Parenting involves multiple challenges, but they’re not always the ones you expect. There are common issues everyone will warn you about, like tantrums, or lack of sleep for the first three years. Although, oddly, as veteran parents gleefully share their war stories, now that their kids have gone past the worst, they don’t actually tell you how to navigate those battles. And that’s what you really want to know, isn’t it? Phrases like ‘it’ll be over eventually’ really aren’t helpful in the moment. You want tips, tricks, legal child restraints!
One of the things nobody warns you about is outings. After the first two attempts, many parents resign themselves to staying indoors until their children finish college. Still, if they’re brave enough and determined enough to try it again, it’s because they found a tenable family-friendly venue. Out of necessity (and the struggle to cover any significant distance with children), kid circles are very small. Children will mingle with the neighbours or classmates, and their parents will mingle with those resident adults.
As a business owner, this is an advantage for you. All you have to do is impress one kid or parent in that tight group and all the rest will come flocking in. The good news? Your venue doesn’t even have to be that big. It just needs to be exciting for kids and mildly entertaining for adults. If your set-up can distract children for ten minutes at a time – giving their parents some much needed breathing space, you’ve got it made. This does involve having some kind of activity to engage these children, and staff that can temporarily babysit.
Swings and slides?
The answer is no. These are the most popular kind of kids toys, but they require a lot of space. Why? Speed. When a child jumps off a swing or slips off a slide, they have a long way to fall. These playthings need at least a metre on all sides, and that’s just floor space. It doesn’t account for kids overlapping in different kinds of play. A jungle gym / monkey-climb is a safer choice, because its fall space is incorporated in its construction – there’s lots of empty room in the centre which can be repurposed for alternate play.
But even that can be a challenge in your small venue, unless it’s a mini-climber like Capital Mini playset units. They’re colourful, stable, safe, and can be installed in spaces as small as 5 metres by 5 meters. The soft fall area falls within the play-space and covers about 15m2, though you do require suitable flooring. Loose sawdust is affordable, but the kids will keep tracking it into the eating area, which can lead to excessive clean-up. Invest in a good-quality rubber mat instead. And don’t settle for sand or grass – those can hurt kids and hide germs.
Alternatively, you can get a multifunctional playset with moving parts like Rotanet or Whirly rope. It needs a loose soft fall of about 30m2 (5m by 6m or similar dimensions), and it offers triple play as a rope wall, merry-go-round, and balance beam. The moving parts are tucked inside a dome that’s secured in the centre of the rope net, so it can’t be reached by tiny curious hands, which means they can’t get their limbs pinched by bearings and joints. The Rotanet’s summit is 1500mm while the Whirly Rope is 2m high, and it’s suitable for kids of mixed ages. Both playsets have a central poled platform that offers additional play-space.
Another interesting option is to have modular kits children can construct themselves. Quadro has some interesting models that can be assembled and dismantled in minutes. So if your patrons have a special occasion like a birthday or school outing, you can make construction part of their designated activities. Quadro has pieces that can be used separately or combined to design cars, pools, and towers. One popular model is the Universal construction kit for kids aged 3 and below. It has a roofed climbing tower that can be configured into 51 varying designs.
For summer play, you could add a pool extension and fill it with water. If your venue isn’t suitable for water play, turn the pool are into a ball pit instead. The Mini TiQuadro fits a jungle gym, slide, and swimming pool into a 5m space. Its dimensions are 525cm by 263 cm, and it stands over 2m tall (263cm vertical height). It’s intended for toddlers though, so keep the bigger kids away.And it takes 9 hours to build, so pre-planning is needed.