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School’s out — but these places and activities are in!

Running out of places to visit in our Little Red Dot during the year-end holidays? Then it’s time to check out these kid-friendly attractions.

TEXT: MORGAN AWYONG
PHOTOS: HOMETEAMNS, SHUTTERSTOCK

With options for overseas trips still fairly limited, planning for family activities for the year-end may seem a little daunting. Why not be a tourist in your own country — you’d be surprised at the possibilities our own little island still has to offer. This is especially true now, as local operators have dug deep to come up with new activities to spice up familiar venues.

Here are ideas for you to drop into your calendar, to keep your end-of-year programme just as exciting and safe.

COMBINE WITS FOR A JEWEL HEIST

Find out who’s the brains in the family with this adventure at Changi Jewel. Set off on a three-hour mission in cool air-conditioned comfort, solving puzzles in the dazzling mall while seeing the iconic building in a new light.

Work together to solve clues and see if you can get away with the prizes. There’s now even a Burger King edition which includes a free T-shirt for each participant, and a special grand mystery prize too!

ANOTHER WAY TO SIGHTSEE WITH PLANES

Taking to the skies may still be off the cards for many, but you can still get your fill of aircraft with private hangar tour at Seletar Airport.

Stretch those limbs and spread those wings. Okay, so you may not be flying to a holiday somewhere but that doesn’t mean you can’t still get up close to planes. Explore another side to Seletar with an award-winning private hangar tour with Xperience DMC, and enjoy a guided tour filled with nuggets of information of this area’s Royal Air Force history.

Don’t miss the photo-op seated inside a propeller plane and drinks at the Aviator’s Lounge while overlooking the Seletar Airport runway. And if you’re still raring to learn more, visit Jewel’s Changi Experience Studio for more experiential exhibits of our famous airport. Compete in a virtual runway race against a Boeing 747 and play games to win actual discounts at the gift shop.

A FANTASTIC WAY TO FARM

Let the kids understand where their food comes from, while inculcating sustainable mindsets with a trip to an urban rooftop farm by Ugly Food. The initiative hopes to cut food waste by extolling the virtues of surplus produce and what the organisers call “optically challenged fruits and vegetables”.

Growing up in a city environment has removed us from the source of our food, and this eye-opening visit will foster a greater appreciation for those greens they might not have wanted to eat previously! End off by juicing and making sorbet from said “ugly food” at the end to let us realise that they taste just as good.

But if wildlife is more your thing, try the Kranji Farm Tour. This programme takes you to Hay Dairies to meet goats, Jurong Frog Farm for some close encounters with the misunderstood amphibians, and the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve to check out some of the world’s rarest mangroves, indigenous wildlife and migratory birds.

A PLAYGROUND FOR ALL AGES

Adventure HQ at HomeTeamNS Khatib goes big with attractions that include Singapore’s first indoor Roll Glider, 165m-long indoor artificial caves and the country’s longest indoor Firemen slide at 14m.

The phrase “Go big or go home” may have been in reference to the playgrounds at HomeTeamNS. Adventure HQ at HomeTeamNS Khatib is the biggest of the lot — 2,800sqm in size  — and is home to Singapore’s first indoor Roll Glider, 165m-long indoor artificial caves and the country’s longest indoor Firemen slide at 14m. It’s so big and offers so many different activities that the entire family can easily find a station that suits them.

Alternatively, HomeTeamNS Bukit Batok holds its own with PlayPen, featuring game rooms for rent and Laser Quest for sharpshooters. The younger ones will also love T-play, an augmented playground themed to delight with transportation designs. Residents in the East can head to the structures at Clip ‘N Climb in Tampines. You and your kids will challenge colourful obstacles of varying difficulties, and the imaginative terrain is a treat for all.

CONQUER, CHALLENGE AND COMPETE

If your energetic kids are always bouncing off the walls, then a trip to Nerf Action Xperience (NAX) might be just what they need. With obstacles and activities that will challenge all their faculties, NAX, promises not to disappoint. Highlights include a large obstacle arena to test strength, coordination and courage, as well as stations to train agility, precision and creativity.

Younger kids who love to just play should visit Waka Waka. The safari-themed playland is at Furama RiverFront and a great spot for parents — while the children tire themselves out in the space, mum and dad can have a leisurely buffet at the nearby hotel’s lobby.

PACK YOUR OWN LUNCH

Whether you're signing up for a class or taking the DIY route, making cute bento meals is one way to inspire picky eaters to eat their vegetables.

If the kids are either a little picky with their food, or love to create with their hands, why not try out some Cute Bento Making in a private class? Led by insta-bento-famous @simletseat, you’ll pick up skills that will ensure lunches will never be boring again.

The class uses basic kitchen tools to create the cutest characters, and includes S$40 You Tiao Man e-vouchers to buy ingredients for your next attempt. The creations here are so cheeky, even fussy eaters won’t be able to resist their new food friends.

MAKE LEARNING COOL AGAIN

An ever-popular destination for school excursions, the iconic Science Centre, is home to various halls of immersive presentations and interactive exhibits.

Find mind-boggling themed mazes filled with lasers and mirrors or evoke some sympathy from your children at the aging booths as they watch themselves grow old on screens. Topical themes ranging from Da Vinci to dinosaurs make learning extra engaging and visual. Choose from one of the many nearby extensions to end your visit.

