November 7, 2012
by Amy Alipio
4908 Auburn Ave.
Bethesda, MD 20814
Photo courtesy of Imagination Stage
I took my three-year-old son to the "Good Night, Gorilla" workshop. On entering the large classroom, kids and parents sat in a circle. Adults received a Parent Pack handout to take home, which included a list of other suggested reads, the lyrics to some animal-themed songs, a monkey mask to color and cut out, and a zoo coloring page. We also got a name tag to fill out, which kids could color while waiting for class to start. There were seven children in total at our workshop, but they take up to 12 kids. There were two instructors.
The workshop began with a song welcoming each child by name. Next, we stretched and moved like various animals: a giraffe, a snake, a lion. Then the shakers came out, always popular with kiddies, and there was freeze-dancing to go with the noisemakers. With some energy expended, we all sat around once again in a circle for story time. The instructor read the book animatedly and asked questions of the kids to keep them engaged. I noted that every single child sat still and paid attention when she was reading. And she also referred back to things we had already done: When we got to the page in "Good Night, Gorilla" with the giraffe, she asked, "Do you remember how we stretched like a giraffe?"
Next came the "Explore" portion of the workshop. Lights were turned down and the instructor led kids around the room with a flashlight, like the zookeeper in the book, to locate animal pictures that had been taped up on the walls. Kids could take down a picture and bring it over to the "zoo," which was sketched on large drawing paper. My boy in particular really got into this activity.
Everyone also loved parachute time, flapping the material up and down like crazy while each child got a chance to toss a paper animal into the center and everyone sang a counting rhyme. The quieting-down period started with an activity that let the kids build nests out of colorful scarves, cover themselves up, and pretend to go to sleep. The instructor went around to each, saying "Good night." The workshop ended with bubbles and a goodbye song.
All in all, I liked the mix of activities in the Sunday Funday workshop. We have also taken a Saturday Song Circle workshop, also part of Imagination Stage's early-childhood program, but I preferred the Sunday Fundays' variety; it wasn't just about music. The Sunday Funday instructors were patient and mellow, not pushing it when a kid didn't want to participate, but also good at trying to draw a shy child into play. They crammed a lot into 45 minutes, though it sometimes seemed they could let the kids have a bit more time with each activity. Just as my kid had started to warm up to shaking his shaker, it was time to put it back into the box for the next thing. Maybe some independent play or exploration time could be built into the class.
These one-off workshops are perfect for those who want to introduce their children to the high-quality performing arts education at Imagination Stage, but don't want the time or financial commitment of the early-childhood classes.
What to Know
Sunday Fundays take place at 10 a.m. on most Sundays. Cost: $10/person. Although it's possible to just show up at the box office on the day of the workshop, it's best to register online ahead of time to ensure your place in the class. Winter workshops, in particular, fill up ahead of time. The schedule of books for the first half of 2013 should be up on the Imagination Stage website by early December. On weekends, the next-door parking garage is free.
Have you been to Sunday Fundays? What's your opinion? Just drop us a note and Our Kids will add your comments to this review.