SINGAPORE - For children enrolled at the new My First Skool on Segar Road, pre-school is a walk in the park.
The 3,000 sq m centre - situated in Zhenghua Nature Park - was officially opened on Thursday (Sept 20) with the capacity to take 400 children.
It is one of nine large childcare centres already operational in Singapore, and the second one to be located in a park.
Large childcare centres have intakes three to five times larger than centres at HDB void decks, and are set up in areas with high demand.
There are others in Yishun, Woodlands, Jurong West, Sengkang and Punggol.
The centre's opening brings My First Skool's enrolment to 20,000 children across Singapore. Over the next five years, 40,000 more pre-school places are expected to be added by various providers across Singapore, especially in estates with more young families.
In an effort to bring nature closer to pre-schoolers, the centre includes outdoor learning in its curriculum.
Children there will be part of a pioneering initiative that aims to equip teachers and students with knowledge of local plants and animals.
Called "Every Singaporean a Naturalist", it has been set up by a partnership between My First Skool and the Nature Society of Singapore.
Children will monitor the 35 species of birds in the park and its surrounding nature reserve.
At the centre's opening, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee toured the pre-school's facilities. He said that the Government is looking at more opportunities for pre-school children "to not only learn in the classroom but to also enjoy the great outdoor classroom, such as in nature areas and parks".
He added: "Going outdoors has many benefits, as compared to just learning in the classroom. You make use of nature, you make sure of biodiversity as a teaching tool, using nature to teach about values, to teach about certain behaviours and principals you want to bring across."
Ms Thian Ai Ling, deputy general manager of My First Skool, said: "We developed these programmes with the deep appreciation that outdoor and nature-based learning is important for holistic and healthy early childhood development.
"It has numerous benefits, from building resilience to developing collaborative and communication skills, as well as a sense of curiosity and care for the community and environment. This also provides both physical and mental health benefits, assists gross and fine-motor development and develops in our young children a lifelong love of the outdoors."