Sensory Friendly Cafes in Singapore: A Review

Welcome to Irisada‘s blog. We focus on solutions and awareness for families living with differently-abled loved ones so they can live life to the fullest.

Eating out is a fun activity for the family, and as a child many of us remember looking forward to these special occasions. But for a child with sensory needs, eating out can be a stressful experience – new places, new food, and an overwhelming environment. It’s hard enough for parents to keep up with daily life – how do we find the energy to look for good places to visit as a family?

Singapore’s restaurant scene has much to offer parents of neurotypical children, with many restaurants touting themselves as kid-friendly, but unfortunately it may be more difficult to find sensory friendly cafes. In some other countries, more accessible and inclusive cafes are opening up – for example, this cafe in the UK serves its food in special, separated portions, and provides understanding service with no judgment on children’s unusual behaviour. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to find places to eat out with a neuroatypical child in Singapore, though – in this article, we take a look at some good candidates.

  • Old School Delights

Old School Delights is a nostalgic look back at 1980s Singapore – complete with period decor, well-loved games and heritage recipes. Tucked away in a quiet corner of Esplanade, it boasts a calm, quaint environment.

Each table has five stones and erasers, and there is a hopscotch game on the floor, providing ample entertainment while waiting. Service was prompt and friendly. Special requests can be made on the whiteboard used to take orders – a fun twist on ordering that will appeal to kids! The menu consists largely of local favourites such as Mee Siam and Laksa, and includes kid-friendly options such as Macaroni and Fish & Chips.

The lighting, which consists of individual bulbs for each table, may prove too glaring for some children, but the taking a short break outside, in the soothing tones of Esplanade Mall, may be an enjoyable solution.

While you’re there, Esplanade Mall also features a children’s art space, Pip’s Playbox, where children can enjoy craft work, reading, and even an outdoor play area. Esplanade Theatres have also begun holding special sensory-friendly sessions for some of their children’s plays. We would suggest avoiding Esplanade on weekends, however. Prime theatre timings, especially Friday and Saturday nights, lead to swelling crowds and noise levels!

OSD@The Esplanade Mall

8 Raffles Ave

#02-25 Esplanade Mall

Singapore 038902

Tel: 6909 3507/ 9108 8746

  • NOM (No Other Meaning)

NOM, situated at Macpherson Community Club, is a bright and friendly restaurant offering food, drink and dessert. Designed by a local firm, the interior mirrors the communal space of a void deck, complete with a miniature version of the iconic dragon playground!

Kids will love the children’s corner, which boasts the dragon slide as well as some board games and toys. As NOM is popular for weekend brunches, weekdays might better for a family visit, with a quieter environment and less stress.

Food-wise, NOM is famous for rainbow cakes, which are pleasing to the eye and good for a special occasion. It might be a good idea to call ahead if your child has specific dietary needs, as the menu does not specify gluten- or dairy-free options. They also have a special kids menu set ($9.90) that includes a main, drink and dessert!

NOM

400 Paya Lebar Way

Macpherson Community Club Level 1

Singapore 379131

Tel: 6747 3839

  • The Living Room Cafe

The Living Room Cafe is an initiative by Zion Bishan Bible-Presbytarian Church, situated in a ground-floor unit in the church building. The cafe aims to create a welcoming atmosphere, accompanied by wholesome food and warm ambience.

The mellow, soothing colours of the cafe complement the gentle background music, creating an oasis of calm. The use of natural lighting reduces harsh sensory input, creating a beautiful setting. The small, homely nature of the cafe means that service is friendly and personal, and special requests are gladly accommodated.

While there is no children’s area, the cafe features a book area where reading material is free for customers to browse. Service was efficient, minimising waiting time. There is also a patio right outside the cafe, where children may wish to play.

The Living Room Cafe

4 Bishan Street 13

Singapore 579792

Tel:  6715 7899

A Quick Summary – 3 Sensory Friendly Cafes

Criteria OSD NOM TLC
Noise level (low, soothing) 🙂 🙂
Location (accessible, quiet) 🙂 🙂  🙂
Food (kid-friendly, sensory-friendly) 🙂 🙂
Service (friendly, accommodating) 🙂 🙂  🙂
Entertainment (availability of toys, etc.)  🙂  🙂
Ambience (comfortable lighting, soothing colours)  🙂  🙂

Enjoy Your Day Out!

After our quest for sensory friendly cafes, we’ve found that eating out with your child can be an enjoyable experience! For parents looking to take their kids out, here are some quick tips:

  • Go at off peak hours! Having an early dinner, or a late lunch, can make all the difference. With lower people traffic, staff have more capacity to accommodate special requests.
  • Call ahead! Many restaurants are happy to accommodate requests if they have enough time to prepare.
  • Prepare your child! Some restaurants may have menus and pictures online. These are great visual resources to explain what will happen, and ensure that your child feels comfortable when going out.
  • Come equipped – if the restaurant lacks ready entertainment, bringing along some toys and fidgets might help. Check out these sensory bracelets, or these pencils with fidget toppers. If the noise level is too high, noise-cancelling earphones might do the trick – try these earphones by Califone. Or if your child has trouble sitting still, these vibrating cushions by Senseez are one option, and they even have some with extra textures and touchables!  

The writers are unaffiliated to any of the abovementioned outlets. All reviews are based on personal opinion, and reflect personal experience.

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Linette Chan

Linette is a university student interested in social issues and the vision of inclusivity. She writes for Irisada's blog and loves learning from the community.

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