May 21, 2015

12 Secret Places in Singapore to bring your Kids that are FREE!

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I have always believed in experiential learning - the process of learning through experience - and this explains why I am always looking for places and activities in Singapore to keep my monkies occupied whenever the weekends roll along.

Frankly, it is always more fun to be outdoors because being outside is vital to a kid’s growth, and his/her emotional and mental development. Kids learn better through these experiences which cannot be replicated in the classroom. 


But there can only be so many parks or indoor/outdoor playgrounds or theme parks that parents can visit... so if you are looking for places to visit in Singapore that are a little off-the-beaten track AND secret, then these places will no doubt be the best way to spend a memorable time with your family. Even BETTER if they are ALL FREE to visit! :)


1. Tuas South Beach

There is a secret, secluded beach at Tuas. Head along Tuas South Ave 4 and look for a large and grassy field near the road bend. Trek about 300m through the grass and come face to face with a little beach that faces Jurong Island.


Granted the beach is not the cleanest around and the sea is not exactly made for swimming but this stretch of sand is devoid of crowds, far from looming buildings and quiet - the perfect place to relax with the family, and perhaps fly a kite.


Address: Along Tuas South Ave 4


2. Thow Kwang Industry


Thow Kwang is home to one of the last surviving dragon kilns or long yao in Singapore. The Thow Kwang dragon kiln was built in the 1940s and used to fire ceramic products. After a hiatus, the dragon kiln was brought back to life. Since 2001, potters’ activities have thrived and now there is a huge selection of pottery wares for sale there.


While the Dragon Kiln is certainly a draw, the hands-on pottery sessions will be a hit with the kids. They would love creating pots on clay-wheels during the session before burning the pots in the kiln. Sessions are typically conducted during weekends and public holidays, and start from $28 for 1.5 hours. Email thowkwang@gmail.com for enquiries.


Website: thowkwangclayartists.wordpress.com
Address: 85 Lorong Tawas (off Jalan Bahar), Singapore 639823
Opening Hours: 9am–5pm daily


3. Jurong Eco-Garden


Just a stone's throw away from Thow Kwang is Jurong Eco-Garden, the 'green lungs' of CleanTech Park and Singapore’s first freshwater swamp forest located within an industrial park. If we had not visited Thow Kwang, we would not have discovered this gem of a find. Simply because the Eco-Garden has an amazing variety of wildlife and nature and is home to many birds, dragonflies, butterflies and insects.


Spread over four areas - Summit Forest, Wildlife Corridor, Stream Ravine and Freshwater Swamp Forest - the 5-hectare park intersperse building parcels seamlessly with green spaces. One interesting station to visit is the Composting Station which features the processes how horticulture waste are converted into resources. If you are planning to expose nature to the kids minus the crowds, Jurong Eco-Garden will be your best bet!


Address: 1 Clean Tech Loop, Singapore 609434


4. Kranji War Memorial


The Kranji War Memorial in Singapore honours the men and women from the Commonwealth who died in the line of duty during World War II. More than 4,400 white gravestones are erected in rows on the cemetery’s gentle slope. The Chinese Memorial, in plot 44, marks a mass grave for 69 Chinese servicemen who were killed by the Japanese when Singapore fell in February 1942. Next to the Kranji War Memorial is the Kranji Military Cemetery, with more than 1,400 burials of soldiers who died after World War II. The Singapore State Cemetery, where the country’s first and second presidents, Encik Yusof Ishak and Dr Benjamin Henry Sheares, are buried is situated nearby as well.


A solemn and peaceful resting place to honour the dead, this is not the place for young kids to be running around. Rather, it is the perfect place for older kids to be exposed to Singapore’s war history with information detailing the Japanese invasion and occupation of Singapore.

Address: 9 Woodlands Road, Singapore 738656
Opening Hours: 8am - 6.30pm daily


5. Sembawang Hot Spring


This is the mainland’s only natural hot spring and its water used to be bottled commercially by Fraser and Neave, under the brand name of Seletaris. The spring water is popular for its purported curative properties, and so, some parents bring their kids who have skin conditions such as eczema, to bathe there every week.


While the area is kept to a bare minimum, the Hot Spring provides a one of a kind experience in Singapore. Bring some buckets along (or just use the many buckets that others have left behind) and indulge in foot bath therapy. Just for kicks, bring along eggs and you will be able to enjoy soft-boiled eggs, courtesy of the hot spring water.

