If the quintessential Singaporean couple’s journey were a movie, it might play out like this: Jack and Jill met in school, then they started dating. After graduation, they knew they wanted to make it official, so Jack proposed with “Will you BTO with me?” Jill said yes!
One year before they were to collect their keys, Jack put a ring on it. They got married one month before the key collection date. After renovating their flat and moving in, they quickly got to starting a family.
But the story is slightly more complicated than that. Jack and Jill, being practical young adults, did not simply opt for the first BTO that they managed to ballot for. Knowing that they wanted to start a family together, much time was spent researching the best neighbourhoods to raise their offspring in.
After all, a child’s foundation years are some of the most important in his or her life, and naturally Jack and Jill wanted to be parents who could provide the best for their little one(s). And if they couldn’t get a BTO or resale flat that was in the ideal neigbourhood, they’d readily turn to private property as well.
Thus, they looked for key amenities such as 1) childcare centres, 2) parks and playgrounds, 3) schools and 4) connectivity to public transport nodes. Similarly, we’ll be judging neighbourhoods via these parameters, also taking into account the number of each that’s available in the neighbourhood and the quality of certain indicators, such as renowned schools and if there’s a main interchange in the area.
Do note that this list is by no means exhaustive, and determined by the writer’s own judgement. In reality, there are pros and cons to whichever area you choose to live. But every neighbourhood is a good neighbourhood, okay?
Bishan, being in the Rest of Central Region, means transport to any part of the island is a breeze. Firstly, the main Bishan MRT station serves as an interchange for both the North South Line and the Circle Line.
Even if you don’t drive, it’s easy to get to Woodlands, City Hall, Buona Vista, Paya Lebar and more from your home – even with kids in tow, thanks to the lifts in the stations. A new development in the area is the Thomson-East Coast Line, with 2 stations (Bright Hill and Upper Thomson) within the estate; while Bright Hill is planned to be an interchange for the upcoming Cross Island Line.
If you do a quick Google search, you'll see there is also a good pick of childcare centres and preschools. The centres are also pretty spread out across Bishan, so you and your child won’t need to travel too far if you manage to snag a spot at the one closest to your home. There’s even a Montessori located in Midview CIty, which is convenient if you happen to be working in the same business centre as well.
In the same vein, 'kiasu' parents will be happy to note that the popular primary schools in Bishan include Ai Tong School and Catholic High School (Primary). There’s also Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Primary School, Catholic High School, Raffles Institution (Secondary and Junior College) and Eunoia Junior College nearby.
Otters are often spotted at Bishan Park.
And of course, there’s the gorgeous Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, one of the major parks in Singapore, that stretches over three km and is home to our beloved otter icons. The 62ha park is most famous for its naturalised canal, as well as its Pond Gardens and River Plains. It’s a perfect spot for an early-morning or evening stroll, cycling or jogging on the weekends, with some lucky Bishan residents living a literal stone’s throw from the park.
In addition, as a mature HDB estate, young families have their pick of everyday amenities that include markets, food centres, supermarkets, Bishan swimming pool and trendy cafes, with a cluster of popular brunch spots clustered towards the Upper Thomson side.
What’s coming up in Bishan? We wrote about the URA Master Plan 2019, which suggests that a commercial office-cum-retail development that could be almost double the size of Novena Square/Velocity Mall will be built near the MRT station in the future.
Browse all HDB resale flats in Bishan for sale on PropertyGuru.
2. Bukit Timah
There is a high concentration of private property in the Bukit Timah neighbourhood.
If you have the means to live in Bukit Timah, why not?
First off, popular schools that include Anglo-Chinese School (Primary), Nanyang Primary School, Raffles Girls' Primary School, Methodist Girls’ School (Primary) are located here. For higher education, there’s Methodist Girls’ School (Secondary), St Margaret's Secondary School, Nanyang Girls’ High School, National Junior College and Hwa Chong Institution (Secondary and Junior College).
But we’re jumping the gun, right? Your kid will need to go through childcare and preschool first, which there are a decent number of in Bukit Timah. If you want your kiddo to be a global citizen, the environment might also be a little bit more international, as more expatriates tend to live in this area.
