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Outings for Children – In or Out?

By Rouquia Alami

 

In public parks so often one sees children playing football, swing, run or play hide and seek. While their parents are sitting on mattresses or chairs watching them with food usually homemade or with a bag of take away.

On the other side of the city the malls are full of kids with their parents. It is so noticed nowadays that mothers enjoy taking kids to malls where they can leave them at the play areas safe with attendants and then go for shopping or to sit in a café. Malls and shopping centers are attraction for families for two reasons it is cool in hot summer days and warm in cold time of the year.

Children like very much to go out especially on weekends. But where should I take them? That is the every time posed question?

Shall I escort them to Malls, shopping centers, or I take them to public parks?

Meanwhile kids enjoy malls and shopping centers; it is a place where they can watch movies, go to the internet cafes buy DVD’s eat fast food and sweets. It is a place that they feel they are not obliged to stick to their parents since it is safe to roam or play around.

Going to shopping centers and malls maybe rather expensive and some families with lots of kids cannot afford that on regular basis so they choose to go for a drive outside the city where their children still could play and enjoy. While some mothers like malls so they can keep their kids in safe play areas and roam about. I spoke to young mothers and an education specialist about this preference:

According to Enas Qawas a mother of 8 years old daughter Jordanian living in Dubai:

“I believe that the malls culture has made my daughter become more materialistic and lose sense of value. Shopping has become more of a form of entertainment and having fun rather than a real necessity to purchase a certain needed item. Our kids have lost their connection with nature. I need to go out of my way to have my kid lift her head up to watch how beautiful the sunset is or contemplate the clouds formation or the stars and imagine different shapes and forms. Something we as kids used to spend hours doing.

We used to create multiple games using a stick and few rocks … today’s kids don’t use their creativity and imagination. It’s being done for them … and I believe going outdoors to play can restore this creative and imagination naturally.

Obesity… wearing glasses …posture issues … all are going up among our children as years go by all due to lack of playing outdoors and less exposure to natural resources of having fun”.

 

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Taleed Khatib a mother of two daughters: Zeena 9 years and Sama 5; as she herself when young spent her summer vacations at large enjoyed the prairies and grasslands surrounded her grandmother’s house. Living this experience she wanted much that her daughters live this kind of childhood:

Taleed expressed:

“There are special rituals in summer when my parents take their grandchildren for a drive in the car outside the Capital City to picnic in the open and under the trees. First thing usually children do is climbing trees this is valued by both boys and girls.”

Taleed added:

“Picking cone cypresses, oak beads, sticks and wheat spears explore their imagination being in touch with Mother outdoorplay1Earth. Children enjoy playing freely in rural areas it is a chance that they watch the sun at the horizon, see the valleys and mountains. Countryside introduces them to Shepherd with the herd, sheep, goats, and they also see the chickens and cocks as real not in the coloring pads and school books.

It is in addition a great opportunity that they live the four season’s days: spring, summer, winter and autumn. They get along with all stages of the natural developments; leaves falling under trees at a time another term blooming. In winter, they watch oranges and lemons over the trees while in summer they see peaches and apricots.

Usually farmers sell fresh fruits and vegetables on the edge of their orchid and gardens: when children help in choosing the fruits this is happy recall that will stay forever. Not mentioning the joy when they help in preparing the apricots in order to be cooked into jam.

Among other happy incidents Taleed enhances that this is a treasured and a knowledgeable experience:

“When my parents go down from the car with their grandchildren in order to buy cheese they can see from very near the small cheese factory usually run by women, they see how clean the shop is and the big barrels full of fresh yogurt it is different than seeing the goods displayed in the supermarkets. Once my daughter Zeena asked me when she saw trays made of straw filled with ‘Laban Jameed balls’ placed under the sun in order to dry. Taleed explained that this is the Laban we cook the ‘mansaf’ with. {Oh I see her daughters commented}. Usually my parents take them to a small hill in order that they eat the cheese with the {hot just baked bread} and this is another valuable memory.”

Noora Sharrab, is a Palestinian – Canadian mother, who recently left Canada to live in Jordan and is now working in one of the UN agencies in Amman. Noora is a mother for a one year old boy.