The outdoor Ecogarden is a living laboratory of insects and plants, while the Kinetic Garden applies physics principles in an open playground. For something totally refreshing, pick an arctic visit to Snow City just next door for a chance to slide down icy slopes, clash in bumper cars or just build a snowman.

Need more ideas for family-friendly activities? We’ve got you covered. For the latest updates on HomeTeamNS events and activities, subscribe to our newsletter, visit our website or official Facebook page .

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Lifestyle

On the hunt for great staycation spots in Singapore

Bigger rooms? Play pools? Babysitting services? Yes please.

TEXT: MORGAN AWYONG
PHOTOS: HOMETEAMNS, SHUTTERSTOCK

Planning a staycation for the family requires that a few extra boxes be checked. With a larger group that prefers to stay together — and lots of energy waiting to be expended — parents are looking out for features that ensure kids will be comfortable, safe and engaged. Most hotels cater more to solo and couple guests, but with the prolonged pandemic and staycations now the new norm, many are including more family-friendly features and itineraries.

Here are a few noteworthy options to start.

SUN, SAND, SEA

For an island-hopping escape, look no further than the swanky Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa, equipped with the balmy beach vibes. Singapore’s only beachfront resort offers views of the sea, pools, hills or gardens.

The establishment also boasts dedicated pools for adults and children for a splashing good time. Kids even get three water slides and a splash pad for some safe fun. Children can even visit nearby Nestopia – an outdoor space with 17 sections of play. Younger ones can also opt for the hotel’s own Cool Zone kids club. Pack in that Sentosa adventure with their many packages or start with a choice of rooms from S$425.

FAMILY BUSINESS

When we think of staycations, serviced apartments may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but there are a lot of reasons why they make sense for a family. The larger square footage of these units with compartmentalised areas are superb for offering enough privacy even in the same space. Plus, the in-room amenities such as kitchenettes and washers mean even long stays are welcome.

Oakwood Premier AMTD, located in the heart of the CBD, boasts all of the above as well as spectacular views of the port and neighbouring islands when you stay in their Premier rooms. The Family Together package allows you to customise meals, so you needn’t worry about dining separately when out. Whether it’s to cook up a storm or to enjoy some laps in the infinity pool, it’s a luxurious home away from home, with the bonus of attentive staff on-premises 24/7. Rates from S$260.

BAYFRONT BONANZA

The Mandarin Oriental's massive pool offers stunning views of Marina Bay and the Central Business District.

The only thing better than a pool, is a bigger pool. And the Mandarin Oriental has a massive one, with stone fountains, swaying palms, private cabanas and a view of the Marina Bay. This also means that safe-distancing limits are more generous, giving your family a chance to spend more time in the water.

It’s also located near family attractions like the ArtScience Museum, Kidztopia and Nerf Action Xperience to help fill up that itinerary. The hotel is offering a package that includes tickets to the first two with daily breakfast for four, rollaway beds and a late checkout too. Rates for rooms looking at the bay area start from S$359, and suites are going at a steal with their one-for-one offers.

A WALK IN THE PARK

A stay at Goodwood Park Hotel, a heritage property, transports you back in time. Built in 1900 as an elite club, the estate features Dutch, French and English influences in its different wings.

The Deluxe Poolside room and newly-refurbished Pool Suites are delightful as they lead directly to the Balinese-inspired Mayfair pool – perfect for water babies. If not, try out their variant of Squid Game with the quirky Sotong Game package. If you’re looking for an escape, check out this exclusive package for HomeTeamNS members that includes a complimentary upgrade, free breakfast for two, and a 1-for-1 Spa Rael voucher for that completes the holiday vibe.

CROWN JEWEL

You may feel that you’re missing out on a legitimate holiday experience because you’re not heading to the airport with packed bags. YotelAir begs to differ. Located in the iconic Changi Jewel, an overnighter at this easterly destination gives you the privilege of staying late past the crowds to enjoy a different side of the mall.

With over 280 shops, the premises is an all-inclusive venue, with attractions such the Walking and Bouncing Nets and enough retail shops to occupy your day. Adults can even drop off the kids (from seven to twelve years of age) at the exclusive Wilderness Explorer programme. Let them make ecological discoveries as you claim some time at a spa or watch a movie. Pick the family room for four, including a bunk bed for the kids from only S$220. 

YOUR SECOND HOME

Some of us have fond memories of holiday chalets. The HomeTeamNS Villas at HomeTeamNS Bukit Batok offer plenty of space in each two-storey unit – enough for large families to engage in their favourite activities, like binging on their favourite shows or playing a few rounds on the X-box game console that’s in each chalet. Set in a lush private environment, you’ll also want to strike up the chance to have a barbecue with your own allocated pits. Rates start from S$210.

If tiring out little ones is the name of the game, staycationers can hit the clubhouse’s futsal courts, “shoot” their loved ones in a game of laser tag at the Laser Quest arena and have a ball of a time at the T-Play playground, to name just a few activities.

ONE-STOP URBAN HANGOUT SPOT

If you prefer a “daycation”, HomeTeamNS Khatib’s ManCaves are another option to celebrate that special occasion – or enjoy a quick escape – subject to the prevailing safe-distancing guidelines. Play console and board games, blast your favourite tunes over the high-quality sound system, relax in air-conditioned comfort, and enjoy the private BBQ patio with every Mancave booking.

