We asked, and readers answered. During the nomination period in March and the voting period in May, parents in Northeast Ohio weighed in on everything family-friendly in the region for our third annual contest.
Here are this year’s winners and honorable mentions in the “Health, Learning & More” theme.
View the complete 2018 Parent Choice Awards winners in our July issue, or click here for winners in the “Things to do with Kids” categories. Click here for winners in the “Food & Shopping” categories.
Best town to raise a family
Hudson offers something for everyone: history, small-town charm, big-city amenities, and dining, shopping and entertainment galore. Whether your family is strolling the green at First & Main, grabbing a tasty meal, seeking outdoor adventure, browsing the farmers market, or attending one of the many festivals and events held year-round, there’s no doubt Hudson will feel like home.
Scenic views and family recreation abound in the city, which borders Lake Erie to the north and the Rocky River and Cleveland Metroparks to the east. Here, beautiful residential homes join a wide variety of retail shops — both national chains and unique, locally-owned stores — an eclectic dining scene, and robust parks and recreation offerings.
It just might be one of the Akron area’s best-kept secrets, but downtown Cuyahoga Falls’ riverfront is the place to be from spring to fall, as it plays host to live music, ethnic festivals, “Flicks on the Falls,” and much more. Families also particularly love the city’s parks system, Natatorium and Water Works Family Aquatic Center.
With its Lake Erie shoreline, proximity to downtown Cleveland and the cool vibes of its retail and dining scene, Lakewood is a happening place. It’s also very family-focused, from its schools, libraries and parks to great annual events both kids and adults love. The city’s cultural attitude is evident in its Public Art Task Force, Lakewood Art Mural Program, Lakewood Arts Festival, and more.
Westlake Porter Public Library
This independent library in Westlake proves that bigger isn’t always better by offering the usual library services and materials, as well as some unique programming for kids, including language lessons, a New Reader’s Club, and more. A packed calendar means there’s almost always something happening for all members of the family.
Cuyahoga Falls Library
With a collection of nearly 420,000 items and easy access to items from other libraries throughout the state, Cuyahoga Falls Library is open all but nine days each year. Families are amazed by the digital offerings, children and teen services, and wide variety of events for all ages.
Hudson Library & Historical Society
Going above and beyond a typical library, this single-location bookworm haven also houses a cafe and art gallery, and maintains an extensive genealogy and local history collection. The library offers business and technology programs, plus events and programming for children, teens and adults.
Best dance studio
Above the Barre
Offering dance, gymnastics and early childhood programs, this studio, with two locations in Berea, is home to 25 instructors and coaches who are dedicated to serving nearly 600 students each year. Every child receives one-on-one attention and personal progress reports — fueling the self-confidence that comes from personal accomplishment.
Hudson Conservatory of Ballet
In its new, 12,000-square-foot facility in Hudson, this studio provides options for all ages and levels of children: The Primary School for students ages 2-9; The Academy for students ages 9-18; and The Conservatory for pre-professional level training for students ages 8-18.
Thrive Arts Center
Located in Beachwood, Thrive Arts has it all covered when it comes to childhood introduction and instruction in the arts. 100% happiness is guaranteed with enrollment in its many offerings, including Kindermusik, instrument and voice lessons, dance, visual arts and more.
Best children’s music class/activity
With classes available at several area venues, Kindermusik’s active music-making helps children develop everything from balance and coordination to listening skills and literacy. Its music-and-movement programs are available for infants through age 7, including special needs sessions and courses for children learning to master English as a second language.
Beck Center for the Arts
This Lakewood non-profit organization combines professional theater with arts education to create art experiences as individual as the people it serves — with eclectic performances to suit many tastes, education opportunities for all ages and abilities, community outreach programs, and free art exhibitions.
Thrive Arts Center
In addition to Kindermusik classes, Thrive Arts offers instrument and voice lessons that encourage, foster and nurture a young musician’s personal growth. Instructors are trained to understand each child’s learning style and personality for a true student-centered experience.
Best place for kids’ swim lessons
Goldfish Swim School
Created by parents, for parents, three Northeast Ohio locations share a common goal: to give kids the platform to build essential life skills that will help them make waves in life. Kids ages 4 months to 12 years enjoy the award-winning tropical environment and shiver-free pools where they overcome their fears, learn to swim, respect the water and have lots of fun while doing it.
10,000 nationwide locations and centuries of history prove that the YMCA is a lasting resource to help people and communities to learn, grow and thrive. Dozens of Northeast Ohio locations offer camps, childcare, leadership opportunities, sports, swim lessons and more for children of all ages.
Liquid Lifestyles offers swim lessons for all ages and abilities — kids, teens, adults and triathletes — at 12 convenient locations throughout the region. The company simplifies swimming for anxious beginners, elite athletes and everyone in between.
