The benefits of free play don’t seem to be acknowledged in many new housing developments, which often lack the facilities needed for children to exercise both their minds and their bodies. Some developments don’t offer any space for free play, while others offer only swings and slides suitable for very young children.
While the Mudon Community, off Al Qudra Road in Dubai, provides an equipped playground, it lacks facilities needed for organised sports and unstructured play. As The National reported yesterday, the management issued a notice recently banning children from playing on green areas, restricting them to a playground which is too small for older children to play football and other ball sports.
This issue requires attention. As the UAE expands rapidly, we should ensure that all new housing developments make adequate provisions for playing areas, including organised and unstructured play.
Playing outside is essential for children to develop balance, coordination and physical strength. It provides opportunities for children to gain social skills, and improve their imagination, creativity and problem-solving ability. It can also strengthen their sense of self and their sense of connection with their peers and to their community and the environment.
This is why children need to have play spaces that include wide areas for free, active, social, exploratory and natural play. Separate sports areas are also essential.
But such facilities are rarely available and many parents find it difficult to find proper playgrounds for their children, regardless of their age. While there are more opportunities for structured play, places for free play in its many forms are more difficult to find. Children nowadays spend long hours inside the house on the internet, video games and other devices that don’t necessarily teach them life skills or encourage healthy lifestyles. The lack of open space for them to play will only make the problem worse.