Need a comfortable and spacious location to get some work done? Stay productive with the Work-from-Mancave promotion for only $60 per day. Make your bookings for weekday slots till 31 March 2022 here.

Hang out with HomeTeamNS today! Find out more about HomeTeamNS members’ deals and treats.

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Lifestyle

Stay indoors as monsoon season begins – 3 indoor activities for families to have a great time

As the rainfall forecast looms heavier towards the year-end, here are three fun indoor activities your family can bond over.

TEXT: MORGAN AWYONG
IMAGES: SHUTTERSTOCK

The great outdoors is, well, great. But living on the equatorial belt also means we in Singapore need to manage our expectations when heading out towards the end of the year, when the monsoon season is upon us. Weather forecasts are not foolproof, so sometimes it’s just better to plan for activities at home.

It comes with perks too – no large bags to pack and no “are-we-there-yet” questions on the road. Sprinkle in a few of these indoor ideas in your year-end itinerary and find the fun indoors. 

GAME NIGHTS

Board games are no longer stuffy, as makers evolve with the needs of today’s children. While Monopoly and checkers don’t have the same appeal as before, there are plenty of offerings that can hold your children’s interest. Newer games are more interactive and dynamic, with many sets coming with striking play pieces, such as Tang Garden with its 3D environment or Shadows in The Forest with an actual lamp as a play element.

Don’t know where to begin? Trusty Toys R Us has a good selection for all ages, and one can even test drive some games at the PlayPen at HomeTeamNS Bukit Batok. The space offers game consoles and board games. Other places to try games include The Mind Cafe or Settlers Cafe.

Once you’ve found a set that has captured the attention of your kids with good replayability, purchase them online or visit local shops like Toy Tag, Battle Bunker, Games@Pi or Team Board Game to check on availability. Puzzles are great for indoor play too, even though they are technically not board games!

MAKING IT WORK OUT

For the Energizer bunnies out there, it’s possible to expend that seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy with the right trick – workout videos. While this comes across more like a chore instead of play, a lot of today’s options have been spiced up with plenty of creative spins, stirring up the imaginations of your children as they exercise.  

Some great examples include this list on yoga for kids, where a variety of videos tap into your child’s attention span with different approaches. Some feature animation while others have pretty palettes or peppy instructors who understand how to motivate young ones.

Otherwise, get the whole family in on the act. Kids love doing things with their parents, and like this video by PopSugar, it cleverly sets up some friendly competition.

Giving kids ownership of their equipment can help engage them. Simple items like a skipping rope can encourage them to improve their skills, especially when they have online materials to inspire them. If your children love to play pretend, these imaginative workouts will have them train to become their favourite superheroes or princesses, and if you’re feeling indulgent, a costume always helps.

It may help to couch them more as activities and emphasise “movement” over “exercising”. Every kid responds naturally to music, so adding the right beats and tunes will liven things up for them as well.

THE RIGHT KIND OF SCREEN TIME

It’s understandable to want to reduce your child’s screen time during the holidays but it shouldn’t be a blanket restriction – there really is plenty of content worth following, like fun instructional videos that have an innate learning function.

From making cute Snoopy sandwiches to drawing a festive gingerbread house, there are many craft and activity videos online. It’s easy to customise for different age groups too. For example, younger children can create cute bentos, while older ones can make pizzas, popiah or even help bake pastries. Group the videos according to theme and base them on a holiday like Christmas or a topic like farming. After that, you just have to supply the materials.  

There are even hybrid events, like HomeTeam JOM’s Can or Cannot Sports Math Quiz, where members can either look for puzzle boards on-site and solve the mathematical challenges, or find them on their Facebook page to win weekly prizes.

If your children prefer interactive activities, guided virtual workshops like those run by PartyMojo are worth exploring. Have some spare Lego around the house? Then sign up for some workshops courtesy of Children’s Worklab, which offers weekly workshops.

Parent and child bonding is always precious, so don’t forget to squeeze in some play with your child. Look online for nifty ideas using simple materials, like creating play slime or sock puppets. The best thing about these activities is that your children learn to make the toys they play with. Another form of engaging screentime comes from a family movie marathon. Have everyone prepare the snacks, dress up the screening area (maybe pitch a blanket fort or tent even!) and enjoy the escape.

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Scaling new heights at Adventure HQ

Run, climb, hang: We talk to an Adventure Specialist to discover how you can prepare to be the GOAT at Adventure HQ

TEXT: NICHOLAS TAN

PHOTOS: HOMETEAMNS

If you’re planning a visit to Adventure HQ at HomeTeamNS Khatib, it’s only natural to want to make the most of your time there. This involves being able to confidently tackle its many challenges! 

No fear, we’re here to help with some insider info on what it’ll take to be the king of the hill at Adventure HQ. Who knows? You might just find this as a fun catalyst to the start of a new fitness journey!

THE DEMANDS OF A TRUE ‘NINJA WARRIOR’

Adventure HQ's Urban Climb allows Adventurers to explore natural competitiveness and love of adrenaline in a safe environment.

For starters, expect plenty of moving about at Adventure HQ; you’ll be in for a good cardio workout. That’s not all – mastering the various stations also requires the use of practically all your major muscle groups.

