Parent-investors pour money into mall playground for kids

Posted on October 29, 2012

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by Aileen Garcia-Yap, Reporter

Kids enjoy the camel back slides at the Kids Planet in J Centre Mall in Mandaue City. (CHOY ROMANO)

As parents, Marvin Espinosa and his business partners thought that investing in helping children develop their social skills in a creative and fun way would succeed in Cebu.

They opened Kids Planet in one of the newest malls in Cebu, JCenter Mall, in Mandaue City in October last year.

“In our hearts we feel that children, especially today, need that place in a mall where they can explore their curiosity, satisfy their need for adventure, and learn many things with other kids,” said Espinosa.

There’s a small zipline , a trampoline, a camelback slide, a soft playground, a drop slide and adventure bridges in the facility.

With few outdoor playgrounds available in the city, many children stay at home, often glued to the Internet or online games which limit the development of social skills and interaction with children outside their immediate circle.

Observing this, Espinsosa said he and his partners felt sad about the situation and decided to set up a facility where children could play, enjoy, and interact with other kids.

Marvin Espinosa co-owner of Kids Planet and Theresa Espinosa, managing director of SMLEN Inc. recount how they started Kids Planet at J Centre Mall in Mandaue City. (CHOY ROMANO)

They pooled their funds for the project.

“We invested close to P4 million for this concept which was really the brainchild of Marvin,” said Ruth Miranda, managing director of SMLEN, Inc., the holding company of Kids Planet.

For this maiden business venture, they did their own research and looked for local experts that they could hire to set up the area.

Kids Planet occupies 106 square meters on the upper ground floor of J Center Mall.

Staff members are teachers and nurses, who can relate well with children as young as three years old.

“We now have ten people helping us in the operations who we carefully selected especially since we deal with kids. It helps that we are parents ourselves and know what parents look for in a place where they would be leaving their kids to play while they go on their own agenda in the mall,” said Espinosa.

For the zipline, Espinosa said they tapped the engineer behind the K33 Zipline in Balamban town to help design a children’s version.

“It can carry two people weighing as much as 300 pounds so it’s really sturdy and safe for the kids,” said Miranda.

Since they opened, they have have been enjoying a steady increase in child customers.

“To get traffic, we do themed activities depending on what’s the highlight event for the month like Easter Egg Hunting in April. This Halloween, we will be doing Trick or Treat activities, awarding the best in costumes, and having more fun games that they can enjoy,” said Miranda.

They also promote Kids Planet in Facebook where a fan page uploads photos of recent and upcoming activities for families to watch out for.

The rates are competitive for the quality of facilities offered, said Miranda.

It’s only P160 per hour on a weekday from Monday to Thursday and P250 from Friday to Sunday and during holidays.

“They can also have the unlimited package because children can’t get enough for an hour,” said Miranda.

Kids Planet also offers classes for 1 to 3-year-olds handled by education degegree holders.

Birthday party package for those who want to invite friends to celebrate in Kids Planet would cost P14,500 for 20 children to P19,500 for 30.

The package includes invitation cards, a birthday banner, baloons, name tags, a birthday cake, a party host, prizes for the games, gift for the celebrant, loot bags and a piñata during the three-hour activity.

Miranda said they are currently in talks with a major fast food chain that wants to partner with them for the party packages.

ge group that they handle. They hired education graduates to handle the classes.

In the Little Planeteer class kids learn about shapes, colors, letters and numbers through a fun, adventurous extraterrestrial learning experience,” said Espinosa.

The Planeteer classes are held regularly every Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays and children have unlimited access to the playground.

“While they wait for their parents to come pick them up after class, they can enjoy the facility and continue the fun. We got a lot of good feedback from parents already,” said Miranda.

More fun learning experiences are being planned, like an Earthquake Bridge.

The facility has turned out a worthwhile investment and a help for parents going to the mall and needing to keep young children occupied.

“We’d like to push further with promotions and perhaps do partnerships with our neighbors here like gym customers and employees of Stream (Global Services, Inc.) which will soon be operating here,” said Espinosa.

Espinosa and his partners hope to build the brand and later intorduce it in other malls.

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