Free things to do with kids in Singapore: Ultimate guide for parents

Nature Playgarden at HortPark.
PHOTO: Instagram/montessori_cu_ioana

There has never been a more exciting time to be a kid in Singapore. Just look at the number of family-friendly places that keep popping up around the island, plus the special activities that are planned during holiday and festive seasons.

The only complaint? It can get a little costly sometimes to take the brood out for the day.

But did you know that the Lion City is teeming with free stuff to do as a family? Here's Young Parents' round-up of the top free things to do in Singapore with kids.

OUTDOOR FUN

NATURE PLAYGARDEN AT HORTPARK

This free outdoor playground is fabulous for preschoolers from three to six years old. Designed with natural material, it offers nine play features for kids to engage with nature in a fun, free and unconstrained way.

CHILDREN'S GARDEN AT GARDENS BY THE BAY

It's all about having fun at this playscape, which has a dry and wet play area suitable for all ages. Junior will have a splashing good time with sway bridges, interactive stepping springs, water tunnels and fish sculptures.

Older kids will love scaling the two rainforest tree houses, running through tree canopies and hiking along the 130m long forest trail. If you're really lucky, you might even catch a performance at the sheltered amphitheatre.

MARINA BARRAGE

The rooftop here is the go-to place for kite lovers who want to see their dragon or Minion-themed kites soar high up in the sky.

This windy little green pocket is also a great place for some scootering and has shaded spots where you can set up a picnic and enjoy spectacular views of the city skyline.

SINGAPORE BOTANIC GARDENS

The Gardens provide different tours conducted by volunteers on Saturdays (except on the 5th Saturday of the month).

The walking tours range from a Healing Garden Tour which showcases over 400 varieties of plants used medicinally to a National Orchid Garden Tour that showcases one of the largest collections of orchids in the world and more.

Their most popular tour is the Rain Forest Tour which guides you through the importance of the ecosystem of the Gardens' Rain Forest. It is available in Japanese, Mandarin and English. The guided tours are free.

The revamped Jacob Ballas Children's playground is definitely worth a separate visit, too.

CONEY ISLAND PARK

Pack a picnic, mozzie spray, and water bottles, for a day of full-on outdoor adventures. Explore the island on foot, or on bicycles and scooters. Uncover the beaches - there are five - or cut through the mangrove boardwalk and try to spot some of the 80 species of birds there.

Make a pit stop at the Casuarina Explorer, an obstacle course made entirely from trees and other things found in nature. Conquer the wooden bridge, hop along the stepping stones and climb over tree triangular tree logs.

BISHAN PARK

Featuring one of the prettiest rivers, Bishan Park is a great place to spot fishes and stunning wildflowers, or ride your bikes and scooters along the open lawns.

There are plenty of playgrounds to try out as well, including a water play area and a treehouse adventure park with logs and ropes to climb on. Don't leave without visiting the dog run for some free cuddles from your furry friends (ask the owners for permission first).

THEMED OUTDOOR PLAYGROUNDS

Take your Thomas the Train-loving kid to the iconic tilted train at Tiong Bahru playground. After a recent upgrade, it offers even more climbing and sliding fun, plus a zipline, colourful maze and swings.

YP's other favourite outdoor playgrounds are:

  • Battleship Playground at Sembawang Park
  • Nautical-themed playground at Marine Cove
  • High-rope one playground Woodlands Waterfront
  • Airplane playground at The Oval, Seletar Aerospace Park
  • Ship-themed playground at Canberra Street
  • Eco-themed park at Rumah Tinggi
  • Military-themed playground at Choa Chu Kang
  • And of course, the mother of all public parks, Admiralty Park, an adventure wonderland made up of 26 slides.

FIRE STATION OPEN HOUSES

Kids up at the crack of dawn on Saturdays? Take them to the nearest fire station between 9am and 11am for a free tour.

Your little firemen will love spraying with gigantic hoses, climbing fire trucks and "riding" motorbikes. If they are very lucky, they might even get to slide down the fireman's pole! Some fire stations don't host open houses; get the full list on the Singapore Civil Defence Force website.

FARMS

Escape into rural Singapore for some fresh air and one-on-one time with nature's best. At Jurong Frog Farm, your little ones can jump into a frog pen with a net and gumboots to catch tadpoles or wrestle bullfrogs.

Head on over to Farmart Centre to cosy up to bunnies, hamsters and goats, then feed the koi fishes and say, "hello" to the prawns in the pond.

If the kids like reptiles, they can pet a red-eyed Elongata Tortoise and majestic Alligator turtle.

