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6 family-friendly restaurants with activities for children

Restaurants are keeping children entertained with programmes and buffet lines while their parents enjoy a leisurely meal

It is a Sunday afternoon at the Montreux Jazz Cafe Singapore.

Parents of young children clink glasses, tuck into food and listen to a live jazz band perform at this Orchard district cafe.

The scene is a contrast to mealtimes for many parents of young children: Before the little ones are able to feed themselves properly, it is common for a father and mother to take turns eating quickly while attending to their offsprings' needs.

Teacher Lisa Tham, 35, who has two toddlers aged four and two, says: "Mealtimes are a hectic affair for my husband and me. I usually end up eating cold food because I start on my meal only after my kids have eaten.

"Even then, I have to wolf it down because the kids may be bored after eating."

So where are the children at the Montreux Jazz Cafe, that their parents are so relaxed?

They are kept busy with activities such as face-painting, imaginative play, storytelling and dancing games in another section of the cafe under its Sunday kids' programme.

Launched in January, the programme, which is free, is the cafe's way of enticing families with young children to its premises.

Lawyer Martin Brown, 37, dined recently at the cafe's Sunday brunch with his children. He found out about the kids' programme through friends.

He says: "It was a great, valuefor-money brunch with good music, a relaxed atmosphere, excellent food and, most importantly, the kids were happy and entertained."

Mr Livio Capillera, the cafe's marketing manager, says: "Most restaurants offer only kid-friendly menus, so we saw an opportunity to take things one step further, by creating a unique kids' programme on Sundays.

"The young ones are professionally taken care of while the adults can dine leisurely - it's a brunch that has something for the whole family."

Other food and beverage operators here have also been upping the ante for family friendliness.

These establishments provide - at no extra cost - more than just play facilities or colouring materials to keep children occupied while their parents dine.

Last December, Grub cafe in Bishan Park launched a three-hour free event targeted at children aged four and older called Sensory Play Day, which saw about 30 little ones participating across two sessions.

Because of the good response, the cafe management brought back the event for the past two Saturdays, to coincide with the March school holidays.

A total of about 30 children took part in the two sessions. Several stations were set up on the lawn in front of the cafe and children dug their fingers into child-safe play dough, tubs of water filled with water beads and multi-coloured rice grains.

Staff from Messy Fingers, the company that Grub partnered for the events, facilitated the kids' interaction with the elements at the stations and looked out for their safety.

Mr Ng Wee Chuan, 38, was impressed by the programme. He attended the event earlier this month with his wife and son, who is three.

"I was able to enjoy my coffee," he says with a laugh, adding that his son was kept busy playing with dough and water beads at the event.

He appreciated the fact that he did not have to pay for it.

"It's a nice gesture," he says.

Children who participate in The Fullerton Hotel's Town Restaurant weekly Sunday Brunch kids' programme are also well looked after.

While an external vendor conducts activities such as face-painting, balloon-sculpting and bookmark-making, hotel staff keep a watchful eye over the children.

Apart from these activities, which are all free for the children of parents who dine there, the children can also play in air-conditioned comfort in an activity room, which holds multiple play structures, a ball pit, Lego toys and a basketball hoop, among other items.

The room has a food corner, where the kids can refuel with juices, pastries and light bites while they play.

Another way food establishments keep children engaged is to excite them with food prepared specially for them.

Barnacles by the Sea at Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort & Spa has a buffet counter just for kids during its Sunday Brunch.

The buffet section comes complete with burger patties, pasta, finger food, hearty soups and a chocolate fountain.

The section is built lower than elsewhere in the restaurant, so that young children can reach the food items easily.

Another dining outlet at the same resort, Silver Shell Cafe, boasts a similar concept. The all-day dining cafe also has a buffet area designed for kids that is packed with a selection of mains, salads, sandwiches, juices and desserts.

At breakfast, the kids' meal experience at the cafe is topped off with daily activities such as magic shows, giant Jenga challenges, mini golf and Xbox dance-offs.