Best place to have a birthday party
Two area showrooms, in Avon and Warrensville Heights, offer year-round birthday fun, rain or shine. Playground World provides the fun — parties include two hours in the PlayZone and a private party room — and you provide the guests and food.
Professionally trained Party Heroes will do more than provide you with your food order, private room, and time to play — they will lead customized games and creative play, keeping kids engaged throughout the whole event.
Birthday parties offer children a chance to participate in cool science experiments with a certified Mad Scientist. Kids discover the fun side of science as they take part in spectacular science demonstrations including chemical magic, movie special effects, and amazing bubbling potions.
Thrive Arts Center
You bring the kids and the food, and Thrive provides the fun. A two-hour party for up to 20 children includes Kindermusik, dance, or art activities followed by food, drink, cake and laughter.
Best place for a kid’s haircut
Cuts N Curls
This Solon adult and children’s hair salon is also a toy boutique and party place all wrapped up into one package. Kids pass the time with snacks, video games and movies, and younger guests sit in specially equipped car salon chairs.
Several area locations and convenient online check-in make this walk-in haircare salon great for busy families.
Ladies and Gentlemen Salon and Spa
This full-service Aveda salon, with locations Beachwood and Mentor, offers a bit of luxury for adults and also caters to kids. The Mentor location houses a kids’ salon with whimsical decor, fun furnishings and more.
Each bright and colorful Snip-its location — Avon, Rocky River, Hudson and coming soon to Strongsville — offers pint-sized amenities your children are sure to love: kid-friendly styling chairs and products, games and movies, magic box prizes, and more. Moms and dads have a special place of honor at the parent chair, where they can be close at hand and share in the fun.
Best emergency room/after hours clinic to take your kids
UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital
A trusted leader in pediatric health care for more than 125 years, UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital consistently ranks among the top children’s hospitals in the nation. Its dedicated team of more than 1,300 pediatric specialists uses the most advanced treatments and latest innovations to deliver the complete range of pediatric specialty services for patients.
Akron Children’s Hospital
Ranked among the best children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report, Akron Children’s Hospital operates two pediatric hospitals and more than 60 urgent, primary and specialty care locations across the region. Whether a child needs a few stitches or treatment for a serious illness, Akron Children’s offers the highest quality of care, using the latest techniques and technology, as well as a caring touch.
With more than 40 locations offering pediatric care throughout Northeast Ohio, Cleveland Clinic’s outcomes for many of the most complex conditions treated are well above national averages. Its staff can assist you with hospital information, travel and accommodations and will answer other questions you might have before, during and after your visit.
Best family dentist/dental center
Brunswick Kidds Pediatric Dentistry
Board certified pediatric dentists Milton Ntragatakis and Brittany Heffernan and the staff of Brunswick Kidds place patient care as the top priority, regularly attending seminars and conferences devoted to new treatments, new technologies and excellent patient care practices. The practice offers laser dentistry, which performs many dental procedures without shots, without the need for anesthesia, and without any numbing at all.
Bay Pediatric Dentistry
From cradle to college, board certified pediatric dentist Diana Kyrkos and the staff of Bay Pediatric Dentistry are committed to helping your child achieve the best possible dental results in a comfortable and friendly environment. In addition to prevention, detection and restoration, the Bay Village practice offers Waterlase laser treatment, as well as sedation and anesthesia.
Mertes Pediatric Dentistry
The staff of this Hudson practice, under the leadership of board certified pediatric dentist Greg Mertes, provides the standard dental care for kids of all ages — exams, cleanings, x-rays and fluoride treatments — but also works with parents and children to design a home care routine that includes proper brushing technique, diets for healthy teeth and gums, and hygiene and growth. This “big picture” focus adds to the appeal for parents.
This independent practice in South Euclid is kid-friendly with the goal of easing anxieties about coming to the doctor. Its lobby houses a two-story tree house — complete with a 16-foot wavy slide — and has a separate waiting room equipped with computers for teens. Each exam room has its own age-specific decor, books and toys that make visits fun and more comfortable. In addition, the staff takes the time to write an individualized message on the table paper in the exam room for each patient.
Akron Children’s Pediatrics
With 27 locations and nearly 150 providers, ACHP offers convenient access to expert pediatric primary care throughout Northeast Ohio. Many of its pediatrician offices also offer evening and weekend hours, and most insurance plans are accepted. When a child has a condition that requires specialized medical care, pediatricians work closely with Akron Children’s Hospital pediatric specialists.
Kids in the Sun
Physicians and nurse practitioners of this Broadview Heights practice, a University Hospitals Rainbow Care Network member, work together with parents and other health care professionals to nurture children in a happy and safe environment, using state-of-the-art medicine to provide advanced care along with advanced caring. The practice offers phone triage, nurse on-call service, same-day sick visits, and more.
