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Nobody likes to be cooped up, and while blanket forts work for all seasons of the year, there are a few winter break ideas that become extra special when the sun is setting early and the air is crisp.

These winter break ideas are ideal for kids and teens of all ages, from those who prefer to stay indoors, to the more adventurous young souls. Rather than worrying about keeping kids and teens out of trouble during school vacations, you’ll find everything from the educational to the charitable and creative types of activities. Enjoy!

  1. Stay warm and active by bouncing at a trampoline park like Launch – trampolines are great exercise!
  2. Build a regular jigsaw puzzle or try and tackle a 3D puzzle.
  3. Draw a mural on large craft paper then let the kids color it in.
  4. Volunteer at a soup kitchen and teach kids about generosity and gratitude.
  5. Find the biggest hill in town and go sledding.
  6. Take skiing lessons and/or go skiing.
  7. Buy a day pass and head to a local hotel pool to go swimming.
  8. Go ice skating at your local ice skating rink.
  9. Go on a hot chocolate date by sampling hot chocolate at several different shops.
  10. Join in on a winter stroll (many towns have winter 5k’s or walks in the winter)
  11. Winter hiking or ski-boarding through trails (best benefit of winter hikes: no ticks!)
  12. Visit a museum.
  13. Play a board game.
  14. Create your OWN board game!
  15. Stage a snowball fight between siblings.
  16. Go to the theater and see a play.
  17. Have the kids come up with and put on their OWN play.
  18. Find a trail and go cross-country snowshoeing.
  19. Have a baking day where you make cookies for friends and neighbors.
  20. Make origami (you could try making cranes, then move on if you’re so inclined.)
  21. Go to a hardware store and get a kit to build something, like a bird house.
  22. Go to a craft store and get supplies to make a scrapbook.
  23. Make necklaces.
  24. Come up with a secret handshake.
  25. Go to a concert (like the Philharmonic).
  26. Build a model, like a race car or F-16.
  27. Go snow tubing locally or at a snow tubing park.
  28. Have a movie night where they pick the movies.
  29. Have a movie night where you get to show them your favorite old movies from when you were a kid.
  30. Go out to the movies as a family and see the latest flick.
  31. Plan a winter star-gazing night (bring heavy coats and boots!)
  32. Teach the kids how to build a fire in the snow (or in your fireplace) – an excellent opportunity to teach fire safety!
  33. Come up with a secret language only you know.
  34. Do a parent date exchange – take turns with play dates so each set of parents can have some adult time while the kids play with their friends.
  35. Take a local all-ages art class – many churches offer classes during summer and winter breaks.
  36. Teach kids how to cook a few simple staples.
  37. Walk your kids through doing the laundry.
  38. Teach children how to sew (maybe with the goal of them creating their own shirt or pillow by the end of vacation.)
  39. If you’re having a sick day, ask your kids to be the chef for the day (expect lots of peanut butter sandwiches and bouillon).
  40. Have a “donation day” where you go through stuff after or before the holidays and donate used clothes and toys.
  41. Make handmade gifts for grandparents and relatives that kids can give out at birthdays and holidays.
  42. No puppy for the holidays? Volunteer at a local animal shelter with your children.
  43. Fix something by finding something broken in the house (even a flashlight) and showing your children how to take it apart and put it back together.
  44. Write letters to a grandparent or loved one.
  45. Make tie-dye shirts for summer (or use glitter glue!)
  46. Have a karaoke night in your living room.
  47. At night, sit in a circle with a flashlight and tell ghost stories.
  48. Buy a large canvas and a large set of acrylic paints, then let the kids cover the whole canvas with their designs together. Once it’s dry, frame it!
  49. Use scissors to make snowflakes and hang them around the house until spring.
  50. Make a new signature recipe with the kids from scratch with special ingredients so that you can share with people and say that the recipe a “family secret.”

When families do activities together during school breaks, it can be therapeutic for kids and teens who lack and need structure. The next time your child think they’ll be squatting in front of the TV set with a game controller for winter break, prep them with this list of winter break ideas for them to choose from.

All cooped up with nowhere to go? Do the kids need to bounce their sillies out? Find your nearest Launch location!

Parents, Teachers And Sensory Therapists Have Been Using Trampoline Therapy For Autism For A Long Time.