Address: Along Gambas Avenue
Opening Hours: 7am - 7pm


6. Pasir Panjang and Sime Road Pillboxes

Probably the best known pillbox in Singapore is the preserved one at the junction of Pasir Panjang and Science Park Roads. A pillbox is a concrete bunker or guard-house, and usually has small holes allowing the person inside to keep watch and to aim a machine gun. The pillbox at 262 Pasir Panjang Road is one of the few that has survived. It lies within the area that had been defended by the First Malaya Brigade, and may have been used by the Malay Regiment in its battle against the 18th Japanese Division on Pasir Panjang Ridge in February 1942.


If you are looking for more adventure, then try locating the pillbox on Sime Road. If driving, park at Sime Hill Road, on the left before the pillbox. The Sime Road Pillbox is the more interesting of the two as kids (and adults) can go inside the pillbox and have a sense of how it felt to have been in one during wartime.


Address: Pasir Panjang Pillbox (Junction of Pasir Panjang and Science Park Roads) | Sime Road Pillbox (Along Sime Road, just before SICC entrance)


7. Urban Farm & Barn

Tucked away on the top of a hill in Bukit Panjang, this urban farm is well-stocked with herbs and edibles growing in the show gardens which featured raised beds, a step garden, herb fountain and a vertical garden. Ample signs that detail the plants' names and their characteristics accompany the plants as well, making it an informative session for the kids as well. Do check out the mini eco-pond too, which counts some tadpoles as its residents, as well as a tree frog.


But the highlight for the kids has got to be the chance to grow their own vegetables on the vertical farming system! Rows of farming racks are available for rent. Visitors can rent 20 trays of compost _ slotted into a rack - for $50 a month (min. rental for 3 months). What’s more, 40% of the rent goes to a fund for students from low-income families. Just plant the seeds and return weeks later to harvest. Farming has never been easier… or more fun!


Website: www.pocketgreens.com.sg
Address: Off Petir Road, Bukit Panjang
Opening Hours: Mon: Closed | Tue - Thurs: 8.30am - 11.30am | Fri -Sun & Public Holidays: 3pm - 6pm


8. Sengkang Riverside Park

Okay, so this is not exactly a secret spot but compared to its more famous Punggol Waterway counterpart, Sengkang Riverside Park is often overlooked. Featuring a constructed wetland and rich biodiversity, the park is made up of three areas along Sungei Punggol River - the Visitor Centre, the Civic Event Lawn and Singapore’s largest man-made wetland, Sengkang Floating Island.


No playgrounds here, but there are definitely plenty of nature experiences for the kids. Hike on the park’s trails to view the marshes and get close to the inhabitants of the marshland. Home to many aquatic plants, the wetland doubles up as a wildlife habitat and attracts a variety of mangrove birds and damselflies. Alternatively, embark on an educational journey to explore the fruit trees planted around the park such as the starfruit, chiku and dragon fruit trees. Or head inwards to the park from the Visitor Centre where a large field awaits. Here, the wind blows consistently making it a perfect spot to fly some kites!


Address: Anchorvale Street abutting Sungei Punggol


9. Changi Museum

Changi Museum is more ulu (or remote) than secret. But then again, the museum can be considered a secret as well because it is a severely underrated gem that few Singaporeans ever visit. The place provides in-depth accounts of the lives of Singaporeans, POWs and civilians who were imprisoned in Singapore and the region.


Here, visitors can view photographs, drawings and letters by prisoners and take a 45-minute guided tour around the site. Several significant exhibits housed within the museum include replicas of the iconic Changi quilts and former POWs’ personal effects. Audio tours relating the experiences of men and women who were imprisoned at Changi are also available.


If you are looking to educate your kids about both the horror and heroism of the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, Changi Museum is it. Take a slow walk through the adjacent Changi Chapel too, which houses a box of sand from Changi Beach where the tragic Sook Ching massacres took place.


Website: changimuseum.sg
Address: 1000 Upper Changi Road North, Singapore 507707
Opening Hours: 9.30am - 5pm daily


10. Balik Kampung

Looking to give your child an experience that is wholesome and different from modern city life? Head down to Balik Kampung (meaning “going back home” in Malay), the flagship community programme of Ground-Up Initiative (GUI), a volunteer-driven non-profit organisation. Get your hands dirty by chipping in to help build a sustainable kampong through activities that revolve around the themes of community building and sustainable living.


