There are an extraordinary amount of things to do with children in Singapore. Finding fun things to do on rainy afternoons or on days when it’s just too hot to go out can sometimes be hard, but some of the options below should help….especially if it grows as people share their favourites too.
How about mini golf on the East Coast? A theatrical course at Centrestage? Learn tennis at Tots Tennis, football at Soccertots, ballet at Loewen Gardens or just some good, old fashioned splashing about on the beach at Sentosa? Aquarium? Zoo? Luge? Universal? The list is endless but here’s a start….
SOL PLAYGROUND CAFE
200 Turf Club Road (#01-21)
T+65 6467 8681
Where am I? Turf City
What am I? Cheap and cheerful weekday fun for ages toddler to 3
A lovely little café at the taxi stand end of Turf city, close to Art Boot Camp. A really nice place to hang out for a couple of hours. They make a good coffee and have reasonably priced children’s food. But that isn’t why you will go. There is a charming indoor play area; a soft area, slide, trampoline and lovely little library of books and toys for little people and free wireless internet for big people. It is simple, rustic and sweet…and for the price of a cup of coffee your little person can jump about under your vaguely watchful eye. It is a calm and kind place that is a great stop off treat/bribe to ensure good behaviour if you are trailing toddlers around the supermarket next door. BTW: it is also great if you have more than one child – while one is at tots tennis/art boot camp/soccer tots etc, you can have some quality time with the other in close proximity.
Opening hours: 10.30am – 8.30pm Mon – Fri, 8.30am – 9.30pm Weekends
ART BOOT CAMP
200 Turf Club Road (#01-23A)
T: (+65) 6469 5525/5535
Also in the East Coast:
313 Tanjong Katong Road
T: (+65) 6346 1110 / 6348 1110 (East Coast)
Where am I? Turf City and East Coast
What am I? Great birthday party venue, serious kids play that won’t break the bank
A fabulous outfit that is significantly less military than it sounds. A great place for kids’ birthday parties and one off events but also fantastic courses available during term time and holidays. Children from as young as 3 are encouraged to find their inner Da Vinci while those aged 5-12 really get to explore different artistic methods. Well run, if a little expensive, but if you suspect that your child may be a budding artist this is a great place to get them challenged and really boost self confidence in growing abilities with their kind and knowledgeable staff/in house artists. There is a great teacher/child ratio (1:5), sign up for 10 classes and (based on a class for a 3 year old) it will cost you $370. BTW: The East Coast outfit is in a ground floor shophouse unit, next to Canadian International School.
Opening Times: Weekly classes run from 1.15pm-6.30pm Tues-Fri. Closed Mon. 9am-6.30pm Sat, 9am-12.30pm Sun
TUESDAY MORNING PLAYGROUP AT ST. GEORGE’S CHURCH
T: (+65) 6473 2877
They run a free and very sweet ‘helpers’ day’ every Tuesday (there are breaks for holidays) which runs for one hour from 10am-11am. Helpers and their wards enjoy music and singing, as well as lots of playing in the church hall at the back. Good for children up to about four. If you are new to Singapore and/or have a new baby, St. George’s also runs a very over subscribed Mother & Baby group every Monday morning – contact Isabelle Woods for more details.
Opening Times: 10am-11am Tuesdays
200 Turf Club Road
#04-05 Turf City
T: +65 6469 5069
Where am I? Turf City
What am I? Slightly terrifyingly huge indoor play area
An enormous indoor play area in Turf City. What was once an old racecourse now houses various activities and stores for the whole family including a rather run down Giant (good value French hypermarche), Sol (which is a lovely café with playroom – see write up above), Art Boot Camp, Tots Tennis, Soccertots and many more. Fidgets is a great place to go when the weather is dreadful or anytime during the week when your little people need to run off steam in a safe, enclosed environment. While fidgets is pretty safe (most of the play area is padded and you can watch your little monkeys on screens in the café that transmit video from various cameras throughout), it is worth really keeping an eye on them. The place really is quite big, especially if your child is between 2 ½ and 4, as you can guarantee they want to play in the big kids area and will quickly become lost in a spot that undoubtedly the cameras won’t be focused on at that precise moment. The sheer volume of children can add to the hectic feel of the place and so avoid weekends. Actually if you have children younger than 2 ½ it is also a good place to go as there is a smaller and more confined area with balls and a little area for cars and ride-ons. BTW: Don’t forget socks for you plus small people.
