Fiona Fernandez: Kids' appeal, say what?

Updated: Nov 14, 2016, 08:14 IST | Fiona Fernandez

Mumbai seems to be trailing Delhi when it comes to engaging children in meaningful ways

In 2009, when children’s guide books were mostly limited to the drab educational kinds, while on a visit to Delhi, I spotted a vibrant distraction in the kid’s section of a bookstore. Urban Crayon Delhi by publisher-journalist Kim Barrington Narisetti called itself a must-have guide for all fun things to do in the capital for kids. The book was packed with options and ideas for every age group; it even had girl and boy-centric options for parents to pick from. In the days to follow, as I suggested the book to Delhi-based friends with kids, it seemed to resonate; each of them gave it a double thumbs-up.

As I flipped through it, I was compelled to do one of my favourite, obsessive pastimes with all things Delhi — the comparison game with Mumbai. Except that this time, it backfired badly. We were far behind.

And so when all of last week, as I sifted through the avalanche of listings (read: white noise) around Children’s Day all over again, I was reminded of that book. Today, seven years since it was published, we’re still nowhere close to New Delhi when it comes to year-long immersive activities or engaging permanent spaces for kids.

Sample a few 'activities' that reached our inbox: Mom-and-kid yoga sessions, kiddie-special menus and tempting offers on hip haircuts. Barring the two museums that had planned events around the day, there was nothing to cheer about. Not a single activity involved a outdoorsy trail, a heritage walk around its landmarks or an announcement about a child-friendly civic project.

Then again, what can Mumbai boast of for its kids? Two museums, a science centre and a planetarium. Truth be told, we don’t have too many permanent engaging spaces where kids can think, share and interact with other young minds. Knock off the odd children’s festival, amusement parks, indoor play zones, a few libraries and role-play spaces from this list, and the enormity of this concern hits you in the face.

Clearly, children’s needs seem to be the last thing on the minds of our gods in the municipal corporation. Five minutes inside a public park or garden makes for an unsavoury look at this reality. This leaves it to private entities and business houses to step in and play Santa for the city’s children across social strata. Starting with a children’s museum and a permanent theatre space, there is an urgent need for more interactive, educational spaces in the city, better infrastructure in existing child zones that can hopefully, lead to a fertile climate for ideas and creativity.

What we don’t need is a generation that will grow up imaging that life in Mumbai is only about its malls and entertainment zones. Unfortunately, that day doesn’t seem too far away.

mid-day’s Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city’s sights, sounds, smells and stones... wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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