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In 2011, I lamented that Singapore did not (yet?) have a dedicated children’s museum. For a country that whose rhetoric is so pro-“family” and pro-“education”, I was surprised that a space to engage children in joyful discovery experiences that instill an appreciation of the world, develop foundational skills, and spark a lifelong love of learning did not exist!

Earlier this year, the National Museum of Singapore opened PLAY@NMS, a children’s gallery, and today, on this public holiday, we swung by.

Each PLAY@NMS exhibit is inspired by items in the Museum’s permanent collection (i.e. “The Garden,” by the William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings; “The Bedroom,” by The Fashion Gallery; etc.). PLAY@NMS’ exhibits emphasized hands-on engagement and learning through experience, employing play as a tool to spark children’s inherent creativity, curiosity, and imagination. Our toddler especially enjoyed “The Kitchen,” where she could play masak-masak and “The Living Room,” where she could stage her own puppet show.

But PLAY@NMS is just one gallery and in an hour or so, we had run out of activities! Granted, it was raining, so we were not able to explore the Outdoor Garden. Its exhibits also reinforce forcefully the Museum’s version of facile, photogenic “multiculturalism”: food, festivals, fashion. Still, it is a much needed space. PLAY@NMS is open daily from 10am to 6pm and is free.

I hope—hope—PLAY@NMS will elevate the discourse about the importance of play and help to position children’s museums as vital early learning partners in their communities. I can’t wait to see PLAY@NMS grow. Heck, maybe Singapore will get that dedicated museum one day!