Want to save your kids from glasses? Get them active and in love with the great outdoors as early as you can. Singapore has the highest percentage of bespectacled kids in the world, according to a 2012 study.1 One of the main causes is the lack of time spent outdoors: kids in Singapore only spend three measly hours as compared to children in Sydney who get 14 hours. Here are four activities that'll help to reduce your kids' screen time. Sandcastle-building If you thought playing with sand is a passive pastime, think again. Children engage their upper bodies when they scoop, dig and pour sand while squatting works their legs, glutes and calves. Don't forget the constant running to and from the water's edge to get buckets of water for the sandcastle's moat -- it's a whole body workout! Hand-eye co-ordination is also enhanced through the use of the sandcastle building tools like shovels and chiselling sticks. Sandcastle building is a great way to spend quality family time without having to dig deep into your pocket. Parents can also use the activity to coach children on setting their vision, transforming their madcap ideas into realistic goals, honing their patience and concentration skills while unleashing their creativity. To see sandcastle enthusiasts create stunning gigantic sand sculptures, head down to Castle Beach at East Coast Park (Near Carpark E2) on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, from 3.30pm to 7pm. Sandcastle building kits are available for sale there. Those with the sandcastle building kits can also learn from the sandcastle experts and volunteers as they will guide you on how to use the various tools to create your very own gigantic sandcastles. For maximum enjoyment, bring plenty of drinking water, sunscreen and a cap! Stand-up paddling Have a teen who's bored of kiddy activities? Have a go at stand-up paddling or SUP, the latest sport to hit sunny Singapore, which requires one to stay upright on a surfboard while using a long paddle to move through the water. If your teens are water-confident, this would thrill them. Plus, it's a lot less painful falling into the water, than off a skateboard onto hard ground -- which means parents can join in without fearing they'll break or sprain something, and look cool too. SUP requires good balancing skills, strength and an alert mind to keep one upright and the paddleboard above the waters. To propel and manoeuvre the paddleboard, all core muscles including leg muscles, shoulders, back, chest, arms and abdominal muscles have to work in unison. It's a full body workout but the sport is so distractingly fun that your kids won't even know that they're "exercising". Over time, they'll have a better sense of balance and coordination, increased mental alertness, heightened body awareness, stamina and toned muscles. Archery Archery is often misunderstood as a passive sport. In reality, it is a great form of physical exercise that gives the upper body a good workout by strengthening core muscles. Prevention magazine cited that drawing a bow burns approximately 140 calories per half-hour, similar to a brisk walking pace at 5.68 km per hour. This sport is a good way to train one's endurance and concentration skills. To excel in archery, one must be able to keep the body balanced and still while exercising the arms and fingers to draw, aim and fire the arrow. Archery improves hand-eye co-ordination and flexibility of our hands and fingers. Practising archery is a great mind exercise and de-stresser as it trains one to free the mind from distractions and focus on the target. The repetitive motion of archery builds strength and muscle memory. For affordable archery programmes, search for "archery" at ActiveSG's portal, where you can offset 30 per cent of the cost with your ActiveSG dollars. Programmes range from three-hour basic archery classes like Archery Fun Shoot to a three-hour Archery Family Camp for one parent and one child. Nature walks The benefits of nature walks are well documented. Studies have shown that taking walks in nature can improve one's physical and emotional well-being, reduce psychological stress, depressive symptoms, build mental strength and improve sleep and vitality.2 Here's something you can do when your baby is six months old and is able to sit upright comfortably. Pack him or her into a sling and start exploring the many nature trails in Singapore. Start off by surrounding baby with the sights and sounds of the forest -- the chirps of birds, the songs of the cicadas, and the rustling of leaves. When children are able to walk independently, start them on paved paths or boardwalks, such as the hour-long Chemperai Trail at MacRitchie Reservoir or the easier 600m Rain Forest Walking Trail at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, which contains the oldest pocket of primary rainforest in Singapore. As they get older and are able to look out for roots and rocks, head for the longer, wilder trails like the Treetop Trail (pro-tip: start from the Venus Drive carpark instead of the main MacRitchie entrance for a shorter walk) or the Wallace Trail at Dairy Farm Nature Park. Walking with other children and breaking the walk up with rest stops, cold drinks and snacks will motivate them to continue walking.
1. National University of Singapore, (2012, May 21). Study sheds light on child myopia. Newshub: NUS' News Portal. Retrieved from http://newshub.nus.edu.sg/headlines/0512/myopia_21May12.php
2. Jordan, R. (2015, June 30). Stanford researchers find mental health prescription: Nature. Stanford Report. Retrieved from http://news.stanford.edu/news/2015/june/hiking-mental-health-063015.html
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