SINGAPORE - Going out and about with the kids during the June school holidays does not mean you have to burn a hole in your pocket.
Singapore has plenty of free attractions and activities which allow you to engage your children and bond as a family too.
The Straits Times speaks to parents to suss out ideas on where to go.
1. Go on a nature trail
Nine-year-old Zachary Wong and his sisters Riley, seven, and Abby, three, love exploring the outdoors.
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Lower Peirce Reservoir Park and MacRitchie Nature Trail are among the green spaces they have visited. They have a scrapbook with photos and details of the animals they have encountered.
"Spotting wildlife is always very fun and exciting for children," says their mum Fynn Sor, creator of Happy Tot Shelf, an educational website.
Before entering the parks, they would read the information boards put up by the National Parks Board, which highlight the flora and fauna they can look out for.
"It becomes a game of who can find them first," says Ms Sor.
Her family either visits the parks in the morning and leaves by 11am before it gets too hot, or after 4pm, when it is cooler.
How does she get her kids to cooperate and walk?
Going on nature trails can be challenging for young children, she acknowledges.
Her advice is to keep the first few trips short and simple. For beginners, she recommends Pasir Ris Park Mangrove Boardwalk, where her family has spotted mangrove tree crabs and mudskippers. "It has a proper pathway and is a lot more comfortable for kids to walk," she adds.
If your children get tired, it is okay to cut short the visit. "If they want to leave after half an hour, that's fine. We can go back another day," she says with a laugh.
"When they get used to nature walks and their fitness and endurance levels increase, they can explore more adventurous places like Sungei Buloh."
2. Play in nature
Many nature parks here incorporate playgrounds. The Singapore Botanic Gardens, for instance, is home to two fun zones - Jacob Ballas Children's Garden and Como Adventure Grove.
These are excellent settings for kids to be introduced to nature.
Ms Farhana Mohamed Hassan, senior infant educarer at PCF Sparkletots Preschool, says the environment piques children's curiosity and encourages them to delve deeper about nature.
Her three kids - Muhammad Shauqy, seven, Nur Ashalina, five, and Nur Airis Lana, three - love to hang out at Jurong Lake Gardens.
They enjoy its Forest Ramble playground, which has 13 adventure stations, as well as its Clusia Cove water play area.
"Spending time out creates a very special family bonding that you will not get from sitting around at home and watching TV together," she says.
3. Hit the neighbourhood playgrounds
Free mega play structures, such as Coastal PlayGrove and Marine Cove at East Coast Park, are popular with families. But the weekend crowds can be overwhelming, especially if you have a toddler or pre-schooler.
One FM 91.3 radio presenter Tim Oh and his wife Sabrina Chua enjoy exploring playgrounds in the heartland with their four-year-old son, Charlie.
These spaces are usually smaller and less crowded, making it easier to keep watch over the kids, says Ms Chua, a civil servant.
Many of them also have interesting themes and designs, such as the "village houses" at Buangkok Square Park, the "tilted train carriage" at Tiong Bahru Park and the "battleship" at Sembawang Park.
4. Smile and "travel" around the world
You can now snap family pictures against eight giant inflatable installations at The Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay.
They bear landmarks such as Mount Fuji in Japan and the Sydney Opera House in Australia. You can also "board" two inflatable hot-air balloons to take photos.
They are part of this year's Children's Festival, with the theme, Around The World With Kiztopia, which is on till June 19.
Admission is free and kids can pick up a booklet to discover facts about the countries featured. Collect stamps and complete missions to redeem a sticker sheet.
There are two ticketed interactive zones - Happy's Craft World, where you can do a craft activity at $8 a person; and the Tiger's Sports Arena, which features five inflatables of sports carnival games and is recommended for kids aged four and above. Admission is at $18 a person. For details, go to gardensbythebay.com.sg
5. Learn to skateboard
Skateboarding teaches kids resilience, while keeping them fit and active.