It’s no secret that physical activity can help kids with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) acquire new motor skills, improve coordination, develop muscle strength, promote stable posture, and increase stamina.

However, group sports can be overwhelming to kids with social and cognitive delays, commonly associated with ASD.

For many kids, using trampoline therapy for autism-friendly exercise may be the perfect solution for delivering the benefits of physical activity in a fun way that circumvents the pressures of group sports.

Why Incorporate Trampoline Therapy? For Autism, It Could Mean The Difference Between Being Active, And Not.

Electronics and other habit-forming, passive activities can be addictive to kids on the autism spectrum, leading to isolation, poor muscle tone, and weight issues. Getting autistic kids moving is the best way to counteract this.

Additionally, according to the American Physical Therapy Association, young people on the autism spectrum are more likely to have difficulty acquiring motor skills, motor coordination and have problems with posture.

Trampoline use, also called rebound therapy, can help by delivering positive changes in muscle tone and burning calories to stave off weight gain. Trampoline therapy can also improve posture, balance, coordination and head control.

Trampolines Offer Parallel Play, Preferred By Children With Autism.

Because trampoline activity is an individual activity performed in a group setting, bouncing on a trampoline allows for parallel play, often preferred by kids with autism.

Parallel play (where kids are adjacent to each other but do not try to influence one another’s behavior) allows kids and adults with autism to participate in physical activity alongside others, without the stress of competition, free of complicated rules, all the while avoiding direct contact with other individuals.

Providing your child with trampoline therapy for autism-friendly aerobic activity gives them a way to exercise and work off their energy in a non-threatening manner where they can move at their own pace.

In addition to building muscle tone and coordination, trampoline therapy can help reduce stereotypic behaviors in kids with autism and enhance attentive abilities.

According to an article in the National Library of Medicine, trampolines can also provide enhancement of educational and attentive skills through sensory organization and centering.

Trampoline Therapy For Autism Provides The Opportunity For Acceptable Repetitive Motion.

The repetition of physical movements is well-known as a coping mechanism for kids with autism. Some common repetitive behaviors, like hand flapping, head banging, and finger snapping, are necessary for autistic kids to stimulate themselves to remain calm. These stereotypical calming behaviors are often ridiculed in public.

The repetitive motion of a trampoline can provide the self-stimulatory sensation needed and act as a substitute for other forms of repetitive movements and behaviors. Trampoline therapy is more like play, allows for integrated fun without the stigma of “stimming,” and, at Launch, provides entertainment and exercise in a public environment where people with autism can feel included and are free to be themselves.

We want every child to be themselves! In fact, we created exclusive VIP nights that cater to those with sensory issues, autism, and other special needs.

Try Trampoline Therapy To Increase Body And Safety Awareness For Your Child With Autism.

As you may know, children (and adults) on the autism spectrum often lack in body and safety awareness. Trampoline therapy can help children develop body awareness through the repetitive stimulation of bouncing, and teaching muscles to control the direction of the bounce, finding the center of their bodies and, “steering” it, prompting righting reflexes.

Different rocking, running in place, and bouncing exercises, which are part of rebounding therapy, deliver a repeated opportunity to adapt to shifts in the body’s center of mass and the support beneath. In an attempt to maintain balance, one responds by reorienting, which forces increased body awareness through a focus on staying upright and safe.

Children with autism can use trampoline activities like this to gain a better understanding of body mass, and proximity to others as well as objects. It is also a keen way to teach young people, with or without autism, about the laws of motion, including gravity, force, velocity, buoyancy, and mass.

Why Choose Launch As Your Autism Trampoline Therapy Destination?

Launch provides the perfect opportunity to try trampolines as therapy for autism in a sensory-friendly environment. Limiting strobes and audio volume is only part of the story. A trained and friendly staff, paired with an exclusive VIP program that focuses on special needs clientele, helps ensure a time and space for the proper exploration of trampoline therapy and enjoyment.

Do you know someone with autism who may benefit from a few hours of trampoline therapy? 
Give them a gift certificate to your nearest Launch Trampoline Park!

Starting A Business Can Be A Smart Investment, But The Skills Needed To Run A Franchise Are More Complicated Than You Might Think.

