28 April 2014, by Tan Yi Lin

Going Public

No, this entry isn’t going to be IVF-related and about baring my innermost thoughts and feelings about IVF – along with the shenanigans of my inner-plumbing – to all and sundry. After all, we’ve been doing that for the past 4 years ever since we went public in 2010 about our bumpy journey to parenthood.

This is about our resolution for 2014: Going Public.

The idea came about around the time that the government released the Draft Master Plan 2013. Weaved into the grand plans for new developments were mentions of preserving heritage and memories, keeping and enhancing natural greenery, and creating more social spaces for the community to enjoy. Reading about the plans for the different regions around Singapore, it dawned on me how little I knew about my home. Outside of our comfort zone of air-conditioned suburban malls and neighbourhood playgrounds, there was so much more to experience and enjoy. 710 square kilometres isn’t vast and yet, I had barely set foot on most of it.

Furthermore, we had befriended an expatriate couple whose son went to Coco’s school and they regaled us with accounts of their adventures to playgrounds all around Singapore – some of which we weren’t even aware of, much less visited. I was starting to feel rather ashamed that non-Singaporeans were making the effort to explore and experience our island – by public transport, no less – while I, the lazy Singaporean with a car, was guilty of driving (or rather, being driven) 5 minutes to NTUC Extra and calling that a weekend family outing. Don’t get me wrong – grocery-shopping is a necessity and supermarket trips can be educational, but weekly jaunts down the aisles to monitor milk formula prices or analyse diaper discounts are unhealthy in more ways than one.

That was also around the time when I was so moved by a screening of ‘Old Places’ by local filmmaker Royston Tan that I vowed to create a childhood to remember for my children.

Enter January 2014 and the birth of our new family project: Enjoying 2014 one public space at a time. Since then, we’ve been on the lookout for community spaces to bring the girls to. The programme is varied. Sometimes, it’s reacquainting ourselves with places – and memories – from our childhood. Other times, it’s just enjoying familiar ones. When we’re feeling especially restless or adventurous, we go in search of new destinations to explore.

East Coast Park is nothing new but while we used to inline-skate down the length of the park, we now roll along for... 100 metres

East Coast Park is nothing new but while we used to inline-skate down the length of the park, we now roll along for… 100 metres

“What’s a public space?” you may ask. Online dictionaries offer differing definitions of the term and this article explains the role of public spaces in making a city work. Another useful guide to explaining what a public space is is in the acronym “P-L-A-C-E-S”, which encapsulates the qualities that a successful public space should embody.

People + Programming

Public spaces are spaces for EVERYONE, and well-used and loved by people. Since we have young children, we tend to lean towards choosing places that are family-friendly (i.e. relatively car-free, with wide sidewalks or lawns where kids can run freely) or have programmes that they can participate in.

Little tots and their friends enjoying lots and lots of space at Sengkang Riverside Park (where we didn't make it to the river...)

Little tots and their friends enjoying lots and lots of space at Sengkang Riverside Park (where we didn’t make it to the river…)

We love programmes like 8 Days' Pets' Day Out at Marina Bay

We love programmes like 8 Days’ Pets’ Day Out at Marina Bay

Lost in the heady world of light art at iLight Marina Bay

Lost in the heady world of light art at iLight Marina Bay

The water play area at Bishan Park is really good for smaller kids

The water play area at Bishan Park is really good for smaller kids

Lush Landscaping

While we love Singapore’s inviting waterbodies and natural greenery, it’s a challenge to hike through verdant nature reserves or kayak across a reservoir with a 1 year-old and 2 year-old in tow. Boardwalks and waterfront promenades are the answer to our search for waterfront access and pockets of greenery in our urban environment.

Someone lost his newfound caterpillar pet along the Bukit Chermin boardwalk. Awww...

Someone lost his newfound caterpillar pet along the Bukit Chermin boardwalk. Awww…

Walking on water at MacRitchie Reservoir Park

Walking on water at MacRitchie Reservoir Park

The well-planned walking routes bring us close to water, are easy on our feet and provide frequent opportunities to pause and observe nature ‘live’ – in the form of a spider skilfully spinning a web or a colony of busy ants hard at work.

The Eensy Weensy Spider at the Southern Ridges isn't so tiny after all

The Eensy Weensy Spider at the Southern Ridges isn’t so tiny after all

Learning about mimosas or "touch me nots"

Learning about mimosas or “touch me nots”

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Spotting tree shrews with Gong Gong and Po Po at Labrador Park

The Very Hungry Caterpillar was at the Southern Ridges too!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar was at the Southern Ridges too!

