Gymboree. A word that to most non-parents means nothing. And to those parents that aren't near one it still might not – but the concept will be familiar. A soft-play room, some toys, and a musically talented teacher. What more can a child need?
A year ago it would have sounded like my idea of hell. A room full of babies and parents (almost entirely mums, obviously), being cajoled into singing, clapping and venerating a large stuffed mannequin (Gymbo, a slightly cuddlier version of Ronald McDonald, below) who is used by said teacher to demonstrate.
Yet the look on Junior's face when Gymbo comes out, coupled with his obvious delight in banging the various instruments and watching the other babies is a joy to see.
My conclusion is that Gymboree is alright. It is a bit cringey (obviously there's a “Gymboree School” somewhere that teaches the acceptable way to sing as the North American drawl to some of the songs is unmistakable) but is surprisingly good fun. The pricing structure is a more to their benefit than yours, but not the most you spend on your child. It is so popular in Wimbledon that they actually have 2 venues.
And the singing is liberating, especially when yours is as bad as mine. Because you're clearly only doing it for your child no-one can complain…