Best pregnancy/postpartum care for moms and families
The Womb Wellness Center
This women’s wellness studio located in Solon specializes in therapeutic massage, acupuncture, doula services and women’s health workshops. Birth services also include breastfeeding support, placenta encapsulation, belly binding, infant massage classes, and more. The business offers the convenience of online scheduling and gift certificates for expectant families.
From bringing a baby into this world to helping the whole family sleep through the night, the specialists at CLEbaby know the secrets to success. Services for expectant parents include childbirth education, doula support and placenta encapsulation. Once baby is born, parents can receive physical and emotional support during postpartum recovery with its daytime and overnight care. Sleep Coaches help get baby sleeping through the night and napping peacefully during the day.
BrittFit Family Fitness
Owner Brittany Gerstenslager helps women achieve their fitness goals not only during pregnancy, but before and after, as well. The certified group exercise instructor specializes in teaching prenatal, postnatal, family fitness, dance and yoga, especially to those who have the desire to start a family but don’t want to sacrifice their personal well-being. BrittFit classes are offered at venues throughout the greater Akron area and cover daytime, evening and weekend options, including several free classes.
The Womb Within
Offering doula services, placenta encapsulation, classes for professionals and families, and more, this locally-owned business in Berea provides free consultations and continuous support even after birth. The company currently serves, but is not limited to, Cuyahoga, Lorain, Medina and Summit counties.
Best place to have a baby
At the MacDonald Women’s Hospital, high-tech coupled with high-touch is the hallmark of great care. The hospital has earned the Baby-Friendly designation, a distinction that places emphasis on mother/baby bonding, breastfeeding, and other practices that are beneficial to mother and baby. Moms-to-be and new mothers are cared for in private accommodations, while deluxe private rooms with upgraded amenities such as gourmet meals, in-room refrigerator and computer port also are available. In addition to traditional deliveries, UH MacDonald Women’s Hospital offers midwife delivery, water births and doula services.
Cleveland Clinic’s Fairview Hospital
Fairview Hospital’s Birthing Center in Cleveland provides a comfortable environment that features private rooms, low lighting, infant warmers, television, all of the necessary monitoring equipment, and specially equipped operating rooms for caesarean births. For women who desire a natural birth, the Fairview Family Birth Place includes six newly-renovated suites for labor, birth and postpartum care, as well as three additional postpartum rooms.
Cleveland Clinic’s Hillcrest Hospital
In Mayfield Heights, the nursing and professional staff at Hillcrest Hospital’s Family Maternity Center can accommodate birthing preferences and needs by working closely with patients’ private obstetricians and/or midwives. Mom and baby will receive individual care and teaching from highly experienced obstetrical nurses and lactation consultants. The location also offers cord blood banking and hypnobirthing services.
Southwest General Health Center
The hospital’s Maternity Services area features private labor and delivery rooms and postpartum rooms designed with the comforts of home in mind. There’s even a kitchen area stocked with snacks, and dads staying overnight can receive a complimentary breakfast. Other maternity services include baby imprints, childbirth and family life classes, kangaroo care, breastfeeding services, newborn home visits, and more.
Best place for families to volunteer
Greater Cleveland Food Bank
Throughout Northeast Ohio, one in six people is food insecure — meaning they may not know where their next meal will come from. As the largest hunger relief organization in Northeast Ohio, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank seeks to bridge that meal gap, having provided 55 million meals in 2017 to hungry people in Cuyahoga, Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, Ashland and Richland counties. The food bank offers several much-needed programs, from mobile pantries and feeding more than 26,000 senior citizens monthly to BackPacks for Kids and Summer Feeding, which give children healthy food over a weekend or during the summer, respectively.
The Humane Society of the United States and its affiliates provide direct care to more than 100,000 animals each year through sanctuaries, veterinary programs and emergency shelters and rescues. In Ohio, the group supports animal welfare legislation, fights animal cruelty in all forms, rescues animals in danger and engages citizens to promote the protection of animals.
Project HOPE delivers essential medicines and supplies, volunteers and medical training to prevent disease, promote wellness, respond to disaster and save lives around the globe. It also provides medical training and health education, as well as conducts humanitarian assistance programs in more than 35 countries.
Best place to find a babysitter/child care
Purchase a membership to view or post a job; get access to content on all things care-related; view contact details and make contact with caregivers; purchase background checks; and access references for providers. Care.com lets you go beyond word of mouth when seeking qualified care for your kids, whether it’s a full-time nanny or date night babysitter.
Two local “mompreneurs” created this app, which lets users create a “village” and exchange free babysitting through points instead of money. The free app calculates, stores and transfers points, providing a solution to the very real problem of finding trusted, affordable care that the founders experienced in their own lives.
The Nanny Connection
The Nanny Connection opened its doors in Hudson in 2004 with the goal of finding qualified local nannies for local families needing full- or part-time child care. Since then, its services have expanded to include an on-call babysitting service and summer nanny placements, as well as a la carte background screening, events, back-up care, and unique school fundraising.