Contemporary Art for Kids – National Gallery Singapore

Last year, when J was attending a holiday creative writing camp at the Arts House, I decided to take Little E to visit the nearby National Gallery Singapore.

The National Gallery Singapore is housed in the former Supreme Court and City Hall, and is home to the largest public collection of modern art in Singapore and Southeast Asia, with a special interest in showcasing local and Southeast Asian artists.

Within the National Gallery is the Keppel Centre for Art Education, which is a dedicated art facility designed to inspire children and encourage creativity. Within each room are art pieces which the children can interact with or observe in detail, as well as related activities to fuel their imagination.

In one of the Project Galleries is a massive, highly detailed cityscape created from clay and acrylic, painstakingly built in great detail by teen artist Xandyr Quek when he was 13 years old.


Little E is inspired by City In The Works (2015), Xandyr Quek

Xandyr, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, is fascinated by maps and street directories, and would ask his parents to take him to certain roads and streets so that he could spend time memorising the buildings and other public infrastructure. At home, he built many clay sculptures based on his observations. He conceptualised and created this tiny city modelled on northern Singapore which is now housed in a protective glass case (as he doesn’t like his work being handled or touched).

After spending a few moments looking at the tiny city, Little E then spent a happy half hour drawing and populating her own small city. Whilst she was doing this, I noticed that there were other activity sheets available in the room which would suit a variety of learning levels and interests, so there would be something to inspire every child.


Home-a-Sapiens by Tan Wee Lit

In another project gallery, the ceiling and walls are covered in fantastical future dwelling spaces. A nomadic bus with laundry on bamboo poles floats alongside a series of airy blimps, while the walls have models of underground houses built beneath the roots of trees, even some of the shelves and cupboards were disguised to look like houses.


Designing her underground living space

Little E was inspired by the underground homes and she decided to make her own cone-shaped house to add to the installation. There were also some very nice pre-fabricated craft kits available (for a suggested donation of SGD$4) which would make a great take-home souvenir.

Little E also liked the Who’s In The Woods interactive area, where she could create and customise her own forest creature using digital painting, then see it come alive on the wall and play with other animals in the forest! That was pretty cool!


Little E’s found a new friend in the woods

By far the most exciting area was the Art Playscape, which is a labyrinth and playhouse that is literally covered from floor to ceiling in elaborate, intricate drawings, so that you really feel like you have entered a painting into a magical realm.


The Enchanted Tree House by Sandra Lee

In this room, Fynn the Fish-On-Sticks and his forest friends wander the world in search of adventure, encountering all sorts of familiar creatures from fairy-tales and nursery rhymes. Little E had fun running all over the room trying to find Fynn, and identifying all the storybook characters (and finding familiar mystical creatures like our Merlion hiding in plain sight).

Mummy tip #1: The floor in the Art Playscape has a very smooth finish, so bring along non-slip socks if you have a wobbly toddler or a clumsy child!


Taking a break with Fynn the Fish-On-Sticks

I liked the Keppel Centre for Art Education so much, that we returned during the mid-year holidays this year, as soon as Thumper was able to walk around on his own.


Building together

I was very pleased to see that some of the interactive activities had changed!

There was room filled with different types of building blocks for making giant fortresses and tabletop sculptures. There was also a wall filled with magnetic shapes which Thumper enjoyed messing around with.


Playing with the walls

Within the National Gallery itself were huge wall murals and freestanding art pieces which visitors could pose with and become part of the artwork as well.

We also had the opportunity to go on a free guided tour which took us through the gallery, giving us some insight into the design and architecture of the former Supreme Court and City Hall buildings as well as some of its the history and hidden secrets!


On the Building Highlights Tour – held at 11am and 3pm daily

The docent who took us around was very knowledgeable and was able to engage both children and adults during the tour. The docent even thoughtfully changed her route to accommodate our stroller so that we could use lifts instead of stairs and escalators – although we felt really bad slowing the whole group down!

