Dreamlands and Playscapes for Kids and “Kidults”

October 6th, 2022

A growing number of brands and retailers understand that their bricks-and-mortar stores can no longer simply meet citizens' consumer needs.

Brands must work harder to create a retail environment that can accommodate a complex range of customers’ emotional, spiritual, physical, and day-to-day practical needs if they are to prove an understanding of and empathy towards their customers.

Dreamlands and Playscapes for Kids and “Kidults”

Playscapes for kids

One version of playtail, and a way that brands and retailers can look to accommodate the day-to-day practical needs of their customers, is by implementing playscapes for kids into their bricks-and-mortar stores so that the children of their customers are happy and occupied. In turn, this will ease a handful of pain points for parents when shopping, allowing them to enjoy the store without guilt nor distraction.

Playscape noun

A playscape is an amalgamation of the words “play” and “landscape” to create a term describing a landscape in an environment that encourages interaction through play. Often, a playscape is defined as such for it typically being set within an environment whose stereotypical or primary function is for something other than play.

The Stella McCartney store on Old Bond Street

The Stella McCartney store on Old Bond Street features a miniature rock-climbing wall and a grey and white themed ball pit in its basement to ensure that children can enjoy this luxury retail experience just as much as their parents. What’s more, the children’s playscape sits under an entirely transparent skylight so parents can continue to supervise their children as they progress on their shopping journey to the floor above.

More recently, Japanese eyewear brand, JINS, has created a retail space centred around community within the brand’s hometown of Maebashi City. Its uniquely shaped building and terrace, named “JINS Park”, offers a family-friendly retail destination complete with a bakery/café, a garden, and a play area for children, alongside a retail space displaying JINS eyewear products.

Partnering with artist, Hebru Brantley, Lego created an immersive playscape in West Harlem to inspire creativity and celebrate children’s imaginations. This unique playscape was inspired by the results of a study which found that “a third of US parents say they don’t play together enough as a family” and that “82% of children in New York wish for more play”. Lego took the opportunity to accommodate the needs of both children and parents whilst at the same time deploying a brilliant brand marketing activation.

Targeting generation alpha

Targeting generation alpha

Succeeding Generation Z is Generation Alpha – a younger audience holding a fair amount of pester power that is influencing the spending decisions of their parents. Moreover, this generation is quite keen to shop offline with almost half reporting that they prefer to visit the highstreet than an online marketplace (Beano Brain).

As a result, a growing number of brands and retailers are choosing to target this generation through pliable playscapes that embrace an energetic and visual language reflecting generation Alpha’s optimism, passion for change, and confidence deriving from their empowering position as digital teachers and positive agitators within their families.

There is a notable difference in the design of the playscapes targeting Generation Alpha compared to those targeting the children of preceding generations. Playscapes targeting children of today are typically void of patronising language, and audacious in their appearance, often using bright colours and bold typography.

Earlier this year, fashion retailer, Mango, opened its first-ever store aimed at young teens in Barcelona. This Mango Teen playscape is “capturing teenage dreams” through its immersive, interactive, and altogether dopamine-provoking interior. Vibrant green and orange walls and exhibition elements are embellished with LED lighting and illuminated signage, whilst tunnel arches and mirrors create the appearance of a futuristic funhouse. Alongside featuring a mock hotel reception in place of traditional cash desk and a faux washing machine inviting customers to recycle their old clothes, this playscape is brimming with striking installations employing unexpected functions for a more memorable experience.

Similarly, eyewear company, Rookies, is “swapping the quiet functionality typical of optometry experiences for a ‘noisy, wild and unique paradise for children’”. This Munich store uses bold colours and a range of geometric shapes to create an other-worldly interior. Further adding to this unique interior is a wall-mounted machine that dispenses each child’s glasses when they are ready, bringing a sense of tactility and animation to the eyewear experience!

