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Bamboola, a 28,000 square foot children's edutainment center, opened in 1997 in San Jose, California, also known as Silicon Valley. The center targets children from infancy to about age nine and includes 25,000 of indoor space plus an 3,000 square foot outdoor adventure play garden. WHLLG conducted the initial feasibility studies that lead to the funding of the US$3.2 million project, developed the center's theme and characters, designed the center and all its components and handled the procurement of all equipment, furniture and fixtures. The center won the 1998 NewsMaker award as the best new family entertainment center project.

The article below about Bamboola was published in our Fall 199725_2.jpg (18284 bytes) Leisure & Learning Alive newsletter:

Move over Disney, the true children's edutainment center, Bamboola™, has arrived. The mouse empire's new Club Disney, a 25,000 square foot children's entertainment center that opened this Spring outside of Los Angeles, got a lot of press. However, in concept, it relies as much for success on Disney's marketing clout and commercialism as it does on true content.

In June, Bamboola, a 28,000 square foot children's edutainment center designed and produced by the White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group, opened in San Jose, California. Bamboola is based upon the concept that, while children engage in what is called "developmentally appropriate" spontaneous free play, they naturally learn about themselves, the world they live in and how to become part of society. In the FEC industry, this combination of combining fun and entertainment with education and learning is called edutainment. However, unlike much entertainment which can quickly become old and lose its repeat appeal, developmentally appropriate play never loses its appeal to children. Plus, parents value it more than just entertainment or amusements as their children are learning while they are having fun.

Billed as The Island of Play, Adventure & Fun, Bamboola's appeal is a synergistic mix of 26 different events and activities WHLLG designed for the 28,000 square foot center.

Bamboola contains a number of FEC industry firsts in addition to being the world's first indoor-outdoor children's edutainment center:

  • first children's interactive cooking area where children actually prepare food which they then eat,
  • first rock and boulder climbing that is age appropriate for younger children,
  • first grandmother's pretend dress-up attic,
  • first indoor interactive water tables, and
  • first outdoor adventure play garden which includes a dinosaur dig.

Other events include a pretend supermarket; a pretend house; five art studios; a construction area; a dedicated infant and toddler play area; a performance area that features Stuffee, a large educational doll with anatomically correct, removable internal parts; a maze; a tree house; do-it-yourself face painting; a reading-library area; redemption games and six birthday party huts.

To assure a quality guest experience, WHLLG conducted the FEC industry's first comprehensive Customer Service and Play Leadership training program for Bamboola's entire staff. WHLLG's training program not only covered adults as customers, but also play leadership - how to relate and interact with children.

Vicki Stoecklin, WHLLG's Child Development and Education Specialist, says, "Our research shows that FECs can't succeed unless their staff members know how to interact with and delight both children and parents. FEC owners often assume that any staff member with a little baby-sitting experience and a positive attitude is prepared to work with child guests. However, it takes skill and training to give children an exceptional experience, one that keeps them coming back."

"Typical customer service training helps the staff please adult customers. Children, however, have unique needs and behaviors, and treating them like small adults simply won't work. Children often need a staff member to facilitate their play and their interactions with other children if they are to enjoy themselves. How the staff interacts with children makes all the difference. For example, a staff person may be perfectly trained to handle an adult making a purchase, but may have no idea what to do differently if the purchaser is a child."

To assure substantial weekday school field trips, WHLLG developed both preschool and grade school field trip programs and teacher curriculum guides. Stoecklin says, "For field trip programs to be successful, they need to meet the needs of the school's educational program, teachers and children. This not only requires developmentally appropriate educational content, but also well-planned procedures for working with a large group of children and support materials for teachers."

Four different field trip programs were developed for both preschool and grade school children. WHLLG created curriculum guides that are sent to teachers in advance of the field trips that contain both pre-trip and post-trip activities to support the field trip educational topic and additional educational resources the teachers can use. The guides also brief the teachers on exactly what will take place at the center and procedures that they and the children will need to follow to assure a successful field trip experience.

Bamboola received mention in USA Today and rave press reviews by the nation's top rated parent magazine and the FEC industry trade magazines. Most importantly, attendance is proving that a quality designed and operated children's edutainment center can be very successful.