Together with their kids, parents can participate in activities such as weeding, watering and working on the farming plots, harvesting fruits and vegetables, strengthening river embankments, preparing lunch for volunteers and some carpentry work. Volunteer sessions are every Saturday between 8.45am and 2pm and every Wednesday between 9.45am and 3pm. Sign up via HERE.


Address: 91 Lorong Chencharu, Singapore 769201 


11. Farmart Centre


Farmart Centre houses a collection of shops, a farmers’ market, petting zoo and food outlets serving local fare. On weekends, get up close to farm animals such as goats, bull frogs, tortoises, rabbits, birds, fishes and hamsters at the Weekend Animal Farm Corner.


The animals are all free to visit but if your kids wish to feed the farm animals as well as the koi in the Koi Pond, then food is available for purchase at $5 for a bundled package of feed.


Website: farmart.com.sg
Address: 67 Sungei Tengah Road Singapore 699008
Opening Hours: Food Outlets: 10am–10pm (Sun–Thu); 10am–12am (Fri, Sat, PH) | Contact shops for specific operating hours

12. Jurong Railway Line


Many have heard of the Green Corridor but few have explored the now defunct Jurong Railway Line. The Jurong Railway Line is the sibling of the main railway line that stretched from Woodlands to Tanjong Pagar. It had branched out from the former Bukit Timah Railway Station near King Albert Park and extended 20km to Jurong Industrial Estate. One of the landmarks of the Jurong Railway Line is the rusty truss bridge near Sunset Way.


Sunset Way is a good starting point for exploring the Jurong Railway Line. To get to the Jurong Railway Line, enter via the intersection of Sunset Way and Clementi Street 14. The three train tunnels and a community farm at Clementi Avenue 4 are waiting to be discovered alongside the sweet allure of a rural Singapore that is virtually nonexistent today.


Address: No specific entry point, but I recommend entering the Jurong Railway Line via the intersection of Sunset Way and Clementi Street 14


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Enjoyed this post? My book comes out in less than 2 weeks, and it is the most important book in the world and will change your life for the better. Without it, you will feel incomplete and lost whenever the weekends and public holidays come along.


Okay, so maybe I exaggerate when I say Got Kids, Go Where? is the most important book in the world. BUT I'm not kidding when I say the book contains brand new 50 chapters - each consisting 10 listings - which works out to a whopping 500 family-friendly activities! So pre-order yours today!

Link: www.armourpublishing.com/product/got-kids-go-where-pre-orders


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May 20, 2015

Eighth time’s the Charm for Cold Storage Kids Run 2015

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This year's Cold Storage Kids Run was into its eight edition, and it was the first time that everyone in the family agreed unanimously that this was the best organised one yet.


In case you didn't know, Ash holds the distinction in the family of being the only one who has been running in every single Cold Storage Kids Run since its inception in 2008. And seeing how the venue has changed from the Padang and F1 Pit Building to The Meadows, Gardens by the Bay over the years, I have to say I prefer the current location for its wide open spaces and non-claustrophobic surroundings.

For starters, this year's run had actually reduced the total number of participants from 6,000 to 5,000 so that the venue do not get too overcrowded.


The carpark at The Meadows was also closed this year, and incorporated into the running route which saw a markedly improved running experience. The width at hot spots was doubled to reduce bottlenecks and other parts of the route had also been changed to ease the flow of runners.

The result? Ash and Ayd comfortably completed their 1.6km runs and added yet another finisher's medal to their collection - even though all of us had to wake up at 6am (ugh!!!) for their run.


As for Ale's run, I was once again the designated running companion.


Our first Dad & Daughter ‪run last year‬ was cruelly cut short by a massive downpour last year and even though she still collected a medal last year for her efforts, it was just not the same.

So for this year, this little Diva was determined to finish the entire 800m all on her own.


As usual, she was so quick off the blocks in the beginning that I could barely keep up with her. Fatigue soon set in by the halfway mark though, and she slowed to a walking pace. But she soon perked up when she saw her brothers and Mummy cheering in the distance!


Nothing like some encouragement from your loved ones to lift one's spirits!

Photo courtesy of David, Life's Tiny Miracles
From then on, she did not look back as she chugged all the way to the finish line.


Her first-ever 800m that she completed all on her own - and she celebrated the achievement by going on a whirlwind mission to snap photos of her posing with all mascots in the shortest possible time. Lol.


