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Adding Value To your Living and Working Experience



Space is a precious commodity, so limited and expensive in towns and cities that it makes sense to enjoy every inch you have. If like many of us, you live in  apartments that now define our urban landscape, the challenge is how to engage your children in meaningful outdoor activities. However you need not despair. By using your outside space, no matter how small, you can stylishly extend the boundaries of your home and rope in a play area for the children.


Balconies, basements, rooftops, window sills and flower beds are space options that can be turned into retreat area for the young ones. But why bother with creating play areas for your kids?

Playing is an integral part of a child’s growth. It is at the play ground that children learn and pick up new skills like team work, communication and endurance. Here they learn to explore, to smell-to touch and discover for themselves how the world around them works. Role play flourishes at the playground. It is a critical aspect of a child’s development. More importantly though having a play area at home ensures that not only do you impart these skills yourself, but also the safety of the child is assured.

It therefore becomes necessary that you meet your children’s need for a space in which they can satiate their playful instincts, follow their wild imaginations, daydream or simply unwind.


Fortunately, a children’s retreat need not cost the earth. Nor do they have to elaborate installations. Instead, they can be made from simple materials, some improvised that will not only fit frugal budgets, but also adaptable to small spaces. When setting up such a facility, a key consideration is the need to observe safety. As such children’s play areas should be located within immediate reach and at a spot that can easily be watched over from the kitchen window, porch or terrace. Where this is not possible, then a parent or responsible adult must be physically present.


Before setting up any play area understand the personality of your child. Is he sedentary or hyperactive?  Does he have special needs? Hyper active are the rough cut lots; the type that runs all over engaging in exacting activities like riding, skating or ball games. For such hard surfaces in form of paved concrete, bricks or stonework are appropriate. For a lawn, a tough turf of kikuyu or Maadi river grass that withstands trampling is highly recommended.


On the other hand sedentary children are the contemplative types who spend most of their time in one spot absorbed in moulding, drawing or erecting stuff. This group will make do with a few toys, sandboxes, teddy bears, or swings. Some children may have special needs, especially if they are physically or mentally challenged. For these, a minder to lead them through play should be availed. Similarly, the play equipment should be suitably tailored to meet their needs. Physically challenged children will require ramps while those with impaired hearing may require bells and other noise generating equipment to aid in their hearing and sound identification.


If children are discerning enough seek their views as to what they would prefer for play tools so that you don’t install features that are not in tandem with their interests. Climbing heights are almost a universal childhood favourite. So, seek to install heights in form of trees, ladders or raised ramps. Similarly, most children adore dirt which seems to have an infinite allure for them. Rather than risk having them grovelling in unsafe materials, provide cleansed soil or sand with which they can play.


Having identified the nature of your child, where then do you site the play tools?


The roof top

For families in the higher up apartments the roof top can be turned into a vibrant living environment. In the Middle East and the Orient where space shortage is a cute, the roof top is part of the house quarters where children will be seen engaged in play. A roof top play area is ideal for sedentary children. Where swings, ramps and huts are erected it follows that unaccompanied access to the roof top is denied by having lockable access gate. In most cases though the preferred safety measure is to hedge in the play area at the roof top with trellises.



A small space like the balcony or window sill can also be useful to children as a play area. Here a small garden can be set up that will bring the natural world home. They can raise their own plants, relax from school work, play truant and still be able to learn the basics of science. Again, it is here that children can keep a pet.


Spare these for those with seemingly boundless energy, the uncontrollable lot who greatly enjoy the out doors. Thy relish challenge and will do physically demanding games like racing, ball games and athletics.



If you are lucky to have some space, mazes provide an appealing play option for almost all children. Easily 

made from arranging hay bales, the trick is in getting a good designer who can create something to fit your space without having you break the bank. I have seen for instance, members of a gated community pool resources to instal a maze-much to the joy of estate children.


The common refrain that children will always be children is an allusion to their need to vent energy no matter the environment. This implies that regardless of where they grow, they will still need to exercise their playful instincts. As a parent you owe them an opportunity to address this desire in a safe and timely manner.

 Whatever play options you provide, it should be a cardinal rule that a First Aid kit be within instant reach. Bruises and cuts are terms that may be part of your regular conversations.

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