Opening Times: 9am-6pm daily
Block 8 (#01-15)
T: (+65) 64744176
Where am I? Dempsey
What am I? Well run, if slightly overrun, indoor play area and cafe with wifi and nail salon
A smaller, darker and slightly more refined version of Fidgets (not related). This curiously named joint (nothing to do with go-go dancing) is actually rather a rainy day rescue, offering ball pits, climbing frames and soft sided slides situated in the heart of Dempsey, this place is a little goldmine for rainy days and getting out of the house to run off steam. An indoor soft-play area with three levels, it feels more manageable than Fidgets and is probably better for younger children (2-6). Weekends of course are busy, as well as Thursday and Friday afternoons but weekday mornings are often fabulously quiet. Have a perfectly decent coffee that won’t break the bank and if you get there early enough you may be able to bag a seat with a good view of your little darlings as they run riot. Children get to bring in their accompanying adult for free so for the cost of $15 you can get in out of the sun or rain for a good few hours (no time limit on stay vs Royce – see later entry). The food served in the café is not bad either and they have a good selection of fruit and healthier options. They do children’s favourites as well as pretty good adult fare (salads are not bad, plus sandwiches). If you find yourself there at the end of the day, it is quite a nice place for an early family supper too – you can even order a well deserved glass of wine. The childrens’ portions (particularly of fish and chips) are fine for sharing if you have kids under 4. BTW: If you book ahead it is also a great place to get a manicure or pedicure while the kids are playing – read a magazine, drink a coffee, check your emails using their free wifi, get your nails done and have the kids happily running about at the same time – heaven!
Opening Times: 10am-5.45pm Sun-Thu; 10am-7.45pm Fri & Sat
Clementi Arcade (# 01-01)
41 Sunset Way
T: (+65) 6465 4481
Where I am? Clementi
What am I? A very sweet accompanied (and drop off) playgroup
Playdays runs very sweet accompanied classes that all children seem to adore (6 months-3 ½ years). Songs are disgustingly catchy, parents really are present vs a huge majority of helpers (just try going to Gymboree and seeing how many parents you meet) and teachers seem really rather genuine. After signing up for a term it works out to be around $35 for an hour and a half’s accompanied class, but it’s padded rooms offer serious respite from having to watch your child every minute (teachers are hands on which means you can almost get away with only watching them every other minute). Good selection of toys and a great variety of themes depending on term time. They also run a very pricey drop-off service from around $70 per morning (vs the usual $50 most other nurseries seem to charge). Good if you live locally, rather pointless if you don’t, as once you covered transport to and from Clementi if you live the other side of town, you won’t see much change from $100 a day. Yikes!
Opening Times: Dependent on class times, call for more information
HIP KIDS CLUB
Forum Shopping Centre (L2)
583 Orchard Road
T: (+65) 6732 2469/79
Where am I? Forum Shopping Mall, Orchard
What am I? Free, well almost, kids playground
This is a real hidden gem and only costs $15 A YEAR to join, so well worth doing even if you only go once (cheaper than a trip to Royce already!). It’s the indoor Julia Gabriel playground that is open to members of the Forum’s very own Hip Kids Club when the school is not in session. Learn their opening times by rote. Kids around 1 ½-3 tend to get the most out of it (although they say on their website that it’s for kids under 12 which is more than a little ambitious).
Opening Times: 11am-1pm, 4.30pm-8pm Mon-Fri; 10.30am-1pm, 2pm-5pm, 6pm-8pm Sat & Sun
BUM BOAT RIDE
Liang Court Jetty
177 River Valley Road
T: (+65) 6336 6111/6119
Where am I? Just off River Valley (Liang Court)
What am I? Cheesy boating bonanza
The jetty is located at the back of Liang Court, by the car park entrance, but you can pick a boat up from a number of other piers – see website for more details. Deliciously puerile (so only really recommended with kids in tow) it chugs across the river to the various different stops, with a rather garish American voiceover telling you bits of local history. The Merlion is the highlight of the tour before you head back the way you’ve come. Covers Robertson Quay, Clarke Quay and Boat Quay and will set you back $15 for the 30 minute ride (children under 3 go free, otherwise it’s $8). BTW: If you are clever, rather than doing a straight forward round trip, park your car in the Esplanade, go for breakfast at The Fullerton, walk to the Merlion to catch the bum boat across to Clarke Quay, where you can hop off for a ramble in Royce Gym or a romp in the water fountains within the Clarke Quay complex (if they are on that is). Then, when you are ready, catch the boat back to the Merlion, walk over the bridge to the Esplanade, and head for home.