Transport-wise, Bukit Timah is served by the Downtown Line and a slew of buses that ply the area. One of these buses is service 170, which used to bring us into Johor Bahru before the pandemic hit. When roads are clear, this means your whole family gets a speedy and direct ride to the immigration checkpoint into Malaysia. Now, how does a mini holiday in the near future sound?
Also in the works is the Beauty World Integrated Transport Hub, a mixed-use bus interchange with possible pedestrian links to the MRT station of the same name as well as Bukit Timah Market & Food Centre via an overhead bridge.
Apart from the many restaurants and cafes in the area serving all sorts of international cuisine, you’ll also find food centres dishing out local delights that the whole family will love.
There are hiking spots and quarries to explore in the Bukit Timah neighbourhood.
Bukit Timah is also famous for its green spaces, which include the eponymous Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and its oft-photographed Bukit Timah Hill summit stone marker. From there, you can continue onwards to Dairy Farm Nature Park, check out the Rail Corridor, or do the whole trek to MacRitchie Reservoir or Lower/Upper Peirce Reservoir. Your kids will gain strong lungs, powerful legs and a whole new appreciation for the great outdoors! Don’t feed the monkeys though…
And yes, there are HDB dwellers in the estate too.
Browse all HDB resale flats in Bukit Timah for sale on PropertyGuru.
3. Marine Parade
Life’s a beach, if you grew up in the eclectic neighbourhood of Marine Parade. Here, heritage Peranakan shophouses meet hipster cafes in Katong, and bustling hawker centres segue into shiny shopping malls, hotels and breezy establishments closer to the coast.
Transport is mostly by way of bus currently, but with the fourth instalment of the Thomson-East Coast Line serving Tanjong Rhu and Katong Park, all the way to Siglap and Sungei Bedok, your little one will be able to travel from his or her neighbourhood via rail very soon!
Related article: 7 Condos to Benefit from the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL)
Childcare facilities look to be quite decently spread throughout this neighbourhood, so you may not need to travel too far when picking up or sending your kiddo off. Primary schools in the area include Tao Nan School, Ngee Ann Primary School and Tanjong Katong Primary School. As your child gets older, they can enter secondary schools Chung Cheng High School (Main), Tanjong Katong Girls’ School, Tanjong Katong Secondary School and CHIJ Katong Convent.
If the weather holds, weekends would be a fantastic treat by the sea at East Coast Park. Organise a family barbecue on the beach, teach your little one to balance on two wheels earlier in life, take up a sea sport together, or just take a walk to the pier and check out the fishing enthusiasts at work. There are also plenty of playgrounds along the 15km-long East Coast Park to entertain your charges while you grab a coffee to chill nearby.
Browse all HDB resale flats in Marine Parade for sale on PropertyGuru.
4. Bukit Merah
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Bukit Merah is a sprawling neighbourhood that stretches from Alexandra to Tiong Bahru, and then to Keppel, Telok Blangah and HarbourFront. In fact, it encompasses part of the up-and-coming Greater Southern Waterfront, which will see over 9,000 new homes being built, office spaces (some say it’s an extension of the CBD), as well as more public transport links and green spaces.
First of all, it’s a given that you’ll enjoy lots of amenities in Bukit Merah Central, as it’s a mature estate. With that comes loads of yummy yet inexpensive hawker food, groceries and more. That means finding a childcare centre or a preschool near you is also likely – but you’ll need to quickly secure a spot ahead of other parents.
As for primary schools, there’s Radin Mas, Zhengde, Gan Eng Seng, CHIJ (Kellock), and a couple more to pick from. Moving to secondary, there’s Crescent Girls’, Gan Eng Seng, CHIJ St. Theresa’s Convent and Bukit Merah Secondary School. This neighbourhood is also pretty close to the National University of Singapore.
As for parks and playgrounds, there are plenty. Scattered among the blocks of HDB flats are the usual smaller playgrounds, but residents at the new BTO blocks along Telok Blangah Street 31 and Telok Blangah Heights are literally facing the huge expanse of lush greenery that links to the Southern Ridges trail. Labrador Nature Reserve is also close by, as well as the Rail Corridor, with new parks planned at Ganges Avenue, Kim Tian Road and Keppel Island.
If you have a dog, you'll be happy to know the Tiong Bahru/Outram Park area is one of the top five most dog-friendly neighbourhoods for your fur kid.
