Exposing your children to arts and culture from an early age can help them develop useful skills for later in life. Get your little ones started with these fun (and free!) family activities right here in Singapore!
Most experts agree: arts and culture can play a big role in a child’s personal development and general education. Kids who engage in creative, fun activities generally end up developing both the left and right hemispheres of their brain equally as they grow. Additionally, they’ll also be able to pick up important skills like creativity, imagination, literacy and improved problem-solving abilities.
Fortunately, Singapore has a very active arts and culture scene, with everything from museums and concerts to exhibitions and tours. There’s something artsy and fun happening almost every single week! So if you’d like to help your little ones get cultured without breaking the bank, here are some great suggestions for free activities you can try out as a family.
FOR CULTURE & HERITAGE
1. Saturdays@ACM (Asian Civilisations Museum)
The ACM is well-known for its signature programmes and exhibitions on arts and culture. Swing by on the last Saturday of each month for their Saturdays@ACM programme, where you’ll get to explore the wonders of Asian art and folklore. Both kids and adults alike will enjoy interactive performances and dramas, hands-on activities and storytelling right there in the museum’s galleries. Each month’s event will have a different theme, so do check the website for information on the current month’s activities before heading over with the family.
P/S: It’s the last fortnight for Angkor: Exploring Cambodia’s Sacred City. Masterpieces of the Musée national des arts asiatiques-Guimet, a special exhibition showcasing Angkor’s emergence onto the world stage through more than 50 original sculptures from the ancient city. Bring the kids and enjoy various free activities, such as making pencil rubbings at the activity stations located around the exhibition, designing their own door lintel; and even crafting a 3D temple to take home!
2. Straits Family Sundays (Peranakan Museum)
Housed in the old Tao Nan school building at Armenian Street, the Peranakan Museum is a sister museum to the ACM. It specialises in exploring Peranakan (Straits Chinese) culture in Singapore, and has plenty of family-friendly activities to be enjoyed. Drop by on the first Sunday of each month for their Straits Family Sundays, where you’ll get the chance to dress up in traditional Peranakan outfits (and even design them yourself!) You’ll also get to go on a special themed tour of the museum’s galleries, take part in various arts and crafts activities and enjoy interactive drama performances.
3. Heritage Tour (The Fullerton Heritage Hotel)
Bring the entire family for a nostalgic look back into Singapore’s rich history with Fullerton Hotel’s Heritage Tour. This free one-hour tour is open to hotel guests as well as members of the public, and explores the Fullerton monument and other conserved buildings in the Fullerton precinct. You’ll finish up on the roof of the Fullerton building itself, where you can relax while taking in the spectacular view from way up high. Do remember to book in advance as each tour only has a limited number of spots available.
4. Chinese Mythology (Haw Par Villa)
Image: Haw Par Villa Facebook
Arts and culture at Haw Par Villa? Why not? This massive theme park (formerly known as the Tiger Balm Garden) is home to over 1,000 statues and 150 dioramas which depict various figures and scenes from Chinese folklore and mythology. Built by the brothers Boon Haw and Boon Par, it was intended to be a place where children learn important lessons about morality and proper conduct. Older kids will have a ball exploring the park and feeding the turtles. However, some parental discretion may be needed for younger kids, who might find the grotesque, lifelike statues pretty creepy! The park is open daily from 9am-7pm, and admission is free.
5. Stamp Exhibitions (Singapore Philatelic Museum)
While some might see stamp collecting as a rather old-fashioned hobby, a quick trip to the Singapore Philatelic Museum might be just the thing for a change of heart. Dedicated to the art of philately (the study and collection of postage stamps), the museum holds special exhibitions throughout the year with the aim of showing visitors how stamps can be a window to the world.
P/S: Don’t miss the museum’s current exhibition, The Little Prince: Behind the Story, which is on till 17 March 2019. Based on the book The Little Prince written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the exhibition celebrates the 75th anniversary of publication in 2018. Discover how the tale came about and the man behind its creation, meet its unforgettable characters, and relive its iconic moments.
FOR EVERYTHING TO DO WITH ART
6. Family Art Programmes (National Gallery Singapore)
Home to the largest collection of Singaporean and Southeast Asian art in the region, National Gallery Singapore is a great place for families to imbibe the essence of the arts and culture. Choose from the many exhibitions and assorted family programmes, or let your little art lovers unleash their creativity at the Keppel Centre for Art Education. There’s a printmaking workshop, a children’s museum, a project gallery with lots of “touchy-feely” art pieces, and virtual play areas that they can explore to their heart’s content.
