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Our Nature Table(s)

The problem with reading blogs is getting too many ideas! (Which is supposed to be a benefit, right? Everything has its flipside haha.)

For VERY long, I have wanted to do up a nature table for the kids. Even bought a bargain side table for this purpose. But… the idea was shelved for sooooo long that the side table got repurposed 😛 The delay was due to a few reasons – no space for another specialized table, no idea what to put on the table (most of the ideas on other blogs are for seasonal setups, not applicable for the year-round tropical Singapore), I was worried about the nature items attracting bugs…
Then one day, I wanted to move an extra table out of the boys’ bedroom. Was looking around the house for a suitable spot to place the table… and ah-ha! I have dumped the cardboard kitchen a while ago…. free space! And the rattan table with glass top was perfect for a nature table!

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The beginning.. when I was at a loss what to put on the table..

One of Didi's creations. Out of the 3 kids, he's the most interested in the table.

One of Didi’s creations. Out of the 3 kids, he’s the most interested in the table.

Admiring his work from another angle : )

Admiring his work from another angle : )

To avoid bugs, I set up a second nature table at the corridor, heehee. Cos I really don’t like bugs. Here, they play with the things we collect at our outings, i.e. not so clean stuff.

Seashells, saga seeds, pebbles. I also gave the boys some foodstuff like cinnamon sticks and star anise.

Seashells, saga seeds, pebbles. I also gave the boys some foodstuff like cinnamon sticks and star anise.

And a yucky experiment inspired by The Magic School Bus In A Pickle. Yep that's a pickle-wannabe, a decomposing cucumber, and a very unorganic tomato which just refuses to rot!

And a yucky experiment inspired by The Magic School Bus In A Pickle. Yep that’s a pickle-wannabe, a decomposing cucumber, and a very unorganic tomato which just refuses to rot!

The nature table changes according to what we have on hand… and what happens to inspire mummy!

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Tampines Eco Green

We first visited this park last week, and we went again today! It is a very quiet place, not like a regular park at all. For one thing, there is NO plasticky playground, yay! The plants all look very natural, not the manicured type. But it’s not as challenging as say, Venus Loop. The walking trails are very spacious and the grass very short. No idea whether it is cut regularly or the species of grass just doesn’t grow tall? Haha, oops. When you look into the park from outside, it really looks very wild. But when you are inside and look out, you can see flats, houses, main roads right next to you : )

Image source: NParks

Image source: NParks

OK, I read quite a few blogs before I went, yet I was not prepared for what I actually experienced. Nothing special la, just.. peace.. and quiet… and SAFE nature.. no way to get lost 😛 So…. here are the photos!

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The entrance, just underneath the MRT tracks. We walked over from Tampines Bus Interchange, cutting across Sun Plaza Park. It’s about 20 minutes walk.

 

See the house? (can't recall what Didi was pointing at)

See the house? (can’t recall what Didi was pointing at)

The entire Forest Trail runs parallel to Sungei Tampines and many HDB flats. The Forest Trail starts at the main entrance (opposite Sun Plaza Park) and ends at BLK 495F.

See the HDB flats? Just one big canal separating us from them, but I am sure someone will be able to hear us if we shout for help (IF!!)

See the HDB flats? Just one big canal separating us from them, but I am sure someone will be able to hear us if we shout for help (IF!!)

The first trip, we did Forest Trail (orange) followed by Diversity Trail (yellow).

We did the Marsh Trail on our second trip. But to tell the truth, the scenery looked pretty much the same to me… largely due to our inexperienced eyes… no idea what to look out for!

This time round, we managed to get a photo at the entrance!

This time round, we managed to get a photo at the entrance!

 

Don't jump!

Don’t jump!

 

The boys say they are trains.. going through the tunnel...

The boys say they are trains.. going through the tunnel…

... now they are birds...

… now they are birds…

.... then Kor Kor sees a giraffee!

…. then Kor Kor sees a giraffe!

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Brought their dinner again : ) Not many mozzies by the way!

The tough cookie walked all the way! :D

The tough cookie walked all the way! 😀

The first and second experiences were quite different. I think when we first went there, the boys did not know what to expect, and were probably feeling worried that it was going to be like Venus Loop. I was also more stressed as it was difficult to gauge how long our walk would take, or even whether the kids could finish the trail at all.

Today, I could sense that they were much more relaxed. The boys took their time to enjoy their surroundings, and Meimei was happy to walk on her own (I carried her the entire walk during the first trip). A very relaxed stroll took us about 45 minutes (Marsh Trail). We are definitely going back regularly!

