Billed as Singapore’s first science centre catering specifically for children between 18 months and 8 years old, KidsSTOP is now officially open!
Housed within the Omni-Theatre building, the entire area comprises of a whopping 17 zones and feature areas, each with a different theme that takes children through a discovery of both the natural and man-made world. Part Indoor Playground and part make-believe Fantasy-land, kids will get to imagine, experience, discover and dream about the world around them through a mixture of role-play and hands-on tinkering.
But first, let's get the mechanics of KidsSTOP's operations out of the way - KidsSTOP operates 2 sessions per day for the general public, either in a 3-hour block on weekdays or 4-hour block on weekends and Public Holidays. For weekdays, tickets are available for the 12pm to 3pm or the 4pm to 7pm sessions. As for weekends, the sessions are 10am to 2pm and 3pm to 7pm. What this means is the ticket that you purchase is only valid for one session and at the end of it, everyone must exit to allow for the arrival for the next group of visitors.
Ready for the main attractions of KidSTOP then? Let's dive right into them!
When I first stepped into the compound, I have to admit it was pretty intimidating. At first glance, the visible area seemed small and confined but as I found out, it was anything but that. Every corner that I turned brought me face to face with a different activity and in fact, the monkies quite simply didn't know where to begin!
KidsSTOP is mainly divided into two areas: one main hall and a series of smaller rooms tucked at the back which formed the perimeter of the Omni-Theatre.
The 3,000-sqm area is carved into 4 main interactive zones: Imagine, Discover, Experience and Dream.
This was the first point of stop for the monkies as it was located nearest to the entrance. The Built Environment is a re-creation of a bustling building site complete with hard hats and safety vests. Wheel burrows, bags of cement, a work bench and toy excavators that kids can hop on round up the wonderful make-believe set-up.
Of great interest to Ayd was this ball run, where he had to arrange various tubes on a wall so as to create a path for plastic balls to roll through.
There was also a wall which allowed kids to use mechanical gears to create a chain of working gears. The ultimate goal? To stitch up a path of gears to reach either end of the wall - one end with a cuckoo clock and the other with a bunch of lights.
Ash's favourite though, was this giant mechanical claw machine which he could control via a joystick to pick up balls from a tank and drop them on unsuspecting people.
There is also the Blocks area, which contained giant foam blocks of various shapes and holes. Imagination is the key word here, because anything goes.
The Dino Pit is a replica of an excavation site, where little aspiring paleontologists can hunt for undiscovered dinosaur fossils with brushes and buckets.
It may be nothing new but a sand pit is always a hit with children.
Besides the pit, there is also a learning panel about dinosaurs, as well as rubbing stations where kids can place paper over the protruding dinosaur designs and rub away with crayons.
I guess this area is pretty self-explanatory.
Kids can grab either a trolley or basket and just shop away! I have to say I was extremely impressed with the variety of food items that were on 'sale', from fish, vegetables and fruits to packed produce like milk, rice and chocolate. It even had a section on spices used in Asian cooking that came complete with free sniffs!
I thought the interactive screen that seeks to educate children on the source of the food they consume was a nice touch. Children can scan products found on the shelves using the bar-code reader and the relevant food video will be played, detailing how that food item - in this case, chocolate - is processed and ends up in the supermarkets.
Of course, a supermarket experience will never be complete without having the chance to be the cashier.
Right next to the Supermarket is the Cafe, which has a kitchen area (and lots and lots of utensils) for kids to cook their food bought from the nearby supermarket.
Kids can even dress up in aprons and chef hats, and indulge in some good ol' masak masak.
There is even a seating section beside the cafe where parents can sit and wait to be served by their children!
Flight & Space
The main highlight of this area was undoubtedly the huge cockpit mock-up.
Being a pilot always seem to be a lifelong ambition of kids, so dressing up in a pilot's uniform and plonking oneself in front of the flight controls will be hard to resist.
Call me biased, but these 2 pilots are pretty dashing, no?
Behind the cockpit area, kids can find out how much work is needed to make fans turn by pedaling either with their feet or hands.
There was this other flying column where the boys could build their own flying structure and have it tested out by letting it fly up via the column.
Want to expend some energy? Jump on the panels of the rocket exhibit and watch which of the three rockets fly up the highest via compressed air.
For those little ones who are totally into space and planets, there is also an enclosed room with UV lighting that illustrates the Solar System.
Located near the entrance, this small section is devoted to the four seasons and consists of mainly static interactive panels.
Just beside Four Seasons is this tiny play area meant for young toddlers. There is a small plastic slide, and a flower field where they can pretend to do some gardening work.
As the name implies, this area is all about our human body and how it functions.
Kids can learn about their five senses through the sensory boxes but the one thing that I observed most kids swarming around was this.
Kids get to be a surgeon and learn the names of our internal organs, thanks to a very cooperative mannequin patient. They can even learn to differentiate the skeletal forms of humans and other animals by placing X-Ray films of various animals on an illuminated panel.
Ale though, had her heart set on being a pediatrician. Heh.
I thought that this area had by far the most informative and engaging number of exhibits. Not only were there doctor's and nurse's uniforms and medical equipment toys for make-believe play, there were interactive height and weight measurement stations and even a Jump station to see how high one could reach.
No doubt targeted at younger children, this free-play area is filled with giant LEGO foam bricks. The entire area is cushioned, with a raised barrier to prevent them from climbing out easily.
The Big Dream Climber
If you have kids who just adore climbing, this one will definitely blow their minds.
Essentially a two-storey climbing structure, this one had the boys scrambling faster than I can say, "Wait for me!" Yes, adults are encouraged to join in the fun as well!
