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Hands-On Nature Discovery for Kids at Playeum’s ‘Hideaways’

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Looking for something fun to do this weekend? Playeum: The Children’s Centre for Creativity has just debuted its second exhibition, ‘Hideaways: Creating with Nature’

Full disclosure: my family and I are huge fans of Playeum: The Children’s Centre for Creativity in Gillman Barracks. We love that it is a one-of-a-kind, nowhere-else-in-Singapore, Reggio Emilia-inspired museum space designed to encourage children to play via installations, hands-on exploration, creative interactions, workshops, and a rotating slate of exhibitions.

Knock, Knock - Bug Hotel playeum exhibition

Playeum’s fabulous second exhibition, which opened on April 16 and runs through to October 30, is Hideaways: Creating with Nature. It “[offers] an immersive environment for children to explore, observe, construct, reflect, innovate and engage with nature and natural materials through hands-on exhibits and interactive artists’ installations.” Although the exhibition aims to inspire budding naturalists of all persuasions, Hideaways will especially appeal to entomologists-in-training, as five of the exhibition’s six installations draw inspiration from the world’s creepy-crawlies.

While Playeum claims that Hideaways “features installations which provide an interdisciplinary and engaging experience, serving as an important reminder of the [worlds’ ecosystems],” several artists’ works are much more successful in achieving those goals than others.

Hideaways playeum

I was most impressed by three works: Make-Believe Hideaway by Madhvi Subrahmanian, which invites museum-goers to create their own HDB-inspired housing estates with clay; Creature Cave by Bartholomew Ting, a “cave,” constructed from cardboard, featuring sound, color, light, and texture, and perfect for infant and toddler sensory play; and Sounds of Earth: Nature’s Ensemble by Shogun Creatives, an installation in which children can create and build musical instruments with natural materials such as coconut husks, twine, and twigs.

Sounds of the Earth - Sounds Making hideaways playeum exhibition

Conceptually and structurally, Sounds of Earth is the most ambitious piece in this exhibition. Not only are visitors tasked with constructing an instrument, they are also encouraged to attach their creation to an outdoor, tunnel-like skeleton structure made of palm fronds, bamboo reeds, and houseplants. The structure will, in theory, “grow” through the exhibition’s duration.

Welcome to My World playeum hideaways exhibition

However, several installations missed the mark in my opinion. Much of Welcome to My World by The People’s Atelier, an imaginary habitat made of natural and found materials, is suspended from the ceiling and off-limits to young visitors, thus limiting what portions of the installation can be accessed and interacted with. In creating a multimedia installation in which children can view insects outside the building on screens inside the gallery in Knock, Knock! Who Lives There?, artist and former Playeum Creative Director Isabelle Desjeux sanitizes bug-hunting, an otherwise dirty and tactile activity. Her use of “surveillance screens” (her words) is also a rather interesting choice in CCTV-drenched Singapore. These two works were, no doubt, aesthetically arresting, but stunted in one way or another and not quite as play-full or dynamic as the others.

In conjunction with Hideaways, Playeum will also be conducting other special activities such as art jams, “Tinkering Sundays,” and holiday camps. Playeum is a little costly per child ($20.00), but one accompanying adult is FREE. (Additional adults are $10.00.)

Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10am – 6pm. Closed Mondays.

Playeum, Block 47, Malan Road, Gillman Barracks, #01-21 to #01-23, Singapore 109444, Tel: (+65) 6262 0750, www.playeum.com

Photographs by Richard Kearns.

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