Children thrive on discovery and play. Born with an innate desire to explore and uncover, our children possess a sense of wonderment towards the environment, and are intrigued by sights and sounds that enable them to comprehend this world they live in.
For these avid discoverers, learning takes place well beyond the perimeter of a classroom. The process of discovery and play accelerates learning, allowing them to grasp concepts that can be challenging to convey in a classroom.
But such learning opportunities cost a lot, don’t they? Not at all! Even though our children are worth every dollar spent, it is reassuring to know that many places outside of home provide meaningful and fun learning opportunities that are free! Try these here, and do let us know if you’ve uncovered any others!
1. Become an art connoisseur
Singapore Art Museum
The Singapore Art Museum provides free entry to Singaporeans and permanent residents! Soak in the nuances of Southeast Asia contemporary art as your family strolls through the galleries. Check the museum website for children’s programmes, or join a guided tour for deeper insights into the art world. The current exhibition, Once Upon This Island, explores the stories and the lives that surround us on this island-nation through contemporary works by Singapore artists. These works at The Learning Gallery are accompanied by captions and exhibition guides. You can even download and print out exhibition activity sheets to enhance your child’s museum-going experience!
Singapore Art Museum, 71 Bras Basah Road, Singapore 189555
2. Play with art and imagination
This is a busy arts hub where you’ll find musicians and artists performing at open spaces like the Concourse or the Outdoor Theatre on most weekends. What’s more, there is a genre of arts and music for everyone! The kids will love PIP’s PLAYbox, a newly-opened space for young art lovers to engage in imaginative play. Story-telling and self-guided craft sessions are sometimes organised in conjunction with festivals!
The Esplanade, 1 Esplanade Drive, Singapore 038981
3. Be fire smart
Central Fire Station
Fancy meeting firefighters up close and personal? Hop down to the Central Fire Station or a nearby fire station (except for the one at Jurong Island) to watch them hard at work. Watch firefighters whizz down the pole, get behind the steering wheel of a fire truck and check out what goes on in a fire station during the free tours held on Saturdays from 9 am to 11 am. You can get more information on the tours and how to register for them here.
Central Fire Station, 62 Hill Street, Singapore 179367
4. Watch the stars
Having trouble spotting stars in the sky? The Science Centre Observatory dispels this woe by granting the public free access to its observatory. Let your child marvel at constellations millions of light years away! Stargazing sessions are held every Friday from 7:45 pm to 10 pm. There is also a 20-minute talk on astronomy on the second Friday night of every month (except in September).
The Observatory (at the Omni-Theatre building), 15 Science Centre Road, Singapore 609081
5. Discover world artefacts
National Museum of Singapore
This is another museum that is free to Singaporeans and permanent residents. During the March school holidays there are lots of activities for children, from storytelling sessions to family-themed tours of the Treasures of the World from the British Museum, to mask-making workshops for kids. Apart from this exhibition, you can bring the little ones to the other galleries to learn about the history of Singapore. Again, guided tours are recommended to learn more about the many displays at the exhibition halls. And if that becomes too overwhelming, consider attending an outdoor screening. Be sure to come along with a picnic basket!
National Museum of Singapore, 93 Stamford Road, Singapore 178897
6. Immerse in nature
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Yes, our very own UNESCO World Heritage Site is a gem for kids! This green expanse in the midst of a concrete jungle offers respite from the city with lots of space for kids to run around. Explore the flora and fauna, and keep a look out for the critters in this garden. The frequent concerts held at the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage also make for a great family outing, where everyone can relax and enjoy melodic tunes while having a home-packed picnic. Hmm… simple pleasures!
Singapore Botanic Gardens, 1 Cluny Road, Singapore 259569
7. Bust that crime
Police Heritage Centre
Book a tour here to let your child learn about the history of Singapore’s Police Force. The guided tour showcases the journey of our boys in blue through the past decades, highlighting significant events like the 1964 racial riots and how the police force has evolved over time. This 1.5-hour tour will be an eye opener for your little crime buster! Do note that visits are by appointment only, and slots are available on a first-come-first basis. Call 6478 2123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book.
Police Heritage Centre, 28 Irrawaddy Road, New Phoenix Park Police Headquarters Tower, Singapore 329560
Diorama of a scene from Journey to the West at Haw Par Villa. Image: Wikimedia Commons
8. Rethink myths, legends and fables
Haw Par Villa
Give your child a cultural lesson in Chinese folklore and mythology but be warned, this is not your average theme park. Apart from displays of legendary Chinese deities and fairies, be prepared to see gory exhibits depicting Hell, or more specifically, the Ten Courts of Hell. These might be too much for a child to stomach, but it certainly is a one-of-a-kind experience and you could scare them into behaving themselves (just kidding!).
Haw Par Villa, 262 Pasir Panjang Road, Singapore 118628
9. Be street-smart
Road Safety Community Park
Introduce road safety practices in a mini urban environment, where traffic lights, lamp posts, roads and pavements come in downscaled sizes to fit every child. While the operation of traffic lights and rental of go-karts and bicycles are purely for school visits, you can bring your child’s bicycle and let him hit the road on his own here, ‘pump’ fuel into his imaginary vehicle engine, go round the circus, and more. Pedestrians can have loads of fun too, navigating little zebra crossings, going over a tiny overhead bridge, and waiting for a non-existent bus at one of the bus stops!
Road Safety Community Park, East Coast Park Service Road, Singapore 449889
10. Go goat milking
Hay Dairies Goat Farm
Your child has learnt that milk doesn’t come straight from the supermarket. Fancy showing him or her how a goat is milked to produce fresh wholesome milk? A visit to Hay Dairies Goat Farm is a nice escape, as it allows your child to be in a natural environ where goats live in actual barns. Also enjoy a free and easy tour from the friendly guides!
Hay Dairies Goat Farm, 3 Lim Chu Kang Lane 4, Singapore 718859
11. Build castles
East Coast Park
Attend a free sandcastle-building workshop by volunteers from Castle Beach and start on your child’s fantasy sandcastle straight away. Let him or her be the architect of this sand structure. These sessions are held from 3:30 pm to 7 pm on weekends. Come with a sandcastle blueprint in mind!
East Coast Park, East Coast Park Service Road, Singapore 449876
12. Trek in unchartered territory
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve Extension
Take a walk down roads less travelled and head for the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve Extension for a family-friendly experience in nature. Stop by the Visitor Centre to learn about Singapore’s first Asean Heritage Park before making your way to one of the many nature trails. They’re on boardwalks, making it easy even for young ones to navigate, don’t worry! Try to spot inhabitants such as shellfish, monitor lizards and water snakes, and let your child step into a mudflat! There are guided walks for children below 12 years of age too.
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve Extension, 301 Neo Tiew Crescent, Singapore 718925
Hey, here’s one more!
Play with Words
Central Public Library
We all know that our public libraries are treasure troves of books. But, do you know that storytelling sessions take place in libraries too? Expose your child to books to grow their vocabulary. Visit the Central Public Library every Saturday and Sunday for English storytelling sessions at My Tree House, the world’s first green library for kids. Chinese storytelling sessions are available every first and third Saturday of the month. Alternatively, check out what’s in store at your nearest library!
Central Public Library, 100 Victoria Street, Singapore 188064
Want more? See our SG50 list of 50 fun and free things to do in Singapore with Kids!
Feature image of Pip’s Playbox: Esplanade — Theatres on the Bay