How families are feeling about children's activities now that cities are reopening.

As cities around the U.S. start to reopen, we asked parents for their perspective on the children’s activities and enrichment space.  Our goal with this survey was to help enrichment providers better understand parent sentiments and expected budgets for the rest of this year.  But we also wanted to help parents see how other families are thinking about things to hopefully feel less alone in their planning. 

Below is everything we’ve learned so far from the nearly 640 families who responded to the survey. 

Parents are stressed

sentiments from parents

Of the 637 parents who answered the the question, “How are you feeling about everything going on,” more than 70% of parents admitted to being stressed about their family’s emotional and financial stability.  

Our Takeaway for Parents: Just like you help your children identify their emotions, check in with yourself often to label what you’re feeling. If you’re feeling anxious or stressed, try to identify the specific thought or fear creating that feeling and ask yourself whether or not that fear is justified.  If it is, what can you do to minimize the likelihood of that happening? 

Our Takeaway for Providers: As parents navigate the end of the school year and debate whether they’re ready to send kids to activities or camp, lead with empathy.  Do your best to be a support for them and have patience with nervous parents who may need extra communication.

Parents are prioritizing outdoor time and activities with friends and family

How children will rebound

Parents were able to select multiple options when asked what they thought would help their children rebound the fastest over the next 6 months.  It’s clear that social engagement in high on the priority list, as is spending more time outside.  

Our Takeaway for Parents: Knowing that people have different levels of comfort with social distance activities, try to find other friends and family that share your family’s perspective. If you’re more relaxed, find other friends who feel similarly and invite them for safe activities. If you’re more on the conservative side or in a higher risk community, chances are your kiddos are pretty sick of zoom calls.  Instead, try apps like Facebook Messenger for Kids to give those old enough an opportunity to safely connect with classmates, play the Pictionary game with relatives on HouseParty, or create asynchronous videos with friends and family using the Marco Polo app. 

Our Takeaway for Providers: We’re seeing camps and activity providers get creative. One of our favorites trends we’re seeing is Backyard Summer Camps, where providers come to a host’s backyard and lead 5-10 children from the neighborhood or school through a social distance sports, art, dance, or educational camp for 2 hours.  Continue doing your zoom or Facebook livestream classes, but try to think of ways you can bring in-person engagement to the families you serve. 

Parents are expecting to invest in enrichment activities but are likely to spend 50% less

parent spending on activities post covid

When asked how much they normally spend on their children’s activities and enrichment, 52% of parents said they spend at least $100 or more per month.  72% of parents said they are the same or more likely to invest in children’s activities and enrichment after things reopen, but 51% of parents said they’d likely spend 50% less on those activities, and 11% said they would spend 75% less. However, 31% of parents encouragingly said they’d spend 25% or more. Additionally, 68% of parents said they are willing to pay for or split the processing fees for their activity purchases.  

Our Takeaway for Parents: Nearly every family in the U.S. is financially affected by COVID-19.  So please know that you’re not alone.  Now more than ever, it appears activity providers are trying to work to make their activities affordable for families.  If you have an activity you’re hoping to do, talk to the provider about sibling discounts, setting up a payment plan for higher costs expenses like summer camp, or see if you can split a session with another family so you each are only attending and paying for half.  

Our Takeaway for Providers: We know how hard your revenue has been hit, and learning that families will likely spend less over the next 6-12 months is scary.  If possible, find ways to make revenue less bumpy by offering monthly payment plans to families or offering a discount if they can afford to pay several months in advance.  Now is a great time to understand the true costs of operating your businesses, from rent to utilities to instructor salaries and supplies.  Determine how much you need to charge to be cash flow positive given the capacity constraints of reopening.  

Parents are most excited about physical activities and introducing new skills to their children.

Swimming, sports and dancing topped the list of activities parents were most excited to get their children involved in over the next 6 months.  They also showed a strong preference for introducing children to new skills and choosing activities to help make up for some lost classroom time.  

