Children and Nature

“This bunny loves me, I love it too.”

In general, the urban kids of our days learn what they know about animals from books and videos, in a classroom setting. Which is good. But we could be leaving out the fundamentals when much of the spotlight is on biological facts and environmental issues only.

Such knowledge, when introduced too early without a meaningful bonding between the children and the nature, may instead become an overwhelming burden to the little ones. Suddenly, nature is about deforestation, about damages, about endangered animals, about stopping animals cruelty.

Children first need a love for the nature before they can shoulder these responsibilities. It’s true that children are naturally inclined towards the nature, but it’s also an instinct that needs nurturing. And in a setting where regular interaction with nature is not a granted thing, it falls on our shoulders as parents, teachers; the educators, to intentionally expose the children to the nature and nurture their love for it.

Responsible stewardship towards the nature starts with a genuine love for it. And love for the nature comes only through knowing it. As the Indonesians say, “Tak kenal maka tak sayang.” We cannot love what we do not know. And we cannot know what we do not see, or hear, or sense.

(Picture was taken at Cibalung Happy Land, Bogor, Indonesia, an agrotourism site offering a vast range of good old days farming experiences and other nature related activities, at very affordable rates. In this picture was “fun with rabbits” activity, priced at IDR20,000 with rabbit feeding available at IDR5,000.)

We See the Present Clearly But God Sees the First and Last

Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong once noted that God’s brilliant wisdom is manifested in His creation. I think it is a claim that begets the loudest “Amen” from two groups of people: the scientists and the parents. The latter being the group that I am in.

One should not be overwhelmed by the challenges that parenthood brings without at the same time being awed by the revelation of God’s nature. In entrusting infants and little children to adult humans, God is showing more of Himself.

The above line which I use as the title of this post, is taken from the song “Trust His Heart” by Babbie Mason. As I sang this song during the worship last Sunday, this particular line caught my heart. And my mind immediately went to my own kids, a 4 year-old and a 21 month-old. That was just the perfect line to describe what our relationship is like.

Young children are people with underdeveloped brains. The reason to why our toddlers stuff the whole bag of cookies into their tiny mouths at unbelievable speed, and why our preschoolers keep asking when we tell them “WAIT,” is this: they have a prefrontal cortexes that are barely developed. Which means, they have little (if any) ability to ponder the future, or to put it simply, they are always living in the present, in the forever right now.

Do not expect these little ones to appreciate the fact that the broccoli we set before them now will send them into the right track of healthy eating lifestyle in the future, or that the scary jabs we now put them through will protect them from catastrophic illnesses for years to come, or that the disciplines we insist on them presently will mould them into responsible and civilized adults.

It makes no sense, because biologically they can only see the present. But it makes full sense, because we see what they can not see. So we keep telling them, “Trust Mommy, Mommy knows best.”

God, as a Father Himself, has designed parenthood to display His own relationship with His children. We see the present clearly but He sees the first and the last. So when we can’t trace His hand, trust His heart.

March 2017 Holiday: Bogor

Last March we brought the girls back to Jakarta to visit the grandparents and also went for a 5-day vacation to Bogor. It’s a beautiful city with mountains’ view and greens of paddy fields, only an hour drive from Jakarta.

The first day we were in Bogor, we visited “Ah poong” the float market at Sentul city area. It’s a food court and marketplace which is also set as a fun place for family outing. It offers Sampan (traditional boat) rides with fish catching/feeding and other children’s rides and activities we normally see in the shopping malls.

On A “Sampan”

It was raining when we reached there. Bogor itself is known as the Rain City for its frequent rain showers. Thankfully, the weather was generally good throughout our stay in the city. As the rain stopped shortly afterwards, we took the Sampan ride, which the girls enjoyed very much, and had local delicacies for lunch before checking in to R Hotel Rancamaya.

I highly recommend this hotel for its quiet and tranquil location, perfect for a getaway from the busy life of a city. The hotel has vast golf areas, which means vast soft and green fields for the kids to run and roll around, it also houses animals for children to get up-close to and feed, such as koi fishes, deers, rabbits, geese, and also ponies, which they can ride on too. These animal activities were a big hit with the Big Nona. The Young Nona, however, preferred being carried while observing these animals from a safe distance.

The pony was grazing happily before it decided to follow Hubby around, probably in hope of getting some treats.

