21 Old school Singapore things to let your kids experience before they disappear!
How about resolving to let your kids experience the simple joys of these old school Singapore things, before they disappear altogether?
Children’s Day is here, and this year, we thought of taking a trip down memory lane.
Remember those carefree days of our childhood when the Internet was unheard of? When play involved running around and actual physical interaction with friends and siblings?
When cravings meant buying bread ice cream from the ice cream uncle, and pasar malams offered more joy than shopping malls?
Nostalgic much? Well, when was the last time our kids played hopscotch? Or 5 stones?
Sadly, most of our traditional games and familiar sights are getting to be a thing of the past.
Here then, are 21 old school Singaporean things to let your kids experience, before they disappear altogether!
Old School Singapore Activities
Draw 10 boxes and label them. Take a stone (or any small object) and toss it into a box, you would then need to hop or jump through the open boxes to retrieve the stone.
You can refer to a guide here.
The chapteh consists of feathers attached to a rubber or plastic sole.
Chapteh is a traditional Asian game which requires players to keep a weighted shuttlecock in the air, usually using their feet, although other parts of the body may be used, except for the hands.
Great for foot-eye co-ordination, this.
3. Ice cream uncle selling bread ice cream
Nothing beats the Singapore heat and satisfies your sweet tooth quite like ice cream. The ice cream cart mounted on a motorcycle is still a familiar sight especially near schools and HDB blocks.
The ice cream sandwich or bread ice cream consists of rectangular blocks of ice cream clamped between sliced pink and green bread, or crispy yellow wafer biscuits, and usually come cheap, just $1!
4. Five stones
This game has been around for almost forever, and it’s such a relief to see little primary school kids still playing it!
It’s usually played using ‘stones’ (beans wrapped in fabric to make them look like actual stones, only cuter).
This game actually requires a lot of hand-eye coordination. You throw a stone into the air and then, using the same hand, pick up another before you catch that stone.
Keep going until you’ve got all the stones in your hand. For rules of the game, click here.
5. Sepak takraw competition
“Sepak” is the Malay word for kick and “takraw” is the Thai word for a woven ball; therefore sepak takraw quite literally means to kick ball.
It is something like kick volleyball, except that it traditionally uses a rattan ball, and players are only allowed to use their feet, knee, chest and head to touch the ball.
6. Goli (marbles)
In those days, you could find marbles in the pockets of almost every primary school kid at school, as most would play this game during recess.
Draw a circle in the sand and place all the marbles within the circle, players (2 or more) will attempt to knock the marble outside the circle.
You would have to contribute your marble to the pot, and the winner would be the one with the most marbles collected, and may sometimes get to keep their winnings!
7. Flag eraser game
Commonly played with erasers which have the country flags printed on them. Purchasing them from the school bookshop and playing it during recess or even during class was a common sight.
Players would need to flip their erasers, until it lands on top of your opponent’s eraser. The person who made that flip would then get to keep the erasers that he had conquered.
8. Karang Guni Man
Long became recycling became fashionable and cool in Singapore, we had the karang guni man, who offered door-to-door recycling services!
The karang guni man or rag-and-bone man goes from door-to-door to collect used items from residents, such as newspapers, televisions, radios, and computers. He usually pays them for the items.
The items are then sold to a waste recycling company or to a secondhand dealer.
The karang guni are usually not allowed to enter the more upmarket condos these days, but every HDB dweller will be familiar with the horns and sing-song shouts of “karang guni…”, especially on weekends!
9. Bestman Balloons
Remember these? 🙂
They used to be our favourite plastic balloons.
You need to squeeze out the gel out from the tubes and stick onto the straw/tube and voila, blow into super flexible ‘balloons’.
Now that we think of it, we really don’t know what this gel is actually made of, but yeah, it sure was fun. These balloons are still available at Sin Tat Toys Import and Export Trading and Children Little Museum.
10. Old school card games
Old Maid, Donkey, Happy Family and Snap. Remember how recess was spent on these?
These are still available online or at Sin Tat Toys Import and Export Trading, Children Little Museum, Biscuit King.
11. Longkang (drain) fishing
Fishing out of drains was actually a thing. Back in those days, the drains were usually left uncovered and had guppies swimming in them.
Children would head to these drains with a small fishing net and a pail of water, and try to catch these guppies to bring home. Imagine how much fun your kids will have with this!
12. Bird uncles
In the 80s and 90s, it was a familiar sight to see a group of uncles gathering together with their bird cages hung at the HDB void deck.
Singapore’s Bird Uncles, with their dome shaped bird cages covered in colourful batik cloths, are sadly, a dwindling tribe now.
The ones who exist, still flock to the bird hanging corners in Singapore almost every day, with their singing birds, where they just sit, drink their kopi or beer and talk to each other while the birds sing!
These uncles know their birds well and raising good singing birds is their passion; there are bird singing competitions and trophies to be won as well!
13. Pick Up Sticks
When was the last time you played Pick Up sticks?!Great for enhancing kids’ concentration and focus, we say!
The rules are super simple – hold the sticks together and throw them on to the table. Pick up sticks without touching any of the others and whoever has the most number of sticks at the end wins.
14. Police and Thief
Who doesn’t love playing ‘catch’? Especially in school recess time!
Playing this game involves forming 2 groups, the ‘police’ and the ‘thieves’, and establishing a location for the ‘jail’ cell.
Once the game starts, the ‘police’ will need to capture the ‘thieves’ and place them in the jail cells. The thieves that have not been caught will attempt to rescue their buddies from the jail cell.
15. Bookworm Club books
In the good old days, being a member of the “Bookworm Club” was the coolest feeling in the world.
These books were a simple, but great read. Characters are ordinary school children like Smarty the clever leader, Mimi the vain girl, Simone the tomboy, Fat Ani, Sam Seng the prankster and Porky the hungry boy.
Most kids could relate to the scenes in the book about recess time, playing beneath the void deck and buying ice cream from the mama shop.
16. The String game
This game can be played with just… a string.
The first player creates a pattern with the string, and the second player would then have to form a new pattern out of the old one. The first one who ‘breaks’ the string, loses.
17. Scissors, paper, stone
We can’t imagine a world without the “scissors, paper, stone” game :).
A game that can be played anywhere, as long as there are 2 players. All you need to use is your hands.
Players form either a scissors (the index and middle finger), paper (a hand with all five fingers opened), or a stone (a fist). Scissors beats paper, paper beats stone, and stone beats scissors.
Football has always been popular in Singapore – which explains why this toy was such a hit among children. You could either collect these toys or play it by controlling the players with your fingers.
19. Pasar Malam
Pasar Malam means night market and they first started in Singapore in the mid-1950s, before today’s shopping malls came along.
Present-day pasar malam are generally held once a year at specific locations, usually before festive occasions such as Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Puasa and Deepavali.
Pasar malam are known for their brightly lit stalls, loud blaring music and affordable goods. Pasar malam stalls selling food such as roasted chestnuts, steamed peanuts, steamed corn, coconut cakes, burgers, otah and fish crackers are always a huge draw.
In addition to food, clothing, footwear, kitchenware, toys, compact discs, household goods, children’s toys, handicraft, and even books and magazines, are offered for sale at pasar malam stalls.
Times are bad these days, for pasar malam vendors due to competition from air conditioned shopping malls.
20. Hungry Hippos game
It was every boy’s favourite toy back in the 80s. Watching the show wasn’t enough, you just had to have these figurines with you, and to re-enact what you saw on TV.