Kids Play Places

Updated on October 05, 2010
L.P. asks from Uniontown, PA
11 answers

My cousin and I are toying with the idea of opening a center where mom's bring their kids just to play. In the area where we live, there is nothing like this, other than the McDonalds play area. There isn't even a play area in our mall. Our plan would be for it to be a place where mom and child would stay - no drop-offs, not a daycare. We would have a cozy sitting area for mom's with coffee and snacks, and wifi, maybe a tv. The kids area would have a variety of different activities - an art center, a train table, an area to play "house" with a kitchen, dolls, etc., a climbing wall with soft mats underneath, some small slides, balls to bounce on, a library, crawling tunnels, puppets, a computer for games, building blocks, etc., etc., etc...

My question is, do you have anything like this in your area? If so, do you go? How often? If you don't have something like this in your area, would you go if you did? Being that's not a drop-off facility, how much would you be willing to pay per hour, let's say? Or should it be a flat rate for however long you stay? Any suggestions that would make a place like this appealing to you?

Of course there is no guarantee any business will work, especially in this economy. But we are just trying to guage whether this is a feasible idea, that could actually be a success. Your thoughts are appreciated!!!

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So What Happened?

We HAVE been to Giggles and Smiles (at Robinson - used to live in Moon :)

It wouldn't be exactly like that, with all the big climbing areas, but more filled with toys and other activities, but along the same line.

For those that asked or are wondering about an hourly rate, Giggles and Smiles checks you in and notes your entry time on the computer. When you leave, they charge you for the time you were there, I believe rounding up to the nearest 15 minutes. I'm not saying that is ideal, or the way we'd do it, just noting that's one way to monitor someone's time. We wouldn't be chasing people down, just charging them for however long they stay. Not necessarily an "hourly rate" as much as "pay for your play time."

Oh, and we wouldn't be charging for adults, only the kids.

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answers from Columbus on

We've been to a place called Aha 4 Kids in Lancaster, Ohio. I think it was $5 a person for all day. It wasn't very high tech, but there was tons of things to do. They have a dress-up station, an art studio, a water play table, sand table, store/kitchen, pizza shop, construction site, and so on. If we lived closer I think we'd go at least once a month, maybe every other week.

Also when we were there, the local Head Start had brought the kids there for the morning. I bet you could work something out with local daycares, it would also help get the word out.

It's a great idea, I hope it goes well for you!

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Los Angeles on

I have been to similar places. My kids always enjoyed the pretend areas - a pretend kitchen where they could make pizza, a pretend vet office where they tended to the (stuffed) animals, etc.
I personally would prefer a flat rate than hourly. I mean seriously, no one is going to stay all day. And then you don't have to chase down and kick out people at the end of their hour. Discounts for siblings would be nice too. WiFi should be free. But you can make some pretty good markup on coffee, soda and snacks.
You have endless opportunities for promotion too. FREE coffee for mom. Bring a friend for FREE. Every fifth visit FREE. etc
It definitely needs to have more creativity, imagination and learning tied in to make it worth paying for, otherwise McD and (shudder) Chuck E Cheese will always win.
I think you could also offer the ability to drop off (at a higher rate) for a limited amount of time. Esp if you're close to shopping. Have you been to IKEA. Granted, it's in the same building, but they have an awesome play area and you can drop off your kid for up to one hour while you shop.
And, if you had someone on call for actual child care, you could provide emergency child care for a pretty hefty fee. I know in some busier areas, there are centers that provide this for when the unexpected comes up (sick nanny, last minute call to work, etc) and qualified care is desired.
You can even make more money by hosting birthday parties and field trips, etc.
Good luck!

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answers from Dallas on

One suggestion: have a great area for children 3 and under!! There is ONE place near me with a little area for young ones. It's not even that great, but it's separate and just for them, so we go very often. SO many of my friends and I complain about nothing for the little ones.
In addition: There is NO hourly rate. I would actually kind of hate an hourly rate. Not to mention, I assume it would be hard to enforce. There is anadmission fee. Free for 1 year and under. $3.50 for 2-3, $5.00 for 4-10
+ $1.00 for the adult, etc. They have party rooms, to use for party packages. They also have a discounted price, if you buy a year pass.

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answers from Boston on

I like Little Bears in my area. You can leave and come back. No outside food. No shoes. They have Purrell and a bin for mouthed toys. They have a flat rate and a separate area for 18 mos and under. Check out the website. I think is is Peabody or Danvers MA. They also do birthday parties. Never busy though (sorry).

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answers from Kansas City on

My question is how would you enforce an hourly rate? Would you go by and tell people they have to leave after their time has expired...? I think charging hourly will be more trouble than it's worth. You either need to charge a flat rate or don't charge at all. Obviously, you're trying to make money, so I get the need for a fee, but, and this is my opinion, you need to make the cost minimal and only charge for kids using the toys, not for adults. Then have a coffee shop, like you mentioned, filled with snacks and goodies for moms and kids. Make everything healthy-ish and have packs of little crackers, cookies, etc. plus 100% juice and water. I honestly think that if you charge a minimal amount MOST moms will pay for the extras for coffee, etc. Plus, I know that if I'm only spending a little bit I am more apt to buy a treat for my kiddos or whatever. If your admission is less you will also have fewer people trying to sneak in snacks and drinks of their own. Of course you will have the moms that won't, but by and large, I'm betting you will get people in with just advertising such reasonable rates.

