September 17, 2012 // Franchising.com // Greenwood Village, CO - Great Play, a unique, franchised gym concept for kids, was recently issued its second patent, reflecting the company’s continuing commitment to reinventing the youth physical development business and promoting an active lifestyle for children.
Great Play’s offerings, which have been nationally recognized for their innovative approach, include scientifically-based, fun-filled motor skill, sports skill and physical education classes for children ages 6 months through fifth grade, as well as individually customized high-energy birthday parties for active children.
The new patent broadly covers the technology used in the company’s gyms, or “Interactive Arenas™,” which utilize half a dozen computers to control eight projectors, a directional sound system and more than a dozen sensing systems that are all fully integrated into Great Play teaching techniques. The games and activities in the Interactive Arena support Great Play’s unique approach to making it fun for children to develop age-appropriate skills through a proprietary curriculum of “directed play.”
“Kids come in and they just love the classes, which, every week, are filled with different games and activities that make acquiring new skills a lot of fun,” says CEO Keith Camhi, who co-founded Great Play with his wife Jyl. “In fact, it’s so much fun that the kids have no idea it’s actually really, really good for them, which is exactly how we want it!”
Overall physical activity is declining among today’s children. This decline is due to a number of factors, including a reduction in physical education classes in schools, increasing competitiveness of recreation leagues, as well as increased “screen time:” time spent playing games, watching TV, and using the computer, for example.
Great Play’s programs help counteract this decline by giving children both the confidence and competence to be physically successful. Great Play’s proprietary curriculum taps into the key developmental windows that open at each stage of a child's growth, starting from a broad foundation of introductory motor skills for younger children, through complex sports skills for elementary school ages. During each class, coaches teach one or more age-appropriate skills, and then turn practicing those skills into play through unique games in the Interactive Arena.
For instance, to practice throwing, older players "break" virtual bottles on a shelf, or throw into an animated strike zone. The Arena becomes a stadium full of cheering fans rooting the players on with an interactive score board for a game of hot shot (to practice basketball shooting).
For younger players, the classes unfold as engaging stories as the Arena “transports” the participants to different places throughout the event - from climbing in the snowy hills to a limbo on a sunny beach. Then, for instance, the cameras capture the action during a freeze dance and project a live feed of the delighted dancers up on the big screens. Every visit is a new fun-filled adventure.
“As far as the kids are concerned, it’s just playing and having fun,” Camhi explains. “But each activity is carefully designed as part of an overall curriculum that progresses children from stage-to-stage in their development.” This is a substantial expansion of what the kids’ gym category has offered in the past, with most programs to date being based on a single discipline, such as developmental gymnastics.
“We saw the opportunity to take a much broader approach to the category, to make it more engaging for the kids, and to make it a far more fun and more developmentally useful program for them,” says Camhi. “That was our impetus for starting Great Play, and that commitment continues in our ongoing development of new programs and technology. Receiving our second patent, in a business that isn’t particularly known for having new intellectual property, is very gratifying for us.”
Great Play already holds one patent for its unique throwing wall technology, in which cameras are able to detect an object being thrown at an image on the screen. This technology is used for practicing a number of ball handling skills, such as practicing throwing into a strike zone with an animated umpire calling the balls and strikes; kicking a field goal with an interactive referee and cheering crowd; and hitting balls over the fence in a simulated home run derby.
Great Play currently has 12 locations open or in development across the country, with about 20 locations expected by the end of 2012. For more information, visit www.greatplay.com.
Sanderson & Associates, Ltd.