10 ways to engage the kids

ActiveSG Football Academy coach Jeremy Chiang doing home-based football training with his children, Sasha, 10, and Jaevis, eight. ActiveSG offers many family workouts during the school holidays this month.
ActiveSG Football Academy coach Jeremy Chiang doing home-based football training with his children, Sasha, 10, and Jaevis, eight. ActiveSG offers many family workouts during the school holidays this month.PHOTO: COURTESY OF JEREMY CHIANG

So your mid-year travel plans have been scuttled. The traditional June school holidays have been brought forward and will start on Tuesday.

Air travel is out. So are staycations, outings, amusement parks and play dates. Fret not.

Here are some ideas on how to make room for meaningful moments during this shut-in holiday.


Just like adults sipping Negronis during a house-bound Happy Hour, kids can also channel "vacay vibes" via video conferencing.

Ms Dawn Fung, founder of Homeschool Singapore, a community of homeschoolers, suggests engaging with other holed-up families.

"Have the kids say Hi to one another on Zoom. Share tips on how each family is coping. Make a date to meet regularly for 15 minutes each time. At the end, get everyone to post a 'I survived the siege' presentation."

The kids can also play games like Pictionary or Taboo on Zoom.


Starry Singapore night.
Starry Singapore night.

Every Friday this month, Science Centre Singapore welcomes wannabe astronomers, alternating between a live stargazing session and a live vodcast discussing topics such as whether it is possible to live in space.

Every Wednesday morning, primary school pupils can tune into Science O'Clock and do their own experiments, including using forensic techniques and making their own "rainbow" overnight.


A reward chart typically involves awarding a child star-stickers when he meets certain objectives set by his parent, such as doing household chores or hitting academic or personal milestones.


Ms Fung recommends flipping the script.

When your child designs a reward chart for you, the goals he wants you to work towards may be different, she says. He may want you to earn stars by spending more time playing with him, for instance.

Ms Fung says: "It can be a humbling experience. You may rethink how realistic your goals for your children are. Perhaps you will exert less pressure on them afterwards."


Do not let circuit breaker restrictions on exercising outdoors stop the kids from keeping fit.

ActiveSG has compiled workouts for the whole family, including circuit training and games.

Try Passaball, where the aim is to throw and pass along items, like balls or bottles of water, without dropping them.


Talk philosophy.
Talk philosophy.

Stuck for conversation with the little ones?

"Why not try a spot of philosophy?" asks Ms Petra Haddeman Bullee, a graphic designer and author based in Singapore.

In her self-published book, My Edutainment Book (2017), she suggests questions such as: Are you the owner of your shadow? If you could make one rule that everyone in the world had to follow, what would it be and why? Open-ended questions may help you get to know your child better, compared to firing a string of questions, which may elicit monosyllabic answers, she says.

Her book ($19, available from My Edutainment Book) contains suggestions for activities for children, aged between eight and 12, to bond with their family and friends.


‘Paktor’ memories.
‘Paktor’ memories.

The National Heritage Board has a smorgasbord of stay-home activities.

The NHB's Conversation Starter Kits for Seniors contain images of old Singapore with prompts to facilitate inter-generational conversation.

Justify being a "kaypoh" (busybody) by pointing to a photo of the Capitol Theatre in 1970 and asking Ah Ma and Ah Kong if they have ever gone there to "paktor" on movie dates. "Paktor" is "dating" in Cantonese.

Learn about heritage trades in a video series, which discusses topics like the secret to making a good songkok (traditional headgear for Malay males) and how to make old-school kaya toast and coffee.


Artist and illustrator Gracie Chai suggests involving the kids in decluttering the home and using the discards for craft projects.

Shredding past years' assessment books to make collages could spark joy - not only of the Marie Kondo kind - for kids out of school.

If the clean-up unearths old photographs, your children may get a kick from posing and recreating photos of you when you were their age.

If all that home improvement is making you hungry, Ms Chai has another suggestion.

"Have backward days where you serve dinner for breakfast and breakfast for dinner," she suggests.

Have fun mixing things up.


With themes like "Milo Dinosaur" prompting questions such as how one keeps drinks at the right temperature, parents may wish to enrol children, aged between five and 10, in the PBLite programmes organised by Growth Mindset enrichment centre.

The multi-disciplinary sessions apply an approach called Problem-Based Learning through storytelling and guided experiments. Each session, which lasts slightly more than an hour, is $30.


Artistic Expressions, a speech and drama school that caters to the entire family, has launched a YouTube channel that offers 10-minute lessons in speech and drama, poetry recitation and musical theatre.

The Learning Journeys With Artistic Expressions channel is where children can learn to dance to I Just Can't Wait To Be King from The Lion King musical.

This month, Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT) is offering a Zoom version of its Stage Camp holiday programme, which takes place over several days.

Younger children will be guided in performance techniques as they re-imagine fairy tales like Chicken Little and The Three Little Pigs. Secondary school students will attend classes by industry professionals on directing, auditioning and set design.

Prices start at $100.


Put the family's iPad to good use with Apple's 30 Creative Activities For Kids, which features apps that are free to download from the App Store.

Build and knock down a Leaning Tower Of Pillows in slow-motion using the Camera app, or draw emojis with crazy eyes and moody eyebrows using the Keynote app.

Older kids may enjoy dissecting a life-like virtual frog using Froggipedia, a cost-efficient alternative to dissecting lab specimens.

Android users can try apps from the Google Play Store such as Epic! Kids' Books, Audio Books, Videos and eBooks, which provide multiple modes of engagement for children, says Mr Poh Yeang Cherng, principal consultant at Kingmaker Consultancy, which specialises in cyber wellness.

Even a commonly used app like Google Earth can keep the kids entertained as they revisit memorable holiday spots or explore new destinations, he says.

He adds: "We spend so much time in virtual worlds, especially during Covid-19. These apps help us experience the wider universe."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 03, 2020, with the headline '10 ways to engage the kids'. Subscribe