I have flown a kite only once in my entire life. Perhaps that was the only time my dad told me to “Go fly kite” (kidding). But from a young age, I’ve been attracted to scenic landscapes and nature. At first I thought that it was just a personal preference, but later learned that humans are biophilic: possessing an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life. What is apparent today is the opposite: children are spending more time indoors in front of a screen than playing outside. It has become so extreme that the crisis has a name: Nature deficit disorder. Causes for this phenomenon include parental fears, reduction of natural areas, and the lure of electronic devices.
According to a study by National University of Singapore Researchers published in 2011, 56 per cent of the island is covered in vegetation. But with urbanisation, there has been a decrease in natural ‘green spaces’ (forests and marshland) but increase in managed green areas (parks) in Singapore.
Why are ‘green spaces’ important?
These are some of the reasons put forth by participants at an Our Singapore Conversation session organised by the Nature Society Singapore and Young NTUC in 2013:
‘Nature equals to happiness and relaxation. Nature is beneficial to mental health and overall well-being.’
‘It is important to let our children open up to nature as it ignites creativity. Learning in nature Beats learning in the zoo and is also an alternative to classrooms.’
‘Nature teaches humility.’
‘When we are cut off from nature, we can develop an anthropocentric attitude. As a result, we possess the misconception of fear and paranoia of nature due to this disconnection.’
Benefits of Greenery
The National Parks Board’s website lists many benefits of greenery which I will share with you here:
- Better grades and school behaviour
- Reduces ADHD symptoms
- Helps children cope with stress
- Develops psychomotor skills
- Reduces prevalence of myopia
- Improves cognitive functioning
So while screen time is the easier, more popular choice, it’s important to set aside time for outdoor play. All the advantages that nature offers ring true for adults too, especially for stress relief and mood improvement. Try to get outside with your kids.
Ideas for Getting Your Kids into Nature
There are lots of ways to make nature stimulating and interesting for your kids. You might just find You enjoy it just as much as they do. Here are some ideas:
Set up treasure hunts. Make a short, simple list of things for your kids to look for outside – such as “a shiny object,” or “something you can hold liquid in.”
Identify things. Get a book with pictures about birds, bugs, leaves, trees, or flowers, and go outside looking for specific things in the book to identify.
Go to an outdoor cinema. There are many places in Singapore where you can get your movie fix under the stars.
Take a hike. Explore immersive walking tours created by Locomole with your child, as a family, or on your own.
Forest Bathing. Forest Bathing, or shinrin-yoku, originated in 1980s Japan. It was designed to combat stress (and death) from overwork. The aim is to slow down and connect with nature using all of one’s senses. Unlike the usual hike or walk that aims to reach a destination, Forest Bathing focuses on being in the ‘now.’ Forest Bathing has real health benefits. The session ends with a tea ceremony where participants will share their thoughts, observations, and emotions.
So, what are you waiting for? Go green today.
Author: Parcsen Loke is a husband and father of three children (27, 25, and 14). He is also the Head of Programmes and Development at the Centre for Fathering. Please feel free to contact him if you have any questions about this article.
 “Biophilia hypothesis.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 2014