After years of balance sheets and income statements, you’re finally ready to own a business to add to your already-diverse investment portfolio. You decide that a franchise is your best bet; it’s established and you won’t have to do much to get it off the ground. The first thing you find, though, is that the skills needed to run a franchise are different from those you need to run a stand-alone business.

If you decide to purchase a franchise, you’re committing to a lot of personal involvement in the beginning. Being a successful franchisee has much more to do with who you are than what you can do, though the latter will, of course, be a necessary consideration. Every franchisee may be an entrepreneur, but not all entrepreneurs are born franchisees.

The good news is that you can easily learn the skills needed to run a franchise. The most important step is knowing what those skills are. Applying them then becomes your daily practice. If you keep these skills in mind, you’ll be watching your investment yield returns for many years to come.

Skill #1: Maintain Brand Identity

One of the most essential skills needed to run a franchise is to be mindful of the brand that already exists. Buying a franchise doesn’t mean you’re making the brand your own, only the business. Any attempt to change the brand identity will cause conflict with the franchisor. Before you close the deal, learn all you can about the brand identity and ask yourself if it’s something you can sustain. If it isn’t, you may want to choose a different type of franchise.

Skill #2: Be A People Person

When you come into an established franchise, you need to earn the trust of the people working for you—and the people you’re working with. The best way to do that is to be visible, interact with the front office and the employees on the ground. Demonstrate a vested interest in what the company is doing and the people who are doing it before you launch any new game plans. If you’re warm and welcoming, your franchise will be, too.

Skill #3: Be Entrepreneurial

Running a franchise isn’t as simple as writing a check and watching the business yield returns. You’re making an investment as an entrepreneur, not as an investor. It’s necessary that you have an entrepreneurial mindset if you want to see the franchise thrive.

Skill #4: Be A Results-Oriented Big Thinker

Being a big thinker is hopefully part of what brought you to become a franchisee in the first place. But it’s not enough to think big. You also need to be results-oriented. These are two skills needed to run a franchise that go hand-in-hand. Think big, but understand the necessary results along the way. If you’re only creative in your thinking, you’ll miss some of the necessary paths that will lead you there. Mapping a new path from A to C is fine, but you still need to know what to do to get to B first.

Skill #5: Maintain A Safety Net

Now that we’ve told you to think big, don’t forget to have a fall-back in place. Things don’t always go as planned, and big pictures change as you piece them together. Make sure you have the funds and the ideas to adapt to unexpected change.

Skill #6: Be A Lover, Not A Fighter

This has less to do with skills needed to run a franchise and more to do with personality traits. Even so, it’s important that you be open and willing to listen rather than insisting on everything being the way you initially imagined it. A franchise is an established brand. No matter the amount of business experience you have, you’ll learn a lot about your new endeavor by listening and collaborating instead of being stubborn and independent.

Skill #7: Be Optimistic And Determined

Investing in a franchise will have its challenges. Many new franchisees don’t make any money at all in the first year. Don’t let the unexpected stuff get you down. You know why you chose to become a franchisee. Believe in that, believe in the future, and the trials will be easy to overcome.

Skill #8: Keep Calm And Carry On

A subset of being optimistic and determined is to be patient and calm. As a franchisee, you’ll have to work with a lot of people, and you won’t always have the final say in everything. Be cooperative and stay cool under pressure. A little patience now will breed a lot of success later.

Skill #9: Know Who To Hire

Hiring, like other skills needed to run a franchise, is a different animal than it might be in an independent business. You can’t simply hire the people you like the best. They have to fit the brand, the franchise culture, and the company vision. Some of that overlaps with regular hiring, but it’s especially important in a franchise that you don’t have passive employees who aren’t connected to the culture and mission you’ve taken over.

Skill #10: Understand The Numbers

This one might be more intuitive to you, but running a franchise is going to involve more than balance sheets and income statements. Unless you have the budget to hire a finance director—unlikely for the first few years at least—you’ll be responsible for hashing out the numbers. Make sure you understand all facets of what that means, and that you don’t take it for granted that you know how to handle it all without a little guidance or training.

Bonus Skill: Reap The Rewards

There’s no doubt that opening any business is a lot of work. But with the right franchise, your results are much more certain. Yes, you’ll put in the sweat, and you’ll also reap big rewards when your efforts start paying off.