Opening Times: first boat ride is at 9am; the last leaves at 10.30pm, runs daily
KUNG FU KIDS/YOGA KIDS/WUSHU FOR KIDS/CHINESE FAN DACING/KIDS STUNT WORK
Ch’i Life Studio
Orchard Hotel Shopping Arcade (#02-13)
T: (+65) 6735 8812
What am I? Kung Fu Panda eat your heart out
Where am I? Orchard
Ch’i Life is THE martial arts academy in Singapore – the founding master (Robin Leong) has even starred in action dramas you never have heard of (Triple Nine and The Challenge)…but…we are impressed. They run really well thought of kids classes (Kung Fu Kids is legendary) and since they opened here in 2002 Ch’i Life is now also in Shanghai, Beijing and America – which means that worldwide, there are a staggering 3,800 children currently enrolled in his Kung Ku Kids fitness programme. Masses of classes to choose from means there must be one out there to suit. Most are package deals based on 10 or 12 sessions, but they do offer a trial class (around $35 depending on the activity). There are age limits to some classes – the ‘kids stunt work’ class, you will be relieved to hear, is not suitable for children under 6 (don’t they mean 16?!); children participating in wushu need to be 3 and above (phew) and Fan dancing – sorry boys! – is for girls aged 6-12 years old only.
Opening Times: Dependant on class times – see website for details. Open daily
THE LUGE AND/OR SKYRIDE
T: (+65) 1800 736 8672
What am I? Cross between a go-cart and a toboggan
Where am I? Sentosa
Pass through the sentosa toll, turn right at the roundabout and follow all purple signs to Imbiah. They say online that the luge is safe for all ages but in actual fact, they won’t let your little one on a luge with you unless they are 85cm or above. The luge is a lot like a go-cart really, and has a steering and braking system that let’s you be in full control. The course is 650m long and it takes around 10 minutes to get down it (based on someone driving with a 2 year old on board – so slowly). A huge success and very reassuring for parents who can drive it as fast or as slowly as your passenger requires. The only problem is that the end of the luge is miles away from the starting point, so to get back to your car (presuming you have one), you need to take the skyride (buy a combi ticket for both the luge and skyride – they don’t make it clear you can’t really do one without the other if you need to get back to where you started out). Luge & skyride combo $11pp, if you want to go on the luge twice, it’s $16 pp. BTW: The only huge problem we encountered is that the skyride is not as wizzy as it sounds and is actually only a chairlift with only the usual up/down bar to keep you safe. This is not good for a wriggling 2 year old who was not allowed to sit on our knees (would have been safer if they had been able to) and was made to occupy his own space on the 4 man chair. Petrifying as it charts serious heights and was totally unsuitable. Do not begin to attempt the skyride if you would not take your little one on a chairlift. The luge however is v much recommended and fun for children for all ages.
Opening Times: 10am-9.30pm daily
SINGAPORE ART MUSEUM (SAM)
T: (+65) 6332 3222
Inspirational modern art gallery with acres of space but half of which seems perpetually under refurbishment – call first to check what exhibitions are running. They have an excellent children’s month that runs annually for most of July and August. It’s perfect for three year olds and above, with lots of things to do, see and touch. BTW: If you are poster shopping, there are none for sale here. Instead, you can buy your very own canvas reproduction of your favourite painting hanging in the gallery’s vast permanent collection. It will be churned out by, quite possibly, the most expensive printer in the world, while you wait. Only a limited selection of paintings to choose from and the sizing is indiscriminate so for real authenticity, choose carefully. Prices are steep, but be sure to get it stretched over a frame elsewhere (you can do it here, but it’ll cost substantially more).
The iconic semi circular building always displays something rather random out front, be it a giant blow up bunny (as pictured) or a ‘kissing corner’ (May 2011). You never know what it is going to be. Your trip here will be made all the more enjoyable thanks to the fabulously easy over ground parking which has limited spaces but never seems to be full. Pop in to the scrumptious and stylish Food for Thought cafe which is just around the corner on Queen Street (the road running down the right hand side of the gallery as you are looking at it.) See EAT ME, DRINK ME Brek/Brunch/Coffee & Tea Joints as well as the review under Lunch.
Opening Times: 10am-7pm Sat-Thu; 10am-9pm Fri
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SINGAPORE
93 Stamford Road
T: (+65) 6332 3659/5642
What am I? Culture, baby
Where am I? Top of Bras Basah Road or the back of Fort Canning – depending which entrance you take. An iconic building
Described as the latest cultural icon, there is nothing stuffy about this museum with its swinging red chandeliers and living food gallery with all the sites, sounds and smells (yes really) of local food. Great menu explanations before a hawker centre trip.
