My Nonprofit Reviews
Review for Habitot Children's Museum, Berkeley, CA, USA
Habitot has meant so much to our family (currently with three littles ages 3, 2, and 1). I pushed this place to the bottom of my list for a long time because of the word "museum" but then got the opportunity to attend a birthday party here and was immediately hooked and purchased a membership. For around the cost of bringing the four of us once a month I was able to purchase a membership that allows us unlimited entry, and since then we have been here 2-3 times a week. It's basically our preschool. Where do I even begin?
The space is just big enough that my toddlers can run around and have freedom without ever feeling unsafe or like they can't find me. The staff is consistent and friendly so that our girls have gotten to know them in the same way they might know teachers.
A few highlights:
The art room. Nora is the art teacher we normally see, and she is so kind and welcoming with my three girls. Kids are allowed to get as messy as they like and touch whatever they like. It's incredibly tactile, There is a giant painting wall, and once the children have filled it up Nora wipes it down (the water goes into a cleverly placed trough at the base) and they start again. My girls have learned so much by exploring the daily art projects, and my oldest is always so proud to show me which pieces on the drying rack are hers.
The water room is decorated with fabulous shimmering strips of fabric so that you feel you're in a little sea cave. Once inside kids can safely play with the very shallow water troughs and get as wet as they like with bubbles, chutes that wind through the room and make little waterfalls (and teach about gravity and uphill vs downhill), and marine life toys. Best of all, any spilled water drops to the floor which is entirely made of grates.
The wind tunnel is my baby's favorite spot. Once the yellow button is pressed the wind begins to blow and you can toss leaves or flower petals into the air and watch the wind dance with them.
There is a grocery store with child-sized carts, and a little diner where they can "cook," and sell things on the cash register, and serve food.
In the building-room they can construct surprisingly big castles with the giant foam blocks.
There is a small, and very safely contained three-level climbing wall.
There is a small infant-toddler garden room with toys for the youngest babies and a spot where fake carrots are growing and the kids can pull them up out of the ground and look at them. It's just so cleverly designed and brilliant.
There are two giant make-up mirrors with very easy-to-clean facepaint crayons where kids can do their own make-up creations.
Some sections of Habitot are occasionally updated, so I don't know how permanent these sections are, but there is currently a firetruck the kids can climb with buttons they can press to make things happen, and a whole recycling center with hand-crank conveyer-belts, and (our favorite) an animal hospital with an x-ray viewer that lights up and all kinds of (stuffed) animal creatures that can be petted, fed, and healed.
There are occasionally extra events for which there is never an extra charge. We've been shown worms from composting (and been able to take a tiny cup-composter home), and seen a dragon puppet show teaching about fire safety, just to name two. Every Wednesday (again, for no extra charge), a wonderful music teacher from Jamaroo comes and leads the kids for 30 minutes of singing, dancing, and storytelling. It's just the best.
Getting here can be tricky in terms of parking, navigating the building, dealing with trucks blocking the alleyway, or with elevators being broken, but once you are here it is just so worth it.
Above all else, I feel like Habitot staff members and leadership truly cares about families, and keeping the Habitot experience child-driven, and you can see that in everything they do, from the way that they intentionally don't offer wifi (because they want you engaging with the kids), to the way they don't reprimand kids for "mixing" the displays in creative play, to the encouraging and educational signs that are posted everywhere. The environment is so warm, and I have made one very good friend by coming and striking up conversations with other mothers. Habitot is a truly remarkable place, and for people like us (middle class—making too much to get assistance but not enough to afford preschool) it has been an irreplaceable blessing.
Review for Silicon Valley Shakespeare, San Jose, CA, USA
What a wonderful presence in the Silicon Valley! They have worked to transform a community park space and provide fun and FREE Shakespeare to thousands every summer. I'm so pleased that this organization exists!