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HortPark makes play more natural for kids

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New Nature Playgarden aims to help children connect with the outdoors

Wood chips and dry leaves cover the floor of the new Nature Playgarden unveiled by the National Parks Board (NParks) at HortPark, as part of an effort to bring children closer to nature.

Yesterday, 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 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 around The Building Huts.

"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 children were not just having fun, 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 and sand.

Biophilia refers to the innate emotional connection humans have with nature, and NParks said the plan was conceived with pre-schoolers 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 connect with nature.

"We want to see if the children behave according to what the design sets out to accomplish," said Mr Tan Jun Chao, director of park planning for NParks.

He said the research will help improve the design guidelines for recreating more biophilic playgardens.

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 the US. NParks will consult the Early Childhood Development Agency and National Institute of Early Childhood Development for more design options.

Mr Lee, Social and Family Development Minister, is confident the plan will help strengthen young minds and 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.