[Review] Play and learn at Busy Tables for kids 0 to 5 years old

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Indoor playgrounds - a place where kids run amok in their wet and stinky clothes and parents chase their kids around breathlessly; a place where children and the children-at-heart get to exercise and have fun. Although we like indoor playgrounds, we seldom bring our kids there, simply because the big kids are too intimidating for K, who still walks with an unsteady and wide gait and loses her balance easily.

So when I was introduced to Busy Tables, I fell in love with the pastel-coloured painted walls. The calm in the air also made the centre extra-welcoming.

Jeff and Gladys, owners of Busy Tables, have put in a lot of work to dedicate this space to "promote educational values of play for young children and encourage positive parent and child interactions through the provisions of quality toys, games, and resources".  

You might ask, what can my baby do at an indoor playground? He is still young! You'll be amazed. There is so much you can use to stimulate his senses; so much to learn and play at Busy Tables.

What we like about Busy Tables

1.  It is a playground, a learning centre AND a toy store! And because this place is specially catered for children between 0 to 5 years old and their parents, it is safe for the babies and toddlers. Older children dashing about loudly is not a common sight. 

Checking in at Busy Tables with a simple health screening

2.  I love the cosy environment that Busy Tables offers and was surprised to find a huge variety of resources and toys available!  Just the shelves alone (picture below) has more than enough resources to keep your child occupied for the whole day, so a 2-hour play is definitely not enough! That's why it's worth getting a Busy Tables Annual Pass (weekday membership) for your little one.

Blue sticker with "8" on bag
If you are familiar with Montessori curriculum, you will spot many learning resources that are Montessori-inspired on the shelf units. Thinking, observation, and fine motor skills, as well as language, literacy and numeracy are emphasised while your child plays with them.

Resources on the 8x4 shelf units are labelled with a position tag and play instructions so that you know exactly how to guide your child to play. The 4 rows on the shelf units are labelled with a different coloured sticker so that the child/parent knows exactly which shelf to return the bag.

For example, a blue sticker numbered "8" means the bag is kept at the blue row at column 8.

The resources are of varying levels of difficulty. As you move from the left to the right of the shelf, the difficulty level of the resources also increases. So, if your child is still a baby, resources from columns 1 or 2 will be most suitable for him.

3.  Busy Tables promotes playing with, and guiding our children, in purposeful play. If you have not known, play and speech development go hand-in-hand!

So, instead of dropping the kids off at the centre to play on their own and parents savour your coffee in peace, Busy Tables wants parents to stay with them and play together. Through play, there are lots of opportunities for parent-child communication. You can repeat and repeat the words you are helping your child to learn, in a meaningful context! Children are also kept busy in a fun way!

For example, when playing with this ramp toy, watch carefully to see what your child likes to do with the cars. You may need to show your child how he can position the car on the red platform and give it a little push. You can also race two cars together. Words that you can emphasise, while playing, can be "down (the ramp), fast, car".

For children who are starting to combine words in a sentence, you can ask "What will happen?" and wait for your child to respond. He might say "Car crash", and you continue the conversation by expanding what he says. **Just a caution, don't turn your conversation into a question-answer session which many parents unconsciously slip into, in our efforts to get our children to talk more. 

4.  There is a dark room! There is a dark room! This room is probably my favourite corner at Busy Tables. Weighing glass pebbles, transferring small items from one cup to another, and exploring colours always look more fun and mesmerising on a light table! Besides, some studies show that playing on a lighted surface increases attention span of children with special needs.

In the Dark Room

5.  I notice that Busy Tables has something to offer for every child. I have organised two playdates at Busy Tables, each with about 13 kids, and there wasn't any bored child spotted. All the kids were actively engaged in activities after activities. I believe Busy Tables must have carefully curated the resources and considered the needs of every child when they designed the centre.

There are cloth books, board books, a small tent for a child who needs his comfort zone, building blocks for constructive play (they have the usual-sized ones for the little fingers and jumbo-sized ones too!) and toys for children below 1 year old. Even the chairs come in different shapes and sizes. Some are only for children. Baby floor seats and a playmat are available too.

6.  There was always something different each time I went. It could be a new play corner, new resources and toys, or a change of theme in the sensory box. Sensory play is imperative for young children and I'm happy that a sensory play area has been included for our children at Busy Tables.

7.  Pretend play is also a big part of Busy Tables, and there are many toys available to facilitate that. Materials from the sensory box can be your child's ingredients for cooking a delicious meal, and toys like these from MOLUK, an award-winning Swiss toy company, can be used as a hat or a bowl - anything your child can conjure up with his imagination. I was very excited when I saw MOLUK toys at Busy Tables because I wanted to buy one for L to play with a few years back. Now I know where to find them.

Playing with MOLUK toys

8.  At Busy Tables, children learn to pack each toy/resources and keep them where they are found before taking another off the shelf. By doing so, this teaches them to do their share to keep the place safe and neat for all users. Parents can also help to reinforce this message when your child forgets. In this way, everyone learns to be disciplined and responsible at the centre.

9.  After playing, if you like a resource/toy that your child has played, you can buy a new set from the store if they are available for sale. You save time from making the learning resources, and they are priced reasonably. If you like their sensory play, you can also purchase the sensory boxes My Messy Box from them.

All in all, I enjoyed my play at Busy Tables; my kids too, and we will definitely revisit. This is also a great place for playdates with young children. Although Busy Tables caters to children below 5 years old, older siblings will also enjoy their experience there. Check out their FAQ page for other questions you might have, or email them with your query. 

About Busy Tables

35 Rochester Drive, Rochester Mall, #03-22 (Near Buona Vista MRT station)

Phone (During opening hours only): +65 84200200
Email: Busytables@gmail.com
Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 10am - 7.30pm

Admission fee: $15/entry for children above 1 year old; $10 for children below 1 year old; One accompanying adult enters free per child. Each entry is a 2-hour play-time.

Busy Tables Website | Facebook

Check out their Facebook page for more updates! 

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