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Best of the East Bay: Kids

Here’s your guide to a summer of fun, from preschool to high school.


Paul Hara for Lindsay Wildlife

Walk on the Wild Side

Animal adventures for all ages.

Reader Pick: Kids’ Museum

When my son turned four, we had the best birthday party for him at the Lindsay Wildlife Museum—full of hands-on art projects and furry animals. Now, the Lindsay is called the Lindsay Wildlife Experience, which is a much better description of this lively center. I still can’t think of a better place for kids to get up close to wildlife to learn about the animals that live in our backyard. Here are a few superfun summer programs for all levels.

Toddlers: Go to Mini Mondays. One Monday a month—June 22, July 20, and August 24—youngsters get to meet Lindsay’s animal ambassadors, such as Shadow the great gray owl. Kids also get to hear a story, do crafts, and have a snack.

Preschoolers: Try out Hop, Slither, and Slide Wednesdays in July starting July 8. This three-session class has kids up and moving, as they learn how animals use their bodies to get around.

Elementary students: Sign up for the two-hour workshops offered all summer. For example, July 18’s workshop demonstrates how animal keepers care for, train, and communicate with reptiles and amphibians.

All ages: Enjoy Bee Bop, August 15 and 16, with the Mount Diablo Beekeepers Association. Participants will get to taste honey, meet a beekeeper, and do the honeybee waggle dance—plus enjoy other activities, crafts, and stories. 1931 First Ave., Walnut Creek, (925) 935-1978, lindsaywildlife.org. —Susan Safipour


by Cali Godley

Practice Makes Perfect

Tips for making music fun in the summer.

Reader Pick: Piano Teacher

The Ballet School’s piano instructor, Vince Perry, knows all about practicing piano in the summer. Growing up in Alamo in a family of seven, he can’t remember a time when he wasn’t tickling the ivories. “When I was a kid, it was tough during the summer. But I had friends I could invite over for a mini jam session. It didn’t matter if we sounded good—it was just fun,” Perry says.

Today, he says giving kids free rein to pick the music they want to play is a parent’s number-one tactic. Most kids love movie music and pop tunes that fall within their level of skill.

He doesn’t recommend the carrot and stick approach. “Don’t say, ‘When you’re done practicing, you can go out and play.’ You want them to go to the piano because it’s fun,” Perry says.

To up the fun factor, try plugging an electric keyboard into a computer, and use an app to record and convert your child’s piece into an orchestrated score. “It’s like they’re composing,” Perry says. “It’s like magic.” 1357 N. Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 934-2133, theballetschool.org. —Lou Fancher


•  Make it fun. Invite friends, create an audience, and keep it easy.
•  Turn on the spotlight. Have a performance.
•  Lighten up. Schedule a lesson every other week instead of weekly—just enough to motivate kids and give them a goal.


•  Turn it into a chore.
•  Use rewards or threats.
•  Force your child to play music that is above his or her level. Ask the piano teacher what is appropriate for your child.


Summer Reading List

Reader Pick: Kids’ Bookstore

The Storyteller Bookstore has more than 20 categories of children’s literature. Here are staff picks for your teen reader. 3506-E Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 284-3480, facebook.com/thestorytellerbookstore. —Lou Fancher

Age 13
Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Age 14
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Age 15
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Age 16
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Age 17
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Age 18
The Martian by Andy Weir


by Shannon Breuner Nelson

Make it great

Let your child’s creativity fly—without the clean-up.

Reader Pick: Art Classes

If you’re anything like me, hearing your child’s little voice ask if you can get out the paint causes you to break into a rash. You agree, pull out 18 jars of paint and nine paintbrushes, and three minutes later, every jar is open and there’s pink paint on the dog. I love art, but I love it even more when it’s done at someone else’s table, like at The Art Room in Lafayette.

I had been looking for summer classes for my six-year-old daughter, and she was looking forward to doing art around people who weren’t hovering with paper towels. Art in a kindergarten class can have a cookie-cutter feel, but at The Art Room, my daughter could let her creativity fly.

Materials were spread out everywhere, and she could make whatever she felt like creating with the endless supplies, and no brothers clamoring for the exact same crayon at the exact same second. My kindergartner started off celebrating all things simian—from a fabulous monkey drawing for her teacher to a monkey shirt created with fabric and washable markers—before crafting an out-of-left-field snake sock puppet, now only to be referred to as “Snake-O.”

