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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, April 18, 2014

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In Kids & Family

Balliamo Bambini will combine music, dance and language for a pint-sized cultural experience.

Balliamo Bambini offers language and dance for the little ones


All parents want the best for their kids. But between school, sports and extracurricular activities, their schedules can get packed fast – and a lot sooner than they used to.

Luckily, kids and parents have a new local option that mixes learning, exercise and culture into one fun, family-friendly class.

Personal trainer and fitness instructor Sophia Gatti Taylor of Wisdom Wellness has developed what she calls a "culture concept" class for toddlers and their parents. Balliamo Bambini will help kids stimulate their minds and move their bodies through Italian language instruction and a variety of music and dance lessons over the course of the class series' six-week period.

"We'll touch on language, music and dance each class. It's going to be basic steps to Italian music, so waltz, mazurka, polka, things like that with Italian music," said Taylor. "My mother (Dr. Marisa Gatti Taylor), who is a language professor and an Italian native speaker, is going to be teaching simple Italian phrases each class, too."

According to Taylor, the class is perfectly suited to take advantage of children's early development at this stage in learning.

"My daughter is now two and a half and she loves to dance, and it struck me that this is the time that children are learning," she explained. "The language part of the brain is very active between the ages of 2 and 5, and also habits – they're learning what's fun and they're very active at that age.

"I just thought, 'Well, wouldn't it be great to incorporate the ideas of moving, music, dancing and learning a second language at this early age.' And of course, I'm Italian, so Balliamo Bambini is where we're going to start."

Balliamo Bambini will take place Saturdays from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Italian Community Center. The hour-long sessions will run from April 21 to May 26. Although the class series is geared toward toddlers ages 2 to 5, parents or grandparents must also accompany their children.

"I think that's a nice feature as well. It's just to have fun, centered around something that's about learning and fitness," said Taylor. "I've worked with parents and children before in small groups; I haven't done parent-and-children group exercise before, so I'm really excited about this."

Taylor is especially excited to start Balliamo Bambini at the Italian Community Center, which helps emphasize her goal of making health and fitness a way of life for the whole family.

"It just makes sense to get kids active. We have an obesity crisis. Kids sit and watch other kids dance on TV, and we can do better than that," she said. "For people who are interested in learning more Italian and experiencing more of the Italian culture, it's a good way to get families more involved and active."

Although it's just starting out, initial response has been good for Balliamo Bambini. Taylor hopes to continue the original class and also extend it beyond Italian to include even more people interested in exposing their children to other languages and cultures.

"I definitely want to continue it," she said. "I want to see what the response is, and if we're flooded with excitement – and I think people will really like it – we're going to continue the Italian and think about adding French and possibly Spanish, too. I'd love to see it grow."


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