There is no doubt that Singapore is a fantastic family holiday destination but it is not known for being a cheap holiday destination. Unless you have the insider tips to help you maintain your family holiday budget. There are plenty of free activities for kids in Singapore, you just need to know where to look. For alternative family holidays in Singapore with kids beyond the casinos, theme parks and expensive restaurants, here is the ultimate suitcases&strollers city guide to Singapore with kids on a budget.
Housed in the Gardens By The Bay near Marina Bay, this is by far the most popular free attraction in Singapore for kids with both locals and visitors. This one hectare playspace has areas dedicated both to toddlers and bigger kids and includes treehouses, climbing frames, slides and sand play.
Don’t forget your swimmers and towels as the water play area is particularly impressive – the water jets are timed to music and there is a large covered area where parents can hang out and relax while the kids run wild.
Set against the backdrop of Marina Bay Sands, this is a very pleasant place to hang out especially on a hot day. Bring your own snacks and water though as the options to purchase food close by are quite limited.
Walk Around Tiong Bahru
This little pocket of Singapore has become a bit of a hipster haven and is an interesting suburb to explore to give a sense of how much the city has changed – and continues to evolve. Against the background of shiny skyscrapers and shopping malls, the streets are full of independent small businesses and heritage art deco housing.
Head straight to Yiong Saik Street which is the heart of hipster central. Among the barristas and design stores, don’t miss Woods In The Books, a gorgeous picture bookstore and Books Actually which has a quaint mixture of local tomes as well as some vintage toys and knick knacks.
From here it is a short walk to the Tiong Bahru Market (corner Seng Poh Rd. and Lim Liak St., Tiong Bahru, Singapore). Downstairs is a wet market – the traditional local form of grocery market – and upstairs is widely acknowledged to be one of the best hawker centres around. Here you can get steaming bowls of noodles, chicken rice and all sorts of Malay, Indian and Chinese street food at some of the cheapest rates anywhere on the island. To get a good sense of what stalls you can expect, there is a cool interactive map the kids will enjoy playing with here.
[For more family travel tips on family friendly restaurants in Singapore for kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Afterwards, reward the kids with playtime at the cool train playground at Tiong Bahru Adventure Park (corner of Tiong Bahru Rd. and Lower Delta Rd., Sigapore). There is a sandpit, play equipment and a fantastic tilted train climbing structure. Beware of sunny afternoons – the train is metallic and can be hot to the touch.
West Coast Park Playground
If you’re looking for free things to do in Singapore, head straight to a local playground. One of the largest and the most impressive is West Coast Park which is a huge space dedicated to outdoor play. As well as lots of toddler and school aged play equipment, there is plenty of room to kick a football, throw a Frisbee or cycle or scoot along the many paved pathways all over the park.
Do note that Singapore is a tropical country. This means the weather is hot and sweaty so you should bring adequate sun protection and water with you. Also bring insect repellant to protect against mosquitos. [For more family travel tips on preventing dengue fever, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Don’t underestimate the weather in Singapore – unless you are acclimatised, it can get pretty damn hot. Cool off at one of the many local swimming pools all over the island which provide great entertainment for the kids. (For a full list of public swimming pools go to the Singapore Swimming Academy website.)
For instance, Sengkang Swimming Complex is technically not free, but for the token cost of SG$2 per person, the kids will be entering water play heaven. There are 8 waterslides here as well as a fun pool, lap pool and Jacuzzi.
Despite being a tiny, bustling metropolis, Singapore has a surprising number of parklands and jungle-like areas to explore. A good way to see these is to walk the Southern Ridges walkway which goes from Mount Faber to Labrador Park.
The walk is an interesting mix of canopy paths and aerial views (for instance at Henderson Road the pedestrian bridge you will take is 36 metres above the road) and offers a completely different perspective of Singapore. You will see lots of lush foliage, birds and squirrels. Beware of the monkeys – they are not afraid of humans and will happily steal snacks from your kids.
The entire walk is 10 kilometres which might be too long for some kids – start at Mount Faber and walk as much as you can from there. There are plenty of places you can exit the path and come down to take a taxi or bus home.
The actual pathway of the walk is doable with a small, sturdy stroller but there are stairs involved so you will need to be prepared to carry your stroller at times.
Attend Sandcastle Building Lessons at Castle Beach
There are actual beaches at Singapore and while the water may not be quite so crystal clear as many of the neighbouring Southeast Asian countries, they are still a fun place to entertain the kids for free.
Family wonderland Sentosa island has three beaches and spending a few hours there is just about the only free activity you can do on Sentosa. [For more family travel tips on things to do on Sentosa with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Alternatively attend the free sandcastle building sessions at Castle Beach at the East Coast Park in Bedok. (Look out for the sandcastle building next to the Lagoon Food Centre, you can find it on their official map here.) They are open every Saturday and Sunday from 3.30pm until 7pm – there is a 5 minute workshop and then the public is encouraged to join in and get creative. While you could technically bring your own sand play toys, this is run by volunteers to encourage famillies to spend quality time together so it’s polite to purchase the tools onsite. Families with special needs are welcome and can be catered for too.
Afterwards wander over to watch the cable skiing which is always entertaining for the children.
Images: suitcases&strollers, Castle Beach, Andrew Tan