Don't forget fruit and vegetables farm, Oh' Farms, plus a cow farm, Viknesh Dairy Farm, and goat farm, Hay Dairies.

BOLLYWOOD VEGGIES

Your little nature-lover will enjoy exploring every nook and cranny of this 10-acre slice of paradise, which grows local veggies, herbs, fruits and flowers. Run through trellis arches, hide behind massive banana leaves and try to spot a squirrel or maybe even a monitor lizard.

It's rustic play at its best. Entrance is free, but you're encouraged to make a small donation.

THE ANIMAL RESORT

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The kampong spirit is very much alive at this little spot located along Seletar West Farmway that's home to a motley crew of animals, including a ravenous horse, a surly stork, fishes, peacocks, rabbits, guinea pigs and a cassowary, an unusual-looking feathered friend.

Chickens, birds and geese roam freely, and you can feed them with grub sold at the farm for a small fee. YP also loves the old-school swings and climbing structures.

RESERVOIRS

More than just water catchment areas, Singapore's reservoirs are a great way to slip out of the crazy city life for a few hours.

Head to the scenic Lower Seletar Reservoir (pictured) for a boardwalk stroll and to frolic in the water play area, which has a small stream, wading pool and jet streams and giant flower structures that spurt water. Or take the excitement up a notch at MacRitchie where you can visit with the resident macaques - hold on tight to your snacks - and do a tree top walk.

SUNGEI BULOH WETLAND RESERVE

Singapore's first wetland reserve is the largest mangrove forest home to a wide diversity of flora and fauna, including migratory birds. Start off with the mid-canopy walk, an elevated 120m-long boardwalk as you try to spot insects and birds.

Then, do the forest trail walk and come face-to-face with tiny mudskippers. Little ones will love the Junior Adventure Trail, a play area made up of steps, poles and even a pulley boat. Free guided tours are held on weekends; some are specially tailored for kids.

KRANJI MARSHES

If your kids like Sungei Buloh, pay a visit to Kranji Marshes, which is the largest freshwater marshland in Singapore and home to a host of local wildlife. Check NParks' website for the latest information on guided walks there.

LAKESIDE GARDENS

Opened in late April 2019, this new park is worth the journey to western Singapore. Spot wildlife, play in the largest nature play garden in the heartlands, ride a pedal boat, frolic in the water play pools and more.

CHINESE AND JAPANESE GARDENS

Sitting on the tranquil Jurong Lake are the magnificent Chinese and Japanese Gardens. The former has Chinese imperial style-inspired architecture and lots of space to stroll through pavilions, bridges, tea houses and a stunning bonsai collection.

Climb the seven-storey pagoda and enjoy breathtaking views of the adjoining Japanese Gardens, which has Japanese-styled pagodas originating from the Muromachi and Momoyama periods, arched bridges and rock waterfalls. Keep an eye out for the resident birds and monitor lizards. Visit them before they are renovated under the Jurong Lake Gardens plan.

SCIENCE CENTRE OBSERVATORY

Are your tykes obsessed with outer space and planets? Let them stay up late and head down to the Omni-Theatre building between 7.45pm and 10pm every Friday for a star and moon gazing session through portable telescopes and a smaller observation dome. Who knows, it might spark a love for astronomy in them.

INDOOR FUN

ISTANA HERITAGE GALLERY

History buffs young and old will love getting a glimpse of Singapore's own Palace. Learn more about the building's past, peruse through the guest book to see if your favourite Queen or politician has visited, then marvel at the stunning state gifts received over the years.

Keep an eye out for the silver goblets and the bust of an Induna (a tribal councillor or headman) presented by the late South African President Nelson Mandela.

Inspired enough to check out the real deal? The Istana grounds are open to public five days a year during major public holidays. Entrance is free, but get ready to queue.

CHANGI AIRPORT

There are so many reasons to head East, even if you're not catching a flight. For starters, free air-conditioned playgrounds at every terminal - including the newest one at Terminal 4 that's modelled like a gigantic chandelier, complete with climbing nets and slides.

Throw in free arts and crafts areas, endless trips on the sky train, plenty of space to run around and watch the airplanes land and take-off, plus great eateries, and it's no wonder Changi Airport is a favourite destination for affordable fun.

LIBRARY@HARBOURFRONT

Head to Vivocity's third floor from Jan 12 to visit the brand new library@harbourfront, which boasts spectacular views. It's the largest mall library here, spanning some 3,000 sq m, and there's something for everyone in the family. The children's section has paper crafting activities and word puzzles, and young ones can read augmented reality books as well.

