“Our concept revolves around creating a miniature world for children. As you stroll down our pathways, you’ll notice buildings lining both sides, mirroring the setup we’ve designed. The aim of this environment is to provide children with an open space for thinking, imagining, and playing, as opposed to simply engaging with toys that produce preset sounds or actions at the push of a button. Our goal is to encourage active engagement of the brain.

The inspiration stemmed from observing children’s natural inclination to mimic adults from as early as one year old. Whether it’s imitating how we walk, read newspapers, or cook, children naturally engage in pretend play. In Chennai, traditional play areas mainly focus on activities like jumping and running, lacking the imaginative depth we envisioned for Toddle Town.

One of the challenges we noticed is that many parents hesitate to let their children play freely outdoors due to various concerns, which we believe is unfortunate. Hence, we established this space to provide a safe environment where both children and parents can thrive. Our setup encourages children to think creatively and assist one another. With features like a small fire station, supermarket, castle, beauty salon, and police station, children engage in pretend play that enhances their gross motor skills,” says Keerthi Gabriel.

So what are the other challenges?
Challenges come in various forms, and each time presents unique obstacles. When we first started Toddle Town, the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to shut down for three months. However, the feedback from parents during this period gave us the confidence to persevere. Additionally, we’ve encountered challenges from neighbours who complain about parking, but the police officials have understood after seeing our establishment. As a woman and a mother juggling both roles, I faced the dilemma of balancing work and childcare. I made the decision to leave my job to start Toddle Town because I needed to prioritise caring for my children while also striving for financial independence. Despite the initial uncertainty, I took the first step and found my path forward.

Busy Parents
One factor contributing to this trend is the busy schedules of parents, leaving them with minimal time to spend with their children. However, when families visit here, they not only get to engage in playtime with their children but also with grandparents. We even host birthday parties here, where grandparents often have a blast. These moments become cherished memories for a lifetime.

The time spent with children is invaluable and something you’ll never regret. It’s an opportunity to create lasting memories and bond with your kids, despite the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Future Vision
At the core is the belief that the time parents spend with their children, starting from infancy and extending into their teenage years, profoundly impacts their emotional well-being. Even as newborns, children absorb the emotions around them, shaping their development. As parents, it’s essential to prioritise quality time with our children amidst our busy schedules. However, I understand firsthand the challenges of balancing work and family commitments.

Our goal is to provide a space where families can bond and create lasting memories together. By offering a variety of play activities and programs, we aim to promote healthy emotional development and strengthen family connections. We strive to make these opportunities accessible to all children, regardless of background or ability.

In addition to promoting play and family bonding, we recognise the importance of life skills development. Through activities like learning to cross the road safely, we aim to equip children with essential skills they’ll need as they grow older. We also welcome schools for field trips, providing educational experiences that complement classroom learning.

Furthermore, we aspire to create a supportive community for families with ‘Neurodivergent’ children. While navigating this sensitive area, we hope to offer tailored programs and support networks to meet their unique needs.

Ultimately, our vision is to foster happy, resilient families who prioritize quality time together and embrace life’s challenges with positivity and strength.

Receiving appreciation is rare, but criticism is common. It takes self-motivation to keep going. When parents and grandparents visit here, play with their kids, and later call to thank us, it brings tears to my eyes. Hearing an elder say ‘God bless you’ is indescribable. We tailor experiences for each family. You can drop in anytime and pay hourly or get a monthly membership. As parents ourselves, we understand the challenges. It’s stressful when you can’t find childcare. But motherhood is beautiful, and raising children is rewarding.”