The Housing & Development Board ("HDB") designed a range of playground designs for its public housing estates in the 1970s. Most of these playgrounds have been demolished for modern ones which are easily distinguished by its plastic and metal features, as well as rubber mats. Only a handful of the iconic playgrounds still stand today. For an alternative itinerary, I took a peek at the charming vestiges of its past – like these dragon playgrounds of yesteryear.
Many Singaporeans would remember them as exciting playgrounds when they were very young, that offered thrilling fun play spots where one could climb up the dragon’s spine, slide down the terrazzo slides and dart about playing police-and-thief with friends. The dragon is a symbol of power, strength, and good luck for people who are worthy of it in Asian culture, and it was turned into a place where children can run along its spine and slide down its head. Even if you have yet to see these iconic playgrounds in person, I’m pretty sure you have seen some on your Instagram feed. These dragon playgrounds are the poster child of retro playgrounds in Singapore.
With no signs of any possible overseas travel in the near term due to growing transmissible delta variant around the world, there is no better time to explore our own backyard more and not forgetting these dragon playgrounds which have warmed the cockles of many Singaporeans back in the good old days. Lets head on down for a dose of nostalgia and get ready for a major throwback !
1. The Woodlands Dragon Playground, in front of Blk 852 at the junction of Woodlands Avenue 7 and Street 83.
Aesthetically, the Woodlands playground has four legs which prop it up. It also has a pair of wings that look ready for flight.
2. The Toa Payoh Dragon Playground
This is probably the best known dragon playground in Singapore at Toa Payoh Lorong 6 (opposite SAFRA Toa Payoh). Its distinctive orange mosaic-tiled design has made it into an icon of Singapore. It is also the only one that still stands in a sand-pit.
If you are a long-time follower of my blog, you might still remember that I had done a photo documentary of the Toa Payoh Lorong 6 Dragon Playground eight years ago in 2013. You may like to read more about that here to refresh your memory. If you compare my two blog stories, you will see that everything in the immediate vicinity (old HDB blocks) has already been torn down in 2015 under the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme ("SERS").
Thankfully, a chorus of voices in the community led to the authorities relenting from its original decision to tear down this dragon playground, declaring the Dragon playground in Toa Payoh a heritage area and to be preserved. It is the sole surviving playground in its original form today, so that children can continue to play at this playground as many generations have done so before, keeping the dragon playgrounds as icons of childhood.
3. The Toa Payoh (Mini) Dragon Playground
I guess the more commonly known one is the dragon playground at Toa Payoh Lorong 6 but many did not know about the mini dragon playground at Toa Payoh Lorong 1 in front of Block 240, which is a much more petite and cute version of that. This one does not have a long dragon body and only has a simple winding slide.
4. The Ang Mo Kio Dragon Playground
Compared to its Toa Payoh Lorong 6 cousin, the Ang Mo Kio Dragon Playground in front of Block 570 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3, sits lower to the ground and has more muted brown and blue mosaic “scales”.
The slides and a long climbing challenge offers the adventurous hours of play opportunity.
5. The Pipit Road Dragon Playground
This Dragon Playground can be found between Blocks 53 and 55 at Pipit Road and it is a much smaller scale design, similar to the dragon playground at Toa Payoh Lorong 1.
Playgrounds provide wonderful inspiration for imaginative play. Through pretend play games, kids explore their hopes, fears, or even dreams. On a playground, you can be anyone or anything. I hope you enjoy and have fun at these playgrounds !
You may like to read my other recent blog posts on themed playgrounds in Singapore: