I cannot tell a lie. I am not a parent. To the best of my knowledge. But I know some. I have friends who are parents, and my parents are parents. So I’ve been around parents. I dabble. I see what they go through. It seems pretty rewarding, what with the first words and all, and it also seems quite fun. Who doesn’t want to go to Disney World or ride on a see-saw as an adult without suffering the searing castigation of a judgmental society?
But it also seems a bit, well…intense. I mean, let’s be real here. You’re a parent. You’re running all over the place. You’re drinking six cups of coffee a day. You’re changing diapers. You’ve having nightmares about an annoyingly catchy, mildly terrifying singing hippo. You’re eagerly anticipating your refund from Disney because Baby Einstein didn’t turn your son into an Einstein, which has been a lingering source of guilt.
And you’re also a bit overwhelmed by the amount of fun stuff you can do with your kids – events, plays, summer camps, musical concerts, etc. The stuff comes from all sides: Lisa (or was it Debby?) at the supermarket told you about the face-painting workshop and that the teacher was really patient and the kids just love it. And at the soccer game on Sunday, Dave mentioned something about a hiking outing, but you kinda forget because you were threatening to slash the tires of the Odyssey driven by the father of an opposing player. And in Dr. Carlson’s waiting room, Maggie cryptically alluded to this really great babysitter that’s she’s just thrilled with but your mind was elsewhere since two kids in Jacob’s class may have the swine flu but Leslie said it was just the bad hot dogs (which you later realized made no sense.)
So you jot all this stuff down in your datebook or put it in your Blackberry, but let’s be real. It’s a mess. Luckily, LocalKidzStuff is here to make your life a bit easier. It’s is your one-stop resource for everything kids-related. And better yet, it’s everything local, geared towards your specific town, providing a platform where all that information, all that cool stuff, can be accessed in one place.
I dove into the site as a stoked first-timer, and here’s what I found:
- On the home page, you can first select by city. I chose Spring, TX. The site shows highlighted upcoming events, such as Disney on Ice, which I clicked on, providing me with all the necessary information, including maps, a referring Website, price, and date. The page allows users to comment on the event and vote using the ever-helpful five-star user rating.
- From the city-specific page, you can also search by event Category (After School Care, Camps, Daycare, Dentists, etc.) The drop-down list also indicates how many records are in each Category (“Camps,” which I selected, had 21.)
- The “Camps” page showed all camps in the nearby area, complete with maps and all necessary information. Clicking on a specific camp – in this case, Camp Coyote – brings you to a page similar to the Disney on Ice one. In fact, the templates are identical, and I felt myself becoming very comfortable with the navigation and interface.
- Coolest of all, on the Camp Listings page, the site implores you to add your own camp if it’s not listed. At long last, the much-valued user-generated content component of the site.
- When I clicked on the “Something Missing? Click here to add it” button, I was taken to a very intuitive page where I could – you guessed it – add my own business.
- Also, instead of searching by Category, you can search by Events.
All in all, a very fluid, intuitive experience. Now, if I may, some “global” comments:
- The “What is LocalKidzStuff” page is very informative, albeit a little cluttered and wordy. Some judicious spacing, bold-text, and 15% reduction in text itself would make it a bit more fluid and readable.
- When you type the url in the address box – at least when I did it – you land on the Spring, TX page as a default. The same occurred when I clicked “Home” in the navigation bar. However, when I clicked on the LocalKidzStuff banner logo at the top of the page, I was taken to a generic – and preferable – home page. I’d make this as the universal landing page rather than the Spring, TX one. Just one guy’s opinion, though.
- The site – for now – is Texas-centric. And why not? It’s like a whole other country that I’d rather not mess with. LocalKidzStuff, I imagine, could have a nice career just focusing on these Texas towns. However, they wisely wish to expand, and actively promote their affiliate program, enabling folks from all over the country to set up their own LocalKidzStuff sites for their respective towns.
- To that end, it’s not instantly obvious if users can add a new city. Rather, as we’ve seen, they can add a new business/listing, which prompts them to enter a city name. Presumably the LocalKidzStuff staff reviews the entry, and if they deem it worthy, will enter a new city to search by. (My personal vote is Denton! It is a jewel.)
- According to their Job openings page, they are targeting these very fine cities: Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, and one place too awesome, too inspiring to be contained by a mere “city” label, the Garden State itself (my homeland!)
I also jotted down some functionality suggestions for future iterations:
- It’d be cool to have a calendar tool, where users can track all the events from a single page. Simply go in, check all the events you’re interested in, and voilà! it can instantly populate your calendar or integrate with a third-party tool, like Google Calendar.
- Another addition that’d be helpful is having the business/listing page mention an appropriate age group. I mean, I’d like to think I’m a kid at heart, and I’m sure anyone would love the Beer Can House, which is listed on the site, but, theoretically speaking, there will be a set of activities more suited for 9-year old girls versus 14-year old boys, etc. By tagging existing and future listings with an appropriate age group, it further empowers parents to truly prioritize the activities available to them.
So. I was transparent from the outset: I am not a parent, yet I asked you, my faithful readers, to employ willing suspension of disbelief while reading this, to look past my inexperience and ignorance while I cruised around LocalKidzStuff. I thank you all for giving me the benefit of the doubt, and to trust me when I say that for the always-on-go parent (in Texas) looking for something, anything, to make their life just a little less hectic, LocalKidzStuff can do just that. And for the rest of you across the fruited plain, running to your minivan, texting while driving (not cool!), and mistakenly picking up the wrong kid at ballet practice: what are you waiting for? Start one up in your town.
Your fellow parents need you.