All work and no play

Shrinking spaces

All work and no play

There was a time when children would rush home from school, change into their most worn-out clothes and fill the streets with their play, until their parents summoned them back.

It wasn’t until the sky deepened in colour and the air caught a chill that the children would saunter back home slowly, dragging their leaden feet.

But now, every street is filled with zooming vehicles that don’t give two hoots for the children who are playing ‘lagori’.

Metrolife speaks to a few parents and children on the occasion of Children’s Day about the shrinking recreational spaces for children in the City.

When parents try to take their children to parks, they encounter more roadbumps instead.

Either the parks are for children below a certain age or they aren’t well-maintained or they have been encroached upon and don’t exist.

The shrinking spaces in the City for children to play in is a mounting concern for parents, who are worried that their children aren’t getting enough physical exercise because of technological advances.

Sheela says that her 12-year-old son hardly wanders out of the house after coming back from school.

“There are no playgrounds near our house so we can only take him to the park in the neighbouring area on the weekends. The rest of the week, he mostly sits indoors and watches TV or plays indoor games with his cousins.”

She adds, “I try to make sure he gets as much exercise as possible but I don’t know what he does when I’m not there and I get back home late. He has no friends in the neighbourhood because the other parents don’t encourage their children to come out and play. When he does go out, the neighbours don’t like it because they say it disturbs them. We couldn’t even burst crackers this Deepavali.”

Anu Thomas, the project manager at Headstreams, a company that is organising a campaign called ‘Let’s Play’, says that Bengaluru has so many families settling down but so little space for children to play in.

“In many areas, there are park allocations but they are missing. With the increase in pressure from tuitions, academics and competitions, children and parents aren’t able to see what they are losing out on. Playing is also a method of learning and most people have forgotten that.”

It’s not only a lack of parks that is a problem.

Shanti, who has two young children, says, “There are a few parks in my area but they aren’t very child-friendly. Most of them don’t allow children above the age of five to play. I understand that the young ones need some space for themselves but what about the slightly older ones? Aren’t they children as well? It’s suffocating for them to sit at home all the time.”

Sheela adds, “Most parks aren’t very friendly towards children because they either grow beautiful plants that they don’t want kids to destroy or they have elders walking inside
and don’t like children playing.”

Gulzar, whose son Omar has autism, says, “There aren’t any parks close by and we don’t want our son to play outside because it has become so unsafe. When we were young, we could go out any time and play on the streets. But now, even when I take him to the park, people look at him differently and aren’t willing to let him play. So we just go for a while and come back.”

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