5 Ways We Make School Break Weeks as Smooth as Possible
If you are a parent whose child is preschool-age or above, you understand how “break weeks” can be. Routines go out-the-window, and it’s easy to get stir-crazy, especially if you live in an area that stays cold well-through spring break like it does here in Western New York!
It can be very tempting to plan a fun outing for every day of the week, yet here’s the thing; Everyone else is also planning to do the same.
That can mean difficult parking, lots of crowds, and tantrum-inducing lines. However, we have implemented some strategies at Climbing Vines Cafe & Play to help make even the busiest week as smooth as possible for families that choose to visit us. While we have added tons of little touches that keep customers happy, even while they’re waiting, it really comes down to communication.
We try to provide families who plan to visit with as much information as possible so they can be strategic, based on their own children’s needs. After all, there is nothing worse for a parent of a toddler than arriving to play from 10:00-11:00 am, only to have to wait a bit and then be granted access only when you’re dangerously close to nap-time!
So, after several years of handling these “break weeks” here are 5 ways we have learned to make the process easier for all involved!
1) We have ALL important information clearly visible on our website
First, we have a detailed frequently asked questions page where we discuss everything from the type of play we accommodate, to rules regarding snacks and different tiers of pricing. We post the link to this informational page all week and constantly direct folks who call to the page to plan their visit ahead of time. This allows customers to get familiar with our policies and procedures before they step foot in our facility, which lessens the questions we have to answer in-person.
There is also a place to sign our waiver online to reduce the number of things that need to be taken care of at check-in time.
Because we need our staff to be constantly cleaning, checking customers in, and filling orders, allowing their time to be freed up helps us serve everyone much more efficiently.
In addition to this FAQ page, we also have dozens of photographs of our play area.
Since we generally serve a younger population (under 5 years old) it’s common for parents with older children (we allow children up to 7 years) to wonder if our space is a good fit for their family. Having photos of all angles and activities we offer helps families make an informed decision BEFORE they arrive, which can prevent frustration and disappointment.
We do have many children play who are between the ages of 5 and 7 and have an amazing experience, but only if they appreciate imaginative play. Some children (especially those over 5) need more gross-motor activity than we can offer, in which case we recommend another indoor playground in our area.
2) We make our busy times known
Anyone who calls or visits our social media pages before OR during break week will be able to find our recommendations about when to visit if they are hoping to avoid crowds, which also ties into the communication theme we try to maintain at all times.
To avoid crowds, we recommend parents come either right at opening (we open at 9:00 am every day, which is earlier than most play areas!) or after 12:30pm. We are typically busiest between 10:30am and 12:30pm, and during breaks are nearly always at capacity during this window.
Even if parents do still choose to come during our “busy window”, communicating the waiting procedures ahead of time can allow parents to bring snack or supplies to keep their children occupied should they need to wait a few minutes to play.
3) We have things for children to do while they wait
Even if our play area is at capacity, we still allow guests to come in on the cafe-side of our facility. We always have coloring pages and crayons readily available so guests can hang out, color, and snack while they wait.
We also have books, wall activities, and fine-motor activities for children to engage in while they wait which do not take up much room, so even if multiple families are waiting, we don’t feel too crowded in the cafe!
As soon as one family leaves the play area, we let another family in! This process is usually VERY quick and wait times are minimal because we schedule extra staff to accommodate the crowds. Wait times generally average 15 minutes between the hours of 10:30am and 12:30pm.
4) We post publicly when we are at capacity
To check if we are at capacity, guests can simply call us, check our website, or visit our Facebook page where we post when we get to capacity! We always recommend calling if possible because sometimes it does take several minutes for our website or Facebook page to update.
We also have a sign for our front door explaining what guests can do while they wait so they can make their own decision to come in! We also try to put an estimated wait time on the door to provide even more information for guests walking in.
5) We hold ticket-only events
In addition to our normal open-play hours, we also try and host several events where pre-registration is required. For guests with young children who want to avoid crowds and lines or do not want to risk us being at capacity, we schedule special events during the day during break.
We are sure to close-off registration at a comfortable number so it is not too crowded. In addition to a craft or activity themed around the event, we incorporate open-play as well so guests are getting a similar experience to those who visit us the rest of the day with some extra fun included!
We have found that parents of babies and toddlers and parents of children with sensory processing disorders or special needs especially appreciate these events because it can nearly guarantee a more pleasant experience than braving the crowds elsewhere or while we are open to the public.
To reiterate, communication is what’s most important during busy weeks. If we are honest and up-front about the challenges that “break weeks” may pose to customers, we have found they are much more understanding and patient than if we were to not provide the information.
What is your favorite thing to do over break? Have you ever purposefully avoided places due to lines or crowds?