Before you take the plunge, however, do your homework! There are aspects to treating this demographic that you and your staff must know, from techniques for catering to small faces, bodies, fingers and toes, to rules for creating kid-friendly services, a few crucial legalities and, last but not least, devising a marketing strategy for your new venture.
THE FINER POINTS
Details are always important in service-oriented businesses, but this is particularly true when it comes to serving very young clients in a spa or salon. The right training is essential, starting with the child’s first interaction with spa staff. “Our employees are trained to greet youngsters by kneeling to the ground and saying hello in a child-friendly manner,” says Shana Ominsky, executive spa director at the family focused luxury resort Spa Montage in Deer Valley, Utah.
In general, ensuring positive experiences demands having a kid-friendly attitude. “Our staff is trained on treatments and products, but also on how to talk a child through a treatment,” says Stephanie Paul, senior director of franchise growth for Sweet & Sassy, a kids-only chain with 25 locations in the U.S. and two in Brazil. “You can’t treat a child the same way you treat an adult. For instance, after a manicure we’ll say to our younger guests, ‘Let’s hold our hands still like a princess because we don’t want to mess up our polish.’
“My biggest piece of advice to spa owners who want to add children’s services is to choose staff who really want to work with this demographic,” continues Paul. “There are some stylists or therapists you couldn’t pay enough to work with kids. It takes a special person.”
Working with young guests also requires a keen awareness of legalities. Although states’ laws differ, most dictate that children under the age of 18 cannot be in a closed-door treatment room without a parent or guardian present. There are also varying regulations concerning the handling of lice outbreaks, the performing of infant massage and even the hosting of spa parties. Texas, for instance, requires a 2:1 ratio of party coordinators to children.
You can, of course, set additional rules as you see fit. Spa Montage doesn’t allow children under the age of 16 to use the lounge area. “These kids need to come from their hotel rooms already wearing their robes, which we provide at check-in, along with our Children’s Signature Services spa menu and some special bath salts,” says Ominsky. This practice not only protects child guests, but it works as a marketing tool for the spa as well!REWARDING EXPERIENCES
There are four key considerations to crafting a children’s treatment menu: 1) Keep services short (under 30 minutes). 2) Ensure that the techniques and products used are gentle and non-invasive. 3) Swap out grown-up lavender or eucalyptus scents for something fun: chocolate or cotton candy, for example. 4) Design the menu to speak to both children and parents. Regarding the last item, children’s branding specialist Leah Komaiko issues a warning: “Remember that the child is the customer and the parent is the [paying] client. You want to market to the client, so keep materials in line with what you’re already doing at your spa. This is especially important if you’re a luxury spa. It can’t be a drastic change from luxury to Chuck E. Cheese.”
To that end, Spa Montage’s Children’s Signature Services spa menu features the same color, font and design as the adult menu, with a simple image of lemons on top. “Our menu design had to include a level of sophistication, especially for the older children,” says Ominsky. “In the end, we’re really still marketing to the parents.”
And what kinds of treatments should grace that children’s menu? For young girls, look first to fingers and toes! Nail technicians at ESSpa Kozmetika Organic Skincare, with multiple locations in Pennsylvania, delight kids aged 5-9 with ESSpa’s My First Manicure ($18) and My First Pedicure ($25), both of which feature exciting, bubbly soaks. Spa Montage spices up its Children’s Manicure (30 min./$50); Children’s Pedicure (30 min./$60); and Mommy and Me Salon Experience (90 min./$255 per couple)—which includes a manicure and pedicure—with yummy scents in the soaking water.
Sweet & Sassy’s Mini-Mani & Mini-Pedi (45 min./$30- $35) are among its most popular services. “We offer polishes in pinks and purples with glitter, nail art, and finger and toe rings,” says Paul. “The service includes a hand, foot and leg massage with a yummy-scented, aloe-based lotion in cotton candy, strawberry, grape or lemon drop scent, an aloe-base sugar scrub, and polish with one piece of nail art. On delicate skin like this, we don’t buff, cut cuticles or use a callous remover.”
Although toddlers and children don’t exactly need facials yet, they will eventually. So, Spa Montage developed its Mommy and Me Facial (60 min./$425 per couple). “It’s a great way to introduce them to proper skincare and the spa experience early on, and it’s a fun thing to do with Mom,” says Ominsky. Sweet & Sassy wins over young skincare customers with a mini facial that features an aloe-based chocolate mask. “It feels great on the skin and they love the smell,” says Paul. ESSpa offers an affordable alternative with its My First Facial (30-45 min./$50).
–By Carrie Borzillo