Take rock climbing at obstacles like the Urban Climb, Rock Wall and Boulder, for instance. According to Mr Syahmi Azmi, an Adventure Executive at Adventure HQ, these activities can help you burn up to 900 calories in an hour, activating your forearms, back, shoulders and core leg muscles.

Each rock-climbing wall features sport climbing ‘routes’ that range from being highly accessible for beginners to satisfyingly challenging for wall veterans – giving regulars a clear progression of one’s skill and strength over multiple visits.

Mr Syahmi says each of the venue’s attractions tests your fitness level differently.

 “Adventure HQ helps one develop flexibility, strength and mental resilience in a safe, enjoyable and gratifying way. It’s a great way to exercise without you even realising it!” he said. 

 With this in mind, you might want to start hitting the treadmill and getting some strength training done before heading down. These might be the deciding factor in impressing your peers on the big day. Just drop by Fitness Workz (Premium) at HomeTeamNS Khatib, while you’re at it!

MASTERING THE ART OF THE ADVENTURER

Sky Venture includes 16 obstacles spread across a two-tiered, 15m-high course.

Mr Syahmi emphasises that it isn’t all about strength and endurance when it comes to conquering obstacles at Adventure HQ. Well-developed flexibility, agility and balance also remain key assets to securing those bragging rights.

“When an Adventurer is too stiff, the next rope or hand-hold may always feel out of reach. Successful Adventurers should be able to stretch, reach and climb nimbly over any tricky obstacles,” he said.

This comes into play at attractions like the Adventure HQ kaleidoscopic installations, which test one’s balance and agility. These include feats like navigating narrow beams 15m off the ground at Sky Venture or scaling the Sky Scraper climbing installation at Urban Climb.

Train up with exercises like yoga or pilates which can help boost flexibility and balance. They also promote the development of more supple muscles for the trickier obstacles at Adventure HQ.

Don’t forget to warm up before diving headfirst into the fun with friends and family! To get your blood pumping and muscles primed, start your session with some light cardio and stretching.

GOOD, CHALLENGING FUN AT EVERY TURN

Adventure HQ’s Rock Climbing section features eight climbing lanes offering varying levels of difficulty – and a challenging full-body workout.

With all that prep work out of the way, it’s just as important to remember to embrace the exciting experiences and explore each attraction while you’re there.

For those looking to one-up mates, check in at the Urban Climb with a buddy. Go head-to-head in a timed run up the Speed Wall and live out your best Olympic sports climbing fantasies.

Other than that, experience a unique ride that you won’t find anywhere else with Adventure HQ’s Roll Glider, Singapore’s first and only indoor aerial rollercoaster. Strap up and get a thrilling bird’s eye view of Adventure HQ as you zip overhead in your descent. That is, if you dare to look down.

For those who want something more relaxed but don’t want to give up on the thrills, check out Singapore’s longest 14m Indoor Spiral Firemen Slide. It also has 6m and 8m versions connected to the Adventure Trail to warm up on before taking the plunge. Simply sit at the top, push off and experience that feeling of adrenaline and freedom reminiscent of childhood adventures.

Enjoy the great outdoors, indoors, at Adventure HQ.

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Lifestyle

A Mid-Autumn to remember

The Mid-Autumn festival is upon us. From DIY lanterns and decorations, to delicious mooncakes and activities at HomeTeamNS, here are some fun ways to make this year’s festivities memorable.

TEXT: MORGAN AWYONG

IMAGES: SHUTTERSTOCK, HOMETEAMNS

The Mid-Autumn festival is upon us. From DIY lanterns and decorations, to delicious mooncakes and activities at HomeTeamNS, here are some fun ways to make this year’s festivities memorable.

As a marker to the second half of the year, the Mid-Autumn festival is easily one of the most understated celebrations in Singapore. One can think of it as the quiet sibling of Chinese New Year, with traditional celebrations focused on intimate gatherings while appreciating the bright celestial entity with some pastry and beverage.

While some of the original festivities included activities are not so relevant today (like lantern riddles), others have remained popular and even been updated with novel interpretations for the urbanite to enjoy. Here’s how you can create some charming memories for this romantic event, for friends and family alike!

BAKE SYMBOLIC PASTRY

What’s Mid-Autumn without mooncakes? So much so that the festival is even called the Mooncake Festival at times. The traditional pastry is a baked round filled with lotus or red bean paste and includes an optional salted egg yolk to represent the moon and harmony.

As the festival also typically represents unions and gatherings, what better way to enjoy the event than a bonding session making mooncakes? HomeTeamNS-JOM is holding classes with help from baking school Genius R Us.

 If you’re keen to pursue a more extensive class, Itsi Baking Studio has a 10-hour class covering up to five varieties (teochew, snowskin and even agar agar). Or if you’re looking at something for the kids, Plaza Singapura has a workshop that includes a 1-month unlimited pass to ‘live’ storytelling on the story behind Mid-Autumn Festival.

Prefer a cosier and more relaxed experience? Head over to Bakestarters to buy their no-bake snowskin mooncake kits to have the experience at home. Kiddos will love the ones from Gobblin, which come in adorable rabbit designs and have a surprise colour element! For an extra touch of lux, Hotel Intercontinental is roping in award-winning restaurant Man Fu Yuan’s Executive Chinese Chef Aaron Tan for a virtual mooncake-making session.

