Looking for a new place to play? Sassy Mama takes a sneak peek at Playeum, a new, super-fun play space at Gillman Barracks.
They’ll change the world tomorrow. Let them play today.
That’s the motto of Playeum, the brand new, very much hands-on children’s centre for creativity that’s just opened up its first permanent space at Gillman Barracks after six years (and 150 projects’) worth of pop-up activities that have delighted over 60,000 children in Singapore and beyond.
Playeum is not a children’s museum, and it’s not an indoor play centre, yet it seems to have some of the best qualities of each. Catering to kids ages 1-12, it’s designed to engage and encourage a range of interests through open-ended play via installations, hands-on exploration, creative interactions, workshops and a rotating slate of exhibitions.
“Children are able beings, not empty vessels to be filled up,” says Playeum’s co-founder (and mama of two) Jennifer Loh. “We want to emphasise that there’s no right or wrong answer. Playeum is not about teaching at children, it’s about making with children.”
Playeum’s core mission is igniting children’s creativity, says co-founder Sumitra Pasupathy, citing a concerning statistic about a 9-hour “play gap” for Singaporean children compared to a generation ago. More hopefully, she also points out that a survey of the world’s top CEOs revealed “creativity” is the most desired trait in an employee – truly there’s no downside in letting children explore and discover their creative sides!
Playeum plans to feature 3-4 exhibitions per year; the first, timed to coincide with the F1 Grand Prix, is called The Art of Speed, which “allows inspiration to travel in all directions”.
Along with creative director Isabelle Desjeux (well known for her art and science studio L’Observatoire at the Blue House), the team has thoughtfully divided Playeum into different zones that overlap and play off each other:
The Main Space includes a soft play area for babies and toddlers including moveable objects, a wonderful table of wooden toys, and interesting objects to discover along the wall. At the entrance there’s also a giant blank wall covered in blackboard paint; this weekend local cartoon artist Clio Ding will create a mural that children are invited to contribute to as well.
Around the corner there’s currently a giant ramp where kids were having a blast sending toy cars flying into the air; nearby are tubs of LEGOs for kids to build the vehicles of their dreams.
The Play Maker Space features household and recycled objects, along with simple materials like tape, string and rubber bands, where children have the freedom to create their own projects with various mediums. As Playeum is all about “the process rather than the product”, kids are asked to leave their finished creations behind on a display shelf to inspire others, with the idea that they’ll take their imagination home with them to envision new projects.
The Workshop features an incredible set of tools (who doesn’t love a glue gun?!) for multi-disciplinary play and fuller engagement. There will also be dedicated, innovative workshops led by artists, and this is also where kids will be able to enjoy holiday camps and super fun birthday parties.
The Dark Space (illuminated by flashlights and cool wall projections) feels almost like a mini interactive art gallery installation, where kids can take a moment to slow down and perhaps synthesize some of the ideas and inspiration they’ve picked up in the other zones. Isabelle describes it as a “contemplative space” where kids can once again use their imaginations to shape the environment as they see fit.
Coming soon there will also be a garden (along with a Sunday gardening club!), which should fit perfectly with the lush surroundings of Gillman Barracks. Other special activities will include art jams, “Tinkering Sundays”, and holiday camps.
The team behind Playeum very much sees it as a lab for tinkering and experimentation, but also takes much inspiration from the Reggio Emilia philosophy, which has flourished at a number of schools across Singapore. At the same time, says Executive Director Anna Salaman, “We’re not constrained by being a school.” Things will change to keep kids engaged and stimulated, because at the end of the day, having fun will boost self-confidence, and kiddos will absolutely want to come back for more.
Playeum’s grand opening is this Saturday, 19 September. Join in for mural drawing on Saturday afternoon! The Art of Speed will run through 3 April, 2016. Thereafter exhibitions will change every 3-4 months. When asked what the next one would be, Jennifer Loh demurred and said only with a wink, “We love nature!”
How much: $20 per child (ages 1 to 12); accompany adult is FREE, and additional adult is $10. Annual memberships also available. Promotional rate for schools and groups: $10 per child.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10am – 6pm. Closed Mondays and 25 December.
Playeum, Block 47, Malan Road, Gillman Barracks, #01-21 to #01-23, Singapore 109444, Tel: (+65) 6262 0750