Indoor children’s play areas have become a popular addition to a range of family-friendly businesses in recent years. From shopping malls and family restaurants to gyms and fitness centers, airport waiting areas, hotels and resorts, rec centers, libraries, and more, indoor play areas offer a valuable service for families looking to keep their children entertained and engaged. These centers provide a safe and stimulating environment where children can play, learn and socialize, while parents can relax, catch up on work, or simply enjoy some downtime.
Indoor play centers offer an excellent business opportunity for entrepreneurs who are passionate about providing much-needed service to families in their community while generating profit. By offering a fun and safe space for families to enjoy, indoor play centers can enhance the overall experience of their host business and create a loyal customer base.
Here are tips for creating the perfect family indoor play area for any size of space or type of business.
1. Plan the Size of Your Space
Determine the amount of space you have available and how you want to divide it up. Consider including separate zones for different age groups, such as a toddler area and a separate section for older kids.
A play area could be located in a small room off of your main business area, such as in a gym or community center, or in the center of a food court in a larger business like a mall or airport. Let’s look at some examples of what this might look like.
Playrooms can make great use of vacant store space in a retail location.
Stand-alone Play Areas
Stand-alone play centers are self-contained. Great for hallways or wide open spaces.
Small Play Structures
A smaller fort may be all you need for the space you have available, but it will inspire big imaginations all the same.
2. Safety First
Once you have a space, safety should be a top priority when designing an indoor play area.
One of the most important aspects of creating a safe indoor play area is selecting the right type of flooring. Soft and cushioned flooring is ideal, as it provides a soft landing surface for children who may trip or fall during play. This type of flooring helps to reduce the impact of falls, minimizing the risk of serious injury.
In addition to selecting the right type of flooring, installing safety gates can also help to prevent accidents and injuries. Safety gates can be used to restrict access to certain areas of the play area to different age groups, such as keeping toddlers out of areas meant for older children.
Using age-appropriate toys and equipment is another important consideration when designing an indoor play area. Toys and equipment that are designed for older children may not be safe for toddlers and can increase the risk of accidents and injuries. Make sure to carefully consider the age range of the children who will be using the play area, and choose toys and equipment that are appropriate for their developmental level. We’ll get into more detail about the types of equipment in a moment.
Don’t Forget the Rules
A list of rules for parents and children to follow will also help maintain safety.
Your play area rules could include:
- Parental Supervision: Children must be supervised by a parent or guardian at all times while in the play area.
- Age Limits: Clearly state age limits for different areas or equipment within the play area to ensure that younger children are not playing on equipment designed for older children.
- No Roughhousing: Running, pushing, and other rough play should be prohibited to prevent injuries to children and damage to equipment.
- No Food or Drinks: Eating and drinking should not be allowed in the play area to prevent spills and potential choking hazards.
- No Shoes: Shoes should be removed before entering the play area to prevent dirt and debris from being tracked in and to reduce the risk of slipping and falling.
- No Sick Children: Children who are sick or have a contagious illness should not be allowed to use the play area to prevent the spread of germs to other children.
- No Bullying or Harassment: Bullying or harassment of other children should not be tolerated and will result in immediate removal from the play area.
- Clean Up: Children should be encouraged to clean up after themselves and return any toys or equipment to their proper place after use.
3. Pick a Theme
Having a theme helps create a cohesive and professional look to your play area, plus it is great for branding and advertising.
Your theme can be based on fun colors. It can be an out-of-this-world space or fantasy adventure. If you’re located in a coastal mountain town or a desert city, you can use your local flora and fauna to inspire you.
For example, the Westshore Town Centre shopping mall takes its name to heart, with a selection of shoreline-themed play structures including a climbable soft play bear catching a salmon, a whale tail slide, a lighthouse with a wheel that spins the light, plus so much more. This centerpiece play area reflects the brand of the mall along with the local landmarks guests are familiar with.
4. Choose a Variety of Age-Appropriate Activities
Select activities that are suitable for the ages of the children who will be using the play area. For example, a toddler area could include soft play mats, low-height slides, and ride-on toys, while an older kids’ zone could include climbing walls, ball pits, and interactive video games.
Hands-on play is great for younger kids as it helps develop fine and gross motor skills, hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, and social skills as children interact with others. Hands-on play options could include Keebee playboards, sensory tables like bead maze tables or magnetic activity tables, large puzzles, building blocks, and coloring areas with markers and crayons.
Interactive play inspires imagination!
“Soft play” sculptures are typically made from high-density foam that is covered with a durable, waterproof vinyl material. This makes them safe for children to crawl on, climb over, and play with, while also being easy to clean and maintain.
Soft play sculptures come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including characters, slides, tunnels, vehicles, and more. They can be customized to fit any theme or color scheme, making them a popular choice for indoor play areas, daycare centers, and other children’s facilities.
