Infant and Toddler Classes
You swooned over Jana Vitols’ Music for Everyone classes for tots with their grown-ups. Teacher Jana skillfully combines music with movement at classes in North and South Seattle. While playing a host of instruments, including banjo and ukulele, she uses stories, puppets, folk dances and other tools of engagement to teach beginning musical concepts. It may seem like just a fun, sweet time with wee ones playing egg shakers, but “make no mistake, this class isn’t just fluff” advises one commenter, “it’s a solid music education.” Jana received a rave for her “beautiful voice and calm energy,” and one parent calls her a “toddler enchantress.” Some parents even confessed they love the classes just as much as their kids do.
Ripe young minds are soaking up language over at Sponge, which received a bundle of your votes for its classes in Spanish, French, Mandarin and Japanese. Sponge offers classes for babies to age 4 with their grown-ups and “just kids” classes for ages 3–5. The teachers are tops; you call them “awesome,” “incredible” and “amazing.” “Simply the best foreign language classes for toddlers,” says one voter.
After the joy — and stultifying sleep deprivation — of a new baby have set in, parents long to communicate with their wee ones, and not just by guessing what the crying means. Enter Hop to Signaroo, whose sign language classes for hearing families tap into babies’ ability to use their hands before talking. “Nancy rocks!” a voter says about the instructor. Raves another, “We’re still signing after a year and we love it!”
Yanvalou Drum School may be new to the kiddie class scene, but you already love it. Yanvalou’s Baby Jam class invites infants to 5-year-olds to play on drums, try out other percussion instruments, plus learn songs in Spanish and Hebrew. Baby Jam earned your praise as a “great, diverse learning experience.” Voters call the classes “friendly” and “organized,” and some appreciate that no membership is needed: Just drop in!
Best Art and Creative Classes
Paint the Town
Fans rave: They love having the opportunity to paint and the reward of bringing home their own creation. There are many pieces of ceramic that you can choose to paint, and the staff will help inspire your creativity if you ask them for their assistance.
Coyote Central — Creative programs aimed at middle-schoolers, taught by real artists.
Northwest Arts Center in Duvall — It's been my kids favorite place to explore all the different art techniques and have fun while doing it. It's been a great place to let them explore their creativity in a positive and safe environment.
Roaring Mouse Creative Arts Studio — Regardless of age, they give kids a chance to explore a wide variety of mediums in artistic expression.... Caring and passionate instructors who understand the value of the arts in a child's life.
Thrive Art School — Amazing quality art education ... they teach proper technique, and the art results are amazing. ... Great staff, fundamentals, and a new piece of art every week.
Next up: Best Dance Studios »
You voted in droves for Creative Dance Center (CDC), putting the North Seattle dance studio on top in this category. Several of you cited CDC’s instruction targeting “whole child well-being.” You also raved about the studio’s signature BrainDance. Simply explained, BrainDance stimulates and connects the body’s nervous system, which can aid a child’s learning. But if that sounds academic, rest assured, students are having boatloads of fun in dance class with instructors who are, according to one commenter, “great teachers that let kids be kids.” CDC offers a variety of classes, from parent and tot to early childhood to teens and adults. One voter praises the studio’s classes as fostering “passion, compassion, creativity and freedom.” Wow!
Greenwood’s American Dance Institute garnered heaps of your votes, with many of you extolling the teachers as “enthusiastic,” “incredible” and “fantastic!” These fine instructors give classes to kids (and adults) in a variety of dance genres, including ballet, tap, contemporary, hip-hop, hula and more! Voters also appreciate the studio’s “wonderful, welcoming, noncompetitive atmosphere,” and that it provides “good class options for boys.”
All That Dance rounded out the dance category, earning your votes for its “very interactive” and “wonderful” ballet classes. In addition to ever-popular ballet, the studio offers instruction in jazz, tap, modern, ballroom and more, with classes for all ages. Staff at All That Dance strive to help individuals at any level to find the right class. You sing the praises of the instructors here, calling them “great teachers” and “very professional.”
Best Gymnastics Studios
Seattle Gymnastics Academy
Fans rave: Great coaches, nice facility, concentration on life skills like listening and following directions as well as core gymnastics concepts. They have the BEST drop in play time for kids under 5. Coaches have great skills with little kids yet also provide strong foundational training.
Emerald City Gymnastics Academy — There staff of dedicated instructors are amazing with kids of all ages. Classes are fun, challenging and age-appropriate.
The Little Gym (various locations) — My 3-year-old daughter looks forward to class all week. Compassionate, fun, trustworthy, knowledgeable teachers.
My Gym Children’s Fitness Center — The kids get a nice variety of activities each class. The teachers are encouraging and fun.
