Debbie Milner, Founder and CEO
In 1988, KidsPark was the original “disrupter” in traditional childcare in California. I introduced licensed, hourly-care. Why? Quite simply, because I needed it. An advisor told me to find the service or product that was missing from my life. I needed childcare on demand, without reservations, when you need it days, evenings and weekends. It became my niche and passion.
Was I the only Mom that couldn’t juggle it all? (Let me know – send an email.) I was new to California, didn’t have any family in the area, worked full-time as an Information Systems for HP, my husband traveled a great deal and I had Rita, a 2-year old. Yikes! I just needed a few hours here and there to take care of errands, get a haircut, see a doctor, or have some down-time.
I tried finding a babysitter, but I never remembered to schedule one early enough and couldn’t find one on the spur of the moment. Plus, I felt better leaving Rita with an adult than a teenager and I wanted her to have other children to play with. When my research confirmed it wasn’t just me, other families needed hourly care, I moved forward. I spent a year figuring out how it could work and raising some capital.
Creating a company was very important to me. I wanted to control my work life. I was a latchkey kid, so my hot button was to be home in the afternoon with my daughter. My version of life-work balance was to work before she got up, while she was at school, and then when she was in bed. When she was little, she came to work with me. Remember, this was back in 1988, before flex-time and job-sharing.
Being able to control one’s schedule resonates throughout KidsPark. Three times a year, we ask our teachers when they want to work. We build our schedule around their requests. This way a mom can work days when her children are in school and switch to evenings for the summer when school is out. Or college students can change their schedules each semester depending on their courses. I think this has helped us build a strong team – we have teachers who have been with us for 20+ years!
Debbie Milner, CEO
Debra Milner, Founder and CEO
Or, should I say play escape!
Only in the 20th century has play been so strongly associated with a toy rather than an activity. But, play does not need to center around the newest, most expensive gadget. Play doesn’t have to cost a lot. KidsPark “is play without batteries”, according to Arlington, TX KidsPark center owners, Beth Christie and Heather Alanis. Child initiated play lets children explore, test, create and follow their own interests. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and United Nations High Commission for Human Rights confirm play is an essential part of a child’s development.
Many years ago I worked for Lakeside Toys. We held children’s focus groups to see what attracted and held their attention. I observed children playing in a co-operative environment – kids building on each other’s stories and insights. The activities that held their attention offered:
• new options each time
• many routes to take – not just a “right one”.
• objects in a variety of colors, textures and shapes
We incorporate this into KidsPark’s layout and selection of activities. Check-out our Pinterest pages for ideas. Create your own play-scape at home.
Time — play happens outside of lesson plans, appointments and routines. Let it initiate by leaving blocks of unscheduled time for children to be playful and engage their imagination.
Art Station – play needs a certain amount of choice. There must be room for using things and doing things in new ways. Put out an Art box and see what happens! Fill a cardboard box, or storage bin with:
- color pencils
- blunt scissors
- glue stick
- water color paints
- white paper
- color paper
- construction paper
- tissue paper
- recycle paper tubes
- wrapping paper
For older children add:
- sharp scissors
- white glue
- fancy edged scissors
Storage – If it may take more than 1 sitting to finish, start the project on a tray or board that can be moved out of the way if you are using a kitchen or dining room table. I prefer to move it into the child’s room so it is a reminder to finish the project (else it might sit in the corner of the living room forever). It also makes the child responsible for its safety.
Indoor Play – The simplest is a bubble bath with lots of toys. Set up a cozy clubhouse by draping a sheet or bring in a large box. Turn off the lights and play with a flashlight and shadows. Act out a favorite story or TV show.
Outdoor Play – be playful. Simple things will engage children’s imagination and senses. Try: Bubbles (Dawn works great); pail of water, ladle and measuring cups; dirt, scoops and plastic containers
I hope you have a ton of fun watching, and maybe joining, your child in play. I’m getting off my soapbox now, so I can play with it! It could become a… robot, a go-cart, a playhouse ….
Debbie Milner, CEO
Debra Milner, Founder and CEO
Is KidsPark a treat or a routine? Good question.
One answer is, “It depends.” Many families use KidsPark as a reward for their children or an indulgence for themselves. Other families come specific times, like clockwork, so their kids stay in a schedule or so parents can attend recurring activities.
Personally, I think for kids and parents, KidsPark is both.