By the way, lush landscaping isn’t restricted to parks and nature areas – commercial buildings are increasing incorporating public courtyards where people can just hang out at, and soak in the buzz and activity of the city.

Accessibility

Great public spaces are easily accessible by public transport. While we are privileged to be able to travel by car, I think it’s great that families such as Coco’s classmate’s are not deterred by the fact that they don’t drive and are wholeheartedly seeking out these community spaces too. In fact, some of these places have been designated as car-free zones, making them even more accessible, enjoyable and safer for everyone.

Comfort

With two small humans (and their big bag of necessities – diapers, wipes, snacks, water, change of clothes) to haul around, comfort ranks high on our list of must-haves when selecting where to go on the weekend. Shady spots provide respite from the burning tropical sun; ample seating for tired legs, aching shoulders and breaking backs are most welcomed; thoughtfully-located ramps make manoeuvring a stroller easier (not that we bring ours since Claire absolutely refuses to sit in it); good lighting and a safe environment go miles in reassuring us that we’re not exposing our little ones to danger and less-than-desirable situations.

Ohhhh, a resting spot. Yesssss.

Ohhhh, a resting spot along Henderson Wave. Yesssss.

Benches are necessary for elevating sand-phobic toddlers above the icky, well, sand

Benches are necessary for elevating sand-phobic toddlers above the, well, sand at East Coast Park.

Separate lanes means that it's safe for the 1 year-old who refuses to sit in the stroller but WANTS to skate.

Separate lanes means that it’s safe for the 1 year-old who refuses to sit in the stroller but WANTS to skate.

We have had the occasional run-in with, regretfully, poorly-maintained public areas. While these make for disappointing finds, we just take them in our stride and count them as little adventures, nonetheless.

The poor old run-down watermelon playground and neighbouring mangosteen playground were in a pretty sad state but still delighted Coco nonetheless

The poor old run-down watermelon and neighbouring mangosteen playgrounds at Tampines Central Park were in a pretty shabby state but still delighted Coco nonetheless

Excellence in Design + Eye for Details + Engaging

Well-designed spaces are a joy a hang out at. These could be in the form of thoughtfully-positioned viewing areas that offer an expansive panorama of our city skyline, or even just the little things that set the place apart from others.

Everyone loves a good view

Everyone loves the view at Marina Bay

A wall mural adds a refreshing twist to a regular nature walk

A wall mural adds a refreshing twist to a regular nature walk along the Southern Ridges

Sense of Delight + Sharing of Spaces

As public spaces are, more often than not, located outdoors, most outings have us bathed in sweat, dealing with hot and cranky babies, battling (my) crowd-phobia or being shat on by birds (no kidding). But what makes every outing so meaningful is the sense of delight that these places evoke – be it from childhood nostalgia, or the adrenalin rush from tumbling freely on an open lawn, or the opportunities for family bonding, or the interactions with other members of the community and with nature.

Introducing his daughters to his childhood haunt in Toa Payoh was a special experience for Dan

Introducing his daughters to his childhood haunt in Ang Mo Kio was a special experience for Dan

Flying free at the Marina Barrage

Flying free at the Marina Barrage

Open spaces mean open targets

Open spaces mean open targets

For the lack of a better word, it’s just so nice seeing people sharing a space and enjoying one another’s company and communally partaking in what our little island has to offer everyone.

THIS is what weekends should be made of (preferably without the bird poop!)

Posted on : April 28, 2014

Filed under : New Mums & Dads

2 Comments

Tan Yi Lin

Yi Lin

May 6th, 2014 at 6:00 pm    


You are heavily pregnant, Woman. How to be disciplined about going out in crazy hot weather with a super energetic toddler while 9 months preggers? Soon enough – you’ll be the epitome of calm, pushing a newborn in a stroller while gorgor runs around. Heh. Heh heh. Good luck 😛

Write to your Town Council to reinstate the poor old playground! But I’m guessing that there could be more pressing needs for Town Council funds over a playground or two. But it’s worth a shot – maybe they just didn’t know how bad it’s become.

yAnn

May 2nd, 2014 at 10:02 am    


I love this! We have been trying to go public too but we aren’t as disciplined as you guys. And erm, yeah, that poor playground in Tampines is in a pretty sad state (it’s just behind our place) and we felt quite sorry for it.

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