The Art of PlaY

We dedicated last weekend to making big messy art and learning all about the concept and engineering of PLAY at the Kunsthalle.

We joined Lemady at her weekend Storycraft session which was inspired by all forms of construction vehicles in ‘Dig, Dig, Digging’, written by Margaret Moyo. The kids plunged toy tractors, steam-rollers, cranes and trucks into trays of paint and ran these vehicles with multicolored wheels over a large paper canvas. It wasn’t long before hands, tiny feet and bums in nappies joined in the fun to create a beautiful abstract piece of art.

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IMG_4218The Kunsthalle in Zurich is currently showcasing an educational and interactive exhibition called The PlaYground Project (20 Feb – 15 May 2016). Art workshops for families, guided tours and even pop-up yoga sessions are available too.

We learnt how the concept of a public play space evolved from the post WW2 years to the present, and how the changes in the design of playgrounds reflect society’s changing ideas of adventure, education and childhood, creativity and control.

It is interesting to learn how the ‘new’ playgrounds after WW2 started as an initiative to help traumatised kids, with play used as a form of rehabilitative therapy. The Scandinavian urban landscapers and architects were the pioneers of independent creative play in the 1930s. They introduced the use of natural material, water and sand around abstract play sculptures.

After them came the concept of adventure playgrounds, where parents and children become more and more involved in the creation of play spaces as community projects. The premise of an adventure playground is … ‘it is never complete, never developed. It is a sort of ‘terrain vague’ that can be many things to many children’ (Jack Lambert, pioneer of adventure playgrounds).

I can imagine it to be like being on an episode of the reality show ‘Survival’, where children get to mess around with junk, build houses with timber and any material found on the ground and developing their own brand of play. Switzerland’s brand of adventure play comes in the form of ‘Robinson Crusoe-playgrounds’; and of course, kids here can sign up for playgroups in the forest or at a farm and learn to play independently in different natural settings.

I remember growing up in Singapore with sandpit playgrounds, with traditional fixed equipment like a swing, slide and see saw. The playgrounds in the 1980s were pretty iconic with shapes of lions and dragons. In land scarce Singapore, these limited open spaces are play4.jpgstill very much the pulse of the heartlands/community. It is where children, families and retired senior citizens congregate and have a short reprieve from the hustle and bustle of city life. The last few times I’ve visited Singapore, I’ve noticed that although public housing are becoming taller (think living on the 50th storey!) and rural land have given way to new shopping malls, the government still managed to make this little island city green for its 5 million dwellers. New high rise housing and office buildings often have ‘floating gardens, swimming pools and play areas’, water play areas are built on top of shopping malls and in places of interest like the Zoo or at the Gardens by the Bay.

In this modern day, it seems like norms and boredom have crept into the play space. People are more paranoid about safety of play equipment, sturdiness of trees for climbing, water and sand not cleaned or replaced often enough etc. It is becoming more and more challenging for urban planners to find a happy balance between adhering to strict safety standards and making daring play creations that are capable of challenging our discerning and easily bored children to ‘make the first leap, the first jump and the first climb’.

Of course, the greatest threat to public PlaYgrounds is other forms of play, notably computer and video games where kids can escape to a virtual playground. Nowadays (gosh, I sound like an old fart when I use this word), kids are happy to exercise their nifty fingers and hand-eye coordination on the video screen. They find contentment in building virtual forts and cities with bricks that do not take up physical storage space, use bitcoins and tokens to learn the concept of buy and sell, and of course, figure their way out of complex mazes all from the comforts of their air-conditioned bedroom, or from their baby car seat.

(We signed up for the art workshop and created our own playground with paper, sticks, straws and napkins)

Check out Lemady’s weekly storycraft sessions: http://www.storycraft.ch/ and find out more about the PlaYground project and dates for their family art workshops: http://kunsthallezurich.ch/de

 

 

 

 

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Nope, the New Year is not here yet…

Well, that’s according to the Chinese lunar calendar anyway. The Chinese New Year falls on the 23rd of Jan this year and we will be flying to Australia to celebrate this important holiday with my husband’s family.

I used to take these festivities for granted. More often than not, it simply meant having extra public holidays and that it is time for me to book my getaway to Phuket or Krabi! To anywhere in the world actually. As long as there is no loud flute/cymbals/drums/more clanging cymbals-New Year tunes playing in shopping malls and elevators. (this reminds me of the time when my husband, my 2-month old son and I were stuck in the Singapore Flyer and had to endure almost 7 hours of Christmas jingles playing over the intercom. Did I mention it was a TECHNO soundtrack that was playing in ‘loop’??!!)

Chinese New Year is typically the one time in the year you get to see ALL your relatives who never fail to ask whether you have a boyfriend, when you are getting married, when you are having kids; or compare with one another how well their kids are doing in school. In my primary and secondary school days, it was the best opportunity for my mum to hassle my relatives on my behalf to buy a raffle for my school’s never-ending fundraising drives.

I was in Singapore last year over the Chinese New Year period and met up with my cousins and ex school mates. Many of us have kids now, and the festivities seem to take on new meaning when you become a parent. I must say, kids relish in the celebrations the most. They get to stay up late on the eve of Chinese New Year because the later you stay up, the longer your parents will live – that’s according to tradition. They also get to feast on many goodies like pineapple tarts, loveletters (rolled up thin sweet wafer biscuits) and bak kwa (bbq sweet meat), and receive red packets filled with money from the adults.

Seeing our extended families come together to exchange well-wishes and the new generation of my cousins’ kids, nieces and nephews playing together, the culturally-jaded (and over-exposed to western media) me is just starting to realise how much our cultural heritage defines our identity, even if we don’t speak our mother tongue fluently or can hardly remember how to write our names in Chinese characters.

Yes, sometimes it takes living away from people similar to you in culture and language to make you cherish these traditions, and to want to teach your kids about them.

We will be having a Chinese New Year reunion lunch with a few other Singaporean families this weekend. We will be having steamboat, or what the Swiss would call, Chinoise fondue, where you dip all types of meats and vegetables into a tasty broth. Singaporeans favorite pasttime is eating, and I know we will be eating from lunch ’til dinner, and have many bottles of the spiciest chilli sauce on hand.

To get into the festive mood, Timmy and I decided to make some Chinese New Year decorations. We made some goldfish with paper plates and colored paper. To the Chinese, goldfish symbolises good luck and fortune. Hope the New Year brings more blessings to our family!

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