Hanoi's lack of playgrounds forces children to play on sidewalk

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Every evening, a sidewalk in Hanoi becomes a playground where parents pay a little money to give their children a good time sitting on toy animals, playing fishing or making sand paintings.

The service providers said the corner of Tran Khac Chan and Bach Mai streets, known as the pop-up playground, somehow solves the city's shortage of kids' space.

However, other adults said the sidewalk-play area has created a burden for pedestrians. Additionally, they say the sidewalk is not a healthy environment for children, news website VnExpress reported.

Son, a man doing business at the pop-up playground, said a fishing cord costs VND10,000 (less than 5 US cents) and the children can play for several hours.

Making sand paintings costs between VND10,000 to VND35,000, depending on the size.

The corner also has electric cars and rocking animal toys. Many parents buy their children a ticket to sit on the toys to make the job of feeding them easier.

Tu Anh, mother of a 5-year-old, said she spends VND6,000 every day on the toys. "Otherwise, it would take hours for the baby to finish her dinner at home," Anh said.

Thu, a woman doing business at the corner, said the pop-up playground has helped many parents in the area.

"There are not many playgrounds for children, and many parents are not willing to take their kids far away at night, while this place is close to their homes and cheap," she said.

But several locals, especially those who do not have children, said the playground is "unacceptable."

One of them, Thanh, said he had to step onto the roadway when walking to the corner.

The playground is open until 9 p.m. or later, and takes up more than 50 square meters of the sidewalk.

Nguyen Bich Hanh, a secondary school teacher, agreed that the playground does more harm than good to the children.

Hanh said street lights and twinkling vehicle lights are not a suitable environment in which children should play, especially with games such as painting or fishing. And she said it's dangerous to let the children play next to the road.

Running a business on the sidewalk is illegal and subject to penalty fines of VND25 million (US$1,190) in Vietnam. However, local authorities have not enforced the rule properly, partly because the city lacks spaces and small businesses, such as the playground, are worth much less than the penalty.

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