The School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts (SANCA) — Non-competitive chance to perform, collarborate. Incredible athletics that serve both the very talented as well as disabled or not-quite-coordinated kid. Independent and doesn't cost an arm and leg for costumes.
Sliva Rhythmic Gymnastics Academy — I absolutely adore the teacher! She's very passionate about what she does and it's such a great introduction into the world of rhythmic gymnastics.
Next up: Best Swim Camps and Lessons »
Swim Camps and Lessons
Voters crown the Stroum Jewish Community Center king, and it’s no wonder when parents describe the success of the “J’s” aquatics program this way: swim lessons with the power to turn a “slightly timid” student into “a little fish,” and “transform nervous boys into confident dolphins.” One parent crows that her 4-year-old “swims better than any of her friends.” See a pattern? You also like the “amazing teachers,” calling them “patient and empathetic.” Voters also praise the “friendly community” and “non-pressured environment.” At its Mercer Island facility, the J offers camps, parent-and-tot lessons, plus group, one-on-one and adult instruction in its indoor pool. According to you, it has the winning formula.
Formerly Safe N Sound Swimming’s Bothell location, 7C’s Swim School continues the tradition of helping kids feel comfortable and confident in the water through individualized instruction. Parents appreciate the result, with one proclaiming succinctly, “Child turned fish.” Many of you praise the teachers, calling them “great instructors with a special touch,” as well as “patient” and “knowledgeable and attentive.”
Safe N Sound Swimming, tucked in beside Lake Union, gives 15-minute, one-on-one swim lessons, and according to you, this method really works. One parent said the lessons “turned her afraid-of-water daughter into a swimmer.” You also like the “dedicated staff” and “friendly, fun environment.” Safe N Sound offers other programs, including camps, pool rentals and family swims, and has a new, second location in Issaquah.
Bellevue’s Pro Sports Club meets a variety of your families’ needs, with a gym, a spa, multiple swimming pools and oodles of additional amenities. Its swim lessons for kids are convenient for Eastsiders, with a dedicated shallow teaching pool for kids, plus a swim team and other aquatic activities. You like the “great pool and teachers” and appreciate how quickly your kids learn to swim there.
Best Martial Arts Programs
U.S. Martial Arts Center
Fans rave: Incredible community of teachers, students and parents! Amazing skill and inspiring accomplishments. ... Best program for family and kids. ... Amazing instructors who are incredibly patient and just all-around awesome. It's like a huge family!
.Alpha Martial Arts — It is the best family karate school in the area, with great instructors and even better students, giving people the tools they need to become even better people.
Emerald City Aikido — Joanne sensei(owner and director) is an exceptional teacher who teaches the children with respect and compassion while helping them develop self-discipline and awareness. She knows how to keep it fun!
Washington Karate Ballard Dojo — They have a great after-school program for kids, and the people there are very kind.
Next up: Best Overnight Camps »
A mountain of votes piled up for Vashon Island’s Camp Sealth, making it your top pick among overnight camps. One voter had this high praise: “Next to Disney, it’s the happiest place on earth!” But forget rides and characters, Camp Sealth excels at what kids really love: outdoor play. For almost 100 years, campers have reveled in all the best camp activities, including arts and crafts, horseback riding, water fun, camp fires, sports, new friendships and much more. You love, love, love the “super-supportive, well-trained staff,” and how well they “care for all their kids’ needs.” As one parent says simply, “My kids love it! They always come back having learned so much.”
You must have wrestled the gadgets away long enough for your kids to attend Wilderness Awareness School, because your votes indicate they are loving it. Its programs serve as a powerful antidote to the lack of nature in many kids’ daily routines. You call them “cool camps in the woods led by real naturalists!” Instructors promote outdoor skills, community and appreciation for the environment; more than one parent calls the staff “amazing.”
Camp River Ranch, near Carnation, earned your votes as a positive place for girls. It’s a Girl Scout overnight camp, but no prior experience as a Girl Scout is needed to attend. Girls enjoy the typical camp activities while building leadership skills in an affirming community. Camp River Ranch “offers great opportunities for girls to explore and grow,” notes one pleased parent.
We asked on Facebook... What is your favorite summer camp for your kiddos?
In a flash poll of our Facebook followers, the number-one most enthusiastically recommended summer camp was Girl Scout Camp St. Albans. Among its many magical attractions: Viking boats (!), gnomes (!!), miles and miles of horse trails, and hundreds of pristine wooded acres bordering on beautiful Lake Devereaux.
