A brand new indoor play area has opened in Singapore but before you zoom down thinking it is the latest Indoor Playground with the tallest slide or biggest ball pit in Singapore, let me tell you it is not.
In fact, I am elated to say this play space will elicit some of the wildest and happiest responses that parents will ever see from their kids - even though there is a lack of play structures, slides, ball pits and even electronic gadgets in Asia's first Children's Centre for Creativity at Gillman Barracks.
All thanks to a strong emphasis on play without any boundaries or rules, and letting the kids' imagination take flight. Literally.
The Children's Centre for Creativity is helmed by Playeum, Singapore's first non-profit centre for creativity and culture. It is also known as 'The Play Museum', a museum without walls which hopes to inspire children through self-directed exploration and learning and in the process, establish a culture of meaningful and impactful play.
If you had read my previous post on Playeum's The Big Draw project last November, you will already know that I am a huge fan of their works. And the monkies too, actually. So when I heard that Playeum is going to have its first permanent space at Gillman Barracks after six years worth of pop-up activities, I was more than happy to bring the monkies down for a play session like no other!
Did you know that all kids are born creative geniuses? Unfortunately, their creativity tanks by the time they reach upper Primary School. And surprise surprise, some of the worst creativity killers are committed by us parents:
1. Over-rewarding a child with stickers and prizes inhibit their exploration and imagination as a child will put as much effort as it is needed to get the reward.
2. We limit the choices that our children have by usually focusing on the one correct answer while in actual fact, exploring options is the key to lateral thinking.
3. Micromanaging the projects and things kids do is detrimental to their creativity. They will fail to take risks and won’t experience the value of making mistakes as part of the thinking process.
Which makes play spaces like Children's Centre of Creativity all the more important.
For starters, the Centre is pretty huge! Designed for kids aged 1 to 12, it is a place where everything and anything goes - because kids get to dictate play here. They get to experience open-ended play via installations, hands-on exploration, creative interactions, workshops, and a rotating slate of exhibitions.
And the gigantic wooden ramp do just that.
The Centre's exhibitions will rotate every few months, with the first being inspired by the Formula 1 season and aptly named 'The Art of Speed' where cars, speed and movement are explored in engaging ways through interdisciplinary approaches. The experience is based around four different but interconnected spaces that allows for inspiration to travel in all directions:
The Main Space
No doubt the highlight here is the ramp but it is more than that as the space features a few interactive and open-ended installations for hands-on exploration, tinkering and free play. And quite frankly, it doesn't get better than having tubs and tubs of LEGO bricks at one's disposal.
Kids will go ga-ga over the immense possibilities of building their own LEGO car and fitting it with wheels. And for what purpose, you ask?
To launch them down the giant ramp, and watching the cars go flying over a gap and landing successfully on the other side of the ramp!
Trust me when I say this is one area where even parents will be tempted to give it a go. Just remember to give priority to the little ones, ok?
If your child prefer something less heart-stopping (but equally interesting), head to the long rubber green strips beside the ramp.
Bend the race tracks to create curves and loops that go over and under various obstacles, and send the toy cars whizzing down the tracks!
Or make the cars zoom through cardboard tube tunnels. Safe to say, this installation was one of Ale's favourites!
Have younger kids? There is also a dedicated soft play area for crawling babies and tumbling toddlers with moveable soft play structures, a play table complete with wooden toys, and a self-made sensory board on the wall.
The Play Maker Space
Here, children have access to a wide range of mediums and have the freedom to create their own unique projects.
For Ash and Ayd who love to create their craft pieces at home, this section is the absolute dream come true for them!
The shelves are well-stocked with a mind-boggling selection of recyclable materials like cardboard, plastic bottles, ribbons, wooden sticks, plastic spools as well as a host of ample tools required for that bit of crafting.
Never mind the kids, it seemed that the parents could not resist to get their hands working as well!
Kids are allowed to build ANYTHING here so it was no surprise that Ash and Ayd spent the longest time here... fashioning their creations in the form of vehicles so that they could take on the challenge of the ramp.
And how did Ash's carton vehicle do?
It cleared the 'longkang' on the ramp!
I also loved the idea of this tube installation right beside the Play Maker Space. There are NO instructions accompanying it and kids are welcome to explore the different ways of playing with it.
In Ayd's case, he was trying to connect more tubes to it so that he can slot a toy car through them and watch it zoom straight down.
