We’re left with one more week to the start of school and if you’re back from your wanderlust and crazy travelling schedules finally to settle back, here’s 4 very enriching places to play at while you ease into the week before school reopens. I’m recommending them because these places resonate with me so much about my beliefs on play (if you don’t already know I co-founded Trehaus and run the programmes in TrehausKids inspired by the Reggio approach, and moderate a group called ‘Let the Children Play (Singapore) on FB).
I believe in back-to-the-basics kind of exposure and providing children calming yet engaging and mind-stimulating opportunities. As far as my own kids are concerned, I pretty much want them to remember childhood like that. I advocate for children wondering, exploring and imagining as capable and curious individuals without too much adult interference. And I strongly believe that we should always ‘rope in’ the environment as the third teacher in a child’s journey of discovery, play and learning.
Bring back play at its purest, I say.
If you haven’t visited Playeum‘s new hands-on exhibition – Hideaways: Creating with Nature – you absolutely should. This new installation invites children to explore, observe, construct, reflect, innovate and engage with nature and natural materials through hands-on exhibits and interactive artists’ installations.
Led by Creative Director Jeremy Chu, and joined by artists’ collectives The People’s Atelier and Shogun Creatives as well as artists Madhvi Subrahmanyan, Isabelle Desjeux, Bartholomew Ting and Richard Kearns, each installation provides an interdisciplinary and engaging experience serving as an important reminder of the world’s ecosystem.
It was a full sensory experience here at Playeum and I watched my kids as they played with all 4 senses (except taste) and did a whole lot of observation. A whole lot. Rarely do I see bouts of silence from quiet observation and keen eyes. At Playeum, I witnessed my children engage in a kind of somewhat structured (yet at many times, free) play that stimulates cognitive thinking and critical questioning.
Some of the questions my children asked at Knock Knock, Who Lives There?:
Ben: How do you hide a camera in all the shrubs? You mean I can watch the insects live?
Becks: Would the insects hurt me? Are they alive?!?!
Nat: I can write to the insects?! Is that true?! How will they hold a pencil and reply me?
It was a relief to have Isabelle Desjeux, the creator and artist behind the installation, on site that day we visited to answer all the Kao kids’ questions about insects, show them how to make sense of a bug hotel and all. Phew.
Knock Knock, Who Lives There? invites children to view insects via special surveillance screens in their natural habitats and record what they see in a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with creepy crawlies in their natural environment.
Questions asked at Make Believe Hideaway:
Ben: We’re making ant homes? How? Are they going to let ants live here? What about termites? Can we let termites stay here too?
Becks: Can we make this for a caterpillar? I’ll make a nice flower shape home!
Nat: Eww, why is clay so sticky and also like powder on my hands??? MOM!!!!
Make Believe Hideaway is an installation that invites children to experience playing with clay and building imaginary habitats inspired by nature, resulting in a collaborative installation.
Convos overheard at Sounds of the Earth:
Ben: Can we go outside? What’s that outside? Can these really be musical instruments?
Becks: Hey look, guys! I found a watering can and flowers!
Nat: (wandering away from Sounds of the Earth) HEY GUYS! COME SEE THIS!!!!
Did someone mention termites earlier? Ewwwww…
Sounds of the Earth – Nature’s Ensemble is an interactive sound installation where children can create and build musical instruments with natural materials.
As you can see, my kids weren’t too immersed in any musical extravaganza. They couldn’t shake off the distractions of flowers and insects. We made music later nonetheless, on our way out.
Questions at Welcome to My World:
No questions asked actually. These kids just gravitated towards creation and construction. Immediately. Such pros.
Later Ben did finally ask something and it was about tying the most secured knots. Which became a teachable moment between father and son, and great chance for his father to show his son what he’s learned as a scout.
Welcome to My World is where children can imagine a world where they are as small as insects and encouraged to create shelters on a giant scale. Lots of creative fun to be had here – without glue, or any man-made materials. Au naturel, for the win.
Like, like, like! that the four hours we were there equated to curiosity in action and translated to hunger for knowledge and interaction with natural materials to make sense of the world we live in.
This is an extremely well-conceptualised children exhibition with very strategic artistic direction to engage children to think about nature and its ecosystem. There’s no better teacher than nature itself, and Playeum has thoughtfully recreated a “classroom” for learning right within its doors. Amidst the bouncy castles, iPads and mobile phone games our children are growing up with, I’m so glad a place like this exists here where we live.