Although the minimum age is to ascend is 5 years old, I was told by the minder that younger children can still climb on the structure as long as he or she is accompanied by an adult. And that was precisely the reason why I found myself up high in the structure... all because the Diva wanted to follow her brothers.
On a positive note, the structure could take my weight. On a not so positive note however, I nearly died climbing the structure. Some of the holes were definitely too small for my body's liking and it was quite the squeeze. But that is just me, so if I could come out of it unscathed, anybody can.
Oh, and just so that you know... be sure to tell your children to climb ALL THE WAY UP to the top of the structure to access a SECRET Music Room!
Everything in this room has to do with making music and sounds, so expect to see giant music keyboards, drums, xylophones... even a trampoline in the middle of the room.
If you are looking for thrills, this is it.
Standing at 7 metres, this is one ride where one get to experience the feeling of free fall. After suiting up in a protective jumpsuit and donning a helmet, you grab onto a handle where you will be pulled upwards. It is not necessary to fall from 7 metres (if you are chicken) as you have a choice of being dropped from a height between 3 and 7 metres.
Ash and Ayd had previously tried something similar at the Adventure Zone in Penang's Golden Sands Hotel so they were obviously game.
The Nature area aims to offer a complete sensory experience, where kids can explore various types of animals and plants.
Set up in the centre of KidsSTOP's main hall, is a circle of binoculars pointing skyward. Children are tasked to look into the binoculars and attempt to spot various animals and insects plastered onto the ceiling.
But if you thought that is the end of the exhibits, you thought wrong.
Tucked away towards the back of the main hall (near to Giant J) is a doorway that leads to a corridor which encircles the Omni-Theatre.
Walk right through that doorway and further play zones come into view.
This is where LIVE specimens of the feathered, furry, four-legged and six-legged kind dwell.
From chicks, to tree frogs, to hermit crabs, to crickets, these critters kept the monkies entertained for the longest time.
This is a zone where kids can get really creative!
Of great interest to the monkies was the Performing Stage with costumes, musical instruments and a microphone.
A TV screen allowed them to select the song that they want to perform, and performed they did - karaoke style.
But that is not all - other kids can also join in the fun by manning the 3 video cameras set up along the stage. Or you can choose to be the show producer and have your say in deciding which camera footage to broadcast, as well as controlling the stage lighting and special effects! How cool is that?
Budding actors and actresses can try out the 'Green Screen' station, and select one of the four scenes they would like to role play in. As for Ale, she decided getting chased by a giant UFO would put her in strong contention for the Academy Awards.
The other station which was a hit with the kids - boys, especially - was the car chase. Star in your very own high speed car chase with either a helicopter or a T-Rex breathing down your neck.
As for me, I loved the Stop-motion video booths. LEGO DUPLO bricks are provided for one's storytelling and the process is made so much easier with dedicated buttons to snap and delete photos at the booths. Sound effects can even be added to the video too! And when you are finally happy with the final product, there is the option to send the video to your email account as well.
Math & Tinkering
The highlight of this room was what laid in the centre of it - an odd-looking tricycle with square wheels. Kids are encouraged to give the tricycle a go and cycle around the humped track.
Ash initially thought that the tricycle will never be able to move due to its square wheels. So imagine his amazement when he managed to pedal one round eventually!
Other exhibits involved a huge pit filled with little beads where kids can learn about volume by filling different plastic container shapes with them, and a magnetic wall with movable shapes to form tangrams.
Other areas which were not opened while we were there includes the Kitchen Lab where little ones can cook up a storm during workshop sessions and an Innovation Lab where LEGO-influenced programmes will be conducted.
Phew. Amazingly, three hours of our time in KidsSTOP passed by just like that. And to echo my monkies, it was not enough! I guess that is testament enough as to whether they enjoyed their 3-hour play time inside KidsSTOP then. Although the recommended age for KidsSTOP is between 18 months and 8 years old, Ash did not complain of boredom at all. Personally, I think the 9 and 10 year-olds will still be able to enjoy most of the exhibits within KidsSTOP.
While on our way out, I caught sight of this mini Ferris Wheel located within the premise of the KidsSTOP shop. I enquired if it was open to children to hop on and the reply was yes. Or at least that is the plan. The ride is not operationally ready at the time of my asking but hopefully, it will be soon!
Final thoughts on KidsSTOP
One thing that pleased me was that the monkies never really had to wait for more than 5-10 minutes for most of the exhibits and stations. The only exception was the Giant J slide, but that is understandable as more time is needed to don the participants in suits and helmets. But overall, I was pleased that waiting time was kept to a minimum and the entire area was big enough to accommodate the crowd. And in case you are wondering, there is a quota of 300 people per session. So when the quota is reached, tickets will not be sold anymore for that particular session.
For me, the BIG difference about KidsSTOP compared to the original Science Centre is that all of exhibits are truly set up with the younger crowd in mind. There are no bombardment of difficult-to-grasp theories, just exhibits and contraptions that evoke the joy of playing and interaction in children. After all, playing is learning too and hopefully, it will make them WANT to learn more.
My final piece of advice? If the main area seem to be too crowded for your child's liking, head to the inner rooms where the Critters, Kiddie Theatre and Math areas are. Chances are they will be much quieter, and are just as fun too.
21 Jurong Town Hall (Beside Science Centre Singapore)
*Toilets and Diaper-changing & Nursing rooms are available within KidsSTOP.
**From August 2014, children above the age of 4 can enter KidsSTOP without the need of an adult's company.
Operating Hours: Daily - 1st session at 9.30am to 1.30pm | 2nd session at 2pm to 6pm
UPDATE - KidsSTOP's admission charges have been revised downwards for Singaporeans and PRs. For the complete table of charges, visit www.kidsstop.edu.sg/admission-charges*KidsSTOP Membership: www.kidsstop.edu.sg/membership