7 things to do with your kids in Colombo

Saturday, 7 June 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

When a surprise business trip took my wife to China over the week-long Avurudu break, I had to scramble a bit to find ways to occupy my three-year-old daughter. Without my wife in tow, we cancelled our trip to Trinco. Surely, I could entertain my daughter here in Colombo. Without school. On my own. For a week. Of course, I have my regular shortlist of kid-friendly activities to do. (I’ll get to that list later.) But given a few days of preparation, I thought I might be able to unearth a couple other interesting options that might be new. When my inquiries to friends and acquaintances at my daughter’s school offered nothing, I turned to my old local stand-by – The Expats of Sri Lanka Google Group. Surely the oracle that, in the past, has led me to – used washing machines, anti-itch ointments for dogs, duty-free Land Rovers (I could never afford), options to procure leather conditioner, and an omnipresent ad for the same Iranian restaurant – would be a wealth of ideas. I’d post an inquiry immediately. This online forum, which is usually a fount of harebrained Western ideas, provided only one response. It was a terse – “Archery is good for kids.” Archery? (Great, I thought, it hadn’t occurred to me to shove a weapon into my daughter’s arms. I’ll let her go wild. Why not knife throwing too? Is there a fire starting class somewhere? This parenting thing is easy! If I didn’t recognise the name who had sent the suggestion, I’d start my blog with this story. I’ll just use it anyway.) So, here’s my shortlist (when archery’s not enough…) of seven things to do with your kids in Colombo:              1) The Market at Waters Edge (Diyatha Uyana) – 316 Ethul Kotte Road, Battaramulla     I could have split this into four or five different activities, but I thought, for the sake of simplicity, I’d lump them altogether. It is all the same place, after all. Depending on the day of week, there’s a lot going on here. This whole area is newly developed, and, I must say, the nicest new public development I’ve seen in Sri Lanka. As I said, it offers several points of interest for kids:
  •     Aquarium – There’s a brand new outdoor, circular aquarium here that my daughter can’t get enough of. With its sharks, reef fish, and rays, it has got some fairly exotic residents.
  •     The Thursday Good Market – This market is more than fresh foods, local crafts, and responsible products, it’s also action packed for the kiddies. With revolving activities from week to week there’s a Nature Kid’s Program, yoga for kids, regular craft classes, and musicians as well.
  •    Paddleboat rides – Who doesn’t love a good afternoon paddleboat ride? These newly upgraded boats can be rented for spins around Diyawanna Lake.
  •    The Sunday Flower Market – Perusing the plants and flowers on display Friday through Sunday is one of our favourite things to do.
All of these options revolve around beautifully manicured lakeside gardens, with a lit water fountain, and paths around the lake. There’s something really special about the energy and sense of community that flows around what is essentially just a garden market – particularly for my Western brain. I don’t know why it makes such an impression on me. The Boardwalk is also here (operated by Waters Edge), a great outdoor food venue with lots of kid-friendly options. You can let the kids chase the ducks while you sip on a Lion and watch the fruit bats fly overhead as the sun sets. It’s pretty nice.   2) Flying a kite at Galle Face Green – Galle Road, Colombo 3   If you’re not from here, I can guess this is something you do shortly after arriving, and then you forget that it’s there. But you shouldn’t. It really is a great Colombo experience. And when the season is right, and the wind is blowing, and you’ve bought a kite from one of the local guys, and it’s in the air, and you’re looking out at the Indian Ocean, trying to figure out which one of the food stalls you’re going to eat at… well, you remember why it’s so great.                3) Fun Factory – 11 School Lane, Nawala I’m sure there’s other indoor play facilities in town, but I have to mention this one because I’m so familiar with it – and because it’s saved me a few times. When my daughter needed some quick cheer. And when I needed 20 minutes to check my email. Lots of fun padded stuff to climb up, on, over, and through: a trampoline, a ubiquitous room full of balls, dress-up costumes, building cushions, reading room, and a host of other toys and play areas. There’s also a separate party area, an outdoor café with kid-centric menu, an eager staff of playtime helpers and free Wi-fi for the (usually exhausted looking) mommies and daddies. (If they got a proper espresso machine and knew how to use it, I’d probably be here five days a week.)             4) Pottery Classes with Sabine What is it about kids that make them love playing with clay (and play-doh) so much? It’s got to be in the blood. So having Sabine, who is a ceramics teacher truly gifted at working with kids, and her structured play, seem like the perfect craft activity. The best fun is all in the process. And in the end there’s a nice trophy to bring home too. (Sabine’s classes are great for parents too.)            5) The German Toy Museum – 421, Havelock Road, (1st Floor), Colombo 06 Here’s an interesting gem you are probably least likely to have heard about. And it’s a real treat too. What, you may ask, is a museum of German toys doing in Colombo? It’s a charming story. But the real charm is the toys themselves. Collected by a Bavarian/Sri Lankan couple over the course of 35 years, the collection includes original toys that date back to the 19th Century. Though they began collecting with an eye on trains and dollhouses, the von Heimendahl family collection grew to include all facets of toys from the period. In fact, their collection grew to fill a museum in Bavaria before it overflowed to a second one in Colombo. Germany (and Bavaria, in particular) has long been renowned for its quality toys. It makes for a fun afternoon exploring them a little.                   6) Burger Workshop for Kids at Colombo Fort Café Although this is something you probably only do once, I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to do it. A cooking class for kids in a professional kitchen is such an awesome idea. In my experience, given the chance, kids love making food. They also love burgers and fries. And to be able to do both in a real, professional kitchen will make their eyes roll back in their heads. Plus, you’ll have a new burger-making machine at home!                  7)Milk @ 12 Barnes Place – 12 Barnes Place, Colombo 7 If you’ve got young kids, you probably already know about this place. If you don’t, you need to get over here. It’s a pretty good depot for all things “kids”. They probably have the best selection of children’s’ books and puzzles in town. There’s a small assortment of toys and accessories – but chosen with great taste. Speaking of taste, there’s a lovely café here, as well, with a fine selection of vegetarian fare, juices, smoothies, and wonderful sweets. (It’s also a good place to find cookbooks.) On occasion they also sponsor some great, organised workshops for kids. Past offerings include: music and dance, origami, book readings, drumming, and, most recently, a Picasso workshop for the little ones. Sadly, no archery though. Pix courtesy Trekurious and Good Market (Trekurious together with DailyFT explores Sri Lanka for the curious traveller. Trekurious works with talented individuals and great brands to create amazing experiential tours, activities, and events in Sri Lanka. You can find out more at www.Trekurious.com.)