Engaging and entertaining children down the ages

You are visiting Bangalore and want to spend a few hours outside with your family or friends, preferably in a clean and green environment. Or are an ‘old’ Bangalorean who wants to relive her/his childhood. Where do you go? Cubbon Park, a lovely lung space in the heart of the city is a great option. And the Jawahar Bal Bhavan, a place for children inside the one hundred and forty year old park is a lot of fun too. Spread over 12.5 acres, it has a toy train, swings, slides, boating and a lot of trees and grassy patches for children and adults to relax and play. Small wonder that the Bal Bhavan continues to be one of the chosen locations for Bangaloreans across the income spectrum to have some time out especially with the young.

“They enjoyed themselves thoroughly and refused to leave. It is a nice place for kids”, said Yunuen Perez Veretti, (my Mexican friend who lives in southern United States) after she spent an afternoon at the Bal Bhavan with her young sons during their first trip to Bangalore last year.

Facilities and Activities

Established in 1968, the Bal Bhavan was converted to a non-profit society in 1985 to enable better resource mobilization. Promoting recreation and nurturing creativity among children amidst nature , the enclosure has ample space for learning and enjoyment. It organizes various free programmes involving art, craft, theatre, films and ecology. It also has summer and annual Kalashree and Balashree award camps for children in co-ordination with the National Bal Bhavan in New Delhi. And there is a free entry dance and music contest for children almost every Saturday and Sunday between 5.00 and 6.00 pm open to individuals and institutions. Participants and winners of these events receive cash incentives and certificates. Importantly, all these programmes are funded by the BBS and through state government grants. Further, there are continuous efforts to encourage children from rural areas to explore and exhibit their talents.

Renovated in 2004, the Bal Bhavan Society (BBS) celebrated its silver jubilee in end 2010. It functions from 10.00 am – 6.00 pm each day (extended to 7.00 pm on Sundays and public holidays), and is closed on Mondays, the second Tuesday of every month and the Tuesday following any government holiday. With an annual budget of Rs. 118 lakhs, the Bal Bhavan has an entrance fee of Rs. 5 for adults. This and the rule that adults must be accompanied by children was introduced two years ago mainly to discourage college students from spending their class hours at the Bal Bhavan. It also offers its beautiful cottage like activity huts, amphitheatre and turret wall to private and government educational, non-governmental and other institutions and organizations  for conducting events for children and has buses to transport kids.

Apart from the play area, the Bal Bhavan has an auditorium,, a restaurant, an ice cream kiosk and a small snack stall. A skating rink and an open air theatre were added during the last one year. A traffic park to educate children about road rules in an entertaining manner is under construction. There is a science park consisting of life size models of the periodic table, telecommunication equipment, structure of the human DNA et al. Inaugurated in end November 2010, this section is open only to high school students accompanied by teachers at present. The toy train which operates every twenty or thirty minutes based on the occupancy, can seat around twenty people. A ride lasts for ten minutes and costs Rs. 10 per adult and Rs. 5 for a child. The price and capacity for boating is the same.

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