This past Monday my three year old son and I had the opportunity to attend a mommy blogger event at our local Romp n Roll establishment in Willow Grove. We had never been to a class there and I was curious about what they had to offer.
Romp n Roll is a kids play place that combines gym, art and music into a variety of different classes for kids age five and younger. From the outside, it looks like any other strip mall store, but walking inside you feel like you are walking into a magical storybook land filled with lots of bright colors, geometric shapes and you can practically smell the fun. There are cubbies in the lobby to hold shoes, coats and bags, along with the check-in desk, a small gift shop filled with tees, socks and age-appropriate fun stuff, such as shakers. There is a pair of water fountains at varying heights to accommodate all sizes. I did not get a chance to check out the rest rooms, but they were easy to find.
Our event began in what I believe was the party or art room. A pizza lunch was served while a guest speaker, Kelly Fisher from Temple University's Infant Lab, gave a presentation on play. While my son loved playing in the gym, I think what I enjoyed most was Dr. Fisher's "lecture." With my psychology background and my particular interest in child development, I could have listened to her speak for hours! Unfortunately with little ones everywhere, about thirty minutes was all she could do. She spoke about the importance of play based learning and gave a comprehensive description of different styles of play. She noted studies that found guided play (as opposed to free play and directed play) to be the most beneficial to child development and having the best impact on life long learning. She mentioned the importance of preparing children to be competent with 21st Century Skills. I felt very validated regarding my parenting and our decision to have one parent stay home with our son. I also felt that we are giving our son great opportunities to learn through exploration of the world and creative play. I also loved hearing that a certain video series that was aimed at making babies "Einsteins" has since been proved to have negative effects on learning! (It drove me nuts when people, including professional educators and former colleagues, did not understand why I did not want my baby watching baby TV and videos! I knew I made a good choice there!) In summary, Dr. Fisher's message was that play places such as Romp n Roll are good choices to give young children strong foundations to build upon for future successes.
After the lunch and learn session, it was time for a mixed ages gym class for the kids. I'm not positive on the age range of the kids there, but my guess is about one year to age four. The gym class was led by Miss Allyson, who was assisted by two or three other gym leaders. She started in "Rompy's house," a little room curtained off from the main gym, and introduced the week's circus theme and sang a few songs. She introduced all of the children to Rompy, the dog mascot. My son has continued to talk about Rompy and even saved his name badge since the dog is in the logo on the badge. I think it made an impression on him! After the story, the kids were permitted to enter the gym for a bit of free play, then some directed activities, before being broken into two groups based upon age. My son had the chance to explore the obstacle course that was set up and really enjoyed "hanging" out.
He liked jumping on a giant log too. The kids had the opportunity to play balloon paddle ball for a bit, which was a hit with all the kids. The bubble dance time was fun too, with the lights dimmed and the giant disco ball spinning while the bubble machine spewed out tons of tiny bubbles. We ended back in Rompy's house for a goodbye song and a chance to say goodbye to Rompy.
My son seemed to enjoy this class, although he would have preferred for it to be a bit longer. It was well organized and the kids always were busy doing an activity. I did feel that the age range was a bit too wide, but for a sample class it was fun. (From reading the class schedule I learned that gym classes are usually more age specific, so that the preschoolers are not having to trip over the crawlers!) My son commented on the bubbles and the music the most, when telling daddy about his adventure that night.
Romp n Roll has a wide variety of classes. I think my son would be most interested in Construction Junction class and the Chef Rompy class. A nice bonus for kids who are enrolled in classes is that they can attend "open gym" time in the afternoon for free. (It is $10 otherwise.) Most classes seem to be priced around $200 for a 12 week session. This includes the open gym time bonus. Many of the classes are "drop-off" classes, for kids over age 2.5, so at about $16 a class, it is close to the cost of a babysitter in this area.
I noticed that overall the facility was very clean, well organized, and managed well. The only maintenance issue I noticed was the water fountain had a puddle under it and sprayed water onto the seating area next to it when in use. The staff was enthusiastic and knowledgeable of the programs, including the woman whose first day it was...talk about trial by fire! (I forget her name, but she remembered my son's name when we ran into her later in the parking lot...that says a lot!) The staff seemed to really enjoy working there and spending time with kids. The owner and manager both have education backgrounds and many of the staff are college or high school students with interest in education or child development. Romp n Roll is a franchise operation and they follow a time-tested curriculum that has been found successful for the preschool set. With so many options in class themes and topics, a child could potentially start a Romp n Roll at age 3 months and never repeat a class through age five. (Although developmentally, I do not feel a three month old would benefit from classes, maybe a nine month old...just my opinion!)
While my son has enough activities on his plate at the moment with preschool, music together classes, playgroup and trips to the Please Touch Museum, I will be keeping Romp n Roll in mind for the spring and summer, when our schedules open up a bit.
Thanks to Allyson and Andi for the mommy blogger event and the chance to experience a fun gym class at Romp n Roll! Please check out their website for more info and details on the winter schedule of classes.
Disclosure: My son and I received lunch and a free class in exchange for this blog post as part of this mommy blogger event. My opinions expressed here are authentic and my own!