Children are naturally energetic, they need to run, jump, skip, hop, climb, throw, catch! Unfortunately, many children these days spend too much time indoors glued to an electronic device: TV, computer, tablet and so on.

Parents play an important part in getting their kids out of a cooped-up environment and into the great outdoors. You can start by organising a weekend outing to a park, garden or reservoir. Beat the heat by timing your excursions early in the morning or in the evening when it is cooler. For maximum comfort and enjoyment, wear comfortable footwear and pack the following: sunblock, insect repellant, cap/hat, drinking water, snack and a face towel. 

A green oasis

Nature’s presence can have a calming effect on children. At the same time, it energizes them by providing opportunities for exploration (on foot or with their hands) and firing up the imagination. Think of nature as an open playground and the surroundings as an inviting, green space for learning and having fun.

When your child picks up a leaf, throws a twig or digs a stick into the ground, he is enhancing his motor skills. Examining a flower or observing a crawling insect improves observation skills and attention span. Simply running through a park and working up a sweat increases activity level — which beats sitting on the sofa and watching TV for hours. Some experts believe that being in a green environment can lower stress levels and improve moods — reason enough for parents to take their children out for more walks in the park. 

It’s play time

Don’t make nature activities too structured for children aged two years and below. Try simple activities like just strolling through a park, touching leaves, flowers and trees. If you see a caterpillar or a butterfly, point it out. The aim is to get your child connected to nature and the easiest way, of course, is to find something that piques his interest and curiosity. Go with what your child is interested in.

Children aged three to five can be engaged with nature-related tasks. For instance, get them to collect different types of leaves and compare differences in shape, size and colour. Such an activity not only allows children to get hands-on with nature, it also introduces them to concepts like grouping and classification. You could also get your child to go on a scavenger hunt. Make a list of things for him to find (like a brown leaf, long blade of grass, grey pebble) and send him on a search mission. Busy his brain with teasers: Is a park bench a living thing? What about that flowering plant or squirrel? An outdoor lesson makes learning all the more interesting.

With slightly older children, the possibilities are endless. Discuss the growth cycle of plants, go on a nature trail, identify different types of trees and flowers or embark on an insect-spotting adventure. Let them capture their time outdoors with the help of technology. Encourage them to take photos with your camera phone or digital camera. His observational skills and ability to focus will be sharpened when he tries to photograph an insect on a leaf. On reaching home, help him to email his favourite picture to granddad and grandma, or print and caption the photograph to document his experience.

A reservoir park, another choice outdoor venue, is filled with greenery and waterfront scenery to provide children with ample opportunity for enjoying nature. Bedok Reservoir Park for instance features a floating deck and viewing gallery for visitors to soak in their surroundings.

The Sengkang Floating Wetland at Punggol Reservoir is another eco-friendly playground for children to explore. With a tranquil reservoir as backdrop, take the opportunity to share the importance of clean water and explain how everyone can play a part in conserving water. When little explorers connect with nature, it is likely that they’ll grow up with a deeper appreciation for a world beyond digital toys and gadgets. Just the attitude you would want to cultivate. All these experiences done together will help foster stronger emotional bonds with your children.

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Contributed by:
Early Childhood Development Agency