Mummy Tip #2: If you’re planning to take your kids on the guided tour, park your stroller at the visitor’s desk and bring out your baby carrier instead.

National Gallery Singapore
1 St. Andrew’s Rd, Singapore 178957

Opening Hours: 
Sun–Thu and Public Holidays: 10am–7pm
Fri–Sat, Eve of Public Holidays: 10am–10pm

Admission is free for Singaporeans and PRs, as well as for students, teachers, children under 6 years old, persons with disabilities and their carers.

For more information about the National Gallery Singapore click here

For more information about the free guided tours click here

For more information about Keppel Centre for Art Education click here

Midweek Break: A Writer’s Workshop & A Book Giveaway!

If you saw our post on Peranakan culture earlier this week, you might remember that I mentioned the book Stacey goes to the Peranakan Museum‘ by Lianne Ong, which is part of an ongoing books series published in partnership with Singapore’s National Heritage Board.

Lianne Ong, the author of the Stacey & the Museums book series, is actually going to be doing a very special writer’s workshop aimed at kids aged 7-10 years old at the upcoming Singapore Writer’s Festival held at the Asian Civilisations Museum.

The workshop, Create A Stacey@ACM Adventure, will have kids exploring the galleries at the museum and coming up with their own Stacey story under Lianne’s guidance. Additionally, James Tan, the illustrator of the books, will be there to teach children how to draw Stacey and accompany their story with pictures.

I am a big fan of creative writing, so I think this workshop sounds like a whole load of fun and a great experience for kids. At $5 for a 90 min masterclass with a published children’s book author, it is a real bargain!

The workshop will take place on 8 November (Saturday) at 11:00am-12:30pm at the Asian Civilisations Museum. Tickets to the workshop and more information available here.

If you already own a Stacey book, you ought to bring it with you and I am sure both Lianne Ong and James Tan will oblige you with an autograph if you ask nicely.

And if you don’t own a Stacey book yet, well, here’s a Special Something for Owls Well Readers: Armour Publishing has very kindly agreed to sponsor a giveaway of a copy of the book “Stacey Goes to the Peranakan Museum” to ONE lucky Owls Well Reader! Huzzah! Thank you, Armour Publishing!

To take part in this giveaway, just complete the following:

  1. Be a fan of the Owls Well Facebook Page
  2. Share this giveaway on your Facebook Page (set to public), tagging @Owls Well as well as at least three friends
  3. Visit my Peranakan Peregrination post and leave a comment there telling me about one thing that you know or appreciate about Peranakan culture! Don’t forget to tell me the name of your Facebook account that you used to share this giveaway and include your email address! (If you would like to send me the email address privately, leave a comment for the other answers, then email me at 4owlswell [at] gmail [dot] com)

(Giveaway is open to anyone with a Singapore address and will end on 10th October 2015. Winners will be picked via – just make sure you complete all 3 easy steps!)

P.S. If you still aren’t convinced of how great this book series is, check out my review of the first book in the Stacey & the Museums series here – we liked it so much, we made our own book trailer!

Update: This giveaway is now closed and the winner has been emailed – Thanks for playing!

A Peranakan Peregrination: A Cultural Day Out with Kids

Recently, I convinced the Aged Ps to take the kids for a Peranakan Day Out, so that they can learn more about Peranakan culture and what it means to be a Baba or a Nyonya.

Here’s how you can enjoy your own Peranakan Day Out in 10 easy steps!

Video Footnotes:

This is a really great book that not only introduces the Peranakan Museum and it’s highlights, but gives some easy to read information about Peranakan culture. In the book, Stacey visits the museum and has an adventure with a mysterious girl who takes her on a personal tour!

I really love the detailed illustrations by James Tan, and it really is such a treat to be able to read the book to the kids, and then see their reaction once they reach the museum and recognise the things that they see in the pictures.

I was very fortunate to have received a copy of this book from Armour Publishing for review, but you can get your own copy from the Peranakan Museum shop or direct from the Armour Publishing website. The book is part of the Stacey & the Museum series by Lianne Ong – here’s a review and book trailer that I made for the first book in the series, Stacey Goes to the National Museum.

