Filled with fun and frolic

Filled with fun and frolic

Filled with fun and frolic

Space constrains often deter parents from attempting to create a designated play area for their kids at home. Swati Kapur suggests some easy ideas that can transform any nook into a ‘happy zone’ for your little ones this summer vacation. From playpens to inflatable play dens, colourful rubber mats to a slide and a swing, there are choices galore

 We all know the importance of playtime in a child’s life. Indoor and outdoor playtimes have their own significance and relevance for the healthy and optimal growth of a child. Physical activity in the form of sports, games, exercise or play has a positive influence on the moods and minds of young children, as their brains release endorphins, which create a sense of joy and reduce stress. However, apart from school compounds and guarded playgrounds and parks, one cannot often wish for much at the home front when it comes to designated play areas. 

If you have seen a bunch of kids in action, you know that there’s a lot happening during playtime. Little ones are lifting, dropping, looking, pouring, bouncing, hiding, building, knocking down...But urban spaces are already struggling with issues of good ventilation and storage. So how can one introduce a segregated play area at home?

Safety first

Safety and security are of utmost importance when designing a play area. Ensure no loose electrical wires are hanging where you plan to install a play area. Trim or remove all jutting edges — be it from the wall or the furniture. Ensure good ventilation and lighting.

Paints leave bad odour even after days of drying up. So, opt for eco-friendly green paints that do not emit harmful toxins. Choose your building material very carefully. Certain toy manufacturing companies use high-grade plastics, rubber and foam for developing the play area. Other materials to be considered are sponge, wool and cotton. Make sure you smoothen and cover any sharp edges.

“Wood too is a good material considering the earthy feel it generates. It also acts as a good insulation for noise and prevents slippage. However, keep in mind the child’s specific preference, allergies and tastes before assuming and installing any material,” says Sarika Sethi, a New Delhi-based interior designer.

Do not deter from giving your child a wonderful play experience just because you think you don’t have the required space. Look around within the very four walls of your house and you will certainly find some space for small playpens, inflatable play dens, soft colourful rubber mats or even a slide or a swing. It’s all about decluttering, reorganising, and for the design enthusiast, a bit of creative restructuring.

Playpens are a great idea to create an instant play area for your baby anywhere. A set of panels interlock to form a safe play area for the baby. This can easily be moved around the house. A cuboid playpen can be opened anywhere and folded to carry along. The cubicle-like playpens can be easily installed, moved anywhere and dismantled. “I have relied heavily on play gyms and playpens for my 6-months-old baby. It keeps her engaged and happy while we are busy with other responsibilities. We even carry it on our trips,” says Tripti Sharma, a mom who believes that play zones at home can work wonders.

For babies and toddlers, consider rockers, see-saws and baby gyms that are colourful and engage a couple of children on  a play date. In a clean open room where furniture can be removed, set up a see-saw, slide and a baby gym (which is typically a mat with hanging mobile toys to entertain a lying baby). Infants and toddlers will have a great time stimulating their vision, mental faculties and motor senses through this experience. However, be careful to remove all sharp-edged furniture and knick-knacks from the vicinity. In a garden, one can even install an obstacle play trail and get kids to have some fun.

Theme for a dream

Sarika says, “I designed a room for a boy passionate about cars. I converted one of his walls into a display of cars of all sizes and eras. The wall became a point of curiosity for all who visited the room and the boy proudly showcases his car collection to his friends.” This way, you can build up the room based on specific interests.

From fairies to building blocks to tent houses, let your imagination run wild and create some precious childhood memories for your children. For a fairyland or doll house theme, all you need to do is paint it in dreamy hues with wall decals adding to the magic. Have a rocking pony or unicorn as a playing pal.
 Throw in a room-sized rug for some on-ground princess’ picnics and tete-a-tete. Bunk beds designed with princess themes are perfect to snuggle in a corner and read. Also, look out for small round tables and chairs for a ‘princess high tea’.

A jungle theme play area can sport a battery-operated or peddling jeep. Get animal-shaped toys and install a rainforest tree that kids can actually climb on. It’s fun swinging from the branches and living the Mowgli way. A cosy tent with books and toys thrown in will add to the camp effect.

Many children like to role play, which is a great way to inculcate life skills in them. Get a cash point machine installed and throw in a push cart with lots of empty plastic bottles and cartons that can act as items on the shop counters.

A little area in the courtyard can be utilised effectively by hanging a basket. Children can aim and practice basket ball here. “During summers, I take out our inflatable swimming pool. My daughter loves to dip in with a friend or two and they hang out there the whole day. Some rubber toys and water guns add to their party fun,” says Charu A Rao.

If none of the above-mentioned ideas are possible, go for a minimalist approach:

* Create a sand pit in empty tubs and throw in spade, shovel, sea shells and a beach set for kids to enjoy hours of beach fun.

* To develop fine motor skills, fill jars with mixed grains and place them on a table. Ask the children to separate different grains.

* Play mats in rubber and cotton are available with games like Ludo, Snakes & Ladders etc printed on them. Just spread it out on a boring day and it’ll make for a fun activity.

* A sprinkler left on with hose pipes and a water supply can be a fun way to teach children how to water plants, while letting them indulge in some water fun.
Maintenance matters.

A proper cleaning schedule is extremely important for keeping a play area hygienic and safe for children. Cleanse with soap and water to remove physical, chemical and
microbial impurities from surfaces. Sanitise with chemicals or alcohol-based solutions to reduce the number of germs on clean surfaces to a safe level. This has to be done once in a season or so, through fumigation or other germ-control techniques.

Indoor playground surfaces should be cleaned and sanitised daily, and spot cleaned throughout the day, even if they do not look dirty. Clean surfaces immediately if you spot dirt. Keep a soap and water solution mix handy in a spray bottle and use it as and when required on the surface. Never use harsh chemicals such as bleach, chlorine, or other chemicals that may degrade or dull the plastic. Stuffed toys etc can be easily machine or hand washed.

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