Along with the proprioceptive issues were other things like sensitivity to sounds, lights, and smells. The only person I know that doesn't like the smell of baking buns at Subway! All these little issues are pretty big when you're a little guy, and we spent a lot of time avoiding places or modifying activities to keep him comfortable. Sometimes it was frustrating. Storytime at the library? He sat when the other marched, marched while they sat, played human bowling when they were supposed to be twirling. Etc. We missed out on a lot. Then add two more kids, and then a big move.
In 2014, I saw Sky Zone on "Undercover Boss". I had heard of Sky Zone but there wasn't any local to us. I was really impressed with the business after watching that episode! In 2015, one opened in Whitby. So even though my kids were now older (15, 12, 8), I was sure they'd still enjoy it. Me....meh. I'm not a jumper. Perhaps something to do with my body shape, LOL. Somehow I managed to convince the husband to take the three kids by himself.
They came back loving it, though Hugh said the music was annoying/too loud. For a kid with earbuds in all the time, he never talks about music, never wants to go to a concert, doesn't have a favourite song, band, genre. I don't know if he ever listens to music other than when we're in the truck.
Earlier this year, I heard that Sky Zone has special "sensory" jump times. Incredible. Where was this 14 years ago?! It's advertised as a "quieter, more relaxed jumping experience" with modified safety measures, less crowded environment, added staff to support all jumpers, and light and sound reduction.
I was invited to write about Sky Zone for this blog and I thought it would be awesome to check out the Sensory Friendly jump time. I know so many kids that would benefit. And not just kids--I'm one of those adults who doesn't do well in high energy environments.
At the Whitby location, the Sensory Friendly jumps are on certain Sunday mornings, 9-11am, (June 25th/2017 is the next one) and Monday afternoons, 3-7 (Monday June 5th is the next). Check the online calendar or call for more dates. On Sundays, they open to the general public at 10am and Mondays at 4pm. I arrived at about 10am on a Sunday to tour.
This photo is not totally accurate. Draw a line down the centre and ignore everything to the right. The court in the middle is dodgeball, and the main court, foam pit, and SkySlam are stretching back to the left.
The first thing I noticed when I walked in was the lack of music. I love music, but the combination of loud music and loud, happy children is too much for me. I had been into Sky Zone once before when my daughter was attending a birthday party, and it felt so bright, noisy, and overwhelming. It was none of that this time! The lights were dimmed to a comfortable level and it was not busy at all. I immediately relaxed.
For some great pictures and video of the actual Whitby location, click HERE. I like being prepared when I go new places.
Nicole gave me a tour and talked about the different zones and changes they make for Sensory Friendly jump times. There is a sign in the washrooms suggesting patrons do not use the hand dryers, because of the noise! Awesome! There were staff everywhere, interacting with kids, not just observing. There were only a few families there, so there was lots of space on the main court for the kids jumping. I also saw kids using the SkySlam! area-- three basketball nets (different heights!), and saw the toddler zone. I could see into the foam pit and was amazed at the tiny little girl jumping in!
I actually saw a child I know from my lunch supervisor job. I know he has autism and was happy to see him having a great time. I told him the next day that I saw him there, and he got SO excited. He says he loves Sky Zone, and his favourite is the "cheese pit". I assume that's the foam block pit!! LOL!
One thing that would have concerned me when my kids were little was how to keep them all contained in one area. The layout is great though, and it would be easy for one parent to watch several kids while keeping an eye on the entrance ramp. I thought the ramp was awesome. Going up stairs can be tricky for little kids, or other people with spatial or physical impairments. I also noticed fluorescent tape accenting many features around the park. This is for their "Glow Party" nights, so you can still find things with the lights down.
There are activities on the main floor area, away from the trampoline, as well as a snack bar area with lots of seating. A good spot for a breather.
I was even excited by the pricing. It's $6 +tax for 60 minutes and one non-jumping chaperone is free!
Normally, for open jump time, 60 minutes is $15.99 +tax. While Sunday mornings are not my optimal time for family outings, I would definitely consider going on a Monday. Many local support groups/services also co-ordinate outings, so if you're a member of any support group, ask about that. It's more fun to jump with a friend.
Waivers still need to be filled in (I'd do it online to reduce children's impatience once they get in there), and SkySocks are a must. If your child is sensitive to socks, I suggest wearing the SkySocks over their regular pair of socks. It took a bit of digging, but I also found that no outside food is allowed. Understandable, though frustrating for those on a budget. Really, for one hour of jumping, just have some snacks in the car. I assume there are water fountains though I will check.
I was really impressed with Nicole's enthusiasm; it totally matched what I had seen on Undercover Boss. Staff seemed happy to be there. I know Open Jump times might be different, due to the busyness, but if you're catering to kids with extra needs during Sensory Friendly jump times, you need staff that are approachable and excited to be there. If you're unsure if your child will enjoy it, at least it's not an expensive outing, and you're not committed to using up passes or coming every week at a certain time. Come once, and just be prepared for the big smiles, sweaty brows, and the constant question "When can we go to SkyZone again?".