Dreamlands for kidults

Dreamlands for kidults

 75% of European shoppers – and over 80% of Millennials and Gen Z – said they would change their shopping behaviour if high street stores were more experiential (Epson Survey). This, combined with research suggesting that adults are driving the toy market, suggests that playscapes are far from being just for kids.

The hyperphysical nature of playscapes makes them perfect for many adults looking to escape their demanding, tech-laden routines starved of sensorial variety. This desire for more experiential and hyperphysical bricks-and-mortar store experiences presents an opportunity for brands to cocoon their customers in an empathetic environment fostering a sense of belonging. Hyperphysical stores, or playscapes, are bastions of truly extraordinary experiences that can uplift moods and support customer wellbeing. Their offer of community, interactivity, discoverability, and play, combined with often eccentric, awe-inspiring, or altogether outlandish interior design schemes, transforms an ordinary bricks-and-mortar retail store into a dreamland filled with memorable moments.

When we consider that bricks-and-mortar retail sales are forecast to grow between 2.6% and 3.4% by 2025 (eMarketer), it is no surprise that we are seeing a growing number of brands creating these dreamlands for “kidults”.

Kidult noun

Kidult noun

A kidult is an amalgamation of the words “kid” and “adult” and is a term that can be attributed to an adult who enjoys having fun in the same way that a child might enjoy having fun.

Blending tech and nature, digitally-native marketplace, WOW Concept, launched its first physical store that spans across six-storeys. Complete with interactive omnichannel features connecting customers of the store to its online roots, such as an app that allows customers to add products to their ‘baskets’, this Madrid-based store is divided into sections with each adopting an ethereal, metaverse-inspired look and feel with interactive touchpoints and animated art installations.

Scaling up its range of fitness products to create wonderful sculptures that highlight the products’ unique form, Bala created an immersive pastel playscape in its New York studio pop-up that wraps customers in the brand’s intriguing visual identity. Further interjections and opportunities for play are encouraged within this shapely interior as Bala invites customers to interact with the brand and join its enriching community via a full schedule of body-sculpting fitness classes.

Whimsical hospitality

Whimsical hospitality

Dreamlands don’t just stop at retail. The hospitality sector is also using abstract environment design to good effect, taking customers on a journey that fosters emotional connections for a longer lasting impression. Hospitality dreamlands transport customers into a state of make-believe. Often based at legacy locations, they give hospitality a chance to tell a narrative that goes beyond the here and now, and flex support for a culture of past or present.

Bompas & Parr took alfresco dining to the extreme. This multi-sensory experience design agency created an unimaginable reality for diners by setting up a restaurant in a volcano-setting in the home of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hegra.  But it didn’t stop there. The whole experience entitled Forces of Nature was filled with volcano-inspired, multi-sensory dining. Led by experts and hosted at night to enhance the sensorial experience, diners were treated to a performance spectacle consisting of smoked cocktails, and experts cooking local ingredients on a stream of molten lava!

Eat, Live & Nourish. EL&N London created a pink deluge in Saudi’s Panorama Mall. Taking inspiration from the mall’s extensive entertainment offering, this theatrical dining concept was based around an open-air cinema with playful seating nooks and backdrops ensuring that every seat is the “best seat in the house”.

Moving away from restaurants, and architecture studio, MVRDV, created a community playscape under a Mumbai flyover in a bid to create safer pedestrian zones in the Indian metropolis. This community-centric refuge offers a respite for people of all ages from the high temperatures and commotion from the streets above. Contrasting its surroundings, this biophilic designed community space offers seating for rest and relaxation, as well as a number of games and play points that transport locals to an urban utopia.

Fancy a go at creating a dreamland for kidults?

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This article is part of a four-part web series investigating a handful of ways that brands and retailers are leveraging consumers’ love for play, gaming, and make-believe as a form of entertainment and escapism to reach new customers and make a lasting impression.


Jump to a section
Part 1 – Introducing Playtail…
Part 2 – Dreamlands and Playscapes for Kids and “Kidults”
Part 3 – Gamification for Increased Engagement
Part 4 – Making an Impression in the Metaverse

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