Developing a routine for kids is important so they feel secure in knowing what to expect. However, no one wants “boredom”, and that is a fine line. Coming to KidsPark is routine in the sense kids know the check-in process and the activity areas, but it is a treat to do something new. We rotate toys, introduce new games and have different themes each month.
For parents with fixed commitments, it’s nice to know you can routinely depend on KidsPark without the hassle of calling ahead to reserve a space. But, being open days, evenings and weekends also gives families versatility if anything in their schedule changes.
It is a treat to come at different times. Who doesn’t enjoy a night out? I do! You do! So do kids. Many parents may worry about disrupting a sleep schedule or the kids are not in their own bed. But, that is what makes it a treat for the kids – they get to do something different. Doesn’t everyone remember the times their parents let them stay up for a special occasion? How nice to be “treated” like to be a “big kid”! And Parents, don’t worry if the kids get tired at KidsPark, we offer them quiet time in the theater with stories and calming music. Kids comfortably snuggle down when it is late and parents carry them to the car.
So, when asked about KidsPark, how about saying – it is a treat to be enjoyed routinely!
Debbie Milner, CEO
Leslie Gamez, VP of Franchising
Is KidsPark right for me?
- Do you desire a strong work life balance?
- Do you have the passion to build a business you would use?
- Do you want to provide a needed service to your community?
- Do you want to have fun while working?
If you answered yes, you are our franchisee!
Why not do it myself?
Being an entrepreneur has its perks!
- Flexible schedule.
- Be your own boss.
- Create a business built from passion.
But, doing it alone can be terrifying. Franchising provides the autonomy to be an independent business owner, but with the support of a large company. It’s a win-win situation. You always have the support of a team of other business minded entrepreneurs.
From the minute we meet to begin the vetting process, we develop a personal relationship. We lead you through our discovery process one step at a time. All along you have the opportunity to “kick the tires”. You are encouraged to do market research, ask questions, speak to our Franchisees and gather all of the information needed to make an informed business decision.
If a franchise is awarded, we hit the ground running. We teach you the KidsPark way:
- Area Analysis
- Site Selection
- City and State Regulations
- Center Build Out
- Program Implementation
- Brand Standards
- Grand Opening
KidsPark’s franchise opportunity is pretty close to a turnkey solution. We share our proven methodology. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. If you need it, chances are we’ve already thought of it. Over 25 years of business experience is documented.
Happiness is in our bones. Happy kids. Happy parents. Happy franchisees.
Leslie Gamez, VP of Franchising
Debra Milner, Founder and CEO
I bet about this time of year you are tired of hearing “I want …” from your kids. When my daughter was young, I got really tired of it, especially when it referred to clothes. I like clothes, too, and am willing to indulge my inner diva. So, I understand I may
have been an enabler, but it needed to be controlled.
When she was about 11 years old she was given a monthly clothes allowance. The rules were simple:
- If it shows (ie, underwear doesn’t count), you buy it.
- Exceptions: winter coats, special event outfits and 2 pairs of shoes a year.
Cut and dry. No more arguments. She had a VisaBuxx card that refilled each month. Although unspent money could be carried over, there was no borrowing ahead. When it was gone, it was gone.
Shopping with her became a pleasure. Suddenly, she evaluated her purchases.
- Would she wear it often?
- Did it go with other things she already owned?
- How well was it made?
I knew it hit home when we were shopping for a special event outfit and I had to nix her choice. But, I graciously said she could buy it with HER money. She said “No, it isn’t worth it.“ Aha! If it isn’t worth your money, then it isn’t worth mine!
Of course she learned the expected:
- evaluating purchases
But, the biggest surprise was what I learned? Kids can respect rules and meet expectations.
- Kids truly value the things they work for.
- (Tough one.) Not to offer my opinion until asked.
- (Tougher one.) To let her make mistakes and live with them.
- (THE toughest one.) She is growing up.
Now, when we shop, there are many times we look at each other and simultaneously wink as we say “would you spend your money on this?”
Leslie Gamez, VP of Franchising
Words like easy, simple and less stress are not associated with the holidays … EVER! As parents, the demands of this time of year are daunting:
- gift exchanges with friends
- classroom parties, teacher gifts
- holiday concerts
- community events
- cookie exchanges
And the list goes on. Now sprinkle in work, out of town guests, family and home life responsibilities – whew!