Another deceptively-simple installation was this wall contraption where cardboard tubes, funnels and hoses were provided for kids to mount them on the wall so that they can drop marbles through them and watch them roll along the course.
The ingenious thing about this is there are no brackets or any other form of secure mechanisms, just plenty of holes on the wall. So see how some of the kids managed to fix the tubes and hoses on the wall through the use of wooden chopsticks and masking tape. Plenty of trial and error involved - but that's the whole fun of playing, no?
The Dark Space
Speed need not necessarily be associated with all things fast. It can be slow as well and that is where the Dark Space installation comes in. This separate room allows for creative interaction with different audio and visual materials.
The installation in this room will be updated regularly and for now, it features Shadow Play (19 Sep - 1 Nov 2015) where children’s shadows will provoke them to experiment with movement and speed. This participative installation will vary from week to week, with new props and resources for new experimentation and play.
Kids get to pull a rope that slides a light source along the length of the room and this in turn changes the shapes and sizes of the shadows that the objects and the kids' bodies cast on the wall. Simple, but ingenious!
The Workshop is a calm and reflective dedicated space which will host a variety of stimulating programmes for in-depth discovery. Guest artists and the centre’s Playmakers will facilitate unique explorations of speed through movement, visual art, photography and more, and this is also where kids will be able to enjoy holiday camps and super fun birthday parties.
Watch out for Tinkering Sundays too, where the last Sunday of every month will see kids and parents being able to explore, experiment and invent. Price is $20 per adult + child pair (on top of admission fee) and visit HERE for more details on the workshops.
By now, you should realise that I - and the three monkies, for that matter - LOVE this place! Even though it is not a children’s museum or an indoor playground, the activities here kept the kiddos occupied for a far longer time than other kid-centric places.
What I love about the place it really offers limitless play opportunities for every child, and of different age groups. There are absolutely ZERO instructions that accompany each installation as kids are left to invent and dictate their own methods of play in the Centre.
And the beauty of it all? The monkies did not utter 'I'm bored' even once for the duration we were there.
In fact, they were disappointed in having to leave - even after having spent 2.5 hours there! So I guess that itself is testament to the wonderful work that Playeum had put into 'The Art of Speed' exhibition.
And if you planning a trip down with the little people, here are a few things to note:
1. Entry to Children's Centre for Creativity is $20 per child (1-12 years old). One accompanying adult enters free while additional accompanying adults play $10 each.
2. Although entry is for unlimited play for the day, there is a possibility that visits may be kept to 2-hours during busy periods.
3. Annual Memberships available at $140 per child, which offers one year's worth of unlimited entry for one child and one adult.
4. There are no toilets and nursing rooms within centre. Toilets are however, located just beside once you exit the Playeum building.
5. No snacks and drinks are sold on premises. There is a cold drinks vending machine beside the washrooms.
6. If your kids (or you) are feeling really famished, head to Red Baron cafe opposite Playeum. It sells sandwiches, cakes and other pastries.
Simply put, this is ONE place I will recommend ALL parents to bring their kids to at least once before they enter Secondary School!
A huge Congratulations to the following 3 winners who have each won an Annual Membership (worth $140) to Playeum!
1. Jaz Lin
2. Shuzhen Hong
3. Angelina Lim
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org by 8 March 2016, for details of your prize collection. Thanks!
In the meantime, with the March School Holidays coming up, check out Playeum's March programmes, including its new holiday camp, Tech In Motion: www.playeum.com/#!programmes/ckx1.
Playeum's Children's Centre for Creativity
The Art of Speed
Blk 47, Malan Road, Gillman Barracks, #01-23, Singapore 109444
Date: 19 Sep 20155 - 3 Apr 2016
Opening Hours: Tues - Sun: 10am - 6pm
Admission: $20 per child (1-12) | Accompanying adult: Free | Additional accompanying adult: $10
Nearest MRT Station (5 to 10 minutes walk): Labrador Park Station (Circle Line)
Nearest Bus Stop (3 minutes walk): Along Alexandra Road, Opposite Alexandra Point (Bus Stop Number 15059) - Available Buses: 51, 57, 61, 83, 97, 97e, 100, 166, 175, 408, 963 or 963E
*Free Parking on Saturdays (11am-7pm), Sundays and Public Holiday.