More than a week ago, we went to Botanic Garden for a stroll and Dot tried climbing a big Tembusu tree but failed at her first attempt. She is not discouraged. She saw a smaller tree yesterday and said that she wanted to climb. I replied her,”This tree is too small. If you climb on it, the tree will fall. Mommy will find another tree for you to climb.”

Quoted from “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv,

In Norway and Sweden studies, preschool children who played every day on typically flat playgrounds to children who played for the same amount of time among the trees, rocks, and even ground of natural play areas. Over a year’s time, the children who played in natural areas tested better for motor fitness, especially in balance and agility.

We first brought Dot to Bukit Timah Hill when she was 15 month old and since then we have been visiting Bukit Timah Hill about once a month during one of the weekends. When she was just past two years old, she walked up the steep slope on her own and we were very impressed especially Dot’s grandpa.

21 month old Dot observed the little plants at Mount Faber Hill.

Together with Dot, we went to green spaces in Singapore like Pulau Ubin, Bukit Timah Hill, Mount Faber Hill, Changi beach, East Coast beach, Botanic Garden and Jacob Ballas Children’s garden. Even a walk from the bus-stop to Dot’s granny’s place allows her to explore the little plants, animals and insects.

We are on the Kranji Heritage trail and the next destination that I am really looking forward to visit is Sungei Buloh during September / October period where the migratory birds will be arriving.

My family loves to bring Dot to natural and green spaces to relax and enjoy the sight, smell and sound of the trees, flowers and the living creatures. It is a time for our family workout too.

More than anything, we hope that our family time together out in the green will leave beautiful childhood memories that Dot will cherish for the rest of her life.

Why children need nature

After reading Richard Louv’s book, I learn that there are many benefits for children and adults who spend time in nature. I like this video which he shared about this book.

Children need nature for the healthy development of their senses, and, therefore, for learning and creativity. Nature experiences can relieve some of the everyday pressures that may lead to childhood depression. It also nurtures solitude. After unsetting events, natural settings help to clear one’s minds and gain perspective and relax. It is essential to one’s emotional health too.

Quote by Nancy Wells, assistant professor at the New York State College of Human Ecology,

By bolstering children’s attention resources, green spaces may enable children to think more clearly and cope more effectively with life stress.

Quote by Anne Frank (1929 – 1945),

The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.

With our change of lifestyles, we do not explore nature as much as our parents and grandparents. Our hot and humid weather can be a big deterrent to go outdoor. Shopping malls and electronic gadgets seems to take up more of our time.

What is stopping you and your children from going outdoor?

Nature activities for children and families

In Richard Louv’s book, he listed 100 actions we (parents, communities, government and educators) can take to bring our children outdoor in nature. I shall list and add some that we, parents, can do in Singapore with our children.

  • Build a sandpit or bring them to the beach to play with sand. It allows them to be creative.
  • Plant native flowers and shrubs in your garden. For suggestions, visit here.
  • Tell your children about where in nature was special to you as a child. Then help them find their own special place.
  • Collect caterpillar and watch it grow into a butterfly. Once the life cycle is complete, release the butterfly to its natural habitat. We grew one caterpillar to a butterfly.
  • Involve the grandparents. Most can remember when playing outside in nature was fun and ask them to share their experiences.
  • Go camping in a tent.
  • During the day, be a cloud-spotter.
  • At night, go stargazing at Science Centre with your children.
  • Establish a “green hour” as part of your family routine.
  • Go for nature walk.
  • Invent your own nature game. Eg. Challenge their observation skills by playing “Find ten creatures”.
  • Get to know your local park.
  • Encourage your children to use all of their senses at the same time – to sit under a tree and listen to every bird song or call from insects; to be aware of what their body is touching, what they can smell and what nature is telling them.
  • Try wildlife photography. Recently we just started Dot with digital photography and she is learning to observe her world and take pictures.
  • Keep a nature journal. Take paper, pens and pencils on your walks and encourage children to draw what they see. Get your children to learn the names of what they draw and test them. Suggest that they collect leaves and flowers and press them between the pages of a book before sticking them in. They can also take photographs or make bark rubbing – anything that encourages them to observe the nature around them.
  • Grow a mini garden. If your children are small, choose seeds large enough for them to handle and that mature quickly.
  • Look for nature adventure books.
  • Grow little fish and water snails. Dot has little aquarium.
  • Go fishing.
  • Collect stones and shells.
  • Get wet and wild – canoeing, sailing and swimming. Teach your children to swim when they’re young or enrol them in swimming classes.
  • Get up close with the bugs. How to study bugs.
  • Cycling as a family.

Nature – the handiwork of the Creator can speak to us and teach us if we will listen. – Richard J. Foster

Bring your children outdoor and enjoy nature.

If you have more ideas on how and what to do with our children in nature or where are your family’s favourite green spaces in Singapore, I would love to hear from you.

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