In the EXPLORE component, kids get to move around a Garden, a Living Room, a Bedroom and a Kitchen. Each of these is inspired by other galleries in the museum. For example, the Kitchen is inspired by the Food Gallery and the Garden by the William Farquhar’s collection.
In the Garden, the children can pick up different flowers and fruits and fit them onto a tree. In the Kitchen, kids can play masak masak with toy food, stick ingredient pieces onto a plate, and emboss their favourite dish onto a piece of paper. In the Bedroom, a yellow tent (reminiscent of the chairs-and-blanket tent for pretend play at home) has short animations projected onto it that the kids can hide inside and watch. That was Anya’s favourite section and she basically parked herself there the entire time. There are also decals of traditional costumes that can be stuck on a mirror for kids to ‘try on’. In the Living Room, children can listen to a radio, watch short videos or put up puppet performances.
Many of the activities, like the sticking of ingredients onto a plate to form a local delight and the trying on of traditional outfits, were very similar to the ones at Island Adventures last year. I wish they had incorporated some stuff from the 2012 Children’s Season instead as that was a lot more interesting. I think the costume decals in the Bedroom are not going to last very long and the embossing station at the Kitchen is quite difficult for kids to manipulate.
PLAY@NMS is recommended for kids aged 3-7 but I personally feel that it is best for kids between 2 and 5 years old. Adam had fun running around but the older ones in our group were, frankly, not very engaged by the activities in the EXPLORE gallery and lost interest quite quickly. However, I think it’s great that there is a dedicated section for young children in the National Museum and I hope they continue to develop and improve it.