In recent years, there’s been a lot of discussion about busy, over-scheduled kids. Experts urge parents to slow down and give children more time at home for free play.1 As youth advocates, it’s hard not to get on board with that trend!
But you also have an inherent conflict of interest, right? Camps and classes compete for those precious playtime hours kids have available to them.
Is there a Win-Win-Win?
What if you could think beyond the traditional class/camp/clinic schedule to encourage a slower pace for families, expose them to your quality enrichment, AND reach new customers?
One Family’s Experience
My friend Lisa says she’s a “wannabe-art-lover.” When she took her preschooler to an inspiring event at the local art museum, she resolved to go back more regularly. But distracted by life and motherhood, Lisa didn’t follow through with her plan.
When her oldest child went to kindergarten, Lisa tried the museum again with her middle child. This time she discovered a fabulous art class for 3-5-year-olds — that meets monthly. She was hooked! Now when registration opens once a quarter, Lisa immediately signs up online for the next three month’s classes.
Now that it’s on her calendar, Lisa has become a regular visitor to the museum and occasionally attends other events. She believes she’s exposed her preschoolers to a high quality visual arts program without the burden of an expensive, weekly class or week-long camp. She’s also invited numerous friends to join her for classes over the years, and many have attended with her.
Thinking Beyond the Traditional Schedule
Here are some ideas for getting creative with your own class and camp schedule to bring a whole new dimension to your business while encouraging more free play and family time for kids.
1. Create a monthly enrichment experience that benefits the whole family.
Think about parents that want their child to be exposed to your discipline, but may not have the kid’s buy-in. How about a free basketball clinic in a local park on a Saturday, with you coaching a neighborhood pick-up game? Bring a few participants with you, set up a simple sign with your organization name, then spend the first 30 minutes inviting families into passing, shooting and dribbling drills–and always finish with a fun scrimmage. You could do this with just about any sport and encourage families to continue drills and games on their own. Kids could build their skills in the comfort of their own families, and they may even develop enough confidence and mastery to join your weekly program.
2. Take advantage of technology.
Recently, I gave you an idea for a “pop-up camp” using Facebook Live (i.e. a free, streaming video feature on Facebook). But there are other options, too. With webinars and YouTube videos, families can bring your teaching into the home, so kids can meet with you in person less often and continue enrichment studies on their own schedule. Reducing time in the backseat will be a big hit with Mom.
3. Partner with schools.
Schools often look for activities to offer students during after-school programs or on off days like in-service training and parent-teacher conferences. Use those times to introduce kids to a new skill, meet parents, and hand out information — without adding anything new to a family’s schedule.
For example, a taekwondo studio in Vancouver, Canada offered a half-day of reduced-fee training and fun for an elementary school during a teachers’ professional development day. No experience or commitment was required, and kids got the opportunity to try out a new sport while Mom and Dad were able to remain at work. Kids went home with a flyer advertising the studio’s martial arts program.
Download our whitepaper, Community Partnerships in Action, for more ideas like this one.
4. Incorporate more free play into your current program.
Though practice is important, youth sports experts also advocate the benefits of free play.2
How can you make more time in your program for free play related to the sport, art, activity or skill that you are teaching or leading? Could you turn on music during ballet class and let the kids dance freestyle? What if a cooking class allowed kids to actually play with their food? In these ways, you encourage the child’s brain development, as well as a genuine love or appreciation for the topic at hand.
5. Create opportunities for parents to work with kids at home.
You’ve probably heard of university model schools, where parents homeschool two days per week according to the school’s detailed instructions and assignments. This could work well for enrichment programs, too! Give parents homework to do with their children on the days or weeks they don’t meet with you. If parents are paying for your instructions, they’re more likely to stick with it, while also creating meaningful family time with their children.
In these days when some extra-curriculars like camp are either in the off-season or may be experiencing flat enrollment rates in season, the out-of-school space is prime territory for expanding kids’ offerings (and increasing your revenue) while helping to give kids the free play they need.