The Peranakan Museum is a wonderful little museum installed in the former Tao Nan Chinese School, and has a beautiful and extensive collection of Peranakan objects, wonderfully curated in a manner that illustrates the tradition and distinctive artistic style of the Peranakan community.

There are many interactive components for children within the museum, some on large computer touch screens, and others requiring and encouraging children to touch and handle vintage objects. J and Little E enjoyed running around the museum completing a little treasure hunt – the activity sheet can be collected at the information counter.

We visited the museum with the Aged P, who is of course a true Peranakan but there are guided tours conducted daily by volunteers (most of whom are also Peranakan or are scholars of Southeast Asian culture) are more than happy to regale you with personal stories about Peranakan traditions!

The Peranakan Museum is open daily from 10am – 7pm (extended hours to 9pm on Fridays) and is located on 39 Armenian Street, Singapore 179941. Admission is free for Singaporean Citizens and PRs, as well as for children under 6 years old.

At the Peranakan Museum and Daisy's Dream Kitchen

At the Peranakan Museum and Daisy’s Dream Kitchen

  • Peranakan Food in Singapore

We ate at Daisy’s Dream Kitchen, which is a small little family-run eatery over in the West Coast serving Peranakan food as well as a selection of other local dishes.

The food is delicious and reasonably priced, with a lovely home cooked flavour and the Aged Ps deem it ‘Cheap and Good’ (which by their standards, is very good indeed). Peranakan food tends to be very rich, so I was surprised and glad to see that the dishes served were not swimming in grease, but were low in salt and oil with no loss to the fullness of flavour. We even met Daisy’s kids and grandkids, who had dropped in for lunch, the little 5 year old grandson even coming to our table to thank us for visiting! What a little charmer.

Daisy’s Dream Kitchen is open from Tues-Sun from 11am-3pm and 6pm-10pm at Block 517 West Coast Road, #01-571, S(120517), Tel: 6779 1781

If you are looking for a fancier Peranakan restaurant with a larger range of traditional dishes, prepared and displayed in a traditional manner, the Aged Ps recommend The Blue Ginger Restaurant, which is where they like to bring out-of-towners when they want to truly impress.

To get a true taste of Peranakan culture, the Aged Ps recommend that you try the Nyonya-style Ngoh Hiang, the Bakwan Kepiting soup, the Babi Ponteh stewed pork and the Ayam Buah Keluak stuffed blacknut when you are visiting a Peranakan Restaurant.

  • Peranakan music

Peranakans are known for their involvement in Dondang Sayang (Love ballad) and Keroncong (Malay-style ukelele band) forms of music.

The Aged Ps were very insistent that I chose the correct kind of music to accompany this video, and so I have gone for the Dondang Sayang style of Peranakan music. The Dondang Sayang style is exemplified by the exchange of lighthearted and cheeky malay poetry (or ‘pantun‘) between two singers.

The song that I use in this video, Rasa Sayang, is a very popular local folk song in the traditional Dondang Sayang form and the chorus goes:

Rasa sayang, hey! (Loving feelings, hey!)
Rasa sayang-sayang hey, (Lots of loving feelings, hey!)
Lihat nona dari jauh (Admiring a pretty girl from afar)
Rasa sayang-sayang, hey (Lots of loving feelings, hey!)

(Ironically, the version of Rasa Sayang  that I used is recorded by a Japanese artiste, Lisa Ono!)

  • Peranakan Fashions
Little Nyonya proudly wearing her kebaya!

Little Nyonya proudly wearing her kebaya!

We didn’t include a visit to a dressmaker to try out fancy Peranakan fashions and learn how to tie a sarong in the traditional way, but that would be a fun way to round off the day with an impromptu fashion show, especially if you have kids who love dressing up.

We love Toko Aljunied for their beautiful kebayas and batik shirts – you can find out more about this wonderful purveyor of fine Peranakan fashions for kids and adults here.

