Kids these days, eh? Playtime is all about fancy electronics, customised content, and something called AI. Scraped knees, slide-burns, and tyre-swings that are only fun when more than two little humans are squeezed onto them are a thing of the past. But wait! There are still a few playgrounds dotted around the island offering retro fun for families wanting tech-free time together.
Designed by Mr. Khor Ean Ghee, a former designer at the Housing Development Board throughout the 70s and 80s, the playgrounds were built to be functional, convey a sense of Singapore’s identity, and depict local heritage. A veritable vision of concrete, mosaic tiles, fruit, animals, and wild colours, no-one’s quite sure just how long they’ll remain, so get there before they go.
DRAGON PLAYGROUND: Toa Payoh
A social media feed-filler, the Dragon Playground at Toa Payoh is the crown jewel of retro playgrounds on the red dot. Built around 1978, Mr Khor transformed a formidable, mythical creature into an imaginative play structure where children could crawl along its metal spines, swing on tethered ropes, and zip down terrazzo-tiled slides. While safety restrictions may prevail today, it’s still an absolute joy to visit. In 2024, besides the famous Toa Payoh dragon, you’ll also see smaller dragons in the same area. Sadly, many other dragon playgrounds in Singapore have been tragically slayed over the years.
DINOSAUR PLAYGROUNDS: Kim Keat Avenue & Woodlands
Forget the modern-day dinosaurs that hang out around Changi, also hidden within Toa Payoh estate are some original dinosaur structures (okay, they’re millennial!). Built in the 00s, they don’t showcase mosaic or terrazzo tiles, but the dinosaurs are still iconic landmarks in the Kim Keat neighborhood. The three-metre tall Tyrannosaurus Rex with five eggs by its side takes centre stage, while a green Stegosaurus offers a platform for little ones to play on. Another dinosaur-themed playground from the 90s can be found at Woodlands – this one features Ouranosaurus and Brontosaurus with backs perfect for sliding on.
WATERMELON & MANGOSTEEN PLAYGROUNDS: Tampines Central Park
Distinct red, green and yellow mosaic tiles give this fruity fun spot away from afar. Built in 1989, the watermelon playground was designed as a nod to the fruit farms of rural Tampines before the town was developed. Practically next door, you’ll find mangosteen domes which are ideal for hide-and-seek, or a shelter from the sun. When these playgrounds first opened, they stood on sandpits before the introduction of rubber mats. Today, they’re both part of the Tampines Heritage Trail.
ELEPHANT PLAYGROUND: Pasir Ris Park
Much like its traditional counterparts, Elephant Playground offers a seriously nostalgic selection of play structures designed to help children refine their skills. It features swings and crawl tunnels, but the elephant’s trunk-shaped slide is the out-and-out winner!
Sampan Playground: Pasir Ris, Elias Mall
Located beside Elias Mall in Pasir Ris, this sampan-shaped playground was built in 1994. Inspired by the iconic bumboats that have sailed the Singapore River for over 150 years, you’ll note that the colour scheme of this space reflects a sampan with its green, red, brown, black and white tiles. This charming playground is not your typical sampan with its mosaic creation divided into two distinct halves: one half features a tire ladder, while the other half boasts a terrazzo slide.