How can you make a birthday more meaningful? How about donating all your ‘angpow’ money to needy children? Cars and McQueen fan, Ivan Chong did just that when he celebrated his 6th birthday with an Art Of Speed party at Playeum last November, and donated his cash presents to Playeum’s ‘Play It Forward’ programme that helps fund underprivileged children’s visits to the Centre

Ex-senior supply chain analyst Serene Lim, 38, and her banker husband Chong Wee Yeat, 40, lived in Hong Kong and Beijing for six years before moving back to Singapore four years ago. The couple has two sons, Isaac, 8, and Ivan, 7.


ivan family picture
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Why did you choose Playeum as a party venue?

We knew it was ‘The Place’ when we realised it was not a typical run-of-the-mill commercial set-up. They develop customised programmes for children from low socio-economic backgrounds as well as children with special needs and those who for whatever reason are not viewed as mainstream.

(Playeum is a non-profit, independent organisation that champions children through play and creativity. Its charitable activities include systematically serving marginalised children through tailored play-based and wellbeing programmes in partnership with the social sector. It also has a fund for children from lower socio-economic households which provides free entry to the Children’s Centre for Creativity.)

What was the party planning process with Playeum like?

The working relationship with Playeum was fantastic! I sent in my booking form to Playeum via their website and received a reply promptly, as well as a follow-up phone call from Vanessa, the assistant manager for communications and events there. Vanessa suggested a site visit so I brought Ivan with me for a look-see.

The lack of blasting music was a refreshing change! As Vanessa brought me around and introduced me to the various installations, Ivan was happily engaged with cars and tracks there. I made my deposit before leaving for home with a stack of invitations and a very excited Ivan.

Vanessa sent me follow-up emails with a writeup of the Play-It-Forward programme which I could use to send to my guests together with e-invitations. She also addressed my concerns about timing, the fridge size, the table lengths, whether I could stick my backdrop on a wall in the party room, and gave suggestions on catering options, donation methods, the guest list, and the party schedule.

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Did you have the entire space to yourself?

No, as there was a party going on prior to ours. However, we were allowed into the common space before our actual slot (4-6pm).

What was the set-up like?

Easy! We only had a McQueen Cars wall poster as the cake-cutting backdrop. We bought this from Kidzpartystore. We didn’t feel the need to decorate much as guests would be engrossed with creative play at the various installations.

How many children were there?

28 in total — 14 boys and 14 girls. The youngest was two years old, the oldest was 11 years old. Most of them were Ivan’s kindergarten schoolmates. The young ones played in toddler’s play area, or at the craft table. The older ones created LEGO vehicles to compete at the ramp, and helped the younger ones to disassemble parts.

What’s Ivan like?

Ivan is a cheerful, action-packed boy who is well-loved by family and friends. When he’s not running around, he loves to read. His favourite sport last year was soccer. This year, it’s wushu, his CCA in school.

He’s helpful and caring too. During his friend’s birthday party at KidzAmaze in SAFRA Jurong, he set up a ‘search and rescue team’ to look for his ‘lost’ friends when it was time to move on to the next activity. At his 5th birthday party at KidsSTOP! at the Science Centre, his classmate got stuck on the higher levels of the netted playscape and shouted for help. Ivan immediately climbed to his rescue. His classmate’s mother messaged me later saying she was so touched by Ivan’s move that she was contemplating sending her son to Ivan’s primary school. I felt so proud of him.

Tell us your favourite parenting moment with Ivan.

When he sticks to me like glue when at bedtime. He will say, “Mama, I want you, can you sleep with me?” and hug me tightly.

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What’s the story behind the Art of Speed theme?

Ivan loves McQueen/Cars. Isaac, his older brother, was a Thomas the Train fan. We did not want Ivan to “fight” with Isaac for the same toys, so we bought Ivan the McQueen cars when he was very young.

What games and activities did the children take part in?

There were Art of Speed activities (the Dark Space, Create for Speed, Playmaker Space, and Vroom), and a Spin Painting creative workshop. The Create for Speed LEGO installation was a crowd puller and the older children couldn’t resist building their own vehicles to race down the huge ramp, where they could watch them fly off or crash at the end. They observed the vehicles which raced better and modified their own in hopes of getting a faster racer.

The quieter bunch gathered around the Playmaker Space with its recyclable materials and let their imaginations go wild. And all of them gathered eagerly around the spin stations to create fascinating works of paper disc art.

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What made this party memorable?

Ivan learnt that he can share his birthday joy by donating the money from the red packets that he had received for his birthday to Playeum so that more children can enjoy good quality creative play there.

We decided to have minimal presents from our guests, and asked them to donate to Playeum’s ‘Play-It-Forward’ programme instead. Some gave red packets so Ivan could decide for himself whether he would rather use the money to buy presents, or donate it to Playeum. Ivan decided to donate it all. I think he understood that he has too many toys at home and that there are children out there who are not as privileged as he is.

The best thing about the party?

It was a unique experience, and the kids and adults thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

The funniest incident?

We had free ice cream from the previous party as they had over ordered!

Your top party planning tip for other parents?

Chill and outsource as much as much as you can allow.

Your child’s verdict on the party at Playeum?

AWESOME!

Party costs:

About $1,500 in total. Playeum’s Creative Workshop Package was $599 for 20 children plus $20 each for eight additional children so that came to $759. The 13.5″ Irresistible dark chocolate cake from Awfully chocolate which we self-decorated with M&Ms cost $204. The catered food cost $472.95.

The reminder was spent on goody bags, home made food, and decorations. I could have spent less on the food and the cake. But we wanted to make sure our guests had enough to eat so they wouldn’t need to grab dinner after the party.

Party details:

Venue: Playeum
Food: Pastamania catering
Cake: Awfully Chocolate
Decor: KidzPartystore
Planning: Vanessa from Playeum
Invitations: Playeum
Goody bags: Own (Popular bookstore, NTUC Fairprice Finest supermarket)
Photography: Our own and friends’ iPhones
Birthday child’s OOTD: SuperMan!

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