Other facilities included free wi-fi, swimming pools (including one children’s pool with slide), free bicycle rental, kid’s club, and fitness center. Massage and spa services were also available at a price.

We booked the superior twin room at SGD97.50 nett per night. It’s a spacious 36m2 bedroom with two queen sized beds and a gorgeous view of Mount Salak. The above price is inclusive of breakfast buffet for two adults, children below age six eat for free in all the hotel’s restaurant buffet. The food was good, with the buffet serving local and western dishes, various breads, cakes and traditional and local snacks and desserts.

The pool view under our hotel room balcony.

The view of Mount Salak from our room.

Since we did not drive, and the hotel was quite a distance from the city area, and the hotel’s restaurant food was delicious, and so affordably priced (we were there at the right time, there was a group of people from some company on their bonding trip there and the chef decided to do buffet for lunches and dinners during their stay, lunch buffet was priced at IDR120,000 nett and dinner buffet was at IDR180,300 nett), we ended up with *ehm* more than a few extra pounds from all the buffet meals during our stay there. I didn’t take any picture of the food because I don’t want anyone to know just how much food I actually stuffed into my face 🙈.

We spent the rest of our first day there checking out the hotel and hitting the pools. The next day we visited Kuntum Farmfield, and Cibalung Happy Land on the day after. I wrote about these agroedutourism sites in separate posts. Do check them out by clicking on the hyperlinks above. 🙂

We wrapped up our vacation with a full day of leisure in the hotel, the kids were having fun at the pools and Mommy got herself the much needed traditional massage, you know, to prepare myself for the tireless days of motherhood back in Singapore again. We were back to Jakarta the next day, and the girls just couldn’t stop playing the recorded moments from the vacation. It was definitely a fun, educating and rejuvenating holiday!

That’s us! Refreshed and recharged! (At the hotel’s lobby)

Pasar Apung Sentul (Ah Poong Float Market)
Sentul City, Cipambuan, Babakan Madang,
Bogor, Jawa Barat 16710, Indonesia

R Hotel Rancamaya
Jalan Raya Rancamaya Utama, Rancamaya,
Bogor Selatan, Kertamaya, Bogor Sel.,
Kota Bogor, Jawa Barat 16720, Indonesia

Place to Visit: Kuntum Farmfield

Image Source :

This is one of the agrotourism sites in Bogor. Located not far away from the city area, Kuntum Farmfield is a popular destination for students, especially kindergarteners, to learn about and interact with farm animals.

They house cows, goats, sheep, rabbits, guinea pigs, poultry, fishes and tortoises. They also offer various organic vegetables which guests can harvest themselves and purchase.

The town kid and the cow seemed to be very curious about each other.

To her, Guinea pigs look like the big cousins of hamsters’.

Rabbit face!

Apart from harvesting, other main attractions of Kuntum are animals feeding and fish catching. All the animals food are priced at IDR5,000 per pack with the exception of cow’s milk which costs IDR10,000 per bottle for bottle-feeding the calf. Fish catching, however, is an activity more suitable for larger group of children in which twenty live fishes are put in an ankle-deep pool for the children to scoop and transfer to a pail. These fishes can then be brought home for cooking. Fish catching is priced at IDR100,000. The admission fee is IDR40,000 per person.

Town kid meets the real chickens, uncooked and without cling wrap and styrofoam.

Thanks to the generous teachers, the Big Nona got to join in the fun of the kindergarten group’s fish catching activity. She didn’t manage to catch any, but these older kids are so friendly they put their fish into her basket whenever they caught one. And it just so happened that she was wearing blue too! 😀

For a place where so many farm animals were housed, Kuntum was surprisingly clean with very accessible pathway (we had no problem moving around with a baby stroller). The bathrooms and shower rooms were clean too, although without water heaters. They also provide free farmer’s hat, known locally as “Caping” for guests to wear.

For city kids like ours, it’s a rare experience to get to meet these animals up-close. Even though the Young Nona spent half of the trip napping, the girls were very excited and had the most fun interacting with those animals directly. I guess nothing beats seeing, hearing and touching the real things. 🙂

Kuntum Farmfield
Jalan Raya Tajur No.291, Sindangrasa, Bogor Timur,
Kota Bogor, Jawa Barat 16145, Indonesia

Place to Visit: Cibalung Happy Land

In our home-preschool curriculum, we put a heavy emphasis on nature exploration, because we believe the relationship between human and nature is a natural and essential one, and both need each other to ensure the sustainable well-being of both sides. Last March, we had a chance to visit Bogor for our family vacation this year. As Bogor is well-known for its agrotourism sites, we of course took the opportunity to expose and introduce the girls to various nature related experiences.