Our Takeaway for Parents: Now may be the time to look for more individual sports like martial arts, tennis, or gymnastics where social distancing is easier and your kids can burn off some pent up energy.  

Our Takeaway for Providers: If your a provider of an activity that is less active like sing a longs, story times, or reading clubs perhaps there’s a way to incorporate more physical movement into your curriculum during this time. 

Health concerns and family finances will delay participation

families are nervous about health safety and finances

45% of respondents said the number one reason they may be less likely to participate in children’s activities was health concerns, followed by 39% pointing to family finances.  

Our Takeaway for Parents: Before signing up for children’s activities make sure you feel comfortable with the precautions the businesses are taking to clean and maintain social distancing.  Additionally, we believe there will be many free and discounted experiences available for families dealing with financial strain. 

Our Takeaway for Providers: Work closely with families to communicate your procedures and any scholarships or financial aid you may be offering.  

Even when things reopen, parents will be slow to return to children's activities.

how quickly families will return to activities

Despite parents’ enthusiasm to engage and enrich their children, they were fairly divided on how quickly they will resume activities.  While 46% said they’d return within a month of their cities re-opening, 45% said it could take them as long as 6 months to feel comfortable and another 6% said it would not happen for their children until 2021.   

Our Takeaway for Parents: Resuming activities is such a personal choice.  Follow the guidance of your local officials and the data and make the best decision for your family’s health. 

Our Takeaway for Providers: The responses to this question should hopefully make you feel more confident that your limited capacity will line up with demand.  But we understand that operating at 50% capacity and revenue will create its own stresses on your businesses.  You may want to consider shortening classes slightly to create more schedules and time for cleaning between classes.  And, you will likely need to adjust pricing to make your business more sustainable. 

The majority of families have tried virtual classes, but most have not paid for them and are unlikely to continue participating when things reopen.

parent spending on activities post covid

76% of families participated in online classes, but only 36% paid for a virtual activity. Families’ preferred platform was Zoom, with 75% reporting they prefer it over other platforms. Facebook Live came in second with 10%.  When asked how much parents would be willing to pay for virtual classes, 72% responded $10 or less. 

Our Takeaway for Parents: We don’t know how long it will take for everyone to get comfortable returning to normal activities, so it seems virtual enrichment may be some children’s only option for activities parents can’t facilitate on their own, like Spanish lessons, ballet, or coding.  You may find it more affordable and more fun for kids to get into a rhythm with the same students each week, so consider monthly memberships to virtual programs. 

Our Takeaway for Providers:  Despite the fact that many parents don’t want to pay for virtual classes, this is the first time in history that you’ve been able to bring your programming to a broader community.  Now rural families, families abroad, children with disabilities can more easily participate.  Consider the audiences most eager to invest in your online activities and let them know about your offerings through Facebook groups, parent groups, local schools, houses of worship, and if you have the budget, Facebook ads. 

Social media remains the most important source of children's activity ideas.

how parents find activities

We asked families where they turn to discover enrichment for their children, and 55% said they rely on Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites for recommendations.  Google search came in second with 26%.  This tells us that as much as we may want to find alternative paths to families, Facebook and Google are still crucial to this industry. 

Our Takeaway for Parents: If you haven’t already, make sure you join local parenting groups on Facebook or sign up for Nextdoor, so you can get the most up to date recommendations from parents with children of similar ages and interest. 

Our Takeaway for Providers:  Social media is still a valuable place for you to spend your time.  Make sure you or a teammate are participating in discussions in parenting groups, keeping your Google Business page up to date with post COVID-19 hours and schedules, and use promoted posts on Facebook to affordably get parents to know about your businesses. 

While much of this may be disappointing and scary for both activity providers and parents, it’s crucial that we remember who is really at a loss through all of this…our nation’s children.  The sooner we can recover, the sooner our children can return to the social, physical, and educational development they need so much.

See the full survey report here.