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People have gotten a lot less active since the turn of the century. Case in point: Kids today don’t play outside as much as kids from previous generations did. Random rounds of patintero still break out in a vacant lot once in a while, but most children seem to prefer playing online games indoors, solitary and unsupervised.

There’s a reason why the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child singles out play as a right that children must have: “Children have the right to relax and play, and to join in a wide range of cultural, artistic, and other recreational activities.” Playtime might seem frivolous, but it’s an important part of a child’s development.

In 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) article “The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children” emphasized how playing with their parents and their peers allows children to develop important skills and “enhances their brain structure.” Play “facilitates the progression from dependence to independence and from parental regulation to self-regulation. It promotes a sense of agency in the child.”

“A multidisciplinary perspective on adult play and playfulness’ points out that playful adults tend to be more emotionally stable”

But it’s not just children who benefit greatly from playtime. Adults and teens also need to start playing again. Aside from the obvious benefit of being physically fit, playing and being playful help with one’s wellbeing. The International Journal of Plays special adult play-oriented issue “A multidisciplinary perspective on adult play and playfulness” points out that playful adults tend to be more emotionally stable, and that adapting playtime into clinical psychiatric work could greatly benefit adults who are dealing with issues like depression and addiction.

Large indoor play centers are a good alternative, and malls can be good avenues for this. Parents can take their kids to places like Kidzcity at SM Aura, the four-story play area Cosmic Kidz at SM MOA, and Kidzoona at SM City Masinag and SM City San Lazaro. These areas are designed to be conducive to social play, with the added benefit of parents being able to do their shopping after playtime or even while their kids are having fun.

Since malls tend to be near schools and business centers, they’re more accessible to adults and teens, too. Adults who feel uncomfortable about outside play can feel more at ease playing inside a mall, since here, they can findgrown-up activity areas, like arcades and the state-of-the- art bowling centers that SM MOA, SM Southmall, and SM City Cebu have.

In fact, many activity centers are open to all ages. Take SM MOA and Megamall’s ice skating rinks. Kids who fell in love with Frozen and are eagerly waiting for its sequel can take a spin and pretend to be magical princes or princesses on ice, while the older crowd can try reliving their dreams of becoming Olympic figure skaters.

At the end of the day, it’s important to bring back the idea of playtime as a magical and necessary time. Cancelling it isn’t doing anyone any favors—neither the kids, the teens, nor the adults alike.