Chatting about outgoing activities that she plans for her son and her preferences in taking him indoors or outdoors she said:

“My neighborhood is a busy traffic area that lacks pedestrian lanes, which make it unsafe for me to walk my baby with the stroller. Since my son is still young I did not start exploring options on where to take him in the country. Meanwhile I prefer to take him to malls where I can leave him in a safe, clean play area, while I go and do other needed matters. I finally found a good place run by young couples; the place is very clean and children and adults are only allowed to join shoeless, thus securing the cleanliness in the center that avoids catching germs. Unfortunately, when some malls were designed in Amman the babies and kids issues were not much taken into consideration; for example, you find a very narrow place to change diapers and most of the time the area is not clean. So I choose to go back to the car to change for the baby, and this is a hassle”

When asked about the costs, she noted they are usually high in those places, as it is run by a private sector and not from the malls management, this may put a burden on a families’ budget. She said:

“It is not compared with the things provided and the good assistants that keep eyes on the kids with cameras watching the children all around. In addition, there are clean mattresses for naptime and spotless zones for changing diapers. My husband and I immediately felt comfortable keeping our baby there, because we saw that management themselves were young parents that upheld the same standard of care when taking care of their babies. For a family with multiple children, the costs may add up. Other options some families resort to are yearly memberships at sports clubs, a friend of mine, who is also a recent mother often goes there to take short strolls with her baby, other friends go to other Clubs to swim and participate in recreational activities. “

“When I first had the baby, friends who were also mothers recommended I join Baby & Toddler Groups on Facebook for other Mothers in Amman. The group has over 400 moms (new and older moms) that often share tips, sell used baby items, offer play date opportunities for new moms to allow their babies to meet other new babies, and it’s also a great way to feel like there is a sense of ‘family’ community of other mothers that you can relate to. The group is private and usually anything posted by the mommies are only viewable with those on the list. I think it’s great and has helped me a lot, especially with tips on sleep training, food options and ideas for my baby and where to find the best deal on baby stuff or places to take our little ones! “

For parents there are different points of views regarding this issue, some prefer indoors activities for their kids and some outdoors: after gathering those points of views there was a must to talk to one of the education advisers who works in one of the school and teacher development programs in the region connected to education services provided by one of the UN agencies:

Mr. Ali Ashi he himself a father of 4 children (3 boys and 1 baby girl) and an educationalist I asked him about this issue as a whole:

“When I ask my kids where they want to go, they prefer to go out doors for open space to play football and to visit the zoo to see animals.

But not always the situation is suitable for a big project like that, since going for a picnic needs planning on what area to choose: what food to take with us in addition to the needed tools for the kids’ activities; such plan needs lots of efforts and pre arrangements thus a bigger task for parents.

However, most of their activities in malls at kids’ zone are more suitable for the family: since malls are not far away, safe for them and their mother feel comfortable with fewer tasks on her shoulders, she can watch them easily; in the mall everything is handy from buying a meal at the restaurants, to select the candies they like; also they can buy the DVD’s for the play station, or some mobile accessories; everything is situated in one place.

But let us be realistic, our kids need to have the two experiences, for the outdoor to live with Mother Nature and to be familiar with the plants, animals and insects, to play with simple resources to have a great time; while on the other place the kids zone in the malls, is also an attraction; they deal with technology, be more familiar with computer tricks, have more and new friends that they have the same interest and from the same range of age and all of that in safe zone under the parents eyes.”

 

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Photo credit: wulfmachine / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

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7 comments

  1. Hope to share this

  2. Malls is a result of modern material culture that wants the general public to be consumers of goods and products.
    As parents we don’t want our kids to grow up materialistic. Growing up in malls makes them want more and more (greedy with no appreciation to values) and they never feel satisfied. On the other hand, if we encourage them (and role model) to them to volunteer, and do social work with them, they develop a giving nature, and connect to their community and the people they live with.
    In addition, parents need to take their kids out to nature, now more than ever, as kids are spending more and more time in front of screens. Parents should provide an opportunity to balance indoor and outdoor time.
    I would like to mention that staying indoors, and in front of screens is very convenient for both parents and kids. But it is not healthy so we need to give doing the right thing some effort.

    My experience with my son, who hated to go outdoors whenever we planned it…I used to fight with him and then put pressure on him to go with us. When he went out, he enjoyed playing with other kids and had so much fun that I had to fight with him now for the opposite reason we fought about before, and because he wanted to stay outdoors.

  3. Yes I fully agree with Dr. Maha Brum. Malls does encourage families to find joy in being a consumer. Nothing beats the sight of happy children playing outdoors even in the poorest areas in this turmoiled world. Thank you Rouqyuia for engaging this conversation. But unfortunately many people do not have the choice of in or out.

  4. I was impressed by some of the great ideas from the people Rouquia interviewed, but I hope we can save the children from a steady “mall culture” diet!

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