It’s been SG50 season for a while, something that mothers in Singapore can’t ignore. By now you’d have encountered everything from SG50 buffet lunch promotions to SG50 bottled water, SG50 bank packages, and SG50 family concerts.
Well, for this long June break, how about organising your own SG50 holiday activities?
One nice way to spend this month with your kids is to take them on exploration trips around Singapore. And we’re not talking about anything exhausting or homework-y. Just simple ideas for the family to have fun and develop a richer appreciation for our local culture and history.
Here are some suggestions to get you started on your own Lion City adventures. By appealing to three of your children’s main priorities in life — their stomachs, their eagerness to play and their need for stories — you can awaken their love for this city we call home.
Also, take lots of photos. It’ll be your family’s own SG50 project to remember for a long time.
THE YUMMY TRAIL
Singapore is melting pot of races and cultures, and the amazing range of local dishes reflects this.
From tasty Indian curry in Serangoon Road to sumptuous porridge in Chinatown, from delightful kueh kueh in Geylang Serai to the legendary seafood paradise along East Coast Parkway: just taking your little lovelies out on a food hunt will give you lots of opportunities to talk about the different cultures’ unique flavours and culinary traditions.
As you eat, you can also share stories of your own childhood and how you enjoyed these same dishes with your family and friends. If it’s convenient, take your kids to a market to check out the raw ingredients.
Remember to do your own research and find out how to pronounce the names of the dishes and ingredients properly. There are also lots of local food apps and websites that can help you locate suitable local dining places. Try HungryGoWhere or Makansutra.
Your kids will love you for tickling their taste buds in delicious new ways.
ONE BIG PLAYGROUND
Kids love exploring new worlds and figuring out unfamiliar environments for themselves. This is one big reason why Minecraft is such a popular computer game.
If your family enjoys visiting new places together, you could plan exploration walks right here in Singapore. To thrill your kids, just add a simple challenge — like locating particular landmarks, taking a certain number of photos, or completing a list of tasks.
Despite the furious rate of urban development here, there are still some colourful side streets and neighbourhoods that retain their old-world charm. Look out for colonial-era architectural features, or traditional craftsmanship, or charming Peranakan designs, and get your kids to take some photos so they can find out more about these later.
Some family-friendly neighbourhoods to start with: the traditional ethnic enclaves (Chinatown, Little India, Malay Village) as well as the heritage-rich Tiong Bahru, Katong and Duxton districts.
You can also take them down to Beach Road and explain how this stretch actually used to be a beach, until around 1880; visit Block 53, Toa Payoh Lorong 5, and get them to imagine how it must have felt when Queen Elizabeth II visited this block in 1972; or sign them up for activities at the Singapore Art Museum, and tell them how this was once one of Singapore’s oldest secondary schools, St. Joseph’s Institution.
Bring water bottles and a smartphone, so you can access Google Maps if you get lost. And don’t forget to pack little treats, so you can reward them for their enthusiastic participation.
STORIES TO TREASURE
Kids can only appreciate their national heritage if they genuinely find it interesting and relevant. That’s why it’s important to charm them with stories about the past.
Storytelling has always been a great way to share new information and create a sense of wonder. Salesmen use it, historians count on it, and as a mother you too can employ it to enrich your kids’ lives.
Some local heroes you can discuss include: Hajjah Fatimah, the legendary Malay entrepreneur in the mid-1800s who married a Bugis prince, ran her own shipping empire and donated generously to build mosques and homes for the needy; Hoo Ah Kay, also known as Whampoa, who back in 1854 started an innovative but unprofitable new business along Boat Quay supplying ice imported from the United States; and the legendary young hero Hang Nadim, who designed a wall made of banana tree trunks to save his village from swordfish attacks, and became so popular that the jealous Sultan sent soldiers to kill him, after which his blood flowed down a hill and turned it red — this was how Bukit Merah, or Redhill, got its name.
A clever Mommy knows to be always prepared with such interesting tales, and the Singapore Infopedia website is a great resource to get you started. It has intriguing entries about local personalities, myths and legends, places and events, all authoritatively researched and easy to read.
By sharing unusual historical anecdotes with your children, as well as your personal stories of how life in Singapore used to be, you’ll help them develop a deep sense of belonging and also strengthen their sense of identity.
More importantly, they’ll soon come to realise that there’s more to Singapore than meets the eye.
** Illustrations taken from Lion City Adventures by Don Bosco. Courtesy
of Marshall Cavendish Editions.
** Don Bosco’s latest book is Lion City Adventures (Marshall Cavendish Editions), which takes kids on an exploration tour of 10 fun locations in Singapore, complete with exciting mini-mysteries to solve. His website is Super Cool Books.