn't stop smiling from the moment she walks in the door until the moment she leaves. And, the best part is, all I have to do is be there, dance a little, play a little, and let the professionals do the rest!
Orange Dot also has an awesome roster of programs for pregnant mums-to-be and new mummies including Prenatal 101 and I'm a Mommy classes, and their famous Butt-Kickin' aerobic/dance workout that is sure to whip your pregnant butt into shape (I'm still too scared to try it!).
Lucy Benayon, who dreamed up this centre and has been running it successfully since 2006, has just as much energy and passion as the instructors she hires—and she's a mom of four! Her kids, 8, 5, 3, and 1, have all grown up in Orange Dot, and she bases all of the programs on what she'd want her own kids to experience/learn.
Lucy cleverly likens Orange Dot to a cross between Club Med in the 1980s and Broadway. "The love and energy that oozes from us is contagious," she says. "I feel it when I come in to work every morning."
The Orange Dot studio is also filled with the most amazing collection of children's books, all handpicked by Lucy. It's next to impossible to walk out without my daughter pointing out at least three new books she wants—every week. Lucy finds the most original titles from the less-known authors and combines these with other adorable/unique gifts for mom and baby, all available for sale in the little Orange Dot shop.
When I find a place that makes me truly happy, I just have to share it! And, Orange Dot is one of those places. These are the kind of people you want to spend your morning with and this is the kind of energy you want your kids to be immersed in. It's children's programming at its finest—and two hours out of the day that I don't have to struggle to entertain my kid.
What are your favourite mom and tot programs/activities? Fall is nearing an end, and soon I'll be on the hunt for more classes to fill our Thursdays. Do tell...