If you’d never been to Singapore, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the city-state is, in fact, one big urban agglomeration without much nature in it. However, the Singaporean government actually maintains significant swathes of land classified as nature reserves, including the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, the Central Water Catchment, the Labrador Nature Reserve, as well as the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. Taken together, these reserves take up 3,000 hectares of land, a non-trivial amount in the microstate.
Additionally, there are numerous public and private parks and green spaces located throughout the other more urbanized parts of the country. This gives the country a decidedly green urban landscape in many areas that have led it to be called the Garden City by some residents.
This is all to say, greenery and nature education are things that are taken very seriously by the locals and appreciated by the large expatriate population. In fact, whether your child studies in a local elementary school or in one of the international primary schools in Singapore, they’re likely to learn about the importance of nature from a very young age. As such, by sending your child to school in this country, you are almost certainly allowing them to get more exposure to nature and green spaces than they would in other countries.
Why Expose Your Child to Nature?
Encouraging your child to get close to nature offers plenty of benefits to children. Here are two of the most important reasons:
Early Nature Exposure Improves Lifetime Mental Health
Regular exposure to natural features such as forests and wetlands can have a major impact on the mental well-being of people of all ages. However, this exposure may be more critical for children, given their rapid brain development.
Some research indicates that growing up in settings with greenery can reduce the childhood and lifetime prevalence of mental health issues such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety disorders, and major depressive disorders. Averting these mental health problems early on can later improve the chances that a child will cope better with adversity later in life.
Appreciating Nature Helps Children Understand Global Problems
Another reason to expose children to nature early is that it may help them appreciate global problems such as pollution and climate change. Environmentally sensitive children will grow up truly understanding why we should conserve our planet, which will be a net societal benefit when they become the innovators, workers, creators, business leaders, and policymakers of tomorrow.
How to Encourage Your Child to Appreciate Nature
Here are a few simple ways you can get your children to appreciate the great outdoors and nature in general:
Give Your Child a Phone or Camera to Take Nature Photos
Giving your child a camera to take pictures of natural wonders isn’t just a great way to help them develop a purposeful appreciation for nature, but it can be a way to help them get good photography skills — something that is going to be useful for them, later on.
Teach Them Gardening
Singapore is not called the Garden City for nothing. Gardening is an extremely popular hobby throughout the city-state, which means it won’t be a problem finding the things you need to get started. If you live in a flat, consider planting your own produce at a community garden, or to volunteer at a commercial farm. Even if you can’t get a garden started right now, you’re still sure to find countless opportunities to teach your child an appreciation not just for plant life, but for ecology in general.
Show Them How to Compost Food Waste
If you already have a garden, you can teach your children how to compost organic food waste and turn it into fertilizer. Teaching them how to compost can give them a better appreciation of their food and the natural processes that go into growing it.
Make Time to Regularly Visit Parks and Nature Reserves
As mentioned earlier, Singapore is home to a number of parks and reserves, most of them readily accessible by public transport. Going to these places to relax weekly or even just a few times a month can be a good way for you and your child to decompress and reflect on what’s important.
Give Them a Magnifying Glass to Use When You’re Outside
If you’re going outdoors, why not hand your child a magnifying glass? Magnifying glasses could be a good way for them to appreciate the smaller yet still important parts of the biosphere, including small organisms and various abiotic elements. Plus, most small children find magnifying glasses to be a lot of fun.
Give Them Books About Nature
Of course, your child can’t be outside all the time. But that doesn’t mean their learning and appreciation of nature have to stop. Give them books on topics they’re interested in, and let them take these with them the next time you’re at the park.
Make Every Natural Phenomenon a Teaching Moment
Even in the most urbanized areas, natural phenomena of all kinds still exist. Teaching your children about the natural events they experience around them can encourage curiosity about other phenomena. These moments can also be opportunities for you to learn new things about the world around us, as well.
Give Your Child the Well-Rounded Education They Deserve
Enrolling your child at an educational institution that considers teaching about the environment an important part of its pedagogy is a simple way to ensure that they receive a cosmopolitan, world-leading, and environmentally conscious education. However, how they spend their time off-campus also matters.
By following the suggestions above, you can ensure that your child becomes a good steward of our planet later on, regardless of what they choose to do in life.