Taking the time to focus on your child’s wish list can be additional stress. Reduce some of the cost and stress with this rule of thumb. Gift giving should include:
Consider one favorite item, a must have, or can’t live without it gift for this category. We all love the idea of a wish list – dream the big dream. With all the latest and greatest electronics, styles, gadgets and galore, it’s hard to ignore the “wants”. But, encourage varied items on the wish or (want) list to ease the financial burden and stress of failing to deliver.
Maybe replenish a mid-year school supply or athletic gear.
- colorful writing tools add pizazz to homework any day
- fun, colorful bins, white boards or lamp to organizing desks or homework spaces
- a bright tote or lunch bag finishes at the top of the list for school essentials
- a new pair of cleats, ballet shoes, or music book
Wearable gifts rock from head to toe!
- Head gear: cool new hat or beanie
- Foot patrol: crazy socks or silly mismatched socks, stylish boots
- Most kids can’t live without their favorite animal or superhero t-shirt, or festive sweater.
- Who doesn’t love a new pair of jammies? I know who; the kiddos!
The gift that keeps on giving.
- a magazine subscription
- new picture books
- the latest fictional series soon-to-be-motion-picture-movie-blockbuster-franchise
As gifts are unwrapped, I think you’ll have tears of joy, not cries of disappointment. Turn gift giving into a win-win and de-stress the holidays, or any gifting occasion, with a fun twist and new rule of thumb. Happy kids. Happy parents. Happy gift giving.
Debra Milner, Founder and CEOQuestion:
If you got 30 women of varying ages, professions and locations together and ask them what they needed to make their lives better, what do you think their response would be?
Surprised? I was.
I attended a meeting last month and was surprised to hear the stories of struggles, choices and frustrations that covered the last 30 years. As much as I think things have gotten easier with flex-time, job sharing and more involved Dads, women were griping.
After sifting through the gripes at this meeting, what I found interesting is the true gist of their complaints wasn’t the lack of affordable childcare services, but the perceived lack of emotional support when their schedules veered off the traditional 8am – 5pm workday. This can happen when dealing with:
- childcare snags,
- kids activities,
- aging parents or
- sick relatives.
They hated the “looks” from co-workers or snide remarks when they left early or came in late due to family responsibilities.
Would this have been resolved if they had closed the communication loop?
Women (everyone, really) have to stop assuming everyone knows what they are thinking. If they are leaving work early to attend to family needs, and their co-workers are working hard to meet a critical deadline, it may be best to say, ”Don’t worry, I will have the report to you no later than 10pm tonight – we will make our deadline.“ This is much better than sneaking out and leaving people wondering about your commitment. We all want confirmation that:
- we are important,
- our messages are being heard and
- our commitments will be met.
When my daughter was a baby, I was a manager at a tech company. I changed my hours to 6:30am-3:30pm, which was much earlier than most of my team. I admit to pangs of guilt when leaving. Thinking back, this was pre-email and cell phones (yikes), which would have made keeping in contact much simpler. However, the guilt became less as my team realized they had my attention — the same level of support and commitment as before. Plus, early morning problems were solved before they arrived!
By closing-the-loop in communication, I think we create a circle of support.
This is what I want.
I think this is something we can get.
Debra Milner, Founder and CEO
Who doesn’t need a good cry sometimes? If a person cries, it is an expression of:
Same with children. It may be even more important for young children who have not developed many verbal skills yet.
What to do? At KidsPark, the first question is always – Are you hurt? Once we are assured a child is physically fine, then we can probe. We REACH out to the children.
- Recognize the feeling. Are you feeling _______? Fill-in: sad, scared, mad
- Empathize and acknowledge their feeling. I can understand how you would feel ______.
- Assure them it will be OK. Mom will be right back.
- Comfort them. Can I give you a hug? Want to build a tower? Want to color?
- Help redirect their attention. Let’s join the circle time. I want you to meet one of my friends _____.
Before you know it, tears are a thing of the past.
There are times when a child does not want to be comforted. That’s when you see our sign “No Hugs Wanted”. We have tried to comfort the child but they get more hysterical. These children need some time to settle down before they can be approached. At home, this is a good time for a child to rest in their room or be asked to quietly sit. Many child psychologists recommend not giving children electronics to divert their attention – they need to develop diversion skills on their own. Once they have self-soothed, we address their needs.
