[Weekender] Parents with children go for alternative space to relax

By Im Eun-byel

Big shopping malls attract families by offering fun, care, experience

  • Published : Oct 20, 2017 - 15:20
  • Updated : Oct 20, 2017 - 15:22

Korea is witnessing a boom in the kids cafe business due partly to a shortage of space in which parents with young children can idle away the time. A handful of big shopping malls have noticed the potential for such demand and are taking steps to catch up.

One case in point is Starfield shopping mall, which recently opened in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, just west of Seoul. The mega shopping center comes with a variety of children-friendly stores to allow families to spend a day together.

While shopping at Starfield Goyang, parents of young children can rest at Marie’s Baby Circle, one of the largest specialty stores tailored for infants and toddlers at the mall. 

Marie’s Baby Cafe offers baby food on its menu, in addition to other items. (Im Eun-byel/The Korea Herald)

“The store’s customers are usually parents with toddlers,” store manager Yoo Kyung-moo said. “They come to the shop and use convenience facilities before and after purchasing products.” 

The store is fully equipped with a diaper-changing room, breast-feeding room and separate restroom. Each room is designed for the whole family. “Since it is a store designated for infants and toddlers, it is much easier to go around with a baby stroller,” said a mother surnamed Hong, there with her 13-month-old.

Many also visit the store for classes at the Baby Culture Studio, where toddlers can take music and art classes, or just build with toy blocks, all under the guise of professional instructors. The classes allow tired parents to shop safe in the knowledge their children are being well taken care of.

Inside the store, a crowds form at Marie’s Baby Food Cafe. According to the manager, many customers are drawn to the cafe. Parents can even order baby food there, as the cafe offers seven different meals depending on the child’s developmental stage.

“I left the house today with a much smaller bag than usual. I just stopped by the cafe to feed the baby,” Hwang Do-hye, a mother of two, said. “It is not as reliable as the meal I make at home, but it is a convenient substitution.” 

More than 8,500 kinds of toys are available at Toy Kingdom. (Im Eun-byel/The Korea Herald)

Starfield Goyang has been built in consideration of its core customers -- parents coming with children -- and for that, toys are essential.

Toy Kingdom is a massive store with more than 8,500 kinds of toys. It differentiates itself from other shops with well-furnished experience zones. Children get to do more than just test the toys out. They can play with them. Kids can build a block kingdom on a specially designed table or test their shooting skills with toy guns, aiming at an electronically reflective screen. They can also steer radio-controlled cars on a race track.

“Kids can play with extraordinary toys here, which are too big or too expensive for home,” supervisor Kang Byung-ki said. “But what makes it more amazing is that it is a store not just for the children, but also the parents.” 

Customers steer radio-controlled cars along a race track, competing with employees. (Im Eun-byel/The Korea Herald)

While children play with new toys, parents can also have fun browsing figurines and model trains.

But if these experience zones are not enough, families can also visit Toy Kingdom Play, a full-fledged experience facility. Children can try working in simulated real-life jobs at a work-experience theme park. They can also create works of art with crayon helmets or enjoy imaginary worlds created with light.

What makes the theme park appealing for parents is that they can take their eyes away from the children for a while, as the park’s professional instructors look after the children.

“I am not looking for a babysitter here. As I work on weekdays, I want to be with my child when I have a chance,” a mother of a 4-year-old daughter with the surname of Lee said. “When we visit this place, I can play with my daughter but I don’t have to pay full-time attention to her. She has fun, I have fun too. It’s a win-win.” 

A mother and daughter wander through an imaginary world created with light. (Im Eun-byel/The Korea Herald)

By Im Eun-byel (