A PLAYLAND DESIGNEDto stimulate the imaginations of youngsters and help them think for themselves, the newly opened Imaginia enriches both playing and learning experiences through art, music, literature and drama,all of them enhanced by the latest in digital interactive technology and in three languages – Thai, English and Japanese.

The brainchild of event organiser CMO, Imaginia is the ideal answer for children whose parents are so busy with their professional lives that they don’t have time to dream up games for the little ones but do have the cash and the desire to offer them the best money can buy.

It’s a place where the entire family can come together and participate in engaging activities that bring classic and contemporary playtime into the digital world

A professional storyteller is on hand at Imaginia Town Hall to tell the youngsters such much-loved stories as “Hansel and Gretel”, and “Momotaro” but instead of reading from a book, the tales unfold on a 180-degree screen in a 360-degree theatre with plenty of sound effects. The language in which the story is told is not a problem either, with kids of all nationalities happily interacting with the characters on the screen

This is just one example of how CMO Group has intelligently used its expertise to develop 19 zones that fuel imaginative energy in a world that is increasingly hooked at digital interactive technology. It’s spent more than Bt50 million on Imaginia, which boasts many as 20 LED touch screens and three LED walls.

Spread over 1,400 square metres of prime commercial space inside the Emporium, the educational playground uses the RFID system technology to ensure total safety and security.

The experience starts in the “Magical Theatre”, where children have their photos taken before choosing an animal mask from their favourite tale on the computer. In seconds their new characters will appear on a large screen and the images can also be sent to their mothers’email or shared on the social media.

At the Art Gallery, which is fitted out with some of the best-known masterpieces in the world, children not only have the freedom to explore selected works by da Vinci and Van Gogh and but also to compose a new look for the “Mona Lisa”. The collection also includes digital copies of paintings by National Artist Chalermchai Kositpipat and illustrator ML Chirathorn “Kru To” Chirapravati. The youngsters are invited to recompose Chalermchai’s heaven on the touch screen, moving around his winged animals and the sun, moon and sky and giving them the colours they fancy. They’ll also have fun dressing the dolls in Chirathorn’s famous illustration in one of the many clothing designs that Kru To has prepared for them.

And for those tired of the digital world and wanting pen and paper, there’s a traditional colouring room too.

Chalermchai, who says he loved drawing as a child, is enthusiastic about the project. “It’s important that children are nurtured in an artistic environment,” he says. “Thai education lacks composition study yet this is a very important subject. Thai teachers tend to tell children to copy the model, and because they can’t think for themselves, the youngsters are unable to create. Art comes from the inside.”

Chirathorn echoes those sentiments, telling XP that he used to draw dolls and outfits for his young cousin. “I also remembered playing in a mock-up photographic studio but instead of using a real camera, I would draw my cousin’s portrait. I’ve never thought that I’d eventually do this for a living. I love playing so I’m very happy to be part of this project,” he says.

Also in the art gallery zone is the “Wonder Car”, a customised car with a dragon, known as Lumos, perched on top. Here too the little ones are invited to change or add to the design using six screens enveloped in a stone-shaped design station. Their ideas appear immediately on the mock-up leading to giggles of delight.

“The Shadow Forest” is another interesting zone taking images beyond even a child’s wildest imagination.Here the kids stand still and see what can happen with their shadows, as these develop wings, turn into a tree or even collect stars.

The biggest challenge, says Imaginia’s director Muanfun Sirikorn Kunawong, is balancing the traditional with the digital.

“We’d like to have a playland that is different from school and which always has different inputs to their creativity. They should be able to draw with their hands or touch with their fingers as well as read digitally or with sit with conventional books in the Book Cave, which is a small library where parents can read with their children.

“So the playland is very dynamic. We also love to see children to play with wooden toys and the Builder’s Studio from Pin Toys and Imaginia Fort are both ideal for challenging toddlers. These zones help promote the development of hand-eye coordination as well as enhance their concentration and problem solving. They can be like little engineers,” she adds.

“In a world where people are marrying less and less and the birth rate is dropping, children are truly precious.Mothers want the best in everything; be it for education or play. Arts, music, wooden toys, or physical activities can all help to enhance imagination and develop wellrounded children. Connecting with children is like opening new boxes, it is always interesting.”

A favourite physical challenge is the “Time Tube Slider” an extraordinary interactive slide through a wooden mountain range. To reach it, children have to climb the inflatable mountain known as Meteori Peak,and this again promotes their concentration and coordination.

Another hit with the little ones is the “Dream Jungle”,a netscape playground created by textile designer Ploennchan Vinyarat. Boasting an interactive trampoline to warm up on before heading up to the dragon’s cave, Ploenchan refers to the jungle as her gigantic cradle.

“The children who come here are tireless. It’s a great place to release energy,” she says.