More opting for pre-schools with outdoor emphasis

The Garden House Preschool children such as Deklan Arleth (left) and Johan Larson, both three, spend time outdoors each day.
The Garden House Preschool children such as Deklan Arleth (left) and Johan Larson, both three, spend time outdoors each day.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

More parents have been sending their children to pre-schools that emphasise outdoor education so that they can play and learn in a natural environment.

Such early exposure to safe outdoor conditions is essential for young children, according to Professor Marjory Ebbeck, who leads the Centre for Research and Best Practices at the National Trades Union Congress' Seed Institute.

"All children need safe supervision, but it has been shown that children as young as three to four years old develop independence, resilience and problem-solving skills by going with adults on outdoor experiences."

WHY IT'S GOOD

Spending time outdoors builds children's resilience and is completely natural to humans. They become more resourceful in their play, and develop critical thinking.

THE GARDEN HOUSE PRESCHOOL DIRECTOR ANA PECKHAM-COOPER, on the benefits of outdoor education for kids.

At play school Little Bunnies - The Outdoor Classroom, children aged two to four spend a substantial amount of time outdoors, attending storytelling sessions, running on a lawn and growing plants in a vegetable garden.

Located near Portsdown Avenue, it started 14 years ago with 10 children. It now has an enrolment of 50, with parents signing their children up for classes at birth.

Owner Jane Alison Mayo, 51, said: "Parents who send their children to us are more open to safe risk-taking. Some parents find it difficult to allow their children to get dirty but when they see the level of enjoyment the children get out of being allowed to be free outside, they readily accept it."

At The Garden House Preschool in Bukit Batok, which opened in 2013, children spend an hour outdoors each day gardening, painting and playing with sand.

"Quite often, we extend this hour to almost two hours as we find the children wanting and needing to be outdoors," said the school's director Ana Peckham-Cooper, 34.

About 50 children aged between 18 months and five years are now enrolled at the school. There has been a 15 per cent growth in inquiries from local parents from last year.

Ms Peckham-Cooper said: "Spending time outdoors builds children's resilience and is completely natural to humans. They become more resourceful in their play, and develop critical thinking."

Yuen Sin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2016, with the headline 'More opting for pre-schools with outdoor emphasis'. Print Edition | Subscribe