Interested in becoming a Launch franchise owner? Did you know that trampoline parks are a $680-million and growing industry? Our operational systems, from the online booking to point-of-sale system to jump management system, make it easy to manage the park and your managers, whether you are an onsite owner or thousands of miles away. Visit our website today for a free franchise report.

Some of the best franchises to own in the business world today are in the trampoline park/children’s fitness and entertainment industry. With industry growth on the rise from 3 parks in 2009 to well over 1,000 parks worldwide by the end of 2017, the question has to asked, “Is it a fad or the future”?

We all witnessed the phenomenal expansion of the frozen yogurt industry around 2010. The first ones onto the market usually supported healthy lines, both in customers and at the bottom of the P&L. Problem was it seemed to be all smoke & mirrors. For the consumer, the product wasn’t as healthy as expected and even though it was charged by the ounce it turned out to be very expensive. For the operators the profit margins began to shrink as the local pie was sliced thinner and thinner with each new color and berry that entered the market. In the end the Froyo businesses shuttered up faster than they opened and the old fashioned soft ice cream stands once again regained the market share they had enjoyed since the 50’s.

The Froyo industry spread like a fire out of control. Are we looking at another flameout in the trampoline park business?

To get an idea of what the future looks like, we need to take our crystal ball and look into the past at how the industry started, what’s fueling its growth and realize that nothing has really changed…kids want to have fun and parents want their kids to be happy.

Since 1934, when the first trampoline was engineered at the University of Iowa to assist gymnasts and springboard divers hone their skills, people have been jumping on trampolines. In 2000 the Olympics added Trampoline as a medal sport and today trampolines are a staple in backyards across America.

In the past kids were excited to travel long distances to visit amusement parks and carnivals to experience activities like bumper cars, games and rides. Downtown parks had huge slides. Those of us at a certain age fondly remember the arcades filled with whack-a- mole and pinball. Video games were the next innovation, remember PONG? Birthday parties were at home.

Evolution my friend. Trampolines, arcades, rides; all those things are still around. They have just evolved. Kids have not changed; they are still as excited as ever to go to the park. And today these parks are becoming in grained into each community.

Pardon the interruption, but if you want more information on becoming a Launch Trampoline Park franchisee please follow this link. Franchise information.

The industry is still in its infancy but we have already witnessed a huge evolution since 2008. In the beginning parks were typically made up of a registration desk and a few trampolines located somewhere in a poorly lit industrial park identified simply by a hand painted sign off some secondary road, entombed behind a series of rights and lefts and over a few speed bumps.   Cheap real estate indeed, and what the heck, it’s the only park within a 90 minute drive.

Today that park is out of business and the kids are being entertained down town at the old K-Mart right on the main drag in a 30,000sf goliath of an entertainment center filled with trampolines, ninja courses, laser tag, climbing walls, battle beams, bowling lanes, tunnels, slides, aerial activities and stunt jump towers with full pizza and ice cream parlors and the air filled with stereoscopic undertones that are not quite musical but more like the buzz of a Las Vegas casino. Fun, action, excitement and reward.

The kids are having more fun than ever just down the street. The parents don’t have to go on a vacation to visit distant amusement parks. Great entertainment centers are no longer hidden in the darkness of the local industrial park. Today the parking lots are large, well-lit and moms are happy to drop off the middle schoolers for an evening of fun, fitness, excitement and confidence building.

The downtown outdoor park, amusement parks, arcades and birthday parties are now coming to a downtown location near you! Another phenomenon that has spurred the growth is the fact that retail has gone on line and landlords need to fill the void left in the “big box” retail market. Fitness, food and birthday parties will never go online. Yesterday’s Sports Authority, Sears, K-marts and BI-LO’s have been replaced with new trampoline parks and entertainment centers. This is an undeniable trend, but it is not trendy.

The industry is healthy, the opportunity is plentiful, and so what’s the outlook?

The large markets with ideal demographics are filling up fast and highly visible retail, real estate is increasingly more difficult to find, but fitness and entertainment are here to stay. Believe me, if you are thinking it looks like a great opportunity, 5 other people in your town are thinking the exact same thing. The brass ring does not come around that often and the carousel is full of competitors all reaching out to snag the best real estate in the market.