Imaginarium at Singapore Art Museum @8Q is back for its second year. The annual children-focused exhibition is titled ‘Over the Ocean, Under the Sea’ this year, inviting adventurers of all ages to explore the watery realms of our Earth through immersive and interactive artworks from Singapore and beyond. It promises to be a whimsical introduction to the many stories and ideas that surround seascapes and presents tactile and interactive works that encourage discovery through exploration and play.
One of its key installations on the first floor is called Dimana Mogus – which is an awesome visual and sensorial burst of colours and textures made from knitted yarn displayed as coral reefs and sea creatures – has appeared on several IG feeds this entire month alone (#dimanamogus). My mom blogger friends have excellent visuals on this installation here (MummyEd) and here (growinghearts123) and you can read their reviews on this children-focused annual exhibition, back for its second year.
But what I’d like to draw your attention to is this particular installation which I feel needs to be given a mention here because it provided such an immersive experience walking through it. For me at least. It struck a chord, created a poignant teachable moment for my kids and delivered an experience that no other exhibits and installations could.
Aptly called Plastic Ocean, this installation was, in my view, tapped on the transformative power of art to confront the audience with a pressing issue.
In this case, the issue of ocean pollution.
We walked through a sea of 14,000 pieces of non-biodegradables, and when we reached the end, I actually felt an unexplained sense of suffocation.
Suddenly it dawned on us that we have walked through this entire room like sea creatures, swimming in a dark world of floating trash.
Well, I really didn’t have to say much to the kids. But I did ask them how they thought the fishies would feel if this was their home. My kids looked at me with an overwhelming sense of helplessness, and I knew they got the message right away.
Plastic Ocean is the best reason, in my opinion, why you should pay Imaginarium a visit this year. Just for this experience alone is worth your while.
Imaginarium: Over the Ocean, Under the Sea will be held at SAM at 8Q from 14 May 2016 to 28 August 2016.
Find out more about the exhibition and its programmes online at www.singaporeartmuseum.sg. You can also download the exhibition brochure here.
3. KidsSTOP™ at Singapore Science Centre
Recently, KidsSTOP™ launched a new exhibit that deserves a mention and many thumbs up for supporting and educating children about environmental conservation causes. Called ‘Ocean Buddies’, this new immersive and interactive exhibition and activity corner features 3-dimensional sea creatures to engage preschoolers and lower primary school goers on the topic of marine conservation.
Children will learn through experiential play by personalising their own sea creature (through colouring). They can then scan their sea creatures and watch them come ‘alive’ in the virtual ocean floor.
I like that immersive technology was used to wow my kids. I’m pretty sure every child that participates in this would be awed too.
But what REALLY wowed me wasn’t the fact that the shark, puffer fish and clownfish that Ben, Becks and Nat coloured appeared on the virtual ocean and swam around but the fact that KidsSTOP™, in conducting this activity, was actually living the message of reduce, reuse, recycle. They’ve partnered with Pilot Pen to educate the public about environmental conservation, and the kids were actually colouring with the world’s first pen with erasable ink!
The Pilot FriXon series used in the Oceans’ Buddies exhibit lets KidsSTOP™ reuse every single piece of paper coloured by each child. The ink is thermo-sensitive and disappears when subjected to heat at 65°C. Toshiba then comes in to provide the special ink recycling machine to emit heat and erase the ink on the paper, which then allows each sheet to be recycled and reused up to 5 times.
I get thrilled just knowing that trees won’t die for this Ocean Buddies’ cause of watching fishies swim virtually, and I am actually more excited learning the fact that corporates are practising social responsibility here.
I’m seriously considering stocking up on these Pilot FriXon pens and turning the thermostat on my oven to 65°C to save more paper with the kids doodling so much at home. Brilliant idea.
KidsSTOP™ is located next to the Singapore Science Centre at 21 Jurong Town Hall, S609433.
Admission charges in this link here and operating hours here.
4. The TrehausKids Atelier!
This place gets an exclamation just because I co-founded it (*insert victory sign), and hence this disclosure: affiliation to mentioned organisation.
If you have very young children, this Reggio Emilia inspired Atelier is an aesthetically beautiful and open space for infants, toddlers and preschoolers to wander and wonder. Play becomes an organic process as the environment invites children to explore and discover. The facilitators in TrehausKids also engage children in child-centric activities like drama, art, sensory play and music.
We’re pretty much also in sync with all the main children’s exhibitions’ theme on conservation this month in all our provocations and invitations to explore at the Atelier. This month, we delve deep into learning about the earth being our home, its endangered species, and the flora and fauna around us.
I’ll let the pictures do the talking and I hereby invite you to come join us in play!
Make the best use of the remaining one week, and bring back PLAY before the madness of school starts!