Spoilt brats and that's just the parents

You can't be too old, too young or too rich to be pampered at Kidville. Brian Sack and son check in
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Parenthood changes a person. I know this because I have been a parent for 10 months now, and the me of now and the me of 10 months ago are very different people.

Parenthood changes a person. I know this because I have been a parent for 10 months now, and the me of now and the me of 10 months ago are very different people.

For starters, the me of 10 months ago did not get up at 5:30am. The me of 10 months ago did not start the day wiping a baby's bottom. The me of 10 months ago wouldn't have been caught dead waving a red scarf, ringing a saliva-covered bell and singing "The Monkey Marched Under the Moon".

But there I sat, a lone dad in a roomful of mothers, a few grandmothers and a coterie of nannies. In our laps sat infants ranging from six to 12 months of age. Some fidgeted, one or two cried, but most were transfixed by the musicians before us.

My son Antek and I were attending a "Little Maestros" class at Kidville - once a 20,000 square foot parking garage and now a £1.65m facility for children and their parents. Kidville, New York, is a loft-like space filled with gyms and beauty salons for mother, baby yoga classes, art and music areas, and kitchens for toddler cookery lessons. It is the brain-child of Shari Misher Stenzler, a Manhattan mother of two who was tired of schlepping about with her offspring.

To turn her dream into a reality, Misher Stenzler needed substantial financial resources, especially since Kidville is located on the chic Upper East Side. Fortunately, she co-owns a public relations agency and had the Rolodex necessary to help bankroll her dream. In addition to her husband, the entrepreneur Andy Stenzler, she enlisted investors such as the tennis stars Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, a hotel developer, and a member of New York's philanthropically minded Tisch family.

In the handful of months since Kidville has opened, its roster has ballooned to 2,000 families. The top-tier platinum membership will set you back £325 a term, while the average price of an "à la carte class" is a further £325. It also offers a range of birthday parties with themes such as "Pretty In Pink Ballerina", but your little treasure's big day can easily cost you £1,100.

The premise of Kidville is simple. We parents can dictate a child's bedtime and what he or she can eat. We can decide whether they'll ride in a Bugaboo or a Maclaren stroller. We can even spank them - in some countries, at least. But all parents inevitably, grudgingly, realise that our children are really in charge. Hence Kidville, where they have an almost limitless number of pastimes to choose from. The Little Maestros class is just one of Kidville's many diversions. It's a casual affair: the lead singer mingles with the crowd, singing each child's name - all of which she's memorised. Whether or not that impressed the children is hard to say, but the adults sure liked it.

I'd anticipated being the only man, as Kidville's parental fare is fairly mum-centric. Classes like Mummy and Baby Yoga, Crafty Mammas and Reclaim Your Abs leave you in no doubt as to the target audience.

As we're in one of Manhattan's sleekest neighbourhoods, it comes as no surprise that the audience consists primarily of well-groomed stay-at-home moms. One mother I spoke with, petite and gorgeous, showed no trace of the four pregnancies she'd endured. The nannies present were no doubt in the employ of career-minded couples or the Upper East Side's indigenous Ladies Who Lunch.

Antek's next stop was the indoor playground. Here, even the most neurotic parent would be forced to admit that an injury would have to be well-earned. The floors are padded, the walls are padded, the equipment is padded. Children can jump into a pool of plastic balls, run up foam ramps, crawl through soft tunnels and generally do what every parent wants them to do: wear themselves out with minimal abrasions.

Kidville's numerous classes offer a more structured environment than the free-for-all playground. They're divided into age groups, with categories such as "music and dance", "gym", "art and theater" and "enrichment". Parents can easily suffer options paralysis: Musical Mayhem with Bobby Doo Wah, or Bach to Rock?

The genius of Kidville is that it also appeals to the parents by providing things for them to do, too. While the Dylans, Conors, Britneys and Hannahs run about the ultra-padded playground or sing about marching monkeys marching, we can shop, eat, get a manicure and take Silver Spoons for Grown Ups (a cookery class). There's even a Parenting Pow-Wow in case we're not quite sure we're doing it right.

But Kidville's greatest strength is the attention paid to the basics of childcare. A few weeks ago, I was reminded of the importance of cleanliness when my beloved son returned from a playground with a rotavirus infection. Unlike my local park, Kidville possesses a roaming cleaning staff who tackle the various substances and detritus that children tend to leave behind. Staffers possess radio headsets to report regurgitated baby formula. It is unlikely that any parent will be able to prevent a child from sucking a ladder rung or putting a puddle in his mouth, so the radio-dispatched antibacterial troops are very comforting.

Kidville's photo-ID security system soothes other fears. It provides my wife and I with a sense of security that I don't have when there's a drunk sleeping on a nearby bench. The barcode IDs offer no details about the child, but provide reception with a photo reference.

Certainly we can see why Kidville exists - it's logical. Especially in a city where dogs do their business on concrete and children go months without seeing grass.

"We have an unbelievable usage rate," says Misher Stenzler. "A third of our members use the facility every day." According to her, Kidville is already operating in the black and now has plans for a second opening on the also-chic Upper West Side, followed by a third in the less-chic-more-trendy downtown TriBeCa area.

Nor will Kidville be the only show in town for long. Citibabes, a similar operation in New York's SoHo district, is planning to open this autumn. There are no plans yet for a Kidville London. But, says Misher Stenzler, "any place where there are a lot of families with young children trying to navigate a major metropolitan area needs a Kidville." For parents in the big city, a place like Kidville offers a social, recreational and educational escape that I never thought I'd care about. But then again, I've changed.