Friday, July 10, 2015

Masak Masak at the National Museum

This past weekend we went to the National Museum of Singapore, where they are currently having "children's season": the exhibit Masak Masak, designed for children, celebrates the June school holidays.
We were greeted by a selection of bouncy playgrounds on the front lawn of the museum. R really enjoyed this exhibit and had a great time exploring the different sections. The only downside was that the playground was located directly in the sun, so that by the time we left (around 12:30), it had already been closed due to the heat. Even at 10 am, when we arrived, it was pretty sweaty. If you want to take advantage of the bouncy playground, arrive early!
After R got her fill of bouncing, we headed inside to be greeted by a cool paper rainbow hanging from the rotunda.
Most of the museum is currently closed for renovations: only the children-themed exhibits and one exhibit hall on Singapore's history are open.
On the first floor, they had an interactive flag exhibit and dancing solar flowers (all orchids, Singapore's national flower).
R had fun throwing hula hoops onto pillars in a sort of ring toss game.
We then headed up to the top floor, which housed the exhibit Luma-City. Model vehicles can be pushed around a floor, leaving glow trails behind themselves. It was a really cool concept, but unfortunately the fun of the exhibit was largely spoiled by the execution: kids were only allowed to very slowly push the vehicles around a too-small floor (with no barrier, so the vehicles kept falling off). No riding, no running, no bumping, no no no: the list of forbidden things was endless.
The theme of everything being forbidden continued in the National Museum's new gallery for children, Play@NMS. You are greeted by a whole slew of signs forbidding stuff, which despite the inviting-sounding names, does not entice you to either explore or create.
The actual gallery is theoretically full of things kids like: a play kitchen, puzzles, a movie tent showing short films...
but somehow was oddly barren and not especially appealing or well designed. Here's an example: though this space is aimed primarily at preschoolers, the toy kitchen was too tall for R (who is much bigger than the average Singaporean child of her age), putting everything at her eye level.
R playing with the magnet board, a cute idea asking kids to find the right ingredients for popular Singaporean dishes.
Puzzle tree
In addition to the Explore gallery, the Create gallery was supposed to offer a place for coloring (though paper was actually only dispensed in Explore, begrudgingly and limited to one piece per child, rendering Create rather a non-starter). There is also an outdoor space, but it was closed for unidentified reasons during our visit. R enjoyed exploring the space for maybe 20 minutes, rendering it a poor comparison to her toys at home or a mediocre play gym. It's a good idea but was overall a bit disappointing. At least admission is free.
After we finished with Play@NMS, we headed back downstairs to more children's exhibits. R had fun at the stamping center (linked with an exhibit of woodcuts, which I thought was creative), but the best exhibit was the cool interactive sculpture created out of plastic bags.
It was a bit like a maze, allowing kids to crawl under and over the sculpture. R really enjoyed it.

Once we exhausted the possibilities of the crawl space, we headed into the only traditional gallery currently open, which traces the history of Singapore from its beginnings under the Mahapajit empire through the post-independence period
I found the section on World War Two in Singapore to be the most compelling and interesting part of the exhibit. So did R: here she is checking out a replica of one of the textbooks used by Singaporean schoolchildren under the Japanese occupation. Free tours are available and judging by the one we saw in progress during our visit, seem to be high quality. I would have gone on it if not for R's presence!
After our visit, we were all hungry and headed out to eat at nearby Baja Fresh (yes, the same one all over California: it is always kind of nostalgic to go there). B had a pretty terrible burrito but my fajitas were good, and R got to eat churros for the first time, so we called it a win.

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