16 July 2021

Aarika Lee: The Importance of Building Courage in Kids

Aarika Lee decided to sign her fam up for an Intertidal Exploration session, where everyone got up bright and early to comb our local beaches: 

by Aarika Lee This mother of two, musician, and marketing director wears many hats, and is always on the lookout for adventures with her family.

The night before our little adventure, my husband and I told our little ones, Zola and Ari, that we had to get to bed nice and early. By 6am, we’d be waking them up for a little excursion to the beach – one of their favourite places! Sure, the beach was familiar to them, but this time, we were going to be meeting someone who would take us on a really special walk when the tide went out. My kids have experienced extreme low tide on East Coast Beach once before and I loved seeing them so amazed at how far the sea went out and how much shore they could explore, so this Intertidal Exploration walk by The Untamed Paths was something I was really looking forward to.

Also read: Kid-friendly Animal Experiences for Young Explorers

Given that we haven’t been able to travel for the good part of the last two years, the gang hasn’t had the opportunity to experience new spaces with the same spirit of curiosity and open-mindedness that comes when you’re away and outside of your comfort zone. This was going to be something brand new and I banked on the kids loving it.

 The next morning, I woke the kids up with no hassle at all and they got dressed quickly, complete with their rain boots and their bucket hats. As we made our way to our meeting point, Changi Beach, I heard the both of them chit chatting about their checklists of what sea creatures they were hoping to see (this included manta rays and turtles) over the sandwiches we packed. It felt like a little road trip, a feeling I think we all welcomed due to the lack of travel these days.

Also read: 8 Ways to Leave Singapore Without Actually Leaving Singapore

We arrived at our meeting point and were met by Dennis, our knowledgeable guide for the morning. After a quick round of introductions, we made our way toward the beach. This is where Dennis began to build rapport with the kids. He asked them what they wanted to see, if they had ever been on an intertidal walk before, and established that they could ask him about anything that they saw on the walk. He told the kids there would be no manta rays or turtles, but if we were lucky, we might spot an octopus. This got everyone absolutely psyched and as we approached the shore, we were met by the luscious seagrass meadows of Changi Beach, which were made even more beautiful by the glorious light of the sunrise. It was such a sight.

Also read: 7 Outdoor Activities for Bored Kids Cooped Up at Home

Our guide very quickly started to point out trails in the wet sand, telling us to look out for sand dollars – a species of flat, burrowing sea urchins that look like coins – traversing just beneath the sand’s surface. Zola was quick to point out more trails and was unafraid to touch the sand dollar that Dennis picked up to show us. Ari was already pointing out the tiny snails and crabs that he spotted in the seagrass. “So far, so good,” I thought to myself. My kids seemed to be enjoying themselves and were asking questions whenever they had some. Over the years, I’ve witnessed how much quicker and more keen my kids are to learn about something new when the experience is more tactile and interactive, so this was perfect.

As we wandered further out into pockets of ankle deep water, the creatures that we began to see changed and I started to see the kids get a little less comfortable with their surroundings. Zola was hanging on to me tighter, afraid that she might fall into the water and into whatever was living there, and Ari started to ask to be carried. For kids who love watching videos on marine life and who claim to love any kind of living creature, they suddenly found themselves face to face with the things they saw on said videos, only that they’re now realising this wasn’t quite what they expected in real life.

Up until this point (and we had already been walking for about 30 minutes), the kids were thoroughly engrossed in the experience and didn’t show any signs of discomfort or giving up. We had found several hermit crabs, sea stars, even a shrimp, but for some reason we walked into an area of sea warties and while we were told it was usually a hit with the kids for its bright colours and squishy look, Zola was not having it. She started to get scared, began to cry, and asked to leave. She really didn’t like them at all and we still had another hour of the walk to get through.

My husband decided he would take her back to the car for a breather while Ari and I stayed on to explore. Part of the intertidal experience is also being able to rid the beach of any trash while we’re there so Ari started to be on the lookout. Little did he know that what looked like a Yakult straw sticking up from the ground was actually the case of a tube worm, so he reached down to try to pick one up just as Dennis revealed to us what they really were. This sets Ari off too and he starts to ask if I can carry him or if he can stand on my feet until we walked out of the area, which was a decent few metres off the stretch we were on. The long and short of it was that while the kids started out loving every minute of being out in the low tide, they soon realised they were totally outside of their comfort zones and needed to get out.

We thanked Dennis for sharing with us all his knowledge and being so patient before making our way home. I had some thoughts running through my mind. Did this experience scar them? Will they never want to return to the beach again? I was a little worried, but that evening, the kids looked at the checklist they ticked off – one that was given to us by The Untamed Paths – and they both spoke eagerly about what they saw up-close and also discussed what they had learned. I was pleasantly surprised and at the same time, just so proud of them. It was like no meltdowns took place at all!

After that morning I didn’t think they’d want to go back, but when I asked if they wanted to return to see if they could check off the other items on the list, I got a resounding “Yes!”.

For my kids, exposing them to new experiences doesn’t always go smoothly on the first try. There are just too many things to take in, process, and be OK with in one go. But after, they have some time to think about what they got out of their time there, and most times they’re more than happy to go back and try again. I don’t know if they’re ready to do another early morning call just yet, or wade around in the dark with torches, but I hope they know that whenever they are ready, there is a world out there waiting for them to explore.

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