When I tucked her and Snake-O into bed, I asked what her favorite part of the class had been. She grinned and said, “Everything!” And bright and early the next morning, her first question was, “When are we going back to art class?” 50 Lafayette Cir., Lafayette, (925) 299-1515, theart-room.com. —Shannon Breuner Nelson


By the Numbers

Reader Pick: Sports League

Mustang Soccer

By anyone’s tally, Danville’s Mustang Soccer League is hot—and huge. Here are the numbers to prove it:

4,800 players

1,000 coaches

300 teams

41 years old

31 fields

20 players go on to play college most years

2 alumni play for the San Jose Earthquakes

2 state cups last year —Lou Fancher

4680 Camino Tassajara, Danville,  (925) 648-4121 mustangsoccer.com


Reader Picks

Birthday Party Place
Super Franks
5341 Owens Ct., Pleasanton, (925) 271-5880, superfranks.com.

Dance Classes
The Next Step Dance Studio
3612 Blackhawk Plaza Cir., Danville; 109-A Town and Country Dr., Danville; 743 Diablo Rd., Danville, (925) 831-0777, nextstepdance.com.

Day Care
Anna’s Child Care, Preschool, and Yoga Center
Walnut Creek, (925) 497-0842, annaschildcareyoga.com.

Family Photographer
Gretchen Adams
(925) 676-7036, gaphotography.com.

Gymnastics Classes
Diablo Gymnastics
2411-J Old Crow Canyon Rd., San Ramon, (925) 820-6885, diablogym.net.

Indoor Play Structure
3482 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 283-4896; 3433 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland, (510) 834-0982; 5460-9 Sunol Blvd., Pleasanton, (925) 249-0006, gymboreeclasses.com.

Kid-Friendly Restaurant
445 Railroad Ave., Danville, (925) 838-4510; 53 Lafayette Cir., Lafayette, (925)962-2469, chowfoodbar.com.

Kids’ Clothing Store
Sweetie Face
3431 Blackhawk Plaza Cir., Danville, (925) 648-0111, sweetieface.com.

Kids’ Haircut
Shear Adventures
320 Hartz Ave., Danville, (925) 820-3697, shearadventures.com.

Kids’ Menu
Small Talk Family Cafe
1536 Newell Ave., Walnut Creek, (925) 954-7468, smalltalkfamilycafe.com.

Kids’ Shoes
Stride Rite
270 Sun Valley Mall, Concord, (925) 685-1879; 804 Sycamore Valley Rd. W., Danville, (925) 831-9427, striderite.com.

Martial Arts Classes
Mires Martial Arts
4743 Clayton Rd., Ste. 3, Concord, (925) 689-0305, miresmartialarts.com.

Maternity Clothes
Destination Maternity
1604 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Walnut Creek, (925) 274-1006, destinationmaternity.com.

Music School/Lessons
Contra Costa Children’s Chorus
1035 Carol Ln., Lafayette, childrenschorus.org.

Heather Farm Park
301 N. San Carlos Dr., Walnut Creek, (925) 256-3575, walnut-creek.org.

Prenatal Massage
Changes Salon and Day Spa
1475 N. Broadway, Walnut Creek, (925) 947-1814, changessalon.com.

Prenatal Yoga/Workout
Bloom Retreat
1444 S. Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 939-6262, bloomretreat.com.

Moraga Valley Presbyterian Church Nurtury Preschool
10 Moraga Valley Ln., Moraga, (925) 376-4800, mvpctoday.org.

Sports League
Mustang Soccer
4680 Camino Tassajara, Danville, (925) 648-4121, mustangsoccer.com.

Summer Camp
Cal Camps and Youth Programs
2301 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, (510) 643-2267, camps.berkeley.edu.

Swim Lessons
Splash Swim School
2411-S Old Crow Canyon Rd., San Ramon, (925) 838-7946; 1531 Third Ave., Walnut Creek, (925) 937-7946, splashswimschool.com.

Toy Store
Five Little Monkeys
1366 N. Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 939-4411, 5littlemonkeys.com.

Lafayette Academy
760 San Ramon Valley Blvd., Danville, (925) 855-3700; 3400 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 284-1644; 1400 Moraga Way, Moraga, (925) 376-0747, lafayetteacademy.com.

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