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!
We spot this month’s Cool Dad, Erik van Helvoort, on an almost daily basis during school drop-offs. He’s hard to miss with his bright blue and yellow bicycle seats, and his two adorable children, Elsa and Aiden, who are usually giggling with delight. We figured a Dad this fun would probably have some good tips on where to bring the kids and sure enough, he delivered. Erik, who works as a software engineer and has lived in Singapore for over 20 years, gets around almost everywhere by bike. From kid-pleasing recipes (he does most of the family’s cooking) to his favourite bike paths and parks, read on for lots of Dad inspiration, with a side of dry Dutch wit.
How long have you lived in Singapore for?
I arrived on a shoestring with a backpack in 1995. For the first year I rented a room from an old aunty in a Yishun HDB flat. I showered using a cold water tap, a bucket and a scoop.
Tell us something quirky about yourself?
In the year before Elsa was born, insanity took over and I ran the Sundown Ultra Marathon (100km). Elsa started walking early. Surely that is epigenetics at work!
What’s your favorite outdoor spot to hang out with your kids?
We very much enjoy going to the Botanic Gardens to feed the fish, and I cycle with Aiden every morning along the Singapore River area. That is really peaceful.
Read More: Where to Buy a Bicycle in Singapore
What’s your favorite restaurant to bring your kids to in Singapore?
Katelyn and I enjoy eating Japanese at Sushi Tei. There, the kids love chawanmushi with ikura.
Do you do any cooking in the house? If so what do you make?
At the moment, not as often as we would like. Two full-time working parents and no domestic helper makes for an exhausting life. When we do eat at home, I am in charge. I hardly trust Katelyn to make toast, hahaha. Elsa loves to help me, but in my experience “Kids eat everything they prepare themselves” is an urban myth.
What are your most kid-pleasing dishes to cook?
That would be the weekend pancakes (Dutch style; more milk). I also batch-cook purees for the kids. When they were babies, I made steamed fruit purees to mix with yogurt. For the toddler age, I bake a base of sweet potatoes and/or pumpkin, and then I blend in some steamed veggies like spinach and capsicum. It is very colorful stuff and provides some basic nutrition to complement the takeaway and restaurant dinners. I make a batch once a month or so, and store small containers in the freezer. Every afternoon we heat up a single portion, just before everyone meets up for dinner.
At what age did you start riding on a bike with your kids?
Very early. From the moment they could sit in a bike chair. Kids of all ages love to join on bike rides. And, it feels so blissful when a child spontaneously starts singing songs behind you.
What’s your go-to shop (or website) for bicycle gear?
My bike came from Hello Bicycle; they have a good selection of normal bicycles (read: normal to us, the weird Dutch people). I bought the two Yepp children seats (strongly recommended) from www.bikeinn.com. A very comprehensive secondhand website for cycling gear in Singapore is www.togoparts.com.
Is the bike your main mode of transport?
Pretty much, yes. Riding a bike brings about a certain sense of freedom. We don’t own a car. In the morning, after dropping the children off, I continue on to my office. Luckily we have a shower there 🙂
It remains rather dangerous, even when you ride defensively. In Singapore drivers hardly use their indicators, and some idiots even have tinted windshields, so often you can’t easily identify their intentions on the road. Good thing that most of my commute is alongside the river.
What part of Singapore do you live in? What do you like about it?
We renovated an elderly condo in River Valley. It is perfectly located, with short distances to the groceries, childcare, my office, the River, the MRT and Orchard Road.
What are the most Dad-friendly places for changing diapers?
In Great World City, most male toilets have very clean changing tables and several cubicles have children-lids for the toilet-going age.
Favorite playground in Singapore?
We are lucky to have a lovely little playground at our apartment. Beyond that, several parks have fun water-play areas, like Gardens by the Bay, the Botanic Gardens and even the Bird Park.
Best spot for coffee when you’re on early-morning Dad duty?
I am not fussy, anywhere I can find a kopi-o-kosong.
Any favorite bedtime book recommendations?
Right now, and much to our surprise, Elsa enjoys the “100 Facts” books (100 Facts About Coral Reefs, 100 Facts About Birds of Prey, etc). These are frankly aimed at older children, and somewhat dry, even boring, but Elsa asks for them. I don’t complain and it helps her get sleepy, heheh… But before Elsa turned to realism (and now for Aiden): Eric Carle and Richard Scarry have always been on top.
Any favorite apps/games to play with your kids?
We’ve kept both of them pretty much tablet free and mobile free. That is perhaps ironic, considering that I am a professional software engineer. Elsa and I do play together with Cubetto, a robot toy promoting algorithmic thinking. If they keep enjoying it, then eventually I hope to introduce them to coding, with applications like turtle and scratch.
What’s your favorite activity to do with your kids when Mom’s not around?
Our playground is the best place to get Aiden tired enough for a nap, and once he sleeps, I have a 50% reduced burden. Eventually, I hope to go swimming with them at our pool. At the moment that is still tricky, because at this age, Aiden requires 100% supervision in the water.
What are your favorite date night restaurants?
Date nights ended four years ago. In all those years, the only night we took off was to watch the Foo Fighters’ concert.
Do you have a favorite shop? (Can be anything — clothes, gourmet food, cookery, electronics, etc.)
I have entirely delegated this to Katelyn, who has the uncanny ability to scour the Internet. She always manages to get the very best deals.
Where do you like to train/exercise?
I keep a Fitness First membership, where – time seldom permitting – I enjoy yoga-based group exercises. But the endorphins really emerge when I run distance. Singapore’s Park Connector Network is fantastic. From where we live, I can do 10km around Marina Bay, or to Kallang Park, Tanjong Rhu and across the Barrage to achieve a half marathon without a single traffic light or car in sight. I used to continue on to East Coast and turn around at the Bedok Jetty or even Pasir Ris park, but that was two kids ago.
What are your favorite holiday destinations with your kids?
Surely that must be my Mum’s place in rural France. Unfortunately, we haven’t been there for a long time. I like to think it’s healthy to bring kids to ‘farmeresque’ places, to somewhat balance out the accelerated life in the city.
Thank you so much to Erik, Katelyn, Elsa & Aiden for sharing their time with us! And a huge thanks to the always fabulous Irina Nilsson Photography for such a fun shoot near the Asian Civilisations Museum!