Nov 14, 2012

Singapore's Old Playgrounds: Dove or Seal?

(Daddy reminisces) 

After our encounter with the Dragon Playground at Toa Payoh, both Ash & Ayd were notably intrigued by these retro-looking type of playgrounds that were housed in a sandbox. As for me, I was getting swashed with a wave of nostalgia as such playgrounds brought back so many pleasant memories of my childhood.

So it was not a great surprise that we made the hunting down of the remaining old playgrounds in Singapore our crusade over the past weekend. And the Dove Playground at Dakota Crescent Estate was next on our list.

Some call it the Dove, while others term it as the Seal Playground. Personally, I think the former is more apt. But dove or seal, this playground was designed by the same man who designed the Dragon Playground - a Mr. Khor Ean Ghee (now 77 years old) who was the former in-house designer of the Housing and Development Board (HDB).

Besides the recurring animal theme, the terrazzo slide has got to be the distinctive trademark of these old playgrounds.

Which the boys needed no invitation to whizz down.

The concrete Dove is linked to a pyramid-like structure via a metal bridge, which wasn't as challenging as the  Dragon's body to be honest.

But at least the bridge led to more slides!

Or one could choose to descend from the pyramid via a sliding pole.

And beneath the pyramid, there hangs 2 rubber tyres fitted as swings. How often can one see that nowadays?

I was so tempted to give it a go, but that was before I realised that I most probably couldn't fit into the swing anymore. So I did the next best thing - sat on a park bench like an ah pek and watch the monkies do their thing.

As I sat there, it got me thinking - do the newer playgrounds that we have today place too much emphasis on safety? The sandboxes have been replaced by rubber mats, while plastic play equipment has taken over the use of concrete and metal.

I am guilty of it at times. I see Ash or Ayd perch highly atop the pyramid and my first parental instinct is to go forward and order them down immediately.

But that was how we played when we were at their age, wasn't it? We ran, climbed, jumped, slid, swung, and if we ever got hurt or fell down, that was okay. We just had to pick themselves up, brush the sand off and learn from it.

It could get quite dangerous playing in such a playground, as grazes due to the coarse sand or bruises courtesy of the concrete structures were a common thing. But it was all part of a learning process, and we did eventually learn from our failures then.

I had the chance to speak to a few educators over the past few months, and they had all said the same thing among the kids today - a lack of resilience. Are we bubble-wrapping our kids far more than we should, to the point that failures are not to be tolerated?

Compared to the rubberised and well-padded playgrounds of today, I really feel kids will have a lot more to learn from the playgrounds of yesteryears. Which is why the cheekiemonkies will continue to be relentless in our mission to cover most of Singapore's old playgrounds! :)

Dove Playground
Behind Blk 10
Dakota Crescent
Singapore 390010

There is another Dove Playground situated between Blocks 219 & 230 at Bukit Batok St 21. However, the sandbox has been replaced with rubber mats and there is no metal bridge between the dove and the pyramid.

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Melissa said...

I do think these playgrounds aren't terribly safe. I remember as a child seeing another child fall off a metal slide and injure itself. So things do happen and as a parent yes protecting your kid is absolute. I am fine with using rubber or plastic - and making things safer. After all as we progress we also learn how to make things better and bigger and SAFER. But i think play is still needed as THAT is where a child learns about negotiations, failure, playground politics etc. It's a learning ground no matter plastic and rubber - or - metal and concrete.

Kelvin Ang said...

Hi Melissa,

Thanks for sharing your views.

The thing about playgrounds being made safer is that sometimes it makes all of us slightly more complacent.

We grew up with playgrounds made of metal surrounded by sand and we turned out okay, no?

I'm not against plastic or rubber. Just that, I feel the playgrounds of today have lost that character as all of them come from the same moulds and there is no differentiation from each other. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised by some of the newer playground structures sprouting up in our parks, like the Battleship in Sembawang and the ones at Bishan AMK park. These are the ones that prove that plastic and rubber (and some wood) can still conjure up imaginative structures.

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