Directions: From Tampines Bus Interchange, follow the MRT tracks. For more details, check out NParks’ comprehensive guide.

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From Boys To Men… At Venus Loop!

Given our recent study of the solar system, when the boys heard that we were going to VENUS Loop, they were really excited. ‘We are going to Venus? Really??’

Sorry, darlings, of course not. That was about the last bit of innocent joy they enjoyed before they realised what Mummy was about to put them through.

I love to let my kids experience nature. So when I came across scrapmumloft’s post on Venus Loop at MacRitchie, I couldn’t wait to bring the kids!

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The entrance from Venus Drive carpark. Still happy.

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The path is along a natural stream. But our untrained and inexperienced eyes didn’t get to see much.

Then we walked… and walked.. and walked. It was after a morning of rain, and the path was very muddy! Mosquitoes were out in full force, and despite a liberal dose of bug repellant and a patch on each kid, the boys and I were attacked mercilessly. Fortunately Meimei escaped unharmed!

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My plan was just to do Venus Loop, which is supposed to be easily completed by even young kids. But at the beginning, Kor Kor insisted on going to the Treetop Walk (which he saw on the map at the entrace). Of course, by the time we reached this sign, he was all ready to give up. Stubborn Mummy was secretly very happy to give in to him.

The thing is, it was my first time doing this trek, and there were no signboards indicated where to loop back. I only noticed one fork in the path, so after giving up on trying the Treetop Walk, we retrieved our steps to that fork and carried on. Kor Kor pleaded with me to turn back to the carpark, but no way!

[At that time, I was concerned about sending the wrong message to the kids about persevering in the face of adversity (ha!). But now as I am writing this, I guess there are many other virtues that I could have expounded about turning back. Such as 知难而退、见风使舵、见好就收…. maybe. As the parent, it’s always up to us how we want to brainwash or twist & turn the facts or present a situation to the child.]

Then we walked and walked and walked somemore. I was starting to feel uneasy… Were we lost? Was I really lost in the forest with three young kids totally dependent on me??? We passed by quite a few other trekkers at the start… But how come we had not seen any for quite a while?

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Then I remembered that a bit back, we had passed by this path which seemed to lead out of the forest. So up we went. (Picture was taken from the top after we cleared it.)

It did lead us to a tree-less area, the grass was cut, just behind a row of houses. But both ends didn’t seem to lead anywhere – one side was a construction site, the other was just…. endless….

The boys had been hopeful when I led them out of the forest. They were somewhat calmer than they were in the forest – when they were under vicious attack by the mosquitoes on top of not knowing where on earth they were… far far away from the civilisation they knew. But after walking a bit more, their hopes were dashed again. Exactly how I felt too. Sigh.

But it’s up to the leader to keep their spirits up. Even if it’s just bluff.

‘Don’t worry, boys. See, there are houses here. So we just need to follow the row of houses, and eventually at the end of the row, there will be a road!’

Actually I wasn’t so sure. Never mind. Pretend. Worst comes to worst, I shall just trespass into one of the houses (most of them do not have any fence at the back. I mean, which crazy nut will bash through the forest just to commit housebreaking, right? Huh) and ask to exit from their front gate. Seriously, I would already have done that if the houses did not look empty.. nobody to open the door for us to let us through the house! No point for us to wait in the backyard.

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Finally, we saw the light! Somehow we had reached Libra Drive. And there was a very old-style playground with the traditional see-saws and swings!

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Children are really very resilient. Once we came onto the road, the boys behaved as if nothing had happened. No signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. Saw playground, immediately ‘I want to plaaaaay!!’ I would like to think that despite their moaning and wailing (sorry monkeys and squirrels for disturbing your afternoon naps), they were not that affected because they had full faith in Mummy. Haha.

Two hours of exercise aside, my most valuable gain from the trek is finding out how unaccustomed to the great outdoors my boys are. It is definitely my failing as a parent that accounts for this – not providing enough opportunities! But no worries, this shall be rectified in short order – I must make such outings a regular fixture. Hopefully soon the boys will learn to enjoy such treks.

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The best surprise is seeing how brave and adaptable Didi is! He was initially complaining about the mud.. then after a few more meters, I turned back and saw him happily jumping and splashing around in the mud! That’s the way, boy! 妈妈真的对你另眼相看了!

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Hubby picked us up at the playground after work, and since there was no place to have our picnic dinner, we drove to Bedok Reservoir Park. And the kids had fun at the playground after dinner. The energy! (Love this part of the park which I just discovered. Shall do up a post too. Eventually.)

