Thursday, July 18, 2013

The City - Interactive Learning Playground

Our cousins told us about The City and the photos they took aroused our own exploration itch. The girls have been wanting to go there since we told them about the place. Hence, once a window of opportunity appeared, we headed down to The City at Liang Court with Daddy and two excited girls.

Located on the 3rd floor of Liang Court, it opens daily from 10am to 7pm. The different characters on the outside of The City got the girls all excited even before we entered the place. They got carried away discussing what they wanted to be while running up and down alongside the wall it seemed like they forgot about the real deal inside the City. The mural sure is a good use of their external space.

"When I grow up, I wanna be a ...... "

Shoes were left on the racks outside and upon entry, we realized that there was a birthday party going on. A party room is available inside the City.

A flyer with package details for events and parties.

Upon stepping in, we were overwhelmed by the myraid of colours, costumes, furniture and props! Rooms were thematic, and the main hall resembled a mix between an outdoor campsite, fast food outlet and highway altogether. The room themes include a fully stocked supermarket with checkout counter and trolley baskets, a clinic, a salon, a classroom, a police station, and an  outer-space themed playground.

A panaromic view of the main hall. The rooms have large openings which makes it easy for parents to monitor their little ones without accompanying them into the room.

There is a parent's corner with chairs and tables and a sofa. There were many adults there due to the party, and the place ran out of chairs for a while. However, one of the major pros of the open concept meant that you could easily locate your little one from the parents' corner!

Another view of the main hall. This one highlights the fire-station. Can you hear the fire-man's suit and helmets calling out to you?

You camp under the stars by the lake. Just watch out for the traffic on the road next to you.

Simple snacks and refreshments are sold here, but there's more...

Note that you can place an order over the phone to Starbucks, McDonald's and Subway and have it delivered up here at no extra charge!

Here's an overview of the thematic rooms you can find here. Bear in mind that there is a standing rule that costumes and props should be kept to their respective rooms where possible.

Don't mess with the police! Next to the Police Station is an entrance to a small function room where exclusive parties and events can be held.

Outer-space and Sci-Fi themed foam room! A lot of space for our little heroes to knock some bad 'blocks'down.

Looks like a mock up play-school or kindergarten. It comes stocked with building blocks, wall charts, and a white board with markers.

This post office has its world map vandalized! Or are the scribbling just the boss's way of planning where the delivery should go next?

The mannequin heads look a little scary to me. Could it be a reason for the lack of business here?

And where did the girls spend the most time? For a pair of sisters who always love helping Mummy and Daddy out with the groceries, the supermarket was the most wonderful place in the playground. The moment they saw how well the supermarket was stocked, they picked out their trolleys, put on their 'shopping face', and immediately got down to some serious grocery picking. The products on the shelves appeared so real. Even the brands were the ones we were used to seeing at the NTUC near our place. The girls started picking up items and reading the labels, like just how Mummy does it. It helped that this room was large and came furnished with a check-out counter. The real supermarket has a few cashiers, but only one lane here meant kids had to take turns to play cashier.

These girls are serious shoppers...

"Young lady, I think you gave me the wrong amount of change... don't you learn maths in primary school? Oh wait... you're still in kindergarten."

Breakfast cereals, household items, you name it, they've got it.

Another favourite was the clinic. There was a lot more interaction going on between the children here as they took turns to play the roles of parent, patient, nurses and doctors. This room appeared to be a hit among the girls especially, as they had the chance to turn on their motherly instincts as they wheeled their sick dolls into the clinic, and described passionately the symptoms of their child that had been keeping them up all night.

Lots of interaction going on here. Isn't that a real baby in the corner? Hope he's not really here to see the doctor. None of them here have been through medical school.

It's a costume party! The girls help one another to get dressed for work.

"Yes, how may I help you?"

K. picks out some medicines from the cabinet. I hope she knows what she's prescribing!

Now its my turn to be the doctor.

