Why we joined a Private Family Member's Club: Benefits and Value
Updated: Feb 13
During our son's toddler years (2-4 years of age), we opted for a part-time nanny and choose to supplement with half days at the nursery. Whilst it's fabulous having an amazing nanny and the flexibility, there are also perks to nursery life, as mentioned in my blog Nursery or Nanny: A Guide to Choosing your Childcare Option. Our son is an active & sociable toddler, who likes reading, classical music, singing and exploring how things work. Nursery life provides diverse entertainment and activities, a large array of toys, and much social interaction to stimulate and develop a child's interest further. We decided that if we chose the nanny option, we would incorporate these aspects into his routine, via external private classes, playgroups and/or joining a private family members club.
For those who don't know how the private members clubs work, London boasts the widest range of private member's clubs in the world ranging from focus areas such as fine art, wine, emotional and physical well-being, social, creative or simply old school classic gentleman's clubs. Each club has it's own niche. The benefits of joining are that you get to engage your interests, or be exposed to new interests; meet a group of people sharing the same passions; have a staple place to eat, drink and be merry; and a place to work, if you like. This is in exchange for for an fee i ranging from £800 to £6000 per annum. My husband and I have both been members of or visited many members clubs in London and certainly see the perks. Thankfully most have also evolved beyond their archaic pasts to become more inclusive to women and families. As life changes when you have children, so to do the goals of membership alignment. In a busy city like London, having a staple place for your child to play or have play dates, is certainly an asset in your childcare arsenal.
THE NEW BREED OF FAMILY MEMBERS CLUBS
The concept of family oriented members clubs is not entirely new. The Hurlingham Club has been around since 1987, visited by families looking for recreational time. It has an extremely long waitlist and so don't hold your breath about getting in anytime soon.
Enter a new breed of family member's club. They come at a cost too and are often branded as posh, snobby and having members who join to mix their kids with celebrity and royalty children. But I promise you, this is not the case. This was reaffirmed after visiting and joining these clubs. Providing a safe development and social haven for both parents and children, a home away from home with familiarity for your child, and a known location to travel to, hopefully quite close to where you live, the new breed of family members-clubs are a breath of fresh air.
So what's the lowdown on these private members clubs versus independent classes? Having tried and tested all these options, I included what I see as the perks and downsides to each below.
MAGGIE AND ROSE
Maggie & Rose, dubbed the Soho-House for children, is London' first family members club with two outposts, one in Kensington and the other in Chiswick. It was brainstormed by Maggie Bolgor and Rose Astor, to provide a beautiful creative space for children in surroundings that appealed to adults too, pretty much a home away from home.
The Kensington club hosts a vast array of classes for babies, toddlers and children (up to 7 years of age), each in different rooms with amazing set ups. You can choose from cooking, dancing, singing, gardening, art & craft, make believe, sensory play, music and dress up classes, which makes being a child so much fun! There is also a baby room with a ball pit and lots of sensory stimulation; a huge amazing soft play room for toddlers which our son absolutely loved; and a quiet room with vintage cars, books and toys to keep your little ones occupied. Outside, there is a small garden to allow for your little one to run around.
A shabby chic restaurant on site caters simple food without sacrificing quality or taste, and without added salt or refined sugar, just good healthy ingredients. There is also a cinema on site to catch a movie with your little one!
The Kensington club is the original Maggie and Rose club and it prides itself on hosting incredible social events, parties and holiday clubs for older kids. You can see how the social benefits are immense!
The group also have their own nursery, for an additional cost, offering full or part time care for your little ones from 1.5 to 2.5 years of age.
Maggie and Rose membership ranges from £150 - £300 a month, dependant on the type of membership you get and how many classes you sign up for per month. Overall, we found facilities for children to be incredible, there was just so much to do! It was evident that the children all loved their time there. It did have slightly less facilities for adults compared to Purple Dragon Play. However, this is reflected in the middle of the mark price range compared to other member's clubs reviewed. Furthermore it is regarded as an institution with an amazing reputation, and it is clear why the members love it!
PURPLE DRAGON PLAY
Purple Dragon Play has an international network hosting clubs from Hong Kong to Los Angeles, with London branches based in Chelsea and Putney. It offers a space where both children and adults can hang out, designed with children and adults in mind and underpinned by a culture of fun, happiness, community, respect and enrichment. The club is just lush with sleek, sophisticated and tasteful decor.