The old business idiom; location, location, location is no different in the trampoline park/family entertainment business than it is in any other consumer based model. But the key to staying relevant will be found in how the park owner keeps the operation dynamic and exciting for the kids. Owners will have to believe in evolution.

The revenues are strong, great markets are still available and quality franchisors are looking for qualified franchisees. I don’t see this industry as just another Froyo fad. Entertainment and fitness franchises will never fade away and those who capitalize on the opportunity now will be part of the growth toward 2000 parks worldwide.

They said Starbucks was just a fad when they had opened 1000 stores…I was part of that. I see it again.

Get more information on becoming a Launch Trampoline Park franchisee.

“Retired” too early, RIFfed, laid off, sick of your job or just ready for something new? Maybe you’re just ready for a transition in your career and you’re convinced you have the business savvy, education and have even managed to save up some money…Now What? It must be time to chase the American dream and go into business for yourself.

Buying a franchise can be a much safer investment than starting your own business. In theory franchises offer business systems proven out over time with strong leadership, great economic models, well financed R&D and experienced support teams…in theory. How can you be sure?

For many people, buying a franchise could be one of the largest financial commitments in their entire lives and it will be a very emotional experience. Friends will say they read something bad about what you plan to do on the internet. Spouses will doubt you. You will doubt you! A little self-doubt can be motivating. You need to ask yourself, “What evidence do I have that I can’t do this?” Then ask yourself, “What evidence do I have that I can do this?” Doubt is just a lack of information. So how do you find a great franchise and get the information you need to overcome the doubt?

Most people pull out their darts and throw them into the franchise cyberspace hoping to hit that great franchise bulls eye; this looks good, that looks good, Oh, how about this one, my friend told me this one was good, never really having any idea if those franchises are really what they are looking for.

The internet will offer some good marketing pieces and flashy sales literature for sure, even some carefully worded FAQs. All of that will certainly work as a decent brand introduction. But then it’s just like when buying a new home, would you ever buy a new home just looking at the sales literature without ever going inside the front door? Of course not! Looks good on the outside, as do many franchise systems, but what about the foundation, the utilities, the roof, the schools or the neighbors? You’ve got to get more information.

You may hire an independent home inspection company, a pool management company, a landscape architect, have a chat with the neighbors and even hire an appraiser all in an effort to learn as much as possible before spending your hard earned money. So why wouldn’t you do the same research on a franchise you are thinking about buying?

I typically tell all of my clients that until they can answer 5 critical questions about a franchise system, they will not have enough information to make a decision. The 5 questions are:

  1. Do the unit level economic model proven?
  2. Does the franchisor offer a strong value proposition in exchange for the fees they charge?
  3. Does the industry have broad appeal…trendy?
  4. What are people saying about the brand?
  5. Are you a culture fit for the system?

Many of my clients say, “I just want to do some independent research” before I schedule a live call. This is probably one of the most destructive and self-defeating things you can do if you are serious about finding a great franchise.

The franchisor is not in business to deceive or “sell” the franchisee prospect. The franchisor is in business to successfully and quickly grow their brand. Trust them. If they are not trustworthy it will show soon and it will be evident over the course of discovery and validation.

The answers to these simple questions can all be found but you are going to have to open many doors to find them. Read closely, here is the golden nugget in this post…The information you need to make an informed and educated decision on a franchise will not be found online on a public access web site! Believe me on this one!

So where are the answers?

Of course some online research is necessary…but don’t believe it all. Many of the answers can be found in the Franchise Disclosure Document…if you can get one and know how to read it. They can be found in determined validation with the existing franchisee base…if you can get their contact information and know which questions to ask. And can be found by meeting with the franchise leadership and support teams…if you can get an invitation to the corporate office.
Let’s review each question:

1. Do the unit level economics work?
This is usually the first question every prospect asks…what’s in it for me? What are the chances that my investment will make me money?

Every franchise must have a federally required Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD). But of all the information that is required to be in this document by the Federal Trade Commission, a financial proforma or financial modeling information is NOT required. Unfortunately that is true. And if the FDD does not contain that information, then, anyone from the corporate office involved in selling the franchise cannot provide the information even if they have it! So where is it found? By talking with the existing franchisees! The FDD must contain the contact information for every current franchisee and the contact information for all franchisees that have left the system over the past 12 months.

