Humans are social beings, who crave relationships and a sense of belonging. The extent to which we are successful in forging long lasting relationships in adulthood, is determined to a great deal, by the level of social development that we have had, as children. Parents, today, are more conscious and involved in the all-round development of their children. To ensure adequate social development, children need to interact with their peers.
Lack of open space force parents to look at alternatives
However, due to the scarcity and prohibitive cost of land in our leading metros, the typical style of construction that is favoured by most real estate developers, is those of standalone buildings or residential complexes. With every available sq ft of space being put to use in construction, there is little open space left for gardens where children can play.
Parents therefore, are forced to induct their children into classes, where they can have some sort of physical activity like football, tennis, gymnastics or dance. Many parents also organise play dates at a club or take their children out together for picnics. However, all of these are structured activities, under the constant supervision of adults. Thus, children do not get the benefits of free play.
Why play areas for children are necessary in housing projects
Only when children are allowed to run free in open spaces, can they learn by exploring their surroundings. The thrill of being able to negotiate a space and the possible hurdles, like swings, slides, etc., gives children a sense of competence and success increases their confidence. Not being in a structured environment, allows children to let their imagination take flight – a slide could become a castle where their band of playmates can spend hours thinking up new battles and conquests!
Mixing with other children, making friends on their own and learning to get along with others, are all important aspects of a child’s social and emotional development. Children learn empathy and the meaning of being fair and respecting the other’s opinion. The playground often has its own rules and hierarchy and children need to make their own place in this micro-universe.
All this is not possible, when they are cloistered in closed spaces, with adults dictating what they should do next.
How can developers cater to children’s needs in their projects
While parents are naturally concerned about falls and scraped knees, there is never a child who has grown up, without a few falls and this too, teaches them to understand their limits and how to be careful in the future.
In the words of Joseph Lee, who is considered the father of the ‘playground movement’: “Play for grown people is recreation – the renewal of life; for children it is growth – the gaining of life.”
Given the constraints of land availability in cities like Mumbai, it may not be feasible for a developer to construct open spaces or gardens. However, this does not mean that they cannot provide for children’s play areas, or take advantage of the podium area, to create such spaces for children. It all comes down to a little bit of smart planning and lateral thinking, which will not involve extravagant budgets or sacrificing precious land.
Developers should bear in mind that young families with children, will live in these buildings. They should plan facilities for their emotional and social development, right when the blueprints are being drawn up. The real estate sector must move beyond the narrow vision of immediate commercial gains and create something that will nurture future generations – by providing them not just with a house but also a happy life!
(The writer is brand custodian and chief customer delight officer, Rustomjee Group)