LEISURE Parks in the city are not up to the mark but SHILPA NAIR ANAND finds kids making a beeline for them, for the lack of better alternatives

Head to the Durbar Hall Ground, one of these days, in the evening (after sundown), you will be confronted with a sea of kids. Of different age groups, shapes and sizes – most of them generally in pursuit of a ball. Parents lounge on the borders, those with very young kids would be walking along with their wards, happily looking at kids fooling around and making new friends.

Says Meena Shankar, “I take my kids there because we want them to be able to run around. There is hardly any space for them to play, as a result they have few friends outside their peer group in school. When we were kids there was so much space…to just run around.” Space is the constraint and the refrain is “where is the space?”

Sunil G.’s toddler took a huge toss at the park while trying to negotiate his way through older kids, and split his forehead. But he doesn’t mind because it is “all part of growing up,” say the parents. And a few other parents are thankful that their kids are falling only in harmless places and not injuring themselves with harmful swings or rides.

No lurking danger

Parents rest easy here because there are no lurking dangers. “I used to take my kids out to Children’s Park and Subhash Park, but now those are out until somebody does something about them,” says a concerned mother. Chips in Ann, mother of a two-year-old, “At least here we are sure nothing untoward will happen, things are more or less under control, no surprises.”

That does not mean parents are keeping off the public parks, “where else do we take the kids during vacations?” asks Rehana Salim, who frequents the Children’s Park with her brood of nephews and nieces. Fooling around on the see-saws, slides, the monkey bars etc are good physical activity for the kids.

Horsing around – as in physical activity – “is good for the development of gross motor skills. There are fine motor skills and gross motor skills. Eye-hand co-ordination can be developed with indoor activities, but the larger motor skills can be developed only with running around, jumping etc and for that the kids need to get out,” says Anita Rajah, clinical psychologist at Amrita Institute of Medical Science. And not just that, another result of the build-up of pent up energy are behavioural – temper tantrums and the like, there the obvious physical fallout too – lethargy and obesity. “Lack of time, with both parents working restricts the child’s environment, therefore when an active child is restricted it causes the problems.” Lack of physical activity and an excess of television, computer games or the various versions Playstations make couch potatoes of kids.

Unni, a five-year-old steps out of the house only in case of a power failure, otherwise he sits glued to the television set.

His mother says, “I have to literally pull him out of the house to play, even if it is on the road. At least it is in the colony,” says Unni’s anxious mother. This colony boasts of safe roads and careful drivers and therefore parents needn’t worry too much. Residential colonies such as Panampilly Nagar have parks where kids can play in the evenings, or there are local parks such as Changampuzha Park, where parents from nearby areas can get their kids for that healthy dose of fresh air.

Some apartment buildings have play areas for kids, but those are few in number. Mostly residential areas face a space constraint, and then there is the security element too.

Not unsupervised

“I do not let my son out to play outside unsupervised because you never know what these kids are up to. If suddenly they decide to step out on to the road, then we had it. There is some space but that hardly qualifies as a place for kids to play. For a walkabout I take him to one of the malls, which invariably has a playpen of some sort for the kids to play or there are always the parks,” says Sunaina Jose, a mother of two young boys who lives in an apartment with no dedicated space for kids to play.

There you have it, parks may be unsafe, kids may be injuring themselves but parents are by no means keeping away from the ‘green holes’ available.

Maybe it is the TINA factor, but kids still love the familiar parks.