At 4 years old, Akira still finds the mall’s indoor playgrounds a happy place. It still excites her when she spots one, she still has a great time in one, and really, if your family is the type that’s in a mall at least once a week, then it pays to make the indoor playground your friend.
Changes to our playground routine now compared to before
We have said goodbye to Gymboree because it felt that she has outgrown the place, but she is still a regular at Kevin’s in Glorietta. We have also tried some new places.
It has become less about exploring and more of diving in and doing more of what you love to do when it comes to Akira and indoor play areas. After all, most playgrounds’ layouts and offerings tend to be the same.
We have also come to the point where we can leave her at some of these playgrounds and just come back for her at the allotted time. This took gradual steps. At Kevin’s for instance, we started not going inside with her and just hanging outside where we can still keep an eye on her. Then we started backing off, just hanging around the waiting area, making sure we can see her but that she doesn’t see us right away. And then it just came to the point where we told her we we’re going to leave her there and come back when it’s time, and she didn’t mind at all.
This worked well for us. We were less anxious about leaving her, and we have never picked her up crying and upset or hurt over anything serious (only when somebody has the toy she likes).
At this age, it seems that kids still have a lot of extra energy to expend. For families like ours, where the kid is an only child, she has no immediate cousins or even kid neighbors her age to play and relate with, the indoor playground comes in handy.
It addresses two important things: the need for physical activity, and the need for socialization, and learning to make friends. In an indoor play area, your kid will be exposed to children of different ages, backgrounds, and even nationalities. It’s a good opportunity to reinforce values like sharing, waiting for turns, and not hitting.
I have seen firsthand how the quality of the facility or the kind of toys that a play area has matters very little to a kid that has somebody to play with. It really makes the fees worthwhile when she comes back to you excitedly talking about her new friend.
The kids will be interacting with the play area attendants too, so it’s also good practice to have them learn and remember to interact properly and respectfully with adults.
Might I add that a lot of play areas highly encourage pretend play? It nurtures an active imagination and develops language skills, just to name a few benefits.
New places we’ve tried
Dave’s in Alabang Town Center may not be a big indoor play area, but it’s big on pretend play sets and scenarios. It’s just one of the few new places we’ve tried. It rarely gets crowded, but older kids – particularly boys – might find this kind of playground a tad boring, especially if they’re more physically active.
ActiveFun Evia Lifestyle Center
The mom of Akira’s best friend in school invited us to this mall so the girls can try the then newly opened branch of ActiveFun.
The mall itself is nice and airy, has most mall essentials (cinema, supermarket, salons), and is a good alternative to popular yet crazy-crowded malls of the south.
This branch of ActiveFun is laid out more for climbing, and has a big slide too, though obviously not as long as the one in the BGC. We went there December last year when there were no crowds at all, but I have no idea how it is like there now.
*Photos courtesy of Annemichelle Jayme
Kidzoona in Nuvali and Shangri-la Plaza
Kidzoona has been steadily expanding in Manila, with more branches now open (and usually full) in major malls. When before we’d go all the way to Walter Mart Makati just to go to Kidzoona, we soon found ourselves visiting the Nuvali branch and the Shangri-la Plaza branches. Yes, we can really be all over the place sometimes!
Both branches are expansive but can get surprisingly full especially on weekends. In Shangri-la Plaza, Kidzoona is the only indoor playground of its kind around, and with its easy access to the various schools around the Ortigas and greater Pasig area, it can get really filled up even on weekday afternoons.
Kidzoona Shangri-la Plaza
*Kidzoona Shangri-la Plaza photos courtesy of Annemichelle Jayme
One of our biggest concerns with indoor play areas is the possibility of our kid being hurt or bullied while inside one. The very thought of having to deal with other parents or even the establishment’s management over something like it is migraine inducing.
With play areas that allow a wide range of kids to play together such as Kevin’s, we’ve decided to not let Akira play if 1) the place is too crowded or 2) there is at least one big group of older and mostly boys around. The thing with play areas like this is I am not certain if they have a crowd limit at all and if it’s being enforced because it can really look like a cramped aquarium especially on a Sunday afternoon. It’s neither safe or comfortable, so that’s when we opt out.
Generally speaking, we’d rather opt out of a playground when it’s very crowded and there are bigger, more rowdy kids playing. Akira has also learned herself how it’s more difficult to move around or to just play when this is the case, so she has come to understand and not be persistent when we tell her why we can’t play.
Another major cause of concern for parents is the safety of these playgrounds. Almost all of these playgrounds have reinforced flooring – either with pads or carpeting. All of them (except for Gymboree that only requires socks for the adult companion) require socks for anyone who comes in to play, so it’s a bit hygienic, and most areas are padded.
Yet I also can’t stress this enough, but nothing will ever replace simply watching over the child. Parents and yayas, as far as I’ve seen, can be equally guilty of spending too much time on their phones than actually watching their kid. Not only are accidents more likely to happen because of this, but I also think kids tend to develop more attention-grabbing antics when they’re constantly ignored.
The malls indoor playgrounds are safe and enjoyable to a point. Play areas may be padded and secure, there may be attendants present as well, but ultimately, I think a diligently attentive adult companion is the key to a fun and memorable time at the playground. Do watch over them and shower them with attention with every little thing that they want to show you during these moments, because when the time comes, you’ll be able to leave them and play by themselves with peace of mind 🙂