Blog: Where do the children play?

SSISA supplied

This week's Healthy Active Kids South Africa (HAKSA) Report Card concern is very fortunately not one that affects our lives.  We have no less than four parks tucked away in our small suburb of Sun Valley.  These parks are well kept and maintained, and the communities make regular use of them. Our youngest, who is at playschool, often has an outing during the day to the park just a block away.

Our weekly ritual is to stroll through Kalk Bay on a Sunday. Tucked away, a road up from the Main Road, is Bob's Bagels a coffee shop directly across from a well-equipped park. Here the kids get to kick a ball and use the equipment, while we relax.  Add good weather and this park is jam-packed!

There are more benefits to our kids playing outside then my standard line I give them: "Go outside and get some fresh air!"  

Besides the obvious physical benefits of outdoor play, it can also provide opportunities for them to learn and develop:

1. Self Confidence – we have all seem the wide smiles on our kids’ faces when they have managed to conquer the monkey bars or tackle the high slide.  Mastering a new skill and playing with other kids improves their competence and confidence in their own physical and social abilities.

2. Social Skills - by playing with others our kids learn to communicate, share, collaborate and empathise with others.  They also gain a sense of connection to the place, peers and the environment.

3. Imagination and creativity - outside play is often open-ended and children need to be creative about what and how games are played.

4. Mental benefits - as our kids assess the risks of the playground and tackle new challenges, they learn about having a go, persistence and perseverance and the joy of accomplishing.  Problem solving skills are also a great benefit.

We chatted to Clare Bartels of UCT’s Exercise Science and Sports Medicine Research Division, who is currently researching parks in low income areas across Cape-Town.  She has done comparisons between the old and new parks and says:  “New parks are utilised much more than the older non-upgraded parks, and these are the ones where safety is an issue. The new ones are fenced in, gates are locked after hours and there is usually a cleaner around.”

Top 4 FREE parks / play areas in Cape-Town:

1. Green Point Urban Park is a gem tucked away in the middle of an urban environment. It features an outdoor gym, a play park and adventure park.  Best feature? No doubt the outdoor labyrinth.

2. De Waal Park is situated in the middle of the City Bowl. A popular spot for picnicking, dog walks and families. Best feature? Definitely, the water fountain in which kids can cool off!

3. Sea Point Promenade is the perfect place to get the kids active on their play equipment. Skateboarding, rollerblading and cycling are all welcome along the Promenade. You can also stop off along the way to use the outdoor gym. Best feature? Taking selfies and family photos at the giant pair of glasses or beautiful art sculptures along the way.

4. Company Gardens are in the heart of city. They boast beautiful gardens to be viewed with plenty of space for the kids to run! Best feature? Feeding the squirrels and gaining 10 points for spotting the elusive albino squirrel.

For Fatimah, who lives in what is classified as a low income area, the access to safe and clean parks is not as simple. She considers herself lucky that she can drive her daughter to the closest leafy suburb. Despite her suburb having a park which is maintained by the city, it’s quite small and retains the feeling of the functional-first inner city outside play area.

A Sunday visit to a park is a regular fixture since a few weeks ago her and a bunch of neighbours packed up the kids and a picnic and headed to Keurboom Park in the Southern Suburbs. It boasts a walking/cycling track and modern and diverse play equipment. The effects on the kids were immediate and spent the afternoon being very active with regular shrieks of joy.

She is a huge fan of the Maynardville Park in Wynberg which offers a variety of play equipment. The pond is also a big hit for the kids who love feeding the ducks.

Our stories play out in different areas across the Peninsula, but we consider our experiences within the same context.

- A visit to the park is family tradition.

- As parents we need the fresh air and laughter of our kids as much (more?) than they do.

- If you see your kid on a see-saw, pray they’re the bigger one!

We asked some of the other “blogging Mommies” for ideas and suggestions on how to keep active on limited resources:

“I put on my Zumba DVD and let them do it with me. Or we play the dance central game on Xbox, or the music channel and get them to dance along to the music. The other thing which works great with boys is to have races, which keep them entertained for hours; add a soccer ball to the mix and they keep themselves entertained for an entire day.”Lindsay- Leigh Thomas of 

“I believe that children are happy with the simplest things in life. Running ?around with the dog; having races with mom; playing in a local park or swimming in the sea are all things that make them happy, and they don't need anything but their own two legs!” Amelia Meyer of

Read more:

Let’s get physical!

Get Moving for your health

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