Robyn Spink has all kinds of plans for Jungle Mania, including bringing more of the jungle into the popular indoor play facility.
About six months ago, Spink and spouse Scott Casano took over the business at 2450C 10th Ave. NE (across from the Shaw Centre), known for its tall jungle gym and colourful animated animal mural on the building’s exterior facing Highway 1.
Spink explained her family has always been involved in businesses and she wanted to get back into the workforce. However, they also had a five-year-old, Cassian (Scott’s a Star Wars fan), who would need care.
“We thought it would be a good opportunity to have him at work with me so we didn’t have to do the day care…,” said Robyn. “It was a way for me to get my creativity out. I had all these ideas we could bring to this business.”
One of those ideas was to designate a time for older youth, when they could come in and have a safe space to play and have fun.
“We noticed a bunch of them would come after school from the middle school and play in the jungle and a few people were like, you know, we’ve got littles in here and we’re concerned…,” said Spink, who decided to designate time during the week just for toddlers, and introduce youth nights for kids ages 10-13.
“They’re in that awkward age where they want to be adults, but they’re still kids,” said Spink. “They just come here and they’ve got their music going and the lights are low and they get to play in the jungle gym.”
Youth nights include table top games, laser tag, snacks, some video gaming and sometimes karaoke.
“We have a local guy that will come in and do a karaoke night,” said Spink. “The kids have the confidence, they’ll get up and sing karaoke, it’s been very successful. I got them going – I said whoever goes up first gets a free shirt. Sure enough, everybody wanted to be first and it just continued after that. The boys were singing Miley Cyrus and it was amazing.”
Youth aren’t just Jungle Mania customers, they also play an important role in the business’ operations. Once a month, Spink hosts a youth focus group. Part of their job is to choose the foods, drinks and activities Jungle Mania offers, testing items to make sure they’re suitable.
“I have seven kids right now and we can take more,” said Spink of the group. “I think their opinions are really important. Because, of course, the flavours I pick are always different from what they pick. And they give me ideas about youth night.”
Spink has introduced other special activities at Jungle Mania and has plans for more, including a book club for moms and something for kids with autism.
“Our youngest is autistic, so we’re doing sensory sensitive nights, so it will be once a month where it’s set up just for sensory sensitive kids. I’d like to get involved with any groups that want to help with that,” said Spink.
A big focus for Spink in the coming weeks will be Jungle Mania’s interior, which will be undergoing a redesign. The goal is to make it look and feel like an actual jungle.
“When you walk into the place, you completely feel like you’re walking into a jungle,” said Spink, excited about what’s in store. “You feel like you’re transported – eventually with lighting and a sound system to go with it.”
Spink assured Jungle Mania’s outside animal mural will remain, though it may see some additions.
“I don’t want to lose the integrity of the old look – I think that’s really important… There may be a few more characters introduced and that’s all I can say about that,” said Spink.
While it will look more like a jungle, fun remains a priority for Spink.
“I always said I want to walk in and feel like I’m going to a carnival,” said Spink. “I wanted that full experience, when you bring your kids. We’re not about ‘oh, let’s have the most nutritious snack.’ It’s ‘Let’s have fun today!’ That’s the feel I wanted.”
“It has been amazing. It’s been absolutely amazing. I am very grateful for the opportunity and I want everybody to feel special when they come in here.”
More information about Jungle Mania and upcoming activities can be found on the business’ Facebook page and at junglemania.ca.
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