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...
Thank you again.
Kira – a very happy mommy!
We all had an amazing time at Brayden and Brooklyn's party last Saturday. All the guests did as well, and several of the kids said that it was the best birthday they had ever been to! Thank you so much for organizing such a wonderful evening, and please thank the lovely ballerina, Charissa, as well. She did a fantastic job. As did Jen, who was super helpful and kind throughout the planning process.
We will definitely be back to Orange Dot.
See you soon!
Testimonial for Prenatal Butt-Kickin' class:
It was by far the most incredible moment of my life during one of our classes. Just wanted to let you know I won't be coming to our butt kicking class tonight, because - just as you'd predicted - I went into labour midnight last Thursday. I think that I pushed for such a short time partially because I requested a mirror, and it was very motivating to see a reaction to my action. I also helped pull the baby out which was something that would never have ocured to me had you not mentioned it as a possibility my life. Thank you for the idea!! I think despite the agony that was my labour, it wouild have been much worse had I not taken the butt-kicking class and learned a lot of the exercises you taught. Please say hi to the girls in class for me tonight, and wish them good luck from me. I'm happy to have play dates and swapstories once they are on the other side! This is such a trip! See you for some more butt kicking in a few weeks.
Testimonial for Prenatal 101 class:
Thank you Lucy for an incredible prenatal experience! I learned a ton about pregnancy and it really prepared me for my delivery. When I delivered my baby, I felt 100% confident that I had all the tools necessary to get through it with a sense of strength and calm. It went much smoother because I knew what to expect and how to get through it without losing control. I’m so excited to be doing the postnatal "I’m a mommy!" class now with you! The friendships I've made with the other moms from my class have been so wonderful. It's so great to hang out with other moms who are going through the same "stuff" as you are. Orange Dot is truly a place where moms can come to have fun, learn and laugh!
Thanks again, Erica Godfrey (mother of 5 month old Chase Sienna)
Testimonial for Butt-Kickin' Classes:
"Orange Dot's Butt-Kickin' classes rock! The morning class has given me the freedom to work out while taking care of my 21 month old. He loves to play independently in the parallel play area while I love to exercise. Thanks Lucy for tailoring these classes to suit the needs of mothers and babies - Super savvy of you! Looking forward to the next class! - Elisa Alvarez
Testimonial for Birthday Parties:
I wanted to thank and your team for the amazing birthday party you organized for Miya and her friends on Saturday. It was so much more than I would have ever expected and Miya felt like a real princess! The girls who ran the party were so great and the organized games/crafts were perfec Charissa was great at adapting each game to the group.
All of the other parents were really impressed with the venue and I received a few comments from parents afterwards that it was the best kids birthday party they have been to!
Testimonial for TripleDot Playschool:
I arrived at 9:30am for my (or shall I say my son’s class) at Orange Dot on Avenue Road in Toronto. It’s called TRIPLEDOT PLAYSCHOOL. It runs for an hour and a half. This was my first visit to Orange Dot, so I was looking forward to spending 90 minutes doing something new and fun. But, I have to admit I wasn’t sure how it was possible to keep my fireball of a son entertained for that long. Immediately I was impressed with the facilities. They were extremely clean, bright, spacious and most of all the staff were so incredibly friendly and willing to interact with the kids.
The first part of the class gave the children the opportunity to explore the studio and get familiar with the surroundings. My son, as a true boy would ran right towards the basketball net. Less than a minute later he was on the trampoline. I turned around 30 seconds later and he was pushing the toy cars around all over the floor. Needless to say, he was not short of stimulation. He kept saying “WOW!”
Than the children were asked to meet in the centre to do some songs and introductions. They were each given a sticker dividing them up into three different groups. Pink, Green and Red. This system was extremely efficient because the instructors would take each group to a different activity and rotate them around after enough time had been spent at each area. We headed first to a room that was filled with books, toys, play-doh, cars, dolls, sand tables, and a huge chalkboard fixed onto the wall that I have to admit I had to hold back from drawing all over. The children played with all of the different toys that were geared towards developing various skills.
