Rite of Spring 

You don't have to be French ...

SAT 5/24

Wouldn't it be nice if, instead of enduring endless drills of verb conjugations, we learned a language by singing and dancing and playing? French for Fun, a language and cultural center in Lafayette, thrives on the belief that children learn best when they're having a good time. Catherine Jolivet Johnson founded it 25 years ago especially to work with young children to "live the language." The center takes students as young as three months old in a Moms and Tots program, and also features immersion classes, a summer workshop focusing on French painters, and classes for adult beginners. On May 24, French for Fun presents its Fête de Printemps, with the first Bay Area appearance of Alain Le Lait, a French composer and recording artist who has released several CDs of original songs with names such as "La Girafe et L'Hippopotame," "J'Aime les Fruits," "Ooh La La," and "Tête, épaules, Genoux, et Pieds" (translation: "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Feet"). As Johnson explains, "Alain is a father and first wrote and sang songs for his own children. I found out about him, listened to his CDs and fell in love with them, and started using them in my own classes. They're wonderful because they relate to the children's world -- they're full of animals, fruits, dinosaurs, and colors, so they're perfect for elementary school-age children. They're used in many schools around the country -- they're a great resource for teachers and parents." Le Lait's program is especially geared for ages two to twelve, and Johnson stresses that you don't need to be a French speaker (or singer) to attend. Students, who come from all over the Bay Area, have memorized the songs and will be leading a sing-along (lyrics will be handed out at the concert). Stick around afterwards for a catered reception with French food along with various cultural activities; if the weather permits, the kids (who will no doubt be singing choruses of "Ooh La La" by this time) are invited to play in a neighboring park. From 2 to 4 p.m. at the Orinda Library Auditorium, 26 Orinda Way, Orinda. For information and tickets, call 925-283-9822 or visit www.frenchforfun.com -- Sarah Cahill

5/24-5/26

Absorbing

Soak Up the Fun

SpongeBob SquarePants gets around. The amusingly named (if you're a five-year-old) animated Nickelodeon TV character is the star of this three-day weekend at the fourteenth annual KidFest in downtown Concord. Resist the temptation to use SpongeBob to clean up nasty spills and instead treat the kids, ages two to twelve, to a full day of entertainment and activities: the Backyard Circus, face painting, the "Master of Balance" Jean-Paul Valjean, a petting zoo, kids' karaoke, a marionette performance, a carnival, sports, an inflatable slide, and more kid-type snacks than SpongeBob could soak up in a lifetime. 11 am to 6 p.m. Saturday through Monday at Concord's Todos Santos Plaza. Tickets: $4 per person, kids under two and seniors free. 925-671-3287. -- Kelly Vance

SAT 5/24

Footie Ball

Sometimes it's just so hard to leave the house. You get in from the office, and have barely put on the ol' home uniform when the kinder start clambering all over you for an outing. Bully for you, then, that peignoirs and mismatched sweats are de rigueur at the monthly Dance Jammies . Slide into your bunny slippers and enjoy a full-on dance party, food concession, and cartoon, dance clip, and movie projected full-size. It all happens at 2525 8th St., Berkeley. The party goes from 6 p.m. till 9:30, and the $8 cover charge includes dance class warm-up. Call 510-832-3835 or e-mail orches@earthlink.net for information and reservations (highly recommended) -- Stefanie Kalem

5/24-5/25

Dairy Dreams

What's that alarmingly sweet smell? It could be the product of early preparations for the Fairyland-Fenton's Flavorful Festival . Visitors to the park this weekend get to vote on their favorite new ice-cream name, which will become part of Fenton's regular selection. May we suggest "Peter Peter Pumpkin Pie"? Howzabout "Snow White Chocolate Chunk"? "Rumpelraisin"? Visitors can also enter to win a party at Fenton's, and get a chance to eat part of a fifty-foot sundae! The park is located at 699 Bellevue Ave., off Grand Ave., and hours are 10 a.m. through 4 p.m. Admission is $6, no adult admitted without a child, and vice versa. Call 510-452-2259 or visit www.fairyland.org -- Stefanie Kalem

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