Julian Kayibanda’s love for kids inspired her to do more for them and in a way, show her affection. She started “The Playground” with the aim of tackling a wider gap of lack of access to ‘Learning through Play’. The mother-of-two organises kid’s parties, develops play grounds and play spaces, she also develops play materials using locally sourced materials and anything to ensure kids can play and learn. She had a chat with Donah Mbabazi.
What inspired your decision to start this line of work?
My inspiration for this work is twofold; first, a few years ago in my professional work, I realised children, especially in the rural areas, have no access to play and learning materials. They just loiter and run around with nothing tangible to learn from or play with, it burdened me and I had to do something about it.
Secondly, I am a mother of two and every time I wanted to take kids out or plan a small party; I had to spend a lot of time looking for party materials and then putting everything together. With this, I figured every parent or caregiver could be going through the same hassle, I hence took this as an opportunity to step in and help parents organise great moments for their kids and families, hence ‘The Playground’ initiative.
It must be hectic as people have complicated demands sometimes, how do you pull it off?Does it get frustrating?
Of course; just like any other project or business, there are hectic and stressing moments. Being a parent, however, has taught me some level of patience and so it’s fun doing it. I have kind of learned what makes kids have fun and be happy so I try to ask the parents to let me do what is best for the kids, not the parents. If it’s a kid’s party, I have to ensure kids have fun and play, not necessarily in a structured manner.
What are some of the party packages you offer?
I am currently focusing on children’s parties and so the packages really depend on the kids’ age ranges, space and expectations of the client. But they normally include; play materials, decoration, kids gifts, entertainment, art, music, bouncing castles, portable swimming pools, kids’ games and sometimes cakes if a client wants one in case of a birthday party.
What are some of the kids themes that parents can explore?
The kid’s party themes are usually developed along with the parents but sometimes, we give them a proposal though some parents also know exactly what they want and that’s what we go for. As an early childhood development practitioner, I also try to incorporate a “Learning through Play’ component for the kids. It’s the reason I got into this initiative in the first place and it’s always at the back of my mind.
The themes always have a fun learning moment, some of them include; ‘School is Cool’- this includes school activities like art, music etc in a cool way, ‘Cat Cake’ - if a kid loves cats, a cat cake format might be a good theme, ‘Backyard Camp’; one where kids use the back of the house to camp in a canvas and play in there. ‘Hello Kitty’ - one where everything is about kitty, the dress, the cake, the deco and all, ‘Game Theme’- one where it’s purely about games, here kids play all sorts of games, great in outdoor venues, ‘Untidy Messy’ theme- this involves kids getting as messy as they can get, great activities for this is sand boxes, paint, mud…all these among other themes.
What are budget options for a great kid’s party? Thanks for asking that question, many people think having a great kid’s party requires a lot of money and therefore keep away from party organisers like us but to be honest, with Rwf150,000 you can have a great and fun event for your kids without necessarily having the expensive materials.
Kids do not need a lot to have fun; we make an effort to work within the client’s budget. Sometimes we can ask them to buy just the materials and we do everything else but there are also parents who really want high end and more options and sometimes someone will part with Rwf400, 000 if they need more things, especially if bigger kids are involved, younger kids come with a lower budget.
What’s the one thing parents should have in mind when organising parties for children?
Parents should first of all break the stereotype that it’s expensive and that high-end party supplies are needed. Secondly, parents should not try to structure things for the kid’s parties, instead, try to figure out what will make kids have more fun, not what is more costly because one can even spend a lot and the kids will not even like it, that’s why unless if it’s really the big kids who know exactly what they want, kids can have fun with anything, as long as it’s not harmful. Creativity is key in kids’ parties.
How long does it take to put everything required for the party together?
Over time, I have realised that the timing really depends on the theme, size, venue and expected number of kids in the party. But I have also realised that it depends on mastery. Before it used to take about three to five hours, but now, maximum time in a mid-large party, three hours are enough.
What common mistakes do you think people make when planning parties for their kids?
Like I mentioned before, people usually make a fuss, and I think it’s not just kids’ parties but weddings and other dos. Just make it simple and fun for the kids. Another mistake is that parents often times do what they want and not what the kids want hence it ends up expensive or not fun.
Just ask a three-year-old what she wants for her party and you will be surprised what she will ask for. She might never think of a mobile swimming pool, but just many coloured balloons and face painting. Of course I cannot underrate the fact that some kids really know what they want.
What are some of your favourite themes?
To be honest, ‘Games and Untidy Messy’ have so far been my favourite, it really brings out the best of kids and by the end of it, they have clearly been entertained. But I know many parents who cannot stand their kids in a mess. But kids should be let loose; that’s how they learn and have fun.
What hardships do you face when setting up a party?
I have not really faced any hardships per se; I would say a few challenges include finding the appropriate materials for certain themes. We are lacking in party supplies and so I usually go online to figure out how to make some of them myself, but again, raw materials are hard to come by.
What’s the most unusual request a client has ever made?
To be honest I think the mentality for organising party kids is not yet rooted among us and so people don’t know what to ask for beyond castles and balloons. I usually make them an offer and give options. Hence no crazy requests have come through. But I think it would be great if I got those, they help me to be more creative and think outside the box.
Has a client ever asked for your services and tried to get out of paying after delivering?
No never. My clients have all been great so far.
In your opinion, what is better, a party at home or out?
You know a party is great anywhere even in the middle of the road; it really depends on one’s capacity, guest list and the kind of activities to be involved. All these options are great if the focus is on making kids have fun. I can only say outdoor is better for older kids who look for activities like swimming and soccer, etcetera. But generally all venues are great.