New in town: the Toy8 Playground at the Gardens Mall

A friend of mine had tagged me on a post regarding the launch of the Toy8 Playground at The Gardens Mall recently. It is the brainchild of an Artificial-Intelligence (AI) backed startup from Japan. I was intrigued by the premise of the playground, its features and activities offered and took the kids there to check it out. 

Toy8 Playground

According to their website, the Toy8 Playground is an experiential edutainment playground originated in Japan, developed by ex-MIT researchers, creative directors and educators. It is specially designed to bring out your child’s potential in an unconventional yet natural way.

The playground is filled with original hands-on toys that are inspired by various Japanese products, techniques, and cultures. The idea is to naturally stimulate your child’s interest in wanting to engage, play, and learn more independently.

Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Built as a hybrid park with cool minimalist interior design by world-renowned Japanese design studio we+, the beautiful Toy8 Playground space is surrounded by large windows allowing for lots of natural light to come in. 

The space is principally informed by the Theory of Multiple Intelligences developed at Harvard University. The theory argues that instead of seeing intelligence as a single general ability, it can be split into different categories of intelligence that describe the different ways your child can learn and acquire information. Toy8 categorises these as being Word Smart, Self Smart, Body Smart, Music Smart, Picture Smart, People Smart, Math Smart and Nature Smart. See here for more details on each category.

Toy8’s founders believe that by bringing this theory to life in an easy-to-understand way, your child’s ability can be properly identified and narrowed down, making it easier for you to further develop their strengths.

Different playground areas at Toy8 Playground

They bring this theory to life at the playground through nine areas filled with fun smart play activities. The ‘MyBox’ area teaches kids about the art of making paper toys. My children enjoyed learning how to make paper aeroplanes of various levels of difficulty and testing these out in a designated area. Playground Operation staff were on hand to help my kids when they got stuck in certain steps when folding the origami planes and cranes. Here, kids can also stamp and cut out little paper figures and use these to have little sumo style battles. 

They also had fun playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and other tunes in another area where ordinary household items like kitchen utensils are transformed into extraordinary musical instruments. My son also liked the ‘Neji Block’ area where you can try to construct wild animals using metal screws, nuts and bolts. My daughter was more taken by the small ‘Digital Children’s Book Fair’ where there were tables with tablets showcasing interactive digital books. Both also created little animations and bringing characters to life using the ‘Koma Koma’ time-lapse app. It was simple enough even for my daughter who is a child with Down syndrome to navigate and operate on her own. 

There was also the ‘Tublock’ area where children are challenged to connect structures using colourful pipes based on certain given boundaries. The ‘Balance’ area is where children are asked to balance various wooden blocks according to given patterns in a manual. ‘Ratatap’ invites children to “see” musical sounds and notes visually as animated patterns and characters on the floor as they shake percussion instruments.

Our favourite activity at the Toy8 Playground was ‘Play Play Manga’ where after a series of steps that involve you selecting a story template, taking your own photograph (to insert in the template) and create your own dialogue (to put in the speech bubbles), you can become the hero or star of your own manga comic strip! You can even download your manga comic strip and animated video version of the manga strip into your phone via a QR Code.

As a parent of a special child, I also appreciate that the founders are inclusive and also trying to actively engage with special children and professionals who work with this group. The Playground Operation Manager, Ms. Yuko Masuda told me that they have an in-house Clinical Development Psychologist from Japan, Takeo Miyoshi and a local Developmental and Play Specialist (also a learning support therapist) named Amanda Eng.

You can find out more about their child development support here. The playground is also offering developmental screening for children aged 3 to 5 years using their Toy8 Developmental Screening Tool. You can find out more here

Parents’ Lounge

Other plus points include a Parents’ Lounge where parents can work, relax or socialise with other parents, while keeping an eye on their kids. Though not operational yet, there is a designated future area for coffee and snacks. There are also toilets conveniently located  inside the playground space. There is also an ‘Expressive Area’ on the outer periphery of the playground that the owners plan to use to house vendors, events and parties. It would be good if more playground activities, especially physical ones can be included here.

The price points are reasonable and if you pre-book for a minimum of 10 children on a weekday, you can enjoy very attractive rates. I am told it can get quite packed on weekends but when we went on a Wednesday afternoon, we almost had the whole place to ourselves. 

I highly recommend a visit, as it is very different from what is available in the market, and shows children how low-tech play can still be a lot of fun! Have a look at their FB page here for more info. For pricing, have a look here. Toy8 is open from 10am till 9.30pm.

Toy8 3 - Happy Go KL

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