I shall not include the directions etc here, since scrapmumloft has provided the information in her post. No point doing double work! As she recommends, we have also signed up for the guided walk by Toddycats. Check them out, or wait for my post after my next visit to Venus Loop!

Be warned though, I carried a 5.8kg bag and a 9kg baby for the whole trek! The usual baby gear like diapers, wet wipes, extra clothes… plus four lunchboxes for dinner, three water bottles, rainwear for the kids, my few items like camera and wallet… So you might want to bring another goat or horse or camel adult in addition to the kids 😛

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The Frustrations of Nature Outings!

Insect bites. Animal poo. Uncomfortable. Itchy. Bugs attracted to our food. Muddy. Sandy. Damp.

Many complaints and other potential problems whenever we bring the kids out to enjoy nature.

I am not referring to trips to the daily trips to the playgrounds around the housing estate. Those are reasonably clean, and we can see if there’s dog poo etc, and not that many bugs since there’s not much grass anyway.

But try sitting on a straw mat on the grass with trees all around you. Have you read the book One Million Hungry Ants? Ya, something like that.

I really hate it when the boys complain about the grass scratching them, or the soil getting into their shoes, or a tiny bug landing on their sandwich. It’s so GU NIANG and I can’t stand my boys being gu niang!! (At those moments, I can’t wait to pack them off to National Service.) But then, I don’t see myself as gu niang (hey, I was in the National Cadet Corps for a happy six years ok) but I do feel the discomfort as well. The worst thing is that all these problems often spoil the entire outing because other than mummy, nobody else wants to be there suffering! (No, my hubby is NOT gu niang either. But still.)

What is the solution? Don’t go for such trips? Will avoiding nature make the kids even more adverse to it as they grow older?

Or are they too young for such nature and will eventually grow into it? But, is there such a thing as too young for nature???

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We Went To Whistling Woods!

Do you have a child who is a fan of Thomas and Friends? Hee hee, then you would know about Whistling Woods! After our previous visit to Bedok Reservoir Park, I asked Kor Kor whether he would like to bring his trains along next time. His immediate response, “To Whistling Woods?” Wow! It was exactly what I had in mind but I didn’t expect him to be thinking of the same thing! : )

Breakfast first! Grilled cheese sandwiches

Why Kor Kors holding grilled cheese sandwiches but I only get aluminium foil??!

Yes yes, some of my photos are very silly. Well, this blog is to record MOMENTS, silly ones included : )

Yes yes, some of my photos are very silly. Well, this blog is to record MOMENTS, silly ones included : )

Engrossed

Engrossed

Choo choo

Choo choo (actually his train play is way more advanced than that. But err, I don’t know what’s going on :p

Lovely place, can picnic, can play trains, can cycle, mummy can jog!

Lovely place, can picnic, can play trains, can cycle, mummy can jog!

One of my favourite bikers

One of my favourite bikers

The other one! : )

The other one! : )

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Gem Of A Park – Bedok Reservoir!

This morning was my first proper visit to Bedok Reservoir Park, and I am smitten! Big open spaces, and not too crowded, i.e. safe for my newbie cyclist to practise on his bicycle. The path was also well shaded, so we felt comfortable even at 11am+. (It was actually very very scorching hot. I think I got sunburn just walking across the carpark.)

At the carpark

 

My suave bikers : )

My suave bikers : )

 

See the distance between the boys? Next time I shall don my running shoes so that I can jog back & forth from one to the other!

See the distance between the boys? Next time I shall don my running shoes so that I can jog back & forth from one to the other!

 

Nice sand playground

Nice sand playground

 

Green & brown everywhere!

Green & brown everywhere!

 

So happy playing with sticks & leaves : )

So happy playing with sticks & leaves : )

 

I wonder how long it would be before they realise the sticks are 'guns' :p

I wonder how long it would be before they realise the sticks are ‘guns’ :p

 

What. Are. These.

What. Are. These.

 

Oops! Meimei has 3 antlers??!

Oops! Meimei has 3 antlers??!

 

Beautiful scene as I lay on my back

Beautiful scene as I lay on my back

 

Even more beautiful now!

Even more beautiful now!

 

'Mummy, I beautiful right?

‘Mummy, I beautiful right?

 

The boys' expressions are priceless! And Meimei says Hi!

The boys’ expressions are priceless! And Meimei says Hi!

 

We are definitely coming back again soon!