Fun ways to celebrate the Singapore spirit with kids
Two-year-old Emmanuel Wu attended the National Day Parade preview at the Marina Bay floating platform on July 23, along with his seven-year-old sister Emma Joy.
On Aug 9, they will still catch the parade on television, a family tradition dear to that their father Martin Wu, 41. "I still get goosebumps from watching the parade after all these years, whether it is at the venue or on TV," says the assistant vice-president in financial services.
Siblings Vaidhyav Harish, seven; Mayura, five; and Sahithya, three, are ready to sing along as they watch the parade at home. Their grandmother Visalam Krishnaswamy, 70, bought them matching "I Love Singapore" tees.
Over at author Evelyn Sue Wong's home, the National Day family tradition involves getting her granddaughters Elly Fearnley, seven, and Edith, five, to put up the national flag outside their home. "National Day is such a happy celebration for kids," says Wong, 72.
Here are ideas and activities to get the little ones in the spirit of patriotism all year round.
Own a piece of Singapore art
You might have seen local artist Ah Guo's whimsical illustrations on notebooks, files and roller pens at stationery shops and lifestyle stores.
The 51-year-old, whose real name is Lee Kow Fong, is known for his watercolour works depicting everyday scenes and people in Singapore. He has been sharing them regularly on Facebook and Instagram since the 2000s.
Every National Day since 2016, he keeps to his practice of releasing a new painting to pay tribute to the country. His piece this year is titled Super Red Dot.
More than 100 of his artworks have been turned into merchandise in the last four years. Besides stationery, the product range has expanded and now includes calendars, tote bags, cushion covers and jigsaw puzzles.
Prices range from $2 each for a plastic folder and a roller pen, while a 300-piece jigsaw puzzle set retails for $15.90.
"Art should be accessible to all, even for primary-school children," he tells The Straits Times. "I hope my work would bring a smile to their faces and strengthen their sense of patriotism."
Play at Peranakan-inspired indoor playground
Local icons such as the dragon, watermelon and pelican playgrounds grab your attention as soon as you enter. Why, even the Merlion is here.
Located at the HomeTeamNS Clubhouse in Khatib, T-Play stands out from other indoor playgrounds with a uniquely Singapore design.
It also takes pride in celebrating Singapore's Peranakan identity, working with Peranakan heritage home museum The Intan to incorporate cultural influences.
Look closely and you will see that the dragon-themed climbing slide tower is covered in Peranakan tile motifs, for example. The round floral wall murals are also reminiscent of Nonya needlework.
The indoor playground runs Peranakan-themed workshops for children regularly. Previous events include storytelling by Baba Alvin Yapp, founder of The Intan, as well as crafts such as manik beading and Peranakan tile painting.
Admission starts at $10 a session during off-peak hours for a child 12 years old and below plus a parent. It opens daily except Mondays.
To find out more and book a play slot, go here
Teach your kids heritage recipes
Former pre-school teacher Emily Yeo, 36, did not want her children to lose sight of heritage foods, which are slowly disappearing from home kitchens.
"I know my kids have had five servings of American buttermilk pancakes to every one serving of roti jala," she says of her daughter Emma Joy Wu, seven, and son Emmanuel, two. She welcomed a new baby boy last week.
So, she is stepping up to change their palates, by involving them in cooking local favourite treats with her.
Yeo, who runs culinary studio The Little Things, also recently launched The Little Book Of Singapore Food Illustrated. It features 26 recipes, including min jiang kueh, roti jala and vadai, with step-by-step instructions drawn by artist Benjamin Wang.
Yeo hopes the playful illustrations will pique children's interest in making the dishes with their parents. She also wanted the cookbook to serve as a picture book for kids to learn fun facts about foods that make up the Singaporean palate.
"My two-year-old son has been flipping through the pages and getting a good sense of how ondeh ondeh is made. I caught him rolling his own while playing with playdough," she adds.
Here, she shares the ondeh ondeh recipe from The Little Book Of Singapore Food Illustrated, published by Marshall Cavendish International. Get a copy for $25 at major bookstores.
