Tag Archives: culture

Children’s Season at National Museum of Singapore

Children’s Season takes place from the 18th May to 30 June 2013, to coincide with the June school holidays. Jointly presented by the National Heritage Board and Museum Roundtable, it consists of exhibitions and programmes designed for children taking place in the 19 museums island-wide.

Previously, we had visited Art Garden at the Singapore Art Museum. On Monday, since I was on leave, I decided to bring C on a solo date to the National Museum while G went to child-care.


National Museum of Singapore

This year, Children’s Season at the National Museum is titled Island Adventures 2013. The exhibition explores Singapore’s multi-racial and multi-cultural society through the themes of Food, Film & Wayang, Fashion, and Photography.

At the concourse, we were greeted by a giant wall mural with a familiar dragon-shaped structure. I felt a pang of nostalgia: I used climb on such a structure during my childhood days! Now, most of the playgrounds have been replaced with modern gyms, so C has not seen the dragon before. I made a mental note to myself to bring her to Toa Payoh to play on one of the last dragon play-gyms left in Singapore, before it got torn down.

This mural turned out to be a large magnetic panel too. Colourful magnetic shapes were available in a basket to allow children to decorate the playground according to their creativity. Simple concept, but C enjoyed herself trying to get the pieces as high as she could manage.

C in front of the magnetic wall

C in front of the magnetic wall

As part of Children’s Season activities, C got a complimentary activity book, and I paid an additional $5 for a craft pack, which consisted of a packet of play-doh, two pieces of coloured paper, a paper wayang headgear and decorative material for the headgear.

Island Adventures activities booklet

Island Adventures activities booklet

There were plenty of hands-on activities for the children, in line with this year’s theme. C got to learn about different types of local food like char kway teow (chinese fried rice noodles), nasi lemak (a malay rice dish cooked with coconut and pandan) and mee goreng (fried noodles). There were pretend play stalls where she could pretend to be a hawker cooking her own dishes using magnetic pieces. Using the playdoh from the craft kit, she also made an ang ku kueh (literally translated as red tortoise cake), a traditional chinese pastry with soft sticky glutinous rice flour skin wrapped around a sweet filling in the centre.

Learning about typical Singaporean hawker food

Learning about typical Singaporean hawker food

She got to “try on” different traditional costumes from each of the major ethnic groups in Singapore (her favourite was the sarong kebaya!). Panels of traditional fabrics were also on display. I explained that tailors were common in the past, and her grandmother used to be a seamstress, and sewed many pretty clothes for myself and my brothers.

Leaning about ethnic costumes

Learning about ethnic costumes

There was a small section dedicated to Chinese opera (wayang), where little booths with peepholes were found. Looking through the peep-holes, we saw snapshots taken from shows in the past. C got to decorate her own opera headgear (of a princess), which she insisted on trying on and taking a picture for her daddy who was at work. She had watched Chinese opera on a stage and on tv (both grandparents enjoyed it), but had found difficulty understanding the dialects spoken. I explained that different characters had different types of makeup to differentiate them, and the headgear was different – she could try identifying them on stage now!

Learning about Wayang

Learning about Wayang

One of the most interesting booths featured an activity where she learnt how photo studios used to produce coloured prints in the 1950s and 60s. She was astonished to know that we had to wait for photos to be developed before we knew how the pictures turned out, that there were only black and white photos in the past (colour had to be hand-painted).

Learning about old photography techniques

Learning about old photography techniques


Cameras from bygone eras

After the children’s activities, we made our way to the 2nd level, where there the Singapore Living Galleries were. We only visited the Fashion and Film exhibits, but C didn’t like it much as the galleries were rather dark. She did get to listen to pop music from her grandmother’s era though!

We also made a quick visit to the Singapore History Gallery. I’ve not been to the National Museum for a long time, and I was pretty impressed at how high tech the exhibits had become – multimedia handheld devices (called the Companion) were distributed for all aged 7 and above (so C had to share mine) and we could punch in the codes to listen to the commentary as we made our way through the gallery.