And for Muslim friends, classes are available at cooking school Heiraz. But if you just want to savour the treats, halal mooncakes are available at The Fullerton Hotel, Prima Deli and Polar.

HomeTeamNS is also offering mooncake festival promotions that are valid till Sept 21. Download the HomeTeamNS Mobile App for the promo code to apply when making your orders on a specific merchant’s website. Swatow City is also offering HomeTeamNS members a 25-per-cent discount on its freshly baked mooncakes till Sept 21, at HomeTeamNS Bukit Batok Facebook Page.

For a truly personal touch, why not create your own cartoon snowskin mooncakes at Genius R Us at the HomeTeamNS-JOM Clubhouse? Sign up your child for a session at only $35, or tag along with them at only $50!

Several sessions are available:

  • Sept 18 from 2.30pm to 4pm
  • Sept 19 from 11.30am to 1pm
  • Sept 25 from 9am to 10.30am
  • Sept 26 from 2.30pm to 4pm

KEEP IT LIT WITH YOUR OWN LANTERNS

Like a mirror to the glowing moon above, lanterns have become synonymous with the Mid-Autumn festival as well. And while carrying one around for walks is quite the experience, creating one can be just as fun and satisfying.

One doesn’t have to go super traditional with cellophane lanterns, but a lantern-crafting session can be kept simple for your kids, or effectively fun by focusing on creative details.

Create an easy but dramatic version with this video tutorial, and add some origami rabbits for the kids to play with. The popular accordion-fold versions can also be made at home, so gather up some watercolour paint and friends, and explore that inner artist. For the ambitious folks out there, there’s even an impressive reed alternative to attempt.

Head out afterwards to show off your creations, but for a safer and hassle-free experience, use LED lights instead of open-flame candles.

If you prefer some personal guidance, HomeTeamNS Khatib Clubhouse is organising a Make & Share a Lantern event as well on Sept 18, from 10am to 4pm. The pop-up booths will be located on level 1 of the clubhouse and materials will be provided for visitors to unleash their lantern-making skills.

T-Play at HomeTeamNS Khatib and Bukit Batok Clubhouses will also organise a lantern-painting sessions and competition. Held on Sept 18-19, 25-26 and Oct 2-3 at the T-Play Craft Room, seats will be capped at 10 people and will be allotted on a first-come-first-serve basis per session.

To enter the artwork competition on Facebook, submit a photo of your child with the final artwork and tag T-Play. The top 3 winners will each receive an exclusive Art Pack.

If lantern painting doesn’t appeal to your child’s inner Picasso, they can still show off their artistic chops in the HomeTeamNS Bukit Batok colouring contest. Head to the lobby from Sept 13-21 and colour Mid-Autumn related images such as mooncakes. Post their artwork on Facebook and the participant with the highest number of votes will win a prize. The winner will be announced on Sept 21 at HomeTeamNS Bukit Batok Facebook Page, so stay tuned!

DISCOVER THE TEMPO OF TEA

A sip of Chinese tea pairs perfectly with the sweet mooncake, so why not acquaint yourself with the brew more deeply?

Tea Chapter at Tanjong Pagar offers a more classic experience – they’ve been open since 1989 after all, being one of the stalwarts locally. Discover the differences between an Oolong and a Pu-er, and be transfixed by the tea ceremony and its many intricacies. Over at Orchard, Tea Bone Zen Mind offers a more modern take, and takes you through the same experience in a curated and elegant setting.

If you’re up for novel interpretations, try the wine-inspired teas from A.muse Projects. Local purveyor Angela Phua creates her own blends that brings to mind the notes of wines like Cabernet and Merlot, and it’s a meeting of two worlds that surprisingly works. If not, task them to customise your own blend, and give them out as thoughtful gifts for the festival.

TALKING TO THE MOON

Let’s not forget the gorgeous ‘star’ of the show – the full moon. With all the stress this past year, many of us have found respite in nature, and having a little gathering outside under its glow is a treat some of us have forgotten – weather permitting.

Pack your picnic and bask under the celestial satellite at spacious and scenic spots such as the Botanic Gardens, Marina Barrage or Gardens by the Bay, or just pack some chow at City Hall and head up Fort Canning Park or the nearby War Memorial Park to enjoy a more urban viewing.

Otherwise, a romp through the pretty annual light-up at Chinatown is just as charming.

Fancy learning more about the moon? The Science Centre has astronomy exhibits that will enlighten the children. And for a mesmerising outing for the whole family, the Dale Chihuly: Glass in Bloom exhibition has been extended until October and has plenty of glass sculptures that look out of this world. Visit after sunset and try to hunt the piece appropriately entitled ‘Moon’.

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Lifestyle

Why you need to take a moment to smell the coffee

Catch yourself before you get swept away by responsibilities and find rewards in rest.

TEXT: MORGAN AWYONG
IMAGES: SHUTTERSTOCK

In fast-paced cities like Singapore, there’s no letting up. It’s all too easy to get swept away by one’s perceived duties or by getting caught up in the rat race, leaving one little room to have a true breather. And if you’ve been working from home, you know those lines are blurring more than ever before.

