4 Ideas To Engage Your Child During Holidays

The December holiday period is here, and I have two boys who are having their school holidays. What can I do to engage the two boys, aged three and six, so that they will not drive each other crazy (usually it’s the younger one that drives the elder one crazy)? I only have two or three weeks of break before I start working again.

Make and play homemade games
I was at my parents’ place when my mother was throwing out some things. I happened to spot a few laminated A3 paper, and realised that they were some snake and ladders games created for my history students in the past when I was a beginning teacher.

I took them home, and played with my children. It was about a time travelling piece where they get to learn about the trading and travelling history of ancient China and India.
india travels and trade

I had included information about how difficult it was for traders to travel in the jungles in ancient India as there were fierce tribes, and when they reached such boxes, the players would miss a turn or go down a snake. If there were new trade markets opening, the players would get to go again or go up a ladder.
china travels and trade

My children had a lot of fun playing, especially El. He was so excited about the games he asked to play both ancient India and China games a couple of time. He even said he wanted to create his own game. He wanted to do Malaysia at first. Then I suggested Southeast Asia, as that was also part of the former history syllabus. In the end, he wanted to do Thailand.

I discussed some quick facts with him, and then he decided he needed more information. I said I would take him to the library and he wanted to go there the next day.

playing board game

This would be a great way to make use of the holidays as it is the time I really have time with my children, and they would have other things to do in the school term. Making such historical games requires research, and there is the fun element.

Go on a holiday
We were planning a holiday to Australia, and El was really keen to visit the Australia Zoo, managed by the Irwin family. It would be our first overseas holiday ever since he was born, so we felt that going to Brisbane would be a pretty long flight (at least 7 hours) and the air fare was way more expensive than going to Perth. After attending a financial literacy course, El agreed to go to Perth instead since we would save more money.

Since both children like animals and El especially likes nature, we would be going to places such as farm, nature park and zoo. It would be great to expose them to Australian wildlife and other farm animals. I just hope the weather would be fine and not too hot.

They like dinosaurs too, and I googled Dinosaur Perth, and found a great website that collates all the sightings of dinosaurs in Perth. The Perth Museum looks like a great place to start looking! Unfortunately, we have missed a November exhibition, and going to miss something dino-related in January. There is also a theme park, which we may explore if we have the time, although our schedule looks pretty packed.

Looks like we can try the Kings Park. There are some dinosaurs there.

I am also going to pack lots of paper so that they can do some drawing if they are bored. El also asked me to bring along the snake and ladders game, which is very light.

It would be fun to plan holidays together with your children if they are old enough. Read up websites to find out how to save money, and where the best places to go to. As we only made our decision to go there really late, and I was too busy to book accommodation, they were nearly full. I decided to try my luck with airbnb, and it mentioned that only 6% of all the listings were available for my date. It is a house in a suburb, so I hope it will not be too inconvenient for us.

Take up holiday classes
The boys had just taken up taekwondo classes (to protect himself from Gar, who is quite aggressive at times, though both boys are learning it together).

They seem to have so much fun from the class, and they get to expend their energy. They have not received their white belts yet, so they even went to do their own by cutting a piece of paper!

He likes drawing and going for short term art lessons would be more interesting to him. Gar wants to go for art classes too, but he is too young to complete all the drawing and painting. However, he gets so upset that he would even lie when he sees all the paintings belonged to his brother, so going for holiday lessons would be great for him too, just so that he would have his own artwork.

The paintings might have required a lot of guidance from the teachers, but their satisfaction at the end of it is great. They make great décor too.

El requested to go for a science cookery class at the local Community Club, so I signed up a class for him. This will allow him to have fun, and at the same time, hopefully learn something new.

Since he is going to primary school next year, and is pretty weak in the Chinese language, he will go for something more academic in focus. He has a few lessons to attend. I had signed him up for some fun day trips, with immersion in Chinese, but he told me he was still conversing with the other kids in English, so that was not too useful. He had lots of fun though, but I think it may be too tiring to go out the whole day. I am glad he still comes out of the class smiling.