Parents will be pleased to know that there are more of such free offerings to come from establishments here in the upcoming months.

Grub has a birthday bash celebration in May that will see a host of free activities, including a huge bouncy castle and star-gazing.

The cafe is also planning a series of free activities for kids in June and December.

From April 2, Pan Pacific Singapore's Edge restaurant will feature a kids' dessert corner and a balloon sculptor at its Sunday Champagne Brunch.

The dessert corner is specially built to cater to the height of young children. There, the young diners can help themselves to gummies, giant meringues, apple lollipops and popcorn.

Shangri-La Hotel Singapore is also looking to launch an "extensive, family-focused programme" later this year, as part of its newly renovated Tower Wing.

Parents say they welcome the efforts of these food and beverage operators.

Mrs Tham says: "Such programmes and activities give parents such as myself some respite and a chance to dine a bit more leisurely.

"If not, it'll be just another harried meal."



Montreux Jazz Cafe (above) has programmes run by a children's entertainment agency, while The Fullerton Hotel has a play room and a kids' food corner. PHOTOS: NG SOR LUAN, MONTREUX JAZZ CAFE

Restaurants with kids' programmes

TOWN RESTAURANT

Where: The Fullerton Hotel Singapore, 1 Fullerton Square
What: A play room with multiple play structures, toys, activities such as face-painting and balloon- sculpting and a kids' food corner
When: Sundays, noon to 3pm
Cost of kids' programme: Free
Dining cost: Children under the age of six dine free at the Sunday Brunch, while those aged six to 11 can enjoy the Sunday Brunch at $55++
Info: Call 6877-8911/8912

MONTREUX JAZZ CAFE

Where: Pan Pacific Orchard, 10 Claymore Road
What: A dedicated kids' programme run by a children's entertainment agency
When: Sundays, 11am to 3pm
Cost of kids' programme: Free
Dining cost: A Children's Meal costs $18++, but kids can enjoy the programme even without purchasing the meal
Info: Call 6733-0091 or e-mail reservations.sg@montreuxjazzcafe.com

GRUB

Where: 510 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1
What: Activities include interacting with birds and playing with sensory items such as water beads, coloured rice and child-safe play dough and doing sand art. Workshops are also organised during the school holidays.
When: Varies
Cost of kids' programme: Varies. Go to Grub's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/grub.com.sg for more details Dining cost: Kids do not need to order a kids' meal to participate in the activities
Info: E-mail info@grub.com.sg

EDGE

Where: Level 3 Pan Pacific Singapore, 7 Raffles Boulevard
What: A roving balloon sculptor and a kids' dessert corner
When: Sundays from April 2, noon to 3pm
Cost of kids' programme: Free
Dining cost: Children under the age of six dine free at the Sunday Brunch, while those aged six to 11 can enjoy the Sunday Brunch at $64
Info: Call 6826-8240 or e-mail celebrate.sin@panpacific.com

SILVER SHELL CAFE

Where: Level 3 Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort & Spa, 101 Siloso Road, Sentosa
What: A kids' buffet section and specially organised activities
When: 6.30am to 10pm daily; the kids' activities are conducted only during breakfast from 9am
Cost of kids' activities: Free
Dining cost: One child aged five years old and below dines free when accompanied by a paying adult. Children aged six to 11 years old enjoy 50 per cent off the adult buffet price (prices vary)
Info: Call 6371-1966 or e-mail fbreservation.sen@shangri-la.com

BARNACLES BY THE SEA

Where: Level 1 by the waterfront, Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort & Spa, 101 Siloso Road, Sentosa
What: A kids' buffet section, an outdoor magic show and balloon-twisting
When: Sundays, noon to 3pm
Cost of kids' activities: Free
Dining cost: One child aged 11 years old and below dines free when accompanied by a paying adult; $38++ for each additional child Info: Call 6371-1966 or e-mail fbreservation.sen@shangri-la.com

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 26, 2017, with the headline 'Adults dine, kids play'. Print Edition | Subscribe