I once had an ambition to write children’s short stories and someone on my twitter TL had suggested that whatever I write must have dragons, because they held an unfailing enormous charm for children. At the time, I wondered. But I thought of his advice the day we visited Efteling, the 60-year old veteran of amusement parks located in the southern part of The Netherlands.
I’d been there before and knew what to expect, but I wasn’t prepared for the high levels of excitement and energy from the children that day. It took us over two hours to get there from Haarlem on a warm day, but no one minded. And how could we, when we were greeted by the most fantastic dragon ever, one who looked oh-so fierce and belched flames too!
Efteling’s architecture recreated the magical world of castles and dungeons, ogres and knights, elves and goblins and my children were absolutely charmed. Udai, especially, could imagine himself inside one of his books (Harry Potter, Eragon, Lord of the Rings…you get the drift) and his happiness knew no bounds.
For Aadyaa, the focus of excitement were the roller coasters, the crazier the better! And we were really glad she was tall enough to do them, In fact, Rahul had asked her to pull herself up to her full height if someone came with a measuring stick. And she did! A full 120 cms little Aadyaa was on the day we went to Efteling, aided a bit by her sports shoes and her gymnastics training! We did three roller coaster rides back-to-back, waiting for about 30 minutes for each one (not tiring, just builds up the excitement!). They were bizarre, topsy turvy and scary, in that order. We all loved them and the rush of adrenaline stayed with us for a long long time!
To wind down, we took a serene boat ride, saying hello to all the ducklings and geese we met. And the final elevator ride high into the sky that offers a bird’s eye view of Efteling and beyond. It is then that we realized that the park is located deep inside a protected forest area and all we could see was the dense green cover all around. All the easier for them to create the magical feeling that makes Efteling so special!
What kids love most about summer vacations is the unstructured time and absence of pressure! May 7, 2012
As the heat rises and vacations begin for the kids, I am taken back to the memories of how we spent summer vacations as children. In Mumbai, were we lived from ’81 to ’87, we had cousins from Goa visit us during summer and we traveled there at times as well. I was among the youngest in that group and I got teased incessantly. We played a lot of make believe games, full of role play and imagination. We played carrom, ludo, snakes and ladders and a host of indoor games. With my parents, whenever I could catch them (usually during travels), I played Scrabble and card games like Rummy, which my dad loved!
Wherever we were, home or in Goa or Bangalore (where my maternal grandparents lived), we were usually homebound. Days went by in a routine of breakfast, lunch and dinner interspersed with games, gossip, snoozes and snacks. Occasional treats like outings to the beach or museum did happen, but they were…well, occasional. We didn’t think of complaining. We were fine with the pace of our lives. Of course, we also said “I’m bored” 50 times a day like kids do now, but we were happy to be handed over another book to re-read, or another board game. Many a time, we were just asked to shut up and take ourselves away! And we did!
Later, in Lucknow, we had a teenage gang and hung out together doing stuff as varied as 100-piece jigsaw puzzles, endless card games, watching VCRs, talking and even reading together!
What made my childhood and especially the summer vacations a joy was the unstructured time we spent with our friends. Schooldays signified the shackles of a time-bound regime and holidays meant we could live in our alternate world till a parent or house help dragged us away for lunch or dinner!
Despite the plans I am making for my kids’ vacations, I know in this, the world has not changed. Udai and Aadyaa truly prefer the company of their friends over any class or scheduled activity. It is our failing as parents that we are unable to create safe, supervised space and time for this to happen all through the summer. We need to resort to some structured activities to tide us through! Hopefully, I will be able to negotiate a balance so they can enjoy both!