By Jody Devere
Waiting rooms are for waiting. That’s something we adults are accustomed to doing. At the doctor’s office, at the DMV, and yes…at the tire and auto service store.
Generally speaking, as long as we don’t feel uncomfortable or unwelcome, we adults don’t mind waiting a little bit for good work. Plush furniture, a flat-screen television, relevant reading material and a cozy atmosphere will keep parents pleasant while they’re waiting, but their children require a different sort of comfort.
Children like to know they’re included too, and a few old toys scattered along the waiting area floor isn’t going to cut it – and they’ll probably trip someone eventually. Here are a few tips on creating a kid-friendly waiting area so that your guests of all ages can be comfortable and entertained.
1. Create a “Kids-Only” Zone. Kids love being kids – and they love having their own space. Carve out a space in your waiting area that’s just for the younger guests, and make it clear it’s only for them. Brightly colored paint on the walls gives the area immediate visual impact. Consider exciting colors and patterns for the floor too, by way of a different color carpet or a fun area rug. Populating the area with kid-size chairs, boxes or small beanbags will make it clear that there are “no grown-ups allowed” in this area.
2. Interactivity. Even in a fun, bright waiting area, kids will quickly get bored with waiting, and while any kids’ area should have some toys, even those will only go so far. Put together a coloring book with an automotive theme and your business’ branding on the cover. To offset the printing costs, consider selling business card ads on the back cover. On the inside, give the kids different kinds of cars to color, simple word search puzzles, mazes and other interactive games. A few activities like this and a package of crayons will go a long way toward keeping kids – and parents – happy.
3. Keep It Clean! This should go without saying, but any kids’ area shouldn’t look like a disaster. When you choose toys, remember to choose toys that won’t get lost in the adult seats and don’t have a lot of small pieces – because someone has to pick those up! Toys that are appropriate for a wide range of ages and genders are best – be wary of choking hazards, sharp corners and other dangers for the younger kids. Keep disinfectant handy and clean the toys in the kids’ area frequently – and when you’re choosing toys, pick toys that are easy to clean.
4. Small Gifts Get Big Smiles. Education-focused catalog shops like the Oriental Trading Company can provide you with low-cost trinkets that are perfect to give away to the inhabitants of the kids-only zone. Mini beach balls, silly bands, pirate hats and other fun gifts can be purchased by the dozen or by the gross, so they’re very cost effective, and go a long way toward winning kids’ approval.
5. Don’t Forget the Restrooms! Many times your waiting room will be inhabited by a single mom or dad with an infant or toddler. If you don’t have them already, it’s important that your restrooms – both of them – have a baby changing station installed and are kept clean. Go the extra mile and have spare diapers and wipes, and you’ll get a lot of brownie points with frazzled parents.
In addition to scoring points with parents, creating a child-friendly environment in your shop is also a great way to increase customer loyalty and word-of-mouth advertising.