One of the major complaints from parents when it comes to kids runs is the looooong waiting time that the kids are kept in the holding tents just before their respective races. This was also one of my main bugbear for last year's edition where Ale and I waited in the holding area for close to 40 minutes before we could run. Multiply this by the huge number of 2 to 4 year olds who were being cooped up as well and you can probably imagine how much crankiness was involved.

This year's edition was completely the opposite. Everything ran like clockwork and each race category was flagged off on the dot, ensuring that all of the races started on time. In fact, Ale's race category was scheduled to start at 8.45am and by 9.05am, we were all done and ready to head home!


So yes, we will definitely be back for the ninth edition!


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May 18, 2015

A Sampling of Got Kids, Go Where? Book

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Before I say anything else, allow me to thank you for supporting me and reading my blog. Some of you have been faithful readers for the past 10.5 years while some of you have recently stumbled onto my work, and I truly want to thank every single one of you.

Come end of May, I will officially be known as an author as well when my book, Got Kids, Go Where? is released. The book will reveal 50 chapters of stuff to do with kids in Singapore, each chapter listing 10 activities bursting with fun. Yes, that is a whopping 500 family-friendly activities for you to take your pick from, from play, heritage, nature, eating places to even short trips out of Singapore.


Overall, this book is an extension of how my blog has evolved over the past years. The activities and attractions are grouped according to themes, with the 7 main sections in the book being PLAY, NATURE & SPORTS, EAT & SHOP, ARTS & HERITAGE, TRAVEL with 2 bonus sections of OUR FAVOURITE SPOTS REVEALED! and MORE ACTIVITIES REVEALED!

Some of the chapters in the book include the following:

Top 10 Extreme Adrenaline Rush Experiences
Top 10 Water Parks
Top 10 Nature Boardwalks
Top 10 Cycling, Scooting and Blading Trails
Top 10 Cafes in Parks
Top 10 Seaside Dining
Top 10 Supper Places
Top 10 Cultural Attractions
Top 10 Places to Learn About Singapore
Top 10 Day Trips out of Singapore
Top 10 Night Experiences
Top 10 Digital Thrills

These 12 chapters only represent a fraction of the 50 chapters in the book and each listing in the book have been specially picked for its family-friendly nature.

Each activity and attraction has been given a cheekiemonkie rating ranging from 1 to 5, with 5 being the most awesome on the scale. This is also where my kids come into the picture. Together with them, we rated all 500 entries and even chose the best of the lot (otherwise known as the RAVE!) in each chapter.


Okay, I may be biased but I love the layout of the book!

But seriously, penning this book had taken me close to 5 months of research - dragging the monkies to some place every single weekend to take down notes and photos.

So if you have found some of our sharing on this blog useful all these while, I will greatly appreciate it if you would show further support by buying my book. It is retailing for only $16.90 for 500 activities - that's 3.38 cents per activity! - so it's darn worth it if you ask me! :P

The pre-ordering phase of the book has already begun and you can place your order for a copy (or two) here: www.armourpublishing.com/product/got-kids-go-where-pre-orders/

I know the postage is kind of on the steep side but unfortunately, that is out of my hands as the book is 352-page thick (AHA! Yet another value for money reason to buy!). There is a sweetener for those who pre-order the book though: EVERY COPY of Got Kids, Go Where? ordered during the 8 to 29 May 2015 will be automatically entered into the Pre-order Lucky Draw - one copy one chance! - where you can stand a chance to win one out of over 50 prizes!


All of the prizes consist of places that are featured in the book and they include:

Abrakadoodle: One 5-day Abrakadoodle holiday camp
Abrakadoodle: One 3-day Abrakadoodle holiday camp
Abrakadoodle: One trial class
ArtScience Musuem:  One Family Package (2A&2C) All-Access pass
Forest Adventure: One pair of Kids Course tickets
Gardens by the Bay: One set of 4 Local Resident Flower Dome + Cloud Forest tickets (2A&2C)
Happy Willow: One goodie bag (totebag, notebook, bag tag, color pencils & entry pass)
heART Studio: One single Art Program
Hokey Pokey: One Family Pass
InterContinental Hotel: One $100 dining voucher at Man Fu Yuan
LOST SG: One set of 4 tickets
NOOK DIY Pancakes: One $30 voucher
Sentosa: 2 Adult and 2 Child tickets to BBQ under the Stars at Port of Lost Wonder
Sentosa: One pair of Wings of Time premium seats tickets
Singapore Flyer: One Friends of Singapore Flyer individual annual membership
Skyline Luge Sentosa: One set of family 4 ride tickets

*Some sponsors listed have more than one giveaway per prize item.