- 6 pandan leaves, cleaned and cut into short lengths
- 3 Tbs water
- 140g sweet potato
- 6 Tbsp tapioca flour
- 1⁄4 tsp salt
- 4 Tbs gula melaka (palm sugar), chopped
- 60g skinned grated coconut
1. Place the pandan leaves in a blender with 3 Tbs of water and process. Strain to obtain 3 Tbs juice. Set aside.
2. Boil the sweet potato for about 20 minutes until it is soft. Drain and peel. Discard the skin. Mash in a bowl.
3. Add the pandan juice, tapioca flour and salt to the sweet potato. Knead to get a soft and smooth dough. It should not be sticky.
4. Divide the dough into six equal portions and roll each one into a ball.
5. Take a ball of dough and make a well in the centre. Spoon in some gula melaka and seal. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
6. Boil a pot of water and lower the balls in to cook. The balls will float when they are ready. Remove with a slotted spoon.
7. Mix the grated coconut with a pinch of salt. Steam for a few minutes. Roll the balls in the grated coconut. Enjoy.
Makes 12 balls
See the National Day Light-Up
Watch your kids' eyes glow as they see familiar landmarks in a different light.
Six historical and culturally significant buildings in the Bras Basah-Bugis precinct will be illuminated in stunning red-and-white light projections.
Four of them are national monuments - the National Museum of Singapore, Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, Central Fire Station and The Cathay. The other two are the National Design Centre and Stamford Arts Centre.
This is the National Day Light-Up's third year running. The buildings will be lit every night till Aug 27 from 7.30pm to midnight, with the exception of the National Museum of Singapore, which ends on Aug 10.
Bond over a hawker feast
You could take your kids all over Singapore in search of good local food or take them to the Magnifique Hawker Nights Buffet. Some of the most loved local hawkers are offering their signature fare at Kwee Zeen restaurant in Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort & Spa every Friday and Saturday from Aug 12.
Your children will love the tutu kueh from Du Du Cooked Food and sweet treats from Old Amoy Chendol and Rochor Original Beancurd, which are among the 15 brands taking part.
Other brands include Janggut Laksa, Old Original Serangoon Hokkien Mee, Ah Ma Lor Mee, Hong Seng Curry Rice and Mr Popiah.
In addition, there are spreads from the hotel team, such as beef cheek rendang, sambal seabass and tandoori chicken tikka.
Apart from making this a convenient one-stop destination for foodies, it is the hotel's way of supporting the hawkers. The buffet, which is expected to run till at least December, offers them a platform to earn a sustained income.
The all-you-can-eat spread is $138++ for two (usual price: $74++ a diner). Kids aged six to 11 pay $37++, while those five and below dine free. To find out more, go to str.sg/waFA
Read Singapore-themed children's book
What Ants Do On Stormy Days
By Sun Xueling and Josef Lee
Marshall Cavendish International/Paperback/$8/Major bookstores
Ms Sun Xueling loves coming up with her own tales during bedtime storytelling sessions with her daughters aged nine and six. Around National Day last year, she regaled them with one that explored the themes of home and belonging.
Now, more kids can read her story, What Ants Do On Stormy Days.
Ms Sun, Minister of State for Home Affairs and Social and Family Development, launched the book on Aug 3.
The story is about Andi the ant and his family, who are content with life at home until they travel the world with a group of big white birds.
When a storm threatens to destroy their home, they hope the birds will come back to save them. To their surprise, their heroes turn out to be the keledek (Malay for sweet potatoes) family.
But who are the keledek and big white birds, Ms Sun's daughters asked her.
"I shared with them that the keledek represents the local people who are deeply rooted in the land," she tells The Straits Times. "The big white birds connote foreign influences and cultures which can expand our horizons, or foreign powers who have influence beyond their shores."
Ms Sun, 43, says the story makes a good conversation starter about issues that kids may face as they grow up: the attractiveness of foreign lands and culture versus what they have at home.
She adds: "When there are challenges and danger, we need to be able to rely on ourselves and also those who are deeply rooted in our land to look out for one another."
This is the second of a three-part picture book series she worked on with illustrator Josef Lee.
In What Ants Do On Rainy Days, the first book she self-published last year, Andi explores new pathways of success. The underlying message, she says, is about nurturing confidence, curiosity and grit in kids.
