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Cool Dad Hangouts: Hamish Betts of Inspired Arts

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Family LifePost Category - Family LifeFamily Life

Does the Dad in your life need some inspo on where to take the kids? We’ve talked to some of the coolest dads in Singapore to get their tips on where to go and what to do with kiddos in tow!

Hamish Betts, originally from New Zealand, has been a storyteller and clown, a professional mural artist, a teacher and art specialist, and has even set up his own Church in Singapore (??). Most recently Hamish has started his own Art School, Inspired Arts, launched through a 20-day Kickstarter funding campaign. We caught up with the artful Hamish and his two lovely daughters – Sophie, 9 and Chloe, 7 – to hear all about their favourite spots in Singapore, plus some great inside info on art for kids.

What’s your favorite outdoor spot to hang out with your kids?
We have a lot of spots, and I’m not sure if it is counted as an ‘outdoor spot’, but Sentosa has been a big part of our routine for 10 years. Whether it’s universal, or events on the beach, or Adventure Cove. Otherwise, we have just moved into a condo which has amazing outdoor flow, and we love just chilling in the facilities.

What’s your favorite restaurant to bring your kids to in Singapore?
We are definitely creatures of habit, so if we love a restaurant and its service, then we will go back often. Because of this, Wild Honey at Mandarin Gallery is our regular. The girls have known the front of house staff since they were babies and are always greeted with a hug and a chat. To the girls and us, they are an extension of our family.

Favorite playground in Singapore?
The new Marine Cove Playground on East Coast next to McDonalds is pretty wild. It’s huge, but then, to be honest they are all pretty good. Gardens by the Bay is brilliant, and combining the playground with a scoot or bike ride there is always fun.

Any favorite bedtime book recommendations?
I’m at the stage now where we are working through the epic novel series like Harry Potter, but back when it was picture books, you couldn’t go past Elephant & Piggie for the play acting and voices. It never did work at getting them to sleep, though. If I’m reading a picture book, they usually end up louder and more awake than when I start.

Any favorite apps/games to play with your kids?
My kids are obsessed with the Toca games, I can’t say I play them with them though, it’s more that they have my phone, and I’m left looking at the top of their heads while they are buried in a game together. If we are together then I try and get rid of the small screens and do something together.

What’s your favorite activity to do with your kids when Mom’s not around?
We love going on dates. When possible I try and make time to take each of the girls on a date each week. It might be a movie, or a hot chocolate and a cupcake, or an hour at timezone.

Why is art important for kids?
Art is important for everyone! But kids need to build a solid foundation in what it really means to engage with creativity and problem-solving. How to express themselves and see themselves in the greater context of the world they live in. This is what art does. It gives a voice to your feelings and your expression. If taught right, it does not limit your ability to express who you are and your perspectives. When children feel safe using colour, texture, line, shape and form, and describing how these things communicate what they feel and see and experience, then you give them a tool kit that they can use to interact with this world with in the deepest of ways.

Especially in children, art should not be limited by right or wrong, or fixed interpretation, or reproduction. They need the freedom to discuss what they see, and what they feel, and what they imagine a shape of form or artwork means of expresses. It gives voice to their culture, their age, their understandings and their personhood as it stands amidst all of these things. Beyond the deep, it also gives them inspiration to create, to bring into existence something that was not there before. Even if it’s been made before, it hasn’t been made by them, like that. It is new and original and part of the process of forming them as an independent and original thinker and learner and son or daughter. 

What at home art projects do you do with your kids?
Our art at home has become an extension of my art at work, so I encourage the girls to come into the studio. Their current passion is making posters, but two weeks ago, it was designing their dream homes out of boxes and toothpicks and found materials. I have the feeling it will be rock painting soon. They love to draw, and are always very free and big and expressive in their designs. I remember trying to teach them to draw in the swimming pool when they were babies. The pool had a large rock feature, and we would use water to create designs and pictures on the dry stone. This of course translated into wet footprints, and marks in the sand at the beach, and shampoo hands in the shower. There are always opportunities to create if you’re making time for it.

We hear you’ve also started a church in your “free” time. Can you tell us more about that?
In 2011 we saw the need to start a faith community in Singapore that would embrace people where they are at and help them to find roots, friends and family in Singapore, and so as volunteer senior pastors (we are both ordained ministers), we started Inspire Church Singapore, with the vision statement ‘Love Without Agenda’. This has continued to grow, and now has approximately 200 members, meeting in a cinema. 

What are your favorite date night restaurants?
Burnt Ends
is our happy place. The owner, Dave and manager, Thomas are amazing and look after us every time we go. I’m never good at making a choices from a menu, so they are always great. We set them a budget, and they always deliver, with 10-15 courses of small servings and sharing platters. We just love getting lost in the atmosphere and tastes and kitchen. So much of life these days seems to be about catering to other people’s needs, whether pastoring at the church, or teaching, or sorting out the girls activities and doing everything that needs to be done. Because of this, it is essential for us to know that for the next couple of hours we will have the best experience possible, surrounded by staff that genuinely care about the food and guests that they cook for.

Do you have a favorite shop? (Can be anything — clothes, gourmet food, cookery, electronics, etc.)
I love Desigual, to a point of obsession probably. This of course has spread to my girls, so, when we go in and take over the changing rooms, it’s a bit of a circus. I’m not entirely happy spending huge amounts on clothes, mainly because I spend a lot of time near paint and ink and things that stain, but I do love the clothes. I have recently unloaded a lot to ‘swapaholics’ so am looking forward to going down there and seeing what I can find.

Where do you like to train/exercise?
I don’t like to train or exercise. But if I have to, It’s always better where no one can see me. When I do train I train with kettle bells, so having lots of space with nothing that can accidentally be swung into is definitely a bonus. This means that our deck is always a good place, given that no cats or children interfere.

What are your favorite holiday destinations with your kids?
Our family holidays fit into two categories: sleep or fun. If it is a sleep holiday, then a resort like the Shangri-La Kota Kinabalu is perfect because the kids’ club and activities are amazing, and the girls pretty much only want to see us at meal times. If its a ‘fun’ holiday, then we are theme park people. I have had a life long obsession with Disneyland, and I’m sure that has been reflected in more than one of my career choices.

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