Child-friendly museums and galleries in Singapore

We look at some of the best museums and galleries that encourage learning through playtime
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Singapore’s lively art scene makes for some great family-friendly options over the school holidays. We look at some of the best museums and galleries that encourage learning through playtime. 

Singapore Art Museum

Get interactive at Singapore Art Museum

Not just a place for contemporary art, the Singapore Art Museum has a dedicated Learning Gallery for the sole purpose of discussing and engaging with the artworks featured. ‘Once Upon This Island’ is the gallery’s current exhibition, which features a series of works by Singaporean artists themed around the ideas of home, community, identity and memories; they raise some important questions about what it means to live in contemporary Singapore.

While these works all encourage discussion, some even welcome you to participate. For example, ‘HDB Life’ by artist Shin Lin involves a postcard depicting the plain front door of a typical Housing Development Board (HDB) unit, and on a separate sheet, stickers of various household objects. Your job is to decorate the postcard with whatever stickers you like in order to contribute to the installation – a fun activity both kids and adults can get in on.

Meanwhile, teenagers can check out the ‘President’s Young Talents’ awards exhibition until March 27 – which sees exhibits by the awards’ five finalists – and later gain a better understanding of each artist’s ideas and concepts in the Think&Tinker room, an interactive space similar to the Learning Gallery.

71 Bras Basah Road, Singapore (+65 6589 9580/ www.singaporeartmuseum.sg). Mon-Thu & Sat-Sun, 10am-7pm; Fri, 10am-9pm. Adults, SGD10 (about RM31); Students and senior citizens, SGD5 (about RM15). Free entry for citizens, permanent residents and children under six.

Mint Museum of Toys
Photo: Albert Lim K S

Be a collector at Mint Museum of Toys

The world’s first purpose-built museum for toys is a great way to get your child to learn about the value of toys – because you’ll never know who’s willing to pay a fortune for your one-eyed bear one day. Here you’ll get four floors of vintage and rare toys as well as pop culture memorabilia dating back from as early as the mid-19th century – these are the long-time private collection of Singaporean Chang Yang Fa. We spotted early incarnations of Mickey Mouse and Felix the Cat, Popeye the Sailor Man, Tin Tin and even a barrelchested Batman action figure modelled after actor Adam West from the 1960s TV series.

The vast collection may geta little overwhelming, so opt for the museum’s guided tour for some historical background behind each display (for example, for most of the American-made merchandise, you’ll notice a lot of large character heads dispensing string – these are string holders, which were common American household items in the ’40s and ’50s). Public tours happen every Wednesday at 3pm, but private tours can also be arranged.

26 Seah Street, Singapore (+65 6339 0660/emint.com). Daily, 9.30am-6.30pm. Adults, SGD15 (about RM46); Children (2-12 years old) and senior citizens, SGD7.50 (about RM23).

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Singapore Pinacotheque de Paris

Earn your brush strokes at Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris

Rembrandt, Monet and Picasso are just some of the great names whose rare masterpieces you’ll find at the Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris, and you don’t even have to travel to Europe. Occupying the newly refurbished Fort Canning Arts Centre, the private museum houses three main gallery spaces: The Collections Gallery (a permanent collection with over 40 rare masterpieces), The Features Gallery (which hosts temporary exhibitions) and the Heritage Gallery, a collection of Southeast Asian artefacts significant to Singapore’s early history and civilisation.

The museum’s fancy French name and collection of masterpieces may intimidate, but the Singapore Pinacothèque is surprisingly down-to-earth. Visitors can learn more about the museum’s collections and its artists through the Museum of the Future interactive digital platform (which is like a huge panoramic screen mounted on the wall), while the upstairs Graffiti Walk is an open space featuring floor murals done by six international graffiti artists.

If you see a budding Picasso in your child, the kids’ workshops offered at the in-house art academy integrate art-making with art history, and classes are usually based on a piece of artwork from the gallery, so kids can learn about an artist’s signature technique through trying it themselves.

Fort Canning Arts Centre, 5 Cox Terrace, Singapore (+65 6883 1588/www.pinacotheque.com.sg). Mon-Thu & Sun, 10am-7.30pm; Fri-Sat, 10am-8.30pm. Entry from SGD11 (about RM34) per adult and SGD7.50 (about RM23) for students and senior citizens per gallery. Free entry for Heritage Gallery.