Next up: Best Music Classes »
A multiyear Golden Teddy winner, Sunshine Music Together is still far and away your favorite among local music classes. Mixed-age parent-and-tot classes develop natural music appreciation in kids. One enthusiastic voter calls it a “tremendous program integrating singing, instruments, movement and just plain fun.” Lots of you like the catchy songs and appreciate the engaged, dedicated instructors. “Teachers are lively, inspired and want to give the gift of music,” says a satisfied parent. Sunshine Music Together “helps music become a part of your daily routine,” reports another. Sunshine Music Together offers regular classes in multiple locations, including Seattle, Lynnwood and Redmond.
You have embraced Yanvalou Drum School as it’s thumped its way onto the local music class scene. Yanvalou’s popular Baby Jam is a drop-in class for infants to age 5 with caregiver. One fan describes it this way: “English, Spanish and Hebrew songs and rhythms while drumming on Afro-Caribbean drums for kids? What’s not to love?” Yanvalou also offers camps, kid and teen classes, and even stuff for grown-ups.
Dee’s Music Room, in Bothell, offers such an array of music class options, it’s no wonder you voted it a finalist. Dee’s offers age-grouped music classes for babies to age 5; individual lessons on piano, flute, violin and other instruments; and method programs such as “Childbloom Guitar.” Voters like the “excellent instruction” and its “enthusiasm and dedication.”
At Music for Everyone classes, teacher Jana aims to lead children in discovering their “unique musical expression.” You like the way she does this, calling her “talented, creative and interactive.” Jana weaves together movement, multiple instruments and a variety of songs to leave kids “absolutely mesmerized,” reports one parent. “Our kids love her,” says another.
Best Theatre Programs
Seattle Children’s Theatre
Fans rave: Teachers here are actual artists — actors, singers, musicians — and they love to share their art with children. ... They are simply the best theatre arts education in the world. ... Lots of instruction without negative critiques.
Seattle Public Theatre at the Bathhouse — School-age education programs focus on skills and performance in a real theater setting with great peers and instructors.
Seattle’s Littlest Performers — Really challenges and inspires my daughter. ... Super fun!
Taproot Theatre Company — Great shows, variety, intimate theatre.
Next up: Best Nature or Environmental Camps »
Nature or Environmental Camps
Duvall-based Wilderness Awareness School has once again received a dominating number of your votes in the camp category. Its outdoor day and overnight camps have made an impression on you and your children, with some voters expressing deep gratitude for your kids’ experiences in the natural world. “Kids come home just glowing!” raves one commenter. Campers study plants, birds and our natural world, plus learn important wilderness skills, while the staff employs mentoring techniques. Many praised the staff, calling them “devoted,” “amazing” and “passionate.” The school offers a range of programs in addition to camps, including a preschool and courses for homeschool students. If your curiosity is piqued, you’re in luck: Wilderness Awareness School presents a number of programs for adults, too.
Camp Sealth earned your votes as a traditional overnight summer camp in a beautiful natural setting. With a space that includes “forest, wetland, beach, meadows and more,” as one parent pointed out, Sealth is ideally positioned to provide environmental education. Touch tanks, nature hikes and lessons about the solar system keep kids active and engaged. And, according to one voter, campers are having so much fun, “they barely recognize that they’re learning!”
While Wilderness Awareness School and Camp Sealth pulled in the lion’s share of your votes in this category, four other camps earned honorable mentions:
- At Bellevue’s Mercer Slough, Pacific Science Center offers some of its Camps for Curious Minds, including the enticingly named “Mud, Muck & Goo” and “Wildlife Gone Wild,” for pre-K through eighth grade. “Great instruction and environment,” says one voter.
- Seattle Audubon’s Nature Camps meet in the wilds of Magnuson Park, plus take frequent field trips. Camps are for grades 1–9 (in three separate groupings) and feature supercool themes such as “Fungus, Frogs, Forests and Logs!” and “Streaming to the Sound.” You appreciate that “kids learn a lot while having fun.”
- IslandWood, on Bainbridge Island, provides overnight camps during the school year for fourth- through sixth-graders, through local schools. One parent appreciates the “amazing outdoor school campus.”
- You like KidsQuest Children’s Museum’s half-day camps for children ages 3–8. Camp themes such as “Fairy Science” and “Nature Explorers” ensure that even young kids enjoy learning about the natural world.
Best Sports Camps
Great Play of Redmond
Fans rave: They have great classes that help kids learn, grow and play. Fun, well run, variety, kids love it.
Arena Sports — Awesome location, love the overhead heating when it is chilly, bouncy houses for non-participating kids, snack sales, but, most importantly, the coaches are wonderful with the kiddos.
Stroum Jewish Community Center Sports Camp — They keep it fun and new every year! The most fun for the summer with great variety.
U.S. Martial Arts Center — They're awesome! Great workouts and competition! Great workout!