Six Great Ways To Entertain Your Kids (Outside of a Mall)
Is a city, where building play areas routinely give way to car parks, a great place to bring up kids? The obvious answer is no. The backdrop of this seething metropolis doesn’t lend itself to the kind of memories that should ideally make up a childhood. There are no biking trails, clean beaches or expansive parks that allow you to enrich your child’s life with fresh air, outdoor games and picnics on weekends. We could resign ourselves to the fact that our kids will just have to get nostalgic about movie and dinner at the mall followed by participation in some random promotional activity for detergents at which they got free sachets as takeaways. Or should we give in that easily? If you look hard enough, you will find that Mumbai offers a number of ways to spend a great weekend with the kids. The only caveat is that they demand a bit of effort and a commute—but then what in this city doesn’t?
HELP THEM GROW A GREEN THUMB OR TWO
Nature enthusiast Kumkum Somani—who grew up surrounded by no less than three gardens in Mazagaon—launched the Little Gardener in South Mumbai more than a decade ago to help ensure that our kids get familiar with the greener side of their city. You can get together with like-minded parents and children to enroll for a private session, workshop or better still hold a “green birthday party” where the kids can participate in activities like decorating bags with leaf prints, making a worm cake and hearing nature-related stories. Somani also holds regular Little Gardener classes every Wednesday (from 5pm until 6.30pm) during which kids meditate, play outdoor games, and sing nature-related songs in addition to learning how to dig, sow, water, rake and weed plants at the Amarsons Garden in Breach Candy and other parks around the area.
Ages: 3.5 to 9 years.
Price: Rs2,100 for five Wednesday sessions. Call Kumkum Somani on 98925 82794 for more details.
GIVE THEM AN ADRENALINE HIGH
Della Adventure Park, which opened in Lonavala off the Mumbai-Pune Expressway in October 2010, offers a list of 86 adventure sports, including Aqua Zorbing (which involves rolling on water while encased in a giant plastic ball) and Bumper Boating, which make for a fabulous change from splashing around aimlessly in an overcrowded pool at the club.
Ages: 5 years and above.
Price: Starts at Rs1,500 per child and Rs2,800 per adult for a Gold package. Visit dellaadventure.com or call 96644 55000 for details.
STRAP ON SEA LEGS
With a 149-kilometre coastline at our disposal, it’s a crying shame that we don’t know our helms from our hulls. Thankfully, our kids can be spared this ignominy thanks to Aquasail, which has started sailing sessions for families at the Gateway of India. With three sailings every day of the week, you can book your slot on a gorgeous 25-foot sailboat and let Aquasail introduce your kids to the wonderful world of gaffs and galleys. If a 90-minute ride is not intense enough, take a whole day out at Mandwa on one of their full-day Splash programmes held monthly. Activities include kayaking, dinghy boat rides and a barbecue.
Ages: 6 years and above.
Price: Rs3,000 per person; Rs15,000 to book a six-seater boat. The Splash programme, which is scheduled next for Tuesday, April 10, costs Rs4,500 per person. Call 99876 81826 or visit aquasailindia.com for more details.
GET SOMEONE ELSE TO TELL THEM STORIES
There are few better ways to spend a weekend morning than soaking in old-world atmosphere seated in one of the claw-footed armchairs at Fort bookstore Kitab Khana, sipping coffee, while your kids remain riveted to dramatised performances of popular children’s books (like when author Sonja Chandrachud dressed up as a king for a reading from the book Icky Yucky Mucky) and folk tales by writers and storytellers. And for something more hands on, they can also participate in craftmaking workshops by “edutainment” company The Puppetarians.
Ages: 3 years and above.
Price: Free, although some events do have a nominal fee of Rs200. Visit kitabkhana.in to join their mailing list.
PITCH A BIG RED TENT
Let’s not pretend that camping is something we’ve all done as children, so it’s a shame that our kids don’t get to do it. Camping, like sailing, is going to be one of those things that they are going to teach us a couple of things about instead of the other way around. All you need to do is take a drive out to Khopoli armed with nothing more than Odomos and the nice guys at Big Red Tent, the company that has made it their mission to make camping easy for the outdoor-inept city slicker, will ensure that you have an authentic, child-friendly camping experience complete with barbecues and bird watching and picnics by the lake.
Ages: For families with kids of all age groups.
Price: Rs900 to Rs1,500 per person per night. Visit bigredtent.in for more information.
TAKE A HIKE
It’s ironic that as young mothers today, we will know the location of the 8,000-square foot Kidville but will struggle to find our way to the 104-square kilometre green lung of the city. The Sanjay Gandhi National Park is perhaps the most underrated kid-zone in Mumbai. If taking the lion and tiger safaris and riding the toy train to check out the wildlife wasn’t enough, SGNP offers invigorating nature trails through the Kids For Tigers programme conducted by Sanctuary Asia magazine. Accompanied by naturalists who will reveal natures’ secrets, the hike wanders through thick forestland and ends with a clean-up drive that will leave your children with a healthy respect for the environment and a big appetite for lunch. The next programme will be a flamingo watch in April.
Ages: 7 years and above.
Price: Free. Contact Zubin on 2301 6848 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
As a writer, ex-marketer, evangelist of socialfootprint.in and would-be novelist, Sharan Saikumar wears many hats, none of which really fit her.