I guess it depends on what your child’s strengths and interests are. Find holiday classes that are suitable for them, and that keeps them occupied. If they have weaknesses in any academic area, it may also be a time to help them catch up. It’s your call (and your children’s).

Make videos
El took his brother’s rabbit project and used it as a prop. He wanted to stage a puppet show or something, then decided he wanted to record it. He then started doing his own videos and called it the Rabbit Show. He had his own commentary, and he also recorded his brother singing about a rabbit. I think the quality is really bad, but hey, even Steven Spielberg has to start somewhere. My secret wish is he can do something like the Hobby Kids, where Gar loves to watch. For now, I just let him use my iPhone to record.

rabbit show
He had been thinking about this a long time. He wants to make his Minecraft commentary videos, but after I read up on how to record iPad games, I think it is far easier to hook up the iPad to the TV via HDMI cable, and then use a video cam to video the TV. The other option is to buy a newer version of the iPad, but I do not see the need to spend that money when the current one is in good condition.

The rest of the time during the holidays, we will probably go to various places of local attractions that are free. If possible, I may just bring the older one to watch a movie. We usually watch at home, because you never know when the younger one gets really scared. I’ve also brought them to a playground recently.

Only less than a month left before I have to go back to work!

This post is part of a blog hop by Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page in December on Surviving the holidays. Check out other blogs too.
surviving the holidays

Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

On a whim, we decided to visit the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum on 7 August, on one of the SG 50 Golden Jubilee weekend. I had gone online and found that tickets at 5.30pm were available, so I booked it and printed out the tickets (a troublesome task).

elgarmummy and boys

To avoid overcrowding, the museum only allows a certain number of people in. The first part of the museum was about plants. I used to pick up flowers in my primary school and keep them as pressed flowers in my books.

plant specimens

I was intrigued by the carnivorous pitcher plants! The plants are sweet smelling to attract insects. When the insects crawl near, they will slip into the pitchers and are unable to climb out. The enzymes will start dissolving the insects as nutrients for the plants.

pitcher plants

There was a model of rafflesia, one of the the largest flowers in the world and also extremely smelly. It is supposed to smell like rotting corpse.

rafflesia model

There is another flower that is large, has a similar name (corpse flower) and it is called titan arum.

titan arum model

There were also fungi specimens.


There was a light show at the sauropod fossils, which was nothing much. We went upstairs to take a better look.

dinosaur fossils

dinosaur light show

Gar kept asking where the T-Rex was. No T-Rex fossil dude!

At the second floor, there were many stuffed animals. The young sun bear was seated alone.

baby sun bear

There were so many stuffed birds! I cannot remember their names.

bird taxidermy

There were a few tiny cubicles for people to listen to. Only managed to get a blurred shot of the two boys here.


There were many collections by famous people from the past. My colleague who has a lot of bugs at his cubicle would definitely like this bug collection, or perhaps his son would enjoy it more as those collection belonged to him.

There was a pangolin. It looked too glossy. I am not sure whether it was stuffed or a model.
pangolinAfter we were done with upstairs, we went back to check out other exhibits at the ground level.

I liked the big cats category. There were clouded leopards, leopards, civets and others.

big cats

There were other Malayan animals, such as tapirs, and orang utans. I wonder how they died. Did they die from being captured? Or did they die naturally? The Singapore zoo also had similar animals.

malayan animals

I happened to discuss a passage on leather and other animal by-products. The processes were cruel. Some of the animals were skinned alive, and left to bleed to death. Others were clubbed to death. Kid goats were boiled alive to produce gloves.

One thing that I had seen was a tiger skin, with its tongue still intact.

tiger skin


The day before, my NCC students went on a course, and an instructor showed them survival techniques in the jungle. He showed them how to kill a live frog by flinging it around. They told me the frog’s organs were still moving. They also shared how chickens were killed. Some of them enjoyed the process! OMG!

There was a menacing crocodile which looked over tanned. There was also a false gharial. I enjoy getting my students to guess how to different crocodiles, alligators, gharials and other similar type of crocodilian reptiles. (Hint: Check out the shape of their jaws.)

false gharial

El poses with an elephant tusk.


