By the time all my kids reach 4 or 5 years of age, we might have visited every single park Singapore has to offer. I have looked forward to this age since the day they were born: four kids running amuck across beautiful green lawns. We are getting closer and closer to that reality because ever since they turned 2 they have been able to remain outdoors for 3 hours at a stretch. With short breaks, they can go for a fourth hour and then demand another go-round at the neighborhood playground in the evening. My husband and I strive to give them at least 3 to 6 hours outdoor play everyday. Its more than the required amount but everytime we think about the institutionalised setting of school that was to come for our four girls, we don’t think even 6 hours was enough to make up for all that time they will be sitting down in classrooms and staring at four walls. Below are some further reading about why playing in Nature is great for small kids and why you should start early.
Recently we did two walking nature trails and do not be mistaken, I am by no means an outdoorsy person. What I enjoyed about these trails was you didn’t need to be an adventure-seeking sort because they could be as mild or adventurous as you wanted it to be. Since we have 4 small kiddos, we typically chose walking trails that were mild and non-challenging. Although we’ve only done two trails so far, we experienced so much that Mother Nature has to offer already.
Singapore’s sunny, humid and sudden-heavy-downpour sorta climate could be tricky if you have wee toddlers. But really, once you let go of expectations about wanting to protect your children from the “harsh” elements, you would realise the kids rarely feel bothered by the tropical heat or even rain. They might even really enjoy it. The thing is to just dress appropriately, wear sunscreen, bring an extra change of clothes and spray repellent if you need to.The only time I would say you would not want to go outdoors is when there is thunder and lightning. Being outdoors the time passes swiftly and being surrounded by greenery is such a peaceful stimulus for hyperactive toddlers.
Changi Coastal Point Trail
Changi beach is only 15 minutes away from us by public bus. Its definitely one of the perks about living in Tampines. NParks suggested starting the 2.2km trail from Changi Village and ending at Gosport Road, but we did it the opposite way round because I wanted us to be able to have refreshments at Changi Village. I did not pick a very good day to do the walking trail because we got caught in extremely heavy rain 1/4 through the trail. Thankfully, a bunch of boatmen at the Yacht Club saw us stranded and offered us shelter. As with all rain in Singapore, it was only really heavy briefly. We saw plenty: marine life, mangrove swamps, boats, aeroplanes flying into Changi Airport etc. Two things surprised: one, the kids were able to walk the entire trail without much complaint and two, after walking such a long way they could play at the playground for another 2 hours. We were out for 4 hours the entire time and made it back by bus, where I struggled to keep them awake throughout the bus-ride.
Bukit Batok Nature Park
For our next walking trail, we went far west. I’ve always been curious about the quarry at Bukit Batok and passed it several times but never really went in for a closer look. I organised a SPOTT playgroup there – making it a good excuse to go, otherwise there wasn’t much motivation to really travel so far. I’m glad I did, the quarry and the surrounding areas were gorgeous. Since our playgroup had a bunch of kids who were as young as 12 months old, I chose a really easy 5-min forest trail that ultimately led to the main playground by the quarry. Although it was a brief 5 minute walk, it was still pretty magnificent. We saw squirrels, turtles, pond-skaters, a Malayan monitor lizard, a rooster and plenty of birds. What I really, really, really loved about this nature park was the stream leading to the quarry. And the kids spent a bit of time there but nobody ventured close enough to the water. It rained heavily that morning and toward the end of playgroup, everyone soaked themselves in mud and puddle-water (I did warn all parents to bring an extra change of clothes). When everyone left, my kids as usual requested to stay a little more longer and they played for another hour at the sandy playground.
Every time I go to a park, I think oh its probably going to be similar to the last park we went, but so far I’ve been wrong. Every park is entirely unique. Its good to do a little research before you go so you can look out for specific plants, trees and animals. But sometimes its just good to be serendipitous and explore freely. Typically I research a little on how to get there and get around and then when we get there, we just roam freely. Other than observing nature, the children also interact with nature: they play with rocks, leaves, twigs, puddles, soil etc. While structured playgrounds are good, natural enviroments also offer an interesting open-ended playground. To be honest, its done wonders for my stress levels because you know raising four kids under the age of four has been challenging every single day but I find myself way more relaxed at nature parks than at most other places.
Young children tend to develop emotional attachments to what is familiar and comfortable for them. The more personal children’s experience with nature, the more environmentally concerned and active children are likely to become — Randy White