Because soft play sculptures are soft and squishy, they are less likely to cause injury than traditional play equipment made from hard materials like metal or plastic. They can also be used to create obstacle courses and other interactive play experiences that promote physical activity and imaginative play.
Slides are a popular and fun form of active play for children of all ages, and even adults can enjoy them. Sliding down a slide can provide a sense of thrill and excitement, as well as help to develop physical skills such as balance, coordination, and gross motor skills. And they’re just plain fun!
Playing in a ball pit provides a tactile and sensory-rich experience, which can be beneficial for children with sensory processing difficulties. The feeling of sinking into a pit filled with soft, squishy balls can be calming and regulating. Let’s not forget that a ball pit is simply a fun and enjoyable experience for children. It can provide a break from structured activities and offer a chance to dive in and laugh to their heart’s content.
Climbing Structures and Ropes
If your facility has the capability and space to incorporate climbing structures, tunnels, and rope courses, these can offer an exciting and engaging way for children to develop essential gross motor skills such as coordination, balance, and strength. Not only do climbing structures provide a safe environment for children to take risks and explore their limits, but they also foster the development of confidence and self-esteem as they navigate through the structures under supervision.
While some parents may go to play areas to avoid digital stimulation, adding video games to an indoor play area for children can provide a number of benefits and can engage kids of different ages.
As technology continues to play an increasingly important role in daily life, offering video games in a play area can provide children with a chance to become familiar with and comfortable using technology in a safe and supervised setting. Many video games require players to use hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills, which can help develop these skills in children.
Offering video games alongside other play options like climbing structures, ball pits, and sports activities can provide a generous range of play activities for children and keep them entertained for longer periods.
If you want the best of both worlds, a great alternative is floor-projected video games. These games encourage active participation by inviting children to jump and stomp on animated bugs, balls, and lily pads that are projected onto the floor.
TVs and Theater
While adding a TV to a play area can provide entertainment for children, it may not offer the same developmental benefits as active play options. However, it could be a viable addition to a play area depending on the needs of the business and the interests of the children. If children are tired from play but not ready to leave yet, it provides a quiet alternative for those taking a break.
Photo Op Characters and Backdrops
Parents are all about capturing fun and special moments with their children as they play. Providing the perfect photo opportunity for them is a bonus for parents and an even bigger bonus for your social media.
Parents who take and share photos of a fun day at your play park are creating valuable user-generated content that helps promote your fun services. Include your name, your logo, or even encourage the use of a hashtag to make the best use of this content.
KNOW A MALL THAT CAN
BENEFIT FROM A PLAY AREA?
5. Consider These Useful Additions for Your Play Area
Add Signs for Wayfinding and Instructions
An important part of any play area is letting people know you have it, where to find it, and how to use it (like the rules sign mentioned earlier). Signs can come in a variety of shapes and styles, from 2D to 3D.
Signs can also include your logo, hours of operation, and other useful information, like where the bathroom is located.
Keep it All Clean with a Shoe Rack
Adding a shoe rack outside your children’s play area can have several benefits:
- Keeping the play area clean: Children can bring dirt, mud, or other debris on their shoes when they enter the play area. By having a shoe rack outside the play area, you can encourage them to take off their shoes and leave them outside, which can help keep the play area clean and safe for children.
- Preventing slips and falls: Wet or muddy shoes can make the floor slippery, which can increase the risk of slips and falls. By leaving shoes outside, you can prevent these accidents from happening and keep your children safe.
- Encouraging organization: A shoe rack outside the play area can encourage children to take responsibility for their belongings and keep them organized. It can also make it easier for them to find their shoes when they need them.
Provide Comfortable Seating for Parents
Make sure to include comfortable seating for parents or caregivers to relax while the children play. Consider adding tables and chairs for snacks or drinks. If food is not allowed near the play area, consider adding a seating area nearby where the play area can still be observed.
Providing seating areas can create a social atmosphere for parents and caregivers to interact with one another. This can lead to new friendships and a sense of community.
Plan for Stroller Parking
Families with children of all ages will want to come to your play area. Make it as convenient as possible for them by providing a space for them to store their bulky strollers.
Providing a designated space for stroller storage can help eliminate any potential hazards or clutter that may disrupt the play area. Having a safe and easily accessible place to store strollers also makes it more convenient for families with young children, as they won’t have to worry about maneuvering a bulky stroller through a crowded play area.
The Perfect Indoor Family Play Area
The benefits these play areas can offer parents and kids alike make them invaluable. Now that you have this information in mind, why not consider creating one at your own location? With this list you should be on your way to making an amazing play area for children in any business or location. So don’t hesitate, let the kids go play!
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Don’t know where to start with creating your indoor playground? One of our Creative Consultants would love to help. Contact Imagination Design Studios (IDS) to get started transforming your facility from a mundane to a magical guest experience.