Playing for children is as important as social rights to nutrition and education. Deny children this, and their total development will be affected.
Through playing, children can form both cognitive and physical skills like coordination, courage, creativity and camaraderie, among others.
However, there are actually scarce resources and spaces where children can naturally and safely play in the Philippines.
According to a study conducted by nongovernment organization Play Pilipinas in 2011 at Metro Manila, there is only 16 percent access to playgrounds in public schools, and 4 percent in urban communities. To address the situation, the NGO was founded the same year.
From then on, the vision of the NGO was to provide play spaces for every Filipino child across the nation. It began building sustainable playgrounds for poor communities that needed it most, like those in Taguig City, Tarlac, Cebu and Davao.
On May 28, Play Pilipinas through its private partner Johnson & Johnson moved a step closer to this goal as it turned over a “Palarujuan” to Barangay Kasiglahan in Montalban, Rizal.
“There are many threats to playing, like poverty. But playing is a way for them to develop. So [if]you’re denying them their social necessity to play, can you imagine what kind of citizenry we will have down the road?” Sigrid Perez, the executive director of Play Pilipinas, said in an interview with The Sunday Times Magazine during the turnover rites of Palarujuan.
As an example, Perez cited a case in Kasiglahan brought up to the NGO by Barangay Kasiglahan Homeowners Association Chairman Nathaniel Sermon, wherein children ages 12 and up are already involved in gang riots.
“When you expose children to too much television or gadgets—things that are not monitored well by their parents—they get access to violence and sex. It’s one of the reasons we made this Palarujuan here. The older children get into riots, drugs, teen pregnancy,” Perez explained.
Sermon, for his part, is hopeful that Palarujuan will help give the community’s children a better environment. He said in his speech, “We hope that the effect of this playground is that the young minds of the children will be diverted away from violence.”
“More than just seeing the children happy from playing, what we are really looking into is the long-term benefit,” Perez added.
Raising awareness and understanding
Providing children access to playgrounds is not everything. According to Perez, another issue their group wants to address is the parents’ attitudes toward playing.
“In the study we conducted back in 2011, what we also wanted to see was the attitude of parents toward play. And what we found out was that some parents feel that playing with their children, or providing a spaces or toys, was a waste of time,” Sigrid revealed.
She further noted, “So right now, besides providing as much play spaces as possible, we also want to make adults aware of and understand the importance and value of playing in children’s live, whether it be their own or the community’s.”
Johnson & Johnson, with their advocacy “‘Di Lang Laro ang Laro” (Play is not just Play), carries the same vision.
Kris Llanes, Johnson & Johnson brand manager said, “We believe that there are many things children will learn from playing. So we encourage parents to let their children play naturally even for just one hour a day.”
To further involve the adults in the campaign, Play Pilipinas created the Palarujuan through consultations with the locals in the community. In order for them to maintain the playground, the public and private partners made a playground from recycled materials like old tires and scrap metal which are abundant in the area.
“It’s a great way to recycle anything. Scrap metal, tires, all of those things you can use again to create a space for children to play. At the same time, if something is broken, it’s easily replaceable especially here,” Perez noted.
The Palarujuan therefore has large motor skills areas like a caterpillar, a track and a sand pit made from tires which were colorfully painted to make them more attractive to children.
Other features were made from scrap metal like the monkey bars and slide, as well as the bahay kubo where children can creatively interact with one another.
Then there is the swing which combined both the recycled metals and tires.
“The reason we used low-cost sustainable materials is because we want to empower the community to take care of the playground, and know the techniques in how to make it safe for the children,” Perez concluded.