Parents, let’s not overlook the happiness cry – the best cry of all! We all experience the slow, eye misting to swelling tears rolling down our cheeks. The sheer happiness of remembering or sharing something special. I hope we all have many, many happy cries.
Quality Early Childhood Education focuses on how children learn and develop through curriculum. At KidsPark, we add an E for environment, Early Childhood Education and Environment. By design, KidsPark looks different from the traditional preschool or childcare center.
We believe our environments set the stage for playful learning, successful outcomes and most importantly fun! We see the positive results daily in our Preschool Education, Hourly Play and School Age environments.
KidsPark’s hourly program and preschool classes provide parents the flexibility to introduce a high quality early learning environment to their child on their own schedule.
Our trained, professional teacher’s have the child’s best interest at heart. We consciously set up the program to encourage interaction with materials and one another. We “coach” and “model” appropriate interaction.
Children succeed when they are interested learners. That’s easy – our environment allows flexibility within the schedule, daily routine and curriculum offered to meet the social, emotional, physical and mental development of the child.
Our centers allow for peer to peer problem solving, turn taking and opportunities for children to navigate their own play and rules. Patience is learned and shared daily.
Our team teaching approach allows interaction from different personalities, styles of teaching and experiences. Most importantly we share our expertise to create enthusiasm and develop the child’s love of learning.
Our program, center layout and schedule of activities cultivates a culture of teamwork. Group games, cooperative clean up, small group activities and team teaching are present daily.
Confidence and Self-Esteem
It’s simple – children have the autonomy to choose at KidsPark! We set the stage, create interest areas, offer engaging activities and allow children to choose their play based on interest.
We create a new day of discovery and learning for every child whether they visit hourly, daily or more frequently. ECEE may “sound easy”, but it takes work, experimentation and training. When we say “we play all day, every day” we mean business!
For more details on the key benefits to ECE, read this article by Vicki Palmer, a career early childhood educator and founder of TicTacTeach.com.
Debra Milner, Founder and CEO
The calendar says it is Spring but, in most of the country, it hasn’t felt like it. It has been cold, wet and dreary… and not necessarily in that order. I can’t seem to get going.
I notice kids feeling the “drag”, too. It happens. They want to be less active, sometimes are less tolerant of change or requests and seem to need more motivation. Sound familiar?
Well, enough of this! Let’s feel “spring-like” – have enthusiasm and energy to match the proposed season. Here’s a game plan:Move away from the computer! Get out-of-the-house. Plan outings with friends and family.
- Visit a museum, go bowling, meet for a movie or go to the zoo. Truly, “the more the merrier” when building energy.
- Do something physical. If you can’t go outside for a walk or playground visit, exercise or dance inside. Kids love to “rock-out” and upbeat music tends to improve moods. Does anyone remember the song “Go You Chicken Fat, Go!”? Kids will have fun with it.
- Create a buzz. Host an impromptu dinner and let the kids help cook or make festive table decorations. Have a tea party. Play pretend with your favorite stories or shows.
- Get excited about something that interests you. Go to the library to let the kids explore different topics. Roam a crafts store for a new hobby or inspiration for a current one. Maybe this is the time to enroll in classes: music, dance, sewing, drawing, computer…
- Change something in the house. Could be as simple as a vase of flowers. Rearrange the furniture. Paint an accent wall.
This worked for me:
- I went with girlfriends to see the amazing Bouquets to Art at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco. Seeing the flowers indoors helped lighten the spirit. Also gave me ideas on flower arrangements … although, mine will never look that good!
- Met a friend for a long (cold) walk. Had a dinner party – the aromas in the house were energizing, just like the company.
- Read 2 great books (My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman (love all his books), Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng)
- Finished knitting a sweater I had put aside.
I can happily say I AM READY FOR SPRING even if the weather isn’t!
This list is going on my bulletin board as a reminder of what to-do next time I have an energy drain.
High energy. Something for everyone. Caring. Enriching. And, some might say, “it’s a zoo!” We smile, and say, “it’s great to see the kids having fun.”
You may see some kids in the midst of movement games, some on the mountain-of-energy, some in the creative process at the art tables, some at work on a lego or waffle block structure and some in conversation with friends.
We see an organized program with planned tiers of activity for each age group – preschool and school-age.
- There is a mix of teacher-organized and child-initiated activities in both group and individual settings.
- Play components are selected to promote cooperation, socialization, listening skills and motor development.
