WhyteHouse Education Group, a Penang-based nursery and kindergarten, is gearing up to unveil the nation’s first ‘loose and risky playground’ on the island, its founder Jery Yeoh said.
A universal truth is that the parents of yesteryears, today or even tomorrow, will always be concerned about their children’s safety.
However, being overprotective can lead to unforeseen circumstances, which sometimes can leave a bigger scar than a fall that the child could experience.
Children’s playgrounds are designed to be exceedingly safe, sometimes to the point of making children overly comfortable during play.
But there’s a growing need across the globe for playgrounds to have some kind of ‘risky’ elements to prepare the kids for a world that may not always be entirely safe.
While many countries have already started to introduce risky playgrounds, it is learnt from Yeoh that Penang will soon become the first state in Malaysia to set up its first-ever loose and risky playground.
During an interview session with Buletin Mutiara on Sept 26 at WhyteHouse’s headquarters branch (Arena Curve) in Bayan Lepas, Yeoh said land, measuring 9,700sq ft, has already been identified for the programme kick-off near the said branch.
“We have spent RM200,000 to set up this space, including buying life-sized blocks, bricks, recycled materials and other relevant equipment for the children to play with.
“As this will be a permanent set-up here, we will also instal canopies and to our advantage, there is an existing rooftop too.
“We hope to have the trial run at the latest by Nov 1, followed by the official launching, which we hope to announce on a later date,” Yeoh said.
While the whole idea is to train children to be exposed to risk and to know its importance to allow them to react accordingly, it is also to bring them together through play, which is an important unifying factor.
“If children can play together, they will grow up to be able to live together.
“There’s no better way to unite children than through play, and by instilling some form of risky elements in playgrounds, we are also able to cultivate a sense of awareness on how to react in the event of risk-related situations,” he added.
In contrast to conventional playgrounds, Yeoh said the number of children participating in each session would be limited to 30 at any one time to prevent overcrowding and potential hazards.
The programme is open to all, but priority is given to children enrolled at any of the WhyteHouse branches.
According to Yeoh, WhyteHouse plans to create pop-ups of the playground in states outside of Penang in the future.
WhyteHouse, a Penang brand, was established in 2009 with only three registered children.
The group has now grown to have about 250 children across all four branches in Penang, and they are WhyteHouse Arena Curve, WhyteHouse Bukit Mertajam, WhyteHouse Kindergarten at Tech Dome (Komtar) and Whytehouse Kindergarten in Batu Kawan.
Civil servants in Komtar are entitled to a subsidised monthly payment at the Tech Dome branch, which is part of WhyteHouse’s community project of giving back to society.
The Batu Kawan branch is a collaboration with Micron Technology but 20 per cent enrolment is open to the public.
Tan Huey Miin and Fong Chi Cheng are currently overseeing the operations at the Bayan Lepas branch.