There were several “movies” along the route, and we stopped to watch some of them. C was particularly interested by the show on olden Singapore, back when we were a fishing village. “Are they very poor people?” she asked.

Life in a fishing village

Life in a fishing village

We talked a little about the discovery of Singapore, and the development from a little fishing village to modern Singapore. I think she is still a little confused about the history though – I will need to borrow a bit more books on Singapore’s history.

The Japanese occupation exhibits triggered quite a bit of questions – “What does occupation mean? What is war? Why are the people so thin?”. Hmm… how do you explain the concept of war to a 6-year old?

"Banana money"

“Banana money” – currency used during the Japanese occupation

There were several other exhibits that interested C – one of them was a rickshaw. I explained that her grandmother used to ride in these when she was younger, and they were pulled by people. Her eyes opened wide: “The person must be really strong!”



Near the end of the gallery, we came upon some exhibits from the 1970s and 1980s (I remember some of them from my childhood!) This picture was taken for C’s grandmother:



I had expected C to be bored by the exhibits at the National Museum, but she told me that she enjoyed it more compared to the Art Garden(!) I suppose it was because there were more hands-on activities, and interactive exhibits. I definitely benefited from the trip – there were interesting bits of history that I didn’t know about.

We will definitely be back for another visit!

Have you visited the museum recently?

National Museum of Singapore
93 Stamford Road S(178897)
Opening hours:
Singapore History Gallery: Daily from 10am to 6pm (last admission at 5.30pm)
Singapore Living Galleries: Daily from 10am to 8pm (free admission from 6pm to 8pm, last admission at 7.30pm)
Admission is free for Singapore Citizens & Permanent Residents to the Singapore History and Singapore Living Galleries, Goh Seng Choo Gallery and Stamford Gallery


Project: Lapbook – China

It’s been a while since my last lapbook. In the past term, C was learning about China in school, so I thought it would be interesting to start a lapbook on the same topic. It would also be a good chance to start a discussion with her on her Chinese heritage.

In the lapbook, we had the usual items – things found in China, its location on the world map, the China flag. I also included some interesting information about China – its capital, currency, population and leader. C already knew about Beijing, but wasn’t aware of the country’s other ancient capitals. She was also amazed at the birth rate in China (one baby born every 1.9sec!).


Capital, population, currency and leader

I had little cards with pictures of Chinese inventions – she had learnt about some of them in school, but was surprised when I told her that the toothbrush was a Chinese invention (“How did they brush their teeth before the toothbrush was invented?“). Paper making was a fascinating topic for her too (we will probably try doing this during the holidays).

Chinese inventions

Chinese inventions

I explained that prior to paper, the ancient Chinese used to write on scrolls made up of bamboo strips or silk. As a craft activity, we created a scroll out of popsicle sticks and twine (because popsicle sticks are much easier to find compared to bamboo strips!).

Tip: If you intend to make your own scrolls, line the sticks and mark the spot where you intend to tie the twine (about 1.5-2cm from the top). Then use a penknife to cut notches – it will help the twine stay in position.

Making the scroll

Making the scroll

On the completed scroll, C copied part of the Three Character Classic (三字经), one of the Chinese classic texts. We used a black marker for writing. I wrote some of the more difficult words in pencil so she could trace it. I was really proud that she managed to write so neatly! We did some revision on the recitation of the text too.

Completed scroll

Completed scroll with Three Character Classic

When learning the chinese language, C had complained that some of the characters were difficult to write, unlike the english alphabet (in her words: “there are so many strokes!“). I explained that the language evolved from pictograms (象型字), and that most of the words had interesting origins. We viewed an interesting video on youtube, and I included a matching game in the lapbook. She was much more willing to learn about the chinese characters after that. Note: The original pictogram from which the current form evolved is included at the corner of the picture card.