If your children are aged six to 12, sign them up for a free 60-minute Learn-to-Play programme at the Singapore Sports Hub's 100PLUS Promenade. Trainers from Team Axis, a sports and fitness provider, will introduce them to the basics. Choose a session on June 5, 12, 19 or 26. Each one takes up to 50 participants.
Learn-to-Play is part of the the Health Promotion Board's Active Family programme and offers a different sport every month. For details, go to sportshub.com.sg
6. Get wet and wild
Two popular free water-play areas have recently reopened after being closed during the pandemic.
Singapore Sports Hub's Kids Water Playground features colourful slides and a wading pool. It is on the third storey of Kallang Wave Mall and can also be accessed from the National Stadium's Gate 22, which is next to the mall.
It opens daily from 8am to 10pm. Find out more here.
Your kids will also have a splashing good time in the Far East Organization Children's Garden at Gardens by the Bay. It comprises three fun zones, including a water play area with jets and sprays. This interactive centrepiece is fitted with motion sensors that detect and respond to kids' movements.
The Children's Garden opens from Tuesdays to Sundays, 9am to 7pm. For details, go to gardensbythebay.com.sg
7. Get to know the firefighters
Also making a comeback is the weekly open house at Singapore fire stations.
Take your family to any of the 18 participating stations and get up close with firefighters and paramedics. Learn about their roles and check out the emergency vehicles and equipment.
There are two sessions every Saturday - from 9am to 9.50am and 10am to 10.50am. For details, go to Singapore Civil Defence Force's website.
8. Visit the museums
Singapore citizens and permanent residents enjoy free admission to the museums and heritage institutions all year round.
Many of them offer child-friendly programmes, such as the annual Children's Season, which is on till June 26. A total of 28 museums are taking part in this year's edition, 14 of which offer night-time activities for the first time.
These include the Asian Civilisations Museum, the Indian Heritage Centre and the National Museum of Singapore, where families can explore after sunset and enjoy storytelling and craft sessions. Read more about Children's Season here.
At the Gallery Children's Biennale in National Gallery Singapore, there are larger-than-life art installations to wow children.
The festival is held once every two years and this third edition is available till December. Read more about Gallery Children's Biennale here.
Stretch your dollar
Take a winter holiday
Zip down a snow slide, take snow-luge rides and dig mini trenches with snow excavators - all in sub-zero temperatures - at Changi Airport's Terminal 3.
Each 20-minute play session at the Peanuts-themed snowhouse costs $5 (usual price: $18) when you spend at least $30 at the airport's terminals and Changi Eats (excluding Jewel Changi Airport).
Book your Peanuts Snow Hangout slots on the iChangi app. It runs from 11am to 10pm daily till June 26, as well as from July 1 to 3 and July 8 to 11.
At Terminal 3, you will find five Peanuts-themed photo spots, including a 5m-tall topiary featuring Snoopy and Woodstock on a large-moving skateboard. The 350kg structure is made of more than 2,500 hydrangeas and pom poms and took over two months to put together. For details, go to changiairport.com
Buy family annual memberships
Siblings Park Eun-jin, nine, and Sung-min, seven, enjoy visiting River Wonders to see the pandas Kai Kai, Jia Jia and Le Le. They also like to explore the interactive exhibits at the Science Centre Singapore.
Since they visit these attractions often, their mum Tan Li Yi, a senior producer-presenter at 96.3 Hao FM Mandarin radio station, finds it good value to pay for family membership.
With frequent visits, the membership works out to be cheaper than single-entry tickets. "You can get members' discounts for dining and merchandise too," she says.
At the Singapore Zoo, River Wonders, Night Safari and Jurong Bird Park - all managed by Mandai Wildlife Group - the perks include tram service.
At Gardens by the Bay, members get complimentary parking for the first two hours and invitation to workshops, among other benefits.
The Gardens is offering memberships with even more savings. From now till Aug 1, a one-year Family Pass for two adults and up to three kids aged three to 12 years old costs $110 (usual price: $180).
If you have older children, get the Family Plus Pass for five members with no age restrictions at $148 (usual price: $238). Find out more at gardensbythebay.com.sg