Cibalung Happy Land was in our itinerary for “children and nature” activity, its vast land of six hectares is in essence a large farming site. It offers a wide range of good old days farming experiences such as handling and feeding the rabbits, chasing after the ducks (do get ready to get muddy dirty), milking the cows, giving the buffalos a good rub-a-dub-dub, catching/feeding the fish, planting the paddy field and plowing with the buffalos, planting fruits and vegetables, and a long list of other nature related activities, at very affordable rates, they even conduct cooking classes! Besides such activities, Cibalung Happy Land also provides villas for stay and camping tents. Do check out their website for a comprehensive list of activities and their price.

We reached there late in the morning and it was raining, so we were told that all programs would re-commence after lunchtime. There were two groups of school children filling the otherwise serene place with bursts of cheerings and laughters. Apart from those students, we were the only guests that day. While waiting for the rain to stop, we had lunch at the in house restaurant. One may choose to be seated in the restaurant with dining table and chairs or in the huts ala ‘lesehan’ – bare-footed and seated on the wooden floor with low table.

Sipping some avocado juice while waiting for our lunch at the ‘lesehan’ corner.

Thankfully, the sky cleared up when we were done with lunch. We parked our stroller at the marketing office as the landscape was not stroller friendly. Together with the in-house guide, we proceeded with our mini adventure. First, the Big Nona went for a tandem “Flying Fox” ride with Daddy. She came down pale 😂.

Tandem Flying Fox with Daddy.

It’s our first time spotting an Indonesian avocado tree.

An authentic feeling of being at a farm village.

We then continued with strawberry planting, where the staff guided the Big Nona in simple way on how to grow strawberry. She was expecting to see lots of strawberries to pick and eat, we only found one, which she ate right there and then!

This pot of strawberry plant was for us to bring home, it’s too bad we had to leave it in Jakarta because we couldn’t be bringing it onto the plane back to Singapore.

Strawberry, fresh from the stem!

The next activity was milking the cow. We met a bull, a cow, a 9 month old calf and two buffalos in the stable. We were given a cup to fill, after the staff explained and showed us how to milk the cow, Big Nona was encouraged to try milking herself. She was initially reluctant but when she did try and managed to squeeze out some milk from the cow’s udder, she was quite proud of herself. This activity came with two complementary glasses of pasteurized home-produced milk for our collection at the restaurant afterwards.

“Of course I know milk comes from cows. White milk from the white cows and chocolate milk from the brown ones.”

We continued with fish catching where five fishes were released into an ankle-deep pool of water for the Big Nona to catch and transfer into a bucket. These fishes were for us to bring home but we gave them away to the staff since we couldn’t possibly be cooking them in the hotel room.

She managed to catch one herself!

We had “Fun with the Rabbits” coming afterwards. It was literally a session of cuteness overload! Just look at all those furry buns!

The admission ticket cost IDR15,000 per person with complementary admission to its waterpark for the month’s special promotion. Splashing and floating in the waterpark was definitely the perfect way to complete the fun of the day. The toilets, bathrooms and changing rooms were quite clean, but were traditional (with squating toilets and pails of water). There was no water heater and the girls were screaming from the chills. Oh, city kids!

“Splash and play! What a great way to end the day!”

We had a wonderful time here at Cibalung Happy Land. There are sooo many activities we have yet to explore, we’ll be happy to come back again! 🙂

Cibalung Happy Land
Jl. Cihideung, Cibalung, Cijeruk,
Bogor, Jawa Barat 16740, Indonesia

Children Are Struggling Sinners Too

02 April 2017

Through the past week, we have had discipline issue with the 4 year old which has been escalating rapidly. At the peak of my frustration and hers today, she screamed,

“I want to obey but I still cannot obey even though I want to obey! Why?”

This, I did not expect. She had accurately pointed out that her core problem is sin, and only then did it truly dawn on me, it is not a problem that even the best parenting or discipline can fix.

Later on we talked about Jesus, His atonement of sin and the true liberation from such sin-crippled disability which He, and He alone can give. And we prayed together for help to obey God Himself, in which I added, even more fervently than ever:

Lord, have mercy on this daughter of mine. Have mercy on us, O Lord!