Outdoor play is an integral part of growing up.
It is now widely accepted that children need to spend a lot more time outdoors, interacting with the natural environment. In fact, this has led to many preschools incorporating outdoor play into their formal curriculum.
But the benefits of spending time outdoors is not just limited to children. We as adults could reap multiple benefits for our mental and physical well-being just by being outdoors.
Research has shown that there is a positive correlation between an individual’s overall well-being and exposure to natural environments.
Here are five reasons why you and your children should be spending more time in natural settings, whether walking in a park, playing in the playground, riding a bike or even lazing on a beach.
1. It strengthens the immune system
Spending time in natural settings can improve your and your child’s immune system, prevent diseases such as depression, cancer, obesity and many more. Greener environments can even enhance recovery from surgery.
According to Dr Ming Kuo from the University of Illinois, nature is like a multivitamin that provides us with all sorts of nutrients that we need. Dr Kuo also mentions that when we are in a natural environment in which we feel safe, our body automatically starts to devote resources to grow, reproduce, and build the immune system.
2. We develop greater self-control
Exposure to natural environments can boost people’s self-control. Researchers believe this is because observing nature increases our ability to pay attention and this in turn, leads to a greater capacity to take in the possible consequences of planned actions.
Natural environments also slow down our perception of time, making delayed gratification seems less burdensome.
No matter how much you may like nature, we understand that your busy schedules might not allow you the time to take your kids for outdoor explorations. But here is some good news: research has shown that even observing pictures of natural environments can lead to the similar benefits.
3. It decreases negativity
Rumination is defined as the constant negative inward direct thinking and questioning by the individual, something that we all can get stuck in from time to time.
These constant negative thoughts and questions about one’s self-worth and self-esteem can increase the risk of depression. One of the easiest ways to deal with this is to take a nature-walk. Research has shown that participants who took a 90-minute nature walk showed a decrease in rumination compared to those who walked a busy road downtown.
4. Helps develop overall life skills
Have you been wanting to take up a hobby? Try gardening.
Scientific research encourages you to do so, especially with your children. A study done among elementary school children in the USA, reveals the benefits of them participating in a one-year school gardening programme. Spending time outdoors gardening increased the overall life skills of the children in the following six aspects: teamwork, self-understanding, leadership, decision-making skills, communication skills and volunteerism.
Start your own gardening programme at home and conduct an out-of-classroom learning experience for your child.
5. Builds higher levels of cognitive functioning
Want your child to focus more in his or her studies?
Instead of going for more tuition, try placing more plants in your home and around your child’s study area. Research has shown that this simple trick can help your child focus his or her attention better. Nature has a natural mental restorative function.
Scientists have suggested that the four essential characteristics of the natural environment that help restore one’s attention capacity are:
- Fascination: Environments that can draw one’s attention effortlessly
- Being away: A temporary escape from one’s daily concerns and worries
- Extent: A deep experience, enabling one to be immersed in it
- Compatibility: When the environment matches one’s purposes or inclinations
So go ahead, immerse yourself in the natural environment and reap all the benefits it has offers for your physical and mental health.
Turn to the next page to see what our top 10 recommendations are for where you can spend a great day out with your family in outdoor natural settings. And they are all easy on the wallet too.
Our pick of places to spend some fun outdoor family time in Singapore
Image Credit: NParks
Pasir Ris Park
At Pasir Ris Park your kids can enjoy cycling, inline skating, and water sports, or riding on ponies! You can also take them to explore the beauty of the mangrove forest and watch the birds from the 3-storey high tower within the park.
And if you are feeling particularly adventurous, you can pitch a tent and just spend the night under the stars, just remember to apply for a camping permit!
Address: Pasir Ris Central, Singapore 510534
Opening Hours: All day long
Admission Fee: FREE!
TreeTop Walk at MacRitchie
The first of its kind in Singapore, the TreeTop Walk is about 250m long and its highest point reaches up to 25m from the forest floor. It has a free standing suspension bridge that allows visitors to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the forest canopy.
The walk might be a little challenging to your little ones but it will be worth it!
Address: 601 Island Club Road, Singapore 578775
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Friday: 9.00am – 5.00pm (closed on Mondays, except on Public Holidays)
Weekends & Public Holidays: 8.30am – 5.00pm
Admission Fee: FREE!