SINGAPORE DISCOVERY CENTRE

Give your older kids, and yourself, a crash course on the place you call home. Tour the Military Academy and Army Museum, where you will learn more about NSmen and then experience a simulated bomb explosion.

Then, take part in a 4-D simulator ride and learn dance routines of the different races at a digital dance studio. The interactive fun continues outdoors at the Discovery Lake where you can take in a game of paintball or a round of pedal boating.

THE ARTGROUND

Who says babies are too young to experience the arts? From soothing and engaging performances for tiny tots to open spaces for preschoolers to run around and explore, a spanking new children's arts centre offers an array of multisensory experiences for kids aged 12 and below.

The interactive installations at The Ground Floor are free. It features installations that are refreshed thrice a year. The large area encourages kids aged two to 12 to run free and explore all the elements of the various interactive art installations around them.

Ticketed programmes and workshops which take place every weekend have varied admission prices and tickets can be bought on-site. Do take note that some activities may require pre-registration.

SINGAPORE MARITIME GALLERY 

Here, your little ones can pretend to be a ship's captain at the bridge simulator of this maritime gallery, which takes you through Singapore's history from a small trading post to a global maritime centre.

MALLS

MALL PLAYGROUNDS

Kids behaving well during a shopping trip at the mall? Reward them with a stop at a playground. Most of the malls here have either an indoor or outdoor one in various themes that are fully-equipped with activity stations, kiddie rides, tunnels, climbing structures, slides, and soft landing pads.

The best part? They have sitting areas for you to relax while keeping an eye on the kiddos. YP's favourites include:

  • Paragon
  • Waterway Point
  • IMM
  • Compass One
  • City Square Mall
  • Vivocity

MALL ROOFTOP WATER PLAY AREAS

Not that we need a reason to head to the mall, but knowing that it has a rooftop water play area makes it easier to get your shopping done and not feel guilty about not having something planned for the kiddos.

They come in various child-friendly themes and have colourful slides, splash pads and even gigantic water buckets that will soak everyone - including parents sitting on the sidelines, if you're not careful.

YPs' favourites are:

  • Kallang Wave Mall
  • Nex
  • Tampines 1
  • Waterway Point
  • Westgate
  • Compass One
  • Changi City Point

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS SINGAPORE

No explanation is needed for Southeast Asia's first and only Universal Studios theme park, that features 24 rides, shows and attractions in seven themed zones.

With plenty of fun rides, shows and attractions based on children's favourite blockbuster films and television series, the theme park is sure to keep your child entertained all day. Free admission for children under the age of four.

SINGAPORE FLYER

Bring your little ones for a gorgeous view of the city on the Singapore Flyer.

Stranger to none, the giant Ferris Wheel is sure to be an eye-opener for your children as they take in the view of the island. Admission is free for children under the age of three.

MUSEUMS

KEPPEL CENTRE FOR ART EDUCATION

Located in the National Gallery Singapore, this is an incredible play space for little ones.

The Art Playscape will have you in awe. Created by artist Sandra Lee, the space takes you into a whole new world, just like stepping right into the pages of a pop-up storybook.

Jump up the elevated lily pads at the pond, sit for a cup of tea with the forest animals, or explore the split-level tree house which has various crawl spaces, talk tubes and periscopes to give kids different views of the space.

NATIONAL MUSEUM

Enjoy family time at the National Museum of Singapore every last Saturday of the month. The variety of activities include interactive tours, storytelling sessions, family workshops, drop-in craft activities, captivating performances, and more. The museum has monthly specials catered especially for children to enjoy.

Admission is free every day for children under the age of 6.

ARTSCIENCE MUSEUM

Every Friday, up to four children under 12 years old can enter the Artscience Museum for free with every adult ticket purchased. This offer is not applicable during Singapore school holidays and public holidays.

Enjoy public guided tours around the museum, where children will be able to learn and experience the different art exhibits.

ASIAN CIVILISATIONS MUSEUM

A family-friendly programme is held on the last Saturday of every month where youcan enjoy learning about Asian art and folklore. The programme is jam-packed with creative, hands-on activities, interactive performances and drama, and storytelling in the museum's galleries. Each month also features a different theme, so make sure to keep an eye out every month!

AIRFORCE MUSEUM

The highlight of this museum is the 2,000 sqm outdoor gallery, home to Singapore Air Force planes old and new.

Your future pilot will love exploring a range of planes, some on the ground and others suspended from a 16m high ceiling, including the Hawker Hunter, UH-1B Helicopter and A4-S Skyhawk.

You can also check out air defence artillery such as the Bloodhound Missile and aircraft engines like the Rolls Royce Bristol Viper.

This article was first published in Young Parents.

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