Kid customer? Commercialisation of playspace and commodification of childhood.

John H McKendrick, Michael Bradford, Anna Fielder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Citations (Scopus)


The growth of commercial playgrounds in the UK is part of a broader process whereby ever greater realms of children's lives are commodified. McNeal's theory of the social group of children as a market is introduced as a framework through which commercial playgrounds may be understood. An introduction to commercial playgrounds and the project from which the article is derived sets the context for an analysis of how parents and children perceive and experience these environments, how they are marketed to them and how they consume them. It is found that it is overly simplistic to suggest that these new developments are testimony to the new-found consumer power of children. Children play a marginal role: in the production of these play environments; in contributing to parents' information field prior to decision-making; and in the visit decision-making process. Some groups of children are found to be more active consumers of these spaces; children with fewer siblings and children outside two-parent families being significantly more likely to contribute to decision-making. However, `active consumption' is not distributed evenly across different types of commercial playground. Of particular significance is that children are more marginal to the decision-making process for family pubs, the domain which has traditionally been the preserve of adults. In conclusion, it is argued that the social group of children is not a primary, secondary or tertiary market. Rather, these new commercial playgrounds provide primarily for the needs of adults (for themselves and with respect to how they want their children to play) and, to a lesser extent, for the needs of children.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-315
Number of pages21
JournalChildhood : a journal of global child research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2000


  • children's geographies
  • play


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