Q. We're planning a family adventure over the Christmas school holiday with our 14-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter, combining Singapore and Borneo. We're entrusting ourselves to a tour operator for Borneo, but starting independently on our five days in Singapore. Where is the best family-friendly accommodation? What are the highlights that would appeal to children? N Forber, via e-mail
A. Despite being a bustling metropolis packed with shopping malls, high-rise offices, restaurants and museums, Singapore does not lack ways to keep younger visitors entertained - and the fact that it is also compact, safe and clean reinforces its family-friendliness. The average temperature in December is a pretty humid 26C, so to escape the heat I suggest basing yourselves on Sentosa Island, just south of the main island. Previously known as Pulau Belakang Mati, it has been used as a British military fortress and an army base, but was given an overhaul in the early Seventies to develop it into a leisure destination, and the name was also changed to Sentosa, which means peace and tranquillity in Malay.
Getting there is part of the fun, since one option is to hop into a cable car (see page 7) from Mount Faber on the main island to Imbiah Lookout on Sentosa. Admission to the island is S$2 (70p) per day, but if you choose to stay at one of Sentosa's five resorts, the cost is absorbed into room rates. Just under three quarters of the island is covered in secondary rainforest - home to monkeys, peacocks, monitor lizards and parrots - so the chances of introducing yourselves to some wildlife before you head over to Borneo are fairly high.
Peacocks are a regular feature at Sentosa Resort and Spa (00 65 62 75 03 31;). The family suites here are already booked up over the Christmas period, but doubles are available from S$341 (£112) per night, room only. Also popular with families is the Rasa Sentosa Resort by Shangri-La (00 65 6235 1666; ), which opens directly onto the island's busiest beach, Siloso. There are plenty of facilities, which include a children's club with a long list of organised activities, and a large pool with slides. Doubles are available over Christmas from S$383 (£128), including breakfast. There is also the option of adding a sofabed to the room free of charge if you want to keep costs down.
You could easily spend at least half of your time on Sentosa, a sort of low-key theme park, with a handful of rides, attractions, (man-made) beaches, spas and a golf course. Aquatic attractions include an Underwater World Oceanarium (00 65 6275 0030;), home to more than 250 species of fish, many of which can be viewed through a transparent underwater tunnel. It has a touch pool for hands-on experiences with starfish, stingrays and bamboo sharks and there are opportunities for snorkelling. It opens 9am-9pm daily; admission is S$19.90 (£6.60) for adults and S$12.70 (£4.20) for three- to 12-year-olds. Snorkelling starts at S$45 (£15). Also on Sentosa is a Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom, cinema, waxwork museum, nature walks and kayaks for hire on the beach. Every evening a light, music and fireworks display is held at Beach Station. Information on all the attractions is available from , or by calling 00 65 6736 8672.
There's also plenty of wildlife on the main island, a substantial proportion of which is nocturnal. If you don't fancy staking them out yourself, the Night Safari (00 65 62 69 34 11;) will point them out for you. There are walking trails, Creature of the Night shows and guided Safari Adventurer Tours in "limo buggies"which take you into the jungle to seek out what the animals get up to while we're asleep. Among the many inhabitants are lion, giraffe, zebra, sloth bear, hyena, flamingo, tiger and leopard. It opens 6pm midnight daily; S$20 (£6.60) adults and S$10 (£3.30) children, with extra charges for tram rides and shows. Tours are S$100 (£33.30) for adults and S$50 (£16.50) for children, including park entry, show admission and a guided tour.
If the weather's wet you could head indoors. The Singapore Science Centre (00 65 64 25 25 00;) has lots of interactive exhibits. The new Water Works exhibition features a water maze (pack swimming costumes), giant dryer and even a rainbow simulator. It opens 10am-6pm daily except Monday; S$6 (£2) for adults and S$3 (£1) for children.
Finally, back on the water, Singapore Duck Tours (00 65 63 33 38 25;) uses converted amphibious military craft for tours with attitude. The route takes in city landmarks then bumps through the woods to head into the harbour water at Kallang Bay. Tours are available from 9:30am to 7pm daily (to 9pm peak seasons) and cost S$33 (£11) for adults and S$17 (£5.70) for four- to 12-year-olds. Departures are from Suntec City.
Finally, the impressive "light ups" that illuminate the streets around all religious holidays will help get you in the festive mood - Orchard Road has the most impressive - part of the spectacular Christmas in the Tropics festival. In the build up to 25 December, there are concerts, parades, a nativity scene and cultural performances. Most of the big hotels put on Christmas activities and meals.
The Singapore Tourism Board (020-7484 2710; 00 65 6736 6622;) produces a "Family Fun in Singapore" booklet
For more information about Singapore go to