We have a place similar to this run by a local church. There is no admission fee and it is filled with mostly Little Tykes and Fisher Price climbing and sliding toys. They have a coffee bar and I've never seen a mom without a drink in that place. Most people feel like they should buy something since the play is free. We also have a Little Monkey Bizness (I know it's national, but don't know if you have them) which sounds like what you're doing except on a smaller scale, and it's very successful. Their snack bar is great and my kids will play there for hours! Look up their website just to get an idea, and of course, yours won't be that big to begin with, but it sounds similar.

I think this is a great idea and well worth it. I would go there for sure! i think the key is to appeal to the moms and not necessarily the kids, at least for marketing purposes...of course the kids need to like it there! ;) Oh and a final note about marketing, if you do get yourselves up and running, I highly recommend trying to contact Groupon and getting set up on that. I know a lot of people recently who have bought things just b/c they have a groupon and have never been there before. It's a great way to get your name out! Good luck, I hope it works for you!

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answers from Los Angeles on

We had something like this in LA where I used to live. It was called the Treehouse Social Club and it was pretty popular. They had a big treehouse climbing structure for toddlers/preschoolers on up, and a smaller, gated area for babies with books and younger toys. They also had a full cafe and a nice seating area for the moms. In the back was a room where they held different classes (run by external people - the club just provided the space). There was also originally going to be a nail salon in there, but I don't think that idea ever really panned out.

I think your idea sounds fantastic and would be very popular, especially in winter when it's freezing and if you have very hot summers.

Rather than paying hourly, I'd be more likely to either charge a flat rate, or do something like "first three hours at X price, plus Y for each additional hour." I would probably charge $8-10 for the first three hours and then maybe $2-3 per hour after that. When you charge hourly, parents are going to be more likely to leave immediately before the first or second hour is up to avoid paying the extra cost.

We also have a lot of indoor bounce house places - where there are multiple jumping units, inflatable obstacle courses and slides, etc. They often also have ping pong tables and a small play area for toddlers and babies.

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answers from Philadelphia on

Sounds like a godsend.. like starbucks with a play area...

I would definitly go.... Things big things I would watch for are mothers not keeping an eye on their kids, and your insurance would be sky high I am sure.

I think it would be a great idea though, mom's really don't have many places to go to where they can enjoy the small things and take their kids along with them!

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answers from Dallas on

We have a few places like this in our area. Most of them are run by churches. They are only open few hours a day and most charge $1 or $2 per person...for the two hours they are open. We have been to a few "for profit" play areas and they were usually $5 - $7 per child. With one kid that was do-able. But when you have more than one, that gets a little pricey for my taste. These places seemed to have morning and after school hours, plus they hosted birthday parties. I can't think of any of these places that are open all the time.

Our favorite place like this has a play scape AND a small bounce house. They also had a small area with infant activity tables...when my daughter was one or so we LOVED that part...because my 4 yo could run and play, but she also had something stimulating to do too. The dress up center is also a favorite.

As for what to charge...some things to think about. If you charge per the hour, how will you police it? How will you make sure people don't stay longer than their allotted time...time gets away from you with kids, it may not even be intentional. Flat rate would be more manageable, but you'd have to make it affordable.

It's an interesting business idea...GL with your endeavor!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

My son went to a birthday party at Giggles and Smiles at the mall at Robinson and it's very much like that. Have you been there?
They have drop off--handy for shopping at the mall, etc.
I think it was about $25 for two hours for drop off?
I would imagine the insurance is very, very high bit I think it's a GREAT idea!

I don't think the hourly rate would be that hard to enforce--just announce the kid's last name over a PA system for them to report to the desk, right? Even of the kid doesn't hear it--the parent will.

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answers from Chicago on

This is actually something I have considered, though with a bit of a drop off included as well for a higher cost. I know how hard it can be to have a little one and need to go to the store--ALONE. Not everyone has a babysitter or family available. There are no places like this at all near me and I don't consider the mall to be a great place to take my kids to play since it gets pretty crowded. I think cost needs to be based on the area you are in and you will need to consider insurance and waivers for a climbing wall etc. That said, I have considered how on earth would you determin who came when and thought about those wrist bands some places use that give access to certain areas, different colors for different times etc. For the drop off, there would be another area or more employees and the parent would have to take a picture with the child and there would be a limit to how long--say an hour with additional charges after that.

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answers from Houston on

I live in Galveston County, Tx. We had EXACTLY what you are talking about. In was in a strip center next to a Kroger (grocery store) at a VERY busy intersection. I think it was 8 bucks per would buy a pass and you could come and go as much as you wanted in a day. They also had various packages you could buy. They even offered birthday pizza party packages. I toured the center, brought home brochures, milled it over in my head, went back 2-3 weeks later.....CLOSED. After I thought about it....why would I pay 8 bucks when you can go to McDonalds essentially free? Or, the park for free?
I always thought it was a good just didnt work around here.


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