All parents know what it’s like to be stuck for inspiration when it comes to entertaining their children. But they needn’t be. With the help of the amazing Hoop website and app, finding fun, educational and inspiring activities is made incredibly easy.
Hoop is a free app that helps families discover things to do locally and is aimed at parents with children aged 0-11 years. Available on iOS and Android, Hoop lists over 50,000 family friendly events and activities per month, from kid’s comedy classes and art workshops to coding classes and family raves – one in five activities listed on Hoop are completely free.
Hoop’s powerful features allow you to home in on the things that matter most to you – from events that are within walking distance to those suitable for a specific age range. From families planning day trips to breaks away from home.
It was set up 18 months ago by a group of dads who wanted a faster, easier way to find the best of what’s on for children in their local area – much of which had previously gone under the radar.
Previously only available in London, last week Hoop went nationwide and is now being used by more than 600,000 UK families – so it’s not hard to see why it was picked by Apple as one of its 10 best apps of 2016.
Here Mama editor Morag Turner chats to founder and dad-of-two Max Jennings about how the amazing idea came about and why it’s so helpful to parents.
Trying to be a good (never mind perfect) parent is exhausting and as someone whose younger daughter is only just starting to sleep through, I understand all too well why the United Nations recognises sleep deprivation as a form or torture!
I used to Google obsessively – searching for new activities to entertain my two daughters, but all too often I found myself doing the same thing as the previous weekend. I was stuck in Groundhog Day with two glum looking accomplices.
It seemed crazy that there wasn’t a simple way to find out about fun local activities. Friends were having the same problem, so a group of us got together and began building Hoop, a free app to list everything from local baby and toddler groups to sing-along classes, children’s creative workshops and pottery classes. Cut forward two years and Hoop lists over 60,000 new activities across the UK every month and a fifth of them are completely free. We knew we were on to something big when other parents starting sharing the app with their friends. Today over 600,000 families use Hoop.
We have two daughters. Our eldest, Maya, is 4 and a half and loves anything that involves arts or crafts – so our kitchen is awash with poster paints and craft glue and the long-hidden fridge door is an ever-changing art gallery. Marnie has just turned two and loves anything that involves music.
Living in London definitely makes life easier, as we enjoy going to museums or galleries that run family activities. The Geffrye Museum, Royal Academy and National Portrait Gallery all do really great free activities for kids at weekends. Marnie and I are also big fans of Mrs H’s Sing-along Band that regularly performs in Exmouth Market in Clerkenwell. The songs are really catchy – I have been known to suddenly start humming them at inappropriate moments.
One of Hoop’s aims is to encourage families to discover new things they’ll love, and we try to live up to that ideal, too. We’ve tried everything from baby raves to opera for toddlers. When they’re a little older, I can’t wait for them to try some of the other fun activities out there for kids like parkour lessons, skateboarding workshops, museum sleepovers and comedy clubs. It is amazing when you see a child discover a real passion – sometimes something clicks and you know it will stay with them for the rest of their life.
I strongly believe family activities are just as important for parents. Parenting is rewarding, but it can also be tough and often a very lonely experience. If you’re having a particularly hard day, getting out of the house, meeting other parents and sharing your ups and downs can really help put things into perspective. Particularly for parents with babies and toddlers. One big trend we’ve noticed growing in popularity is ‘bring your own baby’ events aimed at entertaining parents and little ones alike. Popular events include comedy shows, classical music concerts and lectures all hosted in an environment where babies can be babies, but the entertainment is very much for the parents.
We are much more adventurous than our parents’ generation and so we tend to want activities that give our children a much wider range of experiences, even when they are quite young and, hopefully, Hoop helps mums and dads find them.
The creativity, passion and energy of everyone running these activities is incredible.
A memorable event was Bowie’s Baby Ballroom. They had prizes for the best costumes and as the family dance floor throbbed to Bowie’s greatest hits, other children enjoyed all sorts of Bowie-inspired activities – from making rockets (for Major Tom) or Labyrinth-inspired puppets, to having a Ziggy Stardust Make-up Master class.
We’re very conscious that a lot of parenting services only target mums and we wanted Hoop to be a parenting app that would appeal to dads too
Hoop can open up a whole new world – for parents as well as kids. Rather than finding yourself doing the same activity week after week, family time should be an adventure the whole family looks forward to.