Recently I've realised that there's a significant number of Singaporean kids who seem to lack basic survival skills like swimming, and have never chosen a book over an iPad for leisure.

Every parent wants their offspring to be a cut above the rest. But instead of signing them up for more tuition classes, or paying through the nose for enrichment lessons for hobbies that does not seem to make much sense in Singapore (horse riding lessons, anyone?), perhaps parents might want to consider instilling in their children the following life skills.



It is clear that many parents aren't teaching their kids to swim until they are in secondary school where some schools make it mandatory to learn swimming during P.E lessons. There are even some people who make it all the way to adulthood without knowing how to swim, or how to successfully keep their head above the water.

Kids can learn to swim from the time they are 3-4 years old. In fact, right from the moment they are born, infants have an inbuilt reflex to hold their breath, paddle their arms, and even open their eyes underwater.

But this instinct fades away as the child grows up, and it's always a good idea to enrol your kids in swimming lessons or to personally teach them how to swim. Given the fact that we live on an island, or that most birthday parties seem to occur in condos equipped with swimming pools, the chances of a drowning accident is very real. Teach your kids a life skill that could save his life. 


Despite the fact that Singaporeans claim to be one of the most highly educated populations in the world, at times it seems like we’re becoming a more close-minded, intolerant society. Most Singaporeans would rather choose shopping or watching a movie over reading a book, and most would read self-help type books than to read for pleasure. 

A recent National Arts Council survey found that less than half of Singaporeans have read at least one literary book a year… This is despite the fact that over 70% of those polled agreed that reading improved their quality of life.

Just take a look at a day in the life of the typical Singaporean kid and it’s easy enough to see why. Kids spend all their time in tuition and hardly have any leisure time at all. When they do manage to have their allotted free time, they end up on computers, console gaming, or mobile phones, so they never really learn to enjoy reading. 

Given all the advantages of reading avidly, including stronger linguistic skills and greater empathy, Singaporean parents might want to consider giving their children the time to explore the world of fairytales rather than textbooks. Genuine love for reading cannot be forced, you can only lead by example by surrounding them with books to explore or simply to spend some time reading together with them. 



Many parents take great pleasure in feeding their children  in watching them enjoy the fruits of their labor and nourishing their bodies. But at some point, parents will need to provide their kids with the knowledge and ability to begin feeding themselves.

Cooking is one of those rare things that is not only a survival skill, but has the potential to build into a genuine pastime. Watch any episode of Masterchef Junior on YouTube and you can see firsthand how cooking teaches the kids not only culinary skills, but discipline, time-management and multi-tasking skills too. Look at the sheer delight emanating from the kids simply from learning how to make the fluffiest whipped cream:

Teaching kids to cook also presents opportunities to talk about culture, family history, nutrition, and appreciating what we have. Depending on the child's age, parents should consider sprinkling lessons with gentle forays into some of the broader issues surrounding food.

Ultimately, it is not the creation of Michelin-starred dishes, but boosting a child's self-esteem and ensuring they not have to depend on dining out or ordering in when they become adults. If, at the end of those lessons, a happy kid who's excited to spend time in the kitchen emerges, then that's a job well done.


National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said recently that cycling should not be just a recreational pursuit, but also a viable transport option for short trips around Singapore. But most kiasu parents secretly hope their kids will be rich enough to cruise around in cars when they are adults and won’t be relying on bicycles.

With this in mind, it's disturbing to know that there are apparently significant numbers of Singaporeans who make it to adulthood without knowing how to cycle. A recent Sunday Times poll showed that less than a quarter of young Singaporeans know how to cycle! Are Singaporean parents really sending their kids for golf lessons yet not teaching them how to cycle?

Even if you’re sure your kid is going to be driving a Maserati when he grows up, cycling is a life skill that can be taught in a matter of days. It's not only a transportation option, but also a great form of exercise. There's nothing quite like taking a day trip out to a park or an offshore island with a bicycle and immersing oneself in nature.