Opening Times: Singapore History Gallery: 10am-6pm daily; Singapore Living Galleries: 10am-8pm daily. Free admission: 6pm-8pm daily
JACOB BALLAS CHILDREN’S GARDEN
1 Cluny Road
T: (+65) 6465 0196
A sweet place to go for the afternoon…especially if you have grandparents in tow who think Singapore is all about air conditioned playgrounds inside malls (do Royce Gym and The Forum when they’ve gone then). Part of the Botanical Gardens, Jacob Ballas boasts a proper tree house – formed within a lovely old Indian banyan tree – there is also a little sensory garden, a vegetable patch, a great water play area with fountains (if the water’s off when you arrive, you need to press the button on the red post to get it started again) and a huge sand pit with a futuristic flying saucer roundabout and an icecream scoop tractor, among other things. Bring sunhats – it can be scorching before 4pm – as well as swim stuff and buckets etc for water play. Don’t even think about coming here without mosquito spray too – it is infamous for being a place that you get bitten to bits. There’s a cafe here for tea, but the menu’s not great. It does, however, do good icecreams, so we advise doing children’s tea backwards on the days you visit…..have pud here before heading home for the main event. BTW: Reassuringly, adults are only allowed in to the Children’s Garden with a child in tow. The garden is designed for children 12 and under and is free of charge. The Botanic Gardens are also a great place for little ones to run around and let off steam, feed the turtles or watch the swans swimming, and are open from 5am- 12midnight daily.
Opening Times: 8am-7pm (last admission 6.30pm). Closed Mon (except when it falls on a designated public holiday)
85 Lorong Tawas (off Jalan Bahar)
T: (+65) 6265 5808 or 6268 6121
What am I? Potty about pottery
Where am I? Quite far out but worth the trip
Better known as Pottery Jungle, this place is an Aladdin’s Cave for Mummy, while little Johnny does one of their hands on children’s pottery programmes. All creations – even yours – are baked in their huge, twisting ‘dragon kiln’, shaped like the snaking body of a dragon – one of the longest kilns in existence apparently, and quite a sight to behold. Call for details on class times and recommended ages. They do also run adult pottery courses.
Opening Times: 9am-5pm daily
Forum The Shopping Mall (#B1-24)
583 Orchard Road
T: (+65) 6238 6331
What I am: Baby, toddler & child gym
Where am I: Forum; Central
Holding its head up proudly, the Little Gym has been here for years and is a great way to let your little one let off steam. Classes start from 4 months (movement, music, exploration etc) but ramp up to proper gym classes around 3 years. They also offer a martial arts as well as a sports skills programme. Prices vary and are based on terms. They also have a branch at Marina Square (T: (+65) 6336 9734).
Opening Times: 9am-7pm Mon-Fri & Sun; 8am-7pm Sat
ROYCE KIDS GYM
177 River Valley Road
T: (+65) 6720 1111
Where am I? Just off River Valley
What am I? An incredible toy box
Has been around for 2+ years, but the huge, padded playroom that they seem to insist on referring to as a gym is pretty fresh and clean – as long as you arrive when the doors open (10am). Despite the fact that they shut between 12.30pm-1pm for a clean up, it can get pretty hectic with toys scattered everywhere if you are here in the late morning or afternoon. They have a great selection of gear, a lot of it from ELC (so you know where your joining fee of $50 per annum has gone). But they are not mean and have toys galore that really do appeal to all ages, from 3 months ‘til 5 years old. At our last count, there were 5 mini kitchens, 12 hanging swings, 4 ‘tree’ houses etc. You get the picture. Great for a rainy morning, but expensive when you consider that the Forum Playround is a flat $15 a year, with no hourly charge. Besides the Royce $50 annual membership fee, they charge $12 for an hour of free play, per child (as is the annual fee). They also run a variety of classes – see website for details. BTW: Don’t forget socks for both you and your brood – or you’ll have to buy theirs. TOP TIP: L.C FU LI HUA FOOT REFLEXOLOGY CENTRE (#B1; T: (+65) 6339 0787) is a godsend if you are having a lazy-Mummy day. Just deliver your child plus helper to Royce, before sneaking off for a foot massage. Just make sure you’ve called ahead and booked your appointment time and also checked that Royce IS actually open and that they are not closed for a birthday party….