Book + Excursion = Stacey Goes to the National Museum by Lianne Ong (and a giveaway!)

One of the things that I like to do when I’m reading books together with my kids is find ways to put the subject matter of the book into a real world context by taking the children on an excursion. This works the other way round too – sometimes if I’m planning to take the kids on an excursion, I like to read them books with topics related to the places where I’ll be bringing them.

For example, if I’m taking the kids to the zoo, I might read them books about visiting the zoo, or books about certain animals at the zoo. This is a sure-fire way to get them excited about a trip to the zoo, especially when they recognise the creatures from the books they are reading! Reading around an excursion helps to reinforce their learning and gives them a chance to apply their knowledge.

This is why I was really excited about Lianne Ong’s new book, Stacey Goes to the National Museum.

I love taking J and Little E to our local museums. There’s plenty for them to see and do, and best of all, there’s no admission charge for Singapore residents!

In Lianne’s book, little Stacey visits the National Museum of Singapore and gets a special insider’s tour of the place (from a very unusual guide). The story is straightforward and simple to read, and shows off museum exhibits that may capture a child’s imagination and spark their interest in local history.

What makes this book really stand out for me are the beautiful illustrations by James Tan, which showcases the museum’s collection with just a little bit of distorted perspective that comes with looking at them through the eyes of a child.

J and Little E loved the book so much that they insisted on taking it with them to a recent visit to the National Museum and looking for all the various items described in the book. It was like a treasure hunt!

To complete our visit to the library, we decided to work together to make a book trailer for Stacey Goes to the National Museum! Little E was really excited about making a book trailer, especially after she watched the books trailers from our Summer Reading List 2014 post.

I think this book would make a great souvenir from a trip to the National Museum, and a great localised gift for your foreign friends who are still interested in Singapore after meeting you (heh heh heh).

If you haven’t visited the National Museum recently, why not pop down tomorrow on 9th August or next week on the 16th August 2014 – Lianne Ong will be conducting storytelling sessions at 2pm and 3:30pm, and this will be followed by a fun activity based on the book! (Click here for more information)

A Special Something for Owls Well Readers: Armour Publishing Pte Ltd is kindly sponsoring a giveaway of Stacey Goes to the National Museum by Lianne Ong for TWO lucky Owls Well Readers!  

To take part in this fantabulous giveaway just complete the following:

1. Be a fan of the Owls Well Facebook Page

2. Be a fan of the Stacey Goes to the National Museum Facebook Page 

3. Leave a comment below and tell me about an exhibit at the National Museum that you find or have found particularly interesting! Don’t forget to leave your Facebook name and your email address so that I can contact you if you win – or if you’re really shy, you can email your details to me separately at

4. (Optional) To double your chances of winning, share or reblog this giveaway on any form of social media that you fancy and leave a comment below with the link!

(This giveaway is open to anyone who is able to redeem the book from the Armour Publishing HQ at Bukit Merah and ends on 15 August 2014. Winners will be picked via – just make sure you complete the 3 required steps!)

P.S. Check out my review of Lianne’s first book, Maxilla, here!

P.P.S. Check out another review and giveaway of Stacey Goes to the Museum here at Life is in the Small Things.

Update: This giveaway is now closed and the winners have been emailed! Thanks for playing!

Funtimes at the Changi Naval Base


Yes, you can sail the seven seas

Earlier this week, we were very privileged to be invited to spend the afternoon at Changi Naval Base.

As Singapore is situated along major international trade routes, Changi Naval Base plays a very important role in the protection of ships and has hosted naval vessels from many other countries such as the US, France, UK, Australia, China, Japan, Thailand, South Korea and Pakistan, all of whom rely on the base for repair facilities, supplies, administration and logistics support.

We began our visit with a tour of the Navy Museum, which is right outside to Changi Naval Base and is open to the public.

We were accompanied through the museum by a couple of friendly sailors, who were able to tell us more about daily life onboard the ships and submarines. Little E was in awe of the female officer who talked to us about the challenges that sailors have to overcome during training.

