The best places and fun ways your children can learn about Singapore’s history, culture and heritage BY SANDHYA MAHADEVAN
LEE KONG CHIAN NATIONAL HISTORY MUSEUM
Opened in 2015, this houses over 2,000 specimens that trace the evolution of the biodiversity native to Singapore and Southeast Asia to what we see around us today. The museum is divided into 16 zones, with themes ranging from plants to mammals, including – this will grab children’s attention – dinosaurs. Expect to see remains of Singapore’s only known sperm whale (top) and leatherback turtle among others. Visit lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg for details.
DAIRY FARM NATURE PARK
Dab on insect repellent and explore some of Singapore’s most hidden nature resources. At Dairy Farm Nature Park, children will come face to face with many of Singapore’s freshwater flora and fauna – which you can explore either by foot or cycle through. The area itself has an interesting history: English naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, a contemporary of Charles Darwin, set up camp here to collect samples for his research on the theory of evolution. You can get a glimpse of his findings by exploring Wallace Trail and the Education Centre he set up. Every Saturday, the park also holds nature workshops that parents and children can bond over. Visit www.nparks.gov.sg/eguides to chart your own DIY trail.
It's ironic that as the world gets more and more modern, we find ourselves revisiting our forefathers’ ways when it comes to saving the earth from a certain destruction? And thanks to kampung life, our grandparents probably know more than a thing or two about the earth from a grassroots level. At Wow Kampung, your children can get an education on ways to live sustainably and get a sense of what kampung life was like through crafts and activities. Come September, it's harvesting season and families can participate in the process in a kind of farm to table tracing of the food we eat today. Held In the 26,000 sq m Kampung Kampus, children will learn hands-on about our soil, basic gardening and harvesting and enjoy a meal made from the fruits of their labour. Visit wowkampung.com and groundupinitiative. org for details.
MINT MUSEUM OF TOYS
Five stones, marbles, chapteh… give your children a chance to see firsthand that a world of fun and toys existed before video games and remote control cars. The MINT Museum of Toys’ monthly “Guerilla” exhibition has a Singapore focus for July, where you can show off the toys you grew up with; reminisce about your first comic book or that plush toy you had to work hard in school to earn. The museum also holds a weekly Make & Play programme, which involves making a vintage toy after a tour of the museum’s archival collection. Visit www. emint.com for details.
SINGAPORE PUBLIC LIBRARIES
Did you know that the Sultan Mosque is a fusion of Islamic, Indian and European architectural styles? That Thian Hock Keng is the oldest Chinese temple in Singapore? There’s more such interesting trivia for kids about some of Singapore’s most iconic structures. The good news is that you don’t have to drag them from point to point to learn about them. “Building History: Monuments in Bricks and Blocks”, an exhibition by the National Heritage Board showcases miniature models of eight most iconic monuments in Singapore and offers detailed information and choice trivia on each. The best part? The models are all made of LEGO! On till the end of the year, the exhibition will travel to all Singapore’s Public libraries, so check its schedule first with email@example.com.
FORMER FORD FACTORY
This former Southeast Asian headquarters for the assembly of iconic American car model Ford, has seen more than car auto-parts in his history. It was once used by the Malayan Royal Air Force and then the Japanese and British to assemble war planes, military vehicles and more. While war history may not be on every parent’s agenda for their children, the history within the walls of this structure is an important part of Singapore’s heritage and a legacy every child should know about – including their country's former name given by the Japanese. Its permanent exhibition “Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies” features interactive elements and oral interviews, and a walk along the path taken by the surrendering troops will pique their interest. Visit www.nas.gov.sg/formerfordfactory
Do you hit a bakery at least once a week because your children love to gorge on cakes, croissants and puffs? The younger generation have probably little or no idea of traditional Singapore bread, and even less what the bakeries look like, because there are, unfortunately, very few of them around today. A tour of Disappearing Trades by Tribe Tours could then be enlightening as much as entertaining. These are private guided tours organised by a “tribe” of locals who are passionate about Singapore’s culture. Not just bread, the tour will take you to paper dollmaking houses, coffeeroasting companies, and more. Children will learn first-hand from local experts how traditional bread is made (how they taste as well!) and how much, or less, the coffee grounds need to be roasted for that perfect cup of kopi O. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes and pack lots of water. Visit www.tribetours.com
To know a country’s heritage and culture is to know its cuisine – rather savour it. We foodie Singaporeans know that only too well. At cooking school Food Playground children aged seven years and above can learn to cook some of Singapore’s culinary favourites – such as nasi lemak, Nyonya laksa, char kway teow and more – under the guidance of their expert resident chefs. They hold classes on weekday mornings – and you will learn to cook three dishes each day. Most of us have fond memories of cooking and baking with our mothers as a child. This is a surefire way to bond while adding some authentic Singapore flavour to the outing – plus, the classes are held in a pre-war shophouse in Chinatown. Not just that you will walk away with some interesting trivia on hawker food centres in Singapore. Visit www.foodplayground.com.sg for details.
We live in a time when complete movies are shot on smartphones, and while you may have a recollection of your dad’s box camera, your children have probably never seen one. Then there’s the concept of Black & White photography! Take your children on a trip down your memory lane with the “Amek Gambar (Taking Pictures): Peranakans and Photography” at the Peranakan Museum, on till February 2019. Not just the history of photography in Southeast Asia and the type of cameras and film developing techniques used, it gives very interesting insight into Peranakan culture, who are said to be the pioneers in using photography technology in Singapore. Other programmes running concurrently involve a DIY Photo Frame Kit where you can make your own studio portrait using the props stickers and decorative borders. Visit www.peranakanmuseum.org.sg for details.
CENTRAL PUBLIC LIBRARY
They say the best way to a person’s heart is through their stomach. In a slight variation, The Central Public Library is hosting two interactive sessions on July 21, between 2 to 5 pm, and food is a big part of it. One is a finger puppetmaking session made delicious. In other words, children will learn to design their own finger puppet inspired by local dishes such as satay, ang ku kueh or prata. Then at 4.30 pm, there will be an interactive story-telling session on the book ABCs of Singapore, which will (of course!) involve food as well. Not so much eating, but being food! Children get to dress up as local food favourites and relive moments in the story. Register at www.nlb.gov.sg/golibrary, and have a yummy time.
TEXT: SANDHYA MAHADEVAN / PHOTOS: THE RESPECTIVE ORGANISATIONS & 123RF.COM (BREADMAKER)