Play reaches new heights

At least three new family-friendly climbing centres have opened in Singapore and they offer everything from colourful handholds to themed walls

Rock climbing is a family affair at The Rock School, which opened a new branch in Our Tampines Hub in August. PHOTO: THE ROCK SCHOOL

Instead of watching them scramble up window grilles and gates at home, let your children climb to their heart's content at various indoor and outdoor facilities.

In the last year or so, at least three new family-friendly climbing centres have opened in Singapore, giving parents more choices for weekend activities.

The facilities are: The Rock School, which opened its second branch in August in Tampines; Let 'em Play, which opened in April at Tradehub21 in Boon Lay; and Clip 'n Climb, which opened last November and is located in HomeTeamNS Tampines.

Designed for children, they offer everything from colourful handholds to unique, themed walls that take the form or structure of animals and trees.

Mr Allen Tan, 35, co-founder of The Rock School, says climbing is a sport that is "solo and social at the same time".

"You are an individual attempting a route on the wall, yet your friends and family on the group can help to provide support and insights to help you complete the route."

He adds that climbing is not just about physical strength.

"You may be able to do a pull-up, but you may not be able to climb. Climbing is about agility, balance, coordination, endurance and technique," he says.

Some parents believe that there are mental and physical benefits of climbing for children.

They say the sport builds problem-solving and decision-making skills, as the little ones have to strategise how to make it to the top. Children also gain spatial and directional awareness, and hone their concentration skills.

The Sunday Times checks out three family-friendly climbing facilities in Singapore.

The Rock School

Young climbers are the focus of The Rock School, which opened its first branch in July 2011 in Bedok Community Centre.

This facility offers a sheltered outdoor top-rope climbing wall, which is a vertical climbing wall that requires a harness and a safety rope that anchors at the top of the wall; and an indoor bouldering wall, which is scaled without ropes, harnesses or belayers.

Its second branch opened in August this year at Our Tampines Hub. Besides top-rope climbing and bouldering, there is lead climbing, where climbers clip their ropes to fixed anchors attached to the wall as they ascend.

The Rock School began its kids' weekly climbing classes at its Bedok branch in 2011, and these are suitable for children between the ages of four and 16.

The growing demand for these classes led to the school's expansion this year and kids' climbing classes at the Tampines branch will begin in January next year.

The company is co-founded by Mr Allen Tan, 35, and four other friends.

He was a head of department for physical education with the Ministry of Education for nine years before he resigned to manage the business.

Where: The Rock School@Bedok Community Centre, 01-06, 850 New Upper Changi Road, tel: 6242-2106; open: 1 to 6pm (weekdays except Wednesdays), 10am to 10pm (Saturdays), 10am to 6.30pm (Sundays); and The Rock School@Our Tampines Hub, 02-81, 1 Tampines Walk, tel: 9635-3488 (WhatsApp only); open: 1 to 10pm (weekdays), 9am to 9pm (weekends and public holidays)

Admission: $10 to 16 an entry (depending on whether passes or discounts apply). Programmes start at $15 for an hour-long try-out.

Let 'em Play

Want to play a game of ping pong while climbing?

Sounds like a feat of multi-tasking, but at Let 'em Play, you can try this with the help of augmented reality technology.

The game, called Climball, is projected on the wall with the help of graphics.

Similar to ping pong, each player begins in a zone on either side of the wall: either red or blue.

A ball is launched from the middle to one of the sides and, depending on where it lands, the player whose court the ball lands in has the task of climbing towards the ball and touching it.

That move will then send the ball to the other side.

Each player has to get to the ball as quickly as possible, as delays will result in the opponent scoring. Should either player fall off the wall, the opponent scores.

The game ends with the player who scores three points first.

Other interesting climbing walls at the centre are Transparent Climb, a transparent wall that allows two climbers to attempt a climb at the same time, with each climber on either side; and Giraffe Climb, where climbers will have to surmount a wall shaped like a giraffe and climb up to pat its head.

Let 'em Play opened in Boon Lay in April this year. It is owned by a local sports and recreational activities company, The WOW Experience.

Besides climbing facilities, it also houses a kid-friendly, two-storey indoor obstacle course comprising 17 different obstacles.

Both the obstacles course and climbing walls are generally suited to climbers above the age of five.

Children between three and four years old may enter too, as long as they are accompanied by a parent.

Where: 01-100, 18 Boon Lay Way, tel: 6266-6125; open: 10am to 7.30pm (weekdays), 10am to 8.30pm (weekends and public holidays)

Admission: From $29 (an adult, non-member) and $25 (a child, non-member) for a 90-minute session (for both the obstacle course and the fun climbing walls, but excluding the augmented reality bouldering experience)

Clip 'n Climb

Challenge yourself at the 19 colourful and unique climbing walls here, all with fun names such as Twister, Cheese, Dry Ice and Cloud Nine that reflect their characters.

Each wall is about 8m high, has its own theme and allows climbers to choose from three difficulty levels.

For example, at the alien-themed wall, climbers avoid extra-terrestrial lifeforms on the way to the top.

Some of them, such as Tree Trunk or Caving Ladder, are climbing elements rather than walls per se. Tree Trunk is modelled after a tree form while the wobbly and narrow Caving Ladder gives climbers a glimpse of the challenges that cavers face when scaling steep vertical caves.

Clip 'n Climb International is a New Zealand-based company.

The Singapore facility is located at the Tampines branch of the HomeTeamNS, a non-profit association that aims to recognise the contributions of the Singapore Police Force and Singapore Civil Defence Force national servicemen.

The centre, which opened here last November, is suitable for anyone who weighs between 10 and 150kg.

The walls use a special automated belaying system.

Typically, two people pair up for climbing, where one is the climber and the other is the belayer.

The belayer stands at ground level holding down the rope - which is attached to the climber - to prevent the climber from falling and to help the climber descend.

But Clip 'n Climb's system uses magnetic braking technology that is able to respond to a climber's weight and allows him to be lowered safely to the ground without the need for a belayer.

Where: HomeTeamNS Tampines, 03-03, Our Tampines Hub, 1 Tampines Walk, tel: 6705-9410; open: noon to 9pm (Mondays to Thursdays, except first Monday of the month: 2 to 9pm); 10am to 11pm (Fridays, Saturdays, school holidays and eves of public holidays), 10am to 9pm (Sundays and public holidays)

Admission: From $18 for a HomeTeamNS member and $25 for a non-member for a 90-minute session

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 17, 2017, with the headline Play reaches new heights. Subscribe