A Fifteen Year Old Boy’s Wish To Go To A Playground
A day before the September term break began, I suggested excitedly to my fifteen year old son, Kyan, “School holiday is starting tomorrow. Dad is taking you out to play.”
Kyan is non-verbal and moderately autistic. He merely replied smilingly with an “OK”.
To encourage him to speak more, I asked again, “Where would you like to go?”
“Playground,” Again, it’s a one-word reply. But there was excitement in his voice.
I chuckled at his suggestion with mixed feelings.
Kyan has remained innocent like Peter Pan — a boy who never grows up. The obvious problem is he is like a little boy trapped inside a nearly grown-up body. At a height of about 170 cm and weighing 70kg, Kyan has clearly outgrown the playground facilities. He looks like a giant among the younger kids.
I was about to say no to playground when Kyan suddenly blurted, “I insist to go playground.”
Wow! That was a rare sentence he was making! His answers were usually a one-word utterances.
I changed my mind and obliged, “Yes. We will go to a playground!”
But the big question in my mind was, “Is there an inclusive playground where EVERYONE can have fun together?”
Has the country become too expensive for ordinary folks?
The internet churned out a long list of recommended playgrounds in Singapore. But at the top of the search list were mostly public playgrounds for younger children – below the age of twelve, no taller than 140 cm and weigh less than 50 kg. Kyan did not fit the bill. I had to turn to private operators.
In the end, I found a positively-reviewed private indoor playground that was newly opened in Singapore last year. The place seemed perfect — slides, trampolines, flying fox, car tracks, obstacles tracks and more.
I was nearly about to book the tickets online when I saw the hefty price tag. A one-day ticket costs SGD$48 per person! The tickets alone for a family of four would nearly cost $200. That’s a hefty sum of money!
A deeper concern arose. Is Singapore an inclusive society where ordinary folks can afford to enjoy simple leisure?”
Singapore remains one of the most liveable countries in the world
I know that Singapore is reputed for being one of the most expensive cities in the world. But paradoxically, the country remains one of the most liveable places in the world.
I often tell my friends from overseas, “Singapore is not just an expensive place for crazy rich Asians. It is also a place for ordinary folks. There is no lack of delicious and inexpensive places for food. There are also plenty of free-to-visit public parks to go around; tree-top walks, nature trail, streams, where squirrels and monkeys abound. And I do not know of any country elsewhere that creates so much community space like community and sports clubs in every town for people to socialise and exercise together.”
A colleague from a neighbouring country, who often took his children to the public pools, remarked, “I am surprised by the $2 admission-fee to the public pools that are equipped with gigantic slides, Jacuzzi jets and wave pools. It’s simply fun and ridiculously cheap!.”
His words reminded me that our family often headed to these feature pools when the children were younger. Surely, there must be an inclusive playground for everyone somewhere!
An amazing playground for everyone!
At last, I found an amazing public playground —the Admiralty Park Playground. Its most prominent feature: Slides! Slides! And slides!
I have never seen so many slides in one playground. A whopping number of twenty-six slides! And that’s not all. There were burrows, suspension bridges, tunnels and more.
We were not alone when we reached the playground. Many other families were having fun together. A big busload of Korean kindergarten children arrived shortly and they quickly filled the place with laughter. Luckily, the mega playground was big enough for everyone.
Kyan and his thirteen year old brother, Conan immediately had their eyes on a 34-metres long curved roller slide which was far away from these toddlers. Climbing the cargo nets to get to the top, they tunnelled their way down in laughter.
Energised by the children’s laughter, I got into the fray by joining them on the flying fox next! Kyan was initially unsure how to work the equipment but Conan was quick to give him guidance.
Perhaps, the greatest fun for the children came from the parallel roller slides. The rollers on the slide accelerated the children’s movement. That gave an extra impetus to the two boys who were bent on racing each other to the finish! Upon touching the ground, Conan quickly pulled Kyan to go for another round!
I found out later that both sides of the parallel roller slides were lined up with bright motion-sensor LED lights that would be illuminated from 7pm to 11pm daily. That just gave us another reason to come back!
Another delightful discovery was the play equipment for people who are wheel-chaired bound. This is truly an inclusive playground for all!
Rethink the significance of playgrounds
At the end of the day, I asked Conan, “Most people see little significance in building playgrounds. In some neighbouring countries, people argue that public fund is better used on other priorities. Do you agree?”
Conan replied, “No. That misses an important point — people need to have community space to enjoy coming together.”
Conan was spot on. Over the decades, I have witnessed how playgrounds in Singapore have evolved from simple sandpits with slides, see-saw and swings to important community space that draws families of all walks together.
Playgrounds are more than just outdoor places for children to play. More importantly, they are memory landscapes that leave indelible marks on the way we remember how we lived and played together. Don’t you agree?
William WK Tan (aka Uncle William)
22 Oct 2019
How to go the Admiralty Park Playground?
Admiralty Park Playground is a 15-minute walk away from Woodlands MRT.
Check out the links below for more information: