Beijing’s newest space for kids
Beijing’s newest offering for kids is the brainchild of Sylvia Li and Jason Li (linked creatively but not matrimonially), two Beijing parents who shared daydreams about a fun and pleasant space where busy working parents could bring their children. Unhappy with the thought of their kids parked indoors, draining their afternoons away in front of the TV, the pair decided to get active, and thus, Playground was born.
Tucked away in a bustling hutong in Dongcheng, Playground isn’t your typical Beijing play space. Once you find it (which isn’t the easiest of tasks – definitely print out the map from the website) and push open the heavy wooden door, you’ll discover a kid-friendly oasis with a decidedly cosmopolitan feel. There are no frenetic colors, plastic bobbles, or glaring lights at Playground. There’s no bouncy castle or ball pit. Instead, designer Xiao Li has transformed a Beijing courtyard into a kid-centric spot that retains its classic feel. An inbuilt fishpond burbles in a corner, a skylight spills sunlight into the second floor library, and an open area in the center doubles as a mini indoor basketball court. It’s a simple, adaptable space with room for kids to create their own entertainment – a place for fun, minus the dazzle.
The real draw of Playground will probably be its hands-on science, art and computer courses for children ages 4-12. Your kid can learn how to spin the decks like a pro in the Becoming a DJ course, she can play with her food (while she learns about its nutritional content, naturally) in the Nature’s Art course or she can master the elements of drawing in Cartooning for Beginners. In the Toasting Mona Lisa course, kids create a carbohydrate copy of the famous painting out of bread toasted to varying degrees of color! Most courses cost RMB 400 and consist of four hour-long sessions taught by experienced professionals.
Playground’s still worth a visit even if courses aren’t in session. Kids will charge first to the foosball table or the three giant drawing boards that fill the back wall. Parents will gravitate towards the cluster of tables near the coffee counter, where they can sit back with a coffee and a magazine, or, should it really be that hard to disconnect, log on to e-mail using the free Wi-Fi connection.
Once the first floor has been explored, the upstairs library awaits. Two-thousand English-language books – from picture book classics to illustrated encyclopedias to Disney tales – line low shelves. Beanbags lie quietly, waiting to nestle slouchy readers. Parents will find a small selection of grown-up tomes, including cookbooks, travel guides and child-rearing manuals.
If you don’t have time to play yourself, Playground offers a drop-off service: for RMB 50/hour, your youngster can take advantage of all the facilities (excluding courses) while you jet to the tailor or the supermarket, or back to the office.
Playground tbjkids listing
Entrance free, Drop-off service: RMB 50/hr, Courses: RMB 400/4 hour-long sessions. Mon-Fri noon-8pm, Sat-Sun 10am-8pm. 40 Dongsi Liutiao (between Pingan Dajie and Chaoyangmennei Dajie), Dongcheng District (6407 6889, firstname.lastname@example.org)