Families now have another reason to head to Gardens by the Bay, where the Far East Organization Children's Garden was launched yesterday, and is now open free to the public six days a week.
The 1ha garden, located between the Cloud Forest conservatory, Satay by the Bay and the Sun Pavilion, features tree houses, climbing ropes, slides and water play areas for children aged one to 12.
Sand and rubber bottomed play areas are woven among more than 100 species of plants, including the old man palm, yellow jade orchid tree and even a baobab tree from Madagascar. This is to give children a chance to climb trees, dodge hanging vines and swat away low-lying leaves and branches in a garden cum playground, to help them interact with nature.
Designed by Grant Associates, which also designed Gardens by the Bay, the Children's Garden was fully funded by Far East Organization for $10 million. It is the largest donation received by the Gardens to date.
Far East Organization executive director Dorothy Chan, who attended the launch, said: "The flora and fauna in Gardens by the Bay form the perfect backdrop for both children and their families to immerse themselves in nature and enjoy the environment in which we live. It is our hope that our children will make the most of the space."
Gardens by the Bay chief executive Tan Wee Kiat and Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee also attended the launch. Mr Lee, who has two young children, believes it is important to expose them to nature.
"An adult tends to admire a garden for its beauty, while a child sees it as a place for exploration, adventure and endless possibilities. This sense of free play gives children the liberty to explore, imagine and create in a way that no smartphone, tablet or game console can," he said.
The garden is open from 9am to 9pm and is closed on Mondays. Facilities include lockers, showers, a basic first aid station and a cafe, which will serve drinks and hot meals from $5.
There is also a 300-seat covered amphitheatre which overlooks the water play areas. Children can splash around to child-friendly tunes such as Hakuna Matata and Circle Of Life from Disney classic The Lion King.
Toddlers have not been forgotten, with a play area boasting miniature slides, climbing rocks and a caterpillar-shaped topiary.
About 50 children from Far East Organization's community organisations Club Rainbow, Down Syndrome Association Singapore and Muhammadiyah Welfare Home were present at the launch.
Hidhir Hassan, 15, a student at Kent Ridge Secondary School, said: "My favourite part was the view from the top of the tree house and riding the slide all the way down to the bottom. It's fun. I want to just play and play."
Highlights of the new garden for young ones
CROSS a suspension bridge to reach a 7.5m-tall tree house with super-sized swings, rubber tyres and nest-like hammocks that children aged six to 12 can explore. Then slide down the 4m-tall fireman's pole or the 5.5m-tall slide - the garden's highest - to the sandpit.
The tree house's bare metallic frame will be enveloped in greenery over time as the branches and leaves of surrounding rainforest trees grow and cover it.
There is also a smaller tree house about 4m tall for younger children.
THE garden includes two water play areas. The Fish Fountain is for children aged two to five and features over 15 stone-fish fountains they can scale, designed by Singaporean sculptor Eng Siak Loy.
A few metres away is the main water play area for older children, with dozens of orchid-shaped splash buckets; hydro vaults which shoot arcs of water; and water splines, vertical "reeds" which spin water 360 degrees. Together they create water arcs, tunnels and rainfall which are synchronised with lights and music.
A 130M-LONG pathway, which mimics the natural landscape of a walking trail, runs along the edge of the garden.
There, children can leapfrog over specially designed stepping pads, play on the monkey bars, scale slopes of climbing ropes and stepping stones and ride down slides, while dodging overhanging branches and walking under ficus topiaries.