Mobile playground, happy children | The Daily Star


This little strip of an alley has been perfectly transformed into a safe place for kids to play and adults to socialize. The photo was taken in Vietnam. Photo: courtesy

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This little strip of an alley has been perfectly transformed into a safe place for kids to play and adults to socialize. The photo was taken in Vietnam. Photo: courtesy

Have you ever watched kittens, puppies or other baby animals play? Running, chasing, jumping, pinching. The kids are climbing a hill and pushing each other. Colts leaped happily across the open fields. They have fun, of course, but they also gain physical strength, agility, and various other skills necessary for survival.

What is essential for other animals is not optional for humans. We need parks for recreation, socialization, exercise and play. We also need more porous surfaces and trees as Bangladesh is increasingly affected by the climate crisis over the years. that followed. Ideally, then, the importance of green spaces would translate into prioritizing parks and playgrounds throughout the city, and ensuring that they are accessible to all.

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And yet, caught up in our busy lives, we seem to forget that gambling isn’t just for fun. Many parents don’t seem to realize that play is necessary. Many do not recognize that it is not healthy – physically, mentally or socially – for children to be moved between school and tutoring, without the opportunity to run and, finally, to be children.

As for parents who understand the importance of this, who live in cities and who realize that active outdoor play has many advantages that playing with a smartphone does not, the question arises: “Where can my children? they play? In the race for development, modernization and with an influx of climate refugees, what free spaces are left in the cities? How many schools or neighborhoods have playgrounds? How many zones have usable parks?

We need to create a lot more such spaces in our cities. But we cannot afford to wait quietly. The absence of such spaces is detrimental to children’s development. The Covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the problem.

We need to understand that the term “public space” includes streets, roads, and footpaths. That the purpose of such spaces is not just for travel. This public space in the cities is too precious to cede it entirely to the use of the automobile. All of those shuttles, here and there, back and forth, can serve an important purpose – though one can’t help but wonder how badly – but at least just as important is the need for children to play. . And since many streets are uncrowded for many hours of the day, why not temporarily turn them into playgrounds?

Dhaka had, before Covid-19, successfully experimented with the concept of car-free streets. One side of Manik Mia Avenue was transformed on the morning of the first Friday of each month into a joyous celebration of life. Other such events have been held regularly in Mohammadpur and Uttara. Alas, they all stopped because of the Covid-19 and did not resume.

To fill this gap, Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB) Trust has launched a weekly event in West Dhanmondi. The mobile play area involves converting a quiet residential street into a temporary play area, especially inviting for younger children – girls and boys alike – who have little other possibility of outdoor play.

Two children show up hours before opening to help WBB staff decorate the space. A teenage boy with Down’s syndrome recites a prayer. The children come out of the buildings and explore the play possibilities: drawing, crafts, board games, jump rope. Most of them don’t know each other; they never get the chance to occupy and explore the streets. Parents are relieved and grateful. The whole scene is a mixture of the amazing and the ordinary: this is what our cities should offer, but do so rarely.

Sometimes our big problems have surprisingly simple solutions. No place for children to play outside, for young people to play sports, cycle, skate? No place where adults can enjoy some time outdoors to exercise and socialize? Well, find a fairly quiet street and convert it, a few hours a week, into a recreational space. And in the meantime, keep reminding our city authorities that in addition to all of our other needs in cities, we need access to existing playgrounds. We need a lot more green spaces for climate resilience. We need green and open public spaces to help keep the population healthy – mentally and physically – and to ensure that children have the opportunity to develop to their full potential as future contributors to our beloved Bangladesh.

Debra Efroymson is the Executive Director of the Institute of Wellbeing, Bangladesh, and author of “Beyond Apologies: Defining and Achieving an Economics of Wellbeing”.


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