Exploring the Navy Museum

Exploring the Navy Museum

The children were absolutely fascinated by all the interactive exhibits and simulators which helped them to learn more about how the Singapore Navy came to be the modern maritime fighting force that it is today.

We want you as a new recruit!

We want you as a new recruit!

J even had a chance to try on the Naval Officer’s uniform! (There was a women’s uniform for Little E too but she didn’t fancy it.)

After exploring the Bofor and Oerlikon guns indoors (with the kids from Tan Family Chronicles) and admiring the hundreds of plaques received from navies from around the globe, we headed to the outdoor gallery to take a look at some retired weapons from decommissioned ships. Outside, the kids were encouraged to climb onto the old guns and get a feel of how the naval gunners operated them!

Protect the motherland

Protect the motherland

The Singapore Navy is also involved in numerous humanitarian operations around the world. We learned about how the Singapore Armed Forces provided disaster relief and humanitarian assistance to the victims of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami in Indonesia, as well as in Northern Arabian Gulf to support the post-war reconstruction of Iraq.

J and Little E were most intrigued by the counter-piracy operation in the Gulf of Aden, Operation Blue Sapphire, and were very excited to learn that we would be privy to the slipping off ceremony of the RSS Tenacious, a frigate with a Sikorsky S-70B naval helicopter on board, which will be helping safeguard ships transiting through that busy trade route.

Operation Blue Sapphire: The RSS Tenacious heads to the Gulf of Aden

Operation Blue Sapphire: The RSS Tenacious heads to the Gulf of Aden

The Gulf of Aden is known as ‘Pirate Alley’ and pirates are known to chase after cargo ships, sometimes even kidnapping the ship’s crew and hold them for ransom. As this waterway is vital for sea trade, the Republic of Singapore Navy has been working together with other navies in the international community to keep the Arabian Sea safe and ensure freedom of navigation in that region.

Bon voyage, RSS Tenacious!

Bon voyage, RSS Tenacious!

It was heartbreaking to see the 151 brave crew members of the RSS Tenacious wave goodbye to their families, whom they will not see for the next three months. Many of the crew members had young children who were shouting ‘Goodbye Mummy!’ and ‘Goodbye Daddy!’ as the frigate set sail.


A Formidable-class frigate

The RSS Tenacious is Formidable-class frigate, and despite its enormous build, it is a stealth vessel and is built in such a way that its radar signature is equivalent to that of a rowing boat! Additionally, the pale grey colour of ship allows it to blend into the horizon, making it virtually invisible.

Even with the ship’s engine running at full tilt, all we could hear from a few metres away was a faint humming noise, and as you can see from the image above, the ship hardly makes any waves at all as it slides through the water! It is no wonder that the RSS Tenacious is also called a stealth frigate!

You can find out more about the RSS Tenacious and Operation Blue Sapphire at the Sea of Support website where you can also drop a line to encourage the 151 crew members on board the ship!

After the RSS Tenacious headed off into the horizon, we hopped on a bus for a tour of the Naval Base.

A windshield tour of the Changi Naval Base

A windshield tour of the Changi Naval Base

J and Little E were excited to see all the different vessels berthed in the harbour, especially black submarines and the orange-hulled MV Swift Rescue, a submarine support vessel carrying the submersible rescue vessel, Deep Search and Rescue Six. The MV Swift Rescue had just returned from the unsuccessful search and locate operation for the missing Beijing-bound Malaysian Airlines plane (MH370).

Thank you!

Thank you Singapore Navy for a fun day out!

The Navy Museum is open from 9am – 5pm on Mondays to Fridays and 9am – 3pm on Saturday.

Admission to the museum is FREE!

The Navy Museum: 112 Tanah Merah Coast Road (Next to SAF Yacht Club)

You can follow the Republic of Singapore Navy on their Facebook Page for information about upcoming Navy events, such as the Navy Open House or public visit and outreach programmes.