Physical activity is essential for children as it lays the foundation for developing healthy bodies and minds. Unfortunately, in our busy world, it is often easier for parents to sit their child in front of a TV or computer screen than to organise an outdoor activity.
A child who is physically active reduces the risk of becoming overweight or obese. Regular exercise can also help him achieve optimum development and growth. A youngster who is able to run up a flight of stairs or swing from the monkey bars in the playground will perceive himself as more competent — which in turn boosts self-esteem and happiness. Children who have been physically active display better concentration in the day and sleep better at night. It has been well documented that regular exercise and spending time in a natural surrounding can help adults reduce stress, and your child will likely enjoy these positive effects, too.
Let your child benefit from playing in a park or going on a nature ramble. Ignite his interest by inviting him to accompany Dad and Mum on an ‘adventure’ trail. Describe the many interesting things you’ll check out on the way: animals (squirrels, monkeys), insects and plants with unusual leaves. Try the Sengkang Wetlands!
Singapore has many pleasant nature trails suitable for families. The following are some destinations to explore and enjoy. Put on sensible walking shoes, pack bottled water, sunscreen, snack, insect repellant, a towel to soak up perspiration, camera phone, and off you go!
A popular venue for exercise and nature enthusiasts, MacRitchie Reservoir—Singapore’s oldest reservoir — offers the easy and relaxing boardwalk Chemperai Trail, which is suitable for families and young children. Skirting the edges of the reservoir, it stretches 1.5km and takes about 30 minutes to complete. Of course, if you have a curious preschooler who stops and stares at everything, allow for a bit more time.
As you go on your nature walk and wildlife-spotting expedition, remember to tread gently and speak softly. Look out for dragonflies flitting above the water and kingfishes hovering around the water’s edge. Is that a monitor lizard crossing your path? Could that be a woodpecker resting in the leafy canopy above? Set your sights on the wild Ixora plant with its orange-red flowers, point out the ornamental Licuala palm and trees with magnificent buttress roots that grow above the ground. Even as children walk along the path, encourage them to look up, down and all around to truly appreciate their surroundings.
Off Alexandra Road, Hort Park is a great place for parents and kids to spend a morning. Clear your schedule for at least two hours and explore this tranquil nature hub bursting with colourful plant species. Let children scamper around the many different themed gardens and revel in the fresh outdoor setting. The Pitter Patter Potter Garden, specially designed for children from 5 to 10 years of age, features a Seed Dispersal Garden and Organic Play Centre among other attractions. The Butterfly Garden cultivates suitable nectar and host plants for breeding and attracting a variety of butterflies — an ideal venue for finding out more about the workings of our local ecosystem. Children will also be interested in the Water Garden and interactive Edible Garden where they can touch and smell vegetables, herbs and spices.
Hort Park is also your gateway to Canopy Walk (leading to Kent Ridge Park) and Alexandra Arch, an 80m long bridge that links Hilltop Walk and Forest Walk. The walks are rated easy to moderate and should provide children with opportunities to put their boundless energy to active use. Of course, you don’t have to attempt all the walks in one day, spread it out over a few visits.
For something more adventurous, consider taking your older pre-schooler to Pulau Ubin (Granite Island), just off the northeastern corner of mainland Singapore. To get to Pulau Ubin, take a bumboat from Changi Point Ferry Terminal, located near Changi Village Hawker Centre. The highlight of your visit will be the wetlands of Chek Jawa, one of Singapore’s richest ecosystems where six major habitats meet and mix. A visitor centre with viewing jetty, over one km of boardwalk and the 21m-tall Jejawi Tower will further enhance your Chek Jawa experience. Guided tours are available but require pre-booking.
For opening hours and other information on the above parks, please visit https://www.nparks.gov.sg/.
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