School holiday fun on the cheap

Chapter Zero Singapore will set up a playground for children using recycled materials such as wooden pallets and cardboard boxes.
Chapter Zero Singapore will set up a playground for children using recycled materials such as wooden pallets and cardboard boxes.PHOTO: CHAPTER ZERO SINGAPORE

While some parents sign their children up for various classes during the school holidays, others choose to entertain their children themselves

If you are a parent, one of the things you have to do when the school holidays come around is think of ways to keep your children occupied.

Quality assurance specialist Debra Li often packs her seven- and five-year-old sons off for enrichment classes during the school holidays. The 37-year-old says: "Both my husband and I work, so I thought it would be good to keep them occupied in a useful way."

Her husband, 44, is a bank director. They have another son, who is three.

Ms Li looks for holiday classes which are different from the ones offered at her sons' schools. So far, she has signed them up for Chinese speech and drama, art and coding classes.

Last November, her eldest son went for a holiday camp called F1 Challenge at enrichment hub The Keys Academy, where he learnt about 3D automobile design.

Her younger son attended Space Robots at the same venue, where he picked up the basics of robotics and astronomy. Each programme, which runs from 9am to 5pm over five days, costs $690.

Ms Li feels that it is well worth the money. "My sons get to enjoy themselves, mingle with their peers and learn something useful."


For the upcoming one-week school holidays, which start next Saturday, though, the family will be travelling to Bangkok.


Freelance copywriter Frances Tan, 40, has also been sending her three children, aged four to nine, for English drama at ACT 3 Drama Academy and art classes at Studio Haroobee during the school holidays.

Her children also attend weekly drama and art classes at these venues and enjoy them "very much", she says. "When my children read advertisements and posters about the holiday programmes, they would ask to attend them."

She and her husband, a 40-year-old orthopaedic surgeon, are agreeable "as long as time permits, the programmes are within reasonable cost and their children will benefit from them", Ms Tan adds.

Each holiday workshop at ACT 3 Drama Academy - which runs for two hours each day over five days and includes a one-hour presentation - costs about $300, while a 11/2- to two-hour workshop at Studio Haroobee starts at $43.

For the March holidays, they will head to Japan, where the children will attend ski lessons.

Other parents prefer not to enrol their kids in enrichment classes as they find them too costly. They also want their children to have more play time.

Stay-at-home mother Isabella Kwong, 38, has two girls aged nine and four.

Her elder daughter goes for weekly piano and ballet classes during term time. Both girls are students at Berries World of Learning School, a Chinese enrichment centre. Ms Kwong says: "I don't feel there's any need for more classes during the school holidays."

She also finds some of the holiday programmes, which cost a few hundred dollars, "quite expensive".

Her husband, 38, is a global collections analytics and reporting manager.

During longer school breaks, the couple take their daughters overseas and during shorter breaks, Ms Kwong takes them swimming or to the playground.

Ms Angeline Goh, 36, who does part-time administrative work, also does not send her daughters, aged 11 and nine, for holiday programmes.

"With two children, the cost doubles," she says. "Also, when they attend holiday programmes, they cannot spend time with us as a family."

She and her husband, a 39-year-old civil servant, prefer to take them on overseas trips during the longer school holidays.

During one-week school breaks, she takes them to the movies, ice skating or the indoor playground. Occasionally, the family has a staycation in a local hotel.

Mr Jet Toh, 42, and his wife, 39, believe that travelling is a form of enrichment, so they prefer to take their seven-year-old daughter overseas during the school holidays. So far, the family has travelled at least four times a year.

Their daughter took her first plane ride when she was about four months old and the family has booked a trip to a beach resort in Boracay in the Philippines for the March holidays.

Mr Toh runs a supply and trading business and his wife is a stay-at-home mum. He says: "Travelling exposes us to different cultures and people. We can also spend time together as a family."

Fun for $20 or less

Here are 10 activities to keep your kids busy during the March school holidays. And the good news is, they are either free or cost less than $20.


Kids get up close with rare artefacts as they become curators for a day. Where: Malay Heritage Centre, 85 Sultan Gate When: March 14, 2 to 4pm; March 18, 10am to noon Fee: $15 a child. Register at


Apart from creating their own kites, kids can learn about other toys that children in Singapore played with in the 1950s. Where: Outside Growing Up Gallery, Level 2, National Museum of Singapore, 93 Stamford Road When: March 17, 11am to 5pm Fee: Free with on-site registration. Limited to the first 20 pairs of parent and child (aged four to 12)


Design and create your own building model out of everyday materials in this artist-led workshop. Suitable for children aged seven and older. Where: Keppel Centre for Art Education, National Gallery Singapore, 1 St Andrew's Road When: March 12, 1.30 to 3pm Fee: Free


To encourage open-ended play, parenting organisation and social enterprise Chapter Zero Singapore will set up a temporary playground using all kinds of recycled materials such as wooden pallets, rubber tyres and cardboard boxes. Open to children aged three to 12. Where: Ground-Up Initiative, 91 Lorong Chencharu When: March 11, 3.30 to 6pm Fee: Free Info:


There will be storytelling, art and craft and other activities suitable for families at Gardeners' Day Out, a monthly activity by National Parks Board. Where: Exhibition Gallery, HortPark, 33 Hyderabad Road When: March 18, 9 to 11am Fee: Free Info: No registration is required. Just turn up


Learn about the wetlands and nature conservation through worksheets, nature walks and hands-on activities. Suitable for children aged seven to 12. Where: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Visitor Centre, 301 Neo Tiew Crescent When: March 18, 8.30am to 3.30pm Fee: $5. Register at, look under events and workshops Info: Call 6794-1401 or e-mail


Forest School Singapore's weekly Sunday treks aim to build a community of nature-loving people. This session will be a walk in the Rifle Range area. Suitable for children aged three and older. Where: Mayfair Park, 30 Jalan Gaharu When: March 12, 9am to noon Fee: Free if you recommend three friends to like the Forest School Singapore Facebook page Info:


Environmental group Waterways Watch Society's first eco family carnival, in support of World Water Day on March 22, will feature learning booths, fun games and a treasure hunt on kayaks. Where: Kallang Riverside Park, 5 Stadium Road When: March 18, 8am to noon Fee: Free Info: E-mail or call 6396-6768


In this hands-on workshop, children learn to make their own pendants from plastic. A minimum of 10 children is needed to start the workshop, which is suitable for those aged six to 12. Where:Pixel Labs@NLB, Level 2 Jurong Regional Library, 21 Jurong East Central 1 When: March 15, 4.30 to 5.30pm; March 18, 3.30 to 4.30pm and 4.30 to 5.30pm Fee: Free Info:


The festival, which celebrates all things Irish, will turn Circular Road into a pedestrian-only street. There will be Irish dance performances by children, as well as face painting, balloon sculpting and airbrush tattooing for the whole family. Where: Circular Road (between North Canal Road and Lorong Telok) When: March 17 (from 6pm); March 18 and 19, 2 to 10pm Fee: Free Info:

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2017, with the headline 'No need to splurge during school break'. Print Edition | Subscribe