SINGAPORE - Wood chips and dry leaves cover the floor of the new Nature Playgarden unveiled by the National Parks Board (NParks) today (Mar 19) at HortPark, as part of an effort to bring children closer to nature.
Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee joined around 50 pre-schoolers from NTUC My First Skool and PCF Sparkletots pre-schools to explore the park's nine different play features.
The children climbed over logs at Big Fig Adventure and Log Valley, made music by running through hanging bamboo poles at The Singing Seeds, and built unique structures in a sand pit located around The Building Huts - a personal favourite of many.
"I like to dig in the sand pit," said Alistair Lee, six. "I also saw a big green dragonfly there for the first time."
The other features are called Magical Woods, The Stream, The Kitchen, The Secret Den and Treasure Trail.
The children were not just having fun for themselves - they were also helping NParks conduct research. The Nature Playgarden is a test-bed for NParks' Biophilic Playgarden Plan, which aims to transform future playgrounds by integrating them with more natural elements such as trees, dirt and sand.
Biophilia refers to the innate emotional connection that humans have with nature, and NParks said the Plan was conceived with preschoolers in mind, to encourage children to spend more time outdoors to enhance their overall well-being, increase their self-confidence and creative expression, and let them reconnect with nature.
"We want to see if the children behave according to what the design set out to accomplish," said Mr Tan Jun Chao, director of park planning for NParks. He added that the research will help improve the design guidelines for recreating more Biophilic Playgardens, which is set to be released early next year (2020).
The Nature Playgarden's design capitalises on natural terrain and about 99 per cent of the 0.35 ha area is made out of recycled material, cutting down on construction costs.
The design principles were inspired by similar parks such as the Cincinnati Nature Centre in Ohio, the United States, and NParks will consult with the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) and National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC) for further design options.
Mr Desmond Lee, who is also Social and Family Development Minister, is confident that this plan will help strengthen young minds, and help develop their affinity for the environment.
"I hope that our young children become the stewards of our Garden City for many years to come," he said.