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Questions Answered by Experts

Can my child catch up with his development milestones since he has been home for 2 months during the Circuit Breaker period?
Children are learning and developing all the time, not only in the classroom. Many may have acquired new skills or developed new interests from their stay-at-home routines and closer interactions with family members during the circuit breaker period. Thus, when your child returns to the centre, our educators will continue to make observations on his/her development and plan activities to support and extend his/her current abilities and interests.

It is important to help children settle back to the class schedule and routines. You could share with the teachers your child’s routines and interests while at home so that they can use some of these interests to engage and bond with your child again. This would help your child settle down happily in class and be motivated in learning.

Answered by: Yong Foong Ling
Curriculum Specialist
NTUC First Campus Co-operative Ltd
How do i select a good pre-school for my child? What should i look out for and are there any tips for choosing the right childcare centre?

The pre-school’s philosophy and practice should be in line with what you want for your child and the values you uphold as a family.

Always visit the pre-school before making a decision. It is important to know what you are signing up for. It is also a good opportunity to see the place and hear the Principal or person-in-charge talk about the preschool. This is your perfect opportunity to be curious and ask questions such as the adult:child ratio; the curriculum – what is it about, what is the approach to teaching and learning; parent involvement expectations and opportunities; the centre’s philosophy; schedule for the day – how much time do they get to play, do they get to spend time outside, how much time is spend on academics.

During the visit, observe. Are the children happily engaged? Is the environment well maintained? Are there sufficient/interesting materials for the children to play with? Are the interactions between teacher and children warm and respectful? What is the adult:child ratio? How many children are there in the class? These are some of the basic things to look out for.

At the heart of it, you need to feel comfortable in the pre-school. If you don’t feel comfortable with the place, your child will also not feel comfortable. Children are very attuned to how their parents respond to the other significant adults in their lives and are able to pick up the subtle cues. You need to feel confident of what the place has to offer and how it can support you as a parent. When you are comfortable and confident of the place, your child will too.

Answered by: Angela Chng
Head of Professional Practices and Development
NTUC First Campus Co-operatives Ltd

Are there standard communication methods in place for pre-schools to connect with parents or what i should look out for to ensure good communication channels are present when checking out pre-schools?

All pre-schools are expected to have strategies in place that will engage parents. The two national frameworks in Singapore are - (1) Early Years Developmental Framework and (2) Nurturing Early Learners Framework. Both include the component of parent-teacher partnerships.

Different preschools have different ways of engaging parents. You will have to decide if the strategies that the preschool employs fulfils what you desire to know. It is all about a goodness-of-fit with your expectations of parent-teacher partnerships.

The three different early childhood programs provided by NTUC First Campus namely My First Skool, Little Skool House and The Caterpillar’s Cove adopt a variety of strategies to engage with parents depending on the centre’s context. An online parent portal, whole class and individual child updates, communication books, parent-teacher conference, parent volunteers in the classroom, parent participation in centre events or excursions, curriculum orientationand take home activities are just some strategies to name a few.

As a general rule of thumb, there should be communication channels in place for you to talk to your child’s teacher about any concerns or questions whenever they arise. You should be able to have brief conversations with the teachers at drop offs and pick ups if need be. You should also hear or read not only about what your child’s class is doing but also specifically about your child. And, at least twice a year, there should be a formal, sit down meeting with the teacher to discuss your child’s learning and development.

Answered by: Angela Chng
Head of Professional Practices and Development
NTUC First Campus Co-operatives Ltd

Besides attending a full day childcare, do i still need to coach her academically at home?

What were the best memories from your childhood?

Your child will only be a child once in their lifetime. They are only their age once, you will not be able to turn back the clock. The question is, is there a real need for your child to be prepared and doing things when they are six when they are actually four? Children have a right to a childhood and it should not be lost or exchanged in an endless academic persuit. What were the best memories from your childhood? Your response to this question will provide some insight on what is important to a child at that particular stage of their lifetime.

Play is more than just play. Play has the potential to ‘teach’ children skills and strategies for managing life. In Ellen Galinsky’s book titled “Mind in the Making” she talks about the seven essential life skills every child needs, in the same way, Kosta and Kallick’s book “Habits of Mind” highlight 16 essential characteristics for success. Neither of these books talk about academic abilities but rather skills or characteristics that will enable an individual to learn, persist, survive and succeed in any and every situation. Play gives children that. It gives them the opportunity to problem-solve (e.g. how to make a house out of duplo), self-control (e.g. learning to take turns and wait for their turn), gather data through their senses, empathise with others just to name a few.

These skills though seemingly insignificant are in fact foundational to a child’s later academic persuits. For example, problem-solving requires both logical and flexible thinking processes (when building with duplo there are logical ways the blocks will fit one on another and endless ways a house can be represented. Waiting for a turn requires perspective-taking, ability to delay gratification and practiced response to social cues and contextual expectations. A child will have many more years ahead for formal school were they will acquire academic knowledge. Many foundational skills learnt through play that will support children for such formal learning occurs in preschool.

Answered by: Angela Chng
Head of Professional Practices and Development
NTUC First Campus Co-operative Ltd

How can my child benefit from being in a childcare centre? Can you briefly explain the social, developmental and emotional benefits?

The child will gain social skills through the interactions with other adults and children in the centre. This would include learning how to wait for their turns, sharing, how to listen to others’ viewpoints, how to resolve conflicts and how to care for their friends.

