The typical father is pragmatic by nature; we live by function, and go to places where function serves us. For my family, this would usually mean a quick dinner after our 3-year-old son is released from his pre-school, and maybe a little grocery shopping, all within reach of our Sengkang home.
Kids, however, live by a very different set of rules – if they are even considered rules – and dads will sometimes have to play by our children’s whims in order to keep our journey through fatherhood sane. My son is as much a teacher to me as he is my student, and the places he brings me teaches me more about understanding him and being his dad than I would ever learn if I insisted on my way.
We don’t often head to IKEA on the premise of buying furniture or home accessories – our son usually requests for the trip. While IKEA Tampines has its Småland, a large supervised play area for children aged 4 and above, there are only 2 main motivators for a child under 4 years to enter the land of Swedish furniture: that small, round toddler’s gazebo in the middle of their restaurant, and soft serve ice cream.
IKEA Tampines houses one of the very few restaurants in Singapore where he can play freely in a gazebo while his mother and I watch while chowing down on Swedish meatballs. I also find ample opportunities there for us to teach him – and for him to learn on his own – social skills while mingling with other children in the playground. And at the end of every trip to IKEA, whether we’ve purchased anything or not, we will always end off with a cone of soft serve in each of our hands; in the interests of my son’s happiness and his parents’ sanity, 50 cents per cone is really not a bad deal.
The Open Fields in Sengkang-Punggol
The newly minted residential estate is surrounded by grassy open fields yet to be earmarked for housing projects, and it is there that you can expect a plethora of colourful shapes floating in the sky as you drive through in the evenings.
The buoyant kite-flying community in Sengkang-Punggol often sees events set up by community clubs, residents committees and even the Singapore Kite Association, but kite-flying isn’t an activity that requires any special event; all it takes is a kite and string, a little sun, a good wind and a little running . More importantly, when dad teaches junior the fundamentals of string control and catching wind pockets, a bond will form; sharing in the success of seeing your efforts lift off into the heavens and staying there is reason enough to make it a weekly activity.
Since the completion of Punggol Promenade, this little beach off the Outward Bound Singapore grounds has become a bustling park destination filled with joggers, families and fishing enthusiasts. My son’s favourite spot is the small stretch of sand before the seawater, where he usually focuses on digging holes, filling the holes with water I help him fetch, and wondering why the water keeps disappearing. I, too, wonder how to explain this phenomenon to him.
Sengkang Swimming Complex
Never in my own childhood days would I have expected a public children’s swimming pool to be decked with fountains, sprays and a giant water bucket set 5 meters above everyone’s heads. And I haven’t even mentioned the 3-storey high slides! With entry prices set at 80 cents per child and $1.50 per adult, Wild Wild Wet at Downtown East just doesn’t seem so great anymore. It is a wonderful place to introduce children to water-play and swimming; the sight of other children laughing and playing so fervently in the water-drenched playground will just wash any fear away.
The Sengkang LRT Line
This would have to be the strangest suggestion for where to bring your kid, but the magic that the ride holds for my son is reason enough to include it here. Whenever we ride along the Sengkang LRT line, he would turn from rowdy and playful to quiet and thoughtful, and if you stop to look at what he sees out the windows, you will understand why. The LRT line transitions seamlessly in and out of urbana and flora; it floats through our residential estate, over the Sengkang wetlands, past the green open fields (the same ones the kite-flyers are at) and at the right time of day, the Singapore sunset.
Every journey my son takes me, I see and learn something new. In a fast-paced society such as the one we live in, it takes a 3-year-old to teach me that this country may still hold such life and beauty, and yet we don’t stop to think about and appreciate what is right at our doorstep. And indeed, it doesn’t take a lot to learn about life through the eyes of a child.
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