As a parent of two young children I frequently visit McDonald’s, Burger King, Carl’s Jr. and other fast food restaurants that have children’s play areas. These play areas are not created equally and they vary in quality from location to location. Based on my vast experience in this area I have distilled the three factors that I believe are the most important in making a play area great for children.
Factor 1: separate areas for older and younger kids. Fast food restaurants typically post signs on play areas defining the age range of children that may play there; a typical range would be 3 to 10 years. For kids, though, a seven-year range is a very large range. Three-year-olds are not safe or comfortable playing in the same area as ten-year-olds. It is nice therefore to have a play area that has a separate small children area that older children cannot use or would not want to use. For example, many fast food restaurants now will have a large play area complex with tubes and slides and other toys for the older kids and then have a small slide that is clearly designed for use by very young children. For my family this is a very attractive feature; my two-year-old is happy to play on the small slide while my four-year-old enjoys playing with the older kids
Factor 2: indoors. While it might cost more money to build enclosed play areas than to build outdoor play areas, the indoor areas are better. No matter where you live, the weather conditions there can make outdoor play impossible. For example, cold temperatures, rain, and hot sun each make outdoor play equipment useless on a given day. Indoor equipment and a temperature controlled enivronment, however, can permit use virtually any day of the year. Indoor play areas are therefore much more family-friendly and more likely to drive children and their parents into a fast food restaurant
Factor 3: ample seating for parents. As a parent I want to be able to sit close to the play area that my children are using, for both convenience and safety. Unfortunately many fast food play areas do not have sufficient seating near the play area to accommodate the parents of children using the equipment. In designing a fast food play area, one should calculate how many children are likely to use the equipment simultaneously and then ensure that there is enough seating to accommodate each of the children’s families. I suspect that many parents are uncomfortable sitting in a separate area of the fast food restaurant while their children play unsupervised in the play area; in fact most play areas have signs saying that parents must be present with the children. This is only possible if there is sufficient seating and table space to accommodate the food and parentsThere are plenty of other factors that are important in designing a plate area at a fast food restaurant but these three are the top factors in my mind. I regularly eat at fast food restaurants because of the play areas that my children enjoy. Without such areas I would rarely eat fast food. Consequently, it is important to me that the restaurants I frequent have good play areas for me and my children.