The child can also gain independent self-help skills, such as feeding, dressing up and packing up / taking care of their own things. In childcare centres, children are provided with many opportunities to practice these skills. Routine and transition times have factored in time for them to practise feeding themselves, bathing and dressing up. Even our very young 18-month-old toddlers go through simple home science activities which help to reinforce their fine motor developments which are essential to acquire the self-help skills.

Answered by: Ruth Chia
Senior Manager, Programmes
Child Support Services
NTUC First Campus Co-operative Ltd

How do I encourage my child to read Chinese story books?

Children are born curious. They are eager to find out how things work. They have a strong interest in identifying the different shapes, sizes and colors of objects they come into contact with. A person’s knowledge about the world stems from his or her interaction and perception about things. And these include visual, taste, touch, smell, motor and spatial awareness. Hence, it is important to select books that are in line with their life experiences and cognitive interest.

“Picture book” is books where the main focus is on the illustrations and words are complementary. In fact, some could be wordless. The content of the Chinese picture books should be as interesting as possible, with bright coloured illustrations. The storyline should be simple and preferably short.

It is recommended to select Chinese picture books without “Han Yu Pinyin” so that children can enjoy looking at the pictures and focus on the story content. Pre-schoolers could already be learning phonics. In light of that, there is a possibility that they would be confused with the “Han Yu Pin Yin”. An example would be 汉语拼音wo men我们--us vis a vis the English word of women which means ladies.

In selecting books for the young children aged 6 and below, the main idea is to look for books that pique their interest instead of focusing on literacy ability. To nurture their passion in reading Chinese books, we must respect the children’s choice of story books. We can also make it a practice to get them to choose a Chinese story book first before proceeding to the English story book section at a library or bookstore. Parents can set a good example by reading the story together with your child.

Answered by: Dr Connie Lum
Group Mother Tongue Languages Officer
Prof Practices & Development
NTUC First Campus Co-operative Ltd

I am thinking of visiting a few childcare centres to see which one suits my child best. What questions should I ask the staff?

Some of the things you may want to look out for:

Staff – Do the staff show warmth, care and concern to the children? Are the children comfortable and happy under their care? What about the qualifications of teachers? At My First Skool, we believe in the importance of quality teachers to provide the high quality of care and education for the children enrolled with us. Teachers should be warm and approachable, and yet firm when required. They should also be interacting with children in big groups, small groups and most importantly, individually as well. All our teaching staff participate in workshops and in-house training (every quarter) to further enhance their skills and abilities. We strongly believe in providing our teachers with the opportunities to further develop their knowledge so as to improve the quality of learning of the children in our care.

Physical / Learning environment – Is the place clean and pleasant? Does the environment have sufficient materials, toys and books for the children to engage in? Is the environment overly cluttered? Are the children’s learning materials aesthetically displayed for parents and children to view? My First Skool prides itself for the specially designed furniture to meet the needs of the children under our care. The design and the layout of the environment are carefully planned to facilitate the children’s activities throughout the day with us. The environment allows for big and small group activities, as well as quiet corners for the child to be alone when he / she needs to. A well-designed and planned environment will be able to engage, facilitate and reinforce children’s learning.

Health and safety – Is the centre clean, well-lit and well ventilated? Are there policies and procedures on how to maintain a high standard of hygiene and cleanliness? Do you see fire extinguishers, fire escape plans, first-aid kits and child-proof storage area? What about the kind of food the children get to eat? Children spend a full day with us in the centres and typically, they would have three meals with us. Thus, it is of utmost importance to us that we serve balanced and nutritious meals. We engage a consultant nutritionist to plan our menus, to ensure the food is well-prepared. Our cooks attend trainings to ensure a consistent quality of food served.

Make a comparison of the different centres you have visited and choose the one you feel is the best fit for your child’s needs and your expectations.

Answered by: Ruth Chia
Senior Manager, Programmes
Child Support Services
NTUC First Campus Co-operative Ltd

What is the ideal age to start pre-school?

It depends. There is no perfect formula to follow. However, there are a few things to consider:

1) Is your child currently experiencing an enriching life? Is he adequately stimulated?

Children should be given adequate time and variety of experiences to learn, think, create and problem-solve. For example, at My First Skool, a key element of our birth to threes program is that teachers observe and plan for the children based on their interests and development. This means the child will be provided with experiences appropriate for their stage of development and nurture their ability and desire to learn. If your child is spending time mainly shadowing an adult or going through the same routines such as having TV time and being carried around to run errands, being in a preschool will give your child the opportunity to be stimulated and challenged according to their development.

2) Does your child have siblings or other children to play with regularly?

Preschool is the best place to learn how to get along and work with others – essential skills for life. It also provides the child with multiple opportunities to practice and learn how to communicate with different people, negotiate, wait their turn and most certainly enjoy the benefits of being a part of a learning community. Preschool is where children acquire pseudo siblings. Playing with adults while beneficial is significantly different to playing with other children.

3) Does your child need time to get used to new people, new places and new routines?

If your child has a quiet, tentative, slow-to-warm personality, starting earlier at a preschool will help. At My First Skool, our birth to threes program works closely with families to maintain continuity between the home and school. This will ensure the child experiences as seamless a transition from home to preschool as possible. Starting earlier at a preschool also provides your child with adequate time to settle into a learning community and environment and be confident and ready to learn.

Answered by: Angela Chng
Head of Professional Practices and Development
NTUC First Campus Co-operatives Ltd

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