We have somehow made it to the middle of May, and it's now been two months since we sadly had to stop our regular classes. We are missing seeing you all in person so much.
We've all had to adjust and adapt to this new way of living though, haven't we, with all the ups and downs it's brought us, and we're so thankful that we have been able to share what we do with you in new ways, and that so many have embraced Tots Play online. We love that we are still able be a part of your week, for so many, including lots that are new to us, and bringing some smiles to your living rooms, and we will continue to do so until we can be with you in person again.
Things have moved so fast for us as a business, and, thinking back over these last few weeks today, I wanted to share a few highlights with you, so these are just some of the ways that we have moved Tots Play into what, for now, is an online world!
The first few days when it became inevitable that regular classes were going to have to be suspended were a whirlwind! We didn't want to let anyone down who was already booked with us, but needed to quickly find solutions that would work both for our customers and our franchisees, with so many different circumstances to consider.
In that first week we rewrote around 3 months worth of lesson plans into a format that was able to be delivered remotely, and with minimal equipment needed for those joining in, recorded 16 of these full length class sessions to create online courses that could be easily accessed at home, and that our franchisees could benefit from sharing, learned new technology in order to set those courses up, and set up a new group Tots Play Families UK, to be a hub where we could share activities and keep connected with our Tots families across the country.
This started to give options for both our customers and our franchisees, some of whom immediately dived in to delivering live class sessions over Facebook or Zoom, and some who either needed time to adjust to that or for whom family commitments made it difficult or impossible, but who still wanted to be there for their customers, and keep their business going.
In the weeks that have followed we have started to find a new rhythm, and franchisees who were previously afraid to be in front of a camera, or had never attempted the kind of technology that has been needed to bring Tots Play to you online, have overcome their fears and embraced it all so that they can keep showing up for all our wonderful Tots and parents who have continued to support them.
Teamwork has been key to this, and we have brainstormed ideas, shared experiences and boosted each other's morale when it's been needed, and I am so proud of our team for this.
We have even created shared videos including a fun one for Easter, and this one explaining how we are able to support new parents at a time when they are telling us how much that's needed, through our online Baby Development courses.
Spreading the Word
One really positive aspect of taking our classes online has been the ability to reach more people, and support even more families than we normally would, and we have been delighted to welcome new Tots from all around the UK and beyond to our groups.
As part of this we have held nationally available sessions with Mush and with What's On 4 Kids, as well as local collaborations and are also involved with an upcoming charity event which includes streaming a special session to children in Great Ormond Street and other hospitals, which we are really excited about.
We also wanted to provide extra value for both our customers and franchisees alike, so are holding free weekly mini classes on our national Facebook page to give our franchisees the chance to showcase what they do to a wider audience. Do come and join us for one of these on a Thursday at 2pm if you haven't already.
Supporting Play Time Fun
While we have made sure that minimal resources are needed to join in our online sessions, there are a few items that we know our Tots love at classes, and our bundle packs of play at home and music at home resources have proved hugely popular.
We have also created a special resources pack for families with brand new babies joining our Baby Development courses, so that they can get all the benefits from this course that they would if joining a course in person, and these have been delivered direct to our customer's homes.
It has been so important to us to be able to continue to offer this course, as we know what an anxious and often lonely time those first few weeks with a new baby can be under normal circumstances - let alone under those new mummies and daddies are currently facing, and the feedback from both these and our online classes for our other age groups has been fantastic.
Here are just a couple of the reviews we have received;
Some of our franchisees have even hosted online birthday party sessions.
Thanks so much for all the reviews and pictures you have sent of your Tots enjoying classes, it really means so much to us to receive them and to have your support through all of this.
Here are just a couple, from the hundreds we have been sent - loving those smiles!
It's been a strange time for our newest franchisees too. We have a number of ladies who joined the team more recently and had been due to train and then launch their classes during these last few weeks, and while those plans have had to be amended, rather than putting everything on hold, we have been holding training sessions over Zoom, which has worked really well, and plan to have those ladies (including our first international franchisee in Cyprus, and a couple who have joined us since lockdown started) up and running, be that online or offering physical classes very soon, so look out for them, they could be near you.
Here we are waving from our different corners of the world.
Where are we now?
Well, since those first few frantic days, we are hugely proud to have been able to continue to bring all the fun and benefits of Tots Play to you throughout this time, with our dedicated team of franchisees working hard to not only bring you class sessions but extra play ideas, bedtime stories, expert interviews, chat groups, parties and more.
Our head office team have also been working away behind the scenes to support, encourage and make sure these wonderful ladies have what they need to be able to keep all of these things going for you, and have really appreciated the positive feedback received around this too, including this lovely card sent from our franchisees, as a thank you for the support provided to move their businesses online.
We are delighted to have been able to add more online courses to those first ones we set up, giving more variety for those who like this format, and that our Tots Play UK Families group has quickly grown to over 2000 members, with new people joining all the time. New content is still being added daily to provide all the support and fun we can to keep you going while you are at home with your Tots.
We are now starting to make plans for being able to bring Tots Play back to our community venues and welcoming you in person once again, once it is safe to do so, and will be making adjustments to how classes operate to ensure your safety and wellbeing are paramount, but that you will still have a fantastic experience with us. Look out for more on this on our website and social media channels and from your local franchisees soon.
Join Us For Classes
Not joined us for our online classes yet? The wonderful thing about being online is that it doesn't matter where you are in the country (or the world), you can now experience all that Tots Play has to offer right in your living room.
In most cases you can pause, rewind and re-watch all your favourite activities again and again, so no problem if your Tot is not ready, or not in the mood to play when it's class time, you can simply play at a time that suits you.
Details of all our online classes and courses can be found HERE and we have sessions suitable for children from birth to 4 years old.
...Or as a Franchisee
Have these times left you rethinking your working life?
Are you dreading having to have long days away from your little ones again when "normal" life resumes?
Would more flexibility around when and where you work be a better solution for your family?
Do you like the idea of supporting parents and little ones in your area?
Have you been watching our franchisees deliver classes and thinking - I could do that!
If you answered yes to the questions above, then perhaps it's time to make a change. How about a new career delivering the Tots Play programme to families in your local area (and maybe online too!)?
Starting a business can feel scary, but when you join a franchise you are not on your own, and don't have to figure out how to navigate the ups and downs by yourself. As well as a tried and tested business model, you get all the training and support you need to create the business and lifestyle you are looking for.
As you can see from the snapshots of recent times above, being surrounded by a supportive, proactive team is what can make the difference between thriving and struggling, and our ability to reach people in new areas through everything that has gone on, has only increased demand for what we do.
With training and support available to you remotely, and so many people missing being able to get out to groups, enjoying time with their baby and meeting others, joining us now means you will be ideally placed to meet this demand and launch your new business as we start (when we are safely able) to get back to being able to offer community groups once again in the weeks and months to come.
If that's started you thinking about a possible new future, then pop over to our franchise page HERE and request more information. It could just be the best thing you do during this time!
Keep on Playing!
What ever else is going on in the world, your little one is learning through play every day, and the special time you spend playing together has never been so valuable.
Tots Play has always been about far more than spending an hour a week at a class, we have always aimed to inspire you to carry on the play time fun at home, and I hope you have been inspired by some of the play sessions and activities we have been sharing online over the last few weeks.
Thank you so much for supporting and being part of the Tots Play family. It is appreciated far more than you know.
Stay safe, keep on playing and we'll see you, online or off, for more play times soon.
Lots of love from the Tots Play Team xx
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