I had also taught about narwhals before, which was the subject of a comprehension passage. They have a long tusk that young male narwhals like to use to joust. They were thought to be something like unicorns. I was amazed to see this for myself and admired the twirls in the tusk.


There was even a triceratops leg!

triceratops leg

I quickly took some pictures of butterflies and some winged creatures, and then prepared to leave. It was also near closing time (7pm). Towards the end, Gar kept shouting for ‘milk’. I think he was bored stiff. El had enjoyed this trip because he loves animals. The moment we stepped outside, he stopped asking for milk.


winged insects

We went to the shop and bought jigsaw puzzle, a science fossil kit, and a sticker book. I will probably write about the excavation of dinosaurs another time. While waiting for their father to pay for the items, we went outside and took some more pictures.

el and mummy

Their father finally emerges with the spoils.


Closing thoughts: If I were to homeschool El, I think this place, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum would be a great place to go to. You can have a few ‘show and tell’ sessions from the vast amount of information here. I must admit if not for the dinosaur fossils which cost the museum millions of dollars, I would not be attracted to this place. In fact, I would not be interested in natural science if not for El. In trying to satisfy his curiosity, I have to read up a lot, and then I actually found all these interesting. My poor command of language when I was younger, also meant I would not understand all these exhibits then.

An idea suddenly springs to my mind. If students are exposed to these exhibitions at a young age, they would be able to comprehend many comprehension passages better. Many of the passages are about nature.

Gar is too young to appreciate this place, especially since his favourite T-Rex is not there. I guess slightly older children with strong interest in science (animals and plants) would enjoy this place more.The other place with a few similar exhibits would be the National Museum of Singapore, although I am not sure what they have after the renovation.

Since it is the SG 50 Golden Jubilee weekend, we wanted to go to other places that were free of charge, but we dislike crowds, so this museum at NUS is a great place for us to discover something about Singapore.

Gardens By The Bay Visit

We went to the Gardens By The Bay in early December. The place is free at certain parts, but if you want to visit more of the exotic plants, you will have to pay.

To see the supertrees, it is best to go at night as they are lighted up. They are actually exhaust pipes for the air-conditioners. The whole place is green in design, so lots of recycling is done.

We reached there at 11am and we were hungry.

The guys

We found a cafe that was open. Their lunch menu starts at 11.30am, but we managed to get some food.

El found the penne too hot.

hot pasta

The sandwich was huge!


It looked like a pretty decent place. I saw a bunch of expat mothers with their infants and toddlers having brunch.

Outside the cafe were some Christmas decorations. Some poly students were playing Amazing Race too.


We explored a little park that has exercise stations.

walking hand in hand

Gar was playing with this spider web and lots of fun!

gar lying down

El was walking on the shaky bridge.

walking through the shaky bridge 2

A statue of an ant hill…

ant hill

and a dragon outside.


There is a free water park, but they are for children 6 or 7 years and older.

water playground for older children

Marina Bay Sands in the background, but it looks slightly hazy.

marina bay sands background

Some pretend fun! They do have a lot of alligators (looks more like alligators to me, with their U shape snouts.)

eaten by an alligator

While queuing to go inside, we overheard an excited usher who said she saw the late Steve Irwin’s family. We did not get to see them that day.

Inside the conservatory. It is a dome made of glass. Cacti galore!

so many cacti

I had never seen creeping cacti.

wormy cacti

This type looks more familiar to me.

prickly cacti

Some flowers I had seen/



An interesting statue that appears to float.

travellers statue

They have a Christmas flowers exhibition.

christmas flowers


christmas holly

They had Christmas decorations of European towns.

christmas miniature houses


christmas presents

Christmas trees

christmas trees

A random tourist who asked to pose with El. They kept asking us to take their photos. We should have asked them to take our family photo.
fireplace with random tourist

Flow’ry the Snowman

flowry the snowman  We went to the other exhibition. It had a waterfall. I did not take many photos there.
Opal stones.



stalagmitesA closeup!

yellow flower

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