Which indoor playground should I bring my baby below 1 year old to?
I encounter this question very often, and understandably so. New parents of babies below 1 are usually unfamiliar with indoor playgrounds in Singapore and the options available. Unlike those of us who have been hitting indoor playgrounds for years and slowly visited them one by one as they opened, new parents these days are overwhelmed with choices, since soooo many new playgrounds opened over the past few years. So here, I am not only going to give my recommendation of the Best Indoor Playgrounds for Babies and Young Toddlers but also a Beginner’s Guide to Indoor Playgrounds for new parents and list of FREE Indoor Playgrounds for Babies under 1.
Best Indoor Playgrounds for Babies and Young Toddlers
Ranked #1 Hokey Pokey
My personal favourite playground for babies and toddlers over the years is Hokey Pokey. Hokey Pokey was opened by a group of mothers, and from the first day I visited them during the beta testing of their original branch at Suntec City, I have been impressed by how the playground catered not just for the needs of the kids but the needs of the parents as well. They currently have 1 branch at Seletar Mall.
The reason Hokey Pokey trumps is because of amenities like diaper-changing table and resting area for parents. From the resting area, you will get a view of the whole playground. Hence, after your baby or toddler is familiar with the playground, you can leave him or her alone to play while you chill and have a drink at the resting area while still keeping an eye on kiddo.
Ranked #2 Busy Tables
Busy Tables was the first indoor playground to offer educational games based play for a very reasonable play rate. Their resource library carries hundreds of games which are labelled according to difficulty level, so even very young toddlers will be able to find some simple games to develop their motor and analytic skills.
Although I ranked Busy Tables second, I do think it should be a tied first-placing with Hokey Pokey, because they are rather different in concept and it’s really what you prefer for your kids. Hokey Pokey is more free play, while Busy Tables requires parental engagement for young children. Some of the manipulatives are very small and potential choking hazards – so this is not a place for your toddlers to run free and play on their own. But the activities are Busy Tables are a lot more educational and they have really cool concepts like the Dark Room and Sensory Play areas.
Ranked #3 Tickle Tickle
Tickle Tickle has two branches: At Delta Sports Complex and Hougang Sports Hall. Their main strength is in how they organize their toys into little houses of various themes (e.g. cooking and food toys in the ‘Cafe’ house, toys cars in the ‘Repair Shop’ house.
Tickle Tickle paled in comparison to Hokey Pokey because of the lack of diaper-changing facility within the playground and their attempt to charge me for a paper cup when I requested for hot water when I was there more than 2 years ago. In my opinion, they displayed lack of empathy for parents bringing young babies out to a playground. Asking me to go and use the wooden benches of the sports complex’s changing room to change my baby’s diaper and expecting me to pay 50 cents for the paper cup when I requested for hot water to heat up baby’s milk were big NO-NOs. I haven’t been back for many years though, so I don’t know if they have improved since then.
Beginner’s Guide to Singapore Indoor Playgrounds FAQ
There are generally two types of play areas offered in indoor playgrounds: Pretend Play and Active Play.
Pretend Play comprises of many toys for babies and kids to stimulate their senses and learn-through-play. You will also find toys like kitchen sets, construction sets, house-cleaning sets etc. to simulate real-life activities. In Singaporean terms, it simply means 玩家家酒.
Active Play comprises of large padded play structures for kids to climb around. You will find slides, tunnels, ball pits, bridges and different obstacles of varying difficulty at the various playgrounds.
In general, Pretend Play is more suitable for babies under 1. Most babies below 1 will find difficulty getting around active play areas and will need their parents to boost them from time to time and follow them around closely. Some playgrounds’ active play areas are not well-constructed and you may even find small gaps that babies may slip through accidentally.
For many parents, the terms ‘playground’ and ‘play gym’ are used loosely and inter-changeably. But in my blog, they refer to different categories of places.
