Great Kid, Tween and Teen Experiences: Lessons from a Summer Vacation

Posted by Amy Henry on Wed, Jun 26, 2013 @ 01:40 PM

Last week, I took a family vacation with my husband and two sons. I managed to abandon my email and phone for seven surreal days, but couldn’t keep my YouthBeat hat completely off! This family-focused resort revealed more than a few lessons on how to create great family experiences that cater to kids, tweens, teens and parents alike.   Family Travel

  1. Make them work! Okay, this might not sound like part of the formula for a great vacation, but it’s an element of the family experience that is often overlooked. Many of the most fun moments parents and kids spend together involve a little bit of risk and a few tough challenges – that great white water rafting trip, the time your family dressed up in funny costumes and won a prize, or a ride on a zipline or a swing on a trapeze. Great family experiences are often centered around constructive competition, fearless feats and valiant victories. When families push themselves together, they grow together. Do your products or experiences promote productive fun?
  2. Give each their own. Each family has their own unique equation that constitutes the correct mix of “parent only” time and “all together” time. Great family resorts offer options. Kids, tweens or teens can check in at the “kid club” but also engage in family game night. A movie under the stars can be the perfect time for bonding or a chance for parents to leave their little ones with their friends in their PJs. Parents can take pilates while tweens take part in beach Olympics. This sense of choosing when to be together, with breaks for personal passions make family vacations (and experiences) feel fulfilling for all involved. And keep in mind that a great family moment sometimes involves other families! Most often, great family vacations involve meeting kids, tweens or teens from somewhere new. They can involve socializing for parents, too.  So don’t think that families only want to focus on each other when they’ve opted in for an all-together event. Do your all-family spaces encourage mingling? Would your customers expect to find like-minded moms and dads in their midsts?
  3. Stay silly! Let’s face it – families are funny! And when it comes to all-age vacations, it’s pretty tough to capture “cool” in a way that feels right for kids, tweens and teens. But even while humor differs with age and gender, creating an environment where youth and families feel free to be silly is a surefire way to keep the mood light and to bridge the generation gap. The same holds for family brands. Families are much more likely to understand that getting together can be goofy. And it’s a relief to release parents and youth from their need to look like they have their act together – especially when they’re on an escape from the everyday. Do your all family experiences or products act as outlets for silliness?
  4. Celebrate youth realities, not fantasies. Of course, family vacations can and should be the stuff of dreams – pristine beaches, characters come to life, etc. But the best family experiences are ones that meet kids, tweens and teens where they are. In other words, they don’t try to convert them or counter their natural tendencies. Making the teen club a lounge off the beaten path makes more sense than insisting that adolescents acclimate to adult spaces. Giving kids breaks versus wondering why they can’t keep up. And eliminating waiting and lines whenever possible keeps kids coming back for more. Are there ways to make your space feel more understanding of youth? Are you hiring people who embrace the quirks and foibles of real kids, tweens and teens, or simply hope they are someone that they’re not?
  5. Make it healthy – with a dose of sprinkles! The old model of family fun had parents and youth indulging with reckless abandon – eating without inhibition, lounging versus lunging. But today’s fit families (featured in our June/July/August issue of the YouthBeat TrendSpotter) are most satisfied when they can feel good about their good times. That might mean getting a workout while they get moving with their families. Or finding food that makes them happy and healthy at the same time. And finally, it can mean giving back while getting to enjoy a new place. Even the most indulgent experiences can leave kids and families feeling better at the end. Are there ways to build your fun family experiences on the foundation of mental, physical or spiritual fitness?

Wherever your family spends the summer, enjoy! And tell us what lessons you’ve learned from quality time away with the kids!

Tags: Education, play, outside, free time, kids tweens teens, culture, parenting

Children and the Call of the Wild

Posted by Amy Henry on Mon, Jun 10, 2013 @ 01:53 PM

The start of summer seems to invoke images of childhood that may be more retro than real, but that certainly remind us of a childhood that’s free and sometimes even wild. Children have historically and socially been connected to nature. Children have often been positioned as “wild things,” in the romantic or problematic state before “civilization” sets in. Richard Louv (author of Last Child in the Woods) contends that children have a need for, and an inclination towards nature is so significant that children who don’t encounter a bit of the wild in their daily lives suffer from “Nature Deficit Disorder.” And Gail Melson explored children’s camaraderie with animals in Why the Wild Things Are. Google

So for today’s kids, tweens and teens, what’s wild about childhood?

Despite dwindling opportunities to trek through the forest or wade through streams, today’s families and youth often feel most at home in the outdoors. Many parents count camping, or even just running around outside as some of their favorite shared activities (even though they turn to tech when they need or just want it). Google’s “Camping” ad from last summer captured the way that today’s families integrate tech and nature (not choose between them). But aside from these structured and connected endeavors in the wild, youth have fewer and fewer chances to test themselves, discover the dangerous and cultivate a living thing the way perhaps we once did.

Still, evidence of the wild nature of children abounds! The last day of school might be followed up with a structured summer program experience. But for youth, the loosening of the reigns for a few months means possibility. Control and competence might be the ideals for today’s youth and parents, but parents still prioritize play places when buying or renting homes (from backyards to city playgrounds), and this generation of moms and dads often make vacations about the outdoors (even if it is a manicured beach!).

For marketers and experience providers, it’s important to both acknowledge children’s connection to the natural world, and to simultaneously refrain from judging the outdoors nearby. Their backyards can be bounties, and their neighborhoods can serve as important sites of identity exploration. Even adolescents somewhat risky reliance on the sequestered spaces of the woods in their town or the natural spaces in their cities can serve a purpose. Kids, tweens and teens require spaces that let them hide, sit in silence, and wander and find. Make it your summer resolution to find one way to help them.

In honor of what would have been Maurice Sendak’s 85th birthday, which Google has honored with its own Wild Things signature, re-read our own take on the author of “Where the Wild Things Are”.

Tags: movies, free time, kids tweens teens, TV