Image credit: Gardens by the Bay
Gardens By the Bay’s Far East Organization Children’s Garden
Let your children run wild at nature’s playground. There are two tree houses at the site, which are specially designed for the older kids to explore.
And if your kids want to splash about then the Water Play area is ideal.
Address: 18 Marina Gardens Drive, Singapore 018953
Opening Hours: Tuesday* – Friday: 10.00am – 7:00pm (Last admission is at 6:30pm)
Closed on Monday unless a Public Holiday falls on that day. *Closed on Tuesday if a Public Holiday falls on the preceding Monday.
Weekends & Public Holidays: 9:00am – 9:00pm (Last admission is at 8:30pm)
Admission Fee: FREE!
For a day of wet and wild fun, Adventure Cove is an ideal destination for you and your family. There are plenty of thrilling rides to choose from, however, if you are feeling a bit lazy, you can just chill out with your loved ones at Bluwater Bay wave pool or float down the Adventure River with a sea of marine life swimming around you.
Address: Adventure Cove Waterpark, 8 Sentosa Gateway, Sentosa Island, Singapore 098269
Opening Hours: 10.00am – 6.00pm
Admission Fee: One-Day Pass Adults – $36, Child (4 to 12 years old) – $26, Senior Citizen (above 60 years old) – $26
Port Of Lost Wonder at Sentosa
What better way to explore, play, and learn than Port Of Lost Wonder (POLW) at Sentosa. Located on Palawan Beach, this water based play area is great for your young explorers!
Address: Palawan Beach (near Beach Car Park)
Opening Hours: 10.00am – 6.30pm daily (Pirate Ship closes at 6.00pm)
Admission Fee: Weekdays – $10, Weekends & Public Holidays – $15 (Accompanying Adults enter for free with a hug from the child)
Punggol Waterway is a 12.25 hectares long man-made waterway flowing through four parks. Bring your child down to this convenient respite and explore the four uniquely themed parks. Spend some quality time together as the whole family play water games or build sand castles at the Recreation Zone.
Engage your child in a learning journey as you teach them about various plants and rare flowers species at the Heritage Zone. Take a slow walk through Green Gallery and immerse yourself in greenery, which has been proven to have a calming effect.
Address: Sentul Crescent Road, Singapore 822313
Opening hours: 8:00 am to 7:00 am
Organise a cycling trip at Pulau Ubin and get the family to exercise and stay fit. Pulau Ubin is a popular place for cyclists due to the scenic views and interesting trails. Some of the terrains are gentler and hence safer for young children to ride along.
Get to Pulau Ubin via a 10-minute bumboat ride from the Changi Village jetty at $3.00 per passenger.
Opening hours: (Chek Jawa Wetlands) 8.30am to 6.00pm
Admission: FREE! However do take note of expenses for travel and some activities such as rental of bikes.
DIY miniature garden by The Plant Story
Help your children create their own miniature gardens with a simple DIY kit from The Plant Story. The Plant Story was started by a team of busy urbanities who want to inspire the love for nature and share the joy of gardening in urban areas.
Address: 33 Hyderabad Road, #01-01 HortPark, Singapore 119578
Opening hours: 10:00am to 7:00pm
Admission: FREE! For charges on workshops and DIY kits please refer to https://www.theplantstory.com/
Image Credit: NParks
Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden
Did you know that Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden is the first garden in Asia that is designed for children? It is based on an ‘All Life on Earth Depends on Plants’ theme. Let your child play and explore amidst nature.
Address: 481 Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 259769
Opening hours: 8.00am to 7.00pm (last admission at 6.30pm). Closed on Mondays (except when it falls on a designated public holiday)
Admission: Free. The garden is open to children up to 12 years old. All children must be accompanied by an adult and all adults must be accompanied by a child.
Coney Island Park
Newly opened on 10th Oct 2015, Coney Island Park is the latest addition to the list of green spaces in Singapore. The rustic feel and unique biodiversity of the park has been intentionally preserved.
Try to spot the spotted wood owl and rusty-breasted cuckoo, which are endangered species. If you are lucky, you might get to meet the Brahman bull that is allowed to roam freely on the island.
Opening hours: 7:00am to 7:00pm
This article has been contributed by : Yun Si Min, Kang Long, Cerlyn Siew Wei Lin, Nakiran Rajandran, Lorraine Ong Wei Shi. All of them are students at the School of Social Sciences, Singapore Management University.
What are some of your favourite outdoor places in Singapore? Share in the comments section below.