When it comes to transport links, Sentosa is a hop and a skip away via HarbourFront, which links to the Circle Line and the North East Line. The extension of the Circle Line (that missing bit from HarbourFront to Marina Bay) is also underway, and will come full circle in just a matter of years.
Travel via the East West Line to Redhill and Tiong Bahru; top-notch coffee spots and old-school makan await. Via Outram Park MRT, change to the North East Line or exit to find even more cafes or board a shuttle to the Singapore General Hospital. Later this year, the new station at Havelock will connect residents to the Thomson-East Coast Line.
Browse all HDB resale flats in Bukit Merah for sale on PropertyGuru.
Sunset view at Punggol Waterway.
Once an undeveloped area, in just over 20 years, Punggol is now a sprawling estate that’s popular with young families. It sports a manicured waterway that stretches to the north-eastern coast of Singapore, has growing transport links and an increasing amount of amenities as this non-mature estate comes into its own.
Connected to the MRT network via the North East Line, Punggol also has 2 LRT loops supporting residents in the area, as well as bus services that ply outside and around the estate. An MRT extension is being planned for an additional station called Punggol Coast.
This will bring more convenience to those living, working or studying near the upcoming Punggol Digital District, which houses the JTC Business Park, as well as those journeying to Punggol’s coastal edge.
The upcoming Cross Island Line includes Punggol MRT and Riviera LRT, which means Punggol residents will have a new interchange once that’s completed by 2030. The Cross Island Line will link Punggol to Loyang, Aviation Park, Pasir Ris, Defu, Serangoon North and Hougang on the North East Line… all the way to Ang Mo Kio on the North South Line and Bright Hill on the Thomson-East Coast Line.
Looking at Google Map’s recommendations for childcare in Punggol, the number of centres for your little one(s) looks similar to the concentration seen in other neighbourhoods. In Punggol, there are 11 primary schools, including Mee Toh School, Punggol Cove, Punggol Green, Punggol View, Waterway… it’s quite cute how these schools strongly allude to their roots. Just last year, 2020, two new primary schools opened in Punggol, Valour Primary School and Northshore Primary School, to meet the demand for school places in Punggol.
As for secondary schools, there are currently three: Edgefield, Punggol and Greendale. It was earlier announced that Yusof Ishak Secondary School, which is currently in Bukit Batok, would move to Punggol this year. However due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, the relocation has been delayed to January 2022. Yusof Ishak Secondary School has a long history, having been established in 1965 (the year Singapore became independent) and is the only school to be named after a president of Singapore.
Oasis Terraces is an integrated development, located next to Oasis LRT station.
Last but not least, one of the major highlights of Punggol is its Waterway Park, which meanders through the HDB estates, and connects via a series of Park Connectors, to Coney Island, wildlife-rich Lorong Halus Wetland, Hougang, Punggol Point and Sengkang Riverside Park. Punggol also serves as the endpoint of the Coast-to-Coast Trail, a 36km-long trail that traverses Singapore, from Lakeside to Coney Island.
Browse all HDB resale flats in Punggol for sale on PropertyGuru.
More FAQs about Family-friendly Neighbourhoods
Where Are the Safest Neighbourhoods in Singapore?
Based on the number and types of crimes reported, some of the safest neighbourhoods in Singapore are Bishan, Marine Parade, Bukit Timah, these are areas that are also family-friendly neighbourhoods.
What Are the Most Expensive Areas to Live in Singapore?
Some of the most expensive areas in Singapore, based on HDB resale flat transactions, include the prime Central region, which includes Orchard, Marina Bay, Tanjong Pagar and Sentosa; as well as Queenstown, Bukit Merah, Bukit Timah, Marine Parade, Clementi and Kallang/Whampoa.
Where Are the Quiet Neighbourhoods in Singapore?
Non-mature estates in the Outside Central Region tend to be quieter, as they are usually less populated, with fewer amenities, lesser connectivity and developments. These include Sembawang, Bukit Panjang and Jurong West.
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This article was written by Mary Wu, who hopes to share what she's learnt from her home-buying and renovation journey with PropertyGuru readers. When she's not writing, she's usually baking up a storm or checking out a new cafe in town.