P/S: Drop in to catch the National Gallery’s first Children’s Festival: Small Big Dreamers (till 9 Sept 2018), which encourages children to create, imagine, and reimagine the world around them, and build greater self-awareness through experiential art and active play. Each bi-yearly edition will be inspired by a Singaporean artist who dreams big and demonstrates that anything is possible. This first edition spotlights the life and practice of Singaporean artist Lee Wen, a Big Dreamer in his own right. An internationally-recognised, multidisciplinary artist and one of the pioneers of performance art in Singapore, Lee Wen is known for the overwhelming sense of optimism and perseverance conveyed through his works despite his battle with Parkinson’s disease which limits his body movements.
An initiative by the National Arts Council, the Arts in Your Neighbourhood programme aims to bring fun and enriching arts experiences directly to people’s doorsteps. Held biannually in March and November each year, it comprises interactive arts programmes by established artists and arts groups. Each event is held in a different location, with varied themes, activities and artwork to help people learn about local culture and heritage. You can also view public art installations, take part in photo walks, and watch magical theatre performances (video). Make sure to keep an eye on their Facebook page, so you don’t miss the next event in November this year.
8. Public art and sculptures (around Singapore)
Singapore has no shortage of incredible public art and sculptures from international and local artists, all freely accessible throughout the island. Bring the kids out to discover as many of these as you can – and build up their art appreciation skills. If you’re not sure where to go to find these local “treasures”, here’s a quick list of suggestions:
• The Merlion (Merlion Park, at One Fullerton near the Marina Bay waterfront)
• The Bird (located at UOB Plaza near Raffles Place)
• The Dual Universe (in front of the Singapore Land Tower at Raffles Place)
• The Struggle for Survival (in front of the UOB Centre)
• The Pioneering Spirit (towards the exit of Raffles Place)
• The First Generation (by the Singapore River)
You can also explore the Public Art Trust website for more ideas; it has an extensive list of public art installations and their locations. No time for a full day of island-hopping? Just refine your search by location and focus on whatever’s available near you.
9. Graffiti, murals and wall art (around Singapore)
While you’re out looking for public art and sculptures, why not hunt down some of Singapore’s street art as well? There is plenty of amazing wall art throughout the city. Once you find them, get the family to pose for some Instagram-worthy images! Here are some you should definitely check out:
• Animal murals at Tiong Bahru market
• Murals of old Singapore by YC
• Wall art at Everton Road
• Street art at Haji Lane
• Street art and graffiti at Aliwal Street
• Massive mural by Kala Roseane at Clarke Quay
• Murals and graffiti at Sultan Arts Village
• Murals at Little India
FOR MUSIC & THEATRE
10. Free concerts (Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music)
Each year, the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music hosts more than 200 free concerts and masterclasses for the public. Performed by a roster of talented musicians, composers and singers, the concerts are usually held at the Conservatory itself, but are also available in other venues. The Lunchtime Concerts, for instance, happen every Friday at the Asian Civilisations Museum between 1pm-1.45pm. You can also check their calendar for other upcoming events, some of which are exclusively for children and their families.
11. Singapore Symphony Orchestra Performances (Singapore Botanic Gardens)
Image: SSO Facebook
Want to enjoy the beautiful strains of live classical music while surrounded by the beauty of nature? Head out to the Singapore Botanic Gardens, where you can catch free concerts and performances in the great outdoors. These are performed by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (as well as other established music ensembles and groups). Just bring along a mat and a picnic basket, and settle down to appreciate the music with family and friends. Head over early if you can, as the gardens can get a little crowded close to performance time.
12. Theatre performances and Beautiful Sunday concerts (Esplanade – Theatres On The Bay)
One of the busiest performing arts centres in the world, the Esplanade is a haven for arts and culture enthusiasts. While not all the performances here are free – you can still enjoy a wide variety of free shows throughout the year. Check out the free Beautiful Sunday concerts (held once a month) featuring performances from some of our best homegrown musicians. Alternatively, venture down to the Esplanade’s Outdoor Theatre for an assortment of free productions ranging from music to theatre to visual arts.
Go Forth and Explore Arts and Culture in Singapore for FREE!
Getting involved with arts and culture can help kids to develop imagination, self-expression and creativity. It also provides them with the opportunity to experience history, cultural traditions, ethics, and morality. With so many free arts and culture activities happening in Singapore all year round, there’s no excuse not to experience any of them!
Featured image: National Gallery Singapore