Not all parents are pleased with a new play area at Guildford Town Centre that features iPads instead of playground equipment.

Surrey shopping centre’s new play area causes controversy

As part of its renovation, Guildford Town Centre replaced play structures with iPad stations.

Some parents are miffed that a re-vamped children’s play area in Surrey’s Guildford Town Centre (GTC) no longer has tunnels, slides and climbing structures, but a wall of iPad stations.

The new interactive play park, which opened on the weekend (Sept. 20), features a bank of iPads along a colourful, nature-themed wall. There are also a series of six hands-on stations with dials and knobs aimed at honing kids’ fine motor skills

Mom Nicole Thibault was excited about the new play area, but was promptly disappointed when she saw it.

“It really ticked me off,” said the mom, who has a 10-month-old daughter. “She needs to learn to interact with other kids, not with kids who are ignoring her and playing with an iPad.

Parent Laura McIntosh echoed the sentiment.

“My two-and-a-half-year old son struggled to navigate the age-inappropriate games, was bombarded by ads, loss of Internet connection and other frustrations,” she commented online. “He kept asking me, ‘where’s the slide, mommy?’

Another mom felt parents were reacting unreasonably, saying it’s not the mall’s responsibility to entertain their children.

“Really people?” wrote Darshan Andrews. “Complaining about a free play area? How about this. How ’bout you actually take your kids to the park and supervise them there?”

Petra Barker, public and community relations manager at GTC, said the shopping centre wanted to try something unique and different that would still provide respite for children and parents.

“It was just intended as a place to have a break and then carry onsomething where they can have a bit of a pit stop,” said Barker.

And, she points out, most of the play structures that used to be in the mall are now located just across the street at Guildford Recreation Centre.

She said so far, the new interactive play area is being well-used by shopping centre patrons and children and there are no immediate plans to make changes.

“People had an expectation and it turned out differently,” said Barker. “We’re always going to pay attention to what people are saying. But from our perspective, it turned out well.


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