“Mummy, carry! Mummy, carry!” My two girls wailed at the same time. We had just turned a bend and a clouded monitor lizard lay across our path. As this was my girls’ first close-up encounter with the reptile, they were petrified.
Since I couldn’t carry them both, I scooped my 2-year-old up and clutched my 4-year-old’s hands. Standing our ground, we watched as the monitor lizard slinked into the bushes. When the path was finally clear, we proceeded to the old Hindhede quarry as it was snack time. I was very glad I had brought their favourite snacks along, as these helped to calm them down.
One rule I adhere to is to always pack snacks before going on nature trails. My girls and I have come a long way since that encounter two years ago. We have been on many hikes and I’m proud that they no longer cry when we stumble upon forest creatures. Hiking with my children is, in more ways than one, a journey.
“We have been on many hikes and I’m proud that they no longer cry when we stumble upon forest creatures. Hiking with my children is, in more ways than one, a journey.”
As we live in the east and most nature reserves are in the west or centrally located, getting there is usually a 30-minute drive. We get up early, fuel up with brekkie, then set off as soon as rush-hour traffic subsides. When we arrive, we hit the toilet first. Another rule that I enforce is to always ensure my kids empty their bladders and bowels. After all, no one wants to make their daughter do a wee in the bushes because you are surrounded by wildlife.
A hike is a fairly easy outing to plan, although it takes some reading up online to know which trail to take. You won’t need to dress up, no crowds to get lost in and best of all, it’s free! It’s great not having to yell, “stop running!”, “watch out for the cars,” or “hold my hand!” in the park, my kids are free to run and play. I am more calm and so are they. It could be a coincidence, but my kids have yet to experience a meltdown in the forest.
I think being in nature, taking in fresh air and being exposed to good dirt is the reason. There is no over-stimulation from lights, sounds and crowds in the forest on a weekday. “Weekday”, I clarify, because we once tried going to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve on a public holiday, and decided never to do that again because it was near-impossible to find a decent parking lot.
Going on nature hikes has also been a journey of self-discovery, growth and learning for my children:
1. They’ve learned not to be fearful of forest creatures but to treat them with respect
We’ve seen numerous clouded monitor lizards as well as their larger relative, the Malayan water monitor. Other visual treats include tree snakes, spiders, squirrels, macaques, skinks, birds, jungle fowl and dragon flies. While they still scream at the sight of a cockroach or lizard at home, they don’t shriek on spotting wildlife in the forest.
“They’ve learned not to be fearful of forest creatures but to treat them with respect… While they still scream at the sight of a cockroach or lizard at home, they don’t shriek on spotting wildlife in the forest.”
2. They’ve learned that it’s all right to get dirty and to even enjoy it.
3. They’ve learned to read signs and look out for crocodiles and wild boars. Funnily, such signs frighten them more than seeing the actual snakes, lizards and macaques.
4. They’ve discovered their stamina and pushed their limits physically, mentally and emotionally. They frequently surprise me with how much they are capable of ― if I let them.
5. They, and I, have learned that it really doesn’t take much money to have fun.
Just remember to research the route beforehand, including where to park if you drive. Pack some snacks, a change of clothes, lots of water, insect repellent and a sense of adventure and your reward will be a great day out!
Stay-at-home mum Miriam Ee, 36, has a baby boy, 7 months, and two daughters, aged 4 and 6.
Photos: Miriam Ee
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