Next we went into the arts and crafts room. Keeping with the weekly theme of “Under the Sea”, the children each did a craft that allowed them to soak a piece of paper in water and put pieces of tissue all over it to resemble a sea. They turned out to be quite the masterpieces. The staff was great in keeping the children motivated to continue their craft.
Than it was snack time, which were bagels and cream cheese and some water. This was quite a treat for my son who is obsessed with bagels. All of the children sat at the cute little tables and chairs and vedged for a few minutes. The only negative thing I could say at this point was that we only had half an hour left.
Finally the green group was brought back into the main room for music. All of the songs were related to “Under the Sea” and Nancy; the music teacher had such enthusiasm and energy that the kids were all up and dancing having such a wonderful time. Afterwards, Lucy, the owner of Orange Dot, who I must say was present, available and eager to please the children thanked everyone for coming and did a few good-bye songs which all of the kids enjoyed.
All in all, I have to say, that I haven’t come across a program as creative, energetic, fun, entertaining and especially as interactive as the TRIPLEDOT PLAYSCHOOL at Orange Dot. I was especially pleased with the cleanliness because many of the programs I’ve attended give the children toys that well, let’s just say – have the word YUCKY written all over them. This place clearly did not have that problem. The staff truly worked their butts off to make the children happy and the activities, as much fun as they were also taught the children counting, sharing, listening, motor skills and many others that are so important in your child’s development.
The children were entertained the entire 90 minutes and were also given the opportunity to go out on their own if they weren’t ready to participate in the given activity. It was a blast!!!! Hmm, I wonder if they could do my 34th Birthday Party there??
Lisa D. Boltman
The Post Magazine/Canadian Moms
New Testimonial - read below!
Orange Dot – Your “Home Away from Home”
If you are considering which classes to enroll your newborn or toddler into, you don’t have to look any further. Orange Dot has it all!
My son and I have been attending classes at Orange Dot since he was a newborn baby. My son has graduated from Kinderbabies & MiniDot Playschool and he is currently enrolled in the TripleDot Playschool. Since my son has been enrolled at Orange Dot, I have many friends that have also enrolled in the programs and they rave about them. The programs are different than the norm and children LOVE them!
From the moment you and your little one walk through the door, you will be greeted with open arms and a friendly smile. The staff will know your child’s name from the first day you arrive. As you walk upstairs, your child will be interested in the terrific books that are displayed in the lobby. Once you reach the main play area (which is always set up with activities for your child), whether you have a newborn or an active toddler, you will know that you have reached your “Home Away from Home”. The staff is exceptional and your child will always feel special at Orange Dot no matter how many other children are around. Each staff member has a unique talent and the owner Lucy, has built superb programs by putting together an exceptional team. On top of that, the facility is clean and all of the children’s programs are structured and age-appropriate.
In my son’s current program, the morning starts with an actual performance involving a minimum of three staff members (including the owner!). Not only do they read a book, they actually perform the story and use props. After the performance, the children’s adventure continues – in just under two hours, they are exposed to dance, arts and crafts, exploration and physical activity! There are three groups – each divided by age. My son usually starts with the “Song and Dance” class with Charissa and Pianist Derryn, following which he goes to the “Arts & Crafts Room” where he has an opportunity to, among other things, paint, play with toy dolphins and sailboats in the water, make animal noises with toy animals, and the list goes on… After his classes, he joins the other children in the main play area and they are provided with a delicious snack while the staff does a performance for them. The children get so excited that they cannot wait to dance after their snack is finished.
For his last class, my son moves to the “Discovery Room” where he has a chance to play with sand, build a tower etc. There is so much to do in so little time! The program concludes with an obstacle course for the children and a farewell song. The children love the farewell song and former graduates of Orange Dot programs even have an opportunity to perform with the staff. Everyone leaves the class feeling energized and the children cannot wait until the next class.
If you are looking for a program where your child will not only have fun, but also will be very active and learn along the way, where you will make new friends, and have memorable experiences, look no further. Orange Dot is the most unique program in town. All of you have to do is try one class and you will know that you have come to the right place.
Thank-you Lucy, Jen and the rest of the staff for such a memorable year! I can’t wait to see what you have in store for the Fall Program!
Dana H., August 2012