And if it helps, your pre-order copy will come autographed too! Pre-orders will close on 29 May 2015, and copies of the book will officially be stocked in bookstores like Popular and Kinokuniya by the first week of June 2015.

Frankly, I am excited, nervous, scared and thrilled for a host of different reasons. I am eternally grateful to have been offered the once-in-a-lifetime chance to write a book.

Regardless of any outcome, I’m proud of the book in large part because my wife and monkies have seen me working my socks off with countless late nights to pen all 50 chapters. Through the course of bringing this book into reality, I hope I have shown my kids how awesome and fulfilling it is to do what you love in life and to get lost in work that you love.

BUT...

Being able to share the wondrous activities that Singapore has to offer to families still rocks SO... do buy or pre-order the book, yah? :)


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May 15, 2015

A Ribena Recipe so Easy, Kids can Join In!

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Ah, Ribena!

The only cordial that held a special place in my heart while growing up was Ribena. It was always good, thirst quenching deliciousness and drilled inside me - thanks to my mother - that blackcurrants are one of nature’s richest source of Vitamin C.

Did you know that Ribena’s name is derived from ‘Ribes Negrum’, the Latin word for blackcurrant? Now that I am a parent myself, I have no qualms continuing the tradition of giving Ribena to my monkies - since not only is it made from 100% New Zealand Blackcurrants, it is rich in Vitamin C and contains no artificial colour, flavour or sweetener!

The purple colour of the cordial comes from the blackcurrants' fruit skin (or Anthocyanin for you scientific people out there) and in fact, no matter whether you are drinking a ready-to-drink Ribena Tetra pack, Cheerpack or Sparkling version, each Ribena pack meets 100% of the Children’s Daily Requirement of Vitamin C.


Personally though, I still prefer making my own Ribena drink from cordial and it seems that the monkies agree with me too!


Okay, so I suspect the real reason of them preferring the cordial over the ready-to-drink ones is the flexibility of the blackcurrant concentrate... especially since after I told them they had the opportunity to whip up a storm in the kitchen using Ribena as one of the ingredients!

Somehow, the kitchen never fails to remain as a fascinating place for the monkies. But I can understand why. Cooking and/or baking are fantastic activities for kids to learn and practice a whole range of skills. Plus it gives them the opportunity to learn about food and create good eating habits as part of a balanced lifestyle through the growing years.

So if you are looking to introduce your kids to the world of cooking and baking, making Ribena Blackcurrant Berries Jam will probably be one of the easiest recipes to get the little ones started. For starters, the ingredients are extremely fuss-free to obtain:

200g blueberries, stemmed & rinsed
40g fine sugar
1½  cups Ribena Blackcurrant Fruit Cordial Drink
1½ tablespoons water chestnut flour

Firstly, weigh out 200g of blueberries. Remember to pick all the stalks and give them a good rinse.



Next add in ½ cup Ribena Blackcurrant Fruit Cordial Drink.


Pour in 40g of fine sugar.


Finally, transfer the mixture into a ziploc bag and refrigerate it for about 8 hours.


Yes, the wait can be so agonizing for the monkies. LOL.

Once the 8 hours are up, combine the chilled sugar blue berries and 1 cup of  Ribena cordial in a deep sauce pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat, while stirring constantly.


In a separate bowl, mix 1½ tablespoons of water chestnut flour with 3 tablespoons of Ribena Cordial. If you do not know what water chestnut flour is, this is how the packaging looks like.


We got ours from Phoon Huat, though I believe some large supermarkets like FairPrice sell them too.

Mix in the Ribena cordial chestnut flour mixture into the pot and return to boil. Lower heat and let everything simmer for 20 minutes, or until the skins of the blueberries become tender and the mixture thickens.

Transfer the thickened jam into a jar and there you have it - Ribena Blackcurrant Berries Jam!


Frankly, this is one super easy recipe to get the kids working in the kitchen. And the best part? The monkies have been requesting the jam to go with their bread almost every morning!


Looks like we may have to make another batch of jam really soon. Either that, or I have to search online for other creative ways to incorporate Ribena Cordial into equally fun and simple recipes for kids!


Stay tuned for our new creations!


For more updates on Singapore's number one cordial, follow Ribena Singapore's Facebook page!


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