My six-year-old son is an aficionado of Playmobil. So much so that the latest catalogue accompanies him on every car journey and is more read than most of his books. He’ll know the serial numbers and features of almost every item in the range, but sadly he hasn’t learnt about the pricing yet!
So, most holidays and high days see us having at least one obligatory (or purgatorial for me) trip to the Playmobil Funpark at Hal-Far, just beyond the airport heading towards the freeport at Birzebugia. He squeals with delight the moment we round the corner and sees the twin towers of the ‘castle’ frontage come into view. I, for my part, groan. But wait, let’s talk first about the plusses of Playmobil.
The good bits:
When you’re faced with wet, wet, wet, freezing days in winter holidays, Playmobil has a certain allure. It’s warm inside, has just about enough to keep little ones busy for two hours, and it has a reasonable cafe for a coffee and snack pitstop. If weather permits, the outdoor part with small boating pond, farmhouse, slide, climbing frame and sand pit give you a breather (though you have to keep watch as kids – yours or other people’s – tend to flick sand or get stuck in the rope climbing frame).
In summer, it’s nicely airconditioned and makes a welcome change from the sticky heat of the beach. Let’s face it, you can’t do the beach every day for the three month summer holidays kids get here.
On special occasions, like Christmas, carnival time and Easter, Playmobil organises events and games. Kids seem to love participating and it breaks the monotony of free play. They also showcase some kids’ artwork on the walls. Events can be popular so book well ahead if you want Breakfast with Santa, for instance.
The bad bits:
Since the redesign of the main hall about two years ago from pirate ship to container ship theme, there are far fewer ‘play stations’ for kids to sit at and actually do something. Management has in their wisdom added a lot more Perspex showcases with admirably laid-out scenes; probably to encourage us to buy more and play less. Most toys, whether castles, cranes, emergency vehicles or palaces, are broken. And woe betide if you try to gather a few plastic men to populate your scene of play – other kids and mums just don’t like sharing!
On peak days – half terms especially – and most weekends, the hall is so crowded you and yours won’t get a look in anyway. It’s noisy from kids and constant Tanoy announcements. I lasted 10 minutes (for entry fee €3.50) a week ago as I just couldn’t face the mêlée. My son was happy to leave too.
But for all its faults, Playmobil Funpark has its uses and is one of Malta’s few kiddy play parks of sorts. I have no doubt I will be back there in the next year at least, as my son doesn’t seem to grow out of Playmobil. We use the shop more than the funpark these days. And I am making sure my son learns to save his pocket money from now on!