[ecis2016.org] Residential projects should be equipped with proper infrastructure that helps children to learn, be healthy and successful. We examine what this entails
The COVID-19 pandemic has left children stranded at homes over the last two years. Even as it abates and schools resume, the pandemic has underscored the need for urban residential developments to be ‘child-centric’, giving the concept a whole new meaning.
Residential projects were not seen as child-centric spaces earlier. Schools were supposed to be the center for developing social skills. However, the pandemic has taught us the importance of residential communities. They should be equipped with proper infrastructure that helps children to learn, be healthy and successful.
Enablers of holistic development
The holistic development of a child depends on many aspects. Sensory and mental development of children are important to cultivate healthy cognitive abilities. Social and motor skills are crucial too.
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In the age of immersive technology, the sensory and mental development of children is fast. However, the rise in technological involvement is taking a toll on children’s ability to form social bonds and impacting their health and mind. Children are now spending more time at home – mostly alone in their rooms or common areas, as most of the families now have working parents. Hence, it is important to have enough space at home for their safe and active involvement. Cities are overcrowded with limited open areas for recreation. Therefore, residential projects should incorporate more outdoor space in their designs.
Earlier, developers used to provide play areas within their communities. Now, they need to incorporate a child-friendly approach across all aspects of urban development. This means, a residential project should be designed, considering factors that can have a positive impact on a child’s development and wellness. Activities that stimulate senses and help develop balancing and motor skills, hand-eye co-ordination, among others, are some of the factors that must be considered while designing the infrastructure for children. This is how the ‘child-centric’ concept is getting a new meaning within upcoming residential communities. This not only extends to facilities like rock-climbing walls, cycling tracks, play areas etc., but also ventilation within apartments, more use of natural sources like light, use of low VOC paints and non-toxic materials to ensure good indoor air quality.
This approach calls for conscious, biophilic design. It is very important to erase the line between built and open spaces at the visual and psychological levels. Built spaces should provide opportunities for children to explore outdoor areas in an easy, safe and creative manner. Children must be able to feel the earth under their feet, inhale fresh air, hear chirping of birds and feel rain drops. Going back to the roots is the key for holistic development of kids.
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Going beyond amenities and infrastructure
It is important to understand that the ‘child-friendly’ infrastructure involves more than merely providing playgrounds. One must build a conducive environment planned around the needs of children. It will enhance their mental and physical well-being. Open green areas increase the ability to concentrate, reduce stress and aggression and enhance engagement and social well-being. Inclusion of vehicle-free podiums, dedicated cycling tracks and sidewalks can deliver remarkable results related to the overall safety and security of children within a residential complex.
Access to healthcare services and education are other necessary factors to be considered while developing such properties. Tech-enabled areas to conduct learning sessions online and access to ed-tech services are valuable for parents who need access to quality education within the residential premises. Pharmacies, doctors on call and other emergency services available at residential buildings are other big factors that assure parents that their kids will remain safe.
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Children in urban areas are more attached to gadgets and electronic devices. One must ensure that the overall well-being of a child must not be compromised in such areas. Emphasis should be put on designing every project so that it remains safe for kids and brings overall development and growth for them.
(The writer is chief of design, Mahindra Lifespace Developers Ltd)
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