National Gallery Singapore

Play with art at the National Gallery Singapore

The newly opened National Gallery Singapore is a visual arts institution with the largest public collection of modern art in Singapore and Southeast Asia; it’s also home to the Keppel Centre for Art Education, said to be the first of its kind in the region. The child-friendly centre features four unique spaces each conceptualised by an artist: Art Corridor (explore colours, shapes, lines and textures through tactile play), Art Playscape (adventure trails based on artworks), Project Gallery (for arts and crafts) and Children’s Museum (a role-playing space where kids learn about gallery curation before conducting their own exhibition tours).

Launching with ‘Homes: Present and Future’, the centre’s maiden annual exhibition based on the connections between art and everyday life, each exhibition presented here will be complemented with a series of programmes for kids and adults, including daily tours, workshops and forums. Alternatively, if your kid has a keen interest in architecture and history, sign up for the building highlights tour, which will take you through the two restored heritage buildings that make up the National Gallery – City Hall and the former Supreme Court – while recounting the historical events that took place here.

1 St Andrew’s Road, Singapore (+65 6690 9400/www.nationalgallery.sg). Mon-Thu, 10am- 7pm; Fri-Sun, 10am-11pm. Adults, SGD20 (about RM61); Children and senior citizens, SGD15 (about RM46). Free entry for Singaporean citizens and permanent residents.

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Singapore Philatelic Museum
Photo: Josh Swu

Trace history through stamps at Singapore Philatelic Museum

Snail mail is somewhat of a dying art in this digital age, which is why you should get the kids off the iPad and straight to the Singapore Philatelic Museum to learn all about stamps and philately (the art of collecting and studying stamps – there’s even a new word for them to learn here). The museum is the custodian and curator of Singapore’s philatelic materials, and the collection ranges from stamps to archival philatelic curios dating back as far as the 1830s.

A history lesson through the study of stamps may sound like a bore, but this museum curates its permanent and temporary galleries in a way to keep the little ones entertained, mainly through colourful and interactive displays designed for curious, wandering hands. Currently on until the end of July 2016 is ‘The Singapore Journey: 50 Years Through Stamps’, an exhibition that traces Singapore’s 50 years as a nation. And if you visit before January 3, the little ones will love ‘Counting Sheep, Dreaming Goats’, a fun exhibition commemorating the Year of the Sheep through toys and trivia.

23-B Coleman Street, Singapore (+65 6337 3888/spm.org.sg). Mon, 1-7pm; Tue-Sun, 9.30am- 7pm. Adults, SGD6 (about RM18); Children (3-12 years old), SGD4 (about RM12). Free entry for citizens and permanent residents.

Top 3 child-friendly restaurants in Singapore

EatPlayLove Café

Like a cool, kitschy kopitiam for kids, EatPlayLove’s impressive craft corner gives kids free-flow access to crayons, colour pencils and more arts and crafts materials at SGD5 (about RM15) per hour on weekends and for two hours on weekdays. Older kids can even make their own dolls and sock monkeys by purchasing the DIY kits, or create button badges using the shrink plastic sheets.

28 Aliwal Street #01-07 Aliwal Arts Centre, Singapore (+65 6444 6400). Mon & Wed-Sun, 12noon-10pm.

Nook DIY House of Pancakes

Like steamboat, only you’re making pancakes. At Nook, you pick a pancake batter (available in a variety of flavours) and some toppings (there’s even an option for bacon) to start making your own pancakes at your griddleequipped table. The squeeze bottle allows you to make pancakes in whatever shapes and sizes, so get the whole family involved and use your creativity.

21 Lorong Kilat, Singapore (+65 6466 1811). Mon & Wed- Thu, 12noon-12midnight; Fri-Sun, 10am-12midnight.

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The Bank Bar + Bistro

The CBD-area restaurant may be an after-work watering hole on weeknights, but on weekends The Bank Bar + Bistro becomes a family-friendly brunch spot. Aside from a kids’ menu that also functions as a colouring sheet, there’s a dedicated play room with toys and cartoons. Bonus: Kids eat free with any adult main course ordered.

One Shenton #01-01, 1 Shenton Way, Singapore (+65 6636 2188). Mon-Thu, 11am-12midnight; Fri, 11-1am; Sat-Sun, 9am-12midnight. Family weekend roast, 9am-6pm.

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