If you prefer to shop online instead of hitting the local mall, you’ve got a lot of company. Statistics show that an increasing number of shoppers prefer sitting and clicking at home, instead of dragging bags around. But a lot of malls have a new secret weapon to fight the online trend: Cutting-edge play areas for kids. Why? Because if they can make the kids happy, their parents will be more likely to come to the mall, spend more time there, which means they’ll also spend more money.
Today’s sprawling play areas can run 2,000 square feet. Some are aimed at toddlers, and contain soft climbing structures built to look like Bugs Bunny, or characters from Sesame Street. And kids walking near structures often trigger noises, like creaks from a foam bridge. Toddler play zones are usually surrounded by a 4-foot high wall, with padded-foam floors and bacteria-resistant surfaces. And they have only one exit, so parents can sit and watch, without worrying that their child will wander off, or be abducted.
And other play areas are aimed at kids from age 6 to 10 who may not be that interested in running and climbing, so they’re stocking the areas with puzzles and touch-screen games.
And they’re taking care of mom and dad, too, by offering things like free Wi-Fi, charging stations for smartphones and laptops, and nearby food vendors.
What malls are hoping is that kids will bug their parents to take them to the mall instead of the park. And when the family is there, they’ll spend a little money too.