“Unstructured, natural play helps stimulate creativity and improves problem solving. The more time spent outside, the better the achievement levels inside our state’s schools and classrooms.” — Laura Bush, former First Lady of the USA
Keen to let your child reconnect with Mother Nature but not sure where to start? Here are some fun ideas—many of time free!—to get your child off his electronic media tools and awaken his senses.
1. Farm Visit
Even though Singapore is highly built up, there are still ample opportunities for your family to visit local farms in areas like Lim Chu Kang and Choa Chu Kang. Most of these farms are free to enter, while some charge a small fee. Here are just some of them:
- Khai Seng Fish Farm, 181 Neo Tiew Road
- Hay Dairies, No. 3 Lim Chu Kang Lane 4
- Lian Wah Hang Quail Farm, 5 Lim Chu Kang Lane 6F
- Jurong Frog Farm, 51 (PLOT 56) Lim Chu Kang Lane 6
- Bollywood Veggies Pte Ltd, 100 Neo Tiew Road
- Max Koi Farm, 251 Neo Tiew Crescent
2. Singing In the Rain
Remember how, when you were a child, how exhilarating a walk in the rain was? Being out in a downpour is a change from normal routine and can activate a child’s senses. (The rain sounds great on a big umbrella and the smell of grass is enhanced.) You don’t have to go very far to appreciate nature’s free concert. Dress for the weather and bring some tin cans to make music.
3. Puddle Jumping
After the rain stops, dress your child in some old clothes, raincoat and rubber boots for some good ol’ puddle jumping. You will be amazed at how little it takes to tickle the little one.
4. Kite Flying
Another cheap activity to get the senses engaged. Kite flying need not be restricted to parks, but can take place in open fields around housing estates. Some of these often overlooked locations include the field next to Buangkok MRT, Edgefield Plains (opposite Punggol Secondary School), Admiralty Link (near Assyafaah Mosque, Sembawang), and Tuas South.
5. Leaf Rubbings
Leaf rubbing is an easy way to spend an afternoon. Gather leaves of different shapes and place a piece of paper of them. Use a crayon or pastel to gently colour over the paper. Compare the prints and encourage your kid to research more into different tree types.
6. Mimosa Tickling
Watching mimosa plants open and close their leaves is something even big kids never tire of!
7. Growing a Mini Garden
If you are short of space but you little one is a budding gardener, start off with a mini garden using cardboard egg trays. Green beans and herbs like basil and mint are good options for young hands and even toddlers can help by watering the plants.
Pack some dishes and enjoy a picnic in one of our many parks with friends. Visit NParks’s website for a schedule of free concerts happening at the Singapore Botanics Garden, Fort Canning Park, Dhoby Ghaut Green and other green spaces.
9. Nature-Themed Party
Who says birthday parties ought to be indoors? Organise an evening party in the park and equip your little guests with plastic spoons and containers for some digging and discovering. Do chalk rubbing on leaf and tree barks, collect wild flowers, leaves and stones for artwork, and wind down with a BBQ.
10. Bird Watching with the Nature Society (Singapore)
The Nature Society often organises bird-watching trips to places like the Kranji marshes, Lorong Halus and Pulau Semakau. Bird sightings at Kranji include the Red-wattled Lapwing, Purple Swamphen, Rusty-breasted Cuckoo, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, while the Great-billed Heron, Pacific Reef Egret and Malaysian Plover, and rare migrants such as the Chinese Egret and Ashy Drongo can be spotted at Pulau Semakau. Some of these trips are open to non-members but NSS Kids get to be accompanied by a dedicated children’s guide. Visit the NSS website for more information.
11. Nature Playgarden at Hort-Park
The Hort Park Nature Playgarden is a magical sanctuary for kids to wander and frolic in. With nine play zones and activities where little ones can build dams, seek out secret tunnels, play music on bamboo chimes, ‘cook’ up a feast at a ‘camp’ and more, this is one place that your child will be asking to come back to again and again, and again!
12. Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden
Located in the Singapore Botanic Gardens, a visit to this educational garden can teach your child about edible plants, such as the banana, peanut, soya bean, sugarcane, sweet potato, as well as other delicious fruits and vegetables. If you have a picky eater, this is a great way to get her interested in her greens. Follow up with a trip to the supermarket and let them help you prepare a nutritious meal with some of the ingredients they have chosen themselves.
13. Mangrove Walk at Sungei Buloh
Take a free guided nature walk along the boardwalk. Spot mudskippers, crabs and other marine life under shady mangrove trees and enjoy views of the Johor Straits. Construction works are currently ongoing for Phase 2 of the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve Masterplan. As such, Kranji Nature Trail is closed. Visit the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve website for more information.
14. Sensory Trail at Pulau Ubin
Organised by NParks, older kids can enjoy Pulau Ubin’s rustic nature via its Sensory Trail. The walk takes about 1.5 hours to complete and is a wonderful introduction to the idyllic island. Children will be able to touch, see, smell or even taste fruit trees, spices and herbs for cooking, plants used in traditional medicine, and walk through the island’s mangrove forest.
15. Wetlands Explorations at Chek Jawa
Located on the south-eastern tip of Pulau Ubin, Chek Jawa contains one of Singapore’s richest ecosystems. Open from 8.30 a.m. till 6p.m. daily, visitors can opt for either a DIY or guided tour. Sunscreen, a bottle of water, a hat and mosquito repellent are must haves.
Gwen Lee is the author of the children’s book Little Cloud Wants Snow! Now available at all good bookstores and on Amazon.com.