How to make your waiting room child-friendly

How to make your waiting room child-friendly

Is your waiting room kid friendly? Bored kids often act out, so having a welcoming space helps decrease crying, whining, and other problem behaviors. Kid-friendly spaces also mean happier, less-stressed parents. When you make it easier for parents to run errands, they’ll be more likely to return to your company and recommend you. That’s good for your bottom line!

Waiting rooms for doctors and dentists tend to be kid friendly. But those aren’t the only businesses where kids must wait with their parents. Whether you run a quick lube, a nail salon, or any other business with a waiting area, a few simple steps will help children feel more comfortable.

Give them something to do

Since boredom and bad behavior often go hand in hand, give kids something to do while they’re waiting.

Reading material

Is the reading material in your waiting area kid-friendly?  If not, it’s time to add some children’s books and magazines.

Here are some ideas:

  • Ask employees to bring any books their children no longer need
  • Watch for appropriate books and magazines at yard sales
  • Go to a library book sale

You’ll need somewhere to store the books and magazines. Ideally, they’ll be stored at a height where kids can easily reach them. Arrange books neatly on an end table, put them in a basket, or a child-sized bookshelf. For magazines, consider adding a colorful magazine holder.

Since you aren’t creating a library, you don’t need a ton of material. Aim for six or seven books to be out at a time, along with two or three magazines. You can switch these out on a quarterly basis if desired to keep them current.

Try to get books and magazines that appeal to a variety of ages. You might include one or two board books for younger kids, some easy readers, and some classic picture books. Read them all before putting them out to ensure there’s no inappropriate content.

Materials to create

Reading isn’t the only way to occupy children in your office’s waiting room. By keeping a few key materials stocked and accessible, you can encourage children to create while they wait. Three items you’ll definitely need are paper, colored pencils, and a pencil sharpener. You could go with crayons instead of the colored pencils, but they break more easily and can melt if left in a sunny spot.

You can also display a list of ideas for things children can do with the materials. You can use these ideas to start your list:

  • Draw a picture of your neighborhood
  • Write a food starting with every letter of the alphabet
  • Fold the paper in half and make a card for someone you love
  • Make a maze or a dot-to-dot puzzle for someone to solve
  • Draw a self-portrait
  • Draw your favorite animal
  • Write a poem
  • Create a new ending to your favorite book

It’s a good idea to keep a recycle bin nearby to help keep the space clean.

Creative play

Creative play is so important for kids. You can encourage creativity by having some open-ended toys available. Since you’ll likely have a variety of ages playing with these, ensure nothing is a choking hazard.  Also, don’t select annoying toys with beeps and buzzers, because if you do you’ll have to listen to them all day long!

Here are some suggestions:

  • A toy kitchen with some pretend food
  • Building blocks
  • An activity table

You’ll need to remember to disinfect your toys, and ensure the area stays clean.  Also make sure the toys have a home. A simple basket or toy box works well.

Define the Space

Kid stuff doesn’t need to clutter up your entire waiting room. Keep it in one place by having a defined area. Ideally, you’ll place it a bit away from the receptionist so the background noise doesn’t overpower phone calls.

Table and chairs

If you have paper and colored pencils available, you’ll need a place for the children to create. A kid-sized table and chair set works perfectly. Think about how many kids are typically in the space simultaneously to determine how many chairs you’ll need.

To keep the area neat and inviting, wipe it clean frequently. Push the chairs back in as needed, and ensure the colored pencils aren’t strewn all over the floor.

Bulletin board

Including a bulletin board in your child’s area allows you to hang up their creations. Since you don’t want anything inappropriate displayed, you don’t want to let the kids hang things themselves. This means you’ll need to hang the bulletin board a little higher up on the walls to keep it out of reach.

Once a week or once a month you can select new pieces of artwork to display and toss the old ones. To manage the flow, you can add an inbox to the table with a note reading: If you’d like your creation to be considered for display, please leave it here before you go.

Consider the walls

If your walls are a boring color, you might consider spicing up the kid’s area with a bit of color. You can make it elaborate by painting a mural, or keep it simple by just using a contrasting color splash. You’ll want to go with a stain resistant paint.

Welcome them

Encourage your front office staff to greet not only the adult customers, but also the children who enter. A friendly smile and a warm, “Hello!” can help children feel welcomed and comfortable.

If children are spending time in your waiting room, taking some time to transform the space can be beneficial. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, or expensive. Taking the steps outlined above will help children, and the adults they are with, feel more comfortable.

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