And have you noticed how those around you are dropping the word “busy” like a verbal badge of pride in conversations? Giving yourself time to decompress can come across as indulgent, but the truth is that it is essential to maintain healthy productivity and a much happier and motivated self.

The experts call it: The power of the pause.

THE MIDNIGHT OIL BURNT

We frequently talk about burnout, but what is it really? Some people think it occurs unexpectedly, but more often than not, it creeps in insidiously. One minute you’re restless and always finding it difficult to concentrate; the next you’re incapable of performing the smallest task even if it’s something you used to enjoy.

Unlike stress which makes one anxious, burnout saps motivation and energy. Psychologists Herbert Freudenberger and Gail North outlined 12 phases, which starts with excessive drive and sustained workaholism, but transforms later into depersonalisation, depression, and eventually, full mental or body exhaustion. And in Singapore, it’s a very real problem. Microsoft’s 2020 Work Trend Report shows our country coming up top in the Asia Pacific with 37 per cent of respondents feeling burnt-out.

Some of the best ways to combat impending burnout are regular exercise, maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, and reframing work as one’s priority and validation.

REFUELLING THE TANK

Having those coffee breaks matter. If you still find them indulgent, know that these brief periods of rest have been proven to increase productivity through better focus, improved mental health, and boosted creativity.

For example, stepping away from work can help with decision fatigue, as researchers Danziger, Levav and Avnaim-Pesso discovered. They saw how judges were less likely to give criminals a chance for parole later in the day by making increasingly simplistic calls as time wore on without breaks.

On the flip side, sipping on that cuppa has been found to improve memory, and resting led to inspiration, as explained by essayist Tim Kreider. He wrote, “The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration – it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”

Start with microbreaks – anything from a few seconds to indulge in a game on the phone or a few minutes staring out of the window – they work just as well.

IT’S TIME TO SIT BACK

With hybrid working now the norm, boundaries are blurring as work routines become increasingly mixed with home tasks. While invites from colleagues used to have you joining them for a coffee run, your reminders for a break may not be as obvious now.

But how do you determine your body and mind need a break? Physical symptoms are your best bet. If your neck is hurting or your eyes are tired, use that as a sign to stretch and move a little, even if it’s just to the living room. Always have regular mealtimes, then just let yourself sit back and enjoy the scenery. Better yet, go outside for a walk.

Scheduling in short breaks after a block of set time for work is a healthy habit to adopt. There’s even a name for it – the Pomodoro Technique.

NO CHEATING

Recall how you often postponed picking up a hobby, or putting off a task for far too long? The effects of burning out means you won’t even touch those during your down time, so it’s best to prioritise them into your breaks to jumpstart that engagement.

Apart from micro breaks mentioned earlier, take deep breaks that remove you from your work scope. For example, if you’re an accountant, you could practise drawing in your sketchbook for 30 minutes. Departing from your routine is a real mind spa.

Active breaks also rejuvenate. For instance, simply walking about can fire off powerful creative inspiration. And if you’re feeling up for it, a light 30-minute workout can have uplifting effects that last through the day.

Scene-changing breaks suggest that taking in a different visual setting – like going to a park instead of staying in your apartment – can make for a stimulating break. Thankfully, there are always pockets of green even in the concrete jungle that is Singapore’s business district.

Social breaks involve contacting your friends and loved ones just to catch up. It’s a great way to maintain mental health and feel connected to the bigger things in life. Instead of working from home, you could also try a coworking space. The alternate setting and organic community may be just what you need from falling into a rut.

Take a breather and keep up these good work habits to let yourself decompress and stay refreshed and motivated. After all the lifestyle and professional changes of the past one-and-half-years, you’ve definitely earned it.

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Lifestyle

How to kickstart your workflow mojo

We get it, working from home can sap your motivation at times. Here are some ways to speed your way through your work, chores and tasks alike – backed by science.

TEXT: MORGAN AWYONG
IMAGES: SHUTTERSTOCK

Working harder is great but working smarter is better — and looking at ways to efficiently mow through your tasks is a win-win, because you clear them faster and feel more motivated afterwards. Next thing you know, you’re done for the day.
If you’ve been finding it impossible to get past that one email, adopt some of these methods and their principles — backed by research — to kickstart your workflow mojo once again.

 

DEADLINES SAVE LIVES

Your manager wasn’t that far off. Setting an achievable deadline actually promotes productivity because of Parkinson’s Law, where the effort and work expands according to the timeline of the task. In other words, the more time you have for the task, the more likely you’ll waste time on it. And a lot of this has to do with flow.
It takes immense effort to achieve full concentration, and finding your flow – or being in the zone – has often been said to produce great results. By placing an over-generous marker, the general tendency is for one to run on half a tank. So if there’s a realistic deadline, then it’s actually working to power your natural motivation.
But what if it’s a huge project? The Harvard Business Review found out that breaking down larger projects into daily tasks led to better satisfaction and higher achievement rates through small wins – so really, these short-term goals help to nudge people in the right productive direction.

