THESE days, fun and entertainment are not enough when it comes to play centres. Parents are beginning to demand much more from a play centre….fun and entertainment are not enough. The result is a global increase in locations where fun is accompanied by education.
A good example is Play ‘N’ Learn, a new concept from a company that is appropriately named The Entertainment and Education Group, based in Singapore. The company is one of the largest operators of family entertainment centres in the world, with locations based across India, Australasia and the Pacific Rim, most under the Timezone brand.
The notion that children learn through play is certainly not new but now centres across the world are touting the concept as an integral part of their offer. They are responding to the trumpeting of academics against digital screen time at the expense of active play and self-exploration. Paediatric occupational therapists, in particular, remain strong advocates of how crucial active, exploratory activities are in child development, not only to improve motor skills, but in building success, self-confidence and independence as well.
The Play ‘N’ Learn concept aims to design a destination which supports a well-founded and comprehensive child development regime. An after-school venue that complements a child’s academic journey with active, purpose-built, play systems to develop motor and functional skills and ‘future proofing’ them with custom designed, STEAM-based activities to boost critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
“As parents, we all want our kids to do well in school, but we also want them to be well-rounded individuals and prepare them for the new future.” explains Caroline Leong, COO of the brand. “Our centres work hand-in-hand with the traditional educational structure, to add, to support and to complement, in order to achieve a complete developmental journey for our kids. The best part is, the kids have so much fun, they don’t even know it’s good for them!”
When looking from the outside into a Timezone Play ‘N’ Learn centre, it looks pretty much like any other play centre, but it’s much more. The idea is to dial up the science and the expertise to create unique destinations that work to support different aspects of child development – through playing and learning activities. They currently operate 27 centres in key cities across Indonesia, India, Philippines, and Vietnam, mainly located in upscale malls where they have grown in popularity amongst parents with young children.
“As market leaders in FECs for families with children aged 7-12 years, we were looking to complete our portfolio with a brand offering for children below seven years of age,” explains Sonaal Chopra, Group CEO of TEEG. “We literally searched the world over and could not find a world-class, premium offer that could tick all the boxes we were looking for. In the end, we decided the best option was to create our own brand.”
In its partnership with child development experts including, a paediatric occupational therapist and enrichment programme specialist, Play ‘N’ Learn creates and curates active play and active learning journeys that supports critical child development of motor, cognitive and sensory abilities that are important for a child’s future success. Play ‘n’ Learn venues across Asia have become known for their ‘Active Kids = Healthy Kids’ offering of purpose-built indoor playgrounds and activities.
The centres have taken the ‘Learning-thru-Play’ concept a step further by bringing in the science, with the help of Janine Tan, senior occupational therapist (paediatrics), Kidzstar Occupational Therapy, Singapore. Through this collaboration, venues are fitted out with play equipment, features and activities that are specifically selected to support key developmental skills.
Some of the active play items that Janine recommends include rope pulling up an incline. “This action provides input to a child’s proprioceptive system and strengthens the arm muscles. It is also good for promoting bilateral coordination.” Another is the kids’ ninja course which challenges children with hanging, holding and obstacles, actions that are good for overall focus, upper limb motor development and handwriting skills. The paediatric occupational therapist has also consulted on creating structured activities that complement and enhance fine-motor and sensory skill development. “We want this to feel like good, fun, play time for the kids because that is the best way in which they will learn and develop.”
In the brand’s goal to provide enriching and holistic play and learn experiences for younger children to give them a head start in physical and academic life, they’re now bringing in enrichment programme consultants to develop extra-curricular sessions based on STEAM concepts, using science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics as access points for guiding inquiry, dialogue and critical thinking to prepare the little ones for the future.
Jamie Tan and Lydia Ang of Flying Cape, Singapore’s largest tuition and enrichment platform, have over 30 years of combined experience in the education and enrichment arena, from a speaker and trainer at Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE) schools to customised campaigns for organisations such as UOB Bank and Microsoft . For Play ‘N’ Learn, they will develop an entire and bespoke STEAM-based curriculum that introduces children to concepts in the real world and how to integrate those concepts into playing and learning.
The new concept that Timezone Play ‘N’ Learn brings is termed, Active Edu Play, a well-rounded and fun experience for young children through a custom-designed journey of learning through play, to challenge their bodies, expand their minds and equip them with competencies essential further in life.
At all venues there are free spaces and roleplay sets. Studies have shown that free play is important for child development. For Sonaal Chopra and his team, the concept ticks all the boxes.
This article was published in Intergame on 5 November 2020.