Match the picture to the word

Match the picture to the word

Besides the Three Character Classic, I also introduced another classic text called Hundred Family Surnames (百家姓). I explained that since China was so big, there were literally hundreds of different surnames (currently there are 504). I printed out a list and asked her to locate her surname, my surname, and her grandmother’s surname. I explained that there were some surnames that were very common, and there were a lot of people who had the same surnames although they did not come from the same family.

Hundred Family Surnames

Hundred Family Surnames

I took the opportunity to explain that some of the surnames originated from the same area in China. She had learnt that there were 56 ethnic groups in China, so I showed her the different regions of China where each ethnic group resided. I explained that her grandfather and ancestors came from China (and showed her on the map). She was amazed that her grandfather and ancestors actually came from China (we had not explained this to her prior to this discussion).

Different regions in China

Different regions in China

Here’s the completed lapbook! While this project has been completed, this was just the beginning of C’s journey to learn more about her Chinese heritage.

China lapbook

China lapbook

Download the lapbook here ==>Lap book-China

How do you teach your children about their heritage?

Yusheng – A guide to auspicious phrases to use

Today is the 7th day of the lunar new year (初七), also known as 人日, or day of the human. This day is considered the birthday of all mankind. On this day, we eat yusheng. Of course, as with all the dishes eaten during the chinese new year, there is an auspicious meaning to each of the ingredients.

Usually when we eat it at restaurants, the waitress would utter auspicious phrases as she adds in each ingredient. If you are having it at home, here’s a quick 12-step guide to the phrases to be used:



Step 1:
When all your loved ones are gathered, say:
恭喜发财 (gōng xǐ fā cái)

Step 2:
Fish symbolizes abundance throughout the year:
年年有余 (nián nián yǒu yú)

Step 3:
Pomelo or lime symbolizes luck:
大吉大利 (dà jí dà lì)

Step 4:
Shredded carrots symbolize good luck blessings:
鸿运当头 (hóng yùn dāng tóu)

Step 5:
Shredded green radish symbolizes eternal youth:
青春常驻 (chīng chūn cháng zhù)

Step 6:
Shredded white radish symbolizes prosperity in business and promotion at work:
风生水起,步步高升 (fēng shēng shuĭ qĭ, bù bù gāo shēng)

Step 7:
Pepper and cinnamon powder symbolizes the hope of attracting more money and valuables:
招财进宝 (zhāo cái jìn băo)

Step 8:
Chopped peanuts and sesame seeds symbolize a household filled with gold and silver, and good business:
金银满屋,生意兴隆 (jīn yín măn wū, shēng yì xīng lóng)

Step 9:
Deep fried flour crisps symbolize a wealthy life ahead:
遍地黄金 (biàn dì huáng jīn)

Step 10:
Oil symbolizes an increase in profits and flow of great wealth:
一本万利,财源广进 (yī bĕn wàn lì, cái yuán guăng jìn)

Step 11:
Plum sauce or kumquat paste symbolizes a sweet and pleasant relationship:
甜甜密密 (tián tián mì mì)

Step 12:
Toss the yusheng 7 times with loud shouts of “Lo Hei”(捞起) and other auspicious new year wishes.

Huat ah!

p/s: For those who want to try making your own yusheng, here’s a good recipe to try (not mine!). It makes for a good appetizer 😉

Postcard from Atlanta

Here’s a beautiful postcard that I received last weekend. It was sent from Atlanta, USA, 10 thousand miles away 🙂

This was part of the postcard exchange, a fantastic idea initiated by Valerie over at Atlantamomofthree.

Valerie was one of the first bloggers I “met” on WordPress and I’ve always enjoyed reading her posts. A versatile blogger, she writes on subjects ranging from breastfeeding to homeschooling to trying out new recipes. She always has such great ideas for her blog! Plus, she’s such a sweet person, always positive and encouraging.

If you’ve not already checked out Atlantamomofthree, you should 🙂

The postcard exchange is still ongoing, so if you are interested to take part do check out the details here.