There are many things that today’s children have better than any of the generations gone by. There’s more comfort than ever, more exposure to the world beyond them, more technology, more toys.
Yet, the one thing today’s kids lack is the opportunity for free play. Most children today only hear incredible tales of how streets turned into cricket grounds and how the afternoons of their parents’ childhood comprised of climbing walls and sneaking into neighbors’ gardens to pick on their favorite fruits directly from the branches of trees.
Today, ‘play areas’, where children can get together and spend time playing, are sold as part of the ‘recreational area’ in gated communities. Just step out of these gated communities and we are met with blaring noises and traffic that spills over footpaths. As a consequence, most children do not even have spaces where they can do the most natural thing for them as children- simply play!
As for most problems, simplicity wins. A group of IIT graduates brought the simplest of solutions to address the problem of lack of playgrounds for children- especially in urban areas. Pooja Rai and Nancy Charaya took it upon themselves to bring back play to Indian kids through their venture Anthill Creations.
Starting with a pilot project that explored using industrial waste to build a playground in IIT Kharagpur, Anthill Creations has exploded into a social venture that has touched the lives of over 25000 children so far. Needless to say, their success comes from their methods that almost seem like magical DIY techniques- they take less then a week to put together a working playground in less than half the cost of a regular playground.
Pooja Rai, co-founder of Anthill Creations speaks to Kidskintha about the vision behind the initiative, their stupendous journey so far, how they do it, and what we can do to bring playscapes amidst our living spaces.
We believe that play is a necessity and not a luxury, and we are on a mission to make play accessible to every child- Pooja Rai, Co-founder- Anthill Creations.
Your venture, Anthill Creations is about building Playscapes for children. What was the inspiration behind this wonderful venture?
We built the first playground 3 years back with a simple motivation to bring happiness and joy in the lives of children at Disha Care Centre which was in our college campus. When we saw children playing badminton with broken slippers, younger ones playing on cement pipes, as architects we wanted to do something.
Over the past 3 years, we have realized how massive this problem is, and very few people who understand the importance of play. There is enough research that says that if children do not get to play when they are young, they become more anxious and depressed as adults. Free play helps children develop their creativity and imagination and gives them a chance to learn and discover things on their own.
We believe that play is a necessity and not a luxury, and we are on a mission to make play accessible to every child.
As you know, urban public spaces are limited. How does Anthill Creations typically work on these public playscapes in cities?
There are a lot of unused dead spaces in the city which have become dump yards. We identify these spaces through partners and volunteers from the city and transform them into hubs of activity and play. We have transformed one such space in JP Nagar in Bengaluru in association with Let’s be the change and Zerodha.
Your play areas are very low-cost, allowing you to set up an entire playscape in less than 5 days. Tell us more about that.
We follow these design principles and processes while building the playground.
Redefining Play: Play is much more than a swing, slide and a see-saw. We have a design library where we focus on the holistic development of the child which includes a mix of all kinds of play. We look at bringing play with a three-fold impact- social, economic and ecological.
Also Read: The Woman Who Brings India’s First Dedicated Conference On The Power Of Play: Preethi Vickram
Sustainable and Low Cost: Anthill Creations‘ playscapes are much lower than the cost of a usual playground which uses material like steel, wood or plastic. Instead, we use recyclable material like scrap tyres, cable & oil drums etc. to create beautiful playscapes. Using upcycling and adaptive reuse of scrap is both economic and sustainable
Ease of Construction (Lighter/ Quicker/ Cheaper): Anthill creates playgrounds at a super-fast pace (4-day execution), thereby accomplishing many more projects in a limited period of time.
Scalability: The modular designs that we have for different play units are easily replicable and DIY by a step by step process built by us. The end to end process of creating a playscape will be automated.
How do you come up with the theme for a playscape?
Before we build a playground, we play simple games with children to understand their perception of play. We divide them into two teams and one team tells the other what play means to them and the other team draws on the board. We saw that the kids in cities said things like Rocket, Bridge, Car, and kids in villages said things like elephant, horse, octopus. And we transform these imaginations of children in the form of play elements.
Do you often hear from individuals wanting to contribute to a public space? How does that work?
Yes, more than 800 volunteers have volunteered with us to build these playscapes. We work with companies as well as part of Employee Engagement Activities where the employees of the company come and help us build the playground.
Here’s something amazing they did for Britannia:
What factors do you consider for the viability of a project? What does the sponsor need to know?
- The need for a playground: The school or the community should be willing to build a playground.
- Space: How much space is available to build this playground
- Children: How many children will play in the playground.
What is the best way to reach you with requests for community playscapes?
You can write to us at [email protected] or send us a request on our website.
Do you see demand from other countries for your concept as well?
Yes, we have received requests from other developing countries as well. Children need to play everywhere. We have received requests from Nepal and Africa to build these playgrounds. In fact, we have already built a playground in Janakpur in Nepal which is one of our biggest playgrounds so far.
What is Anthill’s vision for the future?
Anthill Creations aim to make play accessible and affordable to every child. It is a not-for-profit organization bringing back play to children by mobilizing the communities to build low cost and sustainable playscapes by upcycling waste material like scrap tires and oil drums. We are a team of 5 architects from IIT Kharagpur and have impacted more than 16000 children by building 41 playgrounds. These playgrounds are sustainable & DIY and can be built in just 5 days.
Anthill Creations is transforming itself to be able to scale faster and replicate at a higher rate across countries, with help of instructional videos which would enable champions in the community (microentrepreneurs) to become change-makers by using our tools.