 

RHYTHM DOES IT

We each have our own ultradian rhythm, similar to our circadian cycles for sleep. By working with our natural bio-rhythm and matching our activities to the alert phases, we achieve more – even if we wake up at 9am instead of 4am.
As a guide, we generally perform well at a task until it hits about the 90-minute mark. Swedish psychologist and researcher Anders Ericsson studied high performers such as athletes and musicians, and found that those at the top of their fields practised in intense bouts. It is evident that we are most productive when hedging work into compartments, and following through with scheduled breaks.
The Pomodoro Technique for instance, recommends 25 minutes of work followed by a five-minute break. And when it comes to maximising your efficiency and enjoyment of the tasks at hand, prioritise them with the Pareto Principle, which lets you invest your best energy on the top 20 per cent in value-creation work.

 

SPACE OUT RIGHT

Having a conducive workspace is a fundamental element in your quest for workplace domination (or at least finishing your projects on time), although work-from-home has admittedly complicated this. So that means no more working at the dining table!
To pitch yourself at the right kind of uplifting environment for work, it’s important to pick an uncluttered space with plenty of natural light. The former creates visual distractions, while studies have shown that a sunlit work spot helps to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm for better sleep, and reduces drowsiness by 10 per cent and raises productivity by 2 per cent.
To further enhance your space, adding plants can help. They’re known to boost productivity by 15 per cent. And for a perfect soundtrack, put on some white noise (lyrical songs might prove distracting for some), classical music or even binaural music for a boost in productivity.

 

BREAKS ARE GOOD FOR YOU

Don’t feel bad about taking a break. As evidenced by the earlier point on our bio-rhythms, taking clear-cut scheduled pauses actually heightens motivation in the long run.
It’s important these breaks are enjoyable, so make sure that your rest period is really a departure from work. For a change, why not take up the Work-From-Villa packages at HomeTeamNS Bukit Batok? Every spacious bungalow comes with secure Wi-Fi and game consoles, which allows you to easily break for some entertainment.
Feeling drowsy? Rest assured that science has proven that a nap is beneficial for your productivity, but just make sure that you time it right.

 

DITCH THOSE UNHEALTHY STEREOTYPES

And finally, it’s time to reconsider what we know about work ethics and model behaviour in
the office. Multi-tasking and perfectionism may sound great at an interview, but studies are showing that these actually impair work.
Multi-taskers can experience a productivity dip of 40 per cent because of the time taken to switch between different tasks. Perfectionists burden themselves unnecessarily because they can’t delegate, have a tendency for over-delivering, and leave no room for realistic goals (which ironically leads to more delay).
Rethink your work ethics and drop the toxic ones – it’ll free you up to get the actual job done.

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Lifestyle

The smart person’s guide to doing more while spending less

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Lifestyle

Patriot games

Quick, creative and affordable projects that you and your kids can try, giving your home a patriotic twist without breaking the bank!

TEXT: MORGAN AWYONG
IMAGES: SHUTTERSTOCK

 

From the skyscrapers to the kopitiams, the air-conditioned malls to the tropical nature trails, there’s so much to love about this island that makes it ‘uniquely Singapore’. But with COVID-19 delaying this year’s parade and turning celebrations more muted, what can families do to jazz up the home for a more festive feel? Thankfully, one can easily create the right mood just by focusing on the key elements of our flag. And even with affordable basic materials, one can set up impactful decor to celebrate the month where our nation turns 56, with these clever tricks.

 

PAPER IS YOUR FRIEND

When it comes to decorating, paper is both an affordable and versatile material. Choose from varying thicknesses and price points to suit your budget, but for this National Day, stick to the colours – red and white for your crafts. Throw in some silver and gold options to add some shine.
The easiest perhaps — and one your kids will be familiar with — is the roll garland. But elevate it with this version that aptly brings to mind the greenery our island is known for. Throw in some whimsy with spiral mobiles too, and if a corner is looking a little empty, add some voluminous tissue poms. If your walls are a little bare, paper rosettes in varying sizes and staggered into a piece make for an arresting display.

 

ROLL OUT THE CREPE

 

Crepe paper is inexpensive, and cutting it into strips for streamers is easy as the sheets are usually already folded in their packs. To instantly elevate the look, create a feathered version with this method (sewing bit optional). Or if you’re the “go big or go home” sort, opt for the upsized effect here.
There are more advanced forms of crepe garlands such as this tasselled look, but don’t forget you can also use them to wrap up existing vases or containers for a unified colour theme too. For some added vibes, string up some fairy lights.

 

FLOWER POWER

Floral arrangements go well with any type of interior and give a vivacity to homes. And lucky for us, there are plenty of red and white flowers to choose from. Red varieties include anthuriums, carnations, dahlias and roses; while white lilies, daisies, hydrangeas and baby’s breath are easy blooms to find.
Pick up inexpensive red and white flowers such as orchids like dendrobiums, then practise your floral arrangement skills with the kids.

Here’s a tip: You can’t go wrong by bunching one variety in a container and combining the separate arrangements into one larger display.

 

THAT ONE CRESCENT

The Singapore flag isn’t just about its colours — there’s also the crescent moon to include as a possible motif in the house. (Fun fact: Did you know it represents Singapore as a young but ascending nation?)
Art supplies stores such as Art Friend or Spotlight may carry some items or decorations in that shape. Otherwise, create a dramatic centrepiece with this project that uses just cardboard, coloured twine and some glue. This project is very customisable and allows you to easily tweak the size or choose a variety of stringy materials (try yarn or even ribbon) for a different look.

