Making wellness child-friendly

A new demographic is emerging in wellness. Anna Bjurstam explains how catering for children with creative wellness programmes is the key to influencing the next generation to live consciously and keep families coming back to your spa.


Family travel has evolved into a USD$500 billion industry, and 88% of parents say that they are likely to travel with their children in the coming year, based on numbers from the Family Travel Association. Intergenerational travel has increased and seasoned travellers are more often travelling with family, so hotels are finding ways to increase their services to these target markets.

 What parents are seeking is no longer to have someone to simply look after their children in order for them to be alone. They want their children to be stimulated and engaged without social media and games, and to further to connect more with their kids. Yet, it is not only about looking at what the market wants but also is doing what is right. There is no better time than now to look at how we can help instill beliefs of reconnection, wellness and sustainability – Six Senses’ core values – in our younger guests. We read daily about addiction to social media, obesity and social and emotional disconnection, and there is a window of opportunity to instill knowledge and motivation when on vacation and in a different environment.

How to create a childrens' wellness programme

To introduce a kid’s wellness program is not the easiest task and we thus involved all our operational teams in the creation of the programme, led by project wellness director Carina Lipold, to further localise it for every Six Senses location, taking into account what works in those particular circumstances.

We decided to base the programme on our six dimensions of wellness and pair each with activities:

  1. Physical – pick food from our organic gardens, learn about their properties and prepare meals, move in all kinds of ways and enjoy treatments
  2. Emotional – bonding with parents and meeting new friends
  3. Spiritual – gain more awareness through mindfulness activities such as animal yoga and kids meditation, where we include play, fantasy and storytelling
  4. Intellectual – learning about local life, herbs and activities in our gardens, farms and local community, and during activities
  5. Environmental – exploring the environment and learning about sustainability in our Earthlab, where they can create all kinds of creative things with recycled materials
  6. Social – spending time with other children and family and having a whole lot of fun.

I did a very non-scientific study myself when working on our kid’s wellness concept by asking my own children’s friends what they like, and I got them to try various activities and ideas. The results were that in order to become competitive in attracting kids, the offer has to be fun and interactive – anything serious that seems educational would go down the drain. On the other hand, children from the age of five and up absolutely do not want to be spoken to like small kids, but instead with great respect, just as we as adults do.

Making wellness fun 

I also spoke to world-renowned pediatrician Dr Alan Green. He told me that if you want kids to eat tomatoes, for example, just serving it on a plate would likely be unsuccessful (as we parents know all too well). If we let them cut the tomato, we double the likelihood of them eating it. If we let them pick the tomato and cut it, we double it once more. And if we let them grow, pick, and cut it they will eat it almost with a 100% guarantee. While we as adults like to get served things, kids want to create and play.

We created gamification through a “passport”, where the kids can redeem points and stamps for each wellness activity they attend, and once they manage to collect enough points and stamps they receive a gift such as a t-shirt or bracelet. For our Six Senses kids treatments, if they like – and they usually do – they can first create their product in our alchemy bar. If they want to take it a step further they can also pick some of the ingredients in our gardens and blend the product themselves. When they enjoy a foot massage they get a clipboard with crayons and a picture of the foot to colour in the area of the foot being treated, as well as to learn about the different parts of the foot.

Inspiring the next generation 

Our activities blend all of the six dimensions of wellness. Other examples include rugby and mud baths in Fiji, family coastal discovery walks in Turkey, recycled candle making in the Maldives, and cookery classes for little chefs and treasure hunts in most locations. It’s obviously vital to have all the appropriate waivers in place when it comes to children’s’ safety and wellbeing. We have rigorous standard operating procedures and invite parents to take part in the activities if they so desire. We took the conscious decision not to charge for most of the kids’ activities as we felt that this was the right thing to do. What has been most positive is the engagement from our teams as a result of making them part of the creation of the programme. Kids love the activities and we have received lots of feedback. It’s definitely a work in progress but one thing is for sure – wellness for kids is here to stay.

 

Anna Bjurstam is vice president of Six Senses Spas. She joined Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas in 2013. In her role she develops wellness initiatives, establishing the brand’s differentiating factors and ensuring that each spa develops its own personality while maintaining the touch points and integrity of the brand. Prior to joining Six Senses she founded and led Raison d’Etre Spas.