Concerned about the planet our children will inherit? Here’s why it’s important to teach kids about the environment from a young age!
As a conservation biologist and proud mum to 5-year-old Ava, I often get asked by parents how to engage their children more actively with the environment in Singapore. Well, it’s no secret that children are naturally inquisitive about the outdoors and enjoy activities like jumping in muddy puddles, chasing butterflies and looking under rocks. However, little ones also follow by example, so as parents we can provide the greatest inspiration for our children by exploring nature with them-and you don’t have to be a conservation biologist to do it!
Singapore hosts a treasure trove of natural spaces to explore as a family or for special one-on-one time. Once there, encourage your little ones by asking them questions about what they observe. For example, if they see a particular species (be it a bird, butterfly, snail, mudskipper, lizard, plant or mushroom), ask them to describe its physical characteristics (colour, size, markings) and then relate it to a wider discussion; what might it need to survive and why? Why might that species be important for both the wider animal kingdom and/or people? Is the species endangered, or common? Native to Singapore or from somewhere else? What might natural predators be? What might the species be used for (as a pet, for ornamental purposes, food or medicine)?
If you don’t have the answers, no problem! Setting time aside to ‘conduct research’ is just as important as the discovery itself! Trips to the library or looking up species lists on the web (or your phone!) are great ways to cultivate other skills and interests! Pro tip: the IUCN RedList houses a wealth of information of all listed species in the world and their threat status.
As a parent you know your child best, so consider catering to their existing talents or interests. For little artists, bring along a notepad and coloured pencils or a camera. For young scientists and math whizzes try using a compass, binoculars or magnifying glass and compile your own species list by documenting the number of different species you discover and where you found them. For the adventurer or budding conservationist, consider joining a local nature group like the The Nature Society, which hosts guided tours, nature clean ups and all kinds of workshops and hands on activities.
The most important thing to remember is that the world is full of marvellous things big and small and a sense of wonder can be encouraged anywhere — from within your own backyard to the great, wide world. You only have to open up the door, walk out and experience it — together!
Read More: Trip to the Turtle Museum
Some of our favourite places to experience nature in Singapore: Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve, Pulau Ubin, Kranji Countryside, MacRitchie Reservoir Park and Nature Reserve, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Chinese Garden, Singapore Botanic Gardens, Gardens by the Bay and the S.E.A. Aquarium.