A playground is one that is open to public to walk in and use the facilities at any time during their opening hours. Parents are expected to look after their own children at all times and the staff do little more than collect the admission fee and clean up the playground occasionally.
A gym, on the other hand, conduct classes which you need to sign up your babies for. The staff are trained-professionals who will guide your babies through various activities during the classes. However, you cannot just walk in for a lesson any time you wish and need to stick to the class schedule. Some gyms do open up their facilities to public for open play when there are no classes going on, but you need to call them up to check when they will be open since their class schedules are always changing.
In this blog post, I am focusing only on playgrounds.
I would be lying if I told you indoor playgrounds are 100% safe and hygienic. My kids have had their fair share of falling sick after an indoor playground visit. But to me, that is just part and parcel of growing up.
Most indoor playgrounds conduct health checks (similar to what childcare centres do) at the entrance and bar children with fever or signs of HFMD from entering. There is usually cleaning-up and disinfecting of the whole playground at the end of each business day. Hence, indoor playgrounds are definitely cleaner and more hygienic than those free playgrounds you find at shopping centres and HDB estates.
You should also note that young babies LOVE to pop those plastic balls (and any other toy that would fit) into their mouth. Hence, extreme vigilance is expected from parents if you do not want them to fall sick or, worse, choke as a result of putting toys into their mouth. Playgrounds are generally catered for kids of all ages, so some toys can be choking hazards for the younger ones.
Most indoor playgrounds have foam flooring and padded play areas and take special care in covering sharp corners and power points around the playground, so it is generally a safe place for babies or toddlers who are prone to falls. Still, be vigilant and not let them climb up heights without guidance. The foam flooring can only do so much in cushioning a fall, especially if it’s from a height.
You can start bringing them to indoor playgrounds as soon as they can crawl. My first-born started visiting them when he was 5 months old and learning to crawl. It helped him develop his motor skills quickly and relatively safely (since falling on foam flooring was less painful than falling on the homogenous tiles at home). By 9 months old, he was able to walk – something I attributed to his frequent indoor playground visits.
However, as I mentioned earlier, there is definitely a high risk of falling sick when visiting an enclosed air-conditioned environment full of kids. MF caught HFMD when he was 10 months old, and I suspected he got it from one of the indoor playgrounds. Babies have generally weak immunity so parents need to exercise their own discretion to decide if their babies’ immunity is strong enough to handle the viruses going around.
SOCKS. You need SOCKS, for both adults and baby. Otherwise you would be forced to purchase them from the playground.
You may also want to bring a jacket. Some indoor playgrounds’ air-conditioning can be pretty cold.
FREE Indoor Playgrounds for Babies Under 1
If your babies are still young, you should take advantage of this time to check out playgrounds that offer FREE entry for babies under 1! Most of these playgrounds are not the most suitable for them (otherwise they wouldn’t be free right?), but it is a good opportunity to try them out and see if your baby likes them! Then after your baby turns 1, you would know which playground to sink your money into.
Fidgets World (The Grandstand)
Fidgets World offers FREE unlimited play for babies under 1! I used to camp there regularly when my first-born was below 1. You will find a toddler zone there with a dedicated play area for babies and toddlers below 2 years old. The cafe has seating right next to the toddler zone so you can sit back and have your meal while watching your little one play.
Amazonia (Great World City)
Amazonia offers free 2-hours play for babies under 1 on the condition that you spend $10 at their cafe. You can spend that $10 on lunch or on a coffee + cake, I pretty like the food and drinks served at their bistro. There is also a toddler zone at Amazonia, but it is not entirely visible from the cafe.
Giggles (Marine Parade)
Giggles offer free entry for babies below 1, though you would need to pay $3 for each adult entering with the baby. They have a sensory room dedicated for babies and toddlers and even a water wonderland!
Have more questions? Feel free to leave your comment!
If not, visit our Singapore Indoors Playgrounds Page for full reviews of indoor playgrounds in Singapore!