Opening Times: 10am-6pm Mon-Thu; Fri-Sat 10am-8pm; Sun 10am-7pm
Central Mall (#B1-54/55)
6 Eu Tong Sen Street
T: (+65) 6238 5178
A fabulous find in the basement of the Central Mall. We have put it in here because if you are in the Central Mall it is a great place for a stop off. If you have really tiny people they will love watching the crazy coloured candy being pulled and twisted. Older kids can be bribed with a trip for good behaviour! This franchise of the well-known Australian company is as much about eye candy as the actual tooth rotting variety. Get there after midday and you will almost certainly get a chance to see these extraordinary artisans at work, pulling the fantastically coloured hot sugar into beautiful rock in a myriad of different colours and flavours. The watermelon is our favourite, hotly pursued by the endless possibilities of bespoke rock with your name embossed in the centre.
Opening Times: 10am-10pm daily
Millennia Walk (#01-95-98)
9 Raffles Boulevard
T: (+65) 6336 2968
Retro sweets – remember Curly Wurlys, sherbet dipdabs and popping candy? – nestled next to the latest sensation…not a charmingly old fashioned sweet shop by any stretch, in fact rather commercial in feel, but a great selection of old-style and modern stock. Willy Wonker meets the 21st century. Included here as there are chains across the island and it makes for a great bribery stop if they’ve behaved well!
Opening Times: 10.30am-9pm daily
STAR DAZZLE CONCEPTS
T: (+65) 9366 7156
Great entertainment package for children’s parties. The clown (Captain Dazzle) is a very friendly balloon man who still smiles despite repeated requests from the same child for the same balloon he just made them only moments ago….Jenny is face painter extraordinaire and comes complete with her strawberry hat. Very much recommended.
MY SIMPLE HABITS
Changi Airport T3
THIS HAS NOW SHUT. WE ARE LOOKING FOR THEM AT A NEW, AND, HOPEFULLY EQUALLY WEIRD LOCATION BUT NO NEWS YET. If you want to let your little person loose behind the wheel of a ride-on car in a less Grand Prix style setting, look no further than Ghim Moh market. The cars are set up at the far side of the wet market, by the playground, at weekends only. All have dual controls (child is in the driving seat but parent has remote control; sounds pretty much like a comment on child rearing/parenting) but the little people don’t notice that they are not 100% in charge. Perfect for ages 3-5 and costs around $4 for 10 minutes, depending on what size and style of car you go for.
We know……..this is TOTALLY insane. Who on earth would head to the basement of an airport for a day out? It’s mind bendingly weird but a totally rocking wet afternoon filler if you have a little person in the 2-4 age range and are sick of all the usual suggestions and places….
Come here for a low-key and wonderfully good value version of Kids Grand Prix. Within the B2 carpark of T3, it’s right by the entrance to the airport and is called MY SIMPLE HABITS. Come and ride on giant giraffe cars with the help of Mummy or Daddy (nothing particularly amazing about that) or, providing you are aged 2-5, take your very own motorised car out for a race around the track, alone. Choose from Harley bikes, jeeps and a whole host of others. Prices depend on the car, but start from $3-$7. If your child is a bit of a whimp, or a terrible driver (turned out our kids were both) there is actually a remote controlled car you can put them in, which worked wonders ($6 for 10 minutes).
Once the fun is over, go into the airport. We know….but read on. Apart from there being masses of open space to run about in, none of the shops will charge you GST for anything you buy, even though you are not flying anywhere. Prada sunglasses at the Sunglasses Hut feel like a bargain and there is even a Fairprice supermarket here too – all in the basement of the airport, and all tax free (bar Fairprice which is identically pried to all their other outlets).
As you walk along there are various kids break out areas (nothing particularly of note) including a water feature and a little play area. There is also a giant slide (great for older children). What IS interesting that next to the playground there is a reflexology/beauty place which is perfect for Mummy while Daddy/helper watches the children.
If you’re feeling peckish and it’s teatime for small people, take the lift up to Departures at level 3. Head towards the escalator at the far side and go up towards yet more shops and restaurants. There is a Crystal Jade to your left but the one you are looking for is SAKE TEPPANYAKI (T: 6242 6378). Order their Boston Lobster Set ($50 for two people). Kids can eat various bit from it including the delicious fried rice, or choose them something else from their a la carte menu. As you would expect, you sit around the teppanyaki station and watch the skilled chefs cooking it before your eyes…little people are glued – it’s like real-life television and they wolfed down huge helpings without realising it. Go….but make sure you don’t bring any visitors with you, as they’ll think you are barking mad!
Opening Times for My Simple Habits: 11am-10pm daily
Things we haven’t yet had time to write up:
Centre Stage – the onlydrama and arts workshops really worth doing – truly talented teachers and great black and white building location.
Mini golf on the East Coast
Zoo & Night Safari – obvious but brilliant