NS: What was the inspiration and main reasons for starting your ‘cheekie monkie’ blog?
KA: When my eldest child was born in 2005, my wife was the one who started this blog as a means to document the growing years of our children. When she went back to work after her maternity leave ended, I took over the reins and have been chronicling my fatherhood journey ever since.
NS: How long have you been blogging and how has the blog been received in the local community?
KA: I have been blogging since 2005 so it has been 11 years and counting. Over the years, our blog has slowly evolved to be one which shares kids-related ideas and activities with fellow parents. I have often heard how some parents lament that Singapore is boring for kids, and that they can’t think of any kids-friendly activities to do on the weekend. Nonsense, I say! There are tons of things to do in Singapore if you know where to look. And that’s where the blog comes in. So hopefully, we inspire other parents to embark on an exploring and bonding journey with their kids too.
NS: What are the main subjects you cover in the blog?
KA: We enjoy discovering new, fun, and kids-friendly places together as a family, whether it is an indoor playground, nature park or theme park. And of course, the occasional family-friendly overseas destinations too if the travel bug bites!
NS: Is Singapore a good destination for travelling with children? Why is this?
KA: Absolutely. Singapore is clean and safe for families but you probably knew that already. But what most do not know is besides the usual local attractions like the Zoo, Universal Studios and Gardens by the Bay that Singapore is famed for, there are plenty of free activities for kids – neighbourhood parks, outdoor sand playgrounds and even dry and wet playgrounds in shopping malls!
NS: Singapore is known as the ‘Garden City’-is this a justifiable description?
KA: This is true to every sense of the phrase. Everywhere you turn in Singapore, greenery greets you. I am proud of the fact that we have plenty of parks to choose from, considering we are a small island. And I am not just talking about Singapore Botanical Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Most of the neighbourhood parks have huge outdoor playgrounds suitable for a wide age range of kids. Think everything from toddler play equipment to gigantic spider web-like climbing structures.
NS: Last year you released a book outlining 500 activities to do with kids, what would be your top five activities in Singapore?
KA: My list would something like this:
1. Children’s Garden at Gardens by the Bay
This play haven for kids is by far my kids’ favourite outdoor park in Singapore as it contains integrated play equipment and water play features spread over four main play zones – Adventure Trail, Rainforest Treehouses, Toddler Play Zone and Water Play Areas. There are obstacles to conquer, tree houses to climb, slides to whiz down, and a sprawling water play area with water splines, a hydro vault, and orchid-shaped splash buckets. All for free!
2. Skyline Luge Sentosa
Cruise downhill at a leisurely pace or breakneck speed in a part go-cart, part toboggan vehicle. There are two trails—the 628m-long Jungle Trail or the 688m-long Dragon Trail. Both trails lead to the same end point. The Dragon Trail is longer and has less sharp bends which makes speeding a much thrilling affair. To ride the luge alone, kids must be at least 110 cm tall but shorter kids can ride in tandem with an adult. Then board the Skyride for a scenic bird’s-eye view of Sentosa Island, the Singapore city Skyline and the South China Sea.
3. Changi Airport
Changi Airport must be one of the few airports in the world where people go for meals, shop or just hang out even if they are not flight bound. We love hanging out at Changi Airport as it is chock full of activities for children – no need for a passport! Activities include the indoor playgrounds, the world’s tallest slide in an airport and the mesmerising Kinetic Rain sculpture. Kids who love trains can easily hop on the Skytrain and shuttle between the three terminals.
4. Science Centre Singapore
With more than a thousand interactive exhibits spanning 14 galleries, Science Centre Singapore continues to pique the interest of my kids. Trek to the centre of the earth, squeeze your way through the human body’s digestive system or probe through leaf litter at the EcoGarden – there is always something new for my kids to explore and learn every visit. Even better, admission to the Science Centre Singapore is free for Singaporeans & PRs if you go during weekdays (except public and school holidays)!
5. Lazarus Island
Where can one go to find an 800-metre stretch of beach paradise without having to chop one’s passport? The answer lies on Lazarus Island, a little-known island tucked quietly between St John’s and Kusu islands. For a day’s worth of off-the-beaten-track kind of fun for the kids, Lazarus Island is a gem that offers a peaceful day getaway from the mainland. All of us love the place for its serenity, pristine beach and scenic views – all of which is hard to come by nowadays in today’s modern Singapore.
NS: What are Singapore’s lesser known natural attractions that you think deserve more attention?
KA: There are quite a few places worth exploring if you don’t mind going a little off-the-beaten-track.
1. Chek Jawa
Chek Jawa is a stretch of intertidal flats on Pulau Ubin. Several different ecosystems exists in this small area. About 1.1km of boardwalk trek leads you to the mangroves where families can get close to fiddler crabs and mudskippers as well as the beautiful Nipah palms. At low tide, take a closer look at some of the strange animals that live among the rocky shore including barnacles, crabs and fierce shell-drilling snails. You’ll probably see different species on every return visit to Chek Jawa. The landscape, too, is constantly changing with the tide.
2. Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
An extensive network of trails, viewing towers and observation hides make the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve the perfect place for families to learn more about mangrove swamps. My kids love walking through the mangrove forest boardwalks. Our fave is the new Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve extension, as it is more kid-friendly, with three different boardwalks.
3. Sisters’ Island
Another great retreat for a day of snorkelling in blue waters and camping, Sisters Islands comprises two islands—Big Sister’s Island and Little Sister’s Island. The islands are separated by a narrow channel and are popular with picnic-goers because of their shady palm trees and beach shelters. A permit is needed to camp overnight on the island. Home to Singapore’s first Marine Park, the entire area protects Singapore’s coral reefs which support the ecosystem inhabited by rare and endangered species of seahorses, clams, sponges and other marine life. Visit the intertidal area at Sisters’ Islands Marine Park during low tides of 0.4 metres and below to see the marine life.
NS: What new attractions are you most excited about this year?
KA: The latest attraction would have to be KidZania Singapore. Opening in April 2016 and spanning over 81,000sqft, KidZania Singapore will offer real-life experiences through over 80 role-play activities in a kid-sized city. More than an indoor theme park, kids can experience role-playing activities like piloting an airplane, putting out fires, being a surgeon or a chef, earning a salary in the form of kidZos, the official currency of KidZania, and paying for goods and services.
NS: What would be your ideal day out in the city?
KA: An ideal day out with the family would be one that involves tiring out my kids so that they will sleep early so the wife and I can have some peaceful couple time together (see next question). But a tiring day out usually means fun for the kids too, because nothing pleases them more than unrestricted play at an outdoor playground.
NS: Do you ever get the chance to go out and relax with just your wife? Where is your favourite destination for this?
KA: We do make it a point to have breakfast together every weekday so that counts as couple time for us. For us, there really is no favourite destination to head to because we are very happy to be able to sneak a late night supper away from the kids at a nearby roti prata stall. Or perhaps a late night shopping date at the 24-hour Mustafa Centre when the kids are tucked into bed!
Kelvin Ang has guest written for Yahoo! Singapore’s Parenting website and was invited as a speaker at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2015. He writes regularly for parenting magazines, while his blog www.cheekiemonkie.net was named one of the Singapore’s 10 Most Popular Lifestyle Blogs by a local newspaper in 2013. A father of three, Kelvin is also the co-founder of Daddy Matters, an online community of dads who want to be active and promote active fatherhood for everyone.
Going for a vegetarian meal in Singapore doesn’t mean that