A. also enjoyed playing teacher and student with a staff of the playground. The staff there are friendly and accommodating  and can  often be seen meticulously picking up props and replacing them into their respective rooms.

We spent a good two hours there before dinner came knocking at the doors of our tummies. We'll miss the place, and we sure did take with us a bag full of wonderful memories. As for Mommy and Daddy, we succeeded in taking a back seat and observing the kids from afar, and spending some quality time chatting over some drinks and a can of chips. Definitely an experience we'll recommend to parents who want to rest those weary legs.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Singapore Zoological Gardens: "It's Showtime!"

A number of things fell nicely together last week: Daddy secured a corporate pass for four tickets to the zoo and managed to get his leave approved, the hazy weather in Singapore cleared up, and the kids are healthy! What are we waiting for? Let's go!

It's been some time since our last trip there, and we decided to deviate from our usual itinerary by spending more time at the animal shows and feedings than the animals exhibits themselves. Of course, one of our objectives will be to check out Inuka the polar bear's new enclosure and visit some of his friends at the Frozen Tundra.

We set off in time to make it just after the opening hour. The girls were hungry and we picked up a couple of traditional butter-sugar toasts from Ah Meng Kopi at the entrace to bring along.

We were quickly on our way to catch a family favourite, the Asian Elephants doing their bathing and feeding routine at 915am. We've enjoyed this whenever we come to the zoo and still enjoy it. During the feeding segment, A. chickened out of feeding the tender giant and Mummy had to do it on her behalf. I guess the sheer size of these animals can be very intimidating, and it's been a while since she last encountered them. K. enjoyed the show but kept her distance as usual. She's got a slightly more cautious demeanour compared to A.. The giraffe exhibit was closed, otherwise, it would have been another nice feeding experience which we usually enjoy.

She's one brave (and adorable) little toddler.

The elephant's mighty trunk is as nimble as our fingers! Having a ball feeding these giants...

After the elephant feeding, we had twenty minutes before the next show: polar bear feeding! We decided to check out the free ranging Orang-utans, exploring the world's first 'Tree-Top Encounter with Free Ranging Orang-utans'. The funny thing is that when we reached the top of the boardwalk, there was not even one Orang-utan to 'encounter'. In fact, they were all far below us... on the ground! There were some informative poster boards on the railings and we spent a short time there learning about these magnificent apes.

"Hey, isn't this supposed to be a TREETOP encounter? What are you doing down there?"

Along the way to the Frozen Tundra, we stop by to check out the Pygmy hippos and White Tigers. At the tiger enclosure, the kids asked many questions about the interesting exhibits there. There were artifacts and a video depicting the plight of tigers at the hands of poachers, and another informative and interactive one on how tigers communicate with one another using their roars and tails. It was really funny because we started 'communicating with one another' using our hands as tails.

Peering through the reflections in the glass window to spot the hippo!

Tiger body parts...

Press the buttons to hear the growls and read what it means.

We reached the polar bear feeding slightly late and the show has started. The new enclosure boasts a wider and taller viewing gallery, and the polar bear named Inuka was active and about, snatching treats thrown into the water by its keeper. Interesting facts: the enclosure is kept at room temperature, but Inuka can retreat into an air-conditioned hideout whenever he wants to; Inuka weighed a mere 500 grams at birth, but nourished by its mother's milk, which is 90% fat, the tiny baby has grown into the beast it is now! Anyone one dare to bottle feed your baby polar bear milk? Watch out! By the way, Inuka was proudly delivered here in the Singapore zoo!

Inuka was showing off! He can do the doggy paddle, dive, backstroke too!

Great vision under water to spot tiny bits of meat thrown into the pool. Here he dives to get his treat. If the trainer is too slow in his throwing of feed, our dear Inuka would clap his paws to get his trainer's attention. Cute!

Everyone waits at the glass after the show hoping that Inuka will swim by.

After the feeding, the guide will take you through Inuka's neighbourhood to see the Racoon Dogs, Pom and Poko, and the Wolverines, Ivana and Boris.