- It is a family environment where siblings can be together in non-gross motor activities.
How to use our program.
- On your own schedule. Come when you need us – days, evenings and weekends.
- For young children new to childcare, keep your first visits short till they are comfortable with the routine.
- Be prepared. Come for a tour and register so you are ready if there is a schedule glitch or your regular provider or school is closed
- For young children, have them visit a few times before they are left for a full day so they are comfortable with the environment.
- Pick your schedule. Pick your days. Perhaps come for 1 or 2 days a week until they are use to school. Then, add more days.
- Do you usually come Monday-Wednesday-Friday but one week you miss Wednesday? No problem, come Tuesday or Thursday or skip a day.
- Lessons are repeated throughout the week in new ways to engage all learners. This method is ideal with children on different schedules. Each child is exposed to the same material.
- No need to pay when you are on vacation or your child doesn’t attend.
Very happy parties.
On Sundays, KidsPark offers private parties for 2-12 year olds. Your personal party hostess plans the event and conducts activities so you can enjoy the event with your family and friends.
Party packages include:
- A personal party hostess to plan, coordinate and clean up.
- Face Painting
- An art project
- Group games
- Favors for each guest
- A gift for the birthday child
- Complimentary paper plates, forks, napkins, juice.
- Meals by arrangement
Parties are Sunday mornings and evenings. Check with your local KidsPark center for details, prices and to reserve the date for your special event. The host family must be registered at KidsPark.
For your convenience, please use punchbowl.com to invite your guests.
Join our family of franchisees.
We envision KidsPark centers in cities across the United States. If you are a business-minded individual who wants an entrepreneurial opportunity to contribute a needed service to your community and are prepared to invest between $258,750 and $472,950, take a close look at KidsPark. As a KidsPark owner, you will share a reputation for quality, a proven method of operation and an innovative program.
Entrepreneur Magazine listed childcare and KidsPark as one of the hottest franchises for 2020.
Are you the right fit?
KidsPark owners are customers themselves. You value this type of service and would use it in your community. You recognize the importance of a quality play program for children and extended support for busy families.
Our Ideal candidate is comfortable being the face of the brand, marketing savvy, business minded, ambitious and detail oriented. Previous childcare experience isn’t necessary. We have documented every step of owning and operating a KidsPark franchise.
KidsPark Inc. Corporate Office
2858 Stevens Creek Blvd. Suite 201
San Jose, CA 95128
We encourage parents and children to take a tour of our center and meet our staff. This eases the transition on your first visit, especially for very young children. If your child seems overwhelmed with the activity, we suggest you allow them to observe before they join in. When they are ready, teachers will direct them into an appropriate activity.
For more detailed coverage of what you can expect, see our FAQs page.
- Socks are to be worn in the play area.
- Diapers are welcomed. If your child is in diapers, bring a spare.
- If your child is toilet training, bring extra clothes in case they are too busy playing to stop. (We will remind them!)
- Label all items and meals from home.
- Complimentary snacks of crackers with 100% apple juice served at 10am, 3pm and 8pm.
- Naps are not scheduled since children arrive at various times. If a child is tired, they are encouraged to rest in our theater area.
- Let your children use our toys. Personal electronics (games, music devices and cell phones) are not permitted in the play area.
- Our fees are calculated to the minute after the first 30 minutes. Payment for your visit is due upon checkout. We accept cash, Visa and MasterCard.
December 5, 2015
All aboard! Enjoy a round trip of holiday fun inspired by the movie Polar Express.
December 19, 2015
Shh.... It's a surprise. Take home a gift for someone special.
January 9, 2016
Chill with us. Our winter wonderland is so cool it's hot!
January 30, 2016
Messy is fun! Explore your senses. Mix, squish and slime.
May 21, 2017
Ready to walk the plank? It’s a pirates life for us. Ahoy matey!
March 2, 2016
We DO like to party, just like you! Celebrate Dr. Seuss and his magical world.
March 26, 2016
Little mad scientists discover, play and learn.
November 7, 2015
Fall into hair raising fun. Spike, spray color, braid, up-do, sparkle and gel all sorts of exciting new looks. Come any time, the KidsPark stylists are here all day!
November 21, 2015
Gobble! Gobble! Shake a tail feather in to feast on a day stuffed with Fall fun.
October 17, 2015
Celebrate Sweetest Day. Little chefs cook up spooky sweet treats!