Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Jacob Ballas Children's Garden

Friends have been raving about Jacob Ballas at Singapore Botanic Gardens for quite a long time now. I decided to go verify the reviews myself. We set off early on a Wednesday morning to avoid the peak hour traffic and managed to get there by 9am.

The car park at Jacob Ballas is spacious with a lot of space for cars to manovoure. The number of carpark lots was more than sufficient when we went on a weekday but on a crowded weekend or public holidays, carpark lots may be difficult to secure, especially if you prefer a shaded one. It is hence advisable to go early. Plus, the weather is usually cooler early in the day.

The first thing that greeted us upon arrival at the foyer is a big sculpture of a tree. On closer look, the leaves and branches are actually made up of many people, 500 people in fact. Simply amazing.

On one side of the sculpture is a Kidz Cafe. They have kids-friendly tables and chairs and menu is kids' friendly too, such as nuggets and fish and chips. There are other food choices but I usually look out for these few choices. :) However, if your child is still taking semi-solids, it would be better to bring your own food as I do not remember seeing any 'soft' food there.

The information booth is on the other side of the sculpture. It has a small table and chairs for some ad-hoc activities. They had a billboard explaining Hari Raya Adilfitri on the day we went so the girls got to do some activity worksheets related to the topic.

A few things to note about admission. It opens everyday, except Monday, from 8am to 7pm. Last admission is at 630pm. It is free for all children 12 years and under and children must be accompanied by adult(s). If you want to enter the garden and your child is not with you, you will be denied entry. My mother-in-law came to the garden later and was unable to enter. I brought A out to escort her in. Admission into the garden is free.

Once we entered, children's laughter filled the air. Loud splashes of water could also be heard. There is a waterplay area and right beside it, is a playground with lots of soft fine sand. Girls wanted to start their waterplay immediately and we had to persuade them to explore the garden first. At 930am, it was already starting to get hot.

We went to the A-Mazing Play first. It is a small maze and it doesn't take too long for one to complete one circuit. Once inside, the helpful spirit within A rose to the challenge and said, "Don't worry, Mummy. I will bring you out. Just follow me." I played along and acted really anxious and lost. It was so sweet to see her comfort me as she navigated her way out. I am indeed very proud to be her mother.

Along the way, A and I talked a lot about the growth of plants and how flowers play an important role in their reproduction. Lo and behold, we saw a hands-on corner showing the process of photosynthesis. Known as the Sensory Garden, it allows the children to follow the path of water and sunlight in the food making process. Water mist comes out from the leaves, indicating the oxygen and water that are released during the process of photosynthesis and respiration respectively. 'Photosynthesis' may be too big a word for the girls right now but the concept can certainly be explained simply.

Other areas of interest include the wooden swinging bridge, the waterfall, the pond ecosystem and a treehouse. However, the latter was under renovation work when we were there so we could not exlpore it. The toilets in the park are very clean and dry. Absolutely child-friendly. We met several groups of students in the park. It is clearly a very popular excursion spot.

Of course, we have the wonderful playground and waterplay, which got really crowded by around 10am.

Above Photo Courtesy of the girls' beloved grandmother

It got really hot around 11am and we had to vacate the place. The kids were also tired from playing under the sun for more than an hour. It was a great and fun way to spend the morning and we would certainly be back again...this time, even earlier.

For more information on Jacob Ballas Children's Garden, do visit www.sbg.org.sg/bukittimahcore/ChildrenGarden.asp

Some Educational Aspects for Young Children

- The variety of plants is an opportunity for the children to appreciate biodiversity.

- Different parts of the garden are divided by habitat themes (e.g. tropical rainforest, mangrove, pond, waterfall) that make interesting starting points for discussions on the types of flora and fauna found in these habitats.

- The Sensory Garden exhibit delivers a simple lesson on the process of photosynthesis.

- Formation of waterfall.

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