Enter into the frozen underworld!

The Racoon Dogs look adorable... and they really do resemble racoons.

It's wolverine feeding time! These fellas are fierce. One of them is so ferocious it can scare a bear away to steal its' kill. They eat all of their prey, with jaws strong enough to chew through bone and marrow... when they are done, there are no bones left. This is not X-men guys, this is sheer power!

Boris and Ivana... based on their names, can you guess where they are from?

There's a mock igloo kids really enjoyed running in and out of.

Time for school: the girls get an education on the people who live under these conditions, our beloved eskimos! Lots of informative posters here.

Our next stop was the Splash Amphitheatre, for some slippery sea lion action! Coming on a weekday morning turned out to be a very good idea as there was hardly any crowd, making it easy for us to find a nice spot in front. It was nice to see the splashing action up close.

Many empty seats. Perhaps because it was a weekday morning?

The sea lion jumps out of the water!

A plus point of this show was the crowd participation. Here, a sporting guest throws a Frisbee toward the sea lion who catches it with ease in its mouth!

Amazing balance and coordination.

Part of the show allows visitors to get up close to the water and get wet!

Oops, we did not bring an extra set of clothes for Mommy... it'll have to air-dry I guess.

Getting a kiss from another 'man' might make Daddy jealous... just kidding!

It was reaching mid-day and the kids were looking forward to water play at the Kidszone. Along the way, we chanced upon the Orang-utan feeding and gathered around to watch and listen to the keepers talk about the long time mascot of the zoo. We noticed they were fed cabbages, which they seemed to chomp down very quickly. One of them ate a few whole cabbages just during the ten or so minutes we were there. The keeper commented about how strong the arms and hands of these creatures are, so much so that hanging and swinging from branch to branch appeared almost effortless. You wouldn't want one of these to arm wrestle you. Daddy was amazed at how a predominantly plant based diet developed such strength, and muscular arms that would put body builders to shame. The ladies gamefully took the opportunity for a photo after the presentation for keepsakes.

Everyone wants to see the proud mascots of the Singapore zoo!

Tourists enjoying a photograph with these magnificent creatures.

These fellas however are more interested in the tasty cabbage! Yum yum...

After the educational feeding and photo session with the orang-utans, it was approaching lunch time and the girls were looking forward all morning to their lunch and water-play at the Kidszone area. We took a short walk to the place hoping to catch the Animal Friends show at the amphitheatre there, but decided to slow the pace and give it a miss. Instead, we stopped by the pony rides at entrance of the Kidszone. A. had been on the ride before, but it was going to be K.'s first time! We were extrememly proud of her as she had decided to step out of her comfort zone and give it a go. You could tell from the expression on her face that she was rather apprehensive at first, but by the time the pony was making its return, she was swaying along with the leisure bouncing motions of the trot with a smile and a proud 'look at me' expression written on her face.

This way to the ride!

The return trot with a triumphant look on her face!

Ever wondered what the differences are betweena pony and a horse? Turns out that the term 'pony' is used for a horse that is below 14.2 hand high from hoof to shoulder.

After the ride, we found a spot outside the eateries next to the water themed playground and quickly changed the girls into their swimsuits. Being a weekday, there were plenty of sitting areas for us to choose from, which made it easy for us to pick find a nice strategic spot to settle down. K. immediately requested for her bubble making bottle and A. ran off toward the water to brace herself for next big 'splash down'!

Our station right outside the Ben & Jerry's outlet. There's also a KFC next door.

"Watch out!!!" Bracing herself for the splash of the day!

Running amok!

A. quickly found a friend her size and they stuck together throughout the entire hour and a half we were there. Their favourite activity? Hitting the water slides over and over again.
After a quick shower, it was time to head back home. Needless to say, kids were tired out and had a nice nap in the car. We have another zoo trip planned for next month and this time, we hope to cover more of the animal exhibits and the newly opened River Safari. Stay tune.