Play is a crucial aspect of a child’s education and development. Unfortunately, in India, far too many children live in slums or in crowded urban spaces that are not child-friendly, let alone safe for children to play in.
Since 2015, architecture student Pooja Rai has been working to change this reality after watching a group of children play with broken concrete pipes. Moved by this sad scene, Rai got a group of friends together to help build a local playground using upcycled items gathered from the 31 million tons of scrap material per year that is disposed of in India’s landfills.
This initial project motivated Rai to start Anthill Creations, a not-for-profit based in Bengaluru. Anthill Creations specializes in affordable play spaces that are sustainably constructed with a combination of local waste materials and materials donated from companies such as Michelin and Apollo Tire. So far, in addition to helping governments and cities make more spaces child-friendly, Rai and Anthill Creations have erected 260 playgrounds in 18 states across India.
The playgrounds are built within a week with the help of their team and volunteers. The local community is also involved in the construction of the playground, which cultivates a sense of ownership, responsibility, and pride within the neighborhood.
Anthill Creations is also mindful of who they are creating their playgrounds for and makes a point to interact with local children for a few days before the build to find out what kind of space would serve them best.
The potential outcomes of these playgrounds go far beyond the entertainment of children. What sets Anthill Creations playgrounds apart is that they are designed to encourage unstructured free play, where children are encouraged to use their imagination to invent games and new ways to use the equipment. In one primary school in Bengaluru, children started to come to school early to play on the playground. This resulted in more consistent attendance as well as more focus in the classroom.
Anthill Creations also partners with the UN and many government schools for Rohingya refugees as well as develops kits for children to play with at home during the pandemic.