That story was also conceived during a bedtime storytelling session. "I remember that it was a rainy night when my daughters asked me to come up with a story involving ants. And that's how the title came about: What Ants Do On Rainy Days," Ms Sun says with a laugh.
Like the first book, royalties from the sale of this new title will go to a children-focused charity.
Her third book, which she is looking to publish next year, will again follow Andi on his adventure.
"Children know ants for their characteristics of helping one another and being hardworking. These are values children can relate to and also what we want to encourage among them."
The Little Prata Girl
By Abhi Krish and Isabella Tong
Epigram Books/Paperback/$14.90/Epigram Bookshop and major bookstores
Manju's Stupendous Masala Thosai
By Abhi Krish and Vasudevan Ananthakrishnan
Marshall Cavendish International/Paperback/$16/Major bookstores
If food is the way to one's heart, author Abhi Krish's two new children's books - centred on prata and thosai - might just appeal to even reluctant readers.
The Little Prata Girl is her Singaporean take on the age-old fable The Gingerbread Man, says the 35-year-old. In her story, which begins in a food centre in Pasir Ris, a prata seller shapes a dough into a girl out of boredom. She comes alive and runs away, causing mischief everywhere she goes.
"Prata is really a national favourite and it can be found as part of various cultural cuisines. I thought it'd make an ideal character that readers of all ages would enjoy and relate to," Abhi says of her picture book illustrated by Isabella Tong.
Another of her recent releases is Manju's Stupendous Masala Thosai, a comic book she worked on with Vasudevan Ananthakrishnan.
Its protagonist is Manju, who goes around the neighbourhood on a wheelchair to find ingredients for a one-of-a-kind masala thosai she has dreamt up. Her friends from other races chip in to contribute.
"Thosai is one of the most recognisable Tamil foods. Yet many don't know how versatile it can be. Just like pizza, you can add any combination of toppings to it - the 'masala' - and it will still taste great," she says. "I thought that made an ideal base to explore the similarities our various local cuisines share."
Manju's Stupendous Masala Thosai was originally presented in Tamil at storytelling workshops before she adapted it into English. The Little Prata Girl is her first book conceived in English.
The mother of three started writing stories in 2018 when her eldest child Vaidhyav Harish was struggling to relate to Tamil. Her kids are now aged seven, five and three.
She has released more than 30 Tamil stories and rhymes for free distribution, many of which are available on her website, www.noolmonsters.com.
"The Tamil spoken in Singapore is very different from that used in India. Many families here struggle to relate to Tamil picture books published in India as the language and context feel unfamiliar," she says. "I wanted to help my children find joy and playfulness in their mother tongue as I did when growing up."
She adds that there is also a lack of English titles that explore Tamil culture or feature Tamil characters. "I wanted to help improve visibility and appreciation of Tamil as a language, culture and people in my own small way."
Just A Little Mynah: The Noisiest Tree
By Evelyn Sue Wong and Dhanendra Poedjono
Epigram Books/Paperback/$14.90/Epigram Bookshop and major bookstores
Getting your kids a bilingual book? How about a multilingual picture book series instead?
Author Evelyn Sue Wong's Just A Little Mynah series follows a friendly bird character as it interacts with hawkers, neighbours and friends in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil.
"Children learn a second language that is generally their ethnic mother tongue, but many prefer to speak and read stories in English," she says.
"I'd like them to have fun with the languages they know and learn in school, and the other languages they hear in their neighbourhood and see on posters and announcements in the MRT and hawker centres."
Besides everyday phrases, pre-schoolers and lower-primary school kids are introduced to the diverse cultures of Singapore.
In Just A Little Mynah: The Noisiest Tree, her third and final instalment of the series, she encourages children to appreciate the diverse soundscape of Singapore, from a kompang being played at a Malay wedding to the clanging of the wok from various hawkers in a food centre.
The stories are brought to life with illustrations by Dhanendra Poedjono.
Wong, 72, also worked with fellow authors and storytellers who are native speakers to help with the translations of simple but useful everyday words and phrases.
She adds: "It would be a bonus if Little Mynah can inspire young readers to learn the words she uses in the stories, in all four languages, to surprise their friends and neighbours."
The Noisiest Tree is also available as a set with the first two books of the series at $40.23.