SINGAPORE – Playtime is far from simple these days.

Outdoor playgrounds are often fitted with maximalist play structures which look close to exploding with extras like slides, climbing frames, ropes, nets and logs.

Still, old-school gear is always popular, and kids will squeal with glee on swings.

My children – Micah, 11, and Leah, who turns eight later this year – and I present our entirely subjective review of the top outdoor playgrounds in Singapore.

I quickly realise that our tastes diverge. I have a weakness for verdant parks with some wildlife thrown in. The kids are focused on efficiency – is this fun?

I let them rate the playgrounds on their own.

Covid-19, of course, complicates play as much as it has the rest of our lives. Even when playgrounds are open, some equipment may be cordoned off.

Do check with the National Parks Board for temporary closures and other Covid-19 advisories at the NParks website.


Location: End of Sembawang Road (Carpark 1)

Micah says: "It reminds me of pirates, like Darryl from Brawl Stars."

Kids' rating: 8/10

Trust a kid to compare outdoor play favourably with screentime.

A battleship at the playground reminds Micah of a character wearing a pirate hat from the Brawl Stars video game.

The warship structure is beautifully made, if slightly worn. Marauders can indeed climb aboard via a small climbing wall on the side of the vessel.

It resembles a modern cruise liner, encompassing all manner of entertainment.

There are mini bridges, funnel slides, ropes, nets, cannons, portholes and poles to slip down within the warship, which pleasingly echoes Sembawang Park's past as part of the former Singapore naval base. Ships still dock at wharves nearby.

The best part about Sembawang Park is its serenity.

A pit filled with gravel stands ready for a leisurely round of petanque, a game similar to boules. A boy floats in a big styrofoam box in the sea near the jetty, grinning at simple pleasures on a hot afternoon.



Location: Fort Canning Park, along River Valley Road

Leah says: "The slides are super fast."

Kids' rating: 8/10

Jubilee Park, situated at the foot of Fort Canning Park across from Clarke Quay, is as pretty as a kitten.

Slides, both curved and straight, are embedded in hills that look like a bouquet, with grasses and flowers primped just so. But the kids do not care about appearances. They care about speed. The slides are so fast Micah flies off at the bottom, which gains their stamp of approval.

There is a mass of carefully arranged logs that children can climb on – all the better to balance on a log in a fast-flowing river, if life one day calls for this contingency.

A hideout at the top of the slides, encased in vines and accessible only by a tiny bridge, is the perfect club house for a bunch of boys, who demand I give them the password before I enter.



Location: Junction of Tiong Bahru and Lower Delta roads

Leah says: "The train is scary slanted."

Kids' rating: 7/10

Play is all about multi-tasking these days.

The centrepiece of the playground in Tiong Bahru Park is a tilted train, which comes with accessories such as slides and a climbing ramp.

Within the train carriages, what feels like a 45-degree slant makes for a good workout to test one's balance.

One carriage has a rope course that looks deceptively simple. But the three-rope cat's cradle leaves even sure-footed kids scrabbling to stand up.

The Wild Wild West theme continues with pinto rocking horses for the little ones in the sand, and towering cacti structures that may be challenging for younger kids to climb. Toddlers and pre-schoolers can check out a sensory mini maze on the side.

Scratch the nursery-friendly shapes and textured surfaces, though. A girl of about six is building a stairs-lined Aztec pyramid in the sand pit. Whatever happened to pail-shaped sandcastles?



Location: 31 Riverside Road

Micah says: "It's easier going up the obstacle course and harder coming down. It feels like you're going to fall over because of gravity."

Kids' rating: 7/10

The playground in Admiralty Park is a landscape of hills.

While my son Micah finds it challenging to climb down the net-strewn obstacle course, he, like other children, clambers up the slopes like a mountain goat.

The kids have fun swooshing downhill, with a whopping 26 slides to choose from, some of which look four storeys high.

Younger children can be entertained with an undulating warren of tunnels, play areas and slides at a lower altitude.

Despite the presence of rubber foam floors, there is a charming suggestion of Middle-earth from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord Of The Rings, with kids looking like Hobbits busy at play.



Location: Pasir Ris Road

Leah says: "There were two kingfishers on a branch."

Kids' rating: 7/10

The playground is full of birds like kingfishers and wild chickens, which adds to its unhurried appeal.

There are plenty of options here. The tall, red-webbed climbing frame is challenging enough for bigger kids. Little ones run up and down a terraced, rubber foam "mountain" with a built-in slide.

It strikes me that some playground toys defy description.

The kids get on what appears to be a small satellite dish cross-bred with a merry-go-round. But Leah thinks this "swirly, whirly thing" goes too fast.


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