Amongst the numerous playzones that dot the urban landscape these days, Kydz Hangout stands out, by being focused on providing experiential learning and fun activities for children of all ages. The centre is inspired by children’s museums and science activity centres across the world, and aims to provide a great place for after school activities for kids.
Spread over three air-conditioned floors, Kydz Hangout has specific areas for play, learning and party. All the play areas have caring attendants and are monitored by CCTV cameras for the safety of children. Infants below the age of three are entertained in a separate designated soft play area. It has quickly earned a reputation as a safe and a comfortable place where they can be left by a parent or a guardian, in the knowledge that their child is in safe hands. Team KE met up with Swathi, who is at the helm at this very popular kids play area, to get some inside scoop. Read the excerpts here.
KE: Please share your journey with us. How did a pediatrician transform from taking care of children’s health to their entertainment?
Swathi: As a family, we are very passionate about children’s education – social, emotional or otherwise. My mother, Dr.Hema & my aunt, Dr.Madhumathi decided to convert the space we owned to a playspace & hobby center when, on moving to India from the US, Dr.Madhu found it difficult to keep her twin boys engaged in meaningful activities in a safe place, something that were very used to back home. Dr.Krishna Mohan (my uncle, a scientist by training) & I (Swathi, a developmental & cognitive science researcher) joined on board instantly as it with in fit our passions too. So starting Kydz Hangout seemed like the right step for all of us. We all still continue to practice full-time in our respective professions and balance it along with running Kydz Hangout. Mr. Srinivas, my father with his extensive background in business manages the operations & staffing aspects.
KE: Why did you choose the initiative on indoor play area? What makes your playzone unique?
Swathi: In a crowded city like Hyderabad, there’s limited options for where you can take your kids for an outing. Inspired by children’s science museums & play spaces in the U.S., we set out to create one of the first indoor play spaces in Hyderabad. The concept has taken off since then and now there are a few similar centers dotted around the city. What makes us unique is definitely the people behind it. For us, it has never been a commercial enterprise. A lot of thoughtful & passionate research goes into every new toy we buy or new course we start. While we primarily define ourselves as an indoor playspace, we’ve definitely grown into something more than that.
KE: With all the talk about safety these days, how do you put parents’ mind at ease regarding that aspect?
Swathi: Our utmost priority at any point is to provide a safe environment for the kids to play and for parents to relax. All our play equipment is safety tested for children. We have also have a separate soft play area especially designed for kids below 3. We’ve always believed in quality over quantity. Our space is cozy and all the toys are thoughtfully handpicked by my mom and me. We definitely want to avoid over crowding the space with toys where the kids don’t get time to see value in the things they play with. Being a pediatrician, my mom is very particular about hygiene and we have a strict routine of the place & toys being cleaned & sanitized twice a day. We run background checks on all our staff and hold regular training sessions on best practices in child care.
KE: We can also see some classes going on – is that a regular feature here?
Swathi: Yes! This place started because of our passion for education and working with kids. We conduct a variety of after school activities, weekend workshops, special events & summer camps ranging from art & craft, classical dance to storytelling, robotics, STEM etc. We are very picky about the teachers we work with. It’s best to have people who share the same level of enthusiasm and passion for holistic education. This has often resulted in us working with instructors with unique backgrounds. Full-time educators, architect turned dancer, art curators etc. are just a few examples. They all help us create a dynamic and fantastic environment for the kids to learn & play.
KE: What is the most popular feature of your place, something that all the kids love?
Swathi: In terms of physical areas, all kids that visit is absolutely love the maze. It has multiple slides & obstacle courses, a trampoline, a ball shooter & many fun components that the kids never seem to get tired of!
KE: You seem very familiar with a lot of guests here? Are these people who keep coming back? What benefits do you give to your returning customers?
Swathi: One of our goals when we started was to create a community of parents, educators & collaborators who work together to create an enriching space for the kids. We are extremely happy with the success in reaching this goal in the last two years. We’ve built a supportive network of parents that know they can safely rely on us for their child’s needs. We have kids & parents that we’ve been seeing every week for two years and know all our staff individually by names. We know almost all returning customers by name and I think most of the parents & kids enjoy that familiarity. It’s heartening for us to see kids that have grown up around us. We know that we’ve created a space that they want to keep coming back to. All the offers & discounts apart, the biggest benefit we give returning customers is knowing that their kid is in a space where we take the time to get to know their little personalities, likes & dislikes etc. to provide a truly personal experience.
KE: What has been your most memorable moment here at Kydz Hangout?
Swathi: As clichéd as it sounds, every day is full of memorable moments while working with kids. Kids are warm, funny & honest and we love that we get to do what we do on a daily basis. All the smiles, tears & laughter that happen here & the little memories that people associate with the place are heart warming. We’d love for kids to look back at fond memories of the place when they are older.
KE: What’s in store for future?
Swathi: A million, zillion things if only time permitted! There are new ideas everyday with very little time to do everything! Practically speaking, we are planning to focus more on the “learn” part of our motto this year – lots of interesting collaborations, classes & workshops coming up – so stay tuned by following us on KidEngage and our social media channels!
We are a team that loves spending time with children. We read and play a lot with children. We love designing new DIY craft activities and science experiments. We also love doing book reviews, product reviews, and activity center reviews - to help out the parents. Some of us sing well. We all love to dance ! But we are almost always thinking about how to delight the kids we meet !