The franchisees are not legally restricted from divulging any information they are comfortable sharing. Ask questions! Every franchisee will have a different story, but if you speak to enough of them, the true story will emerge.
Great systems will have strong financial models with greater than a 1:1 ratio of first year sales to development costs, the ability to net a good six figure income, and the ability to repay your initial cash investment quickly.

2. Does the franchisor offer a strong value proposition in exchange for the fees they charge?
Here is where a franchise system will succeed or fail and where the great franchisors set themselves apart from the pretenders. This is where the royalties and fees are earned!
Every franchise will charge a royalty fee and many have additional “brand development” or “national marketing fund” fees.

Royalty fees will typically run from 4-7% of gross sales. A few are less and some are more mostly it depends on the industry. But the support package that is offered is the great differentiator among franchise systems and where the franchise system builds its value. The good ones earn their fees.
Brand Development or National Marketing Fund fees typically run 1 or 2% of gross sales and can only be used for marketing programs that can affect all franchisees equally. This piece is essential and should be charged. This is a bonus for the system and like a high tide raises all ships it will help all units in the system grow. If it is not being charged, ask why and when they plan to implement it. It is some of the best money spent!

Where will the answers be found…in validation calls with existing franchisees and in visiting the corporate office. Call the franchisees and be diligent in your efforts. Remember, the franchisees are busy people. Be well prepared in your questioning and respect their time. They will be your best resource for accurate information.

Visit the corporate office, ask questions and take notice of the scenery. The strong franchise systems are resourced ahead of the curve. They have the technical and human resources in place and are prepared for growth. Strong franchise systems should offer support virtually from the first introductory call through opening and throughout the term of the franchise agreement. Make sure the people and tools are in place.

To earn their royalty fees great franchise systems will offer site selection criteria and assistance, lease negotiation assistance, design assistance, preferred vendor arrangements for cost containment, IT systems for payroll, accounting, data management and security. They will also have tried and proven marketing programs, web sites and operational and administrative support. This is the backbone of the “system”; if these are not in place the system will not be able to support the franchisee.

3. Does the industry have broad appeal…is it trendy?
We all remember the growth and crash of the “froyo” craze; Frozen Yogurt. The early adopters did quite well and then the competition grew in location and brand, diluted each market and now it’s hard to find one still open.

Make sure the industry is based on solid, historical data. How long has it been around? Is this just a new variation on an old theme? This will take some research and some intuition…being trendy won’t last but solid industries will evolve and grow. What are people saying about the brand?
With social marketing these days, this research is easy. Go to the Facebook page of the brand; see if they have a LinkedIn profile, Twitter feed, Yelp reviews. But remember, most people will only comment on social media if the experience was less than expected. Expect some negative but look for the positive. Great brands will show it.

4. Are you a culture fit for the system?
This is the hardest question to answer, but possibly the most important.
Franchise agreements typically run from 7-10 years. They are very difficult to get out of and even if you can, you can bet it will cost thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to terminate the agreement. This I can GUARANTEE, at some point in the term of the agreement you will have a conflict with your franchisor…GUARANTEED. You need to have a good feeling for how the franchisor will handle the conflict.

Trampoline Park Franchise

There will be hints to this:

Another indicator of culture is in how the employees interact in the corporate office, the “musak” in the background, the branding on the walls and the overall feel of the atmosphere. How the franchisor manages their office is a great indicator of how they will manage the system.
These questions must be answered before the franchise agreement is signed.
A franchise agreement is not to be entered into flippantly or without a thorough understanding of the agreement and the franchisor.

Just like a real estate agent can open the front door on a new home and show you around, the franchisor should open the door to completing and facilitating the proper due diligence in researching their franchise system.

Many franchises look the same from the outside and even in some of the services and products they offer. Successful businesses will always be imitated. The real difference between franchise systems may not be seen from the outside, it is in their commitment to the franchisee’s success. If the franchise system has the necessary components in place and is well resourced, most likely the franchisees are happy and successful. If you are searching for a franchise, it is imperative that you do the research necessary to answer those 5 critical questions and validate the system.