Don't get short changed
Navigating a big city with young children in tow can be a challenge to the most determined of parents. Busy streets and a short supply of family-friendly facilities can leave tempers frayed.
However, overall, facilities for families are improving and shopping centres have recognised that families are a great source of revenue, but have specific needs.
Elements in Kowloon, for instance, set a new standard for family friendliness when it opened. Betty Leong Sin-ling, MTR Corporation's general manager of investment property, said from the outset that mall managers would pay particular attention to details, even down to washroom facilities. 'Families are one of our major target customer groups so a spacious and well-equipped baby care room will make Elements a pleasant and hassle-free experience.'
At Pacific Place, practicality was combined with aesthetics in the redesign of the mall and the contemporary 'fluid' design flows all the way to the baby changing area. A spokesman for the mall says the renovation project 'gave an opportunity to incorporate the small satisfying details', which offer the best experience for families.
There's no doubt that facilities are improving but parents would still like to see more thought go into them. When university lecturer Rhys Brabiner is out with his two-year-old daughter and five-month-old baby, it's always a relief to find an establishment with changing facilities accessible to men with children. 'It would be great if someone put a little thought into these,' he says. 'At The Landmark there is a changing table in the men's room on the third floor, but it's fixed to the wall and literally right next to the urinals.'
Michelle Castillo-Mohlman is an alternative health practitioner who spends a quarter of her time in Hong Kong and the rest in Singapore where, she says, parents are spoiled for choice: 'The Singaporean government is fiercely promoting reproduction and this leaves extra funds available for shopping malls to construct posh parents lounges.'
Castillo-Mohlman, who has a two-year-old daughter, says these family rooms have comfortable seats and space to change and feed a baby and often include extras such as bottle warmers and wipes.
Newer facilities in Hong Kong can match those but Amanda Cheung Yin-ting, a public relations executive and mother of a 16-month-old girl, reckons big cities are just not built for babies.
'I can't actually think of any big cities that blew me away with their baby-friendliness so although it might be easy to write off Hong Kong, I think it's not all bad and is more a case of knowing where to go and avoiding venues that aren't cut out for babies,' she says.
Here's a quick list of facilities in shopping malls by area:
Central and Admiralty
There is a separate changing room on each floor of the mall with a change station, feeding chair, bottle warmer and wipes. The room on the first floor is female-only as it's in the women's washroom but dads can head to the second or third floors.
There are baby changing rooms on each floor with those on the first and second floors for men and women. As well as providing a clean and comfortable changing area (the mat is cushioned instead of the more common hard plastic variety), there is also a socket to charge electrical gadgets. There's enough space inside to park a pushchair and plenty of mirrors and shelves to occupy a toddler while parents feed a baby.
Changing area is on the second floor near the baby shops. The facilities are clean and include two change mats and a small couch for feeding.
On the ninth floor in the children's zone the spacious and very clean room includes two changing mats, bottle warmer and a separate room with a couch for breastfeeding.
This has among the best facilities in Hong Kong. Located on both floors, the rooms have padded changing mats, bottle warmers, a room with comfortable seats for breastfeeding, and a waiting area with seats and magazines.
The nursing room on Level 2 is clean and private and includes changing facilities. There are several other changing stations on the lower ground levels and floors one and two. The room on the second level is also accessible to men.
Olympian City 2
Rooms on each floor which can be used by men or women and an extra room on the upper ground floor. Each is equipped with a changing mat and separate feeding room. There's also a washroom for children with facilities placed at a lower height.
Gateway Arcade, Ocean Terminal, Harbour City
A child-friendly environment with kids-sized toilet and sinks, separate nursery rooms and baby changing areas. The main facilities are in the children's zone on the ground floor at Ocean Terminal and include two nursery rooms, two children's washrooms and one baby changing area. The second floor has two baby-changing areas, two nursery rooms and one washroom for children.
Ap Lei Chau
A furniture outlet seems an unlikely place to find good baby changing facilities but TREE cafe on the 28th floor at Horizon Plaza is a big hit. It has a large, clean changing area and is equipped with nappies, wipes, a comfortable armchair for feeding and even a cot. Plus, it's next to the toy-filled play area and cafe, where every child is entitled to a free mini cupcake and babycino. 'Having all the facilities they need in one space gives all the comforts of home,' says TREE's managing director, Kate Babington. 'Over the years TREE cafe has developed a loyal following and word has definitely spread.'