China Observations – playgrounds

Someone asked me “What country has the most shopping?”. Which is a silly question to ask me….. But! I now have the answer:


And it’s a place to hang out! It was probably the ORIGINAL PLACE to hang out- before we had films like “Mall Rats” and stuff.

Anyway- why is it so popular in China? Because that’s where the children’s playgrounds are!


We visited a new shopping mall today. There are now three that are close to our Shanghai apartment and a fourth is being constructed. Each one has an abundance of clothing and shoe stores (that seem pretty much the same). What, then, would make you choose one over another?



Well, if you are a parent (or a grandparent) with a child between the ages of 2 and 6, the choice could be easy. You’d visit the mall that your child prefers!



Each mall has an entire floor dedicated to small children. An entire floor! But if you think about it – it makes perfect sense. The only thing more precious in China than potable water is … space! Parks are rare. Parking (when possible) happens underground. Land is used for high rise apartment complexes like the one we live in (which is in building 5 of 8). And unless you are very wealthy, each apartment is fairly small. Where can little ones go to run amok and stretch and have fun? The malls offer a solution to the problem.



And each mall has different toys for them to play with. We’ve seen sandboxes and buckets and shovels encouraging future architects to build castles. Some have two foot high tubs that are filled with poor unsuspecting goldfish (soon to be scooped up and transferred to smaller containers). We’ve even seen a woman teaching children how to put icing on a cake they had just made. (One toddler was much more interested in licking the spoon than dolling it out!)



And then there are the rides! There are the usual merry go rounds, see-saws, swings. But there are also climbing walls and obstacle courses — complete with harnessing. Everything you can imagine (and then some!). Sliding, crawling, climbing, swinging, flying.



These are (without a doubt) the happiest places in all of China. They are also some of the loudest! Squeals of delight are non-stop. Parents (or grandparents) sit next to their toddler or in an area nearby, designed for larger people. They watch, proudly, grinning from ear to ear.



And this new mall has out done itself! Today we witnessed TRANSFORMER characters that the kids could sit in and operate, dictating which direction (they both) would go in and at what speed. There were rides built for two that looked like a porch swing on wheels. There were rides that looked like an enormous tea cup on wheels and could spin. There were four huge trampolines (with harnessing) and three foot tall people were bouncing many feet in the air. There was a huge pool filled with a foot of water and two plastic bubbles (that you and your child could sit inside of) as you attempted to make it spin like a gerbil’s exercise wheel. There was a blow up ride that invited the children to climb the steep plastic incline and then slide down again. Finally, there was a small train – for those slightly less adventurous.



If you are between two and six years old – life doesn’t get any better than this! They are, absolutely, some of the most pampered and well cared for people on the planet.


In a few short years their lives will change — forever. They will start school and they will be expected to study, memorize, and cram morning, noon, and night. They will have eight classes a day and each teacher will assign them an hour’s worth of homework in each subject. You don’t have to be a math genius to know that that is an impossible request. Twice a day they will do “eye exercises” which are designed to help them relax their weary eyes. And every two months they will be tested in each subject, evaluating their progress. There are strict parental consequences for poor marks.



I wish they could stay small. I wish they could remain innocent, happy, and carefree. At least they are enjoying themselves … now.



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