The Chelsea club offers access to a pool; play areas and dress up zones and a wide range of classes including cooking, ballet, sensory play and music. The club has multiple rooms each equiped with its own play buddy, which is a qualified staff member to lead the activity in each room. There's a music room where our son loved playing different instruments from drums to the guitar, a creative room for budding artists, and soft play area with ball pit. Whilst the club offers such a wide array of activities, my personal recommendation is that it suits ages 3-6 years of age best.
But the club is perfect for adults too, with a golf simulator, a library, and a wonderful restaurant to catch up with friends over lunch. Of course, you are also welcome to join in the fun with your little ones at their classes.
Purple Dragon has different levels of membership to suit your lifestyle including the the premier, early birds, night birds, or the out of towners. The prices from range upto £6000 per annum dependant on the type of membership you choose and how much time you wish to spend at the club each month. Pricing decreases for week days only and increases if you want weekends and afternoons/early evenings. It is the priciest option reviewed but certainly also has the most facilities, which is why I believe it's worth it with the range on offer for both children and parents.
CUPCAKE (NOW CLOSED)
Cupcake, based in Parson's Green, offers a a social & recreational for the family, fitness space for mummies, and a development space for your child.
There's a creche open Monday to Friday from 8.30-1.30 pm where you can utilise the time to catch up on what you need to. For the mummies, there are four mummy and baby fitness classes per week including carrifit, yoga, barre and pilates. For your baby, toddler or child, there are 60 classes a week. These include art and craft, cooking, sensory play, soft play, toddler football & basketball, play songs, and music. There is also the cupcake academy for 3-5 years olds, for after school art, drama, cooking, ballet, football and tennis. Looking at the schedule, the downside is there aren't many options for Dads and not many classes for babies and toddlers take place on the weekend.
Cupcake membership for the whole family starts at £150 up to £200 per month, dependant on how many credits you sign up for. Cupcake had the most limited facilities, but I believe that this reflected in the price which makes it a cost effective option. We didn't visit the club as it did not offer what we personally were looking for. However, it certainly has met the task of creating a neighbourhood feel in a members club we have heard, and families who are members do love it!
ARE INDEPENDANT CLASSES NOT JUST THE SAME WITH MORE VERSATILITY?
During my maternity leave, I visited many independent classes in London ranging from baby sensory, play groups, story time, music, baby massage, and fitness. My son and I both enjoyed the classes immensely and you are able to sign up for these on the day via the Hoop App or Website, or book a 3 month session with the vendor directly. The great thing is that you can get a discounted fee if you book a few sessions in advance, and you also not tied into a long term contract, so you can try many classes to find the right fit. The flexibility is a big plus especially if your child might be unwell or sleepy on a particular day. The standard of the classes are great and the range available s so wide, we had so much to chose from, which is definitely a perk.
On the downside, the classes in the Central London area had one thing in common: a large proportion of nannies attending with the little ones. It was thus rare to meet other parents to share a bond and develop a parent network, a very different experience than I would have imagined, I have to admit. The social aspect as a new parent should not be underestimated and the private family members clubs can provide a wealth of opportunity for this. Additionally, the independent classes are very child centric, as they should be, but it means that recreation for the parent isn't really an option during this time, as an adult needs to accompany the child. This might work if you have a part-time nanny, au pair or family to help during these times of course. Most of the independent classes take place during the week, which can make it tough for working parents to participate in.
In most parts of West and Central London, playgroups and story time are free of charge but other baby and toddler classes come at a cost, where the charges range from anywhere between £10 to £25 per class. This can add up and on many months we could easily spend £300-£400 per month if we signed up for swimming, and 2-4 additional classes per week.
WHATS THE VERDICT?
So in all, we do agree that the private member's clubs are certainly more restrictive because you are tied into a long term contract (short term contracts can be much more costly). But the perks of being able to socialise, the facilities offered, and to have a familiar play space and classes for your child outweighed this strongly. Of course, you can always join a private members club and still attend independent classes if you like.
One of the greatest decision makers are the hours you will need at the members club, when you will spend your time and the ages of your kids.
For us, the private members club option was perfect when our son was a toddler and we loved meeting members and make the most of the classes!
Have you tried any of these options? I would welcome your thoughts on the experience.
Shanti | The Kensington Diary