 

INFLATING THE FUN

 

Balloons fill up a room quickly, and best of all, are relatively affordable. As before, pick out our national colours, and add in some gold and silver balloons for visual interest. Play around with different shapes, then gather and tape them to an area.
For a fun and rewarding project, try to make a balloon garland, or even this tropical masterpiece that speaks to our climate! To top off the celebrations, head to your nearby party supplies shop and get yourself the floating numerals 5 and 6 to complete this year’s centrepiece.

 

A SHOW OF STARS

 

Last but not least, stars are another readily available motif we can use. For a green way to approach this, consider reusing any Christmas decor if available! To make some of your own, a star-shaped cutout stamp is your best investment (and inversely, you can use it for Christmas too). Then all you need to do after, is to glue the shapes to a string to instantly have a garland. If not, go old-school and make these paper origami stars and thread them through a twine for the same. For the best effect, use paper with glitter or a reflective finish for added bling.

For other hanging decor, try this simple 3D star. As a surprise upgrade, buy a battery-operated string of LED lights and throw them inside the star for an instant lantern! And if you prefer to have them on the walls, these folded stars can be easily scaled to fill up an empty space — you’ll have yourself a starry wall of democracy, peace, progress, justice, equality, and more!

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Lifestyle

7 things you didn’t know about the NDP

Give yourself extra patriot points if you actually know any on this list.

Singapore and its citizens have had to make major adjustments to a new normal in the wake of COVID-19. This includes celebrations for the annual National Day celebrations; and 2020 saw a new format that will repeat itself in 2021 to keep everyone home and safe, but still feeling involved.

If you thought this was a major shake-up for our National Day Parade (NDP), you’d be wrong. Ever since the first celebration occurred on the Padang in 1966, organisers have switched up the programme, the delivery, and sometimes even the location.

The younger among us might be surprised by how today’s funpacks were more “survival packs” when they first appeared in 1991. Some of you might even remember a certain after-party along Orchard Road. But only the most die-hard fans will know these seven pieces of trivia when it comes to the beloved event.

1. IT WAS NOT ALWAYS ON AUGUST 9

Even those who were old enough to witness the early National Day celebrations might have forgotten that it was not always on Aug 9.
Between 1960 and 1963, Singapore’s National Day was on June 3 to commemorate the day when the city state attained self-governance after the withdrawal of the British from Malaya and Singapore in 1959.
This date was moved three more times thereafter. Once in 1963, to Aug 31 when Singapore declared de facto independence, and another time in 1963, to Sept 16 when the merger with Malaysia happened.

2. TO PADANG OR NOT TO PADANG

Most of us have fond memories of the National Day parade happening at the Padang, but in a bid to bring the celebrations closer to Singaporeans, the government did experiment with different locations within Singapore throughout the years.
This was most apparent between 1975 and 1983, prompted by the first decade of Singapore’s independence. Celebrations saw various contingents, cultural groups’ performances, and fireworks displays occurring across 13 locations including places such as Queenstown Stadium, Haig Road, Maxwell Road and the Istana.
Two of the more popular venues included the first National Stadium for the 1976 NDP. And in a test of logistics and creativity, the Marina floating platform became the first purpose-built venue for the event in 2007.

3. TICKETS COULD CHANGE HANDS AT STEEP PRICES

The early popularity of the National Day celebrations meant crowd control became an important priority for the organisers. So 1979 was the first year in which the NDP was ticketed to manage spectators.
But there was no stopping the love. Long lines formed during ticket sales, resulting in some even queuing overnight for NDP tickets. And with demand, came the scalpers. Before online balloting somewhat curbed the phenomena, the highest price one paid for a ticket was allegedly S$500.

4. NOT A MORNING PERSON?

With the early celebrations focused on parade pageantry and speeches, it was natural to have NDP have an early start in the day. But as the event grew in scale and popularity, the parades that were held in the morning opted for a later slot in 1973, when the good attendance in the evening made it a permanent decision to this day. It also made for prettier fireworks undoubtedly.

5. CRASH LANDING INTO YOU

The Red Lions only came to be formalised in 1989, but there were K-drama worthy moments in the early years when skydivers landed off their marks.
1981 saw two commando skydivers land 50 metres from the target stadium – but to encouraging applause still. And during Singapore’s last decentralised parade in 1983, a commando’s main parachute failed, causing him to engage his emergency chute and land in Whampoa instead of Toa Payoh Stadium.

6. TAKE TO THE STREETS

In 1987, the NDP finished in a novel way. After the fireworks, spectators were given the option to gather at the Padang – fully – and enjoy an impromptu patriotic music and dance festival. This was such a runaway success that it inspired an official street party the following year.
On Aug 8, 1988, organisers closed off Orchard Road for people to gather for a first-of-its-kind street party known as Swing Singapore. The overwhelming attendance caused the event to be prematurely stopped, but a new date was set on Aug 27 to cater to the enthusiastic public. A whopping 250,000 turned up eventually.

7. IN TRIBUTE TO OUR MEDICAL WORKERS

Healthworkers and frontliners were hailed as heroes in 2020 but that was not the first time we honoured their work and sacrifice. After the SARS outbreak claimed 33 lives in 2003, the organisers of NDP included a tribute with a contingent of 240 healthcare workers to represent the professionals in the industry who prevented a worse outcome. No doubt for 2021, we’ll continue to see them being honoured for their incredible work.