I Only Have... 1 HOUR:
Jacob Ballas Children's Garden
1 Cluny Road, Bukit Timah Core, Singapore Botanic Gardens
Operating Hours: 8am to 7pm daily; closed on Mondays (except when on a public holiday)
Admission is free for children up to 12 years
You can spend the entire day at the Botanic Gardens, but let this one hour be spent in Asia's first children's garden. Developed along the theme "All Life on Earth Depends on Plants", your kids will learn about life sciences and the environment in an interactive setting.
Walk under the man-made waterfall, cross the suspension bridge, and splash around in playground and water play area. Just remember to slap on some sun block and bring along an extra change of clothes. This is good old-fashioned getting out and playing at its best. You'll be amazed at how much playtime has been reduced to indoor settings in today's commercially-driven world. So run the kids loose here and watch them discover something new at every turn.
Best enjoyed by kids aged up to 12 years. Children must be accompanied by an adult at all times.
I Only Have... 3 HOURS:
Labrador Villa Road (off Pasir Panjang Road)
Admission is free
World War II may have happened in the last century, but the gun positions set up by the British forces to defend Singapore remain. That's probably what Labrador Park is best-known for. Show your kids another side of Labrador Park that may not be covered during school excursions. Get on the walking trail with lush foliage, and take in the spectacular view of the South China Sea especially from the top of the hill. Labrador Park is also a hotspot for avid fishermen.
If you're looking to enjoy a nice meal with the family, the area's restaurants will tempt even the pickiest little eater. Ask to sit in the al fresco areas and be rewarded with a sea view or a relaxing leafy background.
Labrador Park has plenty of great spots to capture some nice photographs of the kids too. This area is popular with budding photographers because of the rich colours in the background. Be sure to bring your camera, water bottles and mosquito repellent!
Best enjoyed by kids of any age.
I Only Have... 5 HOURS:
Serangoon Road (main thoroughfare)
Admission is free
If your five hours are only in the evening, spend it in culturally authentic Little India! Kick off with dinner at one of the many restaurants (both North and South Indian styles) in Little India and introduce a refreshing cup of lassi to the kids. Then walk along Serangoon Road and take in the sights, sounds and smells of hole-in-wall stores with all kinds of wares. Find small transistor radios, slippers, clothing, flower garlands and foodstuffs there. It's a sight to behold especially at night when the streetlights and traffic form a backdrop to a charming evening.
Don't let closing hours deter you when the shutters come down past 9pm. Head to Mustafa on Syed Alwi Road, which stays open 24 hours daily. Check out six storeys worth of jewellery, clothing, household goods, electronic goods, trinkets and more. The kids will definitely be tired out with this late-night excursion! Just try not to lose them in the store...
Best enjoyed by kids aged 4 years and up.
I Have... THE WHOLE DAY:
Getting there: Head to Changi Village bus terminal, then take a 15-minute boat ride from Changi Point Ferry Terminal ($2.50 per person)
Boat operating hours: 6am to 11pm
Admission to the island is free
It's hard to imagine that the simple life, where the economy doesn't matter that much still exists. Just 15 minutes away from Singapore, Pulau Ubin personifies the laid-back village life. Even the most urbanised kid is sure to wonder about life on the island. Start your day off with breakfast at Changi Village (check out the nasi lemak stalls) to fuel up for a day of either cycling or trekking around the trails of Ubin.
See granite quarries, coconut and rubber plantations, mangrove swamps, fish and prawn farms, and even the occasional engaged couple taking pre-wedding photo shots on the rustic island. Take pit stops along the way- you'll find drinks stands at corners selling iced drinks. Don't worry if the kids are squeamish about the idea of "roughing it out" for a day: Toilets and shelters do exist on Ubin. And if you're more adventurous, set up camp at designated camping sites or book a chalet to spend the evening.
Ubin's rural atmosphere often brings out the naturalist in visitors. So stop and smell the vegetation. During low tides, go further at Chek Jawa, the beach at eastern Ubin. Abundant marine life such as the horseshoe crab and peacock anemones call this place their home. Don't forget to bring your camera!
Returning to dry land, wind down the day with the kids by exploring the eateries and shops in Changi Village.
Best enjoyed by kids aged 6 and up.