The Playground Parade: ‘The More We Get Together’ Exhibition at National Museum Of Singapore

Chil­dren want four things: a swing, a see­saw, a slide, and a mer­ry-go-round,” said Mr Khor Ean Ghee, design­er for many of our HDB play­grounds.

From our par­ents’ time to the new gen­er­a­tion, play­grounds have evolved to become more sophis­ti­cat­ed than ever. But there is one thing that has not changed, and prob­a­bly will nev­er change — the ele­ment of inno­cent, unbound­ed fun.

The play­ground is a sacred space to chil­dren, and maybe to the par­ents. It is a con­gre­ga­tion point for all, where dif­fer­ences are set aside for play, where wor­ries are aban­doned and imag­i­na­tions run wild. A child once shared that he imag­ined he was tam­ing and rid­ing with the drag­ons amidst the clouds as he climbed to the top of the famous drag­on play­ground at Toa Pay­oh. The ela­tion on his face, and won­der, is a gift that has been bestowed upon him by play­grounds, and those who cre­at­ed them.

Nation­al Muse­um of Sin­ga­pore opens The More We Get Togeth­er: Singapore’s Play­grounds 1930–2030, a key exhi­bi­tion that will run till Sep­tem­ber 30th. The inter­ac­tive exhi­bi­tion will be both edu­ca­tion­al and fun for every­one, no mat­ter your age, race, gen­der or creed.

These play­grounds, icon­ic and well-loved land­marks of our HDB estates, first start­ed out as open fields and emp­ty com­pounds, amidst the long kangs (canals) and shop­hous­es. Then came the first ded­i­cat­ed pub­lic children’s play­ground at Dho­by Ghaut in 1928, equipped with a swing and a slide. It was a hotspot for chil­dren, no mat­ter the time of day. Fast for­ward to 2018, we have since thrown in aes­thet­ics and prag­mat­ic designs, with a touch of inno­va­tion.

You would nev­er have guessed the enor­mous plan­ning and work that goes behind every sin­gle play­ground till you have swung, slid and snaked your way through the exhi­bi­tion. The design­ers have to uphold at least sev­en prin­ci­ples of play for each of the play­ground struc­tures. Safe­ty is also a vital fac­tor in a playground’s design, as with weath­er-proof­ing.

A fine exam­ple is our sand­pit, if you’ve ever won­dered why our sand­pits nev­er ever see water­logs even dur­ing the infa­mous equa­to­r­i­al mon­soons, it is because of the inge­nious design­ing behind a sim­ple play­thing, with the semi-per­me­able lay­er allow­ing only water to seep through but not sand. You can find out more details at the exhi­bi­tion.

We look to the past to shape our future. What our future play­grounds look like will depend on the func­tion­al­i­ty of cur­rent play­grounds and the whims of the future gen­er­a­tions. They are not sim­ply just for play. They are the build­ing blocks of a child’s life, cul­ture, and an impor­tant thread in our social fab­ric.

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