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Khirkee Khel Khazana: Play on Wheels

Play@Khirkee led to an interesting collaboration between me and my friend Subrata Ghosh, a Calcutta based architect and a man of immense talent and patience. We called this collaboration “Khirkee Khel Khazana” or Khirkee’s Play Chest. KKK provided a space to ideate the future of children’s play in Khirkee through community action and KHOJ support.

Drawing on experiences of Play @ Khirkee which showed us how easily poorer children used the environment and its affordances to engage in free and imaginative play anywhere in the neighborhood if they had access, and the limited repertoire of games and almost no free play in the rule-bound settings where the middle class children played, we set out to get creative by first answering a few questions:

What is an inclusive playground in the Indian context? A bound physical playground particularly with large investments in landscape inadvertently exclude children from poorer backgrounds. How do we make play spaces accessible to them? How do we tap into their inherent creativity and resilience to allow new forms of play to flourish? How do we get children with structured routines and strict supervision to loosen up and play freely?

The ideas that swirled in our minds and we wanted o incorporate in our design:

  1. “Loose parts as tools for free play”
  2. Spontaneous play that celebrates self-organization of children
  3. To offer something to all children
  4. Not to design more playgrounds but to adapt them by understanding how children from different backgrounds actually use them
  5. To design an intervention to educate society to accept children and their activities in urban space and to see it as ongoing social participation of children in everyday life

Khirkee Khel Khazana or Khirkee’s Play Chest incubated the idea of the Play-on-Wheels that come down different Play Tracks in the neighborhood to park at different Play Stations to bring play to the immediate domestic open space of children who under the guidance of a Play-Pal (local youth) form their own play spaces with whatever is available inside the Play Trolley/Cart/Box. On a given day more than one POW unit can be mobilized by KHOJ that houses the Play-Garage.

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This way children can reclaim the urban space of their neighborhood as their playground under the helpful supervision of young adults who bring to